28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. S. F. Cope) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
The Acting Clerk - Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of 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 (he 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 Hour 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 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 humble petition of certain citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That jet aircraft operations have a detrimental effect by way of air and noise pollution on the environment
That in close proximity to the proposed Galston airport site are the Berowra Reserves, the Halstrom Nature Reserve and the Muogamarra Sanctuary, which would be so affected.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that this House take appropriate steps to ensure that the Government does not proceed with the proposal to site the second international airport for Sydney in the Galston area or surrounding north western suburbs of Sydney. by Mr Edwards.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned students of the Toronto High School, New South Wales respectfully showeth:
That they have to rely on the Toronto Community Hall for school functions such as concerts, speech nights and socials. There is also a fee payable for the use of the hall, which is not always available.
That the community hall is inadequate for the school’s needs, the seating capacity being only 300, whilst the school enrolment is close to 900. It is also inconvenient because of the distance from the school.
That all assemblies and school functions, such as the school observance of Anzac Day, presentation of local scholarships and induction of prefects, which have to be held at the school, must be conducted in an open quadrangle. In summer the extreme heat causes some students to faint and, during the winter, it is extremely cold and. with the threat of rain always present, it is very uncomfortable.
That an assembly hall is also essential for gymnastics, which are at present conducted in the playground. Ballet and dancing lessons could also be conducted there. Dramatic work, the school choir and orchestra of 40 players could also make very profitable use of such a hall.
That an assembly hall could also be used by the Toronto community in view of the inadequacy of the only hall available.
That they feel that all High Schools should have an assembly hall. They are not a luxury, but an essential need and it is hardly possible to meet the demands of modern secondary education without a hall.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Government to make available some of the $600 million being spent on education to provide a very much needed assembly hall at Toronto High School.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr James.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. Does the Minister recall making a statement last year that he was aware that the cancellation of the destroyer program would be a blow to the morale of the Royal Australian Navy? Has that drop in morale which he predicted in fact occurred? Is it a fact that the defence policies of the present Government, coupled with the breaking of its clear pre-election pledge to maintain defence spending at 3.5 per cent of gross domestic product, has caused a drop in morale in the 3 Armed Services?
– If the honourable member had read the article which appeared under the name of the correspondent Mr Denis Warner, he would have seen that LieutenantGeneral Sir Mervyn Brogan, the Chief of the General Staff, had indicated that there had been no drop in the morale of the Services. The honourable member raised the question of the DDL program. I made my position on this perfectly clear when in Opposition, and my position was then supported by a number of honourable members who were then in government but who are now on the Opposition side - notably, of course, the honourable member for Wentworth. The DDL program has been deferred and the Royal Australian Navy fully understands that it has been deferred pending further investigation. Cabinet has agreed to a further destroyer program and this has been accepted in principle by the Department of Defence. A destroyer program will be proceeded with as soon as the additional information is available to the Government. We could not agree to a situation in which this country would be faced with the proposition of building 3 destroyers at a cost of S355m before those destroyers were on the drawing board. We believe that further investigation overseas of appropriate vessels should be undertaken. I have not deviated from the decision that I made when in Opposition and to which I still adhere that whatever destroyers are purchased for the Navy will be built at Williamstown in Australia.
– Has the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs seen reports in the Press this morning about an Aboriginal child being returned to her natural parents at a Northern Territory Aboriginal settlement? Are the reports correct? When did he first learn of the matter, and what action is he taking?
– I heard about the situation of the child on, I think, 27 August. I received a letter from her foster parents. At the same time I was informed by my Department that a critical situation was developing because of the demands of her natural father for the child to go back. The situation has unfortunately developed over the last 5 years because of the hesitancy - a reasonable hesitancy - of officials in the past to return the child when the parents wanted her back. She had been with the foster parents for about 5 years. As far as I could determine the actual custody of the child is a civil matter. The people responsible for returning her in the way in which I understand it did occur performed a remarkably insensitive operation. If any of our officials were involved we will, of course, have to take some action to ensure that they are not in a position to do that sort of thing again.
As to the actual facts of the return of the child, I have not received full details yet. She is in the custody of her natural parents and as far as I can determine we as the Government have a moral duty to see that the ordinary services of the Australian community are available to them but we have no legal right to intervene between the parents and the child. This incident is the end result of an unfortunate system that has developed over many years of taking children from their parents and then not making a final and real determination about the actual custody. As far as I can see, the welfare of the child is of paramount importance but we must make sure that this sort of thing does not happen again. We will not act out any of the errors of the past as far as this Government is concerned.
– My question is addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister. The honourable gentleman will recall that on 15 September of this year the Prime Minister at an official reception in Sydney said:
The honourable gentleman will also recall that the Minister for Civil Aviation said in an official Press release of 28 August that Galston had been chosen by the Australian Government to meet Sydney’s airport needs for the 1980s. Against those very clear statements by 2 senior members of this Government I ask the Minister to explain how he could come into this House yesterday and indicate that the Government had not made a final decision to site Sydney’s second airport in the Galston region. 1 do not know whether the Minister is losing his grip or needs further prompting from the Prime Minister but I ask him specifically against those two clear and apparently categorical statements how he rationalises and explains the discrepancy between his statement made yesterday and the earlier pronouncements.
– What I said yesterday in relation to Galston was that a feasibility study was to be carried Out. In these circumstances I think that this was the decision of the Government. Not only is there to be a feasibility study of Galston but there is also to be a feasibility study of one other area, and this was made public. I suggest to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the other matters he has raised might well be answered if he places the question on the notice paper.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. I refer to a report in today’s Press that the Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria are to set up small claims tribunals to protect the interests of consumers. Will the Prime Minister suggest to the Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria that they confer with the South Australian Premier, Mr Dunstan, and his AttorneyGeneral, Mr King, who can provide them with the information on the most advanced and comprehensive legislation in Australia on consumer protection? I refer to the South Australian legislation on this matter. This is similar to the more advanced South Australian legislation on the control of land prices on which the Prime Minister commented favourably earlier this week.
– I would certainly hope that the Premiers of the 2 largest States would confer with the Premier of the most advanced State on many of the pieces of legislation which are already in operation in South Australia. The stabilisation of land prices is one piece of such legislation and the guarantee of consumer rights is another.
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Could you ask the Prime Minister to speak into a microphone?
-I should like all Ministers, the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition and front bench members to speak into the microphones.
- Mr Speaker, I meant no discourtesy to any honourable members. It is my habit and always has been - I suppose it will continue to be - to address any response to the person who asks a question and accordingly continued the habit of addressing the person who asked this question. I am sorry that modern techniques are not sufficient to have microphones pick up my voice in these circumstances. To continue the answer, with my back to the questioner and my face to those who interrupt-
– Turn around.
– I am glad that the Leader of the coalition Opposition has turned up. The Australian Government is .about to ask the Parliament to exercise the authority which it has in respect of consumer affairs. The Trade Practices Bill, which the AttorneyGeneral will be introducing shortly, will make provision to safeguard consumers in those respects where this Parliament can legislate, particularly in the exercise of power over foreign corporations and trading and financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth. My colleague, the Minister for Science, is establishing a commission on consumer standards. The general attitude is that not only will certain practices be banned but also that citizens, particularly through approved consumer organisations, will be enabled, without cost, to have the laws enforced.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware that the Government’s decision to increase interest rates will mean that the Leeton Cooperative Cannery Ltd, in the Minister’s own electorate, will have to pay an extra $170,000 a year in interest? Does this represent an increase in the cannery’s interest payments of more than 38 per cent or abour $7 per ton of fruit processed? Is the Minister aware of the fears expressed by the General Manager of the Leeton Cannery, Mr Lowe, that this new burden, added to the burdens already imposed by the Government’s actions in revaluing the currency, for which no compensation has been provided, will mean that Leeton Cannery could close, that many fruit growers in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area could go bankrupt and that a substantial part of the canning fruit industry could be decimated or destroyed along with the towns that depend on that industry? Are these fruit growers among those genuine primary producers who the Prime Minister told me yesterday had not been hurt by anything the Government had done? Finally, what action will be Minister take to see that claims for assistance with revaluation losses are urgently paid and that these vicious attacks by the Government on Australia’s rural industries are brought to an end?
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is it in order for members of the Opposition to make long-winded speeches when they ask questions, when you have repeatedly requested that questions be brief?
– Order! I have repeatedly asked both the questioners and the Ministers who reply to the questions to be as brief as possible. I make that appeal again this morning.
– I want to thank the third most important man opposite for his solicitude for my electors and I want to express appreciation for the question that he’ posed. I understand that he received a telegram, as I did myself, this morning, from the General Manager of the Leeton Co-operative Cannery. I am grateful for the question and I will tell him exactly what the position is. The immediate action I took was to refer the query - it was no more than a query at this stage - to my colleague the Treasurer and also to my colleague the Minister for Primary Industry. We will examine the submission which has been put forward. Whether or not the worry and concern can be supported by facts is something that we have yet to establish. But I want to make this point, that when the Leader of the Australian Country Party refers to his solicitude for the fruit growers in my electorate and when he refers to keeping faith with the people who are producing, let me draw attention to the fact that in December 1971 the McMahon Administration carried out a revaluation. There was an effective revaluation in May 1972. There was a statement to the effect that some consideration perhaps would be given to providing some assistance. When we took over the administration in
December 1972 there was no money appropriated, no arrangements had been made by the Treasury and nothing had been done at all. There had been nothing but a public relations charade by the then Government and that was all.
– On a point of order-
– It is time that a few facts were known.
-Order! There will be no more business conducted until the House comes to order. -
– Is the Minister permitted to tell a deliberate untruth in this place with respect to devaluation compensation provided through loans to the canneries provided by the McMahon-Anthony Government?
-Order! That is not a point of order. The Chair is not in a position to know whether or not it is a deliberate untruth. I give warning to the persistent interjectors that if they do not behave themselves I will take the appropriate action and I will take it expeditiously.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I noticed from the point of order that the Deputy Leader of the Country Party took full responsibility for all the decisions in the last rural recession by referring to the McMahonAnthony Government. I hope that that will be noted. I might say that the reference to untruth is completely unworthy -
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. Just to overcome any doubts, I am prepared to accept some of the responsibility too, because it is quite obvious that what the Minister is saying is a deliberate untruth.
-Order! There is no point of order involved.
– I have become used to the abuse from the gentlemen opposite. In the last 48 hours we have heard references to delinquents, imbeciles and now deliberate untruths. If they had not come from a group of gentlemen who were acting like sick cows with the scours - having difficulty containing themselves - I would have been upset. I might say in precise reply, and I repeat what I said earlier because it has been challenged, in relation to the revaluations of the Australian currency carried out by the McMahon-Anthony Administration and despite the protestations they made, when we took over the administration there was nothing for this in the treasury. No arrangements had ever been made to assist growers affected by the revaluation. If honourable members opposite would like to proceed to a further inquisition the Treasurer will be delighted to oblige them with a further exposition. As a matter of fact, the promises which had been made previously to pay growers had been, I might say, welshed on because there was nothing done, and we had to make special arrangements even to see that the growers were paid for fruits for which the indication had been firmly given by the previous administration that they would be paid. So this conversion to the interest of and solicitude for the fruit growers of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area is a bit late but very welcome. I might say that whenever I receive any telegrams which I am confident the Leader of the Country Party has received, I will share them with him so that he can ask me further questions. Let me just sum up by saying that the queries that have been posed by the Leeton Co-operative Cannery and which reached me in the last few hours have been promptly dealt with and will be promptly answered, and I might say that my constituents are enjoying a greater prosperity now in 1973 than they did for 5 years under the McMahon-Anthony administration.
– 4 .ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs: Is he aware of the reports that the 7-year-old Aboriginal girl who was taken from her foster parents in Darwin has been speared as a form of tribal punishment and is to become the child bride of a middleaged man?
– -Yes, I am quite aware of the situation. As I mentioned in answer to the earlier question, the girl is aged 7. She is now back with her natural parents. I understand that in the particular tribal situation the promising has taken place in the past and at some time in the future, say at the age of 10 or 12, the promise will or is likely to be consummated. It poses a very difficult social situation. If the authorities intervene between the child and the tribal customs in situations such as this we are likely to create a position where the girl is an outcast in both societies. It is unfortunate. We just do not know the answer in circumstances such as this. But one can hope that the education and other policies that are being developed, some of which of course flow from the past, will over come the problem in which girls in tribal situations find themselves. In this instance, I understand, the girl is happily placed back with her parents. But I will have the matter checked as thoroughly as possible and keep an eye on the situation.
– I ask a question of the Minister for the Capital Territory and Minister for the Northern Territory. In view of the fact that a subsidy of nearly lc a gallon was paid to the petroleum companies for petrol freighted into Canberra under the States Grants (Petroleum Products) Act and as the subsidy will be discontinued if the amending Bill is passed by the Parliament, will he inform the House whether the lc will be borne by the people of the Australian Capital Territory or the petrol companies? As people in the Northern Territory are to pay up to 2c a gallon extra, what situation will pertain there?
– The decision in the Australian Capital Territory of course is one for the prices controller of the A.C.T., and as far as the Northern Territory is concerned, one for the prices controller in the Northern Territory. I have already had certain reports from the prices controller of the Northern Territory that relate to petrol prices in the Northern Territory, and they are the subject of further investigations by that prices controller. I think that with those investigations being undertaken there is nothing I can add at this stage in reply to the honourable member’s question. But the whole question of price control in the Territories, whether it relates to petrol or any other goods, service or commodity, is one that shows just what can be done with price control when it is used in a selective way. There are a number of ways in which selective price control can be used. The honourable member would know of some cases in the Northern Territory. We have already reduced the price of one commodity sold in Katherine by 3c. But obviously it depends upon the investigation conducted by the price controller into a particular service or commodity.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development been drawn to a report in the ‘West
Australian” this week to the effect that Commonwealth allocations for sewerage works in Western Australia are insufficient to meet either the Prime Minister’s target for making up the. backlog or the 10-year target which the Western Australian Water Board has been suggesting might be more realistic? Has any detailed time table been drawn up for sewerage works and allocations in Western Australia? Can completion of the program be reasonably expected within one or other of the suggested target dates?
– I am aware of the criticism. When the Australian Government allocated funds for sewerage works it took into consideration the pressure on resources of both men and materials. Therefore we set a target of $30m for the whole of Australia but we also took into consideration that if both men and materials were available to carry out works at a cost in excess of $30m, more finance would be made available by the Australian Government. In Western Australia, $3. 8m was made available. Our objectives are that in the coming years there will be an upward trend in the allocation of money into such areas. We will try to meet the target date of 1978 set by the Prime Minister but the State authorities have agreed that probably it will take until 1980 or the early 1980s to achieve our aim because of the pressure on resources, both men and materials.
– I address my question to the Minister for Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation. Notwithstanding the answer of the Deputy Prime Minister to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, which still leaves the Galston position unclear, I ask the Minister: Can he say whether the DirectorGeneral of Civil Aviation has made a report to him on the significance of the proximity of the Royal Australian Air Force base at Richmond to the proposed international airport at Galston? If so, what was the gist of it? Was the cost of adapting RAAF operations at Richmond, or relocating the air base, included in the cost-benefit study of 15 sites carried out by the British consultants for the Commonwealth-State committee on the possi.bility of a second airport? I come finally to the interim report of the CommonwealthState committee which recommended the upgrading of Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport plus 5 sites, not including Galston, that the Minister undertook to table on 29 August, 3 weeks ago. Will we see it this side of the Parramatta by-election?
– I have asked that the report be printed and made available to honourable members.
– I do not do the printing. It has been put in hand. It is amusing to stand here and watch the Leader of the Opposition smile at that remark. At least this Parliament and the people of Australia do now get reports. Only this week I tabled the working group’s report which lay in the archives of this Parliament for well over 12 months, and which the Liberal-Country Party Government would never have tabled in this place. We have tabled hundreds of reports which the previous Government treated as secret and was not prepared to make available for public scrutiny. The Opposition should not talk to me about delays of a week or a month when referring to the tabling of reports. The report will be tabled as soon as it is printed. All relevant information, including about 18 booklets on the environmental impact of the various sites, will be placed not in this place because of the cost of printing those booklets but in the Library. The publications will be available to those honourable members who are interested.
We do not intend to suppress anything. The publications will be available for perusal. The record discloses that we are an open government and that the Opposition, when in office, was a government of secrecy and was not prepared to make information available to the public. I have had no report from the DirectorGeneral of Civil Aviation on this matter. The Leader of the Opposition, in a speech one day, last week, stated a lot of bunkum when he said that the Director-General was laying siege to his office because of another inquiry that was being conducted. That was typical of the bunkum which is coming from the opposite side of the House.
I have received no report from the DirectorGeneral on the matter - from memory. I have no particular report concerning the effects of Richmond on other sites. General aviation airports were referred to in unprinted copies of the report. I do not recall Galston being mentioned as far as Richmond was concerned. The honourable member for Berowra said that Galston was not one of the sites considered.
That is not true. There is an impact statement on Galston. That will be included in the papers that will be tabled in due course. Galston was one of the sites which was considered.
– Is the Minister for Social Security aware of an article in a Western Australian newspaper of 15 September which quotes a witness appearing before the Senate Select Committee on Social Environment as saying that social security cheques for some Aboriginals in East Perth were mailed straight to a wine saloon? Is he further aware of an article appearing in that excellent paper, the Sunday Independent’, of 16 September quoting a saloon keeper as denying those allegations? Will the Minister inform the House of the true facts of the situation?
– On the publication of this initial report the Department of Social Security as much as it was able to do in Perth, carried out a check of the addresses to which cheques were being posted and could find no evidence that social service cheques were being posted to a wine saloon. This week social security cheques will be posted and a comprehensive check will be made, but we feel fairly confident, on the basis of the first check, that there is no evidence to support this allegation at all.
– Is the Minister for Minerals and Energy aware that the honourable member for Blaxland last night referred to private correspondence between the Prime Minister and a former Minister which was in his possession? Is he also aware that the honourable member for Blaxland read to the House from a document which he claimed to be the draft of a speech formulated by a former Minister though not delivered in the House? Does the honourable gentlemen further understand that the honourable member for Blaxland said it was not given to him by the Minister? In the circumstances, I ask the honourable gentleman: Does he accept that the likelihood is that there has been a breach of the law by somebody by the fact of the possession of these documents by the honourable member for Blaxland? Does he also understand the Westminster Conventions relating to the documents of former governments? On both counts will the Minister ensure that suitable inquiries are made and that no repetititon of this occurs?
– The question asked by the Leader of the Opposition is a piece of humbug.
– It shows how responsible you are.
– That is a nice thing, coming from a Minister.
– What is your story?
– All right. When the interjections are finished-
– Firstly, the letters referred to are a matter of public record. They were requoted by the honourable member for Blaxland from a speech made in this House some time ago. As for the alleged speech, it was merely a draft speech prepared for the possible use of the Minister and not in fact so used. It had never even been brought to the attention of the Minister.
– How did it get into his possession?
-Order! I call the honourable member for Darling.
– I raise a point of order. It cannot have escaped you, Mr Speaker, that the honourable gentleman commenced his answer with a statement which you have ruled, and which has long been understood to be ruled, to be unparliamentary. You ignored that. Secondly, the honourable gentleman totally failed to give any explanation in relation to the speech which he admits was prepared and not delivered. He gave no explanation whatever as to how that left the custody of the Department, where it should not even have been, and came into the possession of the honourable member for Blaxland.
– In regard to the first matter, the Minister did not reflect on the Leader of the Opposition. He said that the question was a piece of humbug. There was no personal reflection at all.
– An unparliamentary word.
-Order! The Chair, to the best of its ability, certainly will take care that no personal imputations or personal reflections are made by members on either side of the House. No point of order is involved, because the Minister can answer the question in the way he sees befitting that question. I call the Minister for Minerals and Energy.
– I quote from the relevant minute of 29 December 1972:
As requested, attached are the following papers:
The Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill 1970;
The draft of a second reading speech which had been prepared in September 1970 for possible use by the then Minister for National Development.
– Mr Speaker, again I raise a point of order. What the honourable gentleman has now done is to confess publicly that he has possession of the papers of a former Ministry and is willing to make use of them for his own political purposes. He completely abandons every element of good manners or constitutional practice in this manner.
-Order! As far as the Chair is concerned, no point of order is involved. This is purely and simply a matter for the Government.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is not only a matter for the Government at all. I say that with great respect to you. Yours is a very important office. I suggest that you discharge your duties fearlessly and forget your membership of a political party.
-Order! I think the right honourable gentleman would be aware that my predecessors and I have always attempted to be as impartial as possible. In addition to the reflection on the Chair, I accept that remark as a personal reflection. The fact that I belong to a political party does not enter into my judgment when making decisions in the House. I was informed on the authority of my Clerk last night that this matter is purely and simply one not for the Chair but for the Government itself. Therefore, as far as the Chair is concerned, no point of order is involved. I call the honourable member for Darling.
– It is quite right, as the honourable member says, that there is a need to expand production of food and fibre at the present time. When the new administration took office, not only was the bank accommodation zero for many farmers but they were in deep debt. The other point is, of course, that the national cupboard was bare. We were short of a whole range of commodities, and there is a need to increase production to meet the whole range of food and fibre needs of the nation. I have just recently with the Minister for Primary Industry and the Treasurer had a look at credit availability in the rural sector, and it would seem to be about S350m at this point. It is not possible to quantify exactly the amount of unused rural credit, but as at 12 September the major trading banks held Slim in their farm development loan fund accounts, which together with repayments to the funds is available to meet drawings against loan approvals. At the same date in their term loan accounts there was $43m, about a quarter of which would be. available for application in the rural sphere.
The Reserve Bank also announced in July that it would be arranging to supplement these funds in this month of September. In addition to all this the honourable member for Darling and the House will be interested to know that a large amount of undrawn overdraft approval is available to the rural sector. The latest figures available show that the amount involved is $259m. On top of that, of course, there has been made available by the Government a special fund of S20m to the Commonwealth Development Bank. In addition, under rural assistance, S48m has been made available nationally. I would submit that this is a considerable volume of rural credit at the present time. It does not mean to say that that is the end of the initiatives in this important sector. I have had a special interest in it for a long time, and the Treasurer, the Minister for Primary Industry and I are continuing to look at even further supplements to the figures I have given to the House.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Is it correct that the Prime Minister stated on 30 January 1973 that he was in favour of making public the membership of interdepartmental committees? Is it also correct that on the same day the Prime Minister assured members of the Press that he would not refuse to name the membership of interdepartmental committees or when they have reported? Does the failure to answer a question which I put on the notice paper asking for the numbers, composition and functions of each of the interdepartmen tal committees and their period of activity amount to a refusal to provide the information, for there is no other way in which the information can be Obtained? The answer he gave me was to the effect that a previous question by him was answered in the same way, but the statements he made were to draw a distinction between his attitude as it would be in government and that of the previous Government. Is this not a clear contradiction of his clear words?
– The answer to the first 2 questions is yes. I did give the same answer as my predecessor to a question by the right honourable gentleman in these terms:
My answer said that to compile the information would involve time and expense that I am reluctant to authorise, as were my immediate 2 predecessors. If the right honourable gentleman wishes to know the composition and function of any particular interdepartmental committee and for what period of time it has been active I shall be very happy to provide him with that information.
– I ask the Minister for Education whether he is aware that the Victorian State Government has decided to set up a multi-campus institution to be known as the State College of Victoria to incorporate the existing teacher training institutions previously under the control of the Victorian Department of Education. Will the Commonwealth Government be accepting financial responsibility for the State College of Victoria? Was there consultation between the Victorian State Government and the Minister before the decision was made? Is there danger of duplication of resources in this approach? Would it have been a sounder decision for teacher training institutions to be affiliated either with the universities or with the Victorian Institute of Colleges?
– The Victorian Government passed the legislation setting up this system before I became Minister for Education so there were no negotiations between me and the Government of Victoria. The State Colleges (Victoria) Act was passed in 1972. Under the system an interim senate has been established to govern all the teachers colleges in Victoria independently of the Department of Education and an academic board has been established to make recommendations on standards of education, examinations and the awarding of degrees. When the Cohen Committee was set up by the McMahon Government to look at the whole question of teacher education it accepted this situation. The present Government has accepted the Cohen report. We are taking responsibility for all teachers colleges to this degree. The Commonwealth is to spend in 2i years $188m on teacher education. We will be financing the recurring costs and the capital costs of teacher education.
I believe that discussions have taken place over a period of time between the Victorian Government and the committee set up by the Australian Commission on Advanced Education. The honourable gentleman asked me for a personal opinion. In a situation where there is a multi-campus institution there can easily bi wasteful duplication but we are not assuming control of Victorian teacher education - merely financial responsibility for capital and recurring costs. I believe it is desirable for teacher training to. take place in universities and colleges of advanced education in order that trainee teachers may have association with people training for other professions. However, this is not something which the Commonwealth Government can impose on any State government. I believe that teacher education in Australia has to evolve over the coming years into something which is more effective than we have known in the past. That will be a matter for discussion between the Commonwealth and the States. The Commonwealth is not assuming a centralised power in this matter when assuming the obligation to finance the system. Constitutional responsibility still rests with the States.
– I move:
-Order! The honourable member for Moreton must seek leave to move a motion; otherwise he will have to give notice of the motion.
– I seek leave to move a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders.
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– I move:
In a debate in this House last evening the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) read from documents -
– I ask the honourable gentleman to be good enough to put in writing the motion to suspend Standing Orders and deliver it to the Clerk at the table.
– This is a matter of urgency and of very considerable gravity. It goes to the whole foundation of parliamentary government. That is not to gild the lilly in any shape of form. If confidences are to be breached by successive governments then the whole fabric of government will be wrenched asunder. Cabinet government works upon one basic principle, that is, complete frankness, honesty and confidence are observed between and among all Ministers. Ministers may put forward proposals relating to the administration of their departments when they find upon listening to further argument, when they find upon further scrutiny and examination that the argument they once possessed as being the proper remedy for a particular problem was not in fact the remedy at all. Upon that basis documents are circulated between and among Ministers. Last evening the honourable member for Blaxland read from documents which-
– Order! I ask the honourable member to deal with the specific reason why the Standing Orders should be suspended and not to debate the substance of the motion.
– Precisely. I will not transgress your ruling, Mr Speaker. I am identifying the problem and the urgency which attends the problem is to be found upon 2 bases. Firstly, the honourable member for
Blaxland as a member of this Parliament must find himself under some cloud of suspicion simply because he has divulged what purported to be documents relating to the administration of a former government.
– What do you want to hide?
-It is not a case of wanting to hide anything at all. The principle involved here is how the honourable member came to be in possession of these documents. The second basis upon which urgency attends this matter is the attitude taken by the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) who has sought to dismiss this grave matter by using the highly unfelicitous term ‘humbug’. The Minister himself as the person responsible for the administration of a great department of State is the person who must ultimately answer to this Parliament and to the people for every aspect of that administration and the Minister himself stands under a cloud of suspicion, although I am bound to observe in passing that it would need to be a very large cloud.
– Order! I have already asked the honourable member to confine his remarks to the reason why the Standing Orders should be suspended and not to deal with the substance of the motion.
– I am not dealing with the substance. I am dealing with the urgency of the matter where the integrity of 2 members of this Parliament - one of them a Minister administering a great department of State - is under challenge and that is a situation that no self-respecting legislature should tolerate for one moment. They are the bases of the urgency and I would hope that the Minister in charge of the House will respond. The integrity of 2 members - one a Minister - is under challenge and the whole foundation of parliamentary government is being put at risk by what occurred last night and which was entrenched this morning by the attitude of the Minister for Minerals and Energy. I appeal to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), who on a previous occasion has said that only in exceptional circumstances would there be any release. There is the urgency. I would expect a mature and responsible reaction from the Government.
– Order! Is the motion seconded?
– Yes, Mr Speaker, I second this motion because I believe that the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) has detailed extremely cogently exactly why this motion should be treated as a matter of urgency. As the honourable member for Moreton said, and as all honourable members know, the integrity and probity of 2 members of this House are under question. One is a Minister of State of the Australian Government whose integrity is in doubt as a result of the actions of the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) in this House last night. The Opposition is forced to this course of action simply because the Government refused leave for the honourable member for Moreton to move a motion to set up a select committee. This Government professes to espouse the cause of open government and it alleges to have come into power in Australia on the basis that it would reveal the workings of the Government and would present the people with a degree of administrative skill and a degree of probity such as they have not had before. It certainly appears to be doing that but, unfortunately, not in the manner it professed it would. This is a matter of major importance. It transcends the question of the integrity of 2 members of Parliament, it transcends individual parties and transcends individual people. It strikes at the very basis of parliamentary government and Cabinet government. It therefore gives me great pleasure to second the motion moved by the honourable member for Moreton. I hope that every member of this House who professes to defend the cause of parliamentary democracy and of cabinet government will wholeheartedly support it.
– This is the reduction to absurdity of the processes of the national Parliament. I do not know of an instance in parliamentary history where there has been an absurd manoeuvre-
– You are an unprincipled rogue.
– You withdraw that. Mr Speaker, I ask for a withdrawal. It was an unprincipled comment.
-The honourable member for Kooyong will withdraw that remark.
– Unreservedly, Sir.
-Order! The honourable member for Kooyong will withdraw that remark unreservedly.
– I withdraw the remark. It is quite clear that the Minister regards himself as a rogue with a degree of principle.
– Order! The honourable member for Kooyong will resume his seat.
– He has not withdrawn his remark. I ask for the remark to be withdrawn unreservedly.
– Order! The honourable member said yes when I made my request to him to withdraw it unreservedly.
– Mr Speaker, the whole matter is as simple as this - and I will quote from the Hansard report of last night’s proceedings. The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) last night, according to page 1283 of Hansard, quoted from a speech made by the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) as follows:
As to off-shore 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.
The honourable member for Blaxland quoted verbatim from the Hansard record of 15 May 1970, when the right honourable member for Higgins uttered precisely those words. The honourable member for Blaxland is reported at page 1283 of Hansard as having said last night that 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.
At page 2243 of Hansard of 15 May 1970 the right honourable member for Higgins is reported as saying:
For this reason I would prefer that you eliminate from your proposed letter the suggestion that the Commonwealth will not legislate unilaterally until after the completion of full and frank discussions with the States on this matter.
On that basis, in their desperate, foolish attempt at mock heroics on a silly issue, honourable members opposite, including the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) of all people, rushed in. .Was there ever a more absurd situation in this House than that a select committee be set up to investigate what is already in Hansard? It is humbug. As for the rest of this nonsense, I repeat what I said before: It is here and it is available for anyone to read. Any honourable member can come along to my office and see it. There is nothing to be ashamed of in it. The minute is dated 29 December 1972.
– So it is a Cabinet minute?
– It is not a Cabinet minute at all. It is a report from Mr Livermore, the First Assistant Secretary, to the Secretary of the Department. It is not a Cabinet minute.
– I ask that the Minister table that document.
– I am quite happy to table it. It says:
As requested, attached are the following papers:
The Minerals- (Submerged Lands) Bill 1970;
The draft of a second reading speech–
– Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. The honourable member for New England has drawn your attention to the fact that the Minister is quoting from a document and has asked that in accordance with Standing Orders the document be tabled.
-Order! The request has been agreed to. The Minister has agreed to table the document.
– On a point of order, I ask that the document be handed to the Clerk and that the lime of the tabling be noted now.
-Order! As the honourable member would be aware, the Minister is reading from the document at the present to show why Standing Orders should not be suspended. He is giving the detail of why they should not be suspended. He is not actually debating what is in the paper; he is giving the reasons why.
– Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to standing order 321. In accordance with a request by the honourable member for New England, the Minister has agreed to table the document. I ask that the tabling of the document be noted by the Clerk so that the whole of the document and not, as yesterday, part only of the document is included.
-Order! The Minister has agreed to table the whole of the document. If the House does not want to hear what the Minister has to say in regard to the document that is all right with me. Honourable members will be closing up on what the Minister is trying to relate to them as to the reason why Standing Orders should not be suspended.
– On a point of order-
– All right. If the honourable member insists, the Minister may pass the document to the Clerk who will handle it for a couple of seconds and pass it back. That will be in order.
– Mr Speaker-
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– Absolute rot.
– Resume your seat, you do not have the call.
– I have never heard a worse decision.
– Resume your seat.
– I take a point of order. In taking ‘his previous point of order, the honourable member for Sturt asserted that the document which was tabled in this House yesterday was not the document which was required to be tabled in this House yesterday. That is what he said. His assertion challenges the integrity of the officers of this House. I ask you, Mr Speaker, to ask the honourable member to apologise to the staff of the House whom he has claimed are dishonest.
-Order! I will have a look into this matter and if any imputations have been made against the officers of the House I will certainly ask for an apology.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister for Minerals and Energy has not tabled the whole of that document. He took from the top of the document a paper, and that is what he tabled. The whole of that document must be tabled. The Minister should not have the right to take from that document a paper that suits him. The whole of the document should be tabled at this point of time. I ask you to consider my point of order.
-Order! The Minister has tabled only 2 pages of the document. What is his intention?
– That is the complete document. May I explain for a moment? Everyone else has had a go. I quoted from a minute dated 29 December 1972 on the Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill. I mentioned that it was from Mr Livermore, the First Assistant Secretary, to the Secretary of the Department. I was proceeding to quote from it when I was interrupted so foolishly. (Extension of time granted) I do not want to take up the time of the House unduly. The document starts in this fashion:
As requested, attached are the following papers:
The Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill 1970;
The draft of a second reading speech which had been prepared in September 1970 for possible use -
I stress the words ‘for possible use’ - by the then Minister for National Development.
No work has been carried out on these papers since 1970. I will read out the rest of the document if the House wishes me to do so, but I have tabled the document.
– This motion for the suspension of Standing Orders is properly brought. If the motion is not passed it will be only because the Government is using its numbers in this House - everybody knows that it has the numbers - simply in a blind response to protect members of its Party, without having the slightest regard for the conventions of government which have existed for centuries and which are known as the Westminister conventions. The conventions of Westminister have existed for some centuries. The basis of the convention to which I refer is that, when a government governs, there must be within the government a need for total and complete communication between the government and the Public Service and total and complete communication between the Ministers making up the government. In accordance with that convention, when the government goes out of office, it is the responsibility of the Secretary of the Cabinet Office to lock up all the papers of that previous government.
– This was not a Cabinet document and you well know it. Do not mislead the House.
– How did he get it?
– It was also a report to my administration - and do not forget that too - on 29 December.
-Order! The Minister can seek to make a personal explanation at the conclusion of this speech.
– The convention is for the Secretary of the Cabinet Office to lock up all the papers of that government and submit them to Archives. From Archives they will be available only after the expiration of a 25-year period. In the meantime they can be made available only with the consent of the leader of the Opposition party. Within the convention there is also a very strict instruction in terms of the convention to the Permanent Head of every department that he should take out of the files in the department all personal documents that are submissions, decisions or correspondence between Ministers, and keep them away from the incoming Minister. I do not speak of this without authority. There is plenty of written authority about the convention and the most recent one made was by Richard Crossman, whose name will be well known to Government supporters. He said:
Though I know of no book or document in which they are written out, the procedures to be followed in the Cabinet Offices and in each Ministry or Department when a new Government takes over are well established and understood throughout Whitehall. Some of them involve considerable work before the election - or more probably during the actual campaign, when the Minister is otherwise engaged and his Private Office has time at its disposal. The most important of these procedures is the removal from the files of any document which is either wholly or partly composed by the Minister, or contains any annotation by him or even his signature. The departmental records when presented to an incoming Minister of the Opposition side must be pure arid undefined by the hand of any politician. The reason for this is twofold. In the first place, the incoming Minister must not have the advantage of knowing the views and reactions of his predecessor. Secondly, and much more important, the outgoing Minister must not be embarrassed by his incoming enemy obtaining an insight into his confidential minutes, drafts and conclusions, which could contradict his public utterances.
The purpose of that is so that government can go on. How can the Minister for Minerals and Energy himself write to another Minister if it is to become the property of anybody else? Last night the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) said:
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.
He quoted from it; this morning the Minister for Minerals and Energy made an admission that that was so. The purpose of the motion under consideration is to appoint a select committee. If the motion is not able to be moved, and it can be moved only if Standing Orders are suspended, then it is a further contradiction of the parliamentary system which the present Labor Government is determined to achieve.
– The most interesting point arising from this debate is that the Opposition is ashamed of its previous record and ashamed of anything on its records, and in addition to that- (Opposition members interjecting)
– Order! We have tried to keep this debate as much as possible to the reasons why Standing Orders should be suspended or should not be suspended. I ask all honourable members to keep that in mind.
– One of the major reasons, apart from the excellent speech of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) why Standing Orders should not be suspended is that this is Grievance Day, the day when honourable members opposite demand that private members be given their opportunity to speak. Yet this morning we have seen them bring forward a motion that denies to those who squeal the loudest on the other side of the chamber, a right to say a few words in this House. In addition to that, for the first time in history in a Budget session honourable members can have a Grievance Day. Those who complain the most have taken away that opportunity with a frivolous motion. Could any better reason be given as to why this motion should not be carried?
– Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to your ruling that the debate should be restricted to the motion. I submit that the Minister is wandering away and just fooling around and that he should come back to this matter of principle because we on this side consider it a matter of great principle.
– Mr Speaker, my point of order is that I am the first speaker on this side of the House listed to speak in the Grievance Day debate and I am very happy for the debate to go on.
– I have taken note of the honourable member’s reason for moving this motion and I will keep well in my mind that he does not want a Grievance Day debate.
– A point of order, Mr Speaker -
– Order! It is a little late. The time for the debate has expired.
That the motion (Mr Killen’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon J. F. Cope)
Majority . . . . 9
Questions so resolved in the negative.
Mr Anthony - Unreservedly
-Order! In regard to the point of order taken, the matter is covered by standing order 321. (Honourable members interjecting) -
-Order! I intend to take action if there are any more ‘interjections irrespective of who interjects - Ministers, Leaders, Deputy Leaders or anybody. I can assure honourable members that I intend to take action and nobody in the chamber is beyond that action. Standing order 321 provides:
A document relating to public affairs quoted from by a Minister or an Assistant Minister, unless stated to be of a confidential nature or such as should more properly be obtained by address, shall, if required by any member, be laid on the table.
In regard to the speech made last night by the honourable member for Blaxland, he is not required to table a document because he is not a Minister or Assistant Minister.
– On the point of order, I was not specifically referring to the statement by the honourable member for Blaxland. On a matter of principle I asked for your ruling in relation to quotations made both yesterday and today. Are all documents or is only the document on top of the bundle required to be tabled? I understand from your statement that all documents fixed together are required to be tabled. Is that correct?
– The standing order refers to a document relating to public affairs quoted from by a Minister. That is the only point concerned. The Minister has tabled the document and other portions of the paper which was underneath it, has he not?
– Yes, I have.
– He has tabled it. The paper underneath is a Bill for an Act.
– Speaking to the point of order, Mr Speaker, am I to take it that the standing order you have quoted applies only to documents quoted from? If under a document from which I quoted I had 300 copies of Hansard they would not all have to be tabled.
– Many Ministers come into the House with folders and huge quantities of documents. If a Minister quotes from a document on top of a bundle I think it would be ludicrous to ask him to table everything contained in the folder. That would be absurd. The fact is that the Minister has already agreed in this instance to table the paper underneath the document from which he quoted. It is now in the possession of the Clerk.
– I think a little more precise clarification is needed. I do net accept the facetious remark by the Leader of the House about a whole pile of Hansard copies. The Deputy Leader of the Country Party asked for your ruling on cases when there are attachments to the document from which a Minister quotes. If papers are attached I believe that they should be tabled together with the document from which he has quoted.
– That has already been done. The attachment is a Bill for an Act and it has now been tabled. We cannot meet any more requests when it has already been done.
– We might as well have this clarified as it will be for the benefit of Parliament and that is my object in speaking to the point of order. Honourable members opposite talk about attachments to the papers. The attachments might have contained very personal
– That is the whole idea of it.
– There might be another document. The Minister might have had some very personal comments of his own attached to the paper. Therefore I do not think that he should be obliged-
– Order! I have already given a ruling in regard to the papers which the Minister may have in his hand at the time of answering a question. I have noticed since I have been a member of this Parliament. that on numerous occasions Ministers have bundles of papers in anticipation of certain questions being asked. As a result they refer only to the pertinent document when answering a question.
As I stated before, and I re-emphasise, it would be ludicrous to expect any Minister to table all the papers he has in his possession at the time.
– I take a further point of order to the one we have been discussing which arose out of the transactions of this House yesterday. I need to explain the background to the point of order upon which I wish you, Mr Speaker, to rule. Yesterday the honourable member for New England rose on a point of order and asked the Minister for Defence-
– Order! The honourable gentleman is about 24 hours behind in raising his point of order. A point of order must be taken immediately after the incident has occurred.
– Mr Speaker-
– Order! The honourable member cannot take a point of order on what happened yesterday.
– Mr Speaker. I do not propose to take a point of order on what happened yesterday. I wish to ask you a question in relation to this matter. When an honourable member exercises his right under the Standing Orders to ask a Minister to table a document should not that document be tabled as a whole or can it be torn in half and only half of the document tabled, as was done yesterday.
– No point of order can be taken in regard to what happened yesterday. A point of order can be taken only in regard to what happened this morning. As I stated before, the document the Minister had today contained information pertinent to the answer to the question. The second part was in regard to an Act in relation to off-shore leases. That has been tabled as requested.
– I rise on a point of order.
– Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I have informed him of the position about 6 times. A point of order cannot be taken on something which occurred yesterday. The document was tabled today.
- Mr Speaker-
– Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. He is wasting the time of the House. If members of the Opposition are not satified with my ruling they can take the necessary action. The honourable member is just wasting the time of the House. Grievance Day debate, in which honourable members from both sides will participate, is to follow.
– Mr Speaker, I resent the suggestion that I am wasting the time of the House.
– Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I have given my decision. If members of the Opposition are not satified with it they can take the necessary action.
Mr SNEDDEN(Bruce - Leader of the
Opposition) - Mr Speaker, if you will give us one moment of your patience while we write it out, we will disagree with your decision. (Mr Snedden having submitted in writing his objection to the ruling)
– I move:
Today we have had an extraordinary situation. The Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) when asked to table a document had a spring clip that clipped a whole group of papers together. He quoted from the document. He was ordered to table it by the Speaker at the insistance of the Opposition. He showed very great reluctance to do so for a considerable period of time and then in a most extraordinary fashion, with total loss of temper, in a fury and a rage, he threw it from the other side of the table. It is not known to us whether he threw it at the Clerk or at the Deputy Leader of the Country Party.
– I take a point of order. I ask you, Mr Speaker, whether it is in order for the right honourable gentleman to give an account of this morning’s proceedings when he is taking a point of order and moving dissent from your ruling.
– Order! It is a fact that the motion before the House is one of dissent from the Speaker’s ruling in regard to the matter brought up by the honourable member for Sturt. The Leader of the Opposition is not to debate what happened this morning. He has 20 minutes to show why the Speaker’s ruling should be dissented from.
– This is very relevant to it.
– Order! It is not relevant as far as I am concerned. The Leader of the Opposition must keep to the motion before the Chair, the motion of dissent from ‘the Speaker’s ruling in regard to a matter referred to by the honourable member for Sturt.
- Mr Speaker, are you ruling that what you have ruled today in relation to the tabling of papers is irrelevant as to what we say you should rule in relation to tabling yesterday?
-Order! The point is that the Leader of the Opposition is discussing at present a motion of dissent from the Speaker’s ruling in regard to the- tabling of papers, not in regard to an incident which may have occurred this morning concerning the Minister for Minerals and Energy.
– I take a point of order.
– You will put your foot in it again.
– I thought the Leader of the Opposition had moved dissent from the Speaker’s ruling. Has he spoken to that?
– I rise to continue.
– All right. Go ahead.
– It is extraordinary that with all the trouble the Minister for Minerals and Energy is in the Deputy Prime Minister comes in to try to get him out of it. I think that he would be better to fight on his own. Everbody is speaking about the Barnardisation of the armed forces. Now we have the Barnardisation of the Minister for Minerals and Energy.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will speak into the microphone as the Prime Minister did this morning.
– I will repeat into the microphone what I said. Everybody is speaking about the Barnardisation of the defence forces-
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Leader of the Opposition is supposed to be speaking to a motion of dissent from your ruling. That motion has nothing to do with the Minister for Defence or any other Minister.
-I ask the Leader of the Opposition to confine his remarks to the motion before the Chair, which is ‘That the Speaker’s ruling be dissented from’.
- Mr Speaker, the Minister for Minerals and Energy threw the papers. He was responding apparently, although in great rage and fury, to your ruling that the whole of the documents had to be tabled. As I said, fortunately they missed the Clerk. They did not hit him. If they had, they could have seriously injured him.
Here then Mr Speaker, is the position: You ruled today that the whole of those documents had to be tabled. Yesterday a document was read from and you ruled that it should be tabled. In fact, part only of the document was tabled. Quite clearly, your ruling of yesterday would have required the tabling of the whole of the document, not part of the document only. Your ruling today was correct. You ruled that the whole of the document had to be tabled. The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) then took a point of order on the basis that, as you had ruled today - correctly, I might say, in my belief - that the whole of the document had to be tabled, he was entitled on the basis of that correct ruling to ask you to order that the whole of the document ordered to be tabled yesterday should now be tabled. Your ruling had become clear.
For some reason which is beyond my comprehension, Mr Speaker, you are saying that, although you know it to be absolutely correct, because you did not order the whole of the document to be tabled yesterday the whole of that document cannot be called for today. If this Parliament is to continue on rationally, without such episodes as the Minister for Minerals and Energy using all his energy to throw papers across the table, as he did today - his action was of similar order to but not worse than, the performance of the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) when he threw a glass of water over the then Minister for External Affairs who is the present Governor-General - and if the business of this Parliament is to be conducted according to the rules of parliamentary procedure, you must be consistent. It is because you are failing to be consistent that we have felt obliged to move dissent from your ruling.
The ruling that you gave this morning about tabling the whole of the document is correct. The ruling that you gave following that ruling - you refused to allow the honourable member for Sturt today to call for the tabling of the whole of the document which he sought to be tabled yesterday - is wrong. I suggest to you that the interests of this Parliament, the interests of parliamentary democracy and the interests of sticking to the rules of the House require you to say today to the honourable member for Sturt: ‘You are correct’, and then to say to the Minister for Defence: ‘You shall table today the whole of the document, and not that selected part which you have torn off from the document’. There is the simple reason for the Opposition moving dissent from your ruling. We take this action without wishing to do other than achieve from you consistency.
– Is the motion seconded?
– Yes, Mr Speaker. I second the motion. In doing so, I wish to recount some of the events that occurred yesterday and that led up to the request by me for your ruling on this matter. It is necessary to do this because, endeavour as I did, I was not able to obtain from you a ruling on the matters. The point which I sought to have clarified today was that, in order that I as a member of this Parliament may exercise the rights that are conferred upon me as a member of this House by the Standing Orders of this House, it is important that the rulings of the Speaker be clearly given on doubts that any honourable member may have with regard to the interpretation of the Standing Orders.
Yesterday, at question time, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard), in answer to a question, quoted from a document. As he was quoting from it, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) rose and said:
On a point of order, I ask the Minister to table the paper from which he is reading.
That request was made under standing order 321, which requires the Minister in those circumstances to table the document from which he is quoting. I, sitting in my place here, saw the Minister table the document. He placed a sheet of foolscap size or quarto size paper on the books in the centre of the table. He placed the document out of the reach of the Clerk. But I interpreted the placing of the document on the table as a tabling of the document in accordance with the request of the honourable member for New England. Then, in order that the House would be better informed and would have the information immediately before it, the Deputy Prime Minister asked whether the document could be incorporated in Hansard. That is the second chapter. The request was a sensible one. It was made so that the figures could be printed and available to all honourable members without the necessity for them to go to the Bills and Papers Office to seek a copy of the tabled document.
Anxious to know what was in the tabled document, I sought to exercise my right under the Standing Orders to see that document. I found that, because it had not come into the possession of the Clerk, he was unable to show it to me. When this matter was raised later in the morning, the Deputy Prime Minister then tabled a document - not the document, because what he subsequently tabled was onethird the size of the original document that he had tabled.
This morning I was seeking to ask you, Mr Speaker, to examine the circumstances in which only part - a torn section - of the document was tabled in this House yesterday. In reply, the Deputy Prime Minister said that I was reflecting upon his integrity. If the cap fits, let him wear it. Under the Standing Orders, he had an obligation to table the document, not part of it. There is nothing wrong with my being suspicious that he has something to hide when he, in consultation with the Prime Minister, neatly tears off the top section of the document and tables some statistical tables only. What was it which was on the top of the document and about which he was so concerned? It may be nothing. If it is nothing, let him table it and let us see. It is not for the Deputy Prime Minister, having been required to table a document under the Standing Orders, by a sleight of hand to take the document back from the table and say that he will then incorporate the document in Hansard. When one turns to Hansard of yesterday at page 1226 one finds at the top of that page this reference: (The document read as follows) -
The statistical table read as follows, but not the document, unless there was a blank sheet of paper on the top of the table. If there was, let the Minister state that it was a blank sheet of paper. Let him produce the paper from which he was reading so that he can dispel the doubts he has cast by his action in surreptitiously by sleight of hand withdrawing the document from on top of the Hansard reports on the table. Then in concert with the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), who examined the document with him and talked with him in the process, he neatly tore the document in half, taking from the top maybe a blank sheet of paper, but what else? It may have had something on it. It may have had information which he is concerned that we, the elected members of this House, should not see and which we, the elected members, are to be prevented from observing in exercise of the rights that we have under the Standing Orders.
If he did not want to produce the document and if the document was of a special nature there are certain rights that he has as a Minister to indicate to the House that the papers are of a character that does not require him to produce them, but he did not exercise that right. He said: ‘I table the document’ and the piece of paper went down on the table. It was not handed to the Clerk. Then today the Minister for Minerals and Energy gets all uptight when I rise on a point of order and ask that the document be handed to the Clerk so that he, the Minister for Minerals and Energy, cannot perform the same trick, the same sleight of hand, to hide from the members of this House the view of documents which under the Standing Orders we are entitled to see.
It is time that Ministers of the present Government, when called upon under the Standing Orders of this Parliament to produce a document, produced the whole document. Today we have had discussions and we have sought your ruling, Mr Speaker, with regard to events today and you have said that the whole document, including the incorporate attachments, must be filed. You have said that if there is a pile of Hansards or personal letters totally unrelated, unconnected to the document from which the Minister is reading they are not required to be produced. But even if you were to have ruled that only one page of a document was required to be tabled, it would have been a ruling which I think in common sense would have made an absurdity of the standing order. A single page may be part of a whole document. If its contents go over 2 pages common sense necessitates the inclusion of the whole document. But yesterday the Minister for Defence tabled as a document a single page.
– And he is the Deputy Prime Minister.
– Yes. He put a single page on the table. He then tore half of the page off. If the Deputy Prime Minister wants to restore his integrity he should today table the whole document or alternatively - this is the purport of the motion now before the Chair in dissent of your ruling - you should require the Deputy Prime Minister to table the whole document. You, Sir, are the custodian of the rights of the members of this House. Yesterday members of this House exercised their rights. They asked that the documents be tabled. They exercised their rights to peruse those documents, and because of the sleight of hand by the Deputy Prime Minister those rights have been denied. It is in our view your responsibility to see that those rights are protected. In seeking your ruling this morning I wanted to obtain from you an indication whether as a member of this House I at this stage was entitled to seek your assistance to require the Minister for Defence to table the whole document which he tabled yesterday, the request for the tabling of which was never at any stage withdrawn. That was one chapter. The subsequent chapter of its incorporation in Hansard was a second chapter, a second step. If it is intended by you that when that occurs that waives the first request you should so indicate to the members of this House so they can press their rights to have documents incorporated in Hansard as a whole and not small favourable pieces suiting the Minister.
-Order! Will the Leader of the Opposition confer with the Clerk in regard to the exact wording of the motion.
– Mr Speaker, I rise to oppose the motion which expresses dissent from your ruling. This is indeed a trivial matter because you acted quite properly in asking that the document from which I quoted be tabled. I moved to table that document. Indeed, not only did I move to table the document but I went further than that; I asked that the document be incorporated in Hansard. The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) this morning has apparently had his greatest moment in this House, because quite frankly I have never heard him until this morning.
– He reflected on my integrity yesterday.
-Order! The previous speakers were heard in comparative silence. The motion before the chair does not deny me the right to take the action needed if anyone infringes further on the Standing Orders by making persistent interjections.
– Mr Speaker, they were heard in complete silence. I hope that the honourable member for Sturt can take it as he endeavoured to give it. The honourable member for Sturt yesterday reflected on my integrity and I pointed it out to him. Indeed, when he said he was not able to obtain a copy of the document which has been incorporated in Hansard I immediately made a copy of it available to him. I sent to my office and got it for him. I resent the implication in his statement this morning. I said a few moments ago that he does not speak very often in this House. I hope that he does not repeat the performance that he gave to the Parliament on this occasion, because not only did he reflect on my integrity yesterday but also he went on to compound the felony this morning and it does not do the honourable member for Sturt any credit at all. I think that those members in this House who have some respect for the procedures and the propriety of this House would resent the implications in the honourable member’s statement this morning. He compounded the felony by suggesting that I placed the document on the table out of the reach of the Clerk’s hand. What sort of an implication is that? It does not do the honourable member any credit. Is he implying that I intended that the Clerk should not get that document? Does anyone sincerely believe that? Let him stand up and say it.
– Yes, I do.
– That does not surprise me because you are one of the exceptions. You would support the honourable member for Sturt in these implications and it does not surprise me that you do it. What kind of an insinuation is it that I put the document on the table out of the reach of the Clerk’s hands? Quite frankly I have never before heard any member of this House make such an implication. Generally when a document is tabled in this Parliament, if someone from the Opposition is at the table it is tabled in that position and everybody in this House knows that that is the normal procedure. The assertion made by the honourable member for Sturt does not do him any credit at all.
Let me come back to the point I made initially, Mr Speaker, that you were quite correct in your ruling. I have quoted figures in this House which related to the size of the
Australian Army. I went back over a number of years and the part of the document that was tabled was the part from which I was quoting. No other part of the document was referred to by me. That part was not only tabled but also was incorporated in Hansard. I referred earlier to the triviality of this matter relating to the figures I quoted yesterday. I will come back to that in a few moments. But I can see that one can satisfy the honourable member for Sturt in one way only, that is, by placing oneself in a position where one will not be maligned in this House by honourable members of his type. I therefore agree that in order to achieve this all the figures will have to be tabled. I was referring to figures relating to the size of the Australian Army. There is no doubt about that and the triviality of the motion is shown by the fact that all these figures have already been published in documents which have been made available to every honourable member in this Parliament. They are not only the figures relating to the size and shape of the Army but also the figures to which I shall refer in a few moments.
If the honourable member for Sturt disbelieves me and thinks that there was some sinister move in what I did yesterday - he certainly implied that today and I resent the reflection on my integrity - I hope that he will stand up and say in which way my integrity can be impugned in this Parliament. He will have probably one supporter only. For the honourable member’s benefit let me turn to the other part of the document I referred to when answering the question. Honourable members will be interested in this. As a matter of fact, what I wanted to do was save honourable members on the other side embarrassment. They referred to the question of the gross national product in terms of defence spending in this country. The document, according to the heading, relates to defence expenditure as a percentage of gross national product. That appears on the top part of the document. The honourable member for Sturt said a few moments ago that I made available only one-third of it. He was wrong, of course. I made available exactly half of it. But I will not quibble over what part of the whole document was occupied by the portion tabled. The top part of the paper refers to the percentage of gross national product in terms of defence spending from 1960 until 1974 in the same way that the only part I quoted in answer to the question relating to the strength of the defence forces related to 1959-60 to 1972- 73. What are the figures that the honourable member is so concerned about? They show that in the financial year 1959-60 defence expenditure in this country was $387. That represented 2.8 per cent of the gross national product. In 1960-61 it was $3 96m and represented 2.7 per cent of the gross national product. And so it goes on down to 1973- 74. Yesterday at question time the Opposition was critical of the Government’s proposed defence expenditure as a proportion of gross national product. I said that it was 2.9 per cent.
– I rise to order. I ask the Minister for the first time now to table the total document?
– It is starting to hurt.
– It is not starting to hurt. I ask whether the Minister will now table the total document.
– I am replying and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) will have his opportunity to support the motion.
– I again rise to order. The point was well made yesterday, and I make it again now, that the Minister is quoting from another document which he claims is the same copy of the document which was mentioned yesterday. Mr Speaker, you will recall that he has quoted figures which he has indicated to this House appear on the top part of the document, half of which was tabled yesterday. If the Minister is now quoting from the same document, from the 2 halves of the earlier document or whatever it is, and if there was absolute confusion which has now been compounded, the Minister must accept total responsibility for that confusion. I ask again: Is the Minister now prepared to table that document? The forms of the House require that the document be so tabled. One cannot understand the Minister’s continued reticence and reluctance in regard to the tabling of documents in this House. I ask that the document be tabled.
– Of course I intend to table the document. Why else did I produce the whole document?
– Order! In accordance with Standing Orders the Minister must table the document immediately unless he is classing it as classified information.
– I table the document now.
– Thank you.
– Order! The document is not the property of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and should be given to the Clerk.
– I am pleased that honourable members opposite now have the document. It relates to the gross national product. Honourable members have heard me quote some of the figures. The document shows just how much of the gross national product this Government has spent on defence. This is not important, but the honourable member for Sturt now has the whole of the document. I reiterate that I did not quote from any part of the top portion of that document yesterday. I made no reference to the figures relating to the gross national product. I referred only to that part of the document which related to defence expenditure and to the size and shape of the Army from 1960-61 to 1972-73. This is the trivial matter which the honourable member has raised. I can appreciate his attitude if he believes that he has certain rights in this Parliament. He does have those rights. But I would have thought a great deal more of the honourable member and so would his own colleagues and honourable members on this side of the House if he had asked that consideration be given to his request in relation to these matters without reflecting on me and without reflecting indirectly on the Clerk, because that is what he did. The Clerk is not in a position to answer for himself. The honourable member for Sturt said that the document was put out of the reach of the Clerk. In my opinion and, I know, in the opinion of honourable members in this House, this does no credit to the honourable member for Sturt. It was a disgraceful exhibition. I believe that the honourable member who has chosen to reflect on my integrity will be now satisfied that I in no way quoted from the top part of the document at all and that I tabled and had incorporated in Hansard the latter part of the document. If he now accepts the fact that no reference was made to any other part of the document he should do the decent thing and stand up and apologise not to me but to the Clerk for the reflection that he made Upon him.
– I rise to order-
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) proposed:
That the question be now put.
– Order! Before putting the question I think I am entitled to say one or two words in regard to the Standing Orders and the rulings I gave this morning. In the first place, the honourable member for Sturt took a point of order today in regard to something which happened yesterday. That is completely out of order. As has been stated, the attention of the Chair must be directed to the matter at the time when the alleged breach of order occurs. I have always ruled, and my predecessors have always ruled, to the effect that a point of order must be taken immediately after the incident occurs. That is why I ruled the honourable member for Sturt to be out of order. This point should have been taken yesterday. In regard to the tabling of papers, no papers were given to the Clerk yesterday - none whatsoever.
– There should have been.
– I am not concerned with what should have been done. No request was made. A request was made in regard to the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), but it was not in conformity with the Standing Orders under which a private member is not committed to table anything from which he has quoted. I should like to make perfectly clear the provisions of the Standing Orders on this matter. I will again read standing order 321.I think it should sink in because it is easy to understand and it should clarify the position. Standing order 321 reads:
A document relating to public affairs quoted from -
I emphasise the words ‘quoted from’ - by a Minister or an Assistant Minister, unless stated to be of a confidential nature or such as should more properly be obtained by address, shall, if required by any Member, be laid on the table.
The standing order refers to a document relating to public affairs which has been quoted from - not a bundle of papers a member has in his hand but the papers from which he has quoted.
– I raise a point of order which could have serious ramifications for the conduct of the House in future. Is a member entitled to rise while a Minister is quoting from a document and ask for that document to be tabled or must he wait until the quotation has finished? The ramification of this is that if a member can rise and ask for a document to be tabled while a person is speaking, he can deprive that person of the document from which he is quoting and thus prevent him from quoting from that document any further.
– I raise a point of order. I think in fairness to the honourable member for Sturt, and bearing in mind what you, Mr Speaker, said in your opening remarks, the honourable member did not take a point of order on what happened yesterday.
– Order! He did take a point of order on what happened yesterday in regard to the tabling of papers.
– He referred to what happened yesterday as background to establish the point of order he took today.
– Order! His opening words were, as Hansard will show, that he was taking a point of order on the tabling of papers yesterday. That is why I ruled him out of order. The motion is: That the question be now put.
– I rise to a point of order.
– Order! The question is: That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon J. F. Cope)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the ruling be dissented from. (Mr Snedden’s motion)
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon J. F. Cope)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
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 am informed by members on my side of the House that the words used were: ‘I did not get it from the Minister’.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1972, I present the report relating to the following proposed work:
That the report be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keith Johnson) adjourned.
That grievances be noted.
– I call the honourable member for Boothby.
- Mr Speaker, I do hope that–
– Mr Speaker, I was standing before the honourable member rose.
– In these cases it has been the general practice of the House that a member of the Opposition be called first.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was clearly indicated by the honourable member for Boothby earlier this morning that he was quite prepared to give up his place as the first speaker in the Grievance Debate. As the Opposition has wasted so much of the time of the House it might be appropriate to allow the honourable member for Burke to speak.
– Order! That is not a matter for the Chair. It is a matter for the honourable member to decide for himself. I call the honourable member for Boothby.
– What I said this morning was that I was prepared to forgo speaking in the Grievance Debate because I considered that the matters we were then discussing were very much more important than the matters I wanted to discuss in the Grievance Debate. I still think that the matters that we were not really allowed to discuss this morning are more important. We were dealing with the integrity of Ministers. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard) made a great play of the alleged attack on his integrity. I believe that there have been malpractices by honourable members opposite and perhaps at least one
Minister. What I am anxious to do and what honourable members on his side of the House want to do is to see those matters debated. I shudder to think what would have happened if the Minister in charge of minerals and energy in our Government and the Deputy Prime Minister in our Government had said and done the things that have been done by the corresponding Ministers in the present Government. The Press gallery would have been full and there would have been stories in every newspaper in Australia. I suggest that there will not be a word in the Press tomorrow about this matter because the Press gallery has been very nearly empty right through these proceedings.
There is a question of integrity or - we cannot use the word ‘lies’ in this place - false statements. I would say that there are plenty of examples of false statements being made inside and outside this House by Ministers. I should like to give the House examples of some false statements - I am not allowed to use the word ‘lies’ - which have been made by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) in his campaign to denigrate the medical profession by attacking medical fees to draw attention away from the problems that will come into Australia if we ever socialise medicine.
The problems we would experience with the lack of hospitalisation facilities would in my view be substantial. I believe that the Minister for Social Security is acting very much as Dr Goebbels acted in the Hitler regime in Nazi Germany. He kept on repeating false statements and false statements-
– The Minister is not here.
– It is not my fault that he is not here. He makes false statements on a number of subjects and keeps repeating them. There is an old saying that if you tell a lie long enough and often enough people will begin to believe it is the truth. I have 7 specific examples of false statements by the Minister for Social Security. Firstly, he has based the whole of his attack on medical fees upon the false evidence supplied by Dr Scotton. Dr Scotton has admitted that he made what he described as a simple mistake in calculating the cost of medical fees - the simple mistake of $10m. That is not the mistake of the Minister but the Minister has known about that simple mistake and he has, to use the words of the Deputy Prime Minister, compounded the felony by using that false material time and time again to denigrate the medical profession. On the very day that Dr Scotton was giving evidence before the tribunal in Sydney the Minister was speaking to a group in Perth, using this false material to falsify claims against the medical profession. That, to my way of thinking, is sharp practice.
The Minister talks falsely about freedom of choice. He does not go on to say freedom of choice of what. He should talk about the freedom of choice not of one’s own doctor but of whether one has hospitalisation in a public hospital or a private hospital. He talks about the cost of the medical scheme being $800m. This is the third false statement - we cannot use the word ‘lie’. The estimated cost of the medical scheme when it is introduced by the Government, he said, will be $800m. There are 16,000 doctors in Australia. He has alternatively offered to bribe them and denigrate them. He has offrered them a salary of $50,000 a year under his scheme. Simple arithmetic shows that 16,000 times $50,000 is $800m, which is what he says will be the cost of the medical scheme. That is a false statement because obviously there will be many other costs on top of the actual salaries of doctors. He said in this House only this week words to the effect that there are 1 million people in Australia who at present have no protection under the health scheme. I say that that is untrue. I cannot say it is a lie because that would be unparliamentary. But it is a false statement. The fact is that 83.2 per cent of the population of Australia at the moment are members of voluntary health funds and 9.6 per cent of the population-
-Order! It is now 15 minutes to 1 o’clock. In accordance with standing order 106 the debate is interrupted and I put the question:
That grievances be noted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– 1 seek your indulgence, Mr Speaker. When the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) quite recently moved that the report of the Public Works Committee be printed, because of the turmoil in the House at the time I misunderstood what was being said and moved that the debate be adjourned. I now seek the indulgence of the House to withdraw the motion that I moved, namely, that the debate be adjourned. It was inappropriate and did not apply.
– I thank the honourable gentleman for the correction.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Report on Stabilisation of Meat Prices
– On behalf of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices I bring up the Committee’s report on the stabilisation of meat prices. A dissenting report signed by 4 members of the Committee is included with the main report. I also bring up the minutes of proceedings taken in connection with this inquiry.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with the report.
– Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The report Stabilisation of Meat Prices, which has just been tabled, is the first report presented to the Parliament by the Joint Committee on Prices. The recommendations of the Committee are shown in front of the report. The major recommendation is that a special flexible tax be introduced on beef exports, with the proceeds from this tax being returned for the benefit of beef livestock producers. The philosophy behind this recommendation is very simple. The average retail price of meat increased by almost 25 per cent in the first 7 months of 1973, and all the evidence suggested that in the absence of intervention the upward pressure on prices would not be reduced until the autumn of 1974 at the earliest.
Meat is the most important single sub-group in the consumer price index. The increase in meat prices has contributed enormously to inflation. In the June quarter of this year, for instance, two-fifths of the consumer price index increase of 3.3 per cent was accounted for by the increase in meat prices. In addition, the rapid price increases have placed burdens on persons on low incomes, persons on fixed incomes, larger families and pensioners. The Committee concluded that the only way to reduce meat prices was to increase supplies of meat to the domestic market by diverting supplies from export. The amount diverted need not be very large. In addition beef only would need to be diverted. Mutton and lamb are currently in such short supply that any diversion from the export market would not be significant.
The Committee was very conscious of the need for a proposal that would not be counter productive in the long term by deterring production or deterring the supply of cattle to the market. However, by returning the proceeds of the tax to all beef producers, any adverse effects would be avoided. The producer’s incentive to increase production would not therefore in any way be impaired. Indeed, in the circumstances of very strong overseas demand, as at present, which would necessitate a very high export tax, the producer’s incentive to increase production would be enhanced as total revenue to the Australian industry would be increased.
The second major recommendation is also brought to the attention of the Parliament, namely, that the meat industry should do something itself to stabilise domestic prices pending the introduction of an export tax. If successful the Government might consider not introducing the export tax proposal. The emphasis on export which the industry has been pursuing is not in its best long term interests. The domestic market is the largest and most important, and this is the very market that is not being looked after.
It is the view of the Committee that unless something is done to increase the amount of red meat available to the domestic market, the consumer could develop tastes for other meats to the permanent detriment of the red meat industry. In this regard, evidence presented to the Committee showed that in the last 10 years per capita consumption of poultry meat has increased rapidly, and there is similar scope for increases in pig meat consumption. It will be noted that the report contains a dissent. Four non-Government members did not agree with the major recommendations. Mr Garland, the fifth, was out of Australia when the report was considered. I thank the House for leave to make this statement. I commend the report to the House.
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– There is no doubt that meat prices recently have risen considerably. There is also no doubt that they have risen from what was a very low base.
There is no doubt that over the years the prices of meat have not increased more than have the prices of other commodities or average wages. It is surely the wish of this House that meat producers or any other producers should not by artificial means be reduced to a peasant class by making them produce and making them subsidise the rest of the community from that production. Those of us who signed the minority report urge the House to reject the majority report. We believe that the recommendations are a classic example of an attempt to attack the problem of prices from the wrong end and in a counter-productive way. In any case, the thinking behind the proposals would be wrong. When we are dealing with an industry which does not set its own prices but depends on supply and demand, which does not produce to a set price as factories do, which is subject to all the fluctuations of the market and which is subject to great variations in seasonal conditions and the hazards of drought and flood, that wrong thinking becomes a tragic approach.
Furthermore, the action suggested will have no significant effect, in our view, in reducing the domestic price of beef. It will be harmful to all producers and particularly harmful to beef producers in the northern half of Australia. It will place in peril our future access to overseas markets which we had desperately needed and fought for in the past and which surely will need equally desperately in future. The major result of this approach is likely to be only the employment of large numbers of civil servants sitting in room after room busily collecting an immoral and sectional tax and other great numbers of civil servants in other rooms busily engaged in paying most but not all of it back, all at the cost of the revenue. Another significant result is likely to be a reduction of the incentive to producers to produce more beef of the kind that the Australian market needs and therefore to lead to lower production than at present. This in consequence will mean higher not lower prices for meat for the housewife.
Let us examine the principal recommendation more closely. It is to impose an export tax of an unspecified size, but the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) says that it will have to be a very high export tax to have any effect at all. This unspecified export tax is to be placed on all exported beef and most but not all of it is to be paid back again. The recommendation is to collect the tax from exporters and to repay most of it not only to those exporters but also to those who do not export. In short, it will penalise the northern export meat producers, will damage northern development and will give a present to southern producers of prime beef for the Australian market. That is the intention but will it be carried out? After the tax is collected, to whom is it to be paid back? Is it to be paid to the man who owned the cattle at the time that they were sold to the butcher? If so, it will be paid to a dealer and not to a producer of prime beef. In 9 cases out of 10 it will be paid to a dealer. The beef may have changed hands two or three times before the sale for export. To whom is it to be paid back? Nobody has considered that and I do not believe that the intention would be carried out.
The argument advanced by the Government for this convoluted approach, as I understand it, is this: If an export tax is imposed at such a level that the importing country cannot or will not pass it on to foreign consumers, the foreign demand for Australian beef will drop and therefore producers will sell more on the home market and less on the foreign market. Therefore there will be a drop in prices to Australian producers for the Australian market. That is the argument as I understand it. Of course, it is simplistic. I think the Chairman of the Committee used the word ‘simple’. It was well chosen. It is a simplistic argument and at first glimpse it is slightly attractive in theory but it will not stand close examination. In the first place one cannot talk properly about taxing beef as though all beef were the same, because it is not. Nor can one talk properly about foreign countries importing beef as though all countries imported the same quality and amounts. They do not. Japan and Britain import prime beef. The United States of America imports mainly low quality beef for which there is no ready market in Australia. To ignore those differences is at the very start to cut the heart out of any possible argument that can be advanced to support the recommendations.
The northern part of Australia - Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia - produce a quality of beef which is and always has been almost all exported. This year about 83 per cent of Queensland’s beef production was exported as was S6.6 per cent of Western Australia’s beef production and, I should think, almost all the Northern Territory’s beef production. There is no major market for such beef in Australia. Similarly of the beef produced in the south a not insignificant quantity consists of cuts which do not sell readily on the Australian market. What would be the immediate effect of imposing a tax on this kind of beef? Firstly, the demand abroad would be such that importers could pass the tax on to the consumer, in which case the volume of meat exported would be the same and the return to all producers in this ideal situation would be increased by the proportion of the tax returned to them. That would mean that a producer could have sold at a price on the overseas market without that tax, if the people were prepared to pay it, but he would not be allowed to get the price at which he could have sold it because the tax would intervene and he would get only some of it back. But what is significant is that because there would be no effect on volume at all, as we are told that the demand is inelastic, that people will pay these prices, there would be no diversion and therefore there would be no effect whatever on the Australian market and no effect at all on prices.
Alternatively, the importer would not be able to pass on the tax to the overseas consumers in which case the producer would find the volume of his exports reduced. He would have no alternative market because we are talking of meat for export. He would not be able to sell it on the Australian market. Therefore again there would be no effect whatever on the Australian market, no effect on prices to the Australian housewife. But there would be other effects. Future export markets would be jeopardised; we would damage our reputation as reliable suppliers. I repeat that we would have rooms and rooms full of civil servants all paid by the community busily collecting taxes and sitting around paying them back again, if they could ever think to whom they should be paid, but retaining an unspecified proportion for something that the meat industry has not requested - a promotion campaign.
Have honourable members ever heard anything more ridiculous than saying: ‘Not enough meat is produced, we can sell all the meat we have got and more, but let us take money from the producers for a sales promotion campaign’? There would also be no effect on the Australian market and not 1 lb of beef of this kind would be diverted to it. On the other hand, northern producers, northern development and future export markets all would have been damaged for nothing. In the south the same conditions would apply to other than the prime beef which is demanded on the Australian market. I accept that if overseas consumers would not pay the price plus tax required for the prime beef then the producers would be affected.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2. JJ P.m
– Order1 In response to the request by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) this morning regarding the Hansard greens I wish to make the following statement. Traditionally the Prime Minister has the right to see the Hansard transcript of any part of the proceedings. Speaker Aston directed that a similar right be given to the alternative Prime Minister, that is, the Leader of the Opposition. When Mr Snedden became Leader of the Opposition the Principal Parliamentary Reporter informed him of this right and Mr Snedden uses it from time to time.
Late last night Mr Keating returned his greens, with some alterations. The Hansard office accepted some of them and rejected others, but by then Mr Keating had left the Hansard area. This morning, before the advance copies of the daily Hansard had arrived, Mr Snedden asked for a copy of Mr Keating’s speech. The greens were photocopied and given to Mr Snedden. Had the Printer’s copy, which did not show the disallowed alterations, been returned to the Hansard office at that time, it would have been photocopied.
The confidentiality which exists between a member and the Hansard office with respect to alterations made to the greens is, for all practical purposes, destroyed now that members are able to compare the printed report with the passage on the tape. The daily Hansard which is available now contains the alterations accepted by the Principal Parliamentary Reporter.
– I accept your ruling on that matter, Mr Speaker. For my purposes, what has been printed in Hansard I will adhere to.
-I call the right honourable member for Higgins.
– I accept your ruling also, Mr Speaker, but I think it is an anomalous position when the Leader of the Opposition can come into the House without any notice and-
– Order! The honourable gentleman will have to seek leave to make a statement because he is interrupting a speech by the right honourable member for Higgins. I made the statement at 2.15, after I had notified the Leader of the Opposition and yourself that I intended to do so, because that was an appropriate time to do so rather than interrupt the proceedings of the House at a later stage. The honourable member will have an opportunity, after the debate is concluded, to make a statement if leave is granted to him to do so.
Report on Stabilisation of Meat Prices
– Before the suspension of the sitting for lunch I was discussing the report which the majority of the members of the Joint Parliamentary Committee oh Prices had signed regarding a proposal to place an export tax on all beef. I sought to point out the way in which particular sections of beef producers would be adversely affected, such as those in the north, the way in which bur markets would be damaged for the future, the administratively cumbersome procedure that would be followed, the impossibility of deciding to whom the tax that is collected should be paid and the almost inevitable result that there would be higher not lower prices because there would be lower production as a result of these proposals. I do not propose to traverse that ground again.
Earlier I was speaking of the prime beef produced in the south. If overseas consumers would not pay the price plus tax for that beef then the producers of that beef would either have their returns lowered or they would have the volume of beef they were able to sell reduced, or both. The result of this might conceivably be that some of that beef would become diverted to the Australian market; but it might more likely be that producers would not divert their beef to the Australian market under those conditions but would keep beasts on the farm for a longer period, allowing them to put on more weight, thus not increasing the supply of meat to the Australian market at all. This is the time when that is most likely to happen because all meat producers are enjoying bounteous seasons. Therefore the meat producers can keep the beasts on their properties with no trouble at all or, if they believe this is the beginning of a process of harassing producers and making half-baked suggestions of this kind, that the whole industry is to be thrown into confusion, they can switch their production to oil seeds or to grain or other produce which is enjoying high prices at this moment. This is more likely to happen than if the small amount of beef required is diverted to the Australian market.
As the Australian Meat Board and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics both acknowledged in the report that has been presented to us, the lessening of the incentives to produce, which is involved in this proposal, will lead to a drop in production and, as I say, therefore to higher not lower prices. We are told in the report that only ‘a small quantity’ of beef would need to be diverted on to the home market to have the desired effect. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) expressed the view that perhaps only 1 per cent of the beef exported would need to be diverted - a very small amount. The way to get the desired effect and having larger quantities of meat on the Australian home market is not to slam all producers, some more than others, and indulge in the Gilbertian antics of collecting taxes and paying some of them back. That is not the way to do it. The way to get the desired effect is to produce the small extra quantity required. The way to achieve this is to encourage additional production by various means, certainly not to discourage it by the method proposed and certainly not to throw the whole industry into a state of confusion and uncertainty as has been done at present.
There has been some half-baked attempt to argue that by harassing beef producers in the way proposed they will in fact receive higher returns for what they sell. The argument supposes that overseas consumers will pay the present prices plus part or all of the tax. If overseas producers are prepared to pay those prices they will not pay them because the tax is put on; they will be paying them because those are the market prices. So, this proposal would have no effect at all. If markets abroad will pay the additional amount they would, as I say, be paying it now. The producers must lose. One cannot bring in a proposal to drop the price of beasts for export and on the home market and expect that there will be higher returns to the producer as a result. The Australian consumer, as I believe I have shown, will not gain. No amount of double talk will alter that. No amount of double talk will put into the minds of those who battle the elements on our farms year by year that they can be helped by having to fill in forms, by paying extra taxes and by having the return for their produce reduced. (Extension of time granted).
If the Government wishes to provide a small additional quantity of meat to the Australian market let it look at ways of encouraging extra production, not of discouraging it. I believe that this proposal is worse than immoral; it is a blunder. It will attain the exact opposite of what it seeks. I appeal to the Government to announce rapidly that it will not accept the report put forward by the majority of members of this Committee. I know that both the Liberal Party and the Country Party in this Mouse and in any other House will do all they possibly can to prevent the Government implementing the recommendations, if the Government does accept them and if it is ill advised enough to do so. I hope, for the sake of avoiding confusion and uncertainty that a rapid decision will be made by the Government on this matter. I announced what our approach to it will be. If we cannot save the Government from itself at least we can save the producers from the Government.
– On the evidence available to the Joint Committee on Prices Sub-Committee which inquired into meat prices, there appeared to be only 2 options to reduce the price of meat consumed in Australia in the short term. One was to bring in some form of domestic quota and the other was to impose a tax on exported beef. On the evidence of Mr Giles from the Department of Primary Industry, which appears on page 348 of the Hansard report of the Committee’s proceedings, the Committee rejected the idea of quotas. In summary, Mr Giles said:
Therefore, if you are looking for a device - I am not talking about policy now; I am talking about the mechanics - I say that quantitative restriction is not the way. The fiscal measure could be the way.
The Sub-Committee then had to examine the question of an export tax as a means of reducing domestic prices. Clearly it was essential that there be no inhibition to production and, on the face of it, this would appear to eliminate an export tax. This qualification, however, appeared to evaporate as witness after witness gave evidence that overseas buyers rather than Australian producers would absorb the increase. This conclusion is expressed in paragraphs 58 and 59 of the report. Surprisingly, the same view is expressed in the dissenting report in the quotation from the evidence from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. That appears in dissent attachment 4.
On 1 September, the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) supported this view. He released a Press statement in which he said:
If an export tax is to have any effect it will have to be very high because the United States, Europe and Japan are so desperate for meat that they will certainly pay higher prices for it.
That view contradicts the case which the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) has just made. A view similar to that expressed by the Leader of the Country Party was put forward recently by the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) on the television program ‘Federal File’. On this evidence, the meat market as it stands is not extracting the maximum price from overseas. This is the only conclusion that one can draw from the comments made by the Leader of the Country Party and the honourable member for Gippsland. The sheer logic of the argument presented by these people and by other witnesses who appeared before the Sub-Committee leads to the conclusion that if any export tax was returned to producers it would raise rather than lower the total income of those producers. Only a small amount of beef needs to be diverted to the domestic market to lower prices and, because of the strong export demand that now exists on the overseas market, it would be necessary to raise a large tax to obtain this diversion. If the evidence given to the SubCommittee and accepted by the Leader of the Country Party in his Press statement is correct, producers’ income lost by the fall in domestic prices would be more than offset by increased income from exports.
As a member of a committee charged with the responsibility of arriving at an objective review of the evidence presented to that committee, I have endorsed this report and its conclusions. In practice, I think the use of an export tax to reduce domestic prices will be inefficient and therefore, in my view, the second recommendation holds the key for success in the market. The summary dismissal of this second recommendation by the dissenters - that recommendation was that a voluntary restriction should be placed on beef exports by exporters - disregards the fact that the industry did impose voluntary controls when its own vested interests were at stake. This occurred in regard to quotas on the United States market. The general dismissal of such a recommendation, seeking the co-operation of the industry to take control of the matter voluntarily, highlights the basic cause of inflation - individual greed. The dissenters are not even prepared to ask the industry to assist, because they have such a low opinion of its desire to co-operate.
It is disappointing that none of the organisations representing producers paid any attention to the medium to long term effects of high prices on domestic meat eating habits. It is ironic that wool producers become disturbed about the effect of high wool prices on substitution of consumers’ demands, whilst meat producers do not. Wool can be stored - it is a non-perishable product - during the low price period. Meat, being a perishable product which must be cleared in the market and which therefore is more likely to suffer from a change in consumer habits, is more vulnerable to high prices in. the domestic market. Dr Freebairn from the New South Wales Department of Agriculture told the Committee, as reported at page 498 of the Hansard transcript of the proceedings:
The economic studies of meat demand indicate that changes in the. retail prices of different meats have significant effects on the quantities demanded and prices of other ^ meats. Thus, for example, the current higher prices for beef and lamb induce consumers to purchase greater quantities of pigmeats, poultry and mutton and in so doing tend to raise the prices of these meats as well.
It is significant that, in the chart presented by the dissenters in their report, the price of pork is considerably below the price of mutton and beef. Therefore, the incentive to switch to those products, which was recognised by the Pig Breeders Federation in its submission to the Committee, is quite high. The recommendation suggesting that the Australian Government take an active role in the promotion of white meat was in response to an appeal by the pigmeat producers. The pigmeat producers were asking the Government not to subsidise promotion but simply to collect a levy from the industry in order that the industry would have the money for promotion.
The Sub-committee was investigating meat prices on the domestic market. It was very evident to the Sub-committee that the industry had not given much thought to the domestic meat market. Even (hough Colonel McArthur admitted that the domestic market is more important than other markets, perhaps the most important thing that he said to the Subcommittee - he appeared before it in his capacity as Chairman of the Australian Meat Board - is to be found at page 346 of the
Hansard report. He stated that no accurate statistics were available on the types and quantities of meat eaten by Australians. When the Sub-committee asked for evidence to support the proposition that beef from the north was exclusively exported and that beef from the south was mainly consumed on the domestic market, we received from the Australian Meat Board a set of statistics which considerably moderated that conclusion. This grave deficiency in the information available to the Australian industry resulted in recommendations (v) and (vi) in the report.
I turn now to the very serious question of industry confidence. In the course of his interview on the television program ‘Federal File’ recently, the honourable member for Gippsland said:
Industry confidence is quite fragile and it’s taken years to build up. We could damage our reputation as an overseas seller.
I agree with this view. I also agree that speculation in the industry currently has resulted in a loss of confidence. The real question is: Who is responsible for this speculation? On 1 September, 19 days ago, the Leader of the Country Party was quoted in the ‘Canberra Times’ as predicting that a tax as high as 12c a lb, representing more than $130m would be applied initially to meat exports. That newspaper report continued:
The Government thought it could reduce domestic meat prices through export taxes and the Australian industry should urgently prepare itself.
The Leader of the Country Party then went on to say that having once applied a tax and finding it did not work the Government would keep increasing it in an altempt to make it work.
Mr Speaker, what rationale was there for that statement? Either it was a mischievous attempt to create an atmosphere of uncertainty in the meat industry or, as it quotes the Government’s action so authentically, it was the result of information obtained from Government sources in some way or other - in other words, a leak. If the industry is confused-
– Whom are you blaming for the leak?
– If the industry is confused, its confusion is due-
– Go on, say it!
– If, indeed, there was no leak, the onus lies squarely on the Leader of the Country Party to demonstrate that.
– Say whom you blamed the other night. Go on!
– I am not going to have these sorts of innuendoes cast on anybody.
-Order! This matter can be dealt with at the appropriate time. If an honourable member’s name has been mentioned, he can explain the matter by way of a personal explanation.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member for EdenMonaro has made a grave allegation about a leak. This is the second time this allegation has been made. If he has not the constitutional fortitude-
– The intestinal fortitude.
– If he has not the constitutional fortitude to go through with the business, he ought to retract the statement.
-Order! No point of order is involved.
– I quote from a handout from the office of the Leader of the Country Party. The Leader of the Country Party is quoted as saying:
The Government is determined to try to reduce the domestic price of meat and thinks it can do this by taxing exports. Having once applied a tax and finding that it does not work, the Government-
That is an authoritative and definitive statement - would keep increasing it in an attempt to make it work.
What authority lay behind that statement? That is the issue that is being raised in this case.
If the industry is confused, its confusion is due to the comments made by the Leader of the Country Party, a man who now has no policy responsibility. The man with the policy responsibility is the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt), who has made his position clear in regard to the imposition of an export tax on meat. He said he would not support it and he would fight such a tax. No other statement has emanated from the Government Party on this issue in such an authoritative form. The only assertive statement that the Government was to bring in an export tax came from the Country Party and Colonel McArthur, the Chairman of the Australian Meat Board, had to go onto the AusAustralian Broadcasting Commission’s radio program ‘Country Hour’ to deny this statement because it was causing so much mischief in the industry. I draw the attention of the House to the qualification made by Mr Giles in my previous quotation. He said:
I am not talking about policy now; I am talking about the mechanics.
Mr Speaker, this is an important distinction. The Prices Committee has the responsibility to appraise objectively the evidence on the price of meat, to make recommendations to the Parliament, and to report, in Mr Gile’s terms, on the mechanics of the meat market, not to dictate policy to the Government. The question of policy is one to be resolved by the Government on receiving the report and recommendations of the Committee. The fact that the Country Party has not made this distinction or exercised objectivity on this occasion is reflected in the Press statement issued by the Leader of the Country Party on 18 September. This statement, issued in my electorate, purports to represent my view on the policy to be adopted in regard to meat prices. I can assure this House that the Country Party did not seek my views on this matter before it went to Press. My only statements on this matter on the television program ‘Federal File’ were made in the context of the evidence and the options open to the Committee. That was understood by the interviewer, to whom I must pay a tribute. He handled that interview extremely well.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the right honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I do not appreciate the reflections that have been made on people who may have provided me with information as to what the intentions of the present Government are to try to reduce the price of meat.
-Order! If the right honourable member is making a personal application he must say where he has been misrepresented.
– What the honourable member for Eden-Monaro is saying by innuendo is that certain people have provided me with information-
– Order! The right honourable gentleman is out of order. He must explain where he has been misrepresented personally.
– I have been misrepresented because the honourable member for
Eden-Monaro said that I obtained information illegally and that I did not have the right to use it. As a principal member of the Opposition I have every right to expose the actions of this Government which I believe are against the national interest, and I will continue to do it whenever possible.
-In regard to the personal explanation, the honourable member for EdenMonaro did not specifically name the Leader of the Country Party.
– I raise a point of procedure first. Mr Speaker, I understand I am to get 20 minutes in this debate. Is that correct?
– Fifteen minutes.
– Firstly I want to respond to the allegation made by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan). He is too fond of coming into this House with a broad brush and slamming everybody in sight without having the constitutional, institutional or any other sort of fortitude.
– In deference to the Minister, I say that the honourable member for EdenMonaro does not have the intestinal fortitude to go on with the job. He is a plain damp squib. The sooner the people of Eden-Monaro recognise that the better. I think they will recognise it when they see his signature on the report we are debating. The simple fact is that if any confidence has been jeopardised in the beef industry it has been done by the Government and nobody else. The Government was no sooner in power when it asked Colonel McArthur to present a Meat Board report on how the Government could reduce the price of meat. Then on 3 May the Government set up the Joint Committee on Prices with the following reference:
Stabilisation of meat prices, with particular reference to the report of the Australian Meat Board on this subject.
The honourable member for Eden-Monaro accused the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) of jeopardising confidence. He did so in the face of the report of Colonel McArthur, who incidentally rejected the method proposed in the report and rejected entirely an export tax on beef as being a reasonable method of taxation. For the Government to set up a committee and for the honourable member to accuse the Leader of the Country Party of jeopardising the confi dence of the beef industry is plain humbug. There is no question about it. The responsibility, if confidence in the beef industry has been jeopardised, lies straight with the Government. For fools like the honourable member for Eden-Monaro who prattle on-
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw that remark. I have been very severely provoked. The simple fact is that no authoritative evidence given to the Committee supports the majority findings. It is as simple as that. All the authoritative witnesses bar one - and I will come to that matter in a minute - gave evidence to show that an export tax was not the way to handle the problem. That is the reason for the dissenting report; there is no other reason. If the conclusion to be reached on the evidence was that this was the way to tackle the subject, I and other dissenting members on the Committee would have gone along with the recommendation. There is no authoritative evidence to support the recommendation bar that from the Western Australian Department of Agriculture, which for entirely different reasons supported a tax. In fact the Director of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, Mr Honan, said that a tax would be like using a sledge hammer to crack a nut. That is what the Director thought about it.
The honourable member for Eden-Monaro said that a reduction of 1 per cent in beef exports was needed to lower the price of beef to the Australian consumer. That is like using a sledge hammer to crack a nut. The proposition is ridiculous. Neither the Australian Meat Board, nor the Australian Meat Exporters Federal Council, nor the meat and allied trades, nor the Department of Agriculture in New South Wales supports the proposition. Where did the majority of the Committee get its findings? What evidence did it use to support its findings. I believe that the Committee had made up its mind, before it began its hearing, to find something conclusive of this nature.
– That is not true.
– That is my firm belief. The Committee certainly did not make its findings on the evidence. That is a fact. There was no authoritative evidence before the Committee in support of the proposal to impose an export tax, and Colonel McArthur’s original report to the Government was correct. All the evidence that came before the Committee supports that. The majority report is sheer nonsense, projecting a potential damage to the beef industry as it has done. What would be the effect of such a tax? In the words of the honourable member for Eden-Monaro, the demand for beef on the export markets is so great that the overseas consumer will be prepared to pay the level of the tax. If that is the case there will be no reduction in price for the Australian consumer. It means there will be no diversion of meat back onto the Australian market and there will be no price reduction, so the proposition is sheer, absolute nonsense.
That is only the first leg. The other leg is that if he is wrong, and I believe he is wrong - I wonder what earthly use he was when he was with the Bureau of Agricultural Economics; he is better off in the Parliament so that he can be exposed for his views - the tax would be passed back to the producer. This is a very serious question and it is dealt with in the dissenting report. That would be the effect of the tax; it would be passed straight back to the producer. In other words this Government is asking the producer to subsidise the consumer when it does not have the constitutional or intestinal fortitude to pay a consumer subsidy. The proposition is ridiculous.
– The Government has made no such decision.
– The honourable member for Wilmot said that the Government has made no such decision. I recognise that the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) has said that the proposition is not on. However, he has the habit of saying he is in sympathy with the dairying industry and the wheat industry and that he does not like this proposition or that proposition. But this Government still adopts those propositions. All I can say is that I hope he has the numbers for once to have a victory because the rural industries and country people have been suffering very greatly as a result of all the measures the Government has taken while he has been Minister for Primary Industry. The Australian Cattle Council sent a letter, which we all received today, dealing with this matter. It showed that the proposition that the export tax should be applied is ridiculous.
Let me come now to the question of how the tax will work. Today, 20 September, the Government whacks on a 20c tax. On 30
September it decides that 20c is not enough and makes it a 40c tax. I, as a beef grower, sell my beef today. Some of it might well go to the export market but some of it may be good quality beef and be sold on the domestic market. The export beef will take months to reach the market, yet I will be paying tax across the board on the beef that is exported. Will I be paying on the basis of the 40c or 20c tax?
– Whatever you sold it at, I suppose.
– Whatever I sold it at? It is only levied on export meats. So there are very severe administrative difficulties and problems in achieving equity. It is to be a special flexible tax. We will have a tax that jumps up and down like a yo-yo, as the honourable member for Eden-Monaro does in his seat at question time. The principal recommendation about this export tax is that it should provide a means of stabilising meat prices. The fact that that word is used is a shock in itself. What stabilisation’ means normally in both the wheat and dairying industries which have stabilisation schemes is that it takes the peaks and troughs out and the Government provides support to maintain the level of prices. All that this proposal is supposed to do is to reduce the price. There is nothing to say that there will be support for the industry if the proposal acts as a disastrous mechanism and the price crashes. There is no word at all. As the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) said, the report says in its major recommendation that we should use the money to promote the industry. What stuff and nonsense is that? The Government is complaining about high prices and yet wants to promote the industry. If it wants to promote the industry that is fine.
– I rise to order. I was not brought up in a terribly refined school, but is the comment ‘what stuffing nonsense is this’ parliamentary? I used to hear it in the shearing sheds but I have never heard it in the Parliament.
– Order! There is no point of order.
– We all know the little ways of the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) who is at the table. Recommendation 2, which the honourable member for Eden-Monaro dismissed so slightly, carries with it enormous implications and difficulties for certain sections of the industry. To say that Dick Condon at Northern Meat Exporters Pty Ltd at Katherine has voluntarily to sell some of his meat on the Australian domestic market is absolute nonsense. Do not say that the voluntary system used in marketing meat on the American market is comparable. It is a different proposition entirely and the outflow is entirely different. Northern Meat Works once tried to find a market for manufacturing meat with the type of meat grown in the north and it nearly broke that organisation. When I hear of waterside workers standing on the wharves refusing to load export meat 1 would like to give them a feed occasionally of some of the manufacturing meat which is exported. They would think they were eating the boots they were wearing. This is a ridiculous proposition. What it means is that the southern meat works will have to carry the load. That is an inequity in itself. The Government is now saying to the southern meat works which have meat that may be sold in Japan, the United Kingdom and elsewhere, that meat produced by them would be suitable for the Australian palate. We are a very fussy people and like only good meat. The honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) agrees with that, but he has never had a piece of tough steak in his life. He always buys the best. He has always had the capacity to pay, a term used by the unions when they argue the national wage case.
In relation to the capacity to pay, average weekly earnings are now $107 a week. The graph in the dissenting report shows that the prices of meat are not out of kilter with average weekly earnings, as they were in 1967. It is certainly true that after 1967 the income from meat dropped while average weekly earnings still soared. They were disaster prices. What this Government wants in reducing prices is for the meat producer to go back to the disaster days of 3 or 4 years ago. This is exactly what the proposition means. The fact is that on average weekly earnings and his capacity to pay, the Australian meat consumer is still getting the cheapest and best quality meat in the world. I am as concerned for the, low income earner as anybody else. If there is concern for the low income earner, why does the Government not do what New Zealand tried to do? I do not put it forward as a positive proposition, but if the Government is so concerned why does it not do what New Zealand tried to do and subsidise the consumer? The Government would rather let the producer pay. It would rather introduce a mechanism about which we can make no judgment and which all the authoritative evidence says is wrong. Yet it is not prepared to back its judgment and provide meat to be sold at a reasonable price to the low income earner.
The minority report contains several graphs which show quite clearly that some of the evidence in the major report is wrong. I want to draw the attention of the Parliament to this because it is very important. The claim is made in the majority report that the lower grades of meat have risen at a steeper rate. The Parliamentary Library has produced a graph which is attached to the report and this shows that it is the highest quality meat that has risen at the sharpest rate and that the lower quality meats have risen at a lower rate and should be well within the reach of the Australian consumer.
– Would you incorporate that in Hansard?
– It is in the report. The Australian Cattle Council has written a letter to all honourable members today which shows some of the actions of this Government. I have not shown it to the Minister for Labour but as he has a copy of the letter perhaps he will let me incorporate it in Hansard.
– I had better look at it. I am a bit suspicious.
– I know the Minister is a bit suspicious and wary because he used to play these tricks himself. While he is looking at the letter I will read what Mr Condon said on behalf of Northern Meat Works which has sent a telegram to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and to Senator Wriedt. I do not know what good it will do sending a telegram to Senator Wriedt. He always makes noises of great sympathy and then does the opposite thing. According to Mr Condon, the Prime Minister, apparently on an Australian Broadcasting Commission program last Thursday, said that the north should receive special consideration in these matters. I would like to know, in view of the fact that it is in the export market and that 98 per cent of its meat goes to the export market, how it will receive special consideration in the levying of the export tax. I will be fascinated to see what the Government does about meat prices. I wonder whether it will turn away from an export tax and go straight to a quota, a more dangerous mechanism still. I wonder what H will do. I will be interested to see the reactions of the honourable member for Eden-Monaro as reported in some of the local newspapers in the Eden-Monaro electorate. I will be watching them with interest to make sure that he tells the truth. How am I going with the Minister?
– The letter is a pack of lies from what I have seen so far so I cannot let the honourable member incorporate it in Hansard.
– Very well, do not let me, thank you.
– The honourable member can read it out and then I will ask him to withdraw it.
– The Minister for Labour has just called the Australian Cattle Council a liar.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– One thing that ought to be stated at the outset is that the Joint Select Committee on Prices has tabled a report and that only the members of the Committee, with one or two possible exceptions I fear, have had access to the report. They are the privileged few who have had the opportunity of reading it. So it is quite fallacious to say that the Government has made any decision at all in respect of this matter. But such is the desperation of some honourable members opposite, who remind me of a cockies’ choir singing a lament, that they are prepared to lash out at the Government in respect of this proposal. AH matters which have been raised today were discussed by the Committee and it would be as well to look at some of those. But the opposition to this Committee’s report is another example of the philosophy of members of the Opposition as the advocates of price maximisation. Their philosophy seems to be, that as far as certain producers and manufacturers are concerned, they should be allowed to charge what they like, to get what they can and to ignore the interests of other sections of the community. Their attitude in this Parliament is one of narrow, selfish self-interest, and let the consumer be damned.
What the Committee says is that there should be justice and equity in this question. I believe that prices should be fixed on the basis of what is fair and equitable, not on the basis of what can be bludgeoned out of the consumer. We have heard an argument here today which makes the assumption that meat is a luxury to be taken or not taken as whim would demand. Apparently those on the Opposition side, particularly members of the Australian Country Party, think that meat should be for the consumption of the wealthy few and the rest of us can live on mince meat or some alternative. That view is unacceptable and it was unacceptable to the members of the Committee. We have not at any stage rejected the concept of a price stabilisation scheme or an incomes stabilisation scheme. Indeed as I sat here this afternoon and listened to the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) I thought that he had a very poor memory. The honourable member said that the Committee had nothing to say about what should occur if prices should crash. What would then happen to the poor producer? During the course of the Committee’s deliberations I attempted to have an intelligent conversation with the honourable gentleman.
– That would be hard.
– It was rather difficult but I attempted to encourage him to put forward h scheme which would guarantee a minimum income for producers. I am one of those who have always advocated strongly minimum incomes for everyone in our community. But the honourable gentleman does not want that because he is being too greedy on behalf of the beef barons that he represents in this place, the big man, the absentee producer, the absentee farmer, the man in Pitt Street, the man who if his income from meat falls will have to put up the price of his medical consultation.
– You are a greedy, miserable person.
– The right honourable gentleman has the gall-
-Order! The House will come to order. I have issued my last warning today. I will take action if interjections do not cease irrespective of who may be involved.
– In view of your warning, Mr Speaker, I will not answer that quite infantile interjection. The right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) claimed that meat prices had risen from a low base but no faster, in his view, than average weekly earnings. That statement, coming from a very senior responsible member of the Opposition, is indeed to be considered carefully. The right honourable member surely must know that he is putting forward the most circular argument that is possible. In other words, if prices are to move in accordance with increases in average weekly earnings and wages are to move in accordance with increased prices we will have a situation where escalation will be continuous and there will be simply no end to the process. That argument has come from people who criticise this Government over price inflation. Their hypocrisy is exposed clearly and beyond any room for argument. The simple fact is that under their philosophy, as we have seen in the past, the poor get poorer and those who have the capacity to own the means of production, whether it be in relation to primary or secondary industries, get fatter and richer at the expense of the poor.
The right honourable gentleman accused the members of the Committee who brought in the majority report of attempting to turn producers into a peasant class. If that has been put seriously, then we are about to create history because it will be the only time in the history of mankind that there has been a peasant class driving around in Cadillacs and Mercedes. The right honourable gentleman said that the industry does not fix its own prices, that the industry is subject to supplydemand fluctuations. That is all very well, except that the industry has a captive market. We have to eat. There is no way out of that. To suggest that the producer is in some unfavourable position is sheer nonsense. The right honourable gentleman attempted to ridicule and to rubbish the report of this Committee. He conveniently neglected to mention that the Government of Canada was forced to take action by placing an embargo on the amount of meat which that country exported last year and it refused to allow any additional exports for the current year. The Opposition ignores the decision of New Zealand to put a complete ban on the export of mutton. What has been the New Zealand experience? Have we seen any mass exodus from the farming community? Have producers been forced into the peasant class? Have they gone bankrupt or gone broke? Of course they have not. What the right honourable gentleman and honourable members opposite have been saying is sheer and utter nonsense..
When the United States Government was confronted with a similar situation it was forced to impose price control, to freeze prices, a step which honourable members opposite only in the last couple of days were advocating in this House. So today we see the hypocrisy of their argument completely exposed. Two days ago they were saying we should freeze all prices. Today they say: ‘Do not touch the price of meat because you will cause a disaster’. What utter humbug we have to listen to. That is something that was put forward on the basis of sincerity. It is completely wrong to suggest that this Committee has made an attack on the producer of beef. During the whole of the deliberations of this Committee we were constantly kept informed and during the evidence we were constantly prodded by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) who was very keen indeed that the Committee should be completely, concerned to ensure that the primary producer did not suffer the fate which is being predicted by the prophets of doom who sit opposite.
Let us face this fact, and honourable members opposite have ignored it: There has been a major escalation in the price of meat. Do honourable members opposite seriously say that if prices went back to the level they were in December last or in June of last year the producer would be subject to a life of misery and privation, that he would be placed in the peasant class? Of course they do not say that. Because Of world demand there has been quite an enormous increase in the income of certain producers and the consumer has had to pay for that increase. The undeniable fact is that this has placed an enormous strain on some consumers. It has placed a strain on all consumers but the strain on many of them is unbearable. In this land of plenty, in this land which can produce more food than we need, in this land which can supply other nations with their food supplies, we are currently faced with the position where some people cannot eat meat and some have to buy the cheapest cuts whether they eat meat once or twice a week. These are facts which the honourable member for Gippsland was good enough to acknowledge and I give him credit for acknowledging that some people cannot eat meat. But the honourable member said: Let the rest of the community look after them; fix it up with social welfare payments or let them go without; do not worry about them. Do not affect my rich friends; do not affect the people who put me in here to echo their selfish interests. Let the consumer pay. Let the producer, if he wants to, hold the gun at the head.
The right honourable member for Higgins has said that the answer to the problem is to produce more meat. That is a marvellous suggestion. I remind him that the Committee considered that there were 2 problems associated with this suggestion, unless some of the producer geniuses on the other side of the House have the answer. To the best of my knowledge, gained from evidence given to the Committee, it takes 2 years to rear a calf, slaughter it and put it on the market. How we can get animals for the market next week I will leave it to honourable gentlemen opposite to explain. The other thing wrong with the right honourable member’s answer is that evidence given to the Committee indicates that whatever production increase occurs in Australia it will be more than met by the rate of increase in overseas demand. What the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) has said to this House is the absolute truth, namely, that a diversion of some meat on to the Australian market will mean that local prices will fall and the price to overseas consumers will increase. About 70 per cent of all - (Quorum formed) Mr Speaker, I can understand the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) drawing attention to the state of the House, because I thought that members opposite might want this point debated.
It cannot be ignored or disputed that this scheme, if adopted, will mean that meat will be redirected from the export market and an influx to the domestic market. This will result in lower prices for the Australian consumer. It will also mean higher incomes for the producers. In other words, the drop in domestic prices will be offset by the increased income which will come from overseas consumers. The proposal is that at least a great part of this tax will be refunded to the producer on the basis that it will go evenly to all producers. Even this proposal has been attacked by members opposite. The right honourable member for Higgins claims that this would be inequitable. By that suggestion he shows his ignorance of the proposal. It was argued by the honourable member for Gippsland that to promote a product when it is in short supply and the price is high is illogical and wrong. By applying his logic, one would gather that the honourable member for Gippsland is advocating that the $27m being paid in wool subsidies should be immediately withdrawn. I am sure that the country Press, of whom he is the darling, will no doubt be interested to print that tomorrow morning, because if the honourable member argues that one cannot subsidise and promote-
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Daly) adjourned.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a matter of privilege based on an article published on Tuesday, 18 September 1973 in the ‘Sun’, a Sydney evening newspaper, under the heading: ‘5 ways to cut Meat Prices - Report by MPs’. I produce a copy of the Sun’ printed and published by John Fairfax and Sons Ltd of Jones Street, Broadway, Sydney, Postcode 2007, for the Proprietors, Associated Newspapers Ltd. Now that I have brought down the report on the stabilisation of meat prices from the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices it will be obvious to honourable members that recommendations made by the Committee in its report were prematurely published in a front page article in the ‘Sun’ on Tuesday, 18 September 1973. It is well known that the publication or disclosure of reports of committees before they have been reported to the House constitutes a breach of privilege or contempt. This position is made clear in May’s ‘Parliamentary Practice’ and in standing order 340 of the House which provides that the report of a committee which has not been reported to the House shall not, unless authorised by the House, be disclosed or published by any member of such committee or by any other person.
Honourable members will appreciate that such an action on the part of the editor of the ‘Sun’ newspaper places suspicion on each member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices and on the personnel of our secretariat. It was the unanimous wish of the Committee at a meeting, today that I, as Chairman of the Committee, should raise this matter in the House at the first available opportunity. Clearly publication of recommendations from the Committee’s report 2 days prior to its presentation to the House constitutes a breach of privilege of the House and accordingly, I move:
That the matter of the article in the ‘Sun’ of Tuesday, 18 September 1973, relating to the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Prices in its report on stabilisation of meat prices be referred to the Committee of Privileges.
– I can understand the great concern of the Government that the report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices has been published prematurely by a newspaper. It is quite wrong and improper that a report of a committee be published prior to its presentation to the Parliament. I accept that fact and the need for this matter to go to the Standing Committee on Privileges. However, this is not the only matter that needs to go before that Committee. I believe that another report of far greater significance was prematurely published. The release of that report also should be examined. I refer to the report of the Coombs Committee which dealt with matters of tremendous financial significance.
– Order! The right honourable gentleman must confine his remarks to the motion as moved by the honourable member for Adelaide. He is referring to another matter.
– I was about to say that I will move an amendment to the motion so that the publication of the Coombs report can also be referred to the Standing Committee on Privileges which can examine the printing of both reports.
-The right honourable member would be out of order because a matter for reference to the Privileges Committee must come before the Speaker who determines that a prima facie case has been established before it can be referred to the Privileges Committee.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I take your advice and will not proceed on that course, but I think this is a matter that the House should consider at some time. I understand the great concern of the Government at this report being printed. I do not condone the action and it should be examined to see how it came to be released.
– It involves the whole Committee, including Opposition members.
– Yes, I support that view. Reports of committees should remain confidential until the Parliament has had an opportunity tq examine them. I should also like to know where confidentiality of a committee starts and finishes because I have been told that, a copy of the report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices was given to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) before it was presented to this House. That aspect also needs to be examined.
– Who told you that?
– I was told by an Opposition member of the Committee who said that during the course of a Committee meeting one of the members said that the report had been given to the Prime Minister a week before it came into this House. This matter needs to be looked at by the Privileges Committee because I do not believe that any person has the right to this information prior to its coming to the Parliament. Some innuendoes have been made by the honourable member for EdenMonaro (Mr Whan) to the effect that I had obtained prior information.
– I take a point of order. Is the right honourable gentleman entitled, without any evidence whatsoever, to make the kind of remark that he has made without naming the persons or presenting any concrete evidence? At least in the matter before us we have the substantial item - the publication of the article in the ‘Sun’ newspaper - referred to. I think it is grossly improper that the right honourable gentleman should be able to make the kind of allegation that he has made. I seek your guidance, Mr Speaker.
-Order! There is no point of order involved. The Chair is not in a position to know whether anything is true or untrue. I am only obeying the Standing Orders of the House.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I will leave the matter which I raised to the Committee of Privileges to examine further. There was an innuendo that I had obtained information about the actions of this Government in trying to formulate a plan to bring down the price of meat on the Australian market. The honourable member for EdenMonaro cast aspersions on me and said that I might have obtained information from the Committee. Let me assure him that I have been making-
– Order! The right honourable gentleman is now completely out of order. The motion before the Chair relates to an article which appeared in the ‘Sun’ newspaper. The motion was moved by the honourable member for Adelaide and apparently the right honourable gentleman is supporting it. That is the only item before the Chair at the present time. I ask the right honourable gentleman to confine his remarks to the motion before the Chair.
– Thank you. I am referring to the making public of this information and the information which the Committee brought down in its recommendations. What I am saying is that if there is any reflection on anybody else, which the Committee should examine, let it be known that on 17 March this year at the opening of the Boorowa Show I said that this was the Government’s attitude and that the Government would be trying to find a means of bringing down a tax on meat to reduce the domestic price. I have made a series of statements during the year.
– Order! The right honourable gentleman insists on ignoring a request from the Chair to confine his remarks to the motion before the Chair, which relates to a matter of privilege and an article which appeared in the ‘Sun’ newspaper a couple of days ago. That is the only item before the Chair. I ask the right honourable gentleman finally to confine his remarks to the motion before the Chair.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I support the motion that this matter be examined. I want to make that quite clear. It should be looked at. It is quite wrong that the Press should be allowed to print a report prior to its coming before this Parliament. But I also want to put the House on notice that I will seek your approval, Mr Speaker, to move a motion that the publication of the Coombs report also be investigated by the Privileges Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I rise on a point of order. I was not involved nor was I a member of the Joint Committee on Prices, but I heard the Leader of the Country Party say that a member of the Committee had stated in committee that the Prime Minister had been advised of certain information that was before the Committee or had been given a copy of a report. If the right honourable gentleman has this information, I think that in all fairness to other members of the Committee he should divulge the name of that person.
– Order! There is no point of order involved. As I stated before, the Chair is not in a position to state whether anything is true or untrue in this regard. There is no point of order involved with the Chair.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I just want to comment on the issue–
– Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I do, by implication in relation to the green copies of Hansard speeches and your statement after lunch. I just want to make this comment: I accept that it is the ruling of the former Speaker that the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister have these documents made available. Frankly, I do not think that they should have any rights over any other honourable member.
– Order! The honourable gentleman claims to have been misrepresented. What the last Speaker did or what I did has nothing to do with the situation. You claim to have been misrepresented.
– I seek leave to make a statement.
– Is leave granted?
– In relation to this report?
– In relation to the greens.
– No, not in relation to another matter.
– On a personal explanation, Mr Speaker, you mentioned in the last paragraph of your report that some words were accepted by the Hansard office and some were not. The implication was that the meaning was changed. There was no change of meaning; there was only a change in the grammar. But the Leader of the Opposition should have had the courtesy to tell me that he was coming into the House with the greens. I believe that the present Prime Minister and former Leader of the Opposition never adopted this practice in his life.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. Just prior to the honourable member for Blaxland speaking-
– Order! Is the honourable member asking to make a personal explanation?
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I want to give some information. I seek leave.
– Order! The honourable member does not have the call.
– I seek leave to make a statement.
– Order! Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– I wish to make a statement relating to the report and the debate on it.
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– I take a point of order. The honourable member for Wide Bay has asked that I should in all decency reveal where this information came from. Two members of this House, both members of that Committee - the honourable member for Gippsland and the right honourable member for Higgins - have been trying to rise to say that they were told before the Committee that a report had been given to the Prime Minister.
– I was not going to say that.
– Weren’t you? I am sorry.
Mr NIXON (Gippsland) - I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– By his own Leader.
– Not by my own Leader at all: by imputation. As a member of the Committee I have been misrepresented in the discussion that went on as to whether or not information had been given to the Prime Minister about the Committee’s discussions. It is true to say that information was proposed to be given to the Prime Minister on a number of occasions by the Chairman of SubCommittee B. Whether he gave the Prime Minister that information - he said he was going to do so - only he and the Prime Minister can state.
– Order! That is not a personal explanation. I intend to take action under the Standing Orders if honourable members are going to abuse the opportunity to make personal explanations and make them a debating point. In future I intend to adhere very strictly to that point. I will certainly take action. Honourable members are making a farce of the situation by making personal explanations and debating the point.
– I do not want to make a personal explanation but since there has been some discussion which has been quite open to the House, the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) might now be willing to give me leave to make a statement to clear it up.
– It will not take long, will it?
– No, quite short.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The facts are these: Not long ago the Australian Country Party as a whole and, as I understand it, the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) were accused by a member of the Joint Committee on Prices in this House of leaking information to the Press. For my part, in conversation with the Leader of the Country Party I said that I was quite sure that that was not true. In any case it was an odd accusation to be made because on the Committee we had been told by a member of the Committee that he was discussing matters with the Prime Minister as they went through.
Motion (by Mr Clyde Cameron) - by leave agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Wannon speaking for a period not exceeding SO minutes on the second reading of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1973.
Debate resumed from 30 August (vide page 665), on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This is an important Bill. The Opposition’s attitude to it is determined by its analysis of what will best serve the legitimate interests of all parties - employees, employers and the public at large. Public interest is deeply rooted in our arbitration system and in our view it ought not to be weakened or bypassed. A great deal of heat has traditionally surrounded industrial debates, especially in recent times. This has been caused by a variety of factors, amongst which must be included at the forefront the changing and dynamic nature of industrial relations which involve interaction between labour, management and government. These are strongly influenced by political, economic and sociological factors. Unions are more aware of their power than they have ever been. They seek to use it. Full employment and a continually growing economy have altered the attitudes of employers and employees. We are more in touch with overseas developments and people have been introduced to our industrial forum who are more used to voluntary negotiation than to compulsory arbitration.
In a few moments I want to emphasise some of the changes that we regard as significant and some of the areas where we are actively developing new policy. But first let me say that it is our objective to reduce the temperature of the industrial debate. We want rational discussion based on the merits of particular arguments and I hope that the Government will respond in the same manner. We take this view for a very simple but for a very plain reason. Good industrial relations are essential to everything we hope to achieve as a nation. If we want rising standards, greater opportunity for leisure and a more united community, then breaking down artificial barriers between employees and employers is central to the task. Whatever work we do we are all Australians with some common objectives and hopes for ourselves and for our families. Every man and woman wants security for himself or herself and family, and want and expect a reasonable share of the affluence that Australia can offer. I do not believe that the average Australian worker wants his family’s economic life disrupted by hardship caused through strikes, any more than he wants it caused by unemployment.
The arbitration system grew out of the crisis of the 1890s. There was general agreement that an independent third party was required to settle industrial disputes. The arbitration system was necessary to protect the weak. Under it trade unionism prospered. In the first instance its main achievement was a living wage. Now standards have been lifted much beyond that by the same system. In the rapidly changing scene that now confronts us the Opposition believes that the conciliation and arbitration system remains necessary and important for the protection of people involved in disputes and for the protection of that anonymous third person represented by the public interest. Even at this point it is possible to get into false arguments by a misunderstanding of what is meant by the official system of conciliation and arbitration.
But before I come to that let me first emphasise the very real advantages that the system affords unions, and quite deliberately so. Firstly, it gives unions a monopoly of representation, a powerful weapon indeed.
Secondly, it enables unions to enforce their own registered rules. Thirdly, it provides them with a capacity to impose sanctions on employers who might break an award or agreement. Fourthly, it gives unions the capacity to get an official award which represents the minimum conditions applicable to a particular industry and it gives it the force of law. Fifthly, it enables a negotiated agreement to be registered and enforced.
These are powerful arguments and are clearly the key to the overwhelming support given to the system by the union movement. I do not for one moment believe that any large number of Australian workers would appreciate an attempt to weaken or to bypass the system that has provided them with significant protection and support over the years. People sometimes talk as though the Commonwealth law provides only for official conciliation between parties or for an official arbitration of a dispute. There are sometimes suggestions that all industrial arguments should be conducted by third parties through conciliation or arbitration. Such a view is unreal. It neither represents the facts of present industrial relations nor a correct interpretation of what Commonwealth law has for decades provided. On an earlier occasion I indicated that a number of companies prefer what is loosely called ‘collective bargaining’. For many the term carries with it overtones of threat - of negotiation under compulsion. Therefore, I prefer the term ‘voluntary agreement’. Certainly a number of unions have moved in the same direction. If voluntary agreement, as it does to me, means a free and proper negotiation provided the public interest is maintained, there can be little to quarrel with and often much to commend.
Such negotiations have for decades been part of the official conciliation and arbitration process. They are recognised by the certification of agreements by consent awards and by Part 10 of the Act which provides for the filing with the Industrial Registrar of agreements for the settling of disputes. Such negotiations are often’ examples of good industrial relations.
The Act deliberately encourages such arrangements so long as the public interest is not prejudiced. When the parties cannot agree they call for the services of conciliation or of arbitration. Thus negotiation in this sense is officially part of the conciliation and arbitration process and always has been. We need to remember that our system often involves 3 steps. First, voluntary negotiation. If the parties fail and emphasis is made on conciliation, and arbitration stands as the settlement of last resort. Our system is in fact a mixed system in which voluntary agreement in the sense in which I have described it is an essential part. I have been advised that something between 60 per cent and 90 per cent of the conditions under which employees covered by Commonwealth awards or agreements work, are in fact negotiated arrangements.
I have emphasised the importance of freely negotiated agreements. We have quite a different view of arrangements that might be forced upon an employer or upon employees as a result of one party having the capacity, and using the capacity, to hold a shotgun at the head of the other. That certainly does not represent our view of negotiations or of voluntary settlement of disputes and we will seek to maintain and reinforce arrangements that would reduce its occurrence to the minimum. There are many advantages of this dual system. Where a third party is required for mediation or for arbitration, that is available. Where the 2 parties feel that they know the industry best and can come to a proper accommodation, that is encouraged within the framework of the Act. Third, the structural framework is provided for those who prefer one stream and for those who prefer the other. Fourth, it provides a fair test of voluntary negotiation in Australia. Fifth, a formal alternative is provided for those disenchanted with third party conciliation and arbitration. Sixth, such negotiations are kept within the concept of the public interest by the provisions of the Act and by the requirement of certification or by the procedures relating to consent awards.
The effectiveness of the available procedures can in part be judged by the fact that only 1 .4 per cent of all employees in the work force work under non-registered collective arrangements. We would all emphasise the importance of good industrial relations. We can have some pride in the unique Australian experience, but certainly no complacency. We must remember that any system is only as good as the people involved in it. It is the people on both sides of the industrial scene who count. I regard it as an imperfect measure, but days lost through industrial disputes per 1,000 employees does provide some measure of the success of the system of the total area of industrial relationships. On that basis, in the 5 years between 1967 and 1971 Australia performed much better than Canada and the United States but worse than the United Kingdom, Sweden, France and the Federal Republic of Germany. I am glad to see that the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) is prepared to learn from overseas practice and the examination which I understand has taken place in their experiences.
Let me now indicate some areas which are of concern to the Opposition and which are vital to good industrial relations but not directly affected by this Bill. First, we would support in general terms the Minister’s proposals for trade union education. Such education should, however, be free from any political indoctrination, and I would take that to be the Minister’s objective. I would, however, put one matter to him. One of our objectives should be to break down any false and artificial barriers between management and labour. If management is educated in one place and labour in another place those barriers will tend to be reinforced. Each would benefit from a proper understanding of the problems and difficulties of the other. Therefore we suggest that industrial officers and unionists should, in part at least, undergo their training in one place and not separately as the Minister proposes. We need to develop the concept in which all men and women who work in an industry are regarded as having a common objective and not regarded as competitors. Second, there needs to be a better understanding that productivity advantages employees as well as employers. Too often productivity is regarded as a bonus for the employer alone. However, it is not good enough for it merely to be said that productivity advantages employees. It must be demonstrably so and a great deal more work is required in this area so that productivity arrangements can more commonly find their way into agreements and awards.
Third, those who work in an industry need security. Hitherto that security has been dependent not only upon a person’s own skill as a worker but also on the vagaries of the market place or on the capacity of management to meet changing consumer demands. A further unsettling factor is becoming more and more evident; that is the force of technological change. It is within our capacity to protect men and women who become redundant for that last reason. It is not only a question of retraining. It is also a question of maintenance of living standards that may have taken 20 years to achieve. It is our objective to examine this problem in depth. We will also be exploring with management and unions means of easing insecurity caused through temporary changes of demand.
Fourth, more needs to be done to see that there is real job satisfaction. It is not only a question of wages and conditions but also of the kind of work, say, its repetitive nature, as with the dreary and unending task of tightening the same type of nut on the production line. Some interesting experiments have been conducted overseas that could be tried here with advantage. Job satisfaction and job enrichment are high in our priorities in attempting to improve the quality of the working environment. Fifth, if we are looking for substantial changes in management we have the right to expect also that the union movement will submit itself to a searching examination. Is the craft union background and philosophy of Australian unions really the best for Australia or could we do better with industry unions? Such a change, if it were desirable, might take a lifetime or more to accomplish but it might also do much to help give men and women who work in a particular industry a sense of. identification with that industry.
Sixth, the need for consultation and understanding becomes daily more important. Men and women cannot be regarded as mere inputs like an ingot of steel in the production process. The complex problems of labour and management relations are being actively examined by the Opposition. It is an area to be explored and developed. The Opposition wants to see sensible arrangements developed to give workers a sense of involvement. We want to demonstrate to both labour and management that their true interests are interests held in common. We want to establish circumstances in which they have a better understanding of each other’s problems.
Seventh, there certainly ought to be more consultation between management and labour with management putting problems rather than solutions to labour. Eighth, job evaluation ought to be joint and not merely a function of management. Ninth, there are certainly opportunities for a greater disclosure of information to employees. These are some of the areas we are examining. I might add that in my own investigations I have already made arrangements for wide ranging discussions with both unions and management in a number of different industries.
I come now to the provisions of this modified Bill. I hope that it is given proper debate, especially at the Committee stage, because our purpose is to assist in passing a measure that will effect improvements in industrial law. This is an important but by no means the only important aspect of industrial relations. It must be realised that the Government itself has recognised the serious imperfections of its earlier proposal. If the confidence shown in the Minister’s original second reading speech was well based the Bill would have been resubmitted and the Opposition would have been challenged to a double dissolution over the issue.
The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) twice threatened to call a double dissolution. At a Press conference on 8 May attention was drawn to the fact that the Government had declared the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill to be urgent. The Prime Minister said that it was one of substance and could lead to a double dissolution. He repeated the substance of that to his favourite union, the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, on 11 May. All bluster and thunder from the Prime Minister has since died. The Bill has been split in two. The Government has run away from that question and has recognised the objection to proposals that would have left penalties and sanctions on employers but not on employees. To that was added a further proposal to make union officials immune from actions in tort.
The Minister told us that these aspects will be submitted in a later Bill and that proposals concerning either of those aspects had been removed from this Bill. That being so it is the Opposition’s hope that the Minister will support our amendments which are designed to give full effect to his words in that respect. Three provisions relating to penalties have been left in the Bill. One is in Part X of the Bill which the Minister seeks to abolish. Another concerns organisational bank accounts. A third concerns section 158p in the Bill by which the Minister proposes to remove Part III which enables a court to impose penalties for irregularities concerning ballots on amalgamations.
I suggest that a very large part of the responsible union movement does not support the Minister and recognises that penalties for breach of an agreement or award must flow both ways. I have knowledge of well over 100 consent awards and agreements in which penalty provisions of one kind or another have been accepted by both sides. In view of the Minister’s own record in this particular matter it was a mark of the degree to which the left wing unions can direct the Minister that his earlier proposals forbade the certification of such freely negotiated arrangements.
The abolition of Part X is not only contrary to the Minister’s assurances that sanctions and penalty provisions would not be part of this Bill; it is also removing from the Bill a useful section which encourages 2 parties to come to an agreement concerning the means of settling a dispute. There is some evidence that the Minister’s abortive industrial policy of two or three years ago was based on Part X of the Act. Indeed, the Minister’s proposal for a $20 a day fine was lifted straight out of Part X. Perhaps the Minister wants to remove from sight and memory all reference and evidence of that unhappy policy.
Rather than abolish Part X we would seek to promote it because its purpose is sound and it is used as a means of achieving agreement concerning the method of settling disputes. Furthermore, some of the provisions of clause 6 would have a powerful and harmful effect if the Government were later able to muster a majority for its proposals concerning tort, to give union officials immunity from certain aspects of the civil law. Clause 6 as presently drafted by the Government would give unreasonable protection to employees and would place an unreasonable burden of proof on employers. It would add enormously to the power of shop stewards and I had thought that it was the Minister’s intention to strengthen the hands of fulltime union officials rather than those of shop stewards. If that is the Minister’s object, this Bill does not achieve it because some of his proposals concerning union democracy would seriously weaken the negotiating power of such officials in industrial disputes.
Clause 6 covers an extremely wide area as it is presently drafted and could render an employer liable to prosecution in certain circumstances. One such circumstance would be the closing down of his works or the laying off of staff as a result of lost production through union bans in support of higher wages or better working conditions. In such a case the employer would have the onus of establish ing to the satisfaction of a court that in dismissing employees he was activated by the economic circumstances rather than by the union bans which had brought on the economic circumstances. This would be extremely difficult to do. In the case where an employer dismissed 100 employees he would be liable to total penalties of $400,000 as well as orders for reinstatement of each employee.
The next example is where he dismisses or in some other way disciplines employees who without proper authority of management and in breach of a contract of employment have absented themselves from duty to attend union demonstrations or meetings in support of claims of other workers in establishments unconnected with the employer’s work place. It will be noted that there is no limit to the area or place in which the officer, delegate or union member may perform his action as this may be done in an industrial establishment or elsewhere. There is also no limitation on the authority which may expressly or impliedly be conferred on any delegate or member by the union.
The practical effect of the proposed amendments would seem to be that provided the employee stops short of committing offences such as assault or damage to property and does not commit torts such as defamation he may absent himself from work or indulge in any bans whatsoever with impunity provided that there is some connection between the absence or ban and an industrial claim by members of the same union. We are proposing substantial amendments to this clause. I know the Minister will want to fulfil his pledge concerning the removal of all penalty amendments and proposals affecting tort from this Bill and therefore the Opposition looks to support in these matters because the inter-relationship with this particular amendment is clear. The Minister is well aware of the changing power relationship between management and unions. It is important, therefore, to look at the general tenor of the Government’s proposals to see how they affect that relationship and the processes of negotiation, conciliation and arbitration. There are 2 unfortunate trends in the Minister’s proposals. On the one hand they weaken the arbitral powers of the Full Bench and thus the authority of the Commission. We will seek to keep in the Act those provisions which require certain major matters to go before the Full Bench, not only for awards but also for agreements. If agreements concerning standard hours of work, for altering rates of wages on grounds fundamentally related to the national economy, for altering minimum wages and annual leave, do not have to go to the Full Bench for certification then clearly unions will tend to prefer agreements to awards. In our view that impetus should not be provided in that Act.
This approach of the Minister is consistent with his proposal to change the concept of public interest. In the proposals before us an agreement must not be certified or an award must not be made if a major detriment to the public interest would result. In our view this represents a significant and unreasonable weakening of the concept of public interest and we will seek to have the present words not in the public interest’ maintained. Thus a member of the Commission would refuse to certify an agreement or make an award if it is not in the public interest. The public interest concept has renewed importance at present. In view of the Government, the conciliation and arbitration process is merely there for the settlement of disputes. The Government has so far denied the public interest in wages settlements or their impact on inflation. We are concerned to maintain the public interest and this is especially important during the present period of inflation. The Government, on the one hand, seeks to weaken the concept of public interest in wages and income settlements, while on the other hand it is asking for absolute control over prices. The lack of consistency in the Government’s approach is obvious.
While the Government is weakening the arbitral functions of the Commission by these 2 inter-related changes it is also weakening the capacity of union officials to negotiate. This compares noticeably with the increased power and protection the Minister seeks to give shop stewards under clause 6, as I have already mentioned. I appreciate this may not be the Minister’s intention. He had certain experiences with a particular union. But I suggest that his proposal for rank and file approval of the principal terms of an agreement are unreal and unworkable. Union officials would have no negotiating capacity and we do not believe that to be good for unions or for industrial peace. We will seek to amend those provisions. This, I think, would be particularly relevant to the Minister’s own old union because it would not be possible with the far flung membership of the Australian Workers Union to get the kind of agreement spelt out in detail by the provisions of the Bill. Therefore, the Opposition is unable to accept the Minister’s proposals in full, although we do go with them a little of the way.
The Minister is going to a very considerable length to see that union officials are properly elected - democratically elected - by their unions. It does not seem to be consistent to take this step and then to take all negotiating authority and capacity away from those same properly elected officials. There is another area where the Minister is, we believe, quite wrongly reducing rights and opportunities of unionists, employers and of affected third parties. This concerns the proposed abolition of appeals from consent awards and agreements. We believe that the right of appeal should remain not only for third parties affected by an earlier award but not consulted by the new one, but also for either of the principal parties who, after agreement is certified or a consent award is made, might find new evidence which completely alters their attitude. Such a right ought to remain. It is, of course, a limited right by the need for the Commission’s approval before an appeal can be heard. Therefore, it is not unrestricted. In the Opposition’s view that right ought not to be taken from employees or from employers. At this point we need to recognise the facts of industrial life. There are key areas in industry where substantial changes flow through the whole industrial forum. If these key areas come to an agreement there is an inevitable flow on. This is the situation our legislation sought to deal with. The Government is seeking to sweep it all away. But the objective that we pursued was a proper one and we are therefore opposing the Minister’s amendments in this area. I do not suggest that that is the only way of touching this problem. Rather than have provisions which allow opportunity for a third party to appeal it may be possible to establish circumstances in which the Commissioner could see that such third parties were protected before an agreement was certified. But, in the present circumstances, as I have emphasised, we are opposing the Minister’s amendments.
Our attitude to the important question of amalgamation has not changed. I want to emphasise that there are 2 principles involved here. Firstly, do the rules help or hinder amalgamation; secondly, are the rules fair and just to all parties? There needs to be some compromise, perhaps, between the 2 principles. In relation to ballots - and I am talking now concerning amalgamations - a number of provisions in the Bill would reduce the possibilities of fair and impartial ballots for amalgamation. For example, the Minister is seeking to remove a section from 158l which requires that notices of the ballot dates must be given not less than 3 months before the beginning date of the ballot. With this section abolished there will be possibilities of all sorts of abuses and of denying union members the right to vote. In addition, in section 158h the Minister is reducing the grounds on which objections can be made. At present objection can be made if there is an alteration in the rules of the organisation and the Minister is limiting that to an alteration of the rules as they affect eligibility for membership. There are other alterations to rules which can significantly affect the rights of individual unionists and the section ought not to be limited as the Minister would want. The Minister is. also seeking to allow amalgamations to take place by election under union rules. We regard the matter as so important that we will seek to preserve the requirement for a court controlled ballot. I want to emphasise that while the principle of amalgamation has been accepted because of the large number of unions in Australia, 65 per cent of all unionists are already in 21 unions and amalgamation has, in the past, seemed to take place between the large and not between the smaller unions.
Furthermore, demarcation disputes, the existence of which has often been given in favour of amalgamation between unions, represents only a small percentage of strikes and of lost time. Only an average of 3 or 4 per cent of all lost time in the years from 1966 to 1970, and under 10 per cent of all strikers are over trade unionism matters. Under that definition demarcation disputes are included amongst other things. The Minister is seeking statutory recognition of the right of entry of properly accredited union officials to places of work. We recognise that such a right does, de facto, exist. This is included in many awards and in many agreements. We believe the Minister’s proposal is far too wide and we will seek acceptance of an alternative amendment which will recognise the right, quite categorically, but which would leave it to the Commission to determine or the parties to agree between themselves and have certified to give it the force of an award. We believe that to be prefer able because circumstances differ greatly between different industries.
We support the Minister’s attempt to establish a properly based inspectorate service but we do quarrel with the way in which the Minister is going about it. The Minister is not only seeking to establish circumstances in which the inspector can seek an interpretation of an award, but also he is establishing circumstances in which he can be personally responsible for the appointment of inspectors. Since the inspectors already have the power to prosecute for breaches of an award, we can see that the Minister is establishing a position in which his personal appointees could have a substantial impact on the conduct of industrial relations.
As a result of this, we are proposing 2 safeguards: Firstly, where an inspector wishes to seek an interpretation of an award, we believe that the Minister should give his approval because at the moment there is no protection against the possibility of the inspector using such an interpretation in a subsequent prosecution. Secondly, we will be proposing that inspectors should be appointed under the safeguards of the Public Service Act. We have no objection to inspectors being appointed from outside the Public Service, but we do not believe that they should be the personal appointees of the Minister for Labour, or of any Minister.
I wish to make one point clear to the House and to the Minister. The Minister made the facilities of his Department and his departmental officers available to me and to the Opposition concerning any factual matters related to the legislation. Because of that action and because of the Minister’s desire, as I would believe, to achieve the passage of reasonable and sensible legislation, we discussed a number of matters together. He suggested to me that if he could see the amendments that the Opposition wished to move he would want to take them to the Labor Caucus before this debate took place to see which amendments the Caucus might be able to support. That was done. I told the Minister that, as far as I and our committee were concerned, the amendments that he was given covered the field. But last night - to this extent I apologise to the Minister - on a further reading of the Bill we saw that there was a need to make this amendment concerning the appointment of inspectors. If I omitted to include that amendment in the initial list, let me say that the reason is that I have had 2i weeks or 3 weeks to become familiar with this legislation and with the Bill and the Minister may have had closer to 50 years; so he would be a little ahead of me on that count. That is the reason why in this area there is one substantial amendment which was not in the list of amendments that initially I gave the Minister for him to take to Caucus.
I speak again to the matter of the appointment of inspectors. The House needs to remember that inspectors have policing tasks. It is not within our system to have Ministers appoint personal police forces. I believe that, on reflection, the Minister will recognise this fact. If the Minister replies that in the past we have appointed conciliators and arbitrators, I would say that such people have a judicial or quasi-judicial position and traditionally have been appointed by governments. But policemen must not be appointed directly by governments or by Ministers.
I draw attention to one other clause that the Opposition finds particularly obnoxious. This is clause 77 which seeks to insert a new section, section 186a, in the Act. This provides that, if an employer uses incapacity to pay as an argument before the Commission, it must be disregarded unless the employer furnishes financial evidence in support of the claim. If he does so, he loses the protection of secrecy now provided to him by section 186 of the Act. From the point of view of the Opposition, that is the important matter. The clause that the Minister proposes is offensive because it gives unnecessary direction to the Commission. I am quite sure that the Commission would not listen to an argument that involved incapacity to pay unless the person using that argument furnished financial evidence to support it. But, in the circumstances that now prevail, a person who uses such an argument and who furnishes such financial evidence can claim the benefit of secrecy under section 186. If the Minister’s proposal were accepted, an employer could have his financial position revealed to competitors in a way that could be severely embarrassing to a particular firm. That, I believe, is not a proper function of this Parliament, So, the clause gives unnecessary direction to the Commission. But it also denies the right of non-publication to an employer where that right could be quite critical to him in his competitive relationship with other firms.
I come now to important matters or changes of emphasis in the legislation that we support. The proposed fusing of the powers of conciliation and arbitration represents an’ important modification of our proposals where we separated these functions at an earlier time. The Minister’s new proposals represent a middle course which we believe has developed sensibly from our earlier initiative. We note that if one party objects a commissioner who conciliates cannot continue to arbitrate. So, the principle of separation as it affects a particular dispute can be invoked if either of the parties so wishes.
We support the Minister’s proposal to pay the full costs of all court controlled ballots. We regard that as an inducement to hold such ballots. With one exception, we support the proposals to deny the court the right to award costs. We will move an amendment which will preserve such a right where it appears to the court that a party has proceeded vexatiously or without reasonable cause. Because high legal principles are involved, we only partly support the transfer of responsibility to the Minister. Matters relating to the Industrial Court and to proceedings before it should, we believe, remain with the Attorney-General because it is through the Attorney-General’s Department that the Commonwealth traditionally is represented in the courts. We believe that there should not be a proliferation of that practice to other departments. Whilst we believe it to be only a partial solution, and an imperfect one at that, we support the Minister’s proposal to resolve the difficulties associated with the Moore v. Doyle case.
The Opposition has sought to be. constructive and non-partisan in its examination of this legislation. I hope that the Government will make it possible to carry that view through to the Committee stage where a major debate on details of the Minister’s proposals needs to take place. This Bill has lost some of the objectionable features of its predecessor, but it still has serious blemishes that will not advance industrial peace. If our constructive proposals are accepted, industrial law will be improved by an amalgamation of the Government’s intentions with our own constructive examination of the Bill.
Mr NIXON (Gippsland) (4.1) - I must comment on the fact that at this time no one from the Government side has risen to support the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron).
– Thank you very much for that!
– I am surprised -
– You had better talk to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– If that is the arrangement that has been made OK.
– Mr Deputy Speaker -
– I withdraw the inference.
– No, it is not a question of an inference. I have been misrepresented badly.
– I apologise.
– The Government wishes to give proper consideration to this Bill in the Committee stage. The Opposition spokesman asked for that. For that reason, I was able to prevail upon many of our members - four of them are sitting here rearing to go; I assure you that that is not an exaggeration - and they have deferred to my special plea to keep out of the debate. I think that that ought to be noted.
– I apologise for the inference in my remark. I was unaware of the generosity being offered to the Opposition at this time by Government backbenchers. I congratulate them on it. The purpose of industrial legislation must be to provide a background for employer and employee to settle wage levels, working conditions and disruptions as peacefully, quickly and with as little loss of time and production as possible. The Australian arbitration and conciliation system has had a long history and has achieved an international reputation for providing one of the world’s best and fairest systems in the industrial sphere. Regrettably, this reputation has been somewhat tarnished in latter years because of the exploitation of some of the provisions of the legislation and the constitutional weaknesses that presently complicate industrial relations through division of responsibility in State and Federal awards.
Having regard to the long and mostly successful history of arbitration and conciliation, one would have thought that the Minister would have used his own personal industrial experience so to modify the legislation as to enhance the fair play capacity that was so much a feature of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act until recent times. Indeed, the Minister had decided to set up machinery to identify, through a deep study, the institutional framework of Labor relations. He told us so in this second reading speech on 12 April. These are extremely worthy motives. I would be the first to congratulate the Minister on this proposal. A searching inquiry conducted by a balanced committee could only add greatly to the capacity of people in this Parliament to make judgments about any necessary or desirable changes to the present system. But, to abort the inquiry by the introduction of Labor’s industrial dogma, as the Minister did on 12 April, can do nothing but heap confusion upon confusion. To make such radical changes as those proposed in the previous Bill and to declare those changes as vital legislation’ can only tie the hands of any committee of inquiry.
Surely if such a committee of inquiry is to give of its best the Government view should be impressed through changes to legislation after ‘the findings have ‘ been reached. The Minister would have to be the last one to argue with this approach when one has regard for his own ambiguous support in respect of penalties and sanctions. Yet the Minister proceeded to introduce the Bill on that occasion causing those very provisions to be excluded. Doubtless it was done because of the severe setback he received to his proposal launched in Adelaide in late 1972 to maintain penalties for individual unionists who breached agreements. The Minister had the left wing communist unions, with whom he is normally fairly buddy-buddy, snapping at his heels like an un-Australian terrier, so on this issue his difficulty is understandable.
But the difficulty the Minister has when his own view has been overridden by the left wing surely demonstrates to the nation how lucky we are that the Government lacks a majority in the Senate and is the major reason why the committee of inquiry should have a broad capacity to study the use of penalties. The same can be said of many other important sections of the Bill. To talk about holding a committee of inquiry into the functioning of the conciliation and arbitration system whilst at the same time introducing legislation with fundamental changes strikes me as ludicrous. The Minister should demonstrate a real sense of patience and statesmanship, of which I think he might be capable, and await the public inquiry he himself has proposed before acting arbitrarily and unilaterally.
The whole difficulty with the legislation proposed by the Government is that it was designed to distort the balance of fair play that existed in the legislation as it affected both employer and employee. Any legislation designed to alter the balance, to slow down or distort procedures, is in the best interests of neither the employee nor the employer and is certainly not in the best interests of the nation. Putting aside the provisions of the earlier Bill relating to penalties, the protection of unions and members from civil action, which are to come forward again in a separate Bill, so we are told - I imagine that will come forward after the Senate election - there is no question that the rules are being changed in this Bill to make the lot of the militant unionist easier.
Despite the Opposition objection in the previous debate to clause 6 of the Bill, the Minister has reintroduced it. This provision gives blanket protection to shop stewards or individual union activity on the shop floor. The objections lodged by the Opposition in the last debate have been either disregarded or ignored because of the great outcry militant unionists would create should the provision be excluded from this Bill. Surely the whole potage of industrial relations would be better for a tidy-up of relations and powers between shop stewards and union representation. One of the greatest bugbears of the industrial system in Australia and one of the most telling factors in the weakening of the arbitration and conciliation powers has been the growth of shop steward power by way of comparison with the master union. If the industrial arena is to return to sanity it will be by resolution of this problem. Simply put, the shop steward system which is one of the less desirable imports from the United Kingdom, has prostituted the trade union movement, and the Minister would be better put tackling the total problem rather than giving such bludgeoning power to the shop stewards.
The right of entry provision in clause 27 gives unheard of and unreasonable powers to trade union officials in the carrying out of their functions. The right for the proper representative of unionists in a factory to do his job of protecting his own unionists is not challengeable, but what is challengeable is the terms sought by the Minister for such inspection. Surely it is hardly proper for a union official to have the right to lobby workers of another union during working hours. I would have thought that in large part many unionists would resist such a right. The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) will be seeking to amend the Bill to protect workers from the problems inherent in that provision.
Clause 19 of the Bill seeks to take away from a negotiating committee in any wage or condition dispute the right to conclude a settlement without returning to and obtaining from the rank and file approval to the negotiation. Doubtless the Minister would argue that this is an extension of the democratic rights of the ordinary unionist. One would have thought that the Minister would know from his own experience that this could lead to a complete incapacity to conclude a negotiation. After all, he went through the experience of arranging with a great deal of bravado the great new industrial relations policy of the Australian Labor Party in Adelaide last year. Even though he was accompanied by the then Leader of the Opposition, now the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), and the show was covered by nationwide television, radio and the Press, the Caucus rolled him the next week on his policy., But we have seen even more frightening examples that should deter him from this approach with the announcement one day by the Prime Minister of a change in the bond rate, thus affecting interest rates across the board and the Caucus taking it out of his hands a few days later. Surely the Minister would recognise that such an approach can only lead to futile negotiating. I suspect that the Minister must have had some personal disagreement with his union bosses on settlements in his early days in the shearing shed.
Sure it sounds fine and democratic to return to seek rank and file support or agreement for a negotiation. But to make such an approach arbitrary is just to make life difficult. There are many unions and unionists who, having democratically elected their officials, are prepared to support them through to a conclusion on any difficult negotiation. The proposals would make the life of a negotiating committee intolerable, and success under such circumstances impossible. The committee would be going back and forth like a Bourke Street bus, trying to secure a settlement.
There are a number of other clauses that require amending, and they will be dealt with in Committee. But I want to look at another aspect of the Bill and that is the return of the Bill in this form. We all remember the great bravado the Minister showed when his first Bill went through this House and across to the Senate. He declared that it was a piece of vital legislation and that the Government was not going to have it rejected. He said that the Bill would set the stage for a double dissolution if it was rejected. Then we heard the thunderings from the playgrounds of Europe during the Minister’s visit over there when the Ford strike was on. The Minister attacked both the Ford company and the Opposition parties for rejecting the Bill. Of course he was put down very nicely and politely by Mr Eric Witts, the Industrial Relations Director at Ford who explained that what was at issue was an industrial agreement so beloved by the Minister being broken by a union leader in response to a minority mob. The fact is that on that issue and the rejection by the Senate of the so called vital legislation the fat cat became a tame .cat.
So here we have a piece of industrial legislation that does not carry the great dreams of the Minister. I wonder when we will see the other part of the first Bill that carries the tort provisions and removal of the sanction penalties. I do not really expect to see it before the Senate election. This Bill, whilst an improvement on the previous Bill, will be all the better for the amendments to come.
– The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has outlined at some length the constructive proposals which the Opposition has towards the Bill presented by the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) and these will be dealt with at length in Committee. Indeed in the honourable member’s speech on the second reading he has shown the reasons why, in broad outline, the Opposition is opposing various measures where it is felt that these will inhibit the role of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in its conciliation and arbitration functions and inhibit the welfare of individual unionists and the employer. It is important to say that, because the Opposition is fully aware of the fact that industrial relations require a spirit of co-operation and understanding between employees and employers. The Opposition also understands that in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act there is provided a machinery for preventing and settling industrial disputes when they arise. The fundamental intention behind the legislation ought to be to bring about industrial peace. This is why the Opposition so strongly opposed the Bill introduced by the Minister in the autumn session. It was brought forward with a fanfare, which is clearly indicated by the opening words of his second reading speech when he said:
This Bill is the first stage of a radical transformation of industrial relations in Australia.
Of course, it was quite apparent that that radical transformation was sought to be brought about by the deletion of the bans clauses and any provisions dealing with sanctions and penalties. As the Opposition pointed out, that would have brought about a radical transformation of the arbitration system as it is known in Australia and as it has developed over the last 70 years. It is quite clear that, in the face of opposition to the Bill both in this House and in another place and the public reaction to this so called radical transformation to be introduced, the Minister was compelled to withdraw those objectionable parts of his first Bill. The Opposition is glad to> see that with the Bill now before it, it can approach in a constructive way what the Minister has sought to achieve in those parts which are not affected by the- bans clauses . and the sanctions and penalties provisions. When a government embarks upon reform, what it ought to do is seek to strengthen and update the existing machinery provided by the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That was not seen to be the objective behind the first Bill.
As the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) foreshadowed, the Opposition is intrigued to know whether the Government has abandoned what it proposed in the first Bill or whether it is simply afraid to bring it forward at this stage, hoping for a double dissolution on some basis so that it can then bring it forward again. I do not think the public will be deluded by what the Government is doing, by the tactic that is being adopted by the Minister. The public will realise that the Minister realises that what he proposed was unacceptable. So we will be watching the courage of the Minister to see whether at some later stage he reintroduces those parts of his Bill. The Liberal Party policy on this Bill is quite clear. We aim to retain, continue and modernise the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act so as to fulfil a purpose in the modern industrial society in Australia today. Why should we do that? It is for a very plain and simple reason, one in respect of which I can adapt and adopt words used by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in a speech which he made with a fanfare of introduction as the policy of the then Opposition towards industrial relations. The Prime Minister pointed out that 90 per cent of the Australian workforce depends upon arbitrated decisions and industrial agreements for their incomes. If that is so, there is every good reason why the conciliation and arbitration system of Australia should be retained, maintained, strengthened and updated. This makes good sense and I am sure the public realises it.
Under this system those in the Australian workforce and their families have had a protection for their wages, incomes and conditions of work unparalleled throughout the world. Having said that, we have to realise that Australia is a changing place and that when we look at the arbitration system we must look at it in an economy which is in a state of flux, which is fluid and changing under the impact of international stress and domestic economic pressures. In the debates which have recently been held in this House dealing with the Budget, inflation and the prices referendum Bill, it has been quite apparent that honourable members on both sides of the House appreciate that the economic structure of Australia is being changed under the impact of these stresses and pressures which I have mentioned. It is quite clear that under the impact of the inflation which is running throughout the community at the present time the arbitration system will come under increasing strain. It may well be a strain that it cannot withstand. When average weekly earnings are running at a rate of increase of 13 per cent, as has been acknowledged in the Budget, we can properly ask ourselves whether the unions, both blue and white collar, are going to look to the arbitration system to provide their members with an increase in wages sufficient to match that increase in average weekly earnings.
In this regard I noted a statement put out by the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association when it was complaining about the possibility of Caucus action to prevent its members from receiving a 16 per cent or 12 p’er cent rise in wages. It said that that increase was necessary in order to keep pace with current inflationary trends. That fact is something that unions will be fully aware of in the months ahead. The history of arbitration indicates that when inflationary trends are at such an accelerating rate the arbitration system cannot cope with them. Because of the inbuilt concepts of wage fixation it cannot cope with that rate of inflation. I think we will see within the short months ahead a much more significant degree of union activity outside the arbitration system in order to ensure that the wages of union members match the inflationary trends operating within the community. We are likely also to see leadership in this field taken over by white collar unions rather than blue collar unions. We have seen this indicated already by the rate of wage increase allowed by this Government within the Australian Public Service, and once that increase in wages run j through the Australian and State Public Services we can be sure that it will flow over into private industry.
We will see also a movement in the workforce of emphasis away from the blue collar worker to the white collar worker so that blue collar unions will become less dominant than the white collar unions in their role within the industrial movement in Australia. This is merely to indicate some of the trends in this fluid state of the Australian economy. Those trends must be felt and reflected within the arbitration system of Australia and through industrial relations within Australia. Within a space of 2 to 5 years the arbitration system will be faced with a different national economy, one without all the economic convulsions going on at the present time but which will have worked their way through the system and through the economy. What the Government has to ensure in relation to the arbitration system is that the system is ready to operate smoothly and efficiently within this changed national economy. It must be ready to operate in a way which will satisfy the workforce in respect of both the wages policy that it espouses and the conditions of employment which it grants to the Australian workforce.
To me this means that the Government should be looking towards a restructuring of the conciliation and arbitration system in Australia. I think it should be restructured along some of the following guidelines. Firstly, the Commission must be so structured as to be able to fulfil the purposes of providing a wages policy for the nation and satisfying conditions of employment for the work force. Secondly, the Commission must itself develop itself and be given the opportunity to develop new concepts of wage fixation and wages policy. It is of no use waiting until the economy has finally settled down. It must begin to develop those concepts now. Members on the Government side of the House would be well aware, as the Minister obviously is, of the concepts of wages policy that have been developed over the last 70 years. They ought to be equally well aware of the fact that those policies are no longer adequate to satisfy the union movement. Thirdly, in its restructured state the arbitration system must find the proper place for negotiated or bargained agreements as part of a whole coherent system.
I have outlined those guidelines only very broadly. The Cameron proposals in this Bill are quite inadequate. All that we have is a scissors and paste job which means that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is now overburdened by piecemeal post-war amendments. These Cameron proposals can only exacerbate the serious need for an overhaul of this Act. So far as I can see this Act needs to be completely rewritten. I would like to see it rewritten in 2 ways. It may be that there would have to be 2 Acts to achieve this purpose. Firstly, there would be one Act clearly setting out the machinery for conciliation and arbitration. The Act should be simply stated, it would contain concepts which are clear and precise, devoid of legalism and great technicalities, which both sides in industrial relations can plainly see would work and would be prepared to give the Act an opportunity to work.
Secondly, and of equal importance, there must be a labour relations code. The machinery that I envisage in this legislation would maintain the role of unions and would render conciliation even more significant than it is today. It would seek to do that by enhancing the role of conciliators, by providing them with better tools with which to do their job, and lifting the status of conciliators to that of people who can enter into effective mediation or conciliation between the two negotiating parties. I think the conciliator has to be removed from the idea of being merely a person who identifies a dispute and finds that the parties cannot agree. He must enter into the negotiation in a realistic way. The machinery must define the circumstances and the occasion for arbitration. In contrast the position under the present legislation is that the circumstances and the occasions for arbitration are haphazard and ill-defined. Finally, this machinery must clearly express the role of the public interest. In this regard the honourable member for Wannon has clearly expressed the importance that the Opposition places upon the role of the public interest in this field. We need machinery to identify the circumstances and the occasion when the public interest must be protected and when the Government or some statutory authority may intervene in its name.
The Labour relations code that I referred to should be regarded as a charter of employees’ rights in 2 respects - the rights of unionists vis-a-vis their own unions and the rights of employees vis-a-vis their employers. I believe this is an urgent task and it is not enough for the Minister, who has had many years within the union movement, merely to embark upon a scissors and paste job on the existing Act. It may be that what needs to be done cannot be achieved within the concepts of conciliation and arbitration as they appear in the Constitution. In this regard I note the comments of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Murphy, which he made at the Aus. tralian Constitutional Convention held ii: Sydney a few weeks ago. I will read from page 165 of the official record of debates on the third day of that Convention. The Leader of the Government in the Senate said:
The Government believes that all the limitations should be removed-
That is, from the Constitution in respect of conciliation and arbitration as stated in section 51- and the national Parliament should have ample plenary power over the whole question of terms and conditions of work. All those limitations, on using conciliation and arbitration - the narrowness of the concept of an industry, the concept of a dispute or the extension beyond one State - should be swept away and the plenary power that is necessary in a single national economy should be vested in the national Parliament.
I agreed at the Constitutional Convention with the Leader of the Government in the Senate that that is necessary. But having read again what was said by the honourable senator it seems to me remarkable that what he said then in the name of the Government is now being denied by his own Caucus through its refusal to allow the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to agree to a proposal for a referendum which would give the Commonwealth power over incomes.
For the life of me I cannot understand how the honourable senator can say on behalf of the Government that the Constitution should clothe the Commonwealth with plenary power over industrial relations, which power must include incomes, and then for his own Caucus to deny the holding of a referendum to give effect to that proposal. These are the long term matters to be considered by the Government and by this Parliament. There are a number of matters in this Bill that the Opposition will be dealing with and I will be speaking on some of them during the Committee stage. I conclude my second reading speech by reiterating that these amendments do not go far enough and I am sure that when the Opposition is in government it will be seeking to achieve what I have stated.
– Order! The honourable ‘ member’s time has expired.
– The Cameron legislation now lies in tatters. The Bill before the House represents a major reversal for the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) and his Government. It is in fact a public admission of the untenable and unwarranted nature of the provisions which this Government sought to introduce last session. Those provisions were the removal of sanctions against unionists and the exemption of unionists from the provisions of the civil law. Those provisions were sought in the original Bill as a specific pay-off to the trade union movement in this country. The Opposition parties provided the Government with every opportunity to reintroduce those provisions and then to move, if that is the wish of the Government, towards a double dissolution. The Minister has rejected that challenge because he and his colleagues know full well that the Australian people would not be prepared to return his Party to government on the basis of the legislation which he initially introduced into this House. The policies of the Minister for Labour are inconsistent with the progress of sound, industrial relations in Australia. He proclaims concern for the standards and conditions of the Australian work force and yet he is the prime mover of the wage and salary pressures which are now pushing the rate of inflation in Australia to unprecedented levels. The Budget papers estimate that average weekly earnings will rise by 13 per cent this financial year. Inflation is now running at a notional rate of more than 13 per cent. As a direct consequence of inflation the work force throughout Australia will achieve no real gains during this financial year as a result of the economic and industrial relations policies of the present Labor administration.
The Minister’s endorsement of the pace setter principle for the Public Service, the concept of Hat wage increases, the introduction of a 35-hour working week and the total endorsement of the claims by the Australian Council of Trade Unions before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the national wage case, have not only been irresponsible but in fact also have been counterproductive against the context of the inflationary spiral which is so rampant throughout Australia. Equally, the Minister’s abrasive and inflammatory approach to the industrial environment has had the effect of doubling the amount of wages lost through industrial disputes for the first 9 months of this year as compared with the same period last year. During the early days of this Labor administration there has been a massive increase in the level of industrial unrest. That increase cannot be blamed on the processes of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission or, indeed, upon the operation of the Act. It can, however, be attributed directly to the behaviour of the parties in the industrial jurisdiction and, we believe, to the absence of effective national leadership.
I do not want to try to score any political points in a debate of this type. I do not need to take that opportunity because what can be said is so self-evident to the Australian people to warrant no repetition in the course of this debate. However it is a useful exercise to refer to many of the pre-election industrial promises which this Government made in 1972. What do we think of those promises?
The Opposition parties support the concept of effective and responsible trade unionism and we support Australia’s statutory process of conciliation and arbitration. Accordingly, as the Opposition’s spokesman for industrial relations, the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), has stated, the Opposition’s attitude to this Bill is determined by its analysis of what best serve the legitimate interests of the principal parties in the industrial environment and the public at large. The Opposition believes that the Government has a basic responsibility to safeguard the public interest when proposing alterations to our existing industrial legislation. This responsibility must derive from a number of basic considerations. -Firstly, a government has responsibility for the general management of the economy, which can be adversely affected by events in the industrial relations field,. It would be recreant to its duty if it did not do everything in its power to ensure that industrial disputes and their resolution did not create economic problems which affected the public interest. Secondly, a government must necessarily be concerned with the wellbeing of people in all sections of the community, of which employers and members of the trade union movement form but a part. In particular, a government has responsibility for protecting the interests of under-privileged people in the community - those on fixed incomes and others who are not in a position to protect their own interests.
Thirdly, some industrial relations developments are not the direct concern of one or other of the parties, although they can cause a marked upset in the life of the general community and can have adverse economic repercussions. I refer to such matters as stoppages over political issues and inter-union rivalry in relation to the demarcation of work. No self-respecting government can stand idly by in the face of such threats ‘to the community’s wellbeing. Fourthly, in genuine industrial disputes between unions and employers there comes a time when the parties, in the public interest, cannot be left to fight out to the bitter end a war of industrial attrition which could easily seriously undermine the workings of the economy and national stability. Indeed, it was the result of a disastrous confrontation between unions and employers in the 1890s that led to the eventual establishment of statutory conciliation and arbitration systems in this country.
In 1949 the economic disruption caused by coal miners forced the then Labor Government to protect the Australian community by the passage of an Act which had the effect of putting the irresponsible union leaders involved in gaol. Fifthly, every government is itself an employer - in Australia the largest employer in the Country. Thus government must be concerned with industrial relations in respect of its own employees. This, the Opposition recognises must at times create problems. On the one hand, a government must ensure that employees are awarded just and fair conditions but, on the other hand, it cannot act regardless of the interests of other employers, whether private or public.
The responsibilities of the principal parties in the industrial environment are equally important. The Opposition believes there is a real need for employers and trade unions to face up to the responsibilities demanded of them in a full employment society. The use of direct action by unions to coerce employers to accede to unreasonable union demand is, of course, not a measure of responsibility. By the same token, employers who make a practice of automatically rejecting union demands, irrespective of their intrinsic merits, or grant unreasonable claims in the expectation that the costs involved can be passed on to the general community in the form of price rises, cannot be said to be acting responsibly.
Responsible action on the part of unions calls for submitting only those claims which they feel can be reasonably justified and accompanying those claims with supporting information. To act responsibly, employers need to give careful consideration to such claims and to accede to those claims that they consider are justified. Negotiations can then proceed on matters in dispute, and only when agreement cannot be reached should recourse be had to conciliation and arbitration processes. During negotiations, the parties must have regard to the public interest. If we are to retain our present system of annual national wage cases as a method for distributing to workers generally the benefits of economic growth, employers and unions need to be careful lest a consequence of their negotiations they exhaust economic capacity to support general wage increases which would normally be awarded as a result of national wage cases. Industrial tribunals can award wage increases and other benefits for which there is no economic capacity to pay, but such increases are illusory since they are inevitably followed by price increases of the type that we have been experiencing recently. The Minister seems either incapable or unwilling to examine the effects of his industrial proposals in respect of the level of industrial unrest. Industrial unrest causes hardship and inconvenience to individuals; it disrupts industrial efficiency and retards output; it rebounds on the workers involved, causing them needless losses in income and prejudicing the employment of the men concerned; and it has adverse consequences on the economy. It is not, of course, a phenomenon which is unique in this country.
Our distinctive industrial relations system was born in a period of industrial turmoil at the close of the last century. Since then the system has had to contend with recurring periods of heightened industrial unrest. The marked upturn in the level of industrial turmoil during the first 9 months of the new Government must be a matter of national concern. Statistics published by the Commonwealth Statistician on the amount of time and wages lost as a result of the level of industrial disputes, although useful in analysing our industrial dispute experience, only reveal the tip of the iceberg in that they relate solely to employees directly and indirectly involved in establishments in which stoppages of work take place. Clearly this is a gross understatement of the full impact of industrial action because it does not account for workers elsewhere who are stood down on account of strikes and other forms of industrial action. Nor do the statistics reveal the loss of business opportunities caused by direct industrial action. The royal commission chaired by Lord Donovan in the United Kingdom pointed out in relation to statistics:
That tally gives a very imperfect measure of the economic consequences of a strike.
Within industry, direct action has many other insidious effects. It causes disruption to operational efficiency, training programs and investment plans.
In an economy subject to unpredictable strikes, businesses will try to protect themselves by carrying large stocks both of materials needed in production and of finished goods. The cost of warehousing, servicing and insurance, and the capital involved, are added financial burdens. A less obvious but no less serious effect of direct industrial action is that it damages business confidence - always a sensitive element, even in the most virile economy. Mr Deputy Speaker, you would be aware of the serious degree to which business confidence and the confidence of the community generally have been so greatly eroded during the first 9 months in which you have held this position as Deputy Speaker of this House. If a loss in production or increases in labour costs resulting from direct industrial action squeeze profits, even if only temporarily, this may inhibit business investment decisions and thereby inhibit industrial growth and reduce employment opportunities.
It is true, of course, that this Bill, because it no longer contains the highly partisan and obviously political provisions of the former legislation, can be more easily represented as a proposal in the public interest. But as the honourable member for Wannon has so clearly pointed out, there remain a number of important provisions which we would hope the Minister will re-consider when the Bill is in its Committee stage.
Contrary to the Minister’s public posture, 3 provisions of the Bill are designed to remove sanctions now operative in the principal Act. One is in part 10 of the Act which makes provision for industrial agreements for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes by conciliation and arbitration. Another relates to section 158p of the Act which enables the court to impose penalties in respect of amalgamation ballots, and the final one relates to the provisions of the Act in respect of organisations’ bank accounts. No doubt the Minister will agree with the Opposition parties that the Bill, insofar as it seeks to remove these 3 provisions of the Act, does not reflect his public representation of it. No doubt the Minister would not wish to jeopardise his wellknown reputation for public honesty and will agree to the necessary amendments which the Opposition parties will be proposing in these 3 significant areas.
There are, of course, a number of other significant provisions in this Bill which we believe require further consideration by the Minister. They have already been outlined by the honourable member for Wannon and will be put to the Minister in some detail during the Committee stage. This is a Bill which, even in its mutilated and emasculated form - I said before that it is a Bill in tatters - deserves further examination by the Government. We do not propose to make political capital from the Bill, as the Minister did in his second reading speech. The Minister will recognise that on this occasion I have taken a most muted position in responding to the propositions which the Government has put down. I refer to his facile, even absurd, observation that the failure of the Parliament to pass his first Bill had the effect of exacerbating the Ford dispute. Nothing could be further from the truth. If there was one factor in this country that did not help the Ford dispute it was the Minister’s inflammatory statements made from London - an easy position from which to make an in-depth observation, but they bore no reality to the implications of that tragic dispute in Melbourne.
– It was safer, too.
– And safer, too. The Minister would be aware that there was a classic case at the Ford factory of union democracy being debased and dishonoured by union officials. The Opposition parties believe it is time that the Minister and his Government recognised that industrial relations call for national leadership and a sense of national responsibility. It is not an area in which a government should pursue a policy of sectionalism. It is not an area for the disbursement of concessions for political support. A factor that would tend to lend greater credibility to the Minister’s claims that this Bill has the fundamental objective of improving the nature of industrial relations in Australia would be some mention by him of the committee of inquiry.
This is a committee of inquiry - a noble concept - set up by the Minister and which apparently has been in limbo since its inception. In this House we have heard very little of the operations of that Committee since the first grand design was laid down. The state of the committee is symptomatic of the Government’s general approach to industrial legislation. This is, unfortunately, an approach characterised by a lack of consultation despite what the Government said in its pre-election speeches. This Bill does not derive from a process of thorough consultation.
There was in fact no direct consultation in a formal sense with the principal parties in the industrial jurisdiction throughout Australia. The Bill is simply a transposition of the Australian Labor Party’s platform in this country. What can be said of industrial relations under Labor is that they are a myth, because the promises made not just in this House but on the hustings throughout Australia have been dishonoured. It is not irrelevant to point out that during the period of the present administration the number of strikes has shown a marked increase, the number of workers involved has shown a marked increase, the number of man-days lost has shown a marked increase, and there has been a massive loss in the value of wages by Australian employees.
I remind the House of this fundamental truth, that in the industrial jurisdiction there is an overwhelming need to pay far more attention to the positive initiatives which can be taken to improve the nature of the working environment. This is no less than the workforce of this country deserves or demands, because the quality of life of the workers is, in no small measure, the quality of the work environment in which they spend the greater part of their lives. Therefore, what we need is a better community of work, a community in which employers and employees work effectively together, with increasing benefit to the worker, the employer, the products they produce and the country at large. I hope that this will not be lost on the Minister for Labour because what we have seen in this House in the first 9 months of this Administration has been a totally inadequate response to Australia’s industrial relations problems. We have seen turmoil upon turmoil, and that of course is very bad for Australia.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Bill before the House is to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1972. This is the second time under this Government that this Act has been before the House. It was only last y.ar that the former Government introduced a lot of amendments to the principal Act and it was updated to that point of dme. This Government brought in amendments, I think in April, which were rejected by the Senate. Now the Government again seeks to amend the Act. However, the Bill is somewhat different from the one that was originally introduced. The Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) has seen fit to delete some of the clauses in the original Bill which, I understand, were not acceptable to the Senate.
As was mentioned to some extent earlier today, I think it is important to look at the situation in Australia in relation to this matter of conciliation and arbitration from the constitutional point of view. On many occasions I think many Australians misunderstand the powers which this Government or this Parliament has in relation to this matter. It is dealt with in section 51 of our Constitution which states that the Parliament shall have power with respect to
Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.
That is all our Constitution says, in those few words. But in fact they are quite significant. As I understand it this Parliament has jurisdiction over approximately 40 per cent of the work force of Australia in regard to industrial matters. I think 47 per cent of Australians work under the jurisdiction of State awards and 13 per cent do not belong to any union at all. That is about the situation.
Therefore, the Act is extremely complicated perhaps for that reason, namely, that there are very limited powers within the Constitution on which the Act can be drawn. But having said that I suggest that the system of conciliation and arbitration in Australia since early days has been of tremendous benefit to the work force, to the employers and to the people generally. It must be a system of co-operation between all those concerned - in the main, of course, employees and employers. That is what the Act is really all about. When agreement cannot be reached between the 2 parties the provisions of the Act have to be brought into operation and an endeavour made to reach an agreement. However, before the present Government came into power on 2 December 1972 the Minister for Labour had said on many occasions that when his Party came into power it would solve all the problems within this area because he had all the answers. It is interesting to see what has transpired since then. I draw the attention of the House to a Press cutting from the ‘Australian* of 5 December 1972, 3 days after the present Government was voted into power. It is quite a large article and it is headed: ‘Cameron’s task: cut the strikes’. Remarks in the article are attributed to the present Minister for Labour. It states:
Clyde Cameron, the likely Minister for Labour-
Which is quite correct - believes soft words rather than a big stick will bring industrial peace to Australia..
Big sticks don’t work. It’s as simple as that.’
The words in that Press item are attributed to the Minister. I hope they are correct. No doubt he would have said so if they were not. I think the article represents his approach to the matter. Fair enough. I agree with that. But I think his message from Paris or wherever he was on the other side of the world which has been referred to previously in this House was hardly in that form. But the Minister, before his Party came into power, said that a Labor Government would have a better opportunity to deal with industrial unrest because it understood the work force better than those who sat on the other side of the parliamentary chamber. This was said not only in Australia but also in other parts of the world.
As was mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) earlier today, statistics do not always reveal the exact position, although they may be accurately compiled. I think it is interesting to look at the situation relating to what has happened between 1 January 1973 and the end of June 1973. According to a report by the Bureau of Census and Statistics in Canberra, in the corresponding period in 1972 the working days lost due to industrial disputes were 859,000 and the estimated loss of wages was $13,256,000. In that period in 1973, 1,422,000 working days were lost due to industrial disputes and the estimated loss in wages for that period was $23,712,000. This is quite a difference. I am wondering where the Minister has been in all that time iri solving these problems. I do not want to be unkind to the man but he was the chap who said that he would be in a better position to solve these problems. I certainly hope that he is more successful in the future.
It is also interesting to note that his own State is no exception in regard to industrial disputes. The same document shows that the working days lost in South Australia from January to June 1972 - in the Minister’s own State - were 23,200. In the corresponding period in 1973 the figure was 49,100. That is quite a significant difference. So he is not very influential in his own State. In my own State of Western Australia, I note, there has been a considerable drop in the number of man hours lost in the sam : period. The losses affect not only the individuals, of course; they also are a quite significant loss to the nation. It is hoped that the Minister can apply his alleged understanding of the work force in Australia to see that strikes and the level of strikes is lowered. I certainly hope that he will because it is not in the best interests of anybody, much less the family man, to be out on strike.
As I said, this is the second attempt by this Government to amend the principal Act. I also notice that a series of amendments are also to be submitted by the Minister, even though the introduction of this Bill was only a week or two ago. The previous Bill contained penalties, of course, against employers and took out the penalties in relation to employees. That is one of the points on which the Minister has altered this Bill. Amalgamations and how they should be brought about also have been the subject of some discussion in more recent times. I can only agree with the Minister that there are too many unions in Australia. In other countries there are far fewer unions proportionately than there are in Australia. Haying agreed with that proposition I suggest that the machinery which will resolve that situation and bring more of those unions together for the benefit of everybody concerned is important. It must be of advantage not only to employees but also to employers and the nation as a whole because so many demarcation disputes arise today. I think ona or two are on at pesent.
I do not claim to know all the ins and outs but it is possible that if some unions were amalgamated into a more united force many disputes would not occur. But the situation is not easy to overcome. Despite what might be said by honourable members opposite I have had a little experience in this area. Today the world is changing very rapidly. Handling and manufacturing techniques are altering and obviously difficulties will arise within the unions operating in those areas. Demarcation disputes will occur. I suggest to the Minister that it is reasonable that he, union representatives and others concerned endeavour to assess the situation before the changes take place. Perhaps they are doing so. I do not know, but if they are moving they are not solving the problem at present. The problems should be solved before disputes arise. Technical changes will continue, as we all know. If the opportunity is not taken to hold discussions between management and employees before the changes take place, no doubt demarcation disputes will continue for a long time. They arc really the most difficult disputes to solve because of the internal relationships between the unions. No doubt the Minister has had a lot of experience in that field.
In a changing world employees become concerned about their job security, which is very important to them. Retraining programs have been conducted in other parts of the world and I would imagine that much work has been done in the areas to which I have been referring. Probably many employees are affected in Australia by altered techniques, especially in the transport field. Employees see changes approaching which there is no chance in life of stopping. It is a fact of life. If the people concerned can act first in an industry many strikes and a lot of hardship and feelings of insecurity will be avoided.
Public interest is primarily concerned in the field of conciliation and arbitration. Many people other than the employees and employers directly involved become affected in disputes. The public are caught up. It has happened in government circles and the Post Office is a classic example of public suffering caused by strikes. That is not the only area and the public interest is always extremely important. The alternative to conciliation and arbitration is collective bargaining, as I have mentioned before. I do not really k now the views of the Minister on collective bargaining and perhaps he will deal more specifically with its features as against conciliation and arbitration in this debate. The arbitration system has served the people of this country well. The machinery provides an opportunity for employers and employees to reach agreement. Collective bargaining, as I have read of it and have seen it operate, would not be in the best interests of Australia. I ask the Minister to state his exact position, not in a roundabout way.
– He wants the best of both worlds.
– That is so. I am not suggesting that the arbitration system should not be changed from time to time but if it is lost in favour of collective bargaining employees and the people of Australia generally will be a lot worse off. I have in mind particularly the small unions. The Labor Government has been in office for about 10 months. I ask the Minister to clarify the stand of the Government on this issue. 1 think that is a reasonable request. This debate provides an excellent opportunity for the Minister to state precisely where he stands and I believe that the country as a whole will appreciate that type of statement. I believe that in some of the amendments introduced in April the Minister may have been endeavouring to bring in some of the features of collective bargaining through the back door. That is not good enough. It is up to the Minister to explain exactly where the Government stands as almost every citizen of this country is involved. Millions of workers use the arbitration system and I think the Minister owes it to them and to. employers to make a clear statement of the Government’s policy in respect of these matters.
– As the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) said, we hoped when the new Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) took over in December we would have more industrial peace. The fact is that in the Government’s period of office we have had twice as much industrial strife as occurred in the corresponding period of last year. But many people are still hopeful that the Minister will be able to make a worthwhile contribution. I am not pretending that I have easy answers to a difficult problem. I accept that the Minister has had a lot of experience in union affairs. We have heard of it in some detail on past occasions. Everybody knows that he is not a fool. No one could properly call the Minister a fool although occasionally he has been known to behave like one. I have never thought of him as a fool. Perhaps he is blessed with more cunning than wisdom but cunning is better than nothing and he is certainly well endowed with that attribute. When I consider the significance of this task I realise that there is no easy answer to the problem.
I was very interested to hear that the Minister was going to Sweden. The experience of industrial peace in Sweden is in stark contrast to industrial peace here. In 1967, 400 man days were lost in industrial strife in Sweden
In that year 705,300 man days were lost in Australia. That was a remarkable year and I do not think we ought to take it as a true sample, because it is not. There have been some bad years. During the years 1967 to 1971 an average of 161,000 man days were lost in Sweden. We had 1,360,000 man days lost. So, the Swedes obviously have a lot of knowledge and ability to tackle this problem.
When I heard that the Minister for Labour was going to Sweden - knowing that he is not a fool - I hoped he would return with some answers which would help us solve this very difficult problem. As many of us know, the Minister is not noted for his reticence but since his return from Sweden he has been noticeably silent about his experiences. I wonder why. One of the many differences in industrial relations in the 2 countries is that Sweden does not depend on an arbitration system at all. It has a system of collective bargaining where employer and employee groups examine the relevant position in detail. Both groups, employer and employee, employ a large number of particularly well qualified people. They realise that they have the responsibility of setting the general guidelines. This is done with a great deal of ability on both sides. They examine with care the size of the economic cake that is to be cut up and realise that if an increase occurs in the size of the economic cake the worker is entitled to an increased slice. The big argument centres around how big the increase in productivity has been. I do not pretend that this argument can be easily settled between the 2 groups. As I say, the discussion is conducted with a great deal of professionalism on both sides. They decide the general guidelines that should guide the agreements between particular industries and particular unions. When this more detailed bargaining takes place leaders of both parent groups are present. The parent groups see firstly that the employers toe the line and secondly that the employees toe the line that has been set by the general agreement. Because of this, the most disciplined and the most competent collective bargaining is achieved.
Having obtained the facts, both sides, which are competent and well trained in arriving at the facts, reach an agreement. Both sides of the industrial scene, the employers and the employees, are forced by law and are willing to abide by the agreements so made. I know the trauma that the Minister for Labour went through when he realised that one way to get a more responsible attitude towards industrial strife was to do just that - to reach voluntary agreements and then adhere to them. In Sweden, if a voluntary agreement so made is broken the employers and the employees both realise their proper responsibility is to take the matter to the labour court. Penalties are awarded against whichever side breaks the industrial agreement. This seems to be an eminently sensible system and I am certain, from past experience, that the Minister thinks it is an eminently sensible system that voluntary agreements when made, particularly when made with such competence, should be adhered to. If the agreements are not adhered to the civil processes of law should punish those who break the voluntary agreement.
I am certain that the Minister for Labour has made it clear in the past that this was a system he very much wanted. Unfortunately, the unions turned him down flat. The other matter which interested me about Sweden was its different attitude towards piece work. For some reason or other, perhaps because of the previous history of industrial relations in this country, piece work tends to be thought of as a dirty word. No one can say Sweden is a backward country yet about half of its people are engaged in piece work. The Swedes realise that one can have sensible humane piece work conditions. I am certain that if the Swedes can have those conditions we can have them also. If there are such conditions we can provide an incentive to produce a bigger economic cake. In the long term it is only by the production of a bigger economic cake that the worker will get a bigger slice of it. I repeat that the Minister is no fool. I am glad that he went to Sweden but he has been noticeably reticent about the lessons he learned there. I hope he will tell us of them at some stage. As I say, he has had a great deal of experience in this field. Surely we could learn something from the experience of a country that has such a remarkable performance in industrial relations.
In conclusion, I should like to say that I do not pretend that there is an easy answer to this problem. Sometimes with a feeling of complete despondency I wonder what possible solutions there are. Sometimes there is the monopoly power of a big industry group opposed by the monopoly power of a big union group. It often seems impossible that we will have any industrial peace in an economy with the forces ranged in this way. The only hope I have - it is a poor hope - for a solution is to recall the words of Nye Bevan, the left wing socialist leader in Britain who was asked one day by a questioner why it was with such a large proportion of the British electorate being unionists, the Labour Party did not win every election. He said “ sourly that at each election the British unionist votes in condemnation of his own anarchy. This is a desparate kind of solution. We have to do better than that. This is the ultimate kind of discipline. The Minister for Labour has a real responsibility, with his experience in the union field and knowing that he has the support of this side of the House, to have a deeper look at the industrial front. We know that there are no easy answers.
I should like to congratulate the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) for a particularly thoughtful speech today which brought out the fact that we are tackling this problem with some humility and with the knowledge that we do not have all the easy answers. In conclusion, I hope that the Minister, when he replies, will do me the kindness of telling me something about his Swedish experience. I hope he will say that one thing we could learn from Sweden is the introduction of more employee participation in business management. I certainly accept that that is a responsible attitude if we have responsible unions, and I hope that we are gradually working towards that end. I would appreciate it if the Minister would give us the benefit of his experience in Sweden.
– In reply - I must say that the contribution to this debate from the other side has taken on an altogether different spirit or character from that to which I have ever listened before. It is high time that we in this Parliament started to look at industrial relations as a matter that concerns the whole country. It concerns those of us who represent working people, and it is of vital concern to those who feel that they represent employers. It is all very well for us to carry on here a game of political chess on some matters. But it is quite inappropriate for this Parliament or for any member of this Parliament on my side or on the Opposition side to allow industrial relations and labour relations generally to become the subject of a political chess game. The mistakes that can be made in an exercise of that kind, if it is to degenerate into a game, are too dangerous and too costly for the country to have to bear. The country should not be expected to bear the effect of costly mistakes arising from stupid, flippant, party political attitudes towards labour relations when this Parliament is dealing with laws on labour relations.
For my part, I have tried - I think successfully - to set quite a new standard, for myself at any rate - and that is the hardest thing of all to do - in this debate. I have acceded to requests by the spokesman for the Opposition, the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), for a longer period than normally is given for consideration of this legislation. He has had 3 weeks to consider it. The request that he made was for 3 weeks, and I gave him 3 weeks. No one knows more than I do - the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner), the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) and the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury) also know only too well - how terribly complex and sensitive is the area of industrial relations.
I must say this about the honourable member for Wannon: For a person who handled for the very first time a most complex piece of legislation in an area that I would think is quite strange to him, he did a very good job. There was none of the silly, rabble rousing histrionics in which some of his predecessors used to engage. That may sound good in Parliament and those honourable members may look around and see whether their colleagues are smiling at them when they do it in here; but they do not get any marks for it outside. Such behaviour only exacerbates relationships which are already bad enough. The honourable member for Wannon set a new standard for his side of the House in the way that he approached this most important subject. I have co-operated with him fully as he, I know, will be the first to admit.
– I have acknowledged that.
– He has acknowledged that. I have made available to him the officers of my Department. I have told the officers of my Department that requests from him are to be treated as requests from the main spokesman for Her Majesty’s Opposition in this field. He is entitled to that consideration; he has received it. I supplied him with copies of my amendments as soon as I got them. He reciprocated by letting me have copies of his amendments.
I wish to put on record my appreciation of the co-operation that I have received from my own colleagues in the Parliament. I mention the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes), the honourable member for Swan (Mr Bennett), the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson), the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Doyle) and the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), who have sat through the debate this afternoon not saying anything. They have done so in order that the proper consideration of this legislation when it is iri its Committee stage may be facilitated. All of them are experts in this field. All of them wished to speak in the second reading debate. All of them agreed, in the interests of providing a proper opportunity for study and debate of clauses in Committee, that they would stay out of the debate at the second reading stage. I thank them for that.
I wish to say only a few other things. The proposals that are set out in our Bill relate to, among other things, amalgamations and rank and file approval of industrial agreements. At the moment there is no limitation on an industrial agreement if it is registered; it carries on ad infinitum. This is causing a great deal of trouble. Reference is made in our Bill to the right of entry, to victimisation and to a move by us to obviate the need to have 3 judges sit together to certify an industrial agreement. All those and the various other proposals in our Bill are quite crucial to the successful operation of industrial relations.
On the other hand, in Committee the Opposition will move some amendments which the Government will accept. The industrial relations committee of the Government Party, which consists of the honourable gentlemen I mentioned a moment ago, again showed, as I am showing, a spirit of conciliation. The committee has authorised me to say that certain amendments proposed by the honourable member for Wannon will be acceded to by the Government. When I say that, I am saying something which is quite significant. I have said that for the first time to my knowledge - and I can go back for 24 years in this Parliament - we are to witness the spectacle of a government accepting amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in the Committee stage. Never before has a government done that. Former governments have just set their plough to the furrow end said: ‘No matter what you say in Committee, we will not alter what we decided upon some few weeks ago as being the complete answer to the question’. That has not been the attitude that we have adopted.
– It is a very sensible attitude.
-It is, and I am hoping-
– It will be denied very soon by your colleague who will move a certain motion, I am told. I am sorry about this, but this ecumenical movement is coming to an end.
– By ‘your colleague’, do you mean the Leader of the House (Mr Daly)?
– He has a responsibility. He has to get legislation through. He has scores of Bills to get through. If we adopt a sensible approach in the Committee stage, we will get through all right and the Opposition will be able to put its amendments. I will not waste the time of the Committee. The Opposition will have a proper opportunity to speak to all its amendments. Provided that we do not waste a lot of time calling unnecessary divisions on unimportant amendments, we can get through. I will do my part to get through. I am replying now because I felt that after so many speakers I should-
– The Bill is to be guillotined. The Leader of the House has it all ready.
– He has to get the business of the House through and I cannot help that. It is no good blaming me for what the Leader of the House feels his duty calls upon him to do. Finally, the Opposition has to remember that we are the Government and we have been elected to office on a program to bring about better industrial relations. We cannot give effect to that program unless we are able to get certain amendments to the Act. We may be wrong in what we think ought to be done to the Act, but as the newly-elected Government we are entitled to be given the opportunity of trying to see whether what we believe to be right is the answer. If the Government’s legislative program for industrial peace is to be denied it, no one can blame the Government if the Government fails to achieve its objective. The only people who will be to blame will be the Opposition for refusing to give the Government the legislation for which it has a clear mandate.
– Does the Minister have time to reply on the Swedish issue?
– I agree with all the honourable member said about Sweden. The Swedish system is a very sensible one, but involved in it is the concept of rank and file consideration of industrial agreements before they are signed. If honourable members like, as we come to them in the Bill I will identify the passages which are taken from the Swedish system. One feature of the Swedish system is that the amalgamation of unions is easy. It is so easy that long since Sweden has got rid of the multitude of unions that we have. We have 303 unions. Sweden has twenty-six. Part of its success is due to the fact that it has few unions, but very efficient unions.
– Are they industry unions?
– Some are industry unions, but not all of them. I admit that the honourable member has asked a very important question. In our country I do not suppose we will ever get industry unions except in isolated cases, such as the Australian Workers Union in the pastoral industry, although even in that case it is not an industry union because wool classers are covered by another union. But the success of the Swedish system does not rest entirely on the fact that it has industry unions. That is not the reason for its success. Its success rests mainly on the fact that it has fewer unions that are more efficient and the employers do not have the bugbear they have to put up with here of having to become the unfortunate witnesses of industrial disputes over demarcation issues and being absolutely helpless to do anything about it. The employer is made the meat in the sandwich. The unions fight over which union shall cover a particular job, and the poor unfortunate employer has to stand on the sidelines and watch his business go down the drain simply because we have too many unions trying to cover the various industrial areas.
Declaration of Urgency
I declare that the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1973 (No. 2) is an urgent Bill.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, is any debate allowed on this question?
Question put -
That the Bill be considered an urgent Bill.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr J. M. Berinson)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time
– I move:
That the time allotted in connection with the Bil] be as follows -
For the Committee stages, until 9.45 p.m. this day
For the remaining stages, until 10.0 p.m. this day.
This is most important legislation and must be passed. Full and adequate time has been given for discussion on this Bill today and on the occasion when it was first introduced. I remind the House of what happened on the first occasion. The previous Bill was introduced on 12 April 1973 and was passed on 9 May. In that time the Government allowed 10 hours 7 minutes for discussion. At that time 5 hours 26 minutes was taken in the Committee stages and 4 hours 41 minutes on the second reading. Today we have allowed the Opposition 6 speakers in succession. Every honourable member opposite who wanted to speak this afternoon was allowed to do so and had we doubled the time for this debate it would not have allowed any more speakers from the Opposition side had Government speakers risen also. We also allowed the leader for the Opposition in the debate 50 minutes to put his case, if he so desired. Therefore, to say that there is not adequate time for discussion is completely false.
I would have thought that this was essentially a Bill to be dealt with in Committee and that Opposition members would have been well advised to do what the Government members did, that is spend their time debating the important clauses or amendments to be moved in the Committee stages. I told the Leader of the Opposition earlier in the day that this Bill had to go through tonight because it was so urgent and important. I would have thought that a man with his knowledge, background and education would have recognised the importance of this Bill and the substance of my suggestion that he should debate the important parts and not make broad speeches.
To those honourable members opposite who think that this Government has not given reasonable time for debate on this matter let me quote the record. Under previous LiberalCountry Party Governments between 1951 and 1972 the average time allowed for the second reading stages of a number of Conciliation and Arbitration Bills was 4 hours 3 minutes. The average time allowed for the Committee stages on such Bills when Opposition members were in government was 1 hour 22 minutes. The average delay after the introduction of the Bills until the House was allowed to debate them was 8 days, but on this occasion the Government has allowed the Opposition much more time than that. In addition the average time allotted for all debates on Conciliation and Arbitration Bills under the previous Government between 1951 and 1972 was 5 hours 25 minutes. Of course, honourable members opposite say that they allowed 20 hours debate last year on a Bill. But let us look at the debates on Bills introduced before that. In 1970 it was 2 hours; in 1969 it was none; in 1968 is was none; in 1967 it was 5 hours. We have to go back to 1956 to find a debate on a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill which went over 2 hours. Today this Bill has been debated since 3.25 p.m. and ere the night is out it will have taken about51/2 hours.
So honourable members opposite will have had about 16 hours to debate this measure in this House alone. Yet they say that it is not sufficient. The problem with honourable members opposite is that they want to talk on everything and, as I mentioned before, there are very few of them who have yet read the last election results. They all think they are still in office; they all think they are still running the country; they all think they can lay down the business of government. So I say to the Opposition that if it continues to waste the time of this House like it did this morning–
– Order! The level of conversation, not to mention interjections, is far too high. I ask honourable members to come to order.
– If the Opposition members continue to waste the time of this Parliament they cannot complain if important debates have to be curtailed. This motion is necessary because the Opposition would not fall into line with the Government’s suggestion for a reasonable arrangement. The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said that the Opposition would have come to some agreement. Of course it would, as long as we let it take till next Wednesday night. As I showed a few minutes ago, the House averaged 5 hours 25 minutes for such debates when the LiberalCountry Party Government was in office, and yet when this Government allows 16 hoursfor debate honourable members opposite say that it is not enough. Already the Opposition has had 6 speakers in a row. Sacrifices have been made on this side to ensure that honourable members opposite could put their case. Now they squeal like pigs when the Government, after the Opposition has not accepted its responsibility, decides that the Bill should go before another place. So I had to move this motion. I remind honourable members that time taken in any discussion on it is coming out of the time allowed for debate.
– One of the more unfortunate characteristics of the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) is that he gets so much obvious pleasure in behaving like a jackboot. This is precisely what he is doing now. There was a perfectly appropriate arrangement between the Opposition and the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) in respect of this legislation. It was being taken quietly and we had approached this Bill in a constructive and thoughtful fashion, seeking to move a large number of amendments which would have improved the Bill. The Minister for Labour has acknowledged this by indicating that he would accept a significant number of those amendments. But the reasons for those amendments need explaining and the intervention of the Minister for Services and Property has not improved the situation to which the Minister for Labour and I referred earlier. In fact on this particular measure there was and still is a clear division between the Leader of the House and the Minister for Labour because the Minister for Labour has made it quite plain ‘that he wanted this debate to continue in a sensible fashion. The Minister for Services and Property has made that utterly impossible by coming in ham fistedly with his numbers on this occasion. It is no excuse to say that on a previous occasion in respect of a different Bill a certain number of hours were allowed. This is a different Bill and it needs to be debated in depth and debated properly. The record that ought to be remembered in this area is that when my colleague the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) introduced a Bill to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act that Bill was debated for over 20 hours. When an entirely different measure was introduced in a different and emotional environment in that autumn session it was debated for over 11 hours. Now there is to be a debate of less than 5 hours on one of the most important pieces of legislation which the Government could possibly have introduced. This is quite inadequate and the phoney statistics of the Minister for Services and Property do nothing to advance his cause. Indeed the fraudulent references that he makes to 1968, 1969 and 1970 have no relationship of any kind to what is happening at the present time.
– Why not?
– If the honourable member had paid any attention to what happened in those years he would know why.
I suggest that he should look up the record for himself. The Minister for Services and Property has sought to use the fact that there were a number of members on this side of the House who showed an interest in this Bill during the second reading debate - and who I believe made reasonable contributions to the debate - and the fact that Government supporters all remained seated during the second reading debate as an argument against the continuation of this debate in a sensible manner. Now I suppose that Government supporters will rise throughout the Committee stage to prevent the Opposition moving amendments that we need to put and to prevent expressions of view on clauses of the Bill that we need to oppose and that we will oppose in another place. One of the unfortunate things that will occur as a result of the actions of the Minister for Services and Property is that without the slightest doubt this behaviour will be noted in the Senate. There is not the slightest doubt that if the Government is going to behave in this way in this House the Senate will look very closely at the measure to ensure that in that place it is given the detailed consideration at the Committee stage which the Government is now making impossible but which I know the Minister wanted to achieve if he was able.
– He is a reasonable man.
– Yes, he is a reasonable man but because of the actions of the Minister for Services and Property-
– He has acknowledged our improvements to the legislation.
– Yes, he has acknowledged that we have improved this legislation. There are more than 80 clauses in this legislation, which consists of 27 pages. It is one of the biggest measures the Government has introduced. The best service that the Minister for Services and Property could have provided would have been to stay away because his deputy was managing the House with a good deal less heat and a good deal more common sense.
– Of course this is urgent legislation and those who deny it are very foolish people. Let me remind this House that it is because of the action of the Opposition in another place that we are debating some of these measures for the second time. They. were too lazy in another place to detail their opposition. Some of the matters in this Bill before the Parliament, if we can accept what the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has said in his second reading speech, will apparently pass without opposition on this occasion. Yet when this legislation went before the Senate the Opposition voted against the Bill in total and threw it out. The Senate debated this legislation earlier this year in April and in May. It is now back in this House and honourable members opposite want to debate it at great length. In order to allow some effective time for the Committee stage of the Bill some of my colleagues and I stayed in our seats and remained silent while we listened to some illinformed nonsense being preached by honourable members on the other side. We did not reply to it. Now honourable members opposite are wasting time at this stage.
The provisions in this Bill are urgent because the whole process of conciliation and arbitration in this country has been slowed down since the previous Government made a mess of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I will give some examples to my cousins from the bush who are seeking to interject. First of all, every time a new award is made or an agreement is reached it has to go through 2 procedures instead of one. That is the fault of the previous Government because its clumsy drafting and ignorance in government in not knowing how to draft legislation. Every time an award is made, even though the standard hours are not changed and the annual leave rate is not changed, we have to go before a full bench of 3 members of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission instead of having it dealt with by a single member as was the case previously. This came about because of some bright move by the previous Government. It was some sort of reform. It has slowed the processes of conciliation and arbitration. The whole concept of allowing a conciliator to act as an arbitrator - which the present legislation does not allow - with the consent of both parties is designed to speed up considerably the processes of conciliation and arbitration. Does the Opposition want to delay that amendment? We are anxious to get it through so that the conciliation and arbitration proceedings will be smoother.
We have heard all this argument before. It has been debated. I have with me a record of the previous Government’s practices which shows the Acts, number of pages, the clauses and the time allowed for debate. I seek the leave of the House to have it incorporated in Hansard.
Is leave granted?
– No. Read it.
– Leave is not granted. I can understand my friends opposite wishing to deny the people of Australia, particularly the trade unionists, their representatives and the employer organisations who keep this group opposite in opposition a knowledge of the facts. But the facts will be known, because they will all come out eventually. The record of the Opposition is pretty dismal. I am happy to let it be known and let it be seen by the people of Australia that honourable members opposite do not want the record incorporated in Hansard. I do not have time to read it. I wish I did because it shows the dismal, miserable way in which honourable members opposite ran the government of this country particularly on matters affecting conciliation and arbitration - a subject on a field in which they exhibited without any doubt complete and utter ignorance but on which they have spoken with such authority.
– The mathematics of the proposal put to the House by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) may shortly be stated. We are to have one and three-quarter hours to debate 82 clauses. From that position not even the ingenious mind of the Minister can rescue him. We are being offered the prospect of spending at the Committee stage approximately 1 minute 35 seconds on each clause. I say to the Minister: You are here this afternoon, the leading architect in constructing one of the major travesties of Parliament ever to be seen in this country and do not say for one moment that you are not. The Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) - I feel desperately sorry for him - is beset with a number of problems. He suffers firstly from ailurophobia, that is to say, a morbid fear of cats. Here is the honourable gentleman also showing us that he suffers from impatience.
As for the Minister for Services and Property, we listened this afternoon to a scared man. The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is completely correct when he said what a pity it is that the honourable gentleman ever came back from London. When I heard that the honourable gentleman was coming back from
London I took the matter a little further. I said: ‘What a pity the Wright Brothers ever got busy’. The figures quoted by the honourable gentleman in regard to previous debates are, of course, utterly irrelevant. Here is a Bill putting before the Parliament radical alterations to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It ill becomes my friend the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) to turn up and say: ‘All ignorance is on your side; all virtue is on ours’. The honourable gentleman is sopping wet with his own sophistry. I say this to the Minister for Services and Property: New Guinea is not the only place where ‘pay back’ is practised and the day will come when you will regret intensely the capricious action you have taken today. Even though we may have only 1 hour 45 minutes, let me say this to the Minister for Labour: We will make you remember every creaking, groaning second of that time.
– The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) is rather entertaining when he speaks but he certainly is not enlightening. The reason for this matter having to be raised tonight is that the Opposition today has given the Government little time in which to d.al with very important business. I take the point raised by my colleague, the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan), that to suggest that this is a new measure which has just come before the House is not presenting quite the truth of the situation. This measure has been in the House before and its subject matter has been debated thoroughly. My colleagues and I who have a knowledge of the workings of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and of the trade union movement itself, with great modesty and retraint -
– Mr Deputy Speaker, the honourable member may well be dead from the neck up, but there is no need for the clock to be stopped.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! There is no point of order. As I understand it, the clock has been set to indicate the conclusion of the debate.
– This is the second time today that the honourable member for Gippsland has shown that a vacuum is contained between his ears. This matter has been dealt with thoroughly on previous occasions. It has been through the 2 Houses of Parlia ment. I understand that the Opposition wants to move some amendments. We sat patiently to allow members opposite to waffle on during the second reading stage - and waffle they did, wasting their own time, not anybody else’s. They made no real contribution. They spoke heaps of rubbish on a subject about which they know nothing. It is important that we get to the Committee stage of this Bill, because it is a Committee Bill. As the Opposition seeks to amend clauses of the Bill, we should be in Committee. If this fiddle faddle had not gone on we would have had more time in Committee. Those who profess to be the great champions of justice and ample speaking time are the ones who in recent days have done things like preventing the people of Australia from expressing their point of view in a referendum. Tonight they are using up time which should be available for honourable members to debate an important measure by putting their own political points of view. This is not good enough. The Bill must go through this House tonight. It has ‘been well canvassed. If the contributions of members opposite during the earlier part of this day are any indication of their contributions to such an important debate as this, they will not be worth listening to.
Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The question is: ‘That the motion be agreed to’. Those in favour say aye, to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it. The question now is-
Opposition members - The noes have it.
-I think that is a bit late now. We have moved to the next stage. I point out to members of the Opposition that they did not call no until I was at the stage of calling for a vote on the motion that the Bill be now read a second time.
– I rise on a point of order.
– A point of order will not be necessary. If the Opposition requires a division, there will be one.
– We do require a division.
That the motion (Mr Daly’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr J. M. Berinson)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of time agreed to.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2. 2. (l) Subject to this section, this Act shall come into operation on the day on which if receives Royal Assent.
Amendment (by Mr Clyde Cameron) agreed to:
Omit sub-clauses (3) and (4).
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Section 3 of the Principal Act is repealed.
– I move:
I understand that the Chief Parliamentary Counsel proposes that the parts section of the Act be deleted and that a cover be inserted on the Bill which would include, among other things, a description of what is in the Bill. That is not acceptable to the Opposition, not specifically for what it does but for the way in which it is done. The Opposition believes that this Parliament ought to be master of what goes in Bills and what appears in Bills. Therefore, my amendment is designed to see that an up to date and modern parts section is included in the Act and not deleted as the Chief Parliamentary Counsel, as opposed to the Government, as I understand it, would want. Maybe the Government has made a decision about this, but if the Government has made a decision it has not told anyone. If it has made a decision it ought to tell people. If the decision has been made by people outside the Government it ought not to have been so made. If the amendment is not accepted in this place, the Opposition in the Senate will insist on an amendment to this clause.
– I think that I owe it to the Committee to explain that the proposal to repeal this section is linked with a change of practice in the printing of Bills, Acts and reprints of Acts as amended. This has been adopted with the approval of the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Murphy) with the object of assisting members of Parliament and, more importantly, members of the public who have occasion to refer to Acts. Honourable membe.’s will have observed that in the case of lengthy Bills for new Acts that have been introduced into Parliament recently there has .been attached at the front of the Bill a table of provisions. This table not only shows ,the parts and the divisions of the Bill but also sets out the marginal notes to each section and so constitutes, in effect, an index to the Bill. Examples are the National Insurance Fund Bill and the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill which, incidentally, were not objected to by the Opposition. When Bills having such a table are published as Acts the table will continue to be provided.
This practice makes it quite superfluous to include in these Bills themselves a clause showing the division into parts. Furthermore, I can assure honourable members that in future whenever an Act divided into parts or an Act containing more than 25 sections although not divided into parts is reprinted as amended, a corresponding table of provisions will be annexed to it. This being so, the sections of existing Acts showing the division of the Acts into parts will be superfluous. lt is intended, as opportunity offers, to repeal these sections This will also avoid the necessity of amending the parts section every time that the parts or divisions are altered in a material respect. Clause 4 of the present Bill is merely an application of this general intention. I might add that the practice of having a table of provisions and not a parts section is in line wilh the practice in many other jurisdictions including the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Tasmania. I am confident thai it will be welcomed by all users of the Acts and will be of great convenience to members of Parliament. The Mother of Parliaments has decided to do it and that in itself ought to appeal to the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who is probably the most English of all people in the Parliament.
– I am told that it is a statutory provision in the House of Commons and not done by administrative control as in this Parliament.
– Let me say this: It is quite wrong to suggest that the Parliamentary Counsel has decided to creep up on us and whack this on like they did in the ‘Last
Tango in Paris’ and say: ‘Here you are. Here is your new list.’ This is not a pound of butter or something that has been planted on us; this is something which was discussed in my presence in Cabinet with the Parliamentary Counsel.
– It was?
– Of course it was suggested to me that this be done. I said: Of course if this is the new procedure I would be very happy to have it done.’ In fact I congratulated the Parliamentary Counsel on what I consider to be a marvellous improvement in the setting out of the Acts. I think we owe a lot to him not only for this but for many other changes in the way the Acts are prepared. Honourable members will remember how the previous Parliamentary Counsel used to spell everything out and refer to ‘Section one hundred and fifty-six’. Now this is all done in figures. A lot of other beneficial improvements have been . made, and this is one of them. In fact this -
– Are you trying to waste time now so that we cannot get to the substantive amendments that we want to get to?
– No, I am not doing that at all. But it is true that there is no statutory requirement. That is to meet the point made by the honourable gentleman who seems to know all about these things. I think it was he who made the point that it is done by statutory provisions in the House of Commons whereas it is not done in that way here. We admit that there is no statutory requirement for the attachment of a table of provisions to reprints but I ask honourable members - I am talking so quickly because I do not want to waste time - to accept the assurance which I give on behalf of the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy), that the practice will be followed. I only wish that the public - and many people will be listening to me now - could only see the wonderful advantage that it is to have the Act set out - in the way it has been set out. I have in front of me now an Act printed in the form about which we are now talking. It is ever so much better for the ordinary public to be able to pick up the relevant sections than it was under the old-fashioned antediluvian system that the honourable member for Wannon wants to retain.
– I just want to place on record that the Opposition would have no quibble with the new arrangement if it were a statutory provision. So long as it remains not a statutory provision we would hope that the part would be retained in the Act. The second point I should like to make is that the Opposition would be happier if the decision on this matter were a decision of the Parliament and not a decision made by somebody outside the Parliament
Clause agreed to.
Section 4 of the Principal Act is amended -
– I move:
Omit paragraphs (a) and (b) of the definition of “Inspector” and substitute the following paragraphs: - “(a) a person referred to in sub-section (2a) of section 125;
a person authorized by the Minister in accordance with sub-section (2b) of section 125; or”.
The amendments are consequential upon amendments to clause 54 concerning the appointment of inspectors. We will debate this matter when we reach consideration of clause 54, if we get to it, which I doubt.
– Would it be a better procedure if we postponed the consideration of the clause?
– I am happy to do that and we can consider the clause with clause 54.
– At this point we are considering clause 4. I should say that I have just discovered that the honourable gentleman - it is not his fault; the Opposition at large must share the blame for this - has made a mistake in the clause which it appears we will not now get to. That is clause 54. The Opposition seeks to delete from the clause the provision which permits the Minister to appoint. Inadvertently it has left in the sub-section which allows the Minister to appoint the arbitration inspectors. I know that that was not your intention and I thought it only fair to tell you.
– Arbitration inspectors?
– Yes. Clause 54 deals with -
– Perhaps I could formalise this position by suggesting that clause 54 be taken now with clause 5. Then we could debate the 2 points which the Minister has started to debate and we could pursue them. The Minister has started to debate clause 54.
– I recognise that. The question before the Chair is that clause 5 be postponed until after clause 54 is dealt with. It would not be in order to bring clause 54 forward.
– I am told that there is nothing in the Standing Orders to prevent that so long as the Minister at the table agrees.
– The Standing Orders provide that the clauses be taken in order. The only way in which we could get to clause 54 now that I can see would be if all clauses up to 53 were postponed.
– With great respect, I was advised earlier this evening that if both sides of the table agreed it would be possible to take clauses out of order. I am told that that is the advice of the Clerks.
– You could ask for leave.
– I am asking for leave to deal with clause 54 with clause 5. The Minister can say what he likes about clause 54.
– Order! I think it would be much more convenient for all concerned if you were to change the motion you have moved and we were to postpone -
– That is not the purpose, because it is an important clause and 1 would like to deal with it.
– If you ask for leave to deal with clause 54 and the Minister agrees or the Committee gives you leave we can follow that procedure.
– I ask for leave to deal with clause 54 and clause 5 together because they are related to each other.
– Is leave granted?
– The Minister was speaking to clause 54 and should be allowed to continue.
Section 125 of the Principal Act is amended - <a) by omitting sub-sections (1) and (2) and substituting the following sub-sections: “ (1) There shall be such Inspectors as are required for the purpose of securing the observance of this Act and the regulations and of awards. “ (2) The Minister may appoint a person to be an Inspector for the purposes of this Act. “ (2a) An officer of the Public Service who occupies, or is temporarily performing the duties of, an office of Inspector, Senior Inspector or Inspector-in-Charge under the Public Service Act 1922-1973 in the Department of Labour or a person temporarily employed under that Act as an Inspector, Senior Inspector or Inspector-in-Charge in that Department is an Inspector for the purposes of this Act. “ (2b) Where a person appointed under subsection (2) is not an officer of the Public Service or a person temporarily employed in the Public Service, he shall be appointed for such period as is specified in the instrument of appointment and holds office upon and subject to such terms and conditions as the Public Service Board determines.”;
by omitting from sub-section (6) the words “Department of Labour and National Service certifying that be is an Inspector for the purposes of this section “ and substituting the words “Department of Labour certifying that he is an Inspector for the purposes of this Act “; and
by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section: “ (8) The Secretary to the Department of Labour shall, at least once in each year, commencing with the year 1974, furnish to the Minister a report on the operation of this section, and the Minister shall lay a copy of every such report before each House of the Parliament as soon as practicable after its receipt by him.”.
– Regrettably, the proposed amendment to clause 54 is quite unintelligible. I am sorry to have to put it so bluntly, but that is the case. The proposed amendment to clause 54 seeks to omit from paragraph (a) proposed sub-sections (2a) and (2b), but the honourable gentleman should omit proposed sub-section (2). That is what he intended to do but, if he omits only subsections (2a) and (2b), sub-sections (1) and (2) will remain. Proposed sub-section (1) provides:
There shall be such Inspectors as are required for the purpose of securing the observance of this Act and the regulation and of awards.
I know that the honourable gentleman is not objecting to that provision. But sub-section (2) provides:
The Minister may appoint a person to be an Inspector for the purposes of this Act.
The amendment seeks to delete proposed subsections (2a) and (2b) but clearly that does not have the effect that is intended. I could easily say that we will consent to the amendment and then the Minister could continue to appoint arbitration inspectors but I do not believe in taking a cheap political advantage over a person who has never had experience in this sort of thing before. Therefore I just warn the honourable gentleman that the amendment in its present form is unintelligible. I suggest that something should be done before it goes to the other place. If the honourable member wishes to persist with quite a silly amendment, if I may so describe it, he ought at least to get it in order.
– The Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) is seeking to be modest. I do not wish to upset him but it is a role that he is desperately ill fitted to play. There is a very simple point involved here and happily it can be stated in simple terms. Is the Minister to have his own industrial police force or is the proposal to be governed by the Public Service Board? This is the question. The Minister, with his George Arliss instinct, cannot smile this away. The grey eminence is sitting there smiling. Every time he smiles he reminds me of the silver fittings in a crematorium. A very simple point is involved. One of the Minister’s colleagues, the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), dashed back from London to see us all and to bring gloom to our existence. What if he were to put in his Acts clauses to appoint particular people to police the various Acts which he is required to administer? I notice the Minister has left the table. There is no need for him to run away. I am not going to eat him. I have not got to the cannibal stage yet. Mind you, one would need to be hungry even to have a munch.
What the Minister has to face up to is this simple point: Is he to be a power unto himself? I invite the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) to observe what is involved here. Is the honourable member prepared to give to the Minister for Labour of the day the power to appoint his own industrial police force, or does the honourable member not have a preference to have all of these people under the general superintendence of the Public Service Board? That is the proposition involved. Let us not be confused about it. The Minister for Labour seeks to be a champion obfuscater. This is the only point to be considered. It is of no avail to resort to levity of expression and to throw insults, however gentle they may be, aimed in the direction of the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I ask the Minister: Do you want your own industrial police force or not? I ask him to answer that question.
– I wish to table, for the benefit of the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron), the form of the draft amendment which I have and which shows in the second line of it the proposed sub-sections 2, 2a and 2b. I agree with the Minister that if sub-section 2 is left in we will have technically a situation in which inspectors could be appointed by the Minister. But the Minister knows very well that is the point to which the Opposition takes objection. I table the document. I hope that for the sake of clarity the Minister wishes it to be tabled. It shows the sense of what we are seeking to do. If the Committee passed an amendment that was not perfect it would do so because the Opposition does not have the full resources of the Government in drafting amendments and all the rest, although there are some facilities made available as the Minister said earlier, but still not the full resources which the Government has. Even if there are some drafting errors which need clarification and making more precise in the final analysis before the Bill goes to another place, that can be done. But that is not really the point.
The point at issue is the point that my friend the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) made. It is a very significant one because the Minister was proposing to vest inspectors with additional powers. It is my understanding now that he was prepared to have the power vested in himself and not in the inspectors. We are happy with that because he is chargeable and accountable before this Parliament whereas inspectors would not be. But inspectors are, in a significant part, policemen. They are there to see that awards are kept and that the laws of the Commonwealth in relation to industrial matters are not evaded. It is utterly wrong in this democratic system to have a situation in which a Minister can personally appoint members to an inspectorate of this kind or appoint members to any police force. I would be much happier in relation to this matter - but I am not really concerned, since in another place there is a majority which will look after this matter because it is an important change - if the Minister could give this Committee an assurance that there is no list of his own acquaintances from which he intends immediately to appoint people to these positions. I really think and hope, from the way in which this legislation was introduced and the way in which the Opposition responded to it this afternoon, that the Minister should see the full force of the Opposition’s amendment, should see its propriety and should not try to poke fun at a small drafting error that left out (2), which is not really all that important. I would hope that the Minister would recognise the fundamental importance and the fundamental significance of this amendment to the basic democratic system which we seek to preserve and which I hope he would seek to preserve. He being the kind of Minister which he exhibited himself to be this afternoon, before his colleague the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) came on the scene, I think this is one of the amendments that he should accept.
– I suggest to the honourable member that he should move his amendment.
– I move:
Omit from paragraph (a) proposed sub-sections (2), (2a) and (2b) and substitute the following subsections: “ ‘ (2a) An officer of the Public Service who occupies, or is temporarily performing the duties of, an office of Inspector, Senior Inspector or Inspector-in-Charge under the Public Service Act 1922-1973 in the Department of Labour or a person temporarily employed under that Act as an Inspector, Senior Inspector or Inspector-in-Charge in that Department is an Inspector for the purposes of this Act. (2b) The Minister may authorize an officer of the Public Service of the Commonwealth who is not an officer referred to in sub-section (2a) to perform the duties of an Inspector.’;”.
I have moved my amendment in the form in which I have handed it to the Clerk. By leave of the Minister which I now seek, I have included in it the additional figure ‘(2)’.
– Is leave granted?
– No. I have not seen it.
I would need legal advice on a thing like this.
– For the information of honourable members, I point out that the amendment reads:
Omit from paragraph (a) proposed sub-sections (2), (2a) and (2b) . . .
The original amendment read, in the relevant part:
The Minister knows very well that that amendment would provide what is required. But I suspect that he also knows very well that he is determined to try to have his personal police force. I hope that I will be disappointed in that belief.
– The question now is that the sub-sections proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause.
– I cannot accept the amendment as put forward. One must have some authority for appointing people. If one strikes out sub-section (2) one is left without any authority for the appointments. There is nothing-
– There is section 125 (1).
– Yes, I realise that. But what honourable members must realise is that sub-section (2), which we do not propose to leave out of the principal Act, as I understand it-
– You had better get a briefing on it.
– No, there is no need for that. If the Committee puts in the Bill what the honourable member proposes, this will still be an imperfect section. What I suggest that we do-
– Mr Chairman, I raise a point of order. I think that the Minister might be arguing about a false point. In fact, I moved the amendment in its new form, with the (2) included in it. There is no question of that (2) being left out. I formally moved the amendment in the appropriate form, a copy of which the Clerk now has.
– I do not accept that.
– It is not a question of you accepting it. It is a question of the Clerk and the Chairman accepting it in the form in which I have moved it.
– Order! The honourable member for Wannon has spoken twice in the Committee debate now. I do not think that the Minister was suggesting that the amendment was not accepted. I think that he was just rejecting your argument.
– No, rejecting the amendment. I can understand that.
– He was doing that but he was rejecting your argument.
– I draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that provision already exists in the principal Act and it will remain there even if this amendment is carried. Section 125 (4) states:
An inspector shall have such duties in relation to the observance of this Act and the Regulations and of any award as the Minister directs.
– Yes, but you do not appoint him.
– Well, I do not care who appoints-1 -
– Just a minute. I do not care who appoints people, as long as I have the power to direct. What we are anxious to do is have appointed as inspectors people who understand industrial relations and what is going on in industry. The effect of the amendment will be that nobody can be appointed as an inspector unless he is already in the Public Service. We have already advertised for inspectors and some of those who have answered the advertisement will be from outside the Public Service.
– From the AWU?
– I hope so. I hope that some Australian Workers Union men will be appointed, but let me tell the Committee about the history of this proposition of Ministers appointing arbitration inspectors. It was first introduced in 1934 by that arch radical, Joseph Lyons. He was the one who thought it was a great idea and a very good provision to put into the Act. In 1934 it was all right for a conservative government to allow the Minister of the day to appoint the arbitration inspectors. From 1934 right up to 1952 - for all that long period of 18 years when many amendments were made - nobody suggested that there was anything improper, unreasonable or wrong about the Minister appointing the arbitration inspectors. Now trie Opposition comes along with an amendment which tries to cast aspersions on the integrity of the Minister. What is suggested evidently is that you can trust a public servant to appoint an arbitration inspector but you cannot trust a Cabinet Minister to do it. There is an old saying that many people tend to judge others by their own standards. If that is the standard that honourable members opposite happen to enjoy let them not attribute that low standard to me or to anybody else, because I am not the kind of person who would appoint arbitration inspectors to set up a kind of political police, if you do not mind. I can assure honourable members that this is not an amendment that we will accept and I hope the Committee will reject it.
– The Minister has alleged that if he accepts our amendment no inspector can be appointed from outside the Public Service. The point I make is that when it is not spelt out that a person cannot be appointed from outside the Public Service he can be, so that point is covered. The Opposition is not opposing section 125 (1.) and section 125 (4.) of the principal Act. As the Minister said a moment ago that he does not want the power to appoint and is quite happy to operate under the power given by section 125 (4.), which the Opposition is not opposing, I do not see why the Minister does not accept the amendment that the Opposition has moved.
– I want to set the record straight. If that is what I said I want to correct it at once. That is not what I meant.
– You did say it.
– If I said it I was wrong and I do not mind getting up and saying that I was wrong when I said it. I would rather be right than consistent and therefore I say that that is not my position. I do want the power to appoint.
– To appoint?
– Yes, of course, the same as the conservative government had in 1934 and the same as those governments that succeeded it thereafter until 1952 had. I do want it. I believe it is very important.
– What is wrong with public servants?
– The Public Service Board will not be appointing them in any case. They will be appointed by the Secretary of the Department.
– What is wrong with that?
– I want to appoint them. That is good enough reason for me.
– We are indebted to the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) for bringing out the real purpose behind this amendment. It is, of course, as the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has made crystal clear, that the Minister wants his own police force. He is not prepared to trust the fat cats of the Public Service.
– The honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) can interject now but he has been very silent during the course of today.
– I will follow you.
– The honourable member is entitled to follow me, but I am saying to the Minister across the table, through the Chair of course, that the real problem with the proposition before the House is now beyond doubt, as is clear from the comments of the honourable member for Wannon. The Minister wants to appoint his own police force. That statement is made against the total context of remarks made by the Minister since his appointment as Minister for Labour which indicate that he will use the inspectorate for discriminatory purposes against a certain sector of the Australian community. This provision is not introduced with a sense of equity. It is introduced against this Minister’s very partial and discriminatory approach to the whole operation of the inspectorate of the Department of Labour. It is perfectly clear that the inspectorate has a very difficult job in seeking the observance of awards. It is equally clear that the inspectorate in seeking to meet that objective must be apolitical. To match that apolitical purpose, can this Committee conceivably imagine that the objective can be observed through the machinations of the Minister for Labour? It is a matter of record that this Minister is very concerned about fat cats. In this House he is one of the fattest cats of all. What this Bill makes perfectly clear is that one of the fattest cats of the Labour administration has been stripped of its fur. The Opposition amendment is constructive because it has a real purpose. It is also responsible. It denies the sense of discrimination which the Minister seeks to introduce. I want the gallery to observe and the listeners to hear-
– Order! I ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to address the Chair.
Mi LYNCH - Through the Chair, of course, that what this first amendment makes perfectly clear is the total farce of this operation. I regret to say it but this Government has made a farce of this whole Bill. On this side of the House there would be 4 former Ministers for Labour plus a number of very eminent members, such as the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), and a large number of other members in both the Liberal and Country Parties who have a very real contribution to make to this debate. That their contribution is not being made is a total indictment of this Government. I support the amendment which the honourable member for Wannon has moved. It is responsible and constructive. It should not be lost on a Minister who does not want equity in the industrial jurisdiction. If the Minister is prepared to persevere with what he has brought into this House he stands unmasked as a person who does not seek equity but only a very partisan approach to this Bill. The fact that at the hour of 8.30 p.m. we are discussing the first of a series of very controversial amendments, and clearly we will not reach the balance of the very consequential and serious amendments proposed to be moved in this House, is an indictment of the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) and the Government which brought forward this Bill.
– The plain fact of the matter is that we are wasting far too much time on this clause. The Opposition agrees that sub-section (1) of the proposed new section 125 should be deleted. That means that inspectors may not be appointed except by a Minister.
– No, that is not right.
– Of course it is right.
– It is not.
– The bill provides that sub-section (1) and sub-section (2) shall be omitted. The Opposition has not opposed that. It has moved an amendment to change sub-section (2A) and so on. Therefore subsection (1) will go out of the principal Act. In lieu thereof we have substituted the provisions in clause 54 of the Bill. So the only argument is whether the Minister should have the power to appoint as inspectors people who are already public servants or whether there should be a wider power to appoint persons who are public servants and persons who are outside the Public Service. That is the only issue in this debate. The present Act allows the Minister to appoint anyone he likes who is already a public servant. So all this talk about the Minister wishing to set up his own police force and so on is just a lot of nonsense. It is a real attempt to try to cover up what the Opposition really has in mind.
Let it be clear for all to understand. When the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch), who is not in the chamber at the moment, was the Minister for Labour and National Service prosecutions were very very rare. Complaints were very numerous but there were very few prosecutions launched and when they were launched or approval was given to launch them it was usually found that they were out of time. Therefore claims amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars were left outstanding. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition closed his eyes to breach after breach and of course this meant that migrants who could not speak English and did not understand their rights were being exploited. The honourable gentleman did nothing about it.
– That is not so.
– The honourable gentleman can deny it if he wishes but the facts speak louder than just the mild assertion that it is not so. Also young students working during their Christmas vacation were frequently exploited and complaints which were made to the Department under the then Minister brought no result. These are the facts. It is all right to try to smear the present Minister for Labour by saying that he is trying to set up his own police force, with all its connotations. But honourable members opposite do not oppose the concept of the Minister appointing inspectors. In fact previous Ministers have appointed inspectors, except that they were public servants. All this clause does is to give to the Minister power to appoint persons who are public servants or otherwise. We ought to be very clear on this. The Opposition does not oppose the Minister having that right. He is the only person under the amended legislation to which the Opposition agrees who should have such a right. When in government the Opposition did this. It reserved this right for the then Minister but it now seeks to deny this right to the present Minister for Labour.
– If we had another person in this place as the Minister for Labour I might be able to agree with the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan).
But the present Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) has a predilection, like other Ministers in this Government, to subvert the use of these inspectors, I suspect. There is a plain case in another place of a senator who has a police force. I do not know whether the Minister for Labour is saying ‘Gough have mercy on us’ or something like this.
– Clyde’s own corps.
– Me does not trust Murphy’s boys so he wants to send Clyde’s corps or Dad’s Army out on a raid. The honourable member for Phillip would have every sympathy for the Opposition when I put that point. I know him well and he would comprehend my point. But the Minister for Labour, despite his benign appearance is sitting at the table studiously trying to read a paper that is upside down and is trying to ignore all these comments on a very serious matter. But there is another predilection of this Government which I think is of proper concern to us in opposition and that is its capacity to give jobs to the boys. It is true, I suppose, that a number of former Labor members who lost their seats at the last election or who retired could be found nice cushy jobs running around as members of Cameron’s corps. They could possibly be used at Surfers Paradise checking that the bikini girls are behaving themselves and working proper hours.
– This is serious.
– Of course it is, and it should be treated seriously. That is the point. We do not think that the Minister should have the proposed power. The Committee should accept the amendment moved by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser).
– I want to say something about the appointment of arbitration inspectors, about which we have heard much this evening. I did not want to raise this matter but since I have been forced to do so I must say that there is serious doubt as to whether arbitration inspectors who are now operating are legally entitled to carry out their functions. Such an opinion has been expressed by the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor in New South Wales. He believes that if the validity of the appointment of an inspector were challenged or if an inspector’s position were challenged a case could be thrown out of court and the inspector could be held to be a person who is acting without authority because he is performing the type of duties which require his appointment by the Minister. This matter has been raised in another way. According to my notes section 67 of the Constitution provides that until the Parliament otherwise provides, the appointment and removal of officers of the Executive Government, other than Ministers of State, shall be vested in the Governor-General in Council. Section 92 of the Public Service Act provides that every appointment of an officer by the Board, a permanent head or a chief officer under that Act shall, for all purposes, have the same force and effect as if made by the Governor-General. This section traditionally has been regarded as making provision for the appointment of officers for the purposes of section 67 of the Constitution.
– Why do you not incorporate this in Hansard and save time?
– I do not want to incorporate it because you would not be able to follow some of the writing.
– Mr Chairman, I ask that the Minister table the paper from which he is quoting.
-It is confidential.
– The honourable member for Wannon is out of order in requesting that a paper from which the Minister is quoting be tabled.
-It is confidential.
– That is not the point. The Standing Orders provide that a request may be made for a document that has been quoted from to be tabled. While the Minister is quoting from that document such a request is out or order.
– I can wait until after the Minister has finished quoting?
– I can give the reply to such a request now. The paper is confidential and under the Standing Orders the tabling of a confidential document cannot be required. There are some unsatisfactory features about the appointment of inspectors under the Public Service Act. For example, it would seem that a person directed temporarily to perform the duties of the office of inspector under the Public Service Act would not be an inspector. Moreover it would be difficult to prove the valid appointment of an inspector if that should ever become necessary in a court, especially if he became an inspector by promotion. Certainly grave doubt exists as to whether the present inspectors are validly appointed under the Act. This is another reason why the Government believes that the situation should be regularised. I make it clear that the Government will not accept the amendment that is proposed. It will not accept it in the Senate either.
– We could have a new Bill.
– All right. If the Opposition is prepared to throw out a Bill that is absolutely crucial to good, commonsense industrial relations just because honourable members opposite want their way; if they are not prepared to see re-enacted something that was in the Act from 1934 until 1952; if they have this silly fixation about the Minister’s appointing arbitration inspectors - it will be on their heads, not mine.
– Mr Chairman, may I suggest that we move on. We will not get anywhere on this. The views of both sides have been put.
– Order! The honourable member is not in order in addressing the Chair and I have no power in the Committee to put a question while honourable members are rising.
– I want to make one suggestion. I was confused before I came into this chamber. I am far more confused now after hearing from both sides. I am not being critical in any way. I want to make the point that if we are to make a job of this Bill - I think that is the earnest endeavour of honourable members from both sides - this is no way to handle it. I have enough understanding of and belief in the system of a select committee discussing this matter in a responsible way to believe that in a case like this we could come up with legislation that we would be proud of. Instead of that, we are going on like this.
– Order! The honourable member is out of order in discussing alternative methods of dealing with the Bill.
– It is a good point, all the same.
– I rise to support the position being adopted by the Government on this issue. I think I would be in agreement with most of the speakers, certainly those from this side of the chamber. The honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) was coming to a point of commonsense on the matter. I think that the time of the House in speaking on this matter is being wasted completely by the Opposition digging its toes in.
– Order! I have just asked the honourable member for Wakefield not to deal with that question. The question before the Chair is that the subsections proposed to be omitted from clause 54 be so omitted.
– That is correct, Mr Chairman. I am just making the observation that the time of the House is being wasted by the puerile arguments being put by honourable members opposite. What we are talking about on this occasion is the appointment of arbitration inspectors. Section 125 of the principal Act says:
Inspectors may be appointed for the purpose of securing the observance of thu Act and the regulations and of awards.
It is already in the Act. It is being argued that there is some disputation about whether the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) ought to appoint them or whether they ought to be appointed by the Public Service Board. It has been said that the Government is going to establish Clyde’s Own Corps, Dad’s Army and jobs for the boys. Those are pretty specious arguments because they bear no relevance to the fact at all. If this Government wanted to create jobs for the boys - it does not want to - it would find that over the last 23 years it could find a beautiful precedent. To suggest it will happen in this case takes away from the argument that is being put. The point of it, as I see it, is that arbitration inspectors are very important people and they perform-
– What about Ian Sharp?
– You would not be game to say that outside the House, Phil. Why do you not repeat it outside?
– What did he say?
– He was talking about Ian Sharpe.
– Well, if He is going to use that sort of attitude I am sure that his own history will not bear much investigation. The role of arbitration inspectors in this area is a very important one. Unlike honourable members opposite, I have worked in industry for many years. I know the importance of these sorts of functions and I know that those who fulfil this very important role ought to be drawn from the very broad spectrum available in the community. To suggest that they should be drawn only from the Public Service is fallacious. I think it does a disservice to the very important functions that the inspectors are expected to fulfil. The role of an inspector should not be restricted. The Minister is responsible for the Act and the administration of it. I can see no justifiable reason for the Opposition putting forward the proposition that the responsibility for the appointment of these people ought to be taken away from the Minister. It seems to me that this is the proper place for it to lie. The Opposition has been dragging red herrings across the course. We have heard about Dad’s Army. I think it was one of the corporals from Dad’s Army who put up that argument. These expressions - Clyde’s Own Corps, Dad’s Army and jobs for the boys - have been mentioned as red herrings by the conservatives in our community who now sit on the other side of this chamber.
– They are not serious about jobs for the boys, are they?
– Yes, they are. I am just being distracted by some pretty intelligent interjections, Mr Chairman. Honourable members opposite use those sorts of expressions to try to destroy this legislation. For the life of me I cannot understand the motivation of honourable members opposite. It seems to be practical that clause 54 should remain in the Bill. I support it. I support the Minister’s stand on this matter. I trust that Opposition members will not be stubborn and pig headed about it and will not dig their toes in to such an extent as to prevent the passage through this Parliament of this very fine Bill.
– I move:
That the question be put.
– I claim to have been misrepresented.
– The question is that the question be put.
– May I raise a point of order on that?
– No. The honourable member may not raise a point of order. When the motion is moved that the question be put, it must be put forthwith.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– The question is: That the sub-sections proposed to be omitted stand part of the Bill.’
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 54 agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Section 5 of the Principal Act is amended -
– I move:
Omit paragraph (a), substitute the following paragraph:
by inserting after paragraph (e) of sub-section
the following word and paragraph: “; or (0 being an officer, delegate or member of an organization, has done, or proposes to do, an act or thing which is lawful for the purpose of furthering or protecting the industrial interests of the organization or its members, being an act or thing done within the limits of authority expressly conferred on him by the organization in accordance with the rules of the organization.”;’.
This is an important clause by which the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) seeks to give much greater protection to officers of a union who are employees of a particular company. I spoke at some length about this clause in the debate on the second reading so I will not labour that point again. I pointed to the kinds of circumstances which could be involved in which an official of a union as an employee of a company would be given what the Opposition believes to be unreasonable protection and where an unreasonable burden of proof is placed upon an employer. The Opposition recognises that in the Act there is already a protection for employees of a company who are union officials. By the amendment the Opposition is prepared to extend that protection to a certain extent. I believe that that is a reasonable position to take. But if we went as far as the Minister would wish by his clause 6, with the onus of proof being put upon employers and with the impact that the words in some of the subsections would have, if the Government were ever to muster the numbers to remove the tort provisions from the Act we would have a situation in which some union officials in certain places would be given a protection which would be quite unreasonable and quite unnecessary for the performance of their responsibilities as union officials. The Opposition wants to see that they have proper protection for that. Therefore we oppose what the Minister is seeking to do.
– I am opposed to the amendment. The question of adding the words ‘which is lawful’ and deleting the words ‘in an industrial establishment or elsewhere’ opens up the concept of attack that has been the whole philosophy of people like the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who has moved the amendment, and others who have dabbled in the issue of industrial relations. The whole background of penalties within the concept of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in fact is indicative of the attitude of people who have had little or nothing to do with, or who have not had any concept of industrial relations at all. They have developed this phobia about imposing penalties on people, imposing all areas of the law on industrial relations. We have seen this approach fail miserably. Because this Government did not want to hold up the passage of the Bill it has set aside for separate consideration the deletion of the penal provisions that are contained in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act at present. When one reflects on the performance of those provisions as an additive to endeavour to settle industrial disputes, one realises that it has been a complete and rank failure. Nobody from the other side of the House could argue against that.
When one hears the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) talking about jackboots, by God that is the pot calling the kettle black. His attitude in moving this amendment is indicative of his general attitude. I hope we never see the day when he is Minister for Labour. God help us. He would be pushing so far apart those whom we are trying to encourage around the table to resolve industrial affairs that the settling of industrial disputes would not be the concept of the Act. Any resemblance between that concept and the principle of the Act would be purely coincidental. That is only the next stage. The wording may appear to be insignificant, but when we introduce the expression ‘which is lawful’ into legislation on industrial disputes any act that may be done by a shop steward or an organiser or a union official, is brought into consideration.
No matter what he does the interpretation of what is lawful has to be applied in the context in which it is written in this amendment. It is a surreptitious way of tightening the imposition of penalties to be contained within the whole concept of the Act. So far as this issue is concerned individuals would not be protected. We would be tightening the areas in which individuals could be dealt with before the law. We think that the whole concept of penalties in this Act has failed. The whole concept of conciliation is maintained in all the amendments that have been put forward by this Government. We think it ought to be carried through as a principle. The passing of the proposed amendment would be a retrograde step and I believe that it ought to be defeated.
– On reflection I often think that some of the supplications I direct in the direction of the Deity are mean and unworthy but having listened to the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) I am convinced that there are others whose prayers are not merely unworthy but impossible. ‘God help us’ he said. Keep God out of this, please. We are dealing with some proposals which should stand on their own in a secular sense. I want to remind my friend that it is almost 22 years ago to the day when a brave, bold, young, vibrant, colourful voice was sounded in this very chamber. It said:
Never let us reverse the onus of proof. We have not stumbled on our way from Magna Carta, through the Bill of Rights, the Act of Settlement, through 2 great wars to have the onus of proof taken away, reversed by capricious government.
And whose voice was that? It was the voice of the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). This bold, mellifluous, vibrant, colourful voice, this engaging character who has insinuated his being into our very souls, this was the honourable member for Hindmarsh.
What was the occasion? He was speaking to the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. But put that to one side. Let us embrace the honourable member’s principles, despairing as that may be. But on that occasion, I venture to suggest, the honourable member was right - dead right. I am sorry but I cannot stop merely at the adjective and leave it at that. Here it is in this provision. What the honourable member is doing is saying that it is a defence if the employer satisfies the court. I say to my honourable friend: ‘Cannot we sweep you back through the years gone past - 22 years. Cannot you take up those old principles?’ If the honourable member wants to be known as Australia’s Wat Tyler or indeed as Australia’s Number One Tolpuddle
Martyr he will need to do a little better than he has been doing. Let no honourable member in this Committee or in the country be under the slightest doubt what this provision does. It confers on a trade union led irresponsibly the right to indulge in political strikes without any sanction being imposed upon it.
This is a provision for industrial anarchy. I invite honourable members to listen to the language of the Bill which states: ‘A person being an officer, delegate or member of an organisation can go into an industrial establishment’ - I am paraphrasing - ‘or elsewhere for the purpose of furthering or protecting the industrial interests of the organisation or of its members, being an act or thing done within the limits of authority expressly or impliedly conferred on him by the organisation.’ Who on earth determines what is a purpose for the furthering or protecting of the industrial interests of the organisation? Let us take a case in point. The honourable gentleman may appoint one of his bosom pals - mind you he has not a very elaborate list to choose from - to be an industrial officer, who may decide to go into the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd works. He may further decide that it is lawful in the industrial interests of the organisation to stir up goodwill on behalf of the honourable member for Hindmarsh. So he may call a 2-hour strike. He may say to the workers: ‘You must donate something towards the honourable member for Hindmarsh to protect him’ or, in my case I would prefer to say ‘for his embalming’.
Under this provision of the Bill if the employer, the managing director of BHP, came down and being swept beyond human patience, said: T will have no more of this’, and he gave the gentleman a kick in a certain place of the anatomy, what would happen? Under the provision introduced by the Minister the man’s actions subjectively are in the industrial interests of the organisation. That is the first point to be observed. I do not want the Minister to become lachrymose. He is sitting there with his chin on his hand. Cannot he possibly try to take an intelligent interest in what is going on? Under this provision there is absolutely no form of redress that the general manager of BHP can resort to. If he is hauled before the court the onus of proof would be on him to satisfy the court. Really and truly, what the Minister is proposing is in essence the basic ground rules for industrial anarchy. The honourable member’s experience of the shearing shed is a little behind him. That is conceded. But I remind the honourable gentleman that certain ground rules were to be observed there. We are not all masters of our own destiny. If the Minister is to insert in industrial legislation proposals of this kind the time may come when the horse will kick up its heels and strike at the Minister. 1 hope that it does not miss.
– After listening to the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) I know why he enters into debates on industrial matters. After seeing the performance he has just given I am quite sure that he is a member of Actor’s Equity. If an award were to be given for the best performance in this place I am sure that he would win it hands down. He used a lot of fine words but not having the benefit of his erudition I did not understand half of them. The argument behind his words was fallacious. It was so stupid and full of holes that it does not matter. He referred to somebody coming downstairs to kick the managing director in a certain part of his anatomy. He went on to say that the clause we are debating would provide immunity to that person. Nothing could be further from the mark. I am surprised that such a learned gentleman could say that, particularly as I understand that he is very well trained in the law.
He has fallen for the trap of believing that the law would hinge on this provision. Surely he knows of the other laws and forces at work in the community which apply in cases of unprovoked assault. I understand that he has had some dealings in industrial matters. He and other honourable members opposite would know full well that in some areas employees can be placed at a very great disadvantage because they are employees. They are inhibited in going about their proper duties on behalf of the organisation to which they belong simply because they are employees. I want to stress that point because I am sure that some honourable members opposite do not see the difference between being an employee and being an employer. It seems to me that their sympathies lie generally with employers rather than with employees and that they see all power residing with employers, none residing with employees.
This provision endeavours to give protection to people who go among their fellows to bring them into the fold of a particular indus trial organisation. Let us not forget that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act with which we are dealing acknowledges the existence of trade unions and their functions. The Opposition seeks to truncate and emasculate the trade union movement by an amendment which would provide for penalties to be laid at the feet of people who are organising their fellows. To me that is completely unacceptable.
The proposed amendment seeks to delete from clause 6 the words ‘in an industrial establishment or elsewhere’ and to add the words ‘which is lawful’ and ‘in accordance with the constitution of the organisation’. How stupid it would be to add those words to a provision that already contains the words expressly or impliedly conferred on him by the organisation’. Unions have a great responsibility to act within their constitutions. Why is it always felt necessary by the Opposition to wear a belt and braces? I suspect that the additions were thought up by a lawyer because it seems to be the nature of a lawyer to wear a belt and braces. In this instance it is completely unnecessary to refer to that which is lawful and I find it offensive. I do not wish to enter into a deep legal argument with my colleague, the honourable member for Moreton, who chastised the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) for taking no notice of him but now sits with his back to the Chair. Many other arguments could be advanced against adding the words ‘which is lawful’. The words imply that trade union people go around acting unlawfully. There has been no evidence of that. During this debate there has been no discussion of what is lawful or unlawful.
– What about Ford’s at Broadmeadows? Was that lawful - knocking down walls?
– The honourable member for Corangamite refers to the Ford plant at Broadmeadows. I live in Broadmeadows and I was there on 13 June. I saw what occurred and I do not remember seeing the honourable member or any of his colleagues there on that day.
– Do you say that it is lawful?
– Is the honourable gentleman prepared to stand in this House and say that the damage at Broadmeadows was caused by trade unionists?
– Who else?
– Are we to rely on the implications of honourable members opposite that because damage is caused it must have been done by trade unionists? That is my point. In the minds of honourable members opposite all acts are unlawful if . carried out by trade unionists. Have I ever heard honourable gentlemen opposite raise the question of the destruction of the minds and living habits of people who are forced to work on the production line at the Ford plant in Broadmeadows? No, Sir. The suggestion is that all things done by trade unionists are of necessity unlawful and therefore we must write into this measure the words ‘which is lawful’. I find that offensive. Many legal arguments could be brought forward to rebut the proposed amendment which would place restrictions on people whose chosen way of life is to go among their fellows and to organise them into their appropriate industrial organisations. I find it abhorrent that they would be restricted.
I reject the amendment as it is worded. The wording in the Bill is completely satisfactory, despite the very learned arguments put forward by my revered friend, the honourable member for Moreton. The proposed additional words would add nothing to the measure. Leaving in the measure the words that the amendment seeks to delete does not detract from it. The law contains sufficient safeguards against the actions feared by honourable gentlemen opposite. The civil laws apply to acts of wilful damage irrespective of whether the persons concerned are members of an organisation. Trade unions are honourable organisations and those who belong to them are honourable gentlemen. It is a great shame that there are not more people from the trade union movement sitting in this Parliament.
– I do not think that this clause should go past the Committee without noting some of the comments made by the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) and the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson). The amendment we propose has 2 main purposes, the first of which relates to an act done by an officer, delegate or member of an organisation being lawful. It is most interesting that the 2 honourable members I have just mentioned took great exception to the suggestion that a union officer, delegate or member should act lawfully. I do not know why they should take offence at that but they did.
The. second objective of the amendment is that whatever they do should be within the limits of authority expressly conferred on them by their own organisation. I do not think the honourable members have done the debate on this Bill and on clause 6 in particular any great service by getting back to the tort provisions It was inherent in what they said that they were getting back to the abolition of the tort provisions. Inherent in that is that what officers, members or delegates do need not be lawful if it is in furtherance of an industrial dispute. If the members of an organisation always act lawfully and within the authority expressly conferred on them by the rules of their own organisation they have absolutely nothing to worry about within the terms of this amendment. That is the point I am trying to get across. It is only if they act unlawfully outside the rules of the authority expressly conferred on them that they have anything to worry about. If they are the lily white characters as portrayed by the honourable member for Burke and the honourable member for Melbourne they have nothing to worry about. I am extremely surprised that the honourable members should have taken exception to this amendment.
– . What I wish to say in reply to this matter is that it is utter nonsense to say, as the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) said, that one can go along and kick the general manager up the rear portion of his anatomy and get away with it. He says it wouldbe perfectly in order to do so. Of course it would not be perfectly in order to do so. I refer the honourable gentleman to clause 6 of the Bill, paragraph (c). For some reason I do not understand why the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) proposes to delete it. The paragraph states: (2a) In a prosecution for an offence arising under paragraph (f) of sub-section (1). it is a defence if the employer satisfies the court that -
Quite clearly the honourable gentleman is determined that a person shall not stop work no matter what the justification. It could be a dispute over safety where a person is imperilling his life by continuing to work. But it would be strictly, according to the proposal that the Opposition wishes to fasten on to the trade union movement, an unlawful act for a union official to enter a place of employment and say. to the employees: ‘You ought not to work in this place any longer. Get out of it before it blows up and you go with it.’ The Opposition says that would be an unlawful act because it is unlawful to go on strike and the employees would be going on strike even if they refused to work in conditions that would put their lives in peril. Proposed new sub-section 2A continues:
If a person was found committing an act of sabotage or found stealing or misbehaving himself in a way that was not compatible with his position as a member or officer of the union the employer could dismiss him. The Bill contains provisions to give employers full protection in taking action by way of dismissal or other forms of discipline against employees for those kinds of acts. Proposed new sub-section 2b states:
There is ample escape for the employer. He has adequate grounds for defence. His grounds for defence are enshrined in the statute. All that the employer has to say is that the employee was doing something unlawful and that whatever he, the employer, did - whether it was dismissal or discipline in any way at all - could reasonably be justified by reason of the unlawful nature of the act or thing that the person against whom he took the action was doing at the time. That is a perfect defence and it gives the employer all that he needs.
– What about the other clause?
– The honourable gentleman says: ‘What about the other clause’. If he looks at proposed sub-section 2B he will see that it goes on to state that in a prosecution for an offence arising under paragraph (c) of sub-section 1A, it is a defence if the employer satisfies the court of the matters set out in paragraphs (a) and (b). I will not keep the Committee any longer by reading it again. It is a complete defence for the employer to be able to say that he acted reasonably having regard to the unlawful nature of the act which the person was performing or that he took the action because what the person was doing was unlawful under the civil and crimi-nal law.
– Nothing the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) can say on this occasion or has said already can hide the simple fact that here again is a clear example of this Government’s partisan approach to the industrial legislation before the Committee. The Minister and the honourable members who sit behind him know full well that this proposal by the Government will permit union officials, including shop stewards, to undertake any function in a place of work providing it can be related to union interests and it will not be an offence in criminal or civil law other than a breach in their contract of employment. The total impact of this proposal will be to place shop stewards and certain other union officials in permanent employment regardless of how detrimental their actions may be to their employers. Surely this can be only a further incentive for irresponsible officials to undertake direct industrial action at the plant level without restraint.
As the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) so clearly pointed out to the Committee, this in fact foreshadows a situation of industrial anarchy. It presupposes the right to indulge in any form of political strike without imposing any sense of restraint. I should have thought that the Minister for Labour, a man who has travelled this world investigating and examining the industrial relations experiences of other countries-
– It is a pity he is not still going.
– Yes, it is a pity he is not still going. One could wish that fate upon him.
– Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Moreton resume his seat or remain silent.
– As I as pointing out, the fundamental aspect of this provision is that it imposes tremendous power upon the shop steward movement. I recognise that shop stewards are a very significant element in the union structure of this country. They are close to the grass roots of industrial organisations. They exercise tremendous power between the management and the work force. If the Minister for Labour has learned anything from his Gullibles Travels around the world he will know that the experience of the United States of America, Britain, parts of Europe and in particular Germany, a country with a very great trade union structure, shows that one of the major problems in the industrial jurisdiction today is the fact that too often there is too great an initiative taken at the grass roots level by those who occupy the position of shop stewards.
As the Minister knows, but would not be prepared to admit to the Committee, this will undermine the position of the elected officers of the particular trade union concerned. If this Minister is prepared to build up the activities and the force and the strength of the shop stewards in this country he will do so at the expense of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. I believe that would he contrary to the best interests of the work force of this country. I say by way of summary that the impact of this clause, regrettable and retrogressive in its implications and application, will add considerably to the power of shop stewards. Without justification it will provide an unwarranted protection to employees and will place an unreasonable burden of proof on employers. I would have hoped that the honourable gentleman would have been prepared to pay some heed to the problems involved. The Opposition parties have proposed an amendment to clause 6 of the Bill which I believe to be responsible and constructive. The Minister may recall the remarks which I made on this provision in the previous session of this Parliament. Apparently the Government has chosen to persist with that provision in spite of the very detrimental impact and effect that it will have on the industrial jurisdiction and particularly on relations not simply between employers and employees in the industrial jurisdiction but more especially, in terms of the interest which the Minister seeks to serve, between employees and shop stewards and union officials, particularly member of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. This is a bad provision. It calls for rejection by this Committee. I believe that it will be rejected by the Parliament, if not by the House of Representatives because of the factor of numbers, then by the Senate.
I close my remarks with a simple reference again to procedure. The Minister and the Government may feel that they are gaining time in this chamber because of the farce which they have made of the debate on this Bill. But I foreshadow that, whatever they gain here, they will lose far more in another place. In that sense, I do not accuse the Minister for Labour who is at the table. I regret that this Committee has been subjected to a process which demeans the parliamentary institution of this country as much as it debases it.
– I support clause 6 of the Bill. I support it because it is clear cut and easy to interpret and because I believe that the position of an employer is fully covered. If we turn to paragraph (a)– that is the provision which the Opposition apparently seeks to have omitted from the clause - and if we then look at the amendment put forward by the Opposition we see, I believe, that it is open to all kinds of interpretations. Somebody suggested that the Opposition’s amendment might even have been framed by a lawyer. I go a little further and say that it probably was framed by a lawyer who practices in industrial law. Any person who has had any experience at all of industrial affairs will know that the insertion of the words ‘which is lawful’ into a section of an industrial Act takes away the right of union officials to exercise their proper capacity of entering premises or going on to a job and looking after the interests of the people whom they represent.
I have listened to the Opposition this evening. I thought earlier that Opposition members might have been sincere. They stated that they wished to have this Bill dealt with within the time that has been allotted for its debate. It seems to me that they are marking time. We heard statements made today concerning attitudes that were related to people who wore jackboots. In his concluding remarks, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) indicated quite clearly, I think, that no matter what the majority of members of this Committee desire the way of reform in this legislation, this genuine attempt to bring about decent reform in the industrial relations field will be cast aside by the weight of numbers in the other place.
Opposition member’s seem to believe that every move by this Government and by Labor people on behalf of trade unions is made with some ulterior motive and to gain some advantage. They forget that a little more than 12 months ago a very prominent member of the then Government suggested that that Government might call in foreign companies to try to act against the trade union movement in this country as a means of depriving unions of the 35-hour week that they sought. When honourable members opposite are in government they act in one way; when they are in opposition and a proposal is put forward by a Labor government they believe that we do so for ulterior motives.
For 23 years Australia had a government that failed, and failed dismally, in the field of industrial relations and industrial affairs. Honourable members opposite this evening have offered the Government a series of items of advice. But this advice comes from failures in the industrial field. I certainly support this clause in the Bill introduced by the Minister for Labour. I believe that acceptance of this provision will lead to sanity in the industrial field and, I hope, peace in industry generally.
– It is always amazing to see the sensitivity of a person in his own self-righteousness; certainly we have observed that from the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) and the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes). It is always intriguing to hear repeated over and over again from the benches opposite the claim that the honourable members there are the only ones who have any concern for the union movement, union officials or union members.
In law there are 2 old principles which can well stand application in this case. In an endeavour to bring some sense to honourable members opposite, I invite the Committee to look at those 2 principles. The first one is that when an amendment is being made to an Act one should look to see what is the mischief intended to be remedied by the amendment introduced. I have not heard from the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron), who is at the table, what is the mischief that requires an amendment of this kind in order to bring about industrial peace. I have not heard from the honourable member for Melbourne, who also is the President of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party and an ex-member of the Electrical Trades Union, what mischief is intended to be remedied by this amendment. Nobody opposite has told me. Nobody opposite has told the Committee. The second very good principle that I am sure all members of the public will understand and respect is what has been referred to by my colleage, the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen); that is, the onus of proof or the burden of proof. It is referred to in glowing terms within the law as the ‘golden thread’ - he who seeks to prosecute, he who seeks to affirm a proposition, must establish it; he has the burden upon himself.
Looking at the amendment that has been moved by the Opposition, I ask: What does it say, in very simple terms? Let the Committee be quite clear about this. It provides that an employer shall not dismiss an employee, injure him in his employment or alter his position to his prejudice by reason of the circumstance that the employee, being an officer, delegate or member of an organisation, has done an act which is lawful in an industrial establishment. Now, who can complain about that as a proposition coming from this side of the Committee? Many aspersions, in all the selfrighteousness of members of the Government Party, have been cast upon us. But who can deny the good sense of the proposition which states that an employer shall not dismiss or cause injury to an employee, being an officer, delegate or member of an organisation, who enters an establishment for a lawful purpose? There is nothing wrong with that provision, as I see it. So, what is the Government complaining about? We simply add one rider to this provision; that is, that the entry into the industrial establishment must be in accordance with the rules of the organisation and with an authority granted to the particular person. Again, I cannot see anything wrong with that requirement. Why does the Government cavil at it?
As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) has pointed out, one aspect that we on this side of the chamber criticise very strongly is that, under the Minister’s proposal, even if a union officer, delegate or member breaks his contract of employment that person cannot be dismissed from his employment. Now, is it right and proper that a breach of a contract of employment should not authorise an employer to dismiss an employee? I should like to hear from the Government why that proposition is not sound. What is the mischief intended to be remedied by the Government’s Bill? Why is the onus cast upon the employer to prove that the Act was unlawful? Why should not an employee, if he has been dismissed or injured in his employment, establish that what he was doing was lawful, was in the interests of the organisation to which he belonged and was within the authority granted to him? I think we are indebted to the honourable member for
Moreton for showing that we have a political Fred Astaire in the Parliament by drawing to the attention of the House the proposition so soundly expressed by the Minister back in the early 1950s when he was loudly applauding the onus of proof being where it ought to be.
That reminds me of another proposition of the Minister that under the Opposition’s amendment an official could not go into an establishment even where there had been a complaint about safety, and a strike could not be called on because of some safety issue. Apparently the Minister, in all his historical understanding of the union movement, has not heard of Henry Dournes Higgins. One thing that Mr Justice Higgins, as he became, asserted quite clearly on behalf of the union movement was that if there is a right to strike certainly it is a right to strike over a safety issue. For the last 70-odd years not one union in the land has not asserted that right with equal force, and it has always been upheld. So it is no good for the Minister to come into the Parliament and try to use that as an argument to justify the amendment that he proposes. Nothing that the Government has said has invalidated any proposition from this side of the chamber. Nothing that has been said has shown that what the Opposition proposes is an attack upon unions or an attack upon officials of unions or members of unions. If they are doing something lawful, if they are doing it in the interests of their organisation, if they have the authority of their organisation, there is nothing that they need fear because the Act, by the amendment proposed, protects them from dismissal, protects them from injury in their employment and protects them from being prejudiced. That is the intent of the amendment and that is what we ask this Committee to accept.
– I will not detain the Committee for long but one or two points need to be corrected. First of all, all the clap-trap about the reversal of the onus of proof needs to be exposed. Already in the present Act the onus rests on the defendant to prove that he was not actuated by the reason alleged in the charge. It is in the present sub-section (4). I remind honourable members opposite, including the eminent lawyer, the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), who seems to have left us temporarily, that that has been in the Act for nearly 60 years. Sixty years it has been there and this eminent authority on the Conciliation and Arbitration Act has not seen it before.
It is there now. How can honourable members opposite accuse the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) and this Government of attempting to reverse the onus when the Act already provides that the onus is on the defendant?
The Opposition’s argument is just a lot of nonsense. In fact what the Opposition seeks to do is to remove from the Bill those sections which grant to the employer a defence in a prosecution against the abuses which it foresees. It anticipates an abuse of right. The Bill provides an answer to it, a safeguard against it. A former government granted it, and the Opposition seeks to take it out. I am afraid that the logic of its argument just falls by the wayside. If the Minister were irresponsible and if Government members were as irresponsible as members of the Opposition are, that part of the amendment would be accepted and we would see how their friends like that proposition.
The question of whether a matter is lawful or not is one which has actuated the attention of skilled people concerned with industrial relations, including commissioners, deputy presidents and presidents of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission over a number of years. The arbitration reports of the Commonwealth and of the various States are full of judgments dealing with disputes about arguments concerning actions of employers and employees which were lawful but which were unreasonable, and the debate has often centred not on whether something was within the law but on whether it was reasonable for the order to have been given. For example, if we look at a number of awards and agreements we find that there is a great area where nothing is said, where the intent is left in some doubt, where there is no clear definition of the rights or responsibilities of either party.
There are many awards, for example, which have no limitation on overtime. There are awards which have no compulsion that overtime shall be worked. The question often arises: What is lawful? Is it lawful for the employer to require the overtime to be worked, or may the employee impose his own limitations? What is lawful is one thing; what is reasonable is another. I am afraid that this argument has gone down to a very petty, party political argument rather than a broad approach having been taken. I felt very confident when the honourable member for Wannon <Mr Malcolm Fraser) gave his speech on the second reading this afternoon that there would be perhaps a new approach to this problem and that we may get a bipartisan attitude to these matters but unfortunately, in respect of this clause, that certainly has not been the case.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 27 postponed.
Proposed new clause 27a.
Motion (by Mr Malcolm Fraser) agreed to.
That the following new clause be inserted in the Bill: “27a. After section 53 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - 54. (1) Where, in the opinion of a member of the Commission, a matter concerning the safety of employees or of other persons in or about a place of work arises in or in connexion with an industrial dispute, he may request the Secretary to the Department of Labour to arrange for an Inspector forthwith to investigate the matter and to report to him as soon as practicable, and the Secretary shall direct an Inspector accordingly.
Clauses 28 to 45 postponed.
Section 110 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting in sub-section (2), after the words “made by”, the words “the Secretary to the Department of Labour, an inspector or”.
Amendment (by Mr Malcolm Fraser) agreed to:
Omit “ ‘the Secretary to the Department of Labour, and Inspector or’ “, substitute “ ‘the Minister or’ “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 47 to 50 postponed.
Amendment (by Mr Malcolm Fraser) agreed to:
Omit sub-clause (2), substitute the following subclauses: - “(2) The amendment made by this section to sub section (3) of section 119 of the Principal Act does not apply in relation to proceedings instituted before the date of commencement of this section, and the period referred to in that sub-section as so amended shall be deemed not to extend to any period of more than twelve months before the date of commencement of this section. “(3) The amendment made by this section to sub-section (4) of section 119 of the Principal Act does not apply in relation to breaches that occurred before the commencement of this section.’.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 52 negatived.
Clause 53. 53. (1) Section 123 of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section substituted: 123. An employee entitled to the benefit of an award may, at any time within six years from any payment becoming due to him under the award, but not later, sue for the amount of the payment in the Court, or in any other court of competent jurisdiction.’.
Amendment (by Mr Malcolm Fraser) agreed to:
Omit sub-section (2), substitute the following sub-section:
The period referred to in the section substituted by this section shall be deemed not to extend to any period of more than twelve months before the date of commencement of this section.’.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 54 to 74 postponed.
Proposed new clause 74a.
Motion (by Mr Malcolm Fraser) agreed to:
That the following new clause be inserted in the Bill: “74a. After section 169 of the principal Act the following sections are inserted: 169a. (1) A financial member of an organization may request the returning officer in respect of an election for an office of the organization or a branch of the organization or in respect of a ballot taken for the purpose of submitting a matter to a vote of the members of an organization or a branch of the organization to supply the member with information for the purpose of determining whether there has been an irregularity in or in connexion with the election or ballot.
The returning officer shall not unreasonably refuse or fail to supply information so requested.
Penalty: Five hundred dollars or imprisonment for six months, or both. 169b. Notwithstanding the rules of an organization, if two or more candidates are nominated for an election in respect of an office of an organization or branch of an organization and one of those candidates dies before the close of the ballot, the election shall be discontinued and a new election shall be held.’.”.
Clause 75 postponed.
Clause 76 negatived.
Clauses 77 to 79 postponed.
Clause 80. 80. (1) After section 197 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - “197A. A party to-
Amendment (by Mr Malcolm Fraser) agreed to:
At the end of sub-clause (1) add the words ‘except where the party against whom the order is made instituted the proceedings vexatiously or without reasonable cause’.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 81 negatived.
– Order! The time for debate has expired. The question now is that the remainder of the Bill and postponed clauses and circulated amendments be agreed to and the Bill be reported with amendments.
Section 23 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section (1) the words ‘, at least one Arbitration Commissioner and at least one Conciliation Commissioner’ and substituting the words and two or more Commissioners’.
Section 73 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-sections (3) and (4) and substituting the following sub-sections: -
Section 78 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-sections (3) and (4) and substituting the following sub-sections: -
Section 84 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-sections (2) and (2a) and substituting the following sub-sections: -
In clause 15, omit “two or more Commissioners”, substitute “ at least one Commissioner “.
In clause 32, omit the clause and substitute the following clause: - “ 32. Section 73 of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section substituted - 73. (1) Subject to this section, the powers of the Commission in respect of industrial questions are exercisable by the Commission constituted by the Presidential Member assigned by the President for the purposes of this Division or, subject to any directions of that Presidential Member, by, a Commissioner assigned by the President for the purposes of this Division, and not otherwise.
In clause 33, omit the clause and substitute the following clause: - “ 33. Section 78 of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section substituted - 78. (1) Subject to this section, the powers of the Commission inrespect of industrial questions are exercisable by the Commission constituted by the Presidential Member assigned by the President for the purposes of this Division or, subject to any directions of that Presidential Member by a Commissioner assigned by the President for the purposes of this Division, and not otherwise.
In clause 34, omit the clause and substitute the following clause: - “ 34. Section 84 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-sections (1), (1a), (2) and (2a) and substituting the following sub-sections: -
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill as amended agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Adoption of Report
Motion (by Mr Clyde Cameron) put:
That the report of the Committee be adopted.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Honourable J. F. Cope)
Majority . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– Order! The time allotted for the remaining stages of the Bill has expired. The question now is: That the Bill be now read a third time.
– Mr Speaker, I move-
– Order! The question must be put because the time has expired. The question is: That the Bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Majority . . . . 16
– Order! There is no debate. This is a guillotine motion.
– Mr Speaker, the Minister for Services and Property has changed his seat 3 times during this division.
– Order! No honourable member should leave his seat during the count.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Defence (Re-establishment) Bill 1973.
Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Bill 1973.
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to:
That during the consideration of the matter referred to the Committee of Privileges this day, Mr Garland be discharged from attendance on the Committee and Mr Viner be appointed to serve in his place.
Intergovernmental Committee on Migration
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I rise tonight to mention briefly the matter of tourism. I am pleased to note that the Minister for Tourism (Mr Stewart) is in the chamber. Tourism in Australia is somewhat of a Cinderella but I feel that the Government is on the right track in increasing the Budget expenditure on this item. This year it is proposed that the expenditure shall increase from $2.3m to $5.8m. This certainly has given the Minister a little more muscle for him to develop the portfolio which has been allocated to him. Even so, considerably more money should be made available to this portfolio if we are to see any real development of the tourist industry in Australia. I note with interest that recently a meeting of the various tourist authorities in Australia was called at which arrangements were made for SI. 75m of Federal grants to be allocated to the various States. In my own State of New South Wales is a most active tourist bureau. The various country associations are doing an excellent job in promoting tourism in particular areas.
– We could use additional expenditure in the Warrumbungle Ranges.
– The honourable member for Gwydir is aware that I was foundation President of the North-West Tourist Association in the area he mentioned. One aspect which is very worrying is that last year in Australia the tourist trade increased by only one per cent. We must increase our tourist trade by a greater percentage because if we look at figures related to world tourist trade Australia is well down the list. Australian tourists overseas are big spenders so we must increase the number of incoming tourists to Australia otherwise Australia will go down the drain in this field. Last year from tourism we received a dismal one per cent increase in revenue - from $13 8m the previous year to $148m.
Australia has much to offer to tourists and we should be doing more to attract overseas tourists here. Although this may be an invisible industry it is important and one that we should be developing with all the facilities that we can provide. In my own area, as I mentioned in this House two or three weeks ago, we have some magnificent tourist attractions. Let me start by mentioning the Newcastle area with its great beaches, Lake Macquarie, and the city of Maitland which is styled the hub of the Hunter. The Maitland district has many spots of great tourist interest. At the present time there are many organised tours into this area from Sydney. They make trips to Gresford, Lowstock Dam, the vineyards at Pokolbin, Dalwood Estates and Wyndham right up the Hunter to Muswellbrook, Denman and Sandy Hollow. At Scone there are the famous cattle studs and horse studs and also the Glenbawn Dam and Burning Mountain at Wingen. These are great attractions and should be publicised.
Recently the Australian Tourist Commission sent an officer to Merriwa in this area to have a look at a dude ranch there and also to have a look at the Glenbawn Dam. Immediately it was publicised in the Press that an officer from the Australian Tourist Commission would visit the area, letters came in from all directions asking when he would be coming. He visited the area and inspected these 2 projects I mentioned. Then I received a letter from a Mr L. J. St Hill, the executive officer of the Department of Decentralisation and Development at Toronto. His letter read as follows:
I am disappointed to learn from your letter of August 30 that the visit of an officer of the Australian Tourist Commission to the Hunter Valley has already taken place.
As mentioned in my previous letter (August 17) we have an active tourist sub-committee who would like an opportunity for discourse with officers of the Australian Tourist Commission in the not-too-distant future.
The area of interest of my Council extends from Swansea to Forster and west to Merriwa and Murrurundi Shires. The principal tourist organisations within that area are the Hunter Valley Tourist Association and the Manning-Forster Tourist Authority both of which have members on our Council. I have spoken this morning to Mr Ray Brooks, the Tourist Promotion Officer for the Hunter Valley Tourist Authority, who also would wish to be involved in any future visit by officers of the Commission.
Items of particular interest’ as mentioned in your letter are too numerous to particularise, though our sub-committee is developing proposals for a ‘Tourist Circuit Route’ which will combine many of them and which would certainly be of interest to overseas visitors. However I would see any meeting as concentrating on discussion of aims, organisation, coordination of effort and development/deployment of resources rather than on particular tourist attractions.
May I look forward to your comments?
I am pleased to see that the Minister for Tourism and Recreation is in the House tonight because no doubt he is interested in this information. I ask that he make available, if possible, an officer either from his Department or from the Australian Tourist Commission to visit Newcastle and the Hunter Valley to look at the wonderful tourist attractions there which would interest tourists and which would decentralise this part of the world with great benefit to everyone.
I hope that the Minister will be able to arrange a visit from an officer. Whether he is from the Department or from the Australian Tourist Commission would not matter, so long as he carried out a complete survey. The Minister can readily see from this letter I have received that people were disappointed that the officer inspected only those 2 points. I know that the Minister has a rather difficult portfolio to administer and that finance for it is limited, but in Australia we have much of great interest to show tourists. I trust that this request will be acceded to and that we will have a visit from an officer from the Department or from the Tourist Commission.
– The honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) has raised the subject of tourism in and around the Newcastle area. I thank him for doing this. I suppose that makes me peculiar, being a Minister of the Government, thanking a member of the Australian Country Party for having raised a topic dealing with his Department. I want more honourable members, whether they are on my side of the House or on the other side, to do some hot gospelling on this subject. We have a wonderful country. I am finding that people from all round Australia and members in this House are telling me how much tourist potential there is in their areas. I would be going around Australia faster than the sputnik goes around the world if I were to try to visit all the areas of tourist potential that have been suggested to me. It is my intention and the intention of my Department to visit as many of these areas as possible. The Australian Tourist Commission will also take an active interest in the tourist potential within Australia.
This is the first time in Australia that tourism and the travel industry have been given a portfolio, and it is long overdue. The honourable member for Paterson paid credit to the fact that my Department received a certain amount of money in the last Budget. I am not exactly turning Catherine-wheels over the amount of money my Department received. A lot more money needs to be devoted to tourism and recreation in Australia. But this is a new portfolio and, unfortunately, there are many people in the community who still have to be convinced that there is anything in tourism and travel. I would like to mention that 10 per cent of the workforce is engaged in the tourist and travel industry. It is a decentralised industry, and that is why the honourable member for Paterson is interested in it. He represents an area where decentralisation counts. Sixty per cent of the workforce in the tourist and travel industry are women. Every 25,000 visitors create something like 500 new jobs. About 250 of them are permanent jobs and about 250 are casual jobs.
My Department is still only a small one. I cannot guarantee that officers will be able to visit the honourable member’s area in the immediate future. I cannot guarantee that they will be able to visit other areas in the immediate future. In the last Budget the Department received an amount of $250,000 for surveys of tourist potential in tourist regions throughout Australia. It is the intention not only to use that $250,000 to conduct surveys of tourist potential in regions but ako to try to provide some low cost accommodation for the young travellers of Australia. I have no intention of conducting these surveys without the co-operation of the State governments and the industry itself. I do not set myself up as being an expert in deciding whether the Hunter Valley, if I may call it that, is better than the central coast, as perhaps the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) would say, or whether those areas in New South Wales are better than areas in Victoria. I need the help not only of the honourable member for Paterson but also of a lot of other honourable members. The tourist and travel industy is a viable industry. It provides decentralised positions. It brings people to Australia. It makes Australians travel throughout their own country. This creates goodwill and can do nothing but good for the community generally. I thank the honourable member for Paterson for what he has said. I will note his remarks and pass them on to the Department and to the Australian Tourist Commission. As soon as we can get around to looking at the areas he mentioned we will be there.
– lt is good to see the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) back to hear this for the first time. I refer to Hansard of 3 May when the Minister for Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) said:
There has been a long standing practice in this place - certainly while I have been a member for the last 14) years - that if an honourable member intends to make an attack on another honourable member he always pays him the courtesy of telling him in advance.
The Minister is again not here tonight and I regret very much that for the sixth time in a row he has failed to turn up and take advantage of the opportunity to answer the questions that I have to lay on the table in relation to the future development of the Brisbane airport. I refer to a Press release issued by the former Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) and the Premier of Queensland on 16 December 1971 when they jointly announced ‘a master plan for Brisbane airport’. On 9 August 1972 the Commonwealth Department of Works and Department of Civil Aviation and the Queensland Co-ordinator-General’s Department issued a statement entitled: ‘Brisbane Airport Development. Environmental Study Begins’. That study in Brisbane was to include the physical features - topography, drainage, tidal flows, water and air quality, soil types, land use and the sea beds; flora - plant life including mangroves in the area adjacent to Moreton Bay and marine plants in Bramble Bay; fauna- bird and animal life in the airport area, fish, prawns, other marine life, mosquitoes and sandflies; also aircraft noise, historical and archeological sites, etc.
That was the beginning or the environmental study, which a reading of last night’s Hansard shows that the honourable members for Lilley (Mr Doyle) and Bowman (Mr Keogh) say was never commenced. The Courier-Mail’ of 17 August 1972 had an article with a heading, ‘Brisbane Airport $500,000 Survey’. The report originated from Canberra. It stated:
The Civil Aviation Department will spend $500,000 this financial year on investigations for major development at Brisbane Airport This is revealed in the 1972-73 ‘Budget Papers.
I refer to the Senate Hansard of 23 May 1973. The Minister representing the Minister for Transport, Senator Cavanagh, in a reply to a question by Senator Lawrie stated:
The Brisbane Airport studies have advanced to the point where preliminary cost estimates are available for Government consideration together with a quite comprehensive environmental impact statement.
The present Government has endeavoured to justify its stalling of the advancement of the Brisbane airport by stating that the environmental studies are not complete. It has done nothing but stall recently. The honourable members opposite when we have heard them on various ocacsions have claimed that this is a big dream, that the Labor Government is not really stalling on the Brisbane airport. I would appreciate a reply to the expression of none other than the Labor Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman Jones, in the ‘Courier Mail” of 23 August 1973:
The recommendation to defer the establishment of a new airport for Brisbane was disappointing, the Lord Mayor, (Alderman Jones) said yesterday. Alderman Jones was commenting on the Federal Budget handed down by the Treasurer. The deferment recommendation was contained in the Coombs report. ‘J have always had the greatest respect for Dr Coombs, but I am very disappointed that he has recommended the airport be deferred’, said Alderman Jones.
As I have said time and time again in this House recently, the previous Government was definitely - there is no argument about this - to spend $lm this year on the commencement of the Brisbane airport. In the next financial year it had allocated a sum of $13m and-
– The honourable member says: ‘Rubbish’. It is about time he woke up and started to care for Queensland. Maybe he does not care about Wellington Point-
– I rise to a point or order. It is that the honourable member for Griffith has reflected on my integrity as representing the seat of Bowman and as a Queensland member. I ask him to withdraw the statement that it is about time I woke up and stuck up for Queensland.
-I think that is a reflection on the representation of the honourable member for Bowman.
– I will examine it in another way. The Coombs report-
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker-
– If it is going to quieten you down I will withdraw it. But I still think you are a bomb as a member.
– A point of order, Mr Speaker.
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it and people can draw their own conclusions from these facts. The honourable member said that what I claimed the previous Government was going to do was rubbish. Yet the Coombs report which was drawn up under the direction of his Party’s Government states quite clearly on page 149 that the Liberal Government was going to-
– Was going to do something.
-Order! The honourable member for Bowman will remain silent.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. The report said that the previous Government was going to allocate Sim in the financial year 1972-73, $13m in the year 1973-74, Si 8m in the following year and thereafter $130m. This is not just my claim; this is contained in the report of the Coombs committee. The fact that every night the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) has his two unable bodied henchmen come into this place to try to protect him is an indication that he is fearful of coming in and explaining what this Government intends to do. This is all we want to know. Other honourable members of this Parliament must be growing sick and tired of hearing about the Brisbane airport. It does not thrill me every evening to face the possibility of having to go in and battle for my city. All that we want to know - and the Minister has it in his power to tell us - is what is intended in relation to Brisbane. What is motivating the Labor Lord Mayor of Brisbane to say that he is disappointed? What is motivating me to stand here night after night to try to learn what is going on? What is motivating the honourable member for Lilley and the honourable member or Bowman to come here night after night in their endeavours to sandwich me in, to try to clobber me from each side, if they are not aware of something? A lot is being withheld from the people of Brisbane. As I said the other night, I was told last weekend that the Labor Government had instructed the Coombs committee to include in its report the Brisbane airport. I asked the Minister then to come in and tell me whether this was a true or false story, and he will not tell me-
– He does not tell me that he will not give Berowra one.
– He wm not tell the honourable member for Berowra what is going on at Galston. The people in the seat of Parramatta will tell the Government what is going on next weekend. This is the sixth occasion in a row that I have spoken on this subject. The 2 honourable members opposite whom I have mentioned will try to pick away on little points. The crunch of the matter is: What is going to happen in Brisbane? This is the sixth occasion on which I have raised the question. I learned a lesson when I was much younger about resting on the seventh day. So next Tuesday night I will give the Parliament a break but if we have not received an answer from the Minister by Wednesday I shall be forced to raise the subject once again.
– There was a suggestion some time ago that Parliament might be televised. I feel pretty certain that it is in the interests of the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) that we are not on the air. As he said, on about 6 occasions he had spoken in this chamber about the Brisbane airport. On Wednesday he was successful in having quite a fair story run in the ‘Courier-Mail*. I was looking through that newspaper this morning to see whether the challenge I extended to him last night to come into my electorate had been reported in Brisbane. I was disappointed that it had not been because I happen to know quite a deal about the Brisbane airport
We heard the honourable member for Griffith last evening and on the other evenings upon which he has spoken on this matter tell the House about his agitation and activity over the years on behalf of the people of Brisbane. My colleague the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh), after making a thorough investigation, was able to discover that on only 2 occasions in 6 years has the honourable member for Griffith mentioned in a speech anything about the Brisbane Airport. Not wishing to be unkind to him, because one can raise matters in another way, I had a thorough investigation made today of questions he might have asked on the Brisbane Airport over the past 7 years. I found that he was not asked one question on that subject in 7 years. Yet this Sir Galahad from Griffith comes into this chamber and tells the people that he is championing the cause of Brisbane citizens, looking after their interests. He made a few statements this evening which were incorrect. If that is looking after the interests of the people of Brisbane it is not much of a criterion.
Last evening the honourable member for Griffith stated that I had said that the ecology studies at the Brisbane Airport had not been carried out. I did not say that. I said that ecology studies of the proposed airport and surrounding areas have been carried out. If he checks Hansard and if I am correctly reported he will find that was what I said, because I read from a prepared sheet. I know that ecology studies have been carried out not just at the Brisbane Airport but extensively over an area as far north as Caloundra and right down to Tweed Heads. This was carried out under the terms of the recommendations of the advisory committee whose report was handed down in January last year.
I know that a campaign has been initiated by the Liberal Party. The State member for Nundah, the Queensland Attorney-General who lives in Nundah, like the honourable member for Griffith has quite suddenly become aware that we have an airport at Brisbane. During the time that the Liberals were in office here we heard nothing from them about the Brisbane Airport. No questions were asked by the honourable member for Griffith on the subject and in 2 speeches he made rather casual references to the airport. Now we have a Labor Government which is carrying on the plan that was recommended by the advisory committee. The Lord Mayor of Brisbane - that dynamic personality who has done so much for Queensland - was responsible for much of the good work that is going on in the Airport area. We hear Liberal supporters speak about what they were going to do. I was rather amused to find after coming here that when we introduced legislation to provide a vote for 18-year-olds a succession of Liberal speakers stood up and said: We were going to do that.’ When we introduced legislation to improve Defence Forces Retirement Benefit Fund payments for servicemen the Liberals said that they were going to do that. Looking back over 20 years, we find that the Liberals were going to abolish the means test. They are always going to do something.
Let us get to the record. Last December the Department of Civil Aviation produced its report for 1971-72, one of the last reports handed down by the Liberal-Country Party Government. If the honourable member for Griffith is interested in Brisbane and the Brisbane Airport he might care to listen to an extract from the report. At that time Senator Cotton was the Minister for Civil Aviation. The report stated:
The joint Commonwealth-State-Brisbane City Advisory Committee has completed a review of the future development of Brisbane Airport. The committee’s report recommending the concept to be adopted has been completed. An Aviation Industry Advisory Committee, comprising representatives of all segments of the aviation industry, provided support and contributed to the work of the Joint Government Committee.
Master plans are now being developed on the basis of the Committee’s recommendation. Detailed investigation and planning is proceeding for the first stage of development, which includes major site filling and surcharging and the diversion of the Kedron Brook floodway.
As an interim measure, work to cost about $380,000 has begun on extending the aircraft terminal aprons to cater for increased traffic.
If the honourable member for Griffith would listen he would find out what is going on. The terminal aprons are associated with and are connected to the existing runways and the terminal area at Brisbane Airport. That extract would indicate to me that in 1972 plans to develop the Brisbane Airport were not being seriously considered. But I have made further investigations and I find that the capital value of the airports of Australia from 1967 until this year has increased as follows: Melbourne $64im; Sydney $64m; but in Brisbane only $5m. Over that period while money was being expended on the other airports by the previous Government the Brisbane Airport was forgotten.
I was pleased to hear the honourable member for Griffith say that he is not going to carry on with the late show pantomine next Tuesday evening. I again challenge him and invite him to come into my electorate of Lilley before the people with whom I associate and with whom I have spoken. They are the people I keep informed about what is going on in the area. I ask him to debate with me in my electorate the attitude I have adopted. I invite him also to have a look at the advisory committee report and the timetable it contains. As I mentioned last evening, it stipulates that the construction of the runway at the proposed new airport is to commence about mid-“1976. Unless he has a crystal ball and can look into the future I do not know how he can say to this House that we are not going along with the timetable.
– It is not often that I seek to participate in the adjournment debate and the infrequency of this experience will therefore underline the importance of the issue I am about to raise. The Government has not provided an opportunity in this House to debate Australia’s withdrawal from a major international organisation - the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration. Accordingly I take this opportunity to place the Opposition’s views on the record. This is a very serious matter. The Government’s decision will place financial hardship on the ongoing operations of ICEM.
It represents a rejection by the Labor Government of the principle that refugees are a common international responsibility. It denies the concept of multilateral co-operation on migration problems. Not only was the Government’s decision quite contrary to the interests of our migration program and to an international humanitarian cause; it was also secret and surreptitious. It was a decision taken without prior consultation with the organisation involved or with the member governments of that organisation. It was a decision conveyed in a letter from the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to the Director of the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration of 7 March. No public announcement was made by either the Prime Minister or the Minister responsible - the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby).
It was a decision which the Prime Minister refused to discuss with the Director of of ICEM who was told during a visit to Australia earlier this year that any discussions would merely concern transitional administrative arrangements and would take place at official level. If the Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration can carelessly cast aside our membership of ICEM it is important to make clear that senior officials in the Department of Immigration have recognised its importance. Mr Andy Watson, the First Assistant Secretary of the Department of Immigration, said this to Senate Estimates Committee B in November 1971:
There is also still a potential refugee problem in Europe and many European countries seem to value ICEM as a sort of fire brigade in case a further refugee situation develops. Those European countries see it also as a means of contributing to the development of countries that are less developed than are perhaps the United States and Australia. I refer particularly to countries in Latin America.
All governments which have become members seem to recognise the value of having an international forum for the exchange of ideas on migration. So for different governments ICEM means different things. It is true that Australia is organised to the extent that we could take over the movement functions performed for us by ICEM, but this is only part of the story.
I recognise now the presence of the Minister for Immigration. I hope that he received the message from my office that I was rising to speak on this subject in the adjournment debate. Mr Watson continued:
As I have said, Australia’s position is such that we could handle the movement ourselves, but European countries now are not embarrassed by surplus manpower. In fact some have a shortage of manpower. They find lt very hard politically to contribute to a bilateral migration scheme, whereas they can contribute to a multilateral scheme which is already in existence. A number of European governments have made it very clear to us that they would find it much more difficult to co-operate with us in our migration schemes if those schemes were not to be carried out through the medium of ICEM.
Another First Assistant Secretary of the Department of Immigration, Mr Dempsey, had this to say to the same Committee in October 1970:
This organisation as an international body moves refugees for resettlement. We could ignore the organisation, move the refugees ourselves and pay for them. While we do not do that we do not have to pay the total bill. We are only one member contributing towards the resettlement of refugees. So there is an economic advantage, in belonging to it.
The whole manner of Australia’s withdrawal represents one of the most shoddy and badly handled episodes in Australia’s recent diplomatic experience. Australia played a significant role in the drafting of the ICEM constitution in 1954 and subsequently in developing the operating principles of that great humanitarian organisation. Since that time Australia and ICEM have co-operated closely in the emigration of nationals and refugees to Australia. Up to the present time more than 625,000 persons have been moved under ICEM auspices. The positive value of the operational capacity of ICEM has been demonstrated by its assistance of the stateless, the political refugees and the homeless in postwar Europe. It was demonstrated last year in the evacuation of Asian refugees from Uganda. It was an ICEM team in Kampala which carried out the documentation, medical service processing and transportation arrangements with the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Secretary-General of the United Nations sent the following message to the ICEM Council in December 1972:
I am personally grateful for the support and cooperation the United Nations and its family of organisations have received over the years from ICEM. I have long been aware of the valuable contributions of ICEM to the welfare of thousands of persons who have been displaced over the years, and I wish to thank Member Governments for their active support for the important humanitarian contributions of ICEM.
Australia’s annual contribution to the administrative budget of ICEM is SUS28 1,211. This was stated by the Minister for Immigration in reply to a question that I placed on the notice paper. It is almost inconceivable, in view of the Government’s excessive spending in the Budget, that economies should have been sought by cutting off this contribution. The Opposition believes strongly that Australia should not opt out of its international responsibilities. It is a matter of major concern that the Government has determined to do just that without any form of announcement in this Parliament and without providing any opportunity for the matter to be debated. It is, I believe, a very good reflection of the Government’s contempt for Parliament and its extreme hypocrisy in claiming credit for the principle of open government.
I ask the Minister for Immigration, who is now in the House, to indicate, firstly, the reasons why the House has not been informed of the decision to withdraw from ICEM, even though that decision was made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and himself as far back as 7 March this year. Secondly, I ask him to explain to the House how a major decision of this type could possibly be taken by only 2 Ministers of the Government and why the Cabinet again has been ignored in what is a most significant decision making area of this Government’s responsibilities. Thirdly, I ask him to refer in some detail to the reasons why Australia has withdrawn and, in so doing, to state them for the first time and place them on the official record of this Parliament, so that they can be subject to the scrutiny of parliamentary debate and to further questions of the Minister and of the Prime Minister.
Fourthly, I ask the Minister to inform the House of the discussion which took place at the earlier executive meeting of ICEM members, at which Australia was represented and views being put to this country by other member nations at that important meeting. Finally, I ask the Minister to indicate to the House why, although this may be a matter in which, selfishly, Australia may gain some short term advantage, we have withdrawn and are not prepared to consider the question of membership on a ‘sympathiser’ basis. My understanding, is that this matter has been put to the Minister and the Government but has not yet received a positive response. The Opposition parties believe this matter to be one well worth raising in the course of the adjournment debate. It gives the Minister, for the first time, an opportunity to explain it and to tell us why the facts have not been revealed, why we have withdrawn and why we are not prepared to continue on a sympathiser basis. We believe strongly that this Government must reconsider its decision to withdraw from ICEM.
– I wish to reply, quite briefly, to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch). I say very bluntly that a number of questions on this subject have been placed on the notice paper by him. They have been answered in full. He has placed on the notice paper another series of questions on the same matter, and they also will be answered in full. I point out to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that, as this Parliament has already been given a pretty full indication of what has transpired in this matter, by making available in full in Hansard replies to his questions on notice, it is unfair to say that nothing has been before the Parliament on this matter. I think that the matter-
– We forced it out of you. Be fair.
– Let me say that the matter has been raised in a mistaken way by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition because he thought that there was related to it some aspect of which he possibly could take advantage. I think that he is taking a pretty mean advantage in relation to an international organisation which in the past has done a job. Incidentally, his own Government as long ago as 1968 commenced the negotiations for Australia’s withdrawal from the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration. Those negotiations have now been carried to a conclusion, after the initial move in 1968. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, himself a former Minister for Immigration, was party to the continuing negotiations. So it is a little late now for him to come along and raise the matter. I have had word from the Director of ICEM in which he says:
I have no desire to pursue the matter further and consider it should be closed.
My good advice to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is to recognise that, in pursuing this matter further than ICEM wishes to pursue it, he is doing no service to his country or to ICEM.
Tonight he has made statements about other governments being concerned about the movement of migrants. No such communication has been received - none whatsoever.
I might say also that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has made a statement which I think ought to be placed on record. He made it in a letter to me and I would like the House to have the benefit of the knowledge of it. I wish to quote from that letter which he wrote to me. I received it on 6 September 1973; it does not seem to bear a date. The letter states in relation to the withdrawal:
Australia will carry out its recruitment directly and will, as may be readily interpreted by people not favouring such migration, take skilled workers away from European industries and bring them into competing industries in Australia.
Honourable members will be absolutely astounded. Here is a member of the Opposition who has been claiming that we have to import 200,000 people. He has been saying that we are desperately short of people; that we ought to be making great efforts to bring more in. Then he writes to me and says that if we do this people will think we are actually recruiting migrants. I suggest that the former Minister commune with himself because obviously he is confused.
– 1 rise to a point of order. The Minister has quoted in the House from a document. In accordance with the Standing Orders and the normal precedent I ask that the total letter be tabled.
– I will be happy to do so. It is a copy. The only things that I seem to get in regard to this particular matter are copies of letters.
– Would you pass the letter to the Clerk, please?
– Yes. I ask the Clerk to hold on to it firmly.
– What did you say the date was?
– I received it on 6 September. The letter was undated. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition probably did not get around to the date. I want to say that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is not doing a service to ICEM. He is not doing a service to his country. He is not doing a service to anybody. He is causing widespread embarrassment. The last message said that the matter is closed as far as ICEM is concerned. He is trying to keep it alive purely for political purposes. I suggest to him, with some sort of reasonableness, that all he is doing is causing continuing embarrassment to ICEM, to Australia and to everyone else. The matter is closed according to ICEM. May I also say that Australia is honouring its international obligations to refugees because we are associated with the United Nations effort, the major effort in this regard. We have made continuing efforts and we are continuing our efforts.
We also have said to this organisation that if there is a need in the future, if there is a major movement which requires our help and co-operation, we are always ready to help. We stand by that commitment. Frankly, in view of the words of advice that have been received in this country the matter would be better closed. It was raised by the honourable member’s own Government in 1968. It has been brought to a conclusion after all those years.
– What about the comments of your officers-
– I suggest that if the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will contain himself until the latest question on notice is answered he will have before the Parliament the answers to all his questions. I always make sure that he gets the fullest answers to questions on notice. I will continue to do so. I make a plea to him to desist in what seems to me to be a vendetta. His letters, undated, sometimes do not even arrive until he has raised questions about them. All sorts of strange things have happened and they mean only one thing: He is creating an issue where there is no issue. I suggest that he contain himself until he gets the answer to his questions on notice.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.58 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
Br Cass - The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Revocation of Anti-dumping Action: Norn CheddarCheese (Question No. 872)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Was the decision to revoke the Customs by-law prohibiting dumping of imported cheese, which was announced by the Minister for Customs and Excise, made by Cabinet.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No. The decision to revoke anti-dumping action on non cheddar cheese was made by the Minister for Customs and Excise under the powers vested in him by Section 17 of the Customs Tariff (Dumping and Subsidies) Act 1961-1965.
Department of Social Security: Special Projects Division (Question No. 879)
asked the Minister for Social
Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 September 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19730920_reps_28_hor85/>.