28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cops) took the chair at 11.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That they oppose the Australian Health Insurance Program and any National Health Scheme;
That they wish to retain the right to choose their own medical care by selecting a General Practitioner, Specialist or any other medical classification of their own choice under the present conditions in private consulting rooms and also the right to choose an intermediate ward or private hospital of their own choice.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measure to interfere with the existing health scheme.
And your petitioners, as in duty, bound, will ever pray. by Mr Donald Cameron.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘Free’ National Health Scheme is not free at all and will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme;
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons;
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an individual’s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr McLeay.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned electors of the Division of Flinders respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘free’ National Health Scheme is not free at all and will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme.
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an individual’s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the basic principles of the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Lynch.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The bumble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will move to make available to the Tasmanian Government a special grant for the purpose of securing Lake Pedder in its natural state.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Beazley and Mr Lynch.
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 the undersigned men and womenof Australia believe in a Christian way of life; and that no democracy can thrive unless its citizens are responsible and law abiding.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will see that the powerful communicator, television, is used to build into the nation those qualities of character which make a democracy work - integrity, teamwork and a sense of purpose by serving, and that television be used to bring faith in God to the heart of the family and national life.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Beazley.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully shews:
FURTHER, they believe that this economic support should be in the form of per capita grants directly related to the cost of educating an Australian child in a government school.
Your petitioners therefore ask that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should acknowledge the right of every Australian childto equal per capita grants of government money spent on education, and so instruct the proposed National Schools Commission.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Sir John Cramer.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I refer to the Prime
Minister’s answer to a question from the Leader of the Australian Country Party on 19 September in which the Prime Minister said:
The constant allegation that the Australian Government had done something to the disadvantage of rural industries, stems from the fact that we have ended some of the feather-bedding of the Pitt Street, and Collins Street farmers. There is no genuine rural producer who has other than benefited from our policies.
I now ask the Prime Minister to confirm, consistent with that answer, that the abolition of the investment allowance, the reduction of depreciation rates on new plant and machinery, the reduction almost to the point of abolition of depreciation allowances for the costs of fodder storage and water conservation, and the doubling of country telephone rentals will apply only to people he calls Pitt Street and Collins Street farmers. How does he propose to define the difference between those and other farmers so that the genuine producers to whom the Prime Minister referred will not be subject to measures which he claims were not aimed at them?
– The Acting Treasurer will answer the question.
– I think it is undeniable that people who took a speculative interest in rural areas were exploiting the system of financial advantage of either direct or indirect subsidies for farmers so that they could accumulate capital gains. They were largelycity people and often professional people. These are the people who have created to a great degree serious distortions in rural economies by investments in land for purely speculative purposes, by a build-up of capital investment - although on a year to year basis there have been losses netted - entered into with the clear expectation that a tax free capital gain would be achieved. This sort of practice has been reinforced by these people speculating between themselves, to the great disadvantage of legitimate primary producers. I say this with some considerable feeling because I represented a rural electorate until 1968.
It is the legitimate primary producer who has been disadvantaged by this sort of speculation, which the previous Government never did anything about - which indeed, it feather bedded. The fact is, as the honourable member for Dawson and Minister for Northern Development has pointed out on more than one occasion, that the greatest benefit from these subsidies was most often being derived by people who least needed it. They were a clear profit to the most profitable primary producers in the community, whether they were wool growers or dairy producers in Victoria. This is a serious distortion of the whole purpose of these sorts of programs. We have adopted the approach that it is much more helpful to reduce the sorts of deleterious effects which are favouring the wrong types of people and to take whatever steps are possible to get primary industry on a substantial footing. To the extent that there have been people in primary industry who have suffered poverty and deprivation because of the inequitable way in which the benefits of these schemes have been favouring the wealthy it is better to institute programs which will help them to re-establish themselves in other areas.
– My question, which is directed to the Postmaster-General is in connection with television facilities on Mount Bellenden Ker. The Postmaster-General is quite aware of the trials and tribulations which have been experienced in regard to these facilities. An investigating party from his Department has been there and, I believe, already made a recommendation. I ask the Postmaster-General: Was the Mossman area included in that investigation? If the investigators have recommended the installation of translators when will these translators be installed?
– It is true that television reception in the area of Mount Bellenden Ker has been well below standard. The honourable member has drawn that matter to my attention over a period of time. As a result of his representations a special field survey has been undertaken and a report has been made to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I understand that the report clearly indicates that there are deficiencies in the service which can be upgraded by the provision of 2 translators. It is hoped that this work can be undertaken in the very near future.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. I ask him whether the Government has yet fully considered the establishment of an Omega navigational base in Australia and, if so, when the Parliament may expect an announcement on it. Is the
Prime Minister aware of a recent statement by the officer-in-charge of Omega operations that if Australia does not allow an Omega base on its soil such a decision would be detrimental to countries in this region but would not affect the United States of America, that the Omega system has no relevance to nuclear missile carrying submarines and that an Omega receiver could not be used to send messages to such submarines?
– The question of the Omega installation in Australia was referred by the Government, as one of the 2 initial matters for inquiry, to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. I have noticed reports in the newspapers of evidence given by various witnesses to the Committee. I have, of course, as Foreign Minister seen some of the submissions which have been made to the Committee. I do not know - I have not inquired - when the Committee expects to make a report on this matter, but I believe that we all should allow the Committee to have proper time in which to investigate this matter. It is >a Committee which includes representatives of both sides of this House and of all parties in the Senate.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour I ask: When will the rural unemployment relief scheme end? What plans has the Government to assist in specified rural pockets of unemployment, such as the north-west coast of Tasmania where the number of registered unemployed is 690 and where there are 9 applicants for each unfilled vacancy? Is the Minister aware that this position will deteriorate rapidly when the relief scheme ends and the 528 persons at present employed under the rural section of the scheme in Tasmania join the ranks of the registered unemployed to which I have referred? Will the Minister treat this request for the implementation’ of a special alternative plan to correct the position as a matter of urgency?
– The Government is concerned about the situation in the rural or the non-metropolitan areas. It notices that whereas the number of registered unemployed in the metropolitan area has fallen quite substantially, the number of people still registered as unemployed in the country areas has risen quite substantially. This has occurred in spite of the fact that some 8,800 people are still on unemployment relief. When those people cease to receive unemployment relief the number of people who are still registered as unemployed will further increase. That is not to say that we ought to continue the present scheme. The present scheme is not a good scheme. It has quite a lot of shortcomings which the Government is not prepared to tolerate any longer. However, the present scheme will cut out in September. The Government has decided that in special areas of distress or areas where there are pockets of a great degree of unemployment it is prepared to consider each of those areas on its merits. In fact, it has been decided by the Government already that in parts of Tasmania the Government will continue to give relief after the present scheme is discontinued. I have had representations from the honourable member for Darling pointing to the very special position with which Broken Hill has to contend.
– What about Gippsland, too?
– So far as Gippsland is concerned, if the honourable member for Gippsland will put a properly prepared case to me, which up to date he has not done, I will be prepared to consider it. The honourable member finds it a lot easier to make silly interjections than to sit down and write a sensible letter. The people in the electorate of Gippsland would be well advised to elect a person who knows how to write because they have not got one now. I wish to say also that I have received representations from the Trades and Labour Council in Hobart. 1 met the full executive of the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council and the position of Tasmania was drawn to my attention quite forcibly.
– I rise to a point of order. The simple fact is that I have written to the Prime Minister a long and convincing letter about the problem. I would be happy if, within the system, he would refer it to the. Minister for Labour. But I am not sure that he can read. That is the trouble.
-Order! There is no point of order. I call the Minister for Labour.
– The Cabinet directed me to prepare another submission to it that would follow very closely the local initiative proposal that now operates in Canada. I am doing that. I hope that when I return from overseas I will be in a position to submit this proposal to the Cabinet. My proposal will be an excellent one and I will be very surprised if Cabinet rejects it.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Labour. It is a supplementary question to that asked by the honourable member for Braddon. Now that the Government has announced that it is to continue the non-metropolitan unemployment relief scheme and to give special assistance to certain areas, I ask the Minister: Who makes the application? Is the application to be made direct by local government authorities to the Commonwealth or will it be made through the normal procedures of the State Government? If it is to be direct by local government authorities, under what statute has the Commonwealth power to give these grants direct to local government authorities? If special assistance is to be given to areas of unemployment in the country I ask that special consideration be given also to looking at ways and means of assisting the female unemployed who are in considerable numbers. The number of unemployed in country areas at the moment is at a record level.
– The Leader of the Country Party is quite right when he draws attention to the special position of females in country areas. He has put his finger on and has clearly identified a special area of great need of which the Government is aware. I assure him, however, that he misunderstood me when he said that the Government has decided to continue the present scheme. I hoped to convey the impression clearly that we decided not to continue the present scheme. The present scheme has been grossly abused by the Premier of Queensland, to name one who has grossly abused the scheme -
– He has used Commonwealth money to channel financial assistance to the Brisbane City Council - the amount is some $280,000 - when the real need in Queensland is in country areas and not in the Brisbane City Council area at all. We are not happy -
– I rise to order. Mr Speaker, is the Minister entitled to make challenges which are unsubstantiated regarding the integrity of the administration of the Premier of a State?
-Order! No point of order arises. The Chair is not in a position to know the details of these matters.
– 1 can assure the honourable gentleman that this is a very real complaint by the Government. We are not going to use Commonwealth funds to pay out large sums of money to State governments and then allow them to misappropriate those funds by giving them to areas to which it was never the intention of the Australian Government that that money should go. We want the money that we make available to be given to the areas that are in greatest need. We are not going to allow State Premiers to use our money to gain some political advantage for themselves.
– Who makes the allocation - the Government or the State?
– Talk to me about it afterwards.
(Mr Armitage having addressed a question to the Prime Minister) -
– I must confess quite plainly that I cannot explain -
– I rise to take a point of order.
– I cannot work out the logic of the Leader of the Opposition on this or on many other occasions -
– A point of order!
-Order! A point of order has been taken.
– The Prime Mininster has shown his own incompetency to explain his own position. I do not want him to try to explain my position. I will explain my position in the Parliament.
– Order! The question is out of order. It asks for an opinion.
– I ask the Prime Minister: If a referendum on prices is approved by the people, will the Government control the price of land, as he has already mentioned, and reintroduce rent controls on an Australian basis? Is the Prime Minister aware that the effect of land sales control when last applied was to restrict the availability of land and to create a blackmarket to the point that almost everyone who wanted land was obliged to pay a major part of the price under the counter? Is he also aware that the retention of rent control, after wartime wages control was lifted, was the principal cause of the tragic shortage of rental homes for low income workers and pensioners on fixed incomes and has caused and is still causing cruel distress to hundreds of thousands of defenceless people?
– After the people give prices and incomes power to this Parliament, the Government will not be introducing rent control. It will be introducing land price stabilisation legislation. There are rent controls in some of the States. It is one form of price control which the States do carry out. It is not a form of price control which it is necessary for the national Parliament to carry out. The States can carry out price stabilisation schemes. As I said last week, I think it was, there is only one State which has so far done so.
I do not remember the matters which the honourable gentleman has mentioned in the late 1940’s. I do not know whether they are true or not; I am not in a position to say. He was in the real estate business at that time. Undoubtedly he would be in an excellent position to know what some of his colleagues did at that time. I do not concede that there is a shortage of land for new residential development. There is, however, very great delay by State governments, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria, in making that land available and ensuring that it is serviced promptly and equitably. The Australian Government has spent the whole of this year trying to devise co-operative arrangements with those State governments to ensure that where land is converted from, say, rural to residential use in the metropolitan areas, or where old residential land is being renewed, a reasonable price will be put upon that land. The States are able to do it. They have not effectively done it. The national Government seeks that power. I believe the public will give it that power and if, as I expect, the referenda arc carried on S December, we should be able to put the necessary land price stabilisation legislation through both Houses of the national Parliament in the following week.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Education. Is the Minister aware of the concern among a number of people in Queanbeyan and areas surrounding the Australian Capital Territory about Press statements indicating that quotas will be imposed on enrolments in trade and certificate courses at the Canberra Technical College? Is any provision being made to expand accommodation to allow for larger classes at this College?
– Accommodation at the Canberra Technical College is giving rise to concern. I am sure that the honourable gentleman would have noticed one suggestion that the Griffith infants school should be used by the Canberra Technical College. I think there were various reasons why that was undesirable. The sort of accommodation needed for technical education can be very varied. There are aspects of technical education which require factory type accommodation. There are other aspects of technical education which simply require ordinary classrooms. I understand that my Department is now considering the acquisition of a factory for use by the Canberra Technical College and that this would relieve accommodation shortages. The Department is looking also at facilities in schools where enrolments have fallen dramatically and where it would be appropriate to provide some accommodation for technical classes. There is, however, the need to enlarge and expand the Canberra Technical College, and that is the primary solution to this problem. However, it cannot be done as quickly as possibly temporary accommodation can be acquired. I want to assure the honourable gentleman that I am concerned that the Canberra Technical College should be able to continue to provide the service it has provided for residents of Canberra and residents of the surrounding districts.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Defence. I ask him whether his attention has been drawn to an article in the Sunday Observer’ of 23 September which reads:
Defence Minister Lance Barnard may have lied to Parliament this week when he claimed Army recruiting was on the rise.
They are the newspaper’s comments, not mine. I ask the Minister whether he recalls saying to this House on 19 September:
The Government has moved to provide a volunteer Army in this country of 31,000 by the end of this year. It will rise to 34,000 by 1976, despite what our critics have said.
Is the Minister aware that in the article referred to the Army’s Director-General of Recruiting, Brigadier Rex Roseblade, is quoted as raying that Army enlistments began declining in the first part of this year, that is, under Labor - those are my words - and continue to do so? Will the Minister explain in detail the apparent discrepancy between those 2 statements?
– I did see the article referred to by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I want to inform the House that I did not state to the House as alleged in the Melbourne ‘Sunday Observer’ of 23 September that army enlistments this year were increasing compared with the same period last year. What I did say was that the number of volunteers exceeds even the Government’s expectations, despite the fact that we were told by the Opposition when it was in government that it would not be possible to have an all volunteer force in this country. For example, during July and August of 1973 there were 2,789 inquiries for enlistment in the Army and there were 1,622 firm applications for enlistment. Actual enlistments in these 2 months numbered 557, which, I believe, is a good start in achieving the enlistment target which the Army set for 1973-74. I reiterate to this House that I did not say what the ‘Observer’ article alleged I said. The statement I made was that we would be able to fulfil the Government’s aim for an all volunteer army.
The last part of the honourable gentleman’s question referred to the Brigadier in charge of recruiting. I have received a communication from the Brigadier indicating that he waa misreported.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Social Security been drawn to the lurid and somewhat garnish displays of political propaganda opposing the proposed national health scheme now being displayed in the waiting rooms of some doctors’ surgeries in the Newcastle area? Does he agree that such exhibits can have an intimidatory and distressing impact on sick people attending such surgeries for treatment? Will he repeat his public invitation to members of the medical profession to confer with him on any aspect of the proposed national health scheme in order to dispel once and for all any suggestion of a lack of desire on his part to give full consideration to the genuine interests of doctors when the changeover occurs?
– Yes, my attention has been drawn to the display of these posters in Newcastle. As a matter of fact, the honourable member mentioned it to me last night. This is consistent with the general pattern of behaviour by a number of medical practitioners throughout the community. I do not care to spend much time commenting on the displays except to say that quite a number of them reach a fairly low level and display a surprising degree of immaturity in the way in which the message is pitched.
– They have been criticised by fellow members of the profession.
– Indeed, they have been criticised by fellow members of the medical profession and also by the spokesman for the Opposition on these matters.
– To his credit.
– Yes, to his credit. If I can proceed without much more help, what is interesting about this campaign is that there is an element of intimidation and duress in it in that the medical practitioners in some cases are applying pressure to patients. Yesterday, people in my office in this building drew my attention to 2 bundles of letters which had been received protesting about the health insurance scheme - one from, I think, Bundaberg and the other from Gympie. In the case of the letters from Gympie, each was written on the same note pad and again, although they were written on a different pad, all those from Bundaberg were written on the same note pad. In the case of the letters received from Gympie it was fairly obvious that one person had written more than one of the letters.
This is the sort of campaign that is being waged at present. I think it is quite an unethical display of behaviour by some medical practitioners in that they are exploiting this very special relationship which they have with patients - a relationship in which duress clearly comes to the fore through the implication by the doctors that: ‘I am providing healing treatment for you. You are dependent on me and therefore you have a great obligation to me’. The final point I should like to make is that, yes, I am still keen to continue discussions and negotiations with the medical profession. In fact, as a result of initiatives I have taken, I will be meeeting next Saturday in Sydney the Federal Council of the Australian Medical Association and, hopefully, we will be able to develop constructive discussions from that point. I repeat what I said before: I am prepared to consult and negotiate on the range of proposals which are included in the universal health insurance program.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. It concerns the use of the bond rate to force up interest. Is it true that Australia’s largest life assurance companies have frozen loans and in many instances are refusing to complete loan transactions? Is this because they cannot lend money because intending borrowers cannot be quoted terms? Have some of these companies stated that until the position clarifies they will not be making housing loans? Will the Prime Minister and his Government give some lead and decision in this field so that normal lending operations can be resumed with benefit to the nation?
– The Acting Treasurer will answer the question.
– 1 do not know of the particular case to which the honourable member refers. The only information I have is advice which I picked up from a comment in one of the newspapers, that there is much more activity in the short term money market than there is in the long term money market. At this stage perhaps that is not a. bad thing because it means that people are holding assets rather than spending them. I would suggest that at this stage the crucial need is to soak up excess liquidity in this community. In the last 6 months of the last calendar year the increase in the money volume in the community exceeded 17 per cent, which surely must be a record in this community. There is a lag between when the increase in the money volume occurs and when the effects on increased liquidity take place with spending propensities in the community. Those are the effects we are now experiencing.
The Government has inherited these problems from the rather reckless behaviour of the last Government in a desperate and panicstricken bid to try to buy back favour as the election date closed in on it. I will investigate the suggestion that the honourable member has made. As I mentioned yesterday, the Government is conscious that in adjusting interest rates, which is a perfectly legitimate exercise for soaking up excess liquidity and an exercise to which previous governments frequently referred when it was appropriate, it must be mindful that, insofar as the housing sector is concerned, those people about whom the Government must be most concerned - the moderate and middle income earners - should not be asked to carry unreasonable burdens. We are moving to a speedy conclusion in the arrangements there. I suggest that any pause which may occur as a result of these transition arrangements, which are occurring over a very short period, will be more than outweighed by the concern which we are displaying for the moderate and middle income earners and by the benefits which they will achieve as a result.
– Is the Minister for Services and Property aware of statements made in this House and in the Senate that persons resident in the Australian mainland Territories are lesser citizens than persons resident in the original States? Is it a fact that both Houses of this Parliament have full jurisdiction to pass laws in respect of both of those Territories yet persons in those Territories have no say in one of the Houses of this Parliament? ls this in line with the principles of democratic practice in modern society? Can the Minister indicate whether he has been able to convince members, especially those people who claim to represent the Northern Territory, that they should be entitled to representation in Parliaments where laws respecting them can be made?
– I confirm that what the honourable member says is correct. It is true that the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory are represented only in this place yet both Houses pass laws affecting those Territories. As a matter of fact, the honourable member for the Northern Territory in this House gave notice yesterday to disallow a regulation applying to the Territory that he represents. The Australian Labor Party, in accordance with its democratic practices, has endeavoured to remedy this situation by giving representation in both Houses to the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory. For once I congratulate the Australian Country Party in this House because its members supported that move, but their colleagues in another place decided to oppose it. Whether they will do that again and whether that acrobatic stunt will prevent democracy being given to these Territories, I am not in a position to know. But I assure the honourable member for Corio that the Labor Party is committed to giving representation to both Territories in both Houses of this Parliament. Legislation to that effect has been introduced, and I hope that common sense and the desire to give in both Houses democratic representation to the Territories will receive the support of honourable members opposite when the legislation is presented again.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. If the 2 proposed amendments to the Constitution to give the Commonwealth Government control over prices and incomes are passed at the referendum to be held later this year, will he assure the House that his Government will use both powers and not just the power over prices?
– I would expect so.
– Has the Minister for Social Security seen a report of a statement by Mr Justin Fleming, the President of the Australian Association of Surgeons, in which he associated himself or expressed agreement of his association with the Liberal Party spokesman on health and social welfare, the honourable member for Hotham, who had accused doctors’ organisations of deplorable taste in their attacks on the Federal Government’s proposed national health scheme? I assume that he referred particularly to the poster depicting the Minister as an SS man and the Prime Minister as Hitler. Secondly, has the Minister seen in the same report a statement that Mr Justin Fleming, following the Minister’s announcement last week of a relatively minor change in the health insurance proposals, has expressed his support for what he called Mr Hayden’s scheme?
– I did note the reports, but I would like to say something about another matter first. The honourable member referred to comments by the honourable member for Hotham, the spokesman for the Opposition on health and welfare matters. I think in fairness, in case what the honourable member for Hotham said has got out of proportion, I ought to state here that while the honourable member for Hotham has agreed with some things I have said and some proposals I have brought into this House on behalf of the Government, he has been, where he believed it justified, equally trenchant in- his criticisms of certain things we have done. Personally I applaud his approach that where there are areas of agreement and where he believes there is benefit for the community he is prepared to identify these areas and not to develop spurious debates. But where he believes there is disagreement - that obviously means where I do not agree with his point of view - he settles down to advancing a thoughtful and well developed argument opposing what 1 have put forward. I believe that the community will achieve superior health and welfare services as a result of this sort of approach.
In reply to the other matters specifically raised by the honourable member for Prospect, I have noted the comments by Mr Fleming and I welcome them. I am pleased that some adjustments which I stated that I proposed should take place to the scheme have attracted this sort of response. It confirms what I have said continuously since the planning committee report was presented at the beginning of this year - that if there is consultation, if there is negotiation there are areas where there can be mutual benefit and mutually advantageous adjustment to certian proposals in the scheme not only for the profession and the Government but also for the community. I stand by those statements and I repeat what I said earlier. I sincerely trust that at Saturday’s meeting with the Federal Council of the Australian Medical Association we will settle down in at least a reasonably cordial atmosphere to a working arrangement to try to extract the most beneficial advantages we can from this proposal for the community, because I believe that when it is finally resolved that is what we are both trying to achieve.
– In the expected application of the incomes power which the Australian Government hopes to obtain does the Prime Minister agree that it will involve imposing a maximum income which can be charged and paid and that it will create an offence, which will be a criminal offence, for exceeding it? Will the same criminality apply to paying more wages than are fixed by his Government as would apply to charging a bigger price than is fixed by this Government?
– Did the Acting Treasurer note a 2.8 per cent increase in the August food group index for the 6 Australian capitals? What caused this lift in food costs and would a prices and incomes policy have any control over this trend?
– Yes, I did notice the food group index figures for the 6 capitals for August. It is significant that of the total increase about 68 per cent is due to increased costs for meat and 44 per cent of that increase in costs of meat is, in fact, reflected in increased costs for beef. Furthermore, 24 per cent of the total cost is due to increased prices for potatoes and onions. So, effectively, the increased costs are coming from the primary production area of that section of the economy. I think honourable members will be interested to know that in the last 12 months the cost of meat alone has increased by nearly 32 per cent. For the 6 months since December last year more than 40 per cent of the increase in the consumer price index was contributed by increased meat prices. This is all very interesting because in turn.it reflects substantialy increased incomes for certain primary producers. Members of the Country Party in this House consistently argue that we should have an incomes policy in the community to restrain excessive incomes, so one assumes, as a corollary, that members of the Country Party are arguing that there must be income restraint on these primary producers.
The effects of an incomes-prices policy raise many considerations. It would depend on what way a prices and incomes policy were to be applied. Personally, I would rather see a selective policy applied with discretion and periodically only when necessary. It is important to bear in mind that prices and incomes policies will work only in the short term and while they have consensual support in the community. Evidence from overseas indicates that if there is any effort to impose them too broadly and too repressively the community will not adhere to them. In our society - I applaud these sorts of qualities in our society - the scheme will not work unless it is acceptable to the community. I cannot develop a specific explanation as to how a prices and incomes policy would affect these things because such a policy would be a matter for decision making by this Parliament after a policy conclusion by the Government.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of the flexible multi-tiered decision-making and decision-deferring processes of the Government, has either the Cabinet, the appropriate Cabinet sub-committee, the Caucus Transport Urban and Regional Development Committee or what have you, considered the call by Mr Pat Hills, the Labor leader in New South Wales, for an international airport at Dubbo? In order to clear up public confusion about international airports, how many international airports does the Minister believe are required in New South Wales? It is the intention of the various decision-making machines of the Labor Government to consider not only the CanberraGoulburn area but also the Hills’ suggestion of Dubbo?
– Airports are something which every country and every State wants but nobody wants them intheir backyards or their front yards. We all want to use airports but we want to use them somewhere away from where we live. It is for that reason that the Government has continued the committee to inquire into the location of a second Sydney airport. Mr Hills, the Leader of the Labor Party in New South Wales, has for many years advocated the location of an international terminal at Dubbo . Frankly, I do not agree with his proposition. The facts are that surveys that have been conducted by the committees have shown that about 70 per cent of the people who travel to Sydney leave the airport; that is, their business is in Sydney. About 83 per cent of the passengers on domestic flights leave the airport for their business in Sydney. So if an airport were located west of the Divide or somewhere out of the Sydney district about 3 DC9’s would be required to bring the passengers on an international flight of a Jumbo Boeing 747, for example, to Sydney.
– What about a fast monorail transport?
– I will deal with that question too if the right honourable member likes and give him an answer to it. The facts are that recent surveys that were conducted in relation to the siting of a second Sydney airport disclosed that to locate the airport at Somersby, for example - this was the best cost-benefit study - would cost about $2,600m more than if Mascot airport were extended. The survey on the Orange-Bathurst area that was carried out at my request found that it would cost approximately $6,000m if a high speed rail system were introduced. If the train travelled at about 85 miles per hour and a special tunnel 60 miles long were constructed, it would take1¾ hours to cover the distance.
– That is on that site?
– Yes. The cost for the Dubbo site, which is further away from Sydney than Orange-Bathurst, would be even more than that.
– Pull up a chair.
– If the honourable member would like me to do so I will. That is the position as far as a high speed train is concerned. Taken all round, if the second Sydney airport is to be located outside the metropolitan area we can expect a major increase in costs plus the cost of travelling to or from the site selected west of the mountains or on the coast. I would be quite happy to have the site at Newcastle if honourable members opposite do not want it. A distant site would mean a considerable amount of time would be taken in travelling to and from the airport. So these are the factors that have to be taken into consideration.
– Mr Speaker, I ask for leave of the House to move a motion to suspend so much of the Standing Orders as would prevent the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) from moving forthwith the notice No. 1 standing in his name.
– Is leave granted?
Opposition members - No.
– Leave is not granted.
– I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Prime Minister moving forthwith notice No. 1 standing in his name.
For the benefit of the House I shall read the motion that stands in the Prime Minister’s name. It is:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent a Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution so as to enable tile Australian Parliament to make laws with respect to incomes being introduced and passed through all its stages without delay.
It think it is recognised in this Parliament on all sides that there is no more important measure to come before this Parliament possibly in the lifetime of the Government. The Government believes that it is so urgent that Standing Orders should be suspended in order that that business should proceed forthwith. As I stated a moment ago this problem is recognised by all political parties and we on this side of the Parliament can see no reason why there should be unnecessary delay in the Parliament debating it. I shall support that with a few more facts as time goes on. I merely state that without going into the pros and cons of the actual text of the legislation. In support of what I am putting for the suspension of Standing Orders I wish to quote from a Press statement made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) on 13 September in which he said:
No other country in the world has thought of prices control without incomes control. Until there is control of incomes maximums as well as prices maximums these measures will be a sham, conceivable by an Australian Labor Party.
We have there an example of the Leader of the Opposition himself stressing the importance of what we are seeking to have debated so urgently today. In a further Press statement on 19 August the Leader of the Opposition, in dealing with this important matter of inflation and in stressing the need for urgency to discuss it and find a remedy to it, said:
That the problem of costs and prices is of such national importance that it must be put above party politics.
That a policy aimed at controlling prices alone will not be effective.
That there should be co-operation by all parties and all parliaments.
Surely that stresses the need for co-operation to allow the Parliament to debate this matter. Those words were spoken by the Leader of the Opposition a little over a month ago. The Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) has endorsed the sentiments of the Leader of the Opposition on the need for this problem to be discussed urgently. On 18 September 1973 he was recorded in Hansard as saying that he supported the sentiments expressed by the Leader of the Opposition in regard to this important problem and supported a temporary price and wage freeze as part of a complete approach.
I have mentioned those things in passing in order to show that there has been a direct indication by honourable members on the other side of the Parliament that they appreciate the urgency of this matter and realise that there is a need to protect not just one section of the Australian community but every section of it against rising prices and inflation. That is why this legislation is so important, why it has been presented so urgently and why, among other things, we seek endorsement of it. Do not forget that everybody is affected - pensioners, wage earners and people who have savings. The Australian Government, which has limited constiutional powers in this respect, seeks the urgent support of this Parliament, at a time when the States will not co-operate in overcoming this great problem, of this legislation which will have such a fundamental effect on the lives of people everywhere.
There are other associated matters. This legislation could result in a constitutional change. There must be certain delays in respect to the procedures to be followed. Those honourable members who know the procedures laid down for referendums will appreciate that there must be a delay of about 10i weeks after the passing of necessary legislation and after other formalities have been completed before any such proposal can be put to the people. If this legislation were passed by the Parliament this week a referendum would be held, it is hoped, on 8 December. That would enable the passage of the land prices stabilisation legislation which the Prime Minister has indicated i> essential to ensure that inflation is curtailed in some way. The very timetable laid down by the legislative procedures of this Parliament and this country necessitate this measure being discussed urgently. We feel, therefore, that it must be introduced, discussed and dispensed with today by this Parliament. I had felt that the Opposition might well have co-operated in respect to this matter, so urgent is the problem.
There is another reason why it is necessary to discuss this legislation urgently. There is a need for the proposed referendum to be put to the people before Christmas. Parliament adjourns tomorrow for 10 days. Unless the legislation is though the Senate by tomorrow it will not be possible to hold a referendum before Christmas. This could mean a delay until about mid-February 1974. The danger of such a delay is that some unscrupulous people will put up prices before the referendum is held in order to frustrate any action which the Government might consider desirable to take if the referendum proposal is accepted. Prices and incomes proposals will have to be put to the people at the same time. The danger of pre-empted price increases will increase the longer Parliament debates the issue. It would be scandalous if, while action on this matter were delayed by the Parliament, people were to suffer price increases unnecessarily.
By the way, a full debate on the issue of prices and incomes powers has already been held. No member of the Parliament can say that this matter was not adequately discussed on the previous occasion. All that has to be said in respect to these matters has already been said on both sides of the Parliament. In fact, during the course of that debate honourable members opposite in effect sponsored or said that they would support the incomes section of the legislation which is about to be presented to the Parliament. Of course, in keeping with their usual practice when they face the hurdle, they now baulk or back out. Today is an opportunity for Opposition members to vote quickly on this matter and to give effect to the policy that they said would be supported if it were brought forward. We think this opportunity should be given to them immediately. There should be no delay. We do not want honourable members opposite to ponder all night and worry about what will be thought. This is a time when honourable members opposite should debate the issue, not only because of the national aspects but also because the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition from time to time have practically committed his party to the policy which we have brought forward today.
The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) is looking towards me. The other day he asked a very intelligent question on this matter. I do not think it was out of line with some of the proposals which we are bringing forward. Knowing that he is one of the few democrats in the Liberal Party I hope he will vote with us on this motion because his electorate contains, amongst other things, a lot of people with savings - plenty of them. Until something is done about inflation those savings will go down and down. Every minute matters. I do not wish to delay the House. As I mentioned, the matter is urgent. I will summarise the situation as I see it and as the Government sees it. We desire to hold a referendum before Christmas and procedures necessitate urgent passing of the legislation in this place. We desire to protect the savings and incomes of people. We desire to see that inflation is checked throughout the length and breadth of this country. There is an urgent need to ensure that Liberal Party Premiers who refuse to do anything about inflation and will not accept their responsibilities at least will know that there is a Government in Canberra that will accept responsibility.
I suggest that all people who believe in the welfare of every citizen in this country should vote for this proposal that is coming before the Parliament to deal with this matter urgently. I do not know of any more pressing problem. If honourable members opposite are honest they will admit that none of them does. They know the timetable and the dangers. They know of the exploitation that can take place and the suffering and degradation that comes with rising prices and inflation. Here is a chance for honourable members opposite to be statesmen, to stand up and debate this issue today and to allow this Government to implement policies that will affect the welfare of all the people of this country and will safeguard their interests in every possible way. I hope that the motion will be carried. It is an important motion and one which I believe the House should debate at this moment without any further delay.
– The motion which has been moved by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) represents one of the most glaring examples of the present Government’s ad hoc-ery. In fact this motion was conceived in haste, introduced in haste and foreshadows a debate which does no credit to this Government or to this House. The motion is typical of a Government which continues in this place to use its numbers in a ruthless fashion to force legislation through. (Government supporters interjecting) -
– All the jackals can howl as loudly as they like but the facts are a matter of record. The Government used its numbers-
– We have had some good training in that.
– The honourable member could do with some of that good training too. I suggest it might even get him closer to a Cabinet position. He is a long way from it at present.
-Order! The Leader of the House was heard in comparative silence. I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– I appreciate your protection, Mr Speaker. It is very difficult to speak when the jackals are howling as loudly as they are at present. I was making the point that this legislation has been forced through this House - as have so many other major pieces of legislation - without adequately considered examination by the Opposition Parties. It represents, as members of the Labor Party all know, a total volte face by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) who, firstly, opposed in the Caucus the concept of price control and then proceeded to introduce a price control Bill into this House; and secondly, rejected publicly a prices and incomes policy as outlined by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) but is now proceeding to seek power over both prices and incomes at federal level. If this matter has the importance which the Leader of the House alleges, let it receive the full scrutiny of debate in this House. But the Government, consistent with its past performance, denies that opportunity. It is making a mockery and a sham of the institution of Parliament in Australia.
If this matter has the degree of urgency which the Leader of the House alleges, let the people of this country know that it has been generated by this Government, which apparently is prepared to spend Australia into higher and higher levels of inflation. The Leader of the House used many fine words to express concern about the position of the poor and the underprivileged. No doubt they include some of those people he thinks voted for his party on 2 December last. But let him remember that if the situation of these people is as he alleges it to be in this country today - a matter of concern - the same sense of concern has not arisen with respect to inflation in the past 20 years. It arises now simply because of the ad hoc, ill-conceived and fragmented policy which this Government has introduced in the area of inflation.
All members on both sides of the House know that inflation was a reducing factor when the former government went out of office last December. It was at 4.6 per cent and reducing. It is now running at a notional rate of 13 per cent. The responsibility for that massive increase in the inflationary spiral must be sheeted home to no other group and to no other party than the Government party opposite. Pensioners, superannuants and those people who are in receipt of fixed incomes all know and publicly recognise that this Government has deserted the cause that it ought to be standing for.
This motion seeking to suspend the Standing Orders demonstrates the complete and total contempt of the Prime Minister for the institution of Parliament. It is designed to allow the Government to force through this House a Bill of major economic and social consequence without warning and without any opportunity for a full and considered debate. The first warning which the Opposition parties received - not atypical but consistent with the performance of this Government - came not from the Government itself but from the Press. That is what we have come to expect.
The Prime Minister of this country is a man who makes more statements on matters of significance to Australia outside this House than he is prepared to make inside it. It is no secret also that there are a number of Ministers in this House and in the other place who have failed to produce even one parliamentary statement on the affairs of their portfolios. The Prime Minister will be reminded of them if he thinks of the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass), the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham), the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) and, in the other place, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop), the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) and the Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee). Not one of those silent six has to this stage of the parliamentary year been prepared to put down in this Parliament one major ministerial statement which could be debated. This is typical of the Government which seeks to conceal its inadequacies and its deficiencies, as it now seeks to do, by forcing legislation through the Parliament.
The Government apparently expects this House to pass the Constitution Alteration (Incomes) Bill as some kind of formality. It is about time the Prime Minister realised that this Parliament is not designed to function and to act as the automatic ratifying authority for every Government proposition. Unfortunately the Prime Minister is still clinging desperately to his De Gaullean concept. I would have thought that if the Government and the Prime Minister had learned one thing - and the Leader of the House is constantly preaching the lessons that ought to be learned - it was the lesson of the Parramatta byelection result. That massive swing against the Government, not attributable to the simple fact of a by-election, was a sharp rebuff to Government and to a Prime Minister with no clear concept as to how to handle Australia’s inflationary problems.
– He is totally out of touch.
– Yes, he is totally out of touch not simply with the people but also with the need to take a firm stand to curb inflation. The Government and the Prime Minister have not learned the lesson of Parramatta. They have not yet learned the lesson of the result of the last Victorian State election. And there are more lessons to come - this will be demonstrated in State elections to be held in this country in the near future. The Prime Minister must stand indicted as a man who has allowed the inflationary spiral in this country to get out of hand. This is the worst bout of inflation that this country has seen for 20 years-
– Who was in office then?
– The honourable member asks who was in office. The former Government has a very good record of economic management. If the honourable member and his colleagues opposite who are trying to interject, thinks back to December last year he will recall that inflation was a reducing factor of 4.6 per cent. That does show- (Government supporters interjecting)-
– We can hear how sensitive Government supporters are on the question of inflation. They know that their Government was rejected at Parramatta. The by-election figures indicate without doubt that all members on the Government benches of this House stand indicted for the fragmented, ad hoc, piecemeal approach which they have brought to the problem of fighting inflation in this country. I will not use up the full time available to me because there are other honourable members in the Opposition side who are anxious to speak and to make other points as they will and will do well. The Opposition rejects the motion before the Chair.
– It seems that whenever the Opposition is in trouble it brings the old word-smith into the House. The only thing that I would like the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) to do some day is to change his cassette. We are becoming a little tired of listening to the same old stuff coming from him every time he is put into the breach. The whole fact of the matter under debate at the moment is that we are seeking an extension of the Commonwealth’s power. That is the issue. The issue concerns not prices and incomes but whether this Parliament should have power to exercise with respect to incomes.
Some mention has been made of constitutional inadequacies. Australia is a federation similar to West Germany, the United States of America and other countries where the governments of those countries have complete power over the national economy. The Government of a country like Australia should have had these powers many years ago. Instead of that, we have been fooled around by the tomfoolery of the Opposition which is caught in a political cleft stick. Honourable members opposite talk about a prices-incomes policy but, when it comes to the jump, they baulk at it. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) asked only last week: ‘Has there ever been such a vacuum in responsibility?’ He said that the Government was seeking power over prices when really it knew that the problem would be resolved only by combined action on prices and incomes. Here is the great opportunity for the Opposition to support action in this direction; but it is prepared to squib it.
It is no news to the Opposition that this matter was to arise. The Opposition knew about it yesterday. I remind the Opposition that yesterday the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill passed its second reading stage in the Senate and at the moment is in its Committee stage in the other place. I would say that good sense on the part of any government would be to try to have prices and incomes referenda put to the people at the one time. If this legislation now proposed is to be deferred, the result would be that the referendum on each matter would need to be held on 2 separate occasions before Christmas. What we seek to do is to synchronise the referenda on the 2 matters. The Senate must go through certain constitutional requirements with respect to legislation proposing referenda. With those factors in view, we felt the urgency to bring this legislation before the House.
This legislation is designed to give the people a choice. What the Liberals and the Australian Country Party are proposing to do is to deny the people the right to a choice. We are not offering the people legislation. We are offering them legislation for a choice. Yet, we have heard all of the claims about the Parramatta by-election result and what the Liberals would do about inflation and about rising prices. Here is their opportunity. What have they done? The only thing that the Liberals have done about inflation is to give Australia a 13 per cent level of inflation. 1 take the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to task on that very point. He mentioned that the level of inflation that Australia is currently experiencing is the responsibility of our Government which took office on 2 December last. He does not mention the scare Budget of last year when the pool of unemployed in Australia stood at 120,000 persons. The former Government needed to eradicate that unemployment. It spent money as if it was going out of business. That money was allocated and appropriated in August of last year, was spent in January and February of this year and generated its way through the economy in about March and April with the result of a level of 13 per cent-
– I rise to take a point of order. What we are debating is the question of urgency to suspend Standing Orders and not the merits or otherwise of the referendum proposal put before the House. Now, I am anxious that there should be a proper debate on the merit of the referendum proposed to be put before the people. If we fritter away our time now by talking about the urgency or otherwise of this motion to suspend Standing Orders so that a few people manage to get in some remarks that they ought not to get in on the merits of the case, we shall be wasting the time in this debate and denying ourselves additional time for the debate which is to come.
-Order! The point of order is made. I ask the honourable member for Blaxland to confine his remarks to the reasons why the Standing Orders should be suspended.
– I am prepared to do that. I was just answering some of the matters raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The fact of the matter is that we see an opportunity io bring to the Austraiian people a right to make the choice whether this Parliament should be given power over prices and incomes and to extend our constitutional power to govern the national economy. Who can argue that in a country like Australia with its enormous development the Australian Parliament should not have adequate constitutional power over the national economy? That means power over incomes, over prices and over other economic factors. I believe the Standing Orders ought to be suspended and the Opposition’s arguments just cast aside.
– The Opposition believes that this matter does not have the extreme urgency which the Government is giving to it. We have seen a situation in which the Government has changed its mind on more than one occasion. First of all there was not going to be a referendum, even on prices control, and then the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) changed his mind about that. Last week the Caucus had one attitude on a referendum which included a reference to incomes and it has another view this week. The Government itself and Government supporters have been backing and filling on all these issues. There are differences of interpretation between the Prime Minister and the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party. This does not indicate some element of extreme urgency which the Government is now trying to indicate. I think the speed with which there is an attempt to force this matter through the Parliament indicates the complete contempt with which the Prime Minister holds this Parliamenment and his refusal to announce major policy decisions in this Parliament is a further example of this. It is an example of a power hungry Government that is wanting more power for itself, but not on the merits of the case. Already it has refused to use the powers it has in relation to inflation. It refuses to cooperate with the States which have offered co-operation because it wants power for itself for power’s sake and for the sake of more power alone. That is the sort of approach that the Opposition will reject.
But there is another reason why we want to oppose the urgency in the putting aside of normal business. A particularly urgent matter has occurred in New South Wales where thousands of people are immediately affected, where tens of thousands of people are likely to be out of jobs in a very short space of time and unemployment is likely to become very great. It is a matter which affects individuals at work and at home. The editorial in the Daily Telegraph’ the other day indicated that there were black-outs when a doctor was trying to save the life of a patient. So the matter that is urgent is the strike situation and the power situation in New South Wales. Whilst the Prime Minister has sought to say and did say at his Press conference yesterday that this is not a matter for the Commonwealth or for this Parliament - he made that quite plain at his Press conference and he made it quite plain that the Commonwealth will not intervene - one of his Ministers has quite directly intervened in this case on the side of the power unions. He has supported the power unions in subverting the industrial laws of New South Wales. That is the matter that we want to debate.
– Mr Speaker -
– Order! The time allowed for the debate has expired.
Question put -
That the motion (Mr Daly’s) be agreed to.
The House divided.
Ayes . . . . . . 63
Noes . . 49
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative by an absolute majority.
Motion (by Mr Whitlam) proposed:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent a Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution so as to enable the Australian Parliament to makelaws with respect to incomes being introduced and passed through all its stages without delay.
Motion (by Mr Daly) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided.
Ayes . . . . . . 63
Noes .. .. ..50
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put:
That the motion (Mr Whitlam’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 1.4 to 2.15 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr Whitlam, and read a first time.
Declaration of Urgency
– I declare that the Constitution Alteration (Incomes) Bill 1973 is an urgent Bill.
– Order! The question is: That the Bill be considered an urgent Bill’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the time allotted in connection with the Bill be as follows:
For the second reading, until 4 p.m. this day.
For the Committee stage, until 4.15 p.m. this day.
For the remaining stages, until 4.30 p.m. this day.
– The situation is quite absurd. The Government gave notice of this Bill at 9 o’clock last night. We have not even yet had the second reading of the Bill - it is 2.15 p.m. - and it is proposed by the Government, in a quite cynical departure from all parliamentary decorum and rules, now to put down a guillotine on this Bill which will prevent any possibility whatever of adequate discussion of all the implications of it. The people of Australia, under this Bill, from all we have read about it in the Press - we have not heard one word about it so far in this House - are to be asked to give power over incomes to the Commonwealth, and we are asked to pass it all - I have forgotten exactly what the hours proposed were - by 4.15 or 4.30 today. That will allow about 2 hours debate for this House to decide whether or not the people of Australia should have the opportunity to vote for the most far reaching powers they have ever been asked to give and for powers which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) perpetually did not want.
We are entitled to have a full debate on this, to have it explained to us why the Prime Minister’s sudden volte-face has occurred, why he has somersaulted in the way he has and why his Caucus has somersaulted in the way it has. The idea that we should have the second reading stage completed by 4 o’clock and the Committee stage by 4.15 is an outrageous misuse of all parliamentary precedent and practice. If it is persisted with by the Government one can only regard it as a total declaration that from now on this Government is in so much trouble that it will refuse debate. Has it no confidence in what it is putting forward? Has it no confidence in its power to explain what it is it wants and why it wants it? It would take all the time allotted for the Prime Minister to explain why he wants it.
What incomes are to be covered? Why is it that the Caucus has changed its mind? The Prime Minister will need 2 hours to explain what incomes are covered. Does the proposal include wages? What is to happen to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission? What is to happen to wage relativity? What is to happen to collective bargaining? Are there to be sanctions? By sanctions I mean is it to be a criminal offence to pay more or to demand more than the Government imposes. Every person in this country is entitled to know that. The work force of this country is about 6 million. Add to that people who are self employed and those who are retired. Are incomes to extend to interest on past savings? Is the legislation to apply also to superannuation? We need these points made clear. I will shortly be speaking on this Bill. I will be asking these questions. If they are not answered because there is no time, the reason why there is no time is entirely the fault of the Government. There can be no doubt that if the Government persists with this motion it is making a declaration that from now on to it Parliament is a sham. If it has complaints about a military coup in Chile because it superseded the parliamentary system, all we can think of is that it has no concern for the parliamentary system itself. It now remains to see whether it will persist with this totally undemocratic, outrageous proposal.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has contributed nothing. He is only delaying the proceedings of this House. In fact it was only last week that the issues which we are to debate again in a very short time were well and truly worked through by both sides of this Parliament. The fact is that he has been caught out. He has been caught out on a hypocritical performance. He is the man who has been running around this community talking about a prices-income policy and about demand management as though they are the latest trendy slogans, without ever filling out what it is that he has in mind. He made some vague reference to assuming powers from the States and asked what will happen then. He has never specified it. Presumably we will develop a semaphore system with the States, message our proposals out to them and then wait months for replies at very irregular intervals. Imagine running the economy of this country dependent upon the several different decision making processes of the States.
– I rise on a point of order. All that the Minister is saying is totally irrelevant to this debate.
– Order! The question before the House relates to the allotment of time.
– I am meeting the comments of the Leader of the Opposition with similar quality in that case. Imagine a situation in which we have to depend on 6 States to control the economy of this country at a time when rapid and regular adjustment - fine tuning - is required in the economic management of the country.
Let us get more precisely to the area around which the Leader of the Opposition built his argument. As he was waffling in a grand but rather imprecise style he has developed over the years he was saying: ‘What sort of a pricesincomes policy is this? Will it cover this or will it cover that? Will there be penalties? Where will the arbitration system be?’ Let us put to one side that this man has been moving about the country with a slogan ‘prices-incomes freeze’, never specifying what he proposed to do after that-
– Order! The question before the Chair is that the time allotted in connection with the Bill be as set out by the Leader of the House. I would ask the Minister to confine his remarks to the reasons for that allotment of time.
– I am sorry. I was induced into thinking that this is the trend of the debate by the comments of the Leader of the Opposition. Might I make this final point in this area: We are seeking constitutional power over an area which is essential if we are to handle the economy effectively. If we are to apply particular policies we do not write them specifically into the Constitution with a whole range of prohibitions and a whole range of penalties. This comes subsequently in the light of experience at any time when back up legislation is provided. Then the Leader of the Opposition, as he will be then and for some considerable time, unless those people behind him have their say, will be able to express his opinion as to the appropriateness of the penalties. But he is the man who has been asserting: ‘Try a prices-incomes policy’. He is the man who has made the running on this even in this House up until a week ago. He is the man whose bluff is being called now. He is completely deflated. He lacks credibility, as do members behind him, because now they are being given the opportunity to stand up and back up their brave words that they put forward in the recess period.
The simple fact is that we have to put the proposal in this piece of legislation through the Parliament this week. We have to put it through the House of Representatives today because of the requirements, constitutionally and legislatively, if we are to have a referendum before Christmas - and we intend to. Then the Leader of the Opposition and the silent men behind him can be measured by the public. The public then will be given the opportunity of seeing how much sincerity and how much credibility there was in the words that they have been propagating as the essential remedy to the economic problems of this country. Of course what they have suggested is not the essential remedy. It is a very small part of the overall tools which should be available to a central Government in administering the economy of a country. But the mess today, whether it is in tariffs, whether it is in exchange rates, whether it is in the way resources are distributed, whether it is in the collapse of primary industry in various sectors or whether it is in the existence of poverty over a wide range of the economy, represents the heritage of 23 years of Liberal-Country Party administration. It is a manful struggle to try to repair the almost irreparable damage for which members of the previous Government have been responsible. The problems today we have inherited from the incompetence of past Liberal-Country Party administrations. Today we are taking positive action and this is the opportunity for members opposite to stand up and back their words with credible action.
Question put -
That the motion (Mr Daly’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That theBill be now read a second time.
The Bill that I now present is a companion to the Bill passed by the House last week which sought the approval of the people for our national Parliament to have the power to legislate on prices. This new Bill seeks from the people a corresponding power to legislate with respect to incomes. The question whether an effective campaign against inflation can be mounted through the use of a prices power alone has been debated at great length in the Parliament. For our part, we have taken the view that if the national Government were armed with an explicit prices power its ability to restrain inflation would be strengthened and the upward pressure upon wages and all other incomes would be greatly relieved. But a complementary power over incomes is an additional power that it would be useful to have should the need arise. This is the line I took at the Constitutional Convention earlier this month. I then said that the Government would accept a reference on prices and incomes from the States. I have also made it clear to the House in answers to questions that the Government was ready to give immediate consideration to any proposal coming before the Parliament from any of the Government’s opponents to have a referendum on incomes. In reply to a question from the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) on Tuesday, 18 September, I said:
If, for instance, the honourable gentleman or any of his colleagues were today to seek leave to introduce a companion Bill on incomes to match the Bill which is to be debated today on prices, its introduction would be facilitated.
In answer to a question from the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) on Wednesday 19 September, I said:
We are willing to consider immediately any proposition that comes before the Parliament from any of our opponents to have a referendum to control incomes.
Such a proposal has now been made. We have considered it, and it has our support. Therefore, consistent with our view that the people should be allowed to decide these issues, we are introducing this Bill which will enable the matter to be put before them.
It will be for the people to decide, if both the relevant Bills are passed by the Parliament, whether the Parliament is to have power over prices or incomes or both. There is no doubt that a power over incomes could be used if necessary to reinforce a power over prices. Given both these powers the Government will certainly be better equipped to deal with all aspects of the inflationary problem and to introduce broader measures should these prove necessary or desirable. In short, we regard the power over incomes as a helpful adjunct to the power over prices that we are seeking. Indeed, the phrase ‘prices and incomes policy’ is one of the commonest cliches in discussion of national economic planning in every developed country in the world.
I do not want to give the impression that the Government, if given these powers, will im mediately seek to implement rigid policies of control in the whole area of prices and incomes. It will operate flexibly and selectively as the situation demands. It will act responsibly and in full appreciation of the needs and aspirations of wage and salary earners and the public at large. Above all, it will seek to maintain and improve the purchasing power of the people’s earnings.
Nor do I want to give the impression that the Government, if this Bill is approved by the people, would exercise the new power in a purely negative fashion. The State Parliaments have always had the power, and the New South Wales Parliament in particular has frequently exercised the power, to guarantee certain basic standards to wage and salary earners outside Commonwealth awards. Under this Bill the national Parliament could guarantee basic standards throughout the nation. It is unnecessary in speaking to this Bill to repeat the points that have already been made in the current context by the Government and, indeed, by the Opposition regarding the need to control inflation and the policies that are necessary for this purpose. These matters have already been fully canvassed and judging by statements by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and his supporters, I am entitled to presume that whatever their political stand on this Bill there is now a considerable measure of agreement on both sides of the House on the basic question.
We are of course aware that there are differences of opinion whether this power over incomes, in addition to the power over prices, is really necessary to deal with inflation. We, for our part, take the reasonable view that the possession of both powers by the Australian Parliament would be consistent with the position in most other countries and that we should now advance the proposal that it be sought from the people for their national Parliament. If this Bill, and the Bill the House passed last week, are passed by the Senate before the Parliament rises this week, both Bills can be submitted together to the Australian people for their decision before Christmas. I commend the Bill to the House.
– The second reading speech is remarkable for what it does not say. But let us examine some of the things that it does say. This Bill is said to be .a companion to the Bill passed by the House last week. It so happens that its companion is in one chamber and this - the companion - is in another chamber. There is a history behind that which I will deal with shortly. But just what is the argument for the proposal? It rests on the words: ‘It would be helpful to have should the need arise’. What an extraordinary proposal, that it would be just helpful to have if the need should arise. There is not a single word about the policy, the way in which it would be developed and the way in which it would be used.
The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) quoted an answer he gave the other day. Why did the Government not do it itself? Why did it look for an opponent to do it? The answer is that the Government was gutless - quite gutless - about the issue and the companionship it has now discovered took a very long time in the finding. The Prime Minister said that the Government will operate flexibly and selectively and it will act responsibly. We know what has happened to all the other Government actions and how responsible it has been since it has been in office. No government in the history of Australian politics, with one exception, has lost favour with the public as rapidly as this Government has in the 10 months it has been in office. That is because it has failed to act responsibly. The second reading speech says that the Government will seek to maintain an improved purchasing power of the people’s earnings. Its attempt to maintain the purchasing power has totally failed up to now, as the statistics on inflation and price rises prove.
In his speech the Prime Minister said that the national Parliament could guarantee basic standards throughout the nation. What does that mean? Does it mean a power to level down in the community to maintain basic standards? Does it mean that the Commmon.wealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission will no longer have a role in fixing national minimum wages and that it will be done by the Prime Minister and a Cabinet subject to the suzerainty of the Caucus and of the trade union movement? That is what it means. The words used by the Prime Minister in his speech were:
We are of course aware that there are differences of opinion whether this power over incomes, in addition to the power over prices, is really necessary to deal with inflation.
He does not say that he believes that it is necessary. Nowhere in the speech does he say that. He said that he is aware of differences of opinion, but he has not stated the view of the
Government on it, because the truth is that it is lying down on this proposal. It does not want this proposal to pass. It has done a very mangy deal with the Australian Democratic Labor Party and it is terrified of the unions.
This second reading speech presents no argument other than the argument ‘Let us have it’. There is no examination of the way in which it would be used. There is no strong argument for it. Nobody could suggest that there is a strong argument for it, and the reason for that is the deal the Government has done with the DLP. And it is feeling very ashamed of it. There is loud laughter from the other side of the chamber. But who is there on the other side who up until today would have been prepared to embrace the DLP? Today if Government supporters vote for this legislation they embrace the DLP. 1 oppose this referendum proposal because the Government is not tackling inflation with the proposal at all. It is a travesty of an attack on inflation. The Government is taking advantage of a temporary bad situation of accelerating inflation which it created. It created the temporary inflationary situation and it wants to hoodwink the Australian public into giving it permanent powers which it does not need for curing the problem we are confronting today. It is a problem of today. The Government is looking to get power to change the whole social and economic order of Australia tomorrow. That is the whole purpose of its platform policy and rules. If it wants to tackle inflation it should have a full anti-inflationary policy which would proceed on the basis of economic responsibility to control total demand in Australia. To do so it would need to take action to control Government spending and public sector spending. For this it needs no extra powers or referendum at all. This is the first major step to take. It could be taken today by a government which had the will to tackle inflation.
The Government has never at any time accepted that an income-prices policy is a necessary supplement to a major attack on inflation. It has presented these proposals in this way in the hope that the incomes proposal will be rejected and the prices proposal will be accepted. That is the whole purpose of the tactic the Government has adopted. Now, as a travesty, it has put forward 2 separate proposals, one on prices and one on incomes, in a grab for permanent power. Control over prices and incomes should not be a permanent feature of the economic management of a country such as Australia* I have always said that and I say it again today because it is true. It is a permanent feature of a totalitarian government. The granting of the power will be an encouragement to create that situation. Australia is - at least so I thought until a few moments ago - still a parliamentary democracy, but the way in which the Government is handling this Bill shows that it has no commitment to parliamentary democracy. Through the constant use of the gag and the guillotine the Government is pushing legislation through the Parliament in a senseless use of its. numbers, which makes one doubt that the Australian Labor Party has a commitment to the parliamentary system. It has put itself in a disgraceful situation.
Last week the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill was introduced. Now we have before us a purported second issue or companion issue, the Constitution Alteration (Incomes) Bill. The 2 Bills are closely linked, even if separated by different chambers and by the passage of 2 weeks. Why were they not submitted at the one time? We know the answer to that. The Prime Minister could not control his Caucus. He did not even want the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill at the start. The Prime Minister certainly did not know his own mind. He also did not know Caucus’s mind, the Australian Democratic Labor Party’s mind or Mr Hawke’s mind. He was also not to know what a belting he would get from the voters in the Parramatta byelection who were sick and tired of the confusion which has masqueraded as government.
I have proposed a comprehensive attack on inflation. I have proposed a package of measures to fight inflation across the board in cooperation with the States and not by seeking permanent new powers for the Commonwealth. Such permanent powers are not necessary to meet what should be temporary problems of inflation - and would be only temporary if the Government had had the courage to tackle them. So we must ask ourselves whether, by seeking permanent powers, the Labor Government anticipates permanent problems with inflation. Does it not believe that it can tackle them while it continues to pursue its present policies? Many believe the Labor Government wants a permanent high rate of inflation to fill the coffers of the Treasury which would enable it to meet some of the unrealistic election promises which won it power and which now seem meaningless. We have already had the rejection of a promise on defence spending by the
Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard) - a very substantial cut. We have also had the screwing of the knife in the back of the Prime Minister by the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) over the 35-hour working week promise to public servants. The Minister for Labour, while masquerading as a supporter of the Prime Minister, is pushing the knife deeper into the ribs of the Prime Minister.
No one will deny that the problem of inflation is now critical. The increasing cost of living since Labor came to office is staggering. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Mr Crean) have sought, with naively contrived statistics, to foist responsibility onto the previous Government, but they have failed. Let us examine objectively the figures provided by the Commonwealth Statistician. They cannot be denied, although the Government may be tempted to try to do so. Those figures show that the consumer price index movements in 1972 were as follows: For the first quarter, one per cent; for the second quarter, 0.9 per cent; for the third quarter, 1.4 per cent and for the fourth quarter, 1.2 per cent. The total for 1972 was 4.5 per cent.
Let us examine the figures for 1973 and see what has happened since the advent of the Labor Government. The consumer price index for the first quarter was 2.1 per cent and for the second quarter 3.3 per cent - a total of 5.4 per cent. In the first 6 months of 1973 the consumer price index had already moved up higher than it did in the whole of 1972. The cost of living increase during the first 6 months of Labor rule was outrageously high. What is even more alarming is what has been said by the Treasurer - that is, the Treasurer who is away and not the Acting Treasurer (Mr Hayden), who today gave the Prime Minister a bit of a kick in the ribs when he said that it is important for the people to support Government action, whereas the Prime Minister presents no arguments to the people. On the one hand we have the Acting Treasurer saying that arguments must be presented to the public and on the other we have the Prime Minister steadfastly refusing to do so. The Treasurer has said that the figures for the September quarter, which will come out on about 20 October, will be even worse than they were for the June quarter. The pessimistic judgment of the Treasurer no doubt will be right because the monthly food index rose by 2.8 per cent in July, in one month.
What has the Government done to reduce or even contain the alarming increases which are eroding the incomes, threatening the well-being and depressing the spirit of Australian people? It has equivocated, it has vacillated and it has taken piecemeal measures - sometimes of a grandiose nature to distract attention from their ineffectiveness as anti-inflationary measures. We have now had the extraordinary situation of a prices referendum being proposed one week and a separate incomes measure being proposed the next week. This is supposed to represent a concerted and coherent attack on inflation. It is wobbly political expediency.
The Prime Minister has argued for prices justification - justification, not control. He has always claimed constitutional power for such justification. On 30 August he said:
It is important to remember that our approach is one of price justification, not price control. The emphasis in our anti-inflationary program is on voluntary co-operation.
He said that on 30 August, but he did po’ repeat it last week and he did not repeat it today. The Acting Treasurer is out of line. He is still listening to the old record - and that is what he was trying to say today. The Opposition, while arguing that the proposed prices justification tribunal would not work, did not oppose the Bill to establish such a tribunal. The Opposition stands vindicated in its opinion because the Prime Minister has, by his action today, admitted that it is a failure. In fact, it is steadily becoming a prices exemption tribunal. It is a shoddy example of increased spending of Government money, and for what purpose - to be abandoned now.
The Treasurer might as well be in Timbuktoo instead of Nairobi for all the contribution he has made. The only contribution he has made was not to be here yesterday while caucus was discussing this proposal because he opposes it. As is well known, he he has not even been given an opportunity to vote on it. At last the components of the unholy trinity are away at the same time - the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry (Dr J. F. Cairns), who is the Minister for everything, the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson), who is the Minister for nothing, and the Treasurer, who is a Minister in search of a portfolio. The Acting Treasurer is making it quite clear that that poor chap is going to have an awfully hard battle when he gets back. The only contribution the Treasurer has made to controlling inflation has been to say in his Budget Speech that he could do nothing about it and, then to make the staggering statement that inflation did not start on 2 December. What he has done for inflation has distressed every Australian family.
Then there is the Joint Committee on Prices, which is a committee of both Houses of the Parliament. It was to be in the forefront of the Government’s attack on rising prices. What have we had from it? A hopelessly inadequate majority report. The luckless Chairman of the Committee, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), has conceded that the majority recommendations of the Committee in the report presented last week are out of date. What has he had to say? He said that if a crisis arises in the future, at least we will have done the work. So much for this prong in the Government’s attack on inflation - a prong so blunt it could not prick an ‘It’s Time’ balloon. The Prime Minister is on record as saying that he did not want a prices referendum, that it was forced on him. Now he says that we will have the incomes referendum because the DLP wants it. The caucus, that economic committee of 93, had other ideas and the Constitution Alteration (Incomes) Bill was introduced.
The Prime Minister’s speech, as we heard, was a very desultory effort. He saw the problem with the Senate, but he was also prepared to deal with the DLP. Who is churching the old whore now? Can honourable members imagine the enticing scene of the Prime Minister and Senator McManus kissing and making up?
– I rise on a point of order. Is it in order for the Leader of the Opposition to attack the ally of the Country Party in this way.
-Order! No point of order is involved.
– The immorality and the deception into which the Prime Minister has fallen are reprehensible on any principle of judgment. Caucus intervened and the irrepressible Mr Hawke was muttering, ‘No control over incomes’. The Prime Minister gave one version of the unions’ attitude. In the House he said:
I did have a conversation with the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, a member of the Reserve Bank board, last Wednesday night, and in the course of a conversation on many matters he told me that if the Government were able to moderate the rise in prices through the application of such constitutional power as it obtains the trade union movement would fully co-operate in restraining wages and incomes.
Mr Hawke has said that that is false. Mr Hawke said that he had no more capacity to deliver the Interstate Executive of the ACTU than did the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has never had the decency to say in this chamber that what he said on 17 September is wrong, or alternatively, to come in here and say that what Mr Hawke said the day after is wrong. Both of them cannot be right. They are the Prime Minister of the country and the President of the Australian Labor Party, from which the Government is drawn.
– They could both be wrong.
– They could both be wrong, as I am reminded by the right honourable member for Higgins. No doubt both are wrong. Would it not be refreshing to have apologies from each of them? The muttering Mr Hawke promptly contradicted the Prime Minister and said that it was a promise of moderation which he could never give. Confusion was compounded. Now we have the next episode of the saga. Late last night notice was given of the intention to introduce today the Constitution Alteration (Incomes) Bill. Confusion is accelerating because, instead of 2 days for the debate to be resolved, we now have 2 hours.
The Caucus has somersaulted. Everybody wants to embrace the DLP proposal. Those fellows who fought like crazy against the DLP in the early 1950s are now embracing it. Caucus has taken the lead and it is not to be denied. The Bill is introduced into the House by the second most important man in government, the Prime Minister. One might well ask: ‘Who is the most important man in government?’ Why, it is Bill Brown, the Chairman of Caucus. The second most important man is directed by Caucus to bring this matter before Parliament. There must have been a fascinating exchange of letters between the DLP and the Labor Party. The Prime Minister asserts that his Party is a party of principle. That is a lot of baloney; it is just not true. Parliament is afforded the spectacle of the second most important man in government introducing this Bill. The bureaucracy labours over the papers for these referendum proposals. Typical back room Labor Party deals are made totally ignoring professional advice, which will cost the taxpayer a packet of money, so that this Bill can be introduced before the House.
The Prime Minister has had a conference with the DLP on this matter - another first for the second most important man in government. He capitulated and the Labor Government capitulated. The Labor Party has come home to the DLP. All is forgiven. The events of 1954 did not happen. They are kissing and making up. Some may say it is an exercise in black comedy. I think it is more properly described a? an exercise in Brown comedy. At first it seems strange that we have no more than the assertion in the 2 pieces of legislation that the Labor Administration wants a permanent shift of power to control incomes and prices. But thinking of the history of these measures - as we have examined it - it is not surprising. Mr Oakes, a journalist with the Melbourne ‘Sun’, has made himself somewhat of an authority on this curious man, the Prime Minister. He, like Samuel finding God, decided on a prices referendum when he was at home in bed. We have seen that the incomes question was decided by barter with the DLP. We have had this Government deciding the value of our currency by a telephone call between 2 economic illiterates, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. A dramatic new interest rate policy was determined by the same 2 economic illiterates, greatly added to in illiteracy by the Deputy Prime Minister. Airport sites are plucked out of the hat without any consideration of the ramifications. It is like saying: ‘Pick a figure, any one you like, anywhere between $600m and S 1,000m’. These decisions are announced by the Prime Minister but they are denied by others. Whether the airport site decision is definite remains to be seen.
Major national decisions have been taken in and ad hoc, cavalier and amateur fashion. It is no wonder that there is such confusion; no wonder the Government’s skilled expert advisers are frustrated; no wonder that in a few short months Labor under Whitlam is on the run. Does the Government - the Caucus which has the power, and the puppet Cabinet - know what it wants to do with these powers? Surely a responsible government would consider these things - the use of the powers and the consequences. In November 1971 I addressed the Committee for Economic Development of Australia on incomes and prices policies. I identified the 3 points that need consideration and decision when determining an incomes-prices policy. Firstly, what is the power over incomes to cover? There is nothing in the second reading speech to indicate that.
Is it to cover wages and salaries alone? Is it to cover the self-employed, the professional, the truck driver, the taxi driver, the estate agent and all sorts of agents? How will it affect the incomes of farmers and shopkeepers? Will it extend to interest payments on investments and dividends? Can it cover in some way capital gains, interest on past savings or superannuation? At what point should it be imposed?’ Does it freeze current relativities?
Is the present relativity between a machinist second class and a fitter forever frozen? What of the clerks in the Postmaster-General’s Department? What machinery will be employed to handle wage adjustments? Is there still to be a role for the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission or even for collective bargaining under incomes control? If so, how and why? Is the distribution of incomes between capital and labour to remain fixed? What happens if the relative growth rates of labour and capital inputs diverge or the relative importance of a risky and therefore high profit/ high loss investment varies over a time? Will incomes be fixed at an hourly rate? If so, does that mean that with the reduction in weekly working hours there will be a reduction in the weekly wage? We have not been told those particulars.
The second point is: How long will the Government impose the power? We know that the Government says it wants the power because it gives it total domination over every aspect of economic life. We know that Labor wants those powers for the central government forever. Has the Government thought how long it would use these powers to impose income control? Does it plan to use them in the long term? Government supporters ought to know. They ought to tell us now when they are before the Parliament asking for the powers. Australians are scared of the socialist authoritarianism and arrogance in power. They suspected this before the election and it has been confirmed since. To give the Labor Government these powers on a permanent basis is to give it all the powers that it needs by a Caucus whim to destroy our free enterprise system. If this is to happen, we want it to be voted on openly with the Labor Party saying what it is that it wants and why. We do not want this given to it as a power secretly and deceptively achieved.
The third point which must be made is that of enforcement. The Government in determining its policy on prices and incomes should have formulated and should now announce its approach to enforcement. What do controls mean? If the Labor Government is asking for guidelines or voluntary constraints, there is no need for the powers that it asks for. It has not attempted to urge reason on trade unions to restrict their incomes growth. Everything that it has done so far has been to stimulate labour costs, not restrain them. It is apparent that the Labor Government wants full direct control by law and this must entail penalties for infringement.
Last week, I asked the Prime Minister whether an incomes policy would be enforced with the same sanctions as the prices policy? He gave me many words, but he gave me no reply to that simple question. Today, the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) asked the same question. The Prime Minister’s answer was an extraordinary T expect to have an incomes policy’. I then asked him what sanctions would apply. He refused to say that he would impose the same sanctions in relation to incomes paid or demanded above the maximum as he would impose in relation to prices. One can only assume that if he is genuine there will be fines and eventually gaol for those who breach the relevant laws. Those in that category will include trade unionists as well as employers or those charging prices beyond a fixed level. How well thought through is the question of sanctions? Has the Government made decisions about them? If the answer is yes, the Parliament should know. If the answer is no, the Government should confess openly and not merely by implication even though the confession was given today.
In the developing serious problem of inflation, I have consistently advocated a positive full policy to deal with the incomes and price rises that we are experiencing. The proposals that I have put forward are these: The principal attack upon inflation is through proper demand management. This represents the major requirement of economic management. Failure to do this correctly produces excessive wage demands which push up prices and this in turn produces excessive wage claims. There should be curbs on public expenditure achieved by appropriate fiscal and monetary measures. For these measures there is no shortage of power at all. They can be taken by Government decision supported by legislation of this Parliament. Such action by the Commonwealth supported by similar actions of the States would make a major attack on the problem.
I am satisfied that it could be supplemented by a short freeze on incomes and prices. I advocate this as a circuit breaker on inflationary expectation. I have emphasised that this cannot be a permanent feature of economic management in a country such as Australia. I have stated the coverage, the time that it is temporary and the limits of its use.
I have repeatedly called on the Government to call a meeting with the States to achieve a co-operative approach to this major national problem. I have repeatedly called on the Government to state its policy. In any country, there is full sovereignty. In a federation, it is distributed between central and State governments. But it is complete sovereignty. There is no shortage of power collectively. On 18 July, I had the agreement of all Liberal Party Premiers and leaders to co-operate with the Government. This was willingly offered because these Premiers and leaders realise the evil of inflation for social and economic development, that it unfairly distributes-
-Order! The right honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I move:
– I second that. We will give him a chance to speak specifically for a change, including the details-
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– 1 repeat: This was willingly offered because these Premiers and leaders realise the evil of inflation for social and economic development, that it unfairly distributes incomes, capriciously and cruelly to many, and advantageously to the rich, something that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer took a great deal longer to see and still do not fully understand. When the Prime Minister attempted to denigrate this proposition he said that it was essential for the New South Wales and Victorian Governments to refer these powers. Both Sir Robert Askin and Mr Hamer have repeated their willingness to do all things necessary on a temporary basis. They are unwilling to surrender the power permanently I think that they are right in that view.
This bout of inflation is a serious problem for the present. These referenda have nothing to do with controlling inflation. If they had. the Government would be able to say how ii would use the powers and would not be fiddling, fidgeting and ducking when asked. The Labor Party is concerned with concentrating power in the Federal Government to do what and how it likes. It is time that Ministers realised what this situation really demands, lt demands an attack on inflation, not an attack on the States. A real attack by collective power would be effected in a matter of weeks. The referenda with their extremely doubtful chance of success will take months. What will the rate of inflation be then? It could be 15 per cent or 20 per cent - the rate is anybody’s guess.
My proposals call for a 90-day freeze. The referendum calls for more concentration of power in the Commonwealth Government. 1 have called for co-operation to provide a circuit breaker during which time guidelines on prices and incomes would be worked out to achieve public support. This referendum would provide power to impose unforeseen Government rules and regulations on people without their consent, for once given in a referendum this power could be used as the Government wishes. To say that we could debate such a matter in this House when we have seen examples of the way in which the Government guillotines and gags these measures through the House is to make nonsense of that statement.
The task of economic rationality in any country is made easier by the existence of a forum for examination of issues, not political horse trading. We must nationally be able to review the progress of our attack on inflation and our success in curbing rising prices and incomes, the way in which economic development should proceed and how effectively our resources are being used, and be able to appraise the results. This would give a sense of continuity. Yet, the Prime Minister refuses to give any support to this idea at all. He obstinately refuses to call the Premiers together, even the Premiers from Sydney and Melbourne.
The Government has no full policy and he would have to admit it. By its actions, it has been left with the use of monetary measures only, and these have been handled with characteristic ineptitude. The Government is now dealing with this urgent problem of inflation by raising interest rates. Nobody yet knows the interest rates for mortgages, present and future, as well as those for hire purchase agreements, cars, refrigerators, television sets and washing machines. They will go up. They will add to costs. But we do not yet know by how much.
How can the Government handle a complicated subject like incomes and prices without help when it cannot make a decision on interest rates in a fortnight? With power on prices and incomes the Government will be able to say: Interest rates are up, but you are not allowed to charge those increased rates’. If that is not the way to bring to its knees the private sector and if that is not action that will be harmful to all those people in receipt of social service benefits, there is a misunderstanding among people of the results of such action.
I have said before, and I say again: The Federal Government must first establish its policy to attack inflation, just as firmly as it has established its policy to attack the States. It must take the first steps itself. Then, it must co-operate with the States as a second stage. The States are willing. Why is the Prime Minister such a reluctant dragon? Certainly the New South Wales and Victorian Governments have shown their willingness. I adhere to the proposals that I have put forward unqualifiedly. There is no need for a permanent power to deal with a temporary situation, however grave. The Government is reckless about the major consideration, that of raging inflation. It has a mania to acquire more power for itself. This Bill and the referendum should be rejected.
– The speech to which we have just listened from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) must surely be one of the most remarkable speeches ever given in this Parliament. He said nothing, and needed w extension to time to say K. It was a speech which was abusive, illogical and irrelevant. Obviously one of two reasons prompted that speech. Either he could not think of anything to say against the proposition or. alternatively, he has not yet received his instructions from the outside forces which run the Liberal Party on what attitude he is to adopt. When he stands in this Parliament and says to this Government that it is a mangy deal because the senators who represent the Democratic Labor Party have agreed to support this proposition, one can only gather that he is speaking from past experience. His is the attitude of the jealous lover who has been rejected or rebuked. To attack a man like the Treasurer (Mr Crean) as an economic illiterate shows the depth of the ignorance of the Leader of the Opposition. The Treasurer is the most highly qualified and best experienced man on economics on either side of this Parliament.
It ill behoves the man who is now the Leader of the Opposition, who spent a time as Treasurer of this country, to criticise one who has achieved as much as has the present Treasurer.
The difference between the speech of the Leader of the Opposition and that made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is truly remarkable. It is unfortunate that these proceedings were not broadcast this afternoon so that those who would have listened would have been able to make a comparison for themselves. The Prime Minister has shown in this whole area statesmanship and leadership in his anxiety to fight inflation. He has not been the one who has tramped around the country complaining that the Government would not bring in a prices-incomes policy, whatever is intended by that phrase. He is not the one who has been complaining about the price of meat pies. As soon as the by-election was over the Leader of the Opposition came before this Parliament and said: ‘It is only a temporary problem. What is all the fuss about?’ For sheer humbug and hypocritical argument that must take the prize. The Prime Minister’s method has been to attack the causes with measures which are fair and equitable to all sections of the community.
– That statement is a joke.
– I remind the honourable gentleman who just interjected that this is not the time for slogan chanting. The Opposition is attempting to go on an economic excursion and to put the load onto the backs of the wage and salary earners. That is what a prices-wages freeze means. There is an atmosphere of economic hallucination in the Opposition’s attitude toward? inflation in this country. The Opposition’s attitude is deceptive and spurious. This oratorical shenanigan will not befool the Australian people. The Opposition has been advocating a price and wage freeze for at least the past several months. It has ignored the fact that similar policies have failed elsewhere in the world. It has also ignored the fact that there is no power to implement such a policy. As soon as the Opposition’s bluff is called, as soon as we say to the people of Australia ‘Give this Parliament the power to act’, the Opposition wants to bow out and wants to go the opposite way. This surely must be the philosophy of humbug.
The majority of workers in this country, as I said last week, have their wages regulated by a tribunal. If their wages are not regulated by independent tribunals they are regulated by their employer individually, but in 99 per cent of cases they are determined by the dictates of an employer organisation which issues a direction to the individual company. Now what is this nonsense about there being no control over wages at the present time? Some wages and some salaries are not controlled, but they are those which are received by the tall poppies in our community. The wages of all government employees, whether they be federal, State or municipal, are fixed by arbitral tribunals and the award rate is the actual wage rate. All those people who work for statutory bodies, State and federal corporations, are in the same position. All employees who are employed outside the metropolitan area are to be found close to award wages. Who says that the wages of such people are not fixed, controlled or regulated now? There are also those thousands and thousands of unorganised workers - almost 50 per cent - who are not members of unions or industrial organisations although covered by awards.
The trade union movement, the employees of Australia and the wage and salary earners have nothing to fear from any action that this Government will take. They will embrace this proposal. They will vote for it because they realise that the incomes which are not subject to regulation today are the non-wage and non-salary incomes. The wage and salary incomes are already controlled. It will be of no use the Opposition trying to scare and hoodwink the wage and salary earners in Australia. In the 1959 report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, paragraph 765 quotes a statement by Sir John Latham, a former Chief Justice of the High Court. It states:
There is reluctance in many quarters to approve any increase of federal power over industrial matters. Many are afraid of a parliament where a political party could in effect buy votes by raising wages. But there are many parliaments which have this power. There is the risk that a popularity-hunting parliament might do great damage in the industrial sphere - but any parliament may do great damage in many spheres by actions which it would be possible for it to take. If the Parliament went too far in raising wages - or in reducing wages - it could subsequently correct what it thought was an error, and in any event it would have full responsibility to the people for what it did or failed to do. The prospect of an election is a great steadying influence. Parliament would soon learn that it could not itself possibly deal with all aspects of employment, and it would establish authorities which would be given such independence in tenure as Parliament thought proper.
He went on to advocate why the parliaments in the several States of Australia should have this power. The parliaments in the several States of Australia have this power now.
– And you cannot trust some of them.
– I agree that you cannot trust some of them. I would not want to trust some of them either, but the question is, how do they use it? Have they been prepared or courageous enough to abuse that power? The answer is no, they have not - at least not for more than 40 years when the lesson was learnt the last time an attempt was made. I ask this House to look at what has been done by way of legislation in terms of wages and salaries in the State parliaments. I select New South Wales as a case in point. The New South Wales Parliament has legislated to maintain the basic wage and the margins concept in lieu of the total wage concept adopted by the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission. Following the 1950 basic wage decision there was an anomaly in New South Wales whereby female employees missed out on receiving a £1 addition because of the increase from 54 per cent to 75 per cent in the female basic wage. The New South Wales Parliament passed legislation eventually to give that £1 back to the thousands of female wage and salary earners in that State. In 1953, and subsequently, cost of living adjustments to the basic wage were maintained in New South Wales by legislative action. Five years later we saw the introduction by legislation of equal pay provisions.
Such things as the minimum wage represent a social and political decision which the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission is required to make each year. But, of course, the other incomes area is what concerns members of the Opposition. They are concerned about their wealthy friends who for years have been milking the economy dry. I refer to the people who have been getting a bonanza out of inflation, the people who have been taking all the cream off the top of the milk and leaving the skim milk for the wage and salary earner to drink and digest as best he can. The Opposition wants to protect the investor, the man who is not subject to control or regulation in terms of the rent he charges for ramshackle old places at Bondi for which he is getting $40 to $50 a week or, in the case of 2 old age pensioners on $40 a week, $26 for a couple of rooms. I refer also to dividends being completely uncontrolled and unregulated. The investor does not have to justify what dividend he receives. He is able to get whatever he can get from the Board of directors of a company. Another field is professional charges. The Opposition would leave free the doctors, lawyers, dentists and service charges. What members of the Opposition have put to this Parliament is their desire to keep the control of wages that they now have and to let the tall poppies help themselves to the cream and take advantage of the bonanza. I recall the wages freeze in the early 1950s which was introduced in this country with the encouragement of the then Liberal-Country Party coalition. I also recall at that time the philosophy of Chief Judge Kelly who believed that wages should be kept down and that any increase in wages was inflationary.
I recall decisions by the late Commissioner Findlay of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission who was an outstanding Commissioner but a man who was accused by learned judges of practising and preaching arbitral heresy because he dared to say that when prices went up the workers were entitled to get an increase in their wages. Those were the days when there was a wages freeze by the back door. We saw it happen and we know it can happen and we want to see that if there is going to be any regulation of incomes it should be the responsibility of Parliament to make that decision and that those who make it should be subject to public control and should have to account for their actions in the political polling place in due course.
What is this nonsense we hear about a wages freeze and a prices freeze? One would think that the Leader of the Opposition was a salesman for Westinghouse. In fact, in certain places of employment he has the nickname of Freezer Bill and I think that is a fair tag to put on him because all he can say is: Freeze it’. All that means is that the inequity and the injustice between the current level of wages and the present level of prices exploitation would be maintained. The wage and salary earner would have no chance to catch up. I will not use all the time that is available to me because I know that other honourable members wish to speak in this debate. However, I ask honourable members to vote for this Bill. I believe that the workers of Australia will vote overwhelmingly for this proposition. I congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) for his statesmanship and leadership on this total issue and in bringing this proposition before the Parliament. He will have the overwhelming support of the Australian people for both of these proposals.
– It is a reflection on the manner in which the Government has treated this debate that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) should be followed not by one of the senior front bench members on the Government side but only by the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan). One wonders where all the Australian Labor Party’s tall poppies and the fat cats are while this issue is being debated. The honourable member for Phillip would have made a very good mob orator in the 1930s, in the depression days.
– And in the 1890s.
– My colleague, the honourable member for North Sydney, takes me back further to the period of the 1890s. However, all that the honourable member for Phillip said in this debate was totally irrelevant to Australia’s inflationary experience and to the remedies which should be applied, not in 6 months time come a referendum - and I do not predict that; I suggest that the referendum will be defeated - but now.
This Bill represents a further example of the ad hoc nature of this Government’s economic decision making. It has been presented to the Parliament without any indication of the manner in which income powers would be used. It indicates the Government’s intention to use income controls as a long term redistributive instrument rather than as a short term anti-inflationary instrument. It seeks long term powers when they are not required. It ignores the immediate danger of the inflationary problem and those measures which ought to be taken now if that problem is to be redressed. It neglects the pressing need for consultation with the States concerning an urgent referral of constitutional powers. It again highlights this Government’s lack of interest in consultation; it is interested only in confrontation. The Bill has been introduced with the endorsement of Caucus but not that of the Treasurer (Mr Crean) whose absence has prevented his strong opposition to income controls being considered. It is perhaps not irrelevant that the pretender to the title of Federal Treasurer, the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), should be following me in this debate because, undoubtedly he will pursue a line which he knows is totally contrary to that which his more senior colleague the Treasurer holds.
This Bill seeks an extension of central economic powers in circumstances in which the Government deliberately has avoided the use of significant powers which are available for immediate application. It represents a request for additional economic powers by a government which has already shown its willingness to abrogate public trust and confidence for sectional and ideological considerations. The Prime Minister has brought before this Parliament a Bill which was conceived in haste, introduced in haste and is now being debated in similar haste. This Bill represents a further stage in the cycle of Government decision making on matters of major economic consequence which now revolves on a 24-hour basis.
The Government is asking the Parliament to authorise a referendum to give it power to control incomes. But in so doing, it has not been prepared to describe the manner in which these powers, if granted, will be used. As the Opposition has made clear on previous occasions, it is neither responsible nor honest to seek this type of power without outlining the reasons for requesting the power or the manner in which the power is to be implemented. The Government clearly is introducing this Bill to give some form of legitimacy to its price control proposals. It is clear that the major quid pro quo for the Caucus acceptance this week of the proposal it rejected last week is an assurance that powers over incomes will not be used until measures have been taken to control prices - and then only in a token form. I challenge the Minister for Social Security, who is to follow me in this debate, to make clear to this House in a precise form which allows of no misrepresentation whether this Government is prepared to guarantee that the incomes power will be used along with the power to control prices.
The attitude of the Australian Council of Trade Unions is abundantly clear. I believe that the Prime Minister sought to mislead the Australian public by saying that the trade union movement would co-operate fully in the restraint of wages and incomes if the Government were able to moderate price increases through the application of additional constitutional powers. On 17 September, the Prime Minister, having been questioned further about that assurance, admitted that his discussions with the President of the ACTU on the question of wage controls had in reality been a mere ‘passing reference’. The fact that no assurance had been or, in fact, would be obtained by the Government was clearly outlined by Mr Hawke in a series of public statements which were a complete denial of the Prime Minister’s former position.
If the Government is to request a referendum to control incomes it should also, as a minimum condition, give an undertaking that any such powers it receives will be implemented. But the Prime Minister consistently has refused to make his position clear on this question and to give that undertaking. On 18 September, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) put the following question to the Prime Minister:
Will the Prime Minister give an unqualified and unchangeable guarantee that he would have an incomes policy as a companion to any prices policy and that the incomes policy would be enforced with the same sanctions as the prices policy and would cover as broad a range of incomes as the prices policy would cover a range of commodities and services? Will he give an unqualified undertaking that there would be an acceptance by the Commonwealth of any powers for a strictly limited period agreed with the Premiers?
A thorough examination of the Prime Minister’s answer to that question shows that he totally avoided answering the first part of the question on incomes policies.
– He always does.
– He always does, and his consistent avoidance of this proposition can lead only to the conclusion that the Commonwealth has no intention of instituting a complementary incomes policy together with the price control mechanisms which it clearly desires to introduce.
Like the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill, we believe this Bill to be unnecessary. What is required is that the Prime Minister should call the States into urgent consultation for immediate action in the context of a temporary reference of powers. But of course, the Government is not prepared to do that because it believes in a policy of confrontation and not co-operation. In spite of this the Prime Minister has chosen to press on with proposals for constitutional change. In view of his refusal to examine seriously the question of limited powers, the conclusion can be drawn that powers on prices and incomes are considered necessary for the political and ideological objectives of his Government and not, in fact as additional instruments to curb inflation. The real objectives have been outlined by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions in a number of public statements. An article in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 18 September stated:
But Mr Hawke went on to put, as a major consideration in any union decision to opt for such restraint- that is, wage restraint - the condition that the Federal Government had to come up with a plan to ‘actively redistribute’ income within the community.
Thus the quid pro quo for Caucus and union endorsement of this Bill and the referendum which it entails is clearly that income control instruments are to be used in a redistributive manner rather than in an anti-inflationary fashion. The Opposition firmly opposes any such use of an incomes policy. Fiscal instruments together with the social security system provide ample scope for the Government to achieve greater equity in distribution of income and wealth. To engage on an incomes policy for other than -
– Increased tax and unemployment benefits?
– The honourable gentleman really would not know. If he pretends to the job of Federal Treasurer let him first ensure that he is adequately briefed. To engage on an incomes policy for other than anti-inflationary reasons has been proven to be an inefficient and wholly undesirable method of achieving social objectives. Once again the Prime Minister has introduced a proposal,in the context of anti-inflationary action, which appears to be and which in fact is an isolated and unrelated response to Australia’s major economic problem. The Opposition parties have consistently advanced the need for a multi-policy approach to curbing inflation. The Government for its part has consistently refusedtoputbeforethisParliamentandthe people of Australia a comprehensive antiinflation policy. Therefore, the question can legitimately be asked: Why should the Australian electorate cede additional powers to the Commonwealth Government if it refuses to utilise the considerable powers which it already possesses? As the Minister for Social Security, who I understand has studied economics knows all that this Government has been prepared to put down is an isolated ad hoc, fragmented and piecemeal approach to the problem of inflation in this country.
– There is no power over prices, and you know it.
– The honourable gentleman who is interjecting ought to have more concern for the people in our community who are disadvantaged, because he is a party to the shabby manner in which the position of these groups has been further eroded because of his failure to stand up and be counted. The honourable member for Wilmot is such a powerful man in this Parliament that I could not even remember what seat he represents. But let him stand up and be counted. Let him tell the pensioners, the superannuitants and those on fixed incomes in his electorate why he has not been prepared to make a contribution to an effective inflationary policy. As the honourable gentleman might know, the Economic Policy Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said this in a report in June 1971:
Those countries which have consciously adopted a multi-policy approach have stressed that while primary reliance has continued to be placed on demand management policies, supporting action of various selective or sectoral kinds can increase the response of prices to the pressure of demand management policies, and can serve to reduce the painful social side effects of such policies and thereby make it less difficult politically to sustain them. In addition to such direct benefits of co-ordinated multi-policy action some countries have drawn attention to the beneficial psychological impression made on public opinion that no opportunities are being neglected in the search for remedies for inflation, and that the Government’s policies are not unfairly hitting one or other group in the economy.
As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, from your knowledge of the Corio electorate, this Government’s policies are hitting at one group or another in the Australian community.
It is one thing for the honourable member for Phillip to talk glibly and loosely in this House about fat cats. He knows that the fat cats in the Australian community are being advantaged by policies of this Government which are producing, providing and fuelling our inflationary problem. It is the lean cats who are disadvantaged and who are suffering. The Minister for Social Security who, I hope, has a real sense of concern for equity in the Australian community, might tell in this debate, for the first time in the presentation of what the Government has been saying about inflation - what the facts are, we must be prepared to come clean with the facts. The Prime Minister, as recently as yesterday, asserted the proposition that the bulk of Australia’s present inflation is caused by overseas influences. If the Minister for Social Security wants to make a real point about his capacity for economic understanding let him talk to this House about inflation as an imported phenomenon. The clear inference of this proposition is that there is little the Government can do to restrain the level of inflation because the determinants are beyond its control. It is true that international economic circumstances do have an impact on the level of domestic inflation. It is also true that the impact has intensified over recent years. But it is an absolute falsehood to assert that the major part of our present inflation can be so attributed. The last economic White Paper I recall-
– It is an absolute truth.
– The honourable member is a poseur.
– That is nasty.
– If the honourable gentleman looks back at the Treasury estimates of this matter he will find that they put down the question of imported inflation, as I recall it, at 12 per cent. That is far from the totality of the problem. The kind of argument made by the Prime Minister is an attempt by him to abrogate the Government’s responsibilities and to excuse the Government’s lack of effective action. The Treasury White Paper published in 1972 referred to the impact of international influences in these terms:
To sum up these international influences, those that operate via a strengthening of demand, as further discussed below, may have played a limited role in the origins of the current inflationary trend, but can hardly have had much relevance to its recent persistence. Similarly the direct effects of impart prices appear to have been modest although they may have been somewhat more important if more indirect relationships are considered. There is little evidence of the export-growth industries having contributed much to the inflationary trend by way, of pace setting in general wage determination. Thus while some of the momentum behind the recently intensified inflationary trend does seem to have originated overseas, much the greater part of it is left to be explained in terms of domestic influences.
I believe that that puts categorically to one side the Prime Minister’s loose assertion that one can over-stress the question of imported inflation as some explanation for the spiral which we are now seeing in this country.
The battle against inflation must take place primarily on the domestic front if the current trend is to be arrested. This Bill merely foreshadows a further attempt by the Prime Minister to procrastinate. Australia’s inflationary difficulties are rapidly reaching crisis pro portions. Even if the referendum received public endorsement - and that, of course, I neither accept nor predict - the additional powers would not be able to be implemented in any rational form until 1974. The Opposition’s proposal is that of a total incomes-prices freeze in the context of consultations with the States wherein this matter can be examined fully. The Government’s refusal to accept the concept as outlined by the Leader of the Opposition clearly means that it regards incomes-prices policies as long term instruments for economic management. The Opposition is firmly opposed to the use of an incomes policy in this way as a permanent feature of Australian economic management. A long term application of such policies would have serious effects on the economy as artificial barriers are set up to hold back the interaction of market forces. The misallocation of resources, the inefficiencies and the artificial distortions resulting from the long term application of incomes-prices policies are a matter of record. The Minister will recall many statements by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which bear on this.
The real danger is that the Labor Government, with its belief in a socialised economy, would seriously misuse prices and incomes powers as part of a general program to abolish Australia’s free market economy. This is a danger which does not exist when incomes and prices powers are ceded to the Government with appropriate conditions as to their length and manner of application. Put simply and frankly, the Opposition parties do not believe that this Government can be entrusted with powers over incomes and prices when it is not prepared to have conditions attached to these powers. This is a Government which has not only shown its extreme ineptitude in managing the economy but also has shown a preparedness to cast aside public undertakings to suit its own immediate objectives. Far from examining the price implication of its policies, the Labor administration has negligently disregarded the economic consequences of numerous decisions. It has persisted with its pursuit of the pacesetter principle in the Australian Public Service. It has persisted with its endorsement of fiat wage increases. It has refused to review the immigration program in spite of the continued tightening of the labor market. It has rejected the principle of a 3 per cent growth limit for the Australian Public Service. It has given an unprecedented impetus to wage and salary demands in the private sector at a time when there is a clear need for restraint.
Our policy is a matter of record, and it is clear from the massive rejection of this Government’s economic policies by the voters in Parramatta that now is the time for a total reconsideration by the Government. But it is equally clear that this Government is not prepared to review its policies. It is clear also that what has been done by the Government represents no policy for Australia, and we reject the proposition which has been moved by the Government.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Two major issues have to be discussed in connection with this Bill. The first is why the Government has now thought it necessary to introduce legislation for a referendum on the question of whether the national Parliament should have power to legislate, and override the States, on incomes. We had already proposed a referendum on prices. Why now are we conjoining a referendum on incomes? The second issue involves the reasons for the request to the electorate for powers to be vested in the Australian Parliament to legislate on both prices and incomes.
Strictly speaking, from the economist’s point of view, the words ‘price’ and ‘income’ mean very much the same; incomes are only a special category of price. The wage paid to an unskilled labourer, the fee paid to a lawyer for advice or representation, the cost of a pound of butter, the salary of a professor of economics, the interest paid on a loan all represent the price of a good or a service; in the first case the price of the services, the work of the labourer; in the second that of the servicesofthelawyer;inthethirdthatofthe specified quantity of butter; in the fourth, that of the teaching, research and administrative services of the professor; in the fifth, the price charged for the use of money, that is, purchasing power. The differences lie only in whether the goods or services are sold by the piece, as in the cases of the lawyers and dairy farmers, or by unit of time, as in the case of labourers, professors and money.
Allow me to quote from one of the most distinguished British economists of this century, the late Sir Dennis Robertson, for many years
Professor of Political Economy at Cambridge University. In his ‘Lectures on Economic Principles’ Robertson writes:
The value of one thing in terms of another is the amount of the second thing which will be given or obtained for a unit of the first, e.g. the number of pounds of butter which can be exchanged for a ton of coal. The value of a thing in terms of money is called its price. … A theory of the relative value of different goods is also ipso facto a theory of their relative scales of output, that is, of the way in which the national income is made up and the nation’s productive forces distributed between various uses and occupations. Goods and services go about the place bearing, figuratively at least, a label stating their value, which acts as a signal both to producers and consumers. . . . Not only do finished goods bear their label, but also the services of each one of us and our possessions. The theory of value can be extended to the ‘factors of production’ and includes a ‘theory of distribution’, i.e. of the forces determining the distribution of the national income among the renderers of different kinds of services and the owners of different kinds of resources. The theories of rent, profit, interest and wages are special cases, each with its own peculiar modifications, of the general theory of value. So is the theory of the value of money, with all its implications for the study of the fluctuations and flaggings of general activity and employment.
Now, whatever disagreements there might be about the validity of theories, no economist of any persuasion, whether in the United States or the Soviet Union, Brazil or Australia, disagrees with what Robertson had to say about the wide significance of the word ‘price’. Therefore, it should toe sufficient for the present Government’s purpose, which is to seek the power to implement effective economic policy measures especially with respect to the control of inflation, simply to have the power to act on prices. But with the greatest respect to the distinguished lawyers on both sides of the House, lawyers do not always follow the logic of economists. It might not always be clear to a court, concerned with the strict interpretation of the words used in the Constitution or a particular law, that legal fees as theprice of a lawyer’s services to his client are exactly analogues to the cost of a pound of butter or the yield of a government bond. So it is necessary for us, in order to be able to act on prices, to specify that we also want to act on incomes. That is, we want the power to act directly on the prices of final goods and services, like the price of butter to the consumer, and on the prices of intermediate goods and services, like wages and salaries, the price of land, the return on capital, and so on. That is why we propose to ask for powers on both prices and incomes.
Why then do we feel it necessary that the Australian Parliament should have power to legislate on prices and incomes? Clearly, as the quotation I have used indicates, power over prices is intimately connected wilh the management of the economy. We have in Australia an economy which is subject to many distortions by way of a ramshackle taxation system, an illogical structure of tariffs which, despite the best efforts of many devoted public servants still reflects the past lobbying activities of a diversity of commercial interests, a financial system artificially fragmented toy the economically meaningless distinction between banks in terms of the Banking Act, and other financial institutions which accept deposits and lend money. We have registered with the Restrictive Trade Practices Commissioner at least 12,000 agreements in restraint of trade. We have a series of distributive and retailing arrangements which work simultaneously to the disadvantage of producer and consumer, but benefit, at the expense of both, those organisations which have established a stranglehold over internal trade.
We have weak trade unions and strong trade unions, parts of the labour force highly organised and able to affect their own wages and conditions, and parts, like the frequently sweated female textile workers, disorganised and defenceless. We have huge and powerful corporations, which can for all practical purposes set their own prices, and by a process of hectoring of the Government and deception of the consumers, adapt economic conditions to suit themselves. They do not have to adapt to consumers’ tastes; they prefer to change them. On the other hand, we have a myriad of small businesses which have to take whatever price is set for them by forces which they cannot influence. In such circumstances, to argue that Government power to control prices directly is an unwarranted and unnecessary intrusion into the working of the market is pure nonsense. In this country we have never had free, competitive and efficient market mechanisms. In very few places in the world, and at very few historical dates, has anything like the free, perfect market of the text books existed. Yet we still find many otherwise responsible people arguing that the Government should not interfere in the workings of the market economy, even though, when they are speaking about other subjects, they will admit that we have a market system that works only hesitatingly and imperfectly.
One of the most significant results of modern economic theory has been the conclusion that the best way of moving towards an optimum, towards the most efficient allocation of the resources of the community, is not necessarily, quite probably not, just to remove a particular distortion. It may be more effective to introduce a counter-distortion, with the net effect of moving the economy closer towards the ideal market outcome. Thus in many cases of practical economic policy it is desirable that there should be power vested in the Government, which has the responsibility for national economic management, to interfere with the inefficient and imperfect, the collusive and distorted, workings of the markets of the Australian economy. In such a way we have a better hope of achieving greater economic efficiency and more rapid growth of the kind which is socially desirable. Thus, even if we were not in the grip of the world-wide disease of inflation, spreading from country to country, we would want the powers to act on prices and incomes.
We are, however, like just about every other so-called market economy in the world, suffering from a rate of inflation much higher than that which we would like. Inflation is, on the scale we are experiencing at present, a phenomenon which has adverse social and economic effects. It distributes income away from the lower income groups to the rich, from the weak to the strong. It penalises productive activity and benefits the parasitic speculators. Inflation, too, tends to feed on itself. Unless strong action is taken against it, people begin to build past inflation into their expectations for the future and by doing so, by increasing their expenditures on real assets rather than saving, by looking for anti-inflationary hedges like land, cause the rate of inflation to accelerate. It is, therefore, necessary to look for rapidly acting measures which will tend to change popular expectations as to the future rate of inflation. Such measures could include severe monetary and fiscal restraints, which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) infers is his preference. They could include attempts to drastically reduce the spending power of the community and thus diminish demand pressures. The resulting unemployment, too, is supposed to slow down wage increases and so reduce upwards cost pressures on industry.
Apart from the social costs in terms of unemployment which any rapidly acting measures of this kind would have - social costs which are totally unacceptable to this Government and to the community- there is the clear danger that draconian monetary and fiscal measures will precipitate the economy into recession and stagnation. This is a very real danger, particularly when many international commentators are beginning to talk about a slowing down of the rate of expansion of world trade towards the end of the year. In these circumstances it seems better to look for other solutions to the orthodoxies of the fictitious market place. And it is for this reason that so many countries have begun to experiment with policies to influence directly the levels, and rates of increase, of prices and incomes. We have studied, and continue to study, such policies very carefully. It may be that a comprehensive prices and incomes policy, imposed for a short term, may offer a partial solution to our severe inflationary problem - indeed, only a partial solution. A prices and incomes policy unaccompanied by fiscal and monetary restraint, without any attempt to rectify the defects in the workings of the market to which I have already adverted, would be but a temporary restraint, and, if nothing else were done, our last state could well be worse than our first.
It was with great hope that we received the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) some time ago, when he looked forward to a prices and incomes policy as, in the felicitous term he has provided us with, a kind of ‘circuit-breaker’. But the Leader of the Opposition has all the principle of a weather cock. Far from being prepared to adopt a constructive approach to the making of economic policy, far from being able to move towards a bipartisan approach to our most immediate and pressing economic problem, he showed himself a man of petty stature. As soon as the Government began to make practical moves towards obtaining the power to implement a prices and incomes policy, the gentleman opposite ran for cover. After all, he did not really mean it. He only produced the idea because somebody told him it was a good idea. Imagine his horror when he found that the Government was prepared to talk turkey. However, we on this side of the House were not particularly surprised. The Leader of the Opposition always has been prone, like a certain member of the House of Commons referred to by Lord Chesterfield, to take the shape, like the cushions of the front bench, of the last behind that sat upon them. Nevertheless, we as a Government do not consider that the Opposition’s momentary support for a prices and incomes policy discredits the idea.
We intend to equip ourselves with the powers to effectively and properly manage the Australian economy. Power over prices and incomes is essential to this. How we shall use this power, and in combination with what other instruments of economic policy, is a matter which we shall elaborate for the benefit of honourable members opposite in the coming weeks, as we prepare for the referendums.
– This motion is of such significance that I think it is deplorable that the Labor Party will stop the debate one minute after I have risen to my feet. This motion attacks the very fundamentals of our society. It denies the rights of the small men of this community the opportunity to earn a wage which might be reasonably negotiated according to the provisions of the present Constitution. It denies members of this Parliament the opportunity to debate the issue. It is designed not to contain inflation but to pass to the Labor Party powers of arbitrary direction over the economy of Australia. No longer is there to be in the hands of the Government of this country a rationale which relates to a commonsense approach to the ‘business management of Australia. There is to be no referendum on incomes and prices but one on income.
– We have no right to speak in the Parliament at all.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat when the Speaker is on his feet addressing the chamber.
– We have no right to speak in the Parliament at all.
-Order! I warn the honourable member. The time allotted for the second reading debate has expired.
That the Bill be now read * second time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1. (Short title)
– This first clause relates to the naming of this Bill, the Constitution Alteration (Incomes) Bill. It is a name which seeks to insert into the Constitution a change which will have a very significant bearing on the opportunities for future returns for every Australian. It is a name which of itself indicates that this Government could well move into the field of freezing pensions, of freezing superannuation payments and of freezing the wages of people on minimum wages. There is no indication from the title given that there is any relationship between incomes and prices. There has been an assertion that there is an intention in the management of the economy - to deal with incomes and prices so that there could be a control of those 2 aspects of the economy.
But this title does not relate to incomes and prices; it relates to incomes alone. We are not going to consider, nor are the Australian people going to consider when the question is put to them, an incomes and prices policy; they will consider only an incomes policy. This has the consequence of having no relationship to the other main arm of control of the economy. It has no relationship to inflation. It has no meaning other than giving to the Australian Labor Party in Government power which it is incapable of exercising in a meaningful and commonsense fashion. We can see from the name of this Bill that the Government is not really concerned either with those very significant elements within the trade union movement which are concerned at the implications of an incomes policy-
– Order! The honourable member is talking to the title of the Bill. I think his remarks very much relate to clause 2 of the Bill.
– No, they do not. They relate to the name of the Bill, the Constitution Alteration (Incomes) Bill.
– Order! The only remarks which the honourable member will be entitled to make on the title of the Bill are that the title should not stand.
MrSINCLAIR - I am entitled, Mr Chairman, to say that ‘incomes’ is not appropriate to the naming of the Bill. I am entitled to say that ‘incomes’ is a word which relates only to one specific instead of to all the specifics that should be covered within the Bill.
– That is correct.
– I am saying that it is not appropriate for one to talk of incomes alone. The people of Australia are worried about inflation. They are worried about the implications, of how a Bill with this name will affect them as Australians. I am entitled to talk about the degree to which this Bill is a farce, the debate in this Parliament is a farce, and the degree to which, in terms of the control of the economy, this Government has not exercised the powers which are already available to it. Therefore there is little meaning in extending its powers beyond those that are already there. I am entitled, Mr Chairman, surely to say that the Constitution alteration proposal is completely farcical in the way it is presented to the Parliament for consideration. A Bill which is raised this day under a title of this sort and debated in something less than 2 hours gives no opportunity for members of the Australian Country Party to speak on the second reading and for no adequate exposition of the economic consequences which the name of this Bill should surely deal with.
If one is not allowed to discuss in a meaningful way the implications of a policy and one is forced in Committee to look at a name of this sort, it is quite obvious that the people of Australia equally are going to be treated with contempt when the matter is submitted to them for consideration. There is every reason for the people of Australia to be concerned that a Bill of this character with a name of this sort will be distorted in its presentation and the people of Australia will need to think seriously. There is no inclination by the Australian Labor Party under its present leadership to give the Australian people any time or opportunity to consider other than a brief pattern of how this Government seeks to extend its powers. A constitution alteration, of course, refers to an extension of powers, in this instance into the whole field of incomes. How does the incomes power, for example, in the terminology of the Bill, relate to the power that already exists under placitum (xxxv.) of section 51 of the Constitution in relation to conciliation and arbitration? Are we to see a conflict between the power of incomes and the power of conciliation and arbitration?
What do we mean by the word ‘income’? I took the trouble to have a look at some definitions of ‘income’. After all this definition refers to the Constitution Alteration (Incomes) Bill 1973. Perhaps it might be appropriate if I refer to what the Oxford Dictionary defines as ‘income’. It defines as ‘Periodical (usually annual) receipts from one’s business, lands, works, investments, etc’ Under the Income Tax Assessment Act the definition of income covers income from personal exertion, income derived from personal exertion, income from property and income derived from property. But if we have a look at some of the works that cover the definition of income under the income tax legislation and in particular the Manual of the Law of Income Tax in Australia’ written by Mr K. W. Ryan, we see that there is suspicion that income might in fact cover the whole field of capital receipts in some circumstances. In other words this Bill, as it now stands, not only relates to incomes but also covers capital profits and perhaps probate. It will cover the whole field of receipts of any character whatsoever by a person, be they in respect to personal exertion or in respect to- -
– Order! The time allotted for the debate has expired.
– Again, Mr Chairman, I believe that this is a complete derogation of justice in this place.
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I am being denied an opportunity-
– Order! The honourable member is not going to provoke me into naming him. The honourable member should resume his seat and act like a member of the Australian Parliament.
– The jackboots again.
That clause 1 be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative-
That the report be adopted and that the Sill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the affirmative by an absolute majority.
– For the information of honourable members, I present an interim statement on the activities of the Australian Egg Board for the year ended 30 lune 1973. When the final report is available it will be presented in accordance with statutory requirements.
– ‘For the information of honourable members, I present the interim annual report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board for the year ended 30 June 1973. When the final report is available, I shall table it in accordance with statutory requirements.
– Yesterday, the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb) asked me a question about interpreter services. I indicated that a great amount of detail would be involved in a full answer and, in the interests of brevity, I did constrict my reply. I ask for leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard the detail of the answer to that question.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
The Government has recognised the paucity of interpreter and translator services available in the community and has taken the initiative in assessing the extent of these deficiencies through a comprehensive national survey of interpreter and translator needs. This has borne out my belief that there is a need not only for more interpreters but for better interpreters. It shows also that the lack of recognition of interpreting as a profession in Australia is reflected in the lack of special courses which are capable of providing this status. I intend to table the report of this survey at an early date.
Some progress in meeting interpreter needs has been achieved through a growing range of services in my Department. These include the employment of more than 120 bi-lingual or multi-lingual officers; the recent appointment of 48 specially qualified multi- ‘ lingual welfare officers, including 16 to work in the education field, and the provision of a telephone interpreter service in no fewer than 42 languages in Sydney and Melbourne and soon to be extended to other States. I raised the question of interpreter services in State government administration and health and legal institutions with State ministers for immigration at a conference on 11 May 1973. The pro* vision of adequate interpretation must be seen as a normal service to be provided as part of community communication. State and local governments and statutory authorities and commerce and industry must each play its part.
The Australian Government is seeking to stimulate this community interest and in the spread and status of interpreters. There has been close collaboration with the Australian Council of Social Service and a number of colleges of advanced education, technical colleges and private institutions which have shown an interest in providing courses for interpreters. The Immigration Advisory Council has established a subcommittee to study the problem of interpreter services in the community. The survey report on interpreter needs has been given selective distribution to academics with a special interest in this field and to State governments. The Australian Government departments which provide personal services to the community have, in particular, received copies of the survey report and been invited to comment on its findings as they affect their functions.
I would pay tribute to those non-governmental organisations and enterprises - in particular Good Neighbour Councils, welfare organisations throughout the community, national groups, and bank migrant information services - which do provide interpreter services. But I emphasise the task should not be left to them or to governments alone, but is a responsibility that should be accepted and shared by all sectors of the community whose economic progress and personal lives have been enriched by the contribution migrants are making.
– ‘For the information of honourable members, I present the interim report of the Director of Defence Service Homes with statements and balance sheet for the year ended 30 June 1973. When the final report is available, I shall present it in accordance with statutory requirements.
– Pursuant to section 36 of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation Act 1970-1973, I present the third annual report of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1973, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 38 of the Industrial Research and Development Grants Act 1967-1972, I present the sixth annual report Of the Australian Industrial Research andDevelopment Grants Board for the year ended 30 June 1973.
– Pursuant to section 19 of the AngloAustralian Telescope Agreement Act 1970- 1971, I present the reports on the AngloAustralian Telescope Project for the years ended 30 June 1971 and 30 June 1972.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the results of a survey conducted in Sydney and Melbourne in April and May 1973 by the Audience Research
Department of the Australian Broadcasting Commission entitled ‘Public Opinion of the ABC’.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Social Services Bill (No. 4) 1973.
Repatriation Bill (No. 3) 1973.
Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Bill 1973.
Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill (No. 2) 1973.
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to:
That, during the consideration of the matter referred to the Committee of Privileges on 20 September, Mr Crean be discharged from attendance on the Committee and Mr Sherry be appointed to serve in his place.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The serious situation caused by the New South Wales power strike.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– On 25 September an editorial appeared in the ‘Daily Telegraph’, which stated in part:
And worse. On Sunday night, they blacked out a doctor trying to save a man dying from a heart attack.
In fairness, the editorial goes on to say:
Granted that the doctor does not blame the man’s death on the blackout, the incident still highlights the dangerous situations which can arise because of the powerhouse workers’ decision to limit output.
Unless the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), who is at the table, can answer the charges that I will lay against him, I say quite unequivocally mat, if a situation arises this week, next week or in the future in New South Wales of the kind described in the editorial, there is only one man in Australia responsible for it, and that is the Commonwealth Minister for Minerals and Energy. Unless this Minister can answer the charges laid against him, he has reduced the power output from the Snowy Mountains scheme to New South Wales in a secretive and despicable fashion to try to subvert the industrial authority and law in New South Wales.
We all know that this power strike arises over a claim for a 35-hour week and that the matter began in 1971. The claims of the power unions were put to the New South Wales Industrial Commission which reported some considerable time later, after an exhaustive examination, that there was no cause to reduce the period of the working week from 40 hours to 35 hours. A large number of unions were involved - over 20, including the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, the Electrical Trades Union of Australia, the Federated Enginedrivers and Firemen’s Association of Australasia, the Municipal Officers Association of Australia, the Public Service Association and a number of others. The Commission found in that first industry that there was no cause to support a 35-hour working week. This led to reduced output. It led to power restrictions. The New South Wales Government agreed to new terms of reference and this year the New South Wales Industrial Commission considered a case for a shorter working week for the employees of the New South Wales Electricity Commission alone. There was a report about that matter a day or two ago. Even though the unions concerned knew last Thursday that there was going to be a report very early this week, there were black-outs and shortages of power over the weekend. They were designed, as it was said, to speed up the Industrial Commission’s report. But it was known that the report would be in the hands of the Minister and in the hands of the New South Wales Government early this week. It was a breach of an agreement.
– Industrial blackmail.
– It was industrial blackmail. They knew last Thursday what the result was going to be, as 1 have already indicated. The Prime Minister said at his Press Conference yesterday that the Commonwealth would not interfere because it was in the New South Wales industrial jurisdiction. He said when asked a question about this matter yesterday that he was not going to volunteer an opinion. He said: ‘These are State employees. They have a quarrel with the State Government which happens to be a Liberal Government, but it is idle for me to express an opinion on this. It is not a matter where we can do anything as the employer. We have no right to intervene.’ He said yesterday afternoon at his Press conference: ‘We have no right to intervene’. Either he did not know what was happening or he did not know what his Minister for Minerals and Energy was doing or he was conniving with the Minister to keep this matter secret from the people of Australia, because the Commonwealth has intervened on the side of the power unions. The Commonwealth has acted to overthrow industrial law in New South Wales.
– The Minister has.
-The Commonwealth in the name of the Minister. Whether it is the Minister’s decision alone or the Government’s decision I do not know. Maybe he has not even told his own colleagues what he has done in this matter. The Commonwealth has acted against the interests of every family and of every man, woman and child in the State of New South Wales and in Australia. The Minister has acted through bis power to direct the Snowy Mountains Council, which can in turn govern the amount of power flowing to New South Wales or to Victoria. There are 8 members on that Council, four from the Commonwealth and two from each of those States. I am informed that the Minister approached the operations engineer on Saturday afternoon or Saturday evening and then found that he could not direct the operations engineer. The Minister’s power was a power to direct the Council itself, the governing body of the power producing plants. There was a telephone vole on Sunday afternoon among all members of the Council. I am informed that before the vote was taken the Minister spoke to Mr Reihr, the Commonwealth Director-General of the Department of Works and Deputy Chairman of the Snowy Mountains Council and also to Mr Douglas, the chief operations engineer. That was before the vote was taken.
I would like to emphasise that on this Council there are four highly distinguished Commonwealth public servants whose integrity and sense of duty is without doubt of the highest possible order. They are to be commended for what they have done in this matter. Despite the intervention by the Minister, despite the discussions that the Minister held, the Snowy Mountains Council by a majority vote voted to provide the normal supply of power to New South Wales. That was the proper thing to do. The maximum power entitlement for New South Wales is between 1,600 and 1,900 megawatts depending on a particular situation. An amount of 1,400 megawatts would be regarded as normal - about equal to one-third, as I understand it, of the total New South Wales capacity. After the telephone vote on Sunday afternoon the normal procedure would have been to give Mr Douglas orders to continue operations and he would have given orders down the line. Word would have come to members of the power unions who man the Tumut power stations, if they had not obeyed those legal and lawful orders and worked in accordance with them they could have been laid off. But I am informed that before that happened this Minister for Minerals and Energy issued an instruction, using the power the Act confers upon him, to reduce the power supply to New South Wales.
I am informed also that a member of the Snowy Mountains Council rang the New South Wales authorities on Sunday afternoon and informed them that the Minister for Minerals and Energy had directed that the Council operate the Tumut stations in accordance with the dictates - in accordance with the dictates - of the New South Wales unions’ 35-hour week committee. That is a disgraceful situation. Unless the Minister can disprove this information completely and categorically he has some serious charges to answer because this, I am informed, is the form of the directive given by that Minister in the name of the Government to the Snowy Mountains Council. It was making quite sure that the Council would conform to the dictates of the power unions, that it would not do anything that might cause any trouble, but that it would make quite sure that restrictions on power in New South Wales would be much more severe than would otherwise have been the case, thereby causing great inconvenience to many people. If the situation is allowed to continue it will not only cause personal hardship in those examples which I gave earlier in the debate but it will ultimately lead to tens of thousands of people going out of work.
The Minister has used the power of direction conferred upon him by the Act. So instead of the normal supply of 1,400 megawatts, New South Wales was supplied on Monday morning with 200 megawatts, and the amount of power has varied a bit either way since then. But the power supply has been less than normal. I am informed that the power unions have spoken to the Minister requiring his support for this action. I emphasise the words ‘requiring his support for this action’. They want to reduce power from the Tumut stations so that the strike will hurt the New South Wales people and the citizens more severely than would otherwise have been the case. Again that is a despicable act. I am informed, as I have said already, that the instruction had the effect of ensuring that the Council conformed to the dictates of the power unions and conformed to their particular requirements. Unless the Minister can answer these charges in clear and precise terms it is plain that he has revealed in the starkest sense the power of certain unions over this Government and the power of certain unions over this Minister. We are reminded of a meeting that the Prime Minister had with the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union last year before the election. From the minutes of the meeting which became available to other people it was plain that the Prime Minister had given policy commitments to the AMWU and, as a result, who but Mr Carmichael should move a motion that $25,000 should be paid into Labor Party funds before the last election.
– How much was that?
– Twenty-five thousand dollars was to be paid as a result of the giving of policy commitments. That is what happened on that occasion. We know what has happened on this occasion. The Minister , has acted secretly, at the behest and command of unions which are pursuing an industrial dispute with another governmental authority. The Minister has intervened on the side of strikers. I could have respected him if he had done this publicly, openly and plainly. But if the information is correct then he has done it secretly and quietly behind closed doors. He has done it in the dark and that is something that cannot be respected. The Minister has acted to overthrow the normal industrial processes in New South Wales. He has done that secretly and quietly. He has done it in the dark. The Prime Minister, if these allegations cannot be disproved, has shown that either he himself did not know what his Minister was doing - and this is very likely - or, if he did know, he misled the House and the nation at the Press conference held yesterday when he said: ‘We have no right to intervene in that particular mattter - in that particular dispute.’
There may well have been lack of communication between the Minister for Minerals and Energy and the Prime Minister. It would not be the first time that it has happened. There certainly has been a lack of communication between the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) and the Prime Minister over the last 2 or 3 days in regard to the 35-hour week and the Commonwealth Public Service. There was even the famous interchange, when the Minister for Labour said that the Prime Minister could not have it both ways and, as we now know, the Prime Minister intervened and said: ‘You are referring to Mr Gorton’ and the Minister lor Labour said: ‘No, I am referring to you. You cannot have it both ways’. If anyone heard the Mike Willesee show last night, they would have known that the Minister for Labour has not the slightest intention of retracting from his stand and his viewpoint on this matter. If the Prime Minister wants to get off the barbed wire fence which he is now straddling, with Bob Hawke pulling him from one side and the Minister for Labour pulling him from the other, the only way he can get off is to be pulled off by the Minister for Labour. Whatever the result, the situation of having the 2 most powerful men in the union movement and the Labor movement pulling him in 2 different directions is not an entirely happy one for the Prime Minister. We in die Opposition are content to leave the Prime Minister in that situation. It is about the most suitable situation that he could be in under any circumstances.
I have indicated that there has been a lack of communication between the Minister for Minerals and Energy and the Prime Minister. If that is not the explanation, the Prime Minister has connived in misleading the Press, the Australian people and this Parliament. I put this Parliament last, not because it is last in importance but because in the Prime Minister’s thoughts this Parliament is of no account. He has made that quite plain in the way he has treated important debates in the Parliament. The Minister for Minerals and Energy has shown what calibre he is made of in these matters. He has a case to answer and I do not believe he can answer it. If he cannot answer that case, he clearly should resign. There are 4 charges against the Minister. He has shown the power of the unions over the Government; he has shown that he secretly intervened and acted to overthrow the normal processes of law and it has been seen that the
Prime Minister, as a result of this, misled the Press.
– You will apologise for that statement; it is false.
– These are the charges on the basis of information that I have been given and I have every reason to believe that the information I have been given is accurate and appropriate.
– The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) as usual has a proclivity for backing losers. He might with elementary courtesy have asked me what the facts were. He did not choose to do so for the very obvious reason, of course, that he thought he could walk in and swing a punch with devastating effect. The facts of this case are simple - they are so simple that even the honourable member for Wannon could understand them. I repeat, the facts are very simple indeed. I have never at any time been approached by any representative of the trade unions in this matter.
– Can you prove it?
– I have never been approached. Last Saturday, at a quarter past 12-
– You have secret Cabinet documents -
– I listened to the honourable member for Wannon in courtesy, but I do not think that he is capable of it. At a quarter past 12, I was telephoned by one of the engineers from the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority and told that the Blowering Dam was overflowing. I was told the facts of the case and asked what should be done. I told him that I thought he should point out the position to the trade unions concerned. He did so.
I came to Canberra on Sunday afternoon especially to meet the officers of the Authority and to establish what was the position. The position was reported to me and these are the facts: A special meeting of the Snowy Mountains Council was convened on Monday of last week to discuss the problem of the overflow from the Blowering Dam. The meeting was held this morning at which it was decided that they would go into the whole question of the future of the overflow.
– What has this to do with the power strike?
– If you listen, you will learn. If you do not want to listen, get outside. I repeat that a special meeting was held this morning which considered the question of the control of water in the lower Tumut River below the Blowering Reservoir. As I said, it was convened a week ago because the responsible officers then foresaw the situation that would arise. That situation has arisen because of the filling of the Blowering Dam by the consistently high energy demands from the Electricity Commission of New South Wales over the past several months.
The position had been reached where water was spilling from the reservoir at the rate of 1,800 cubic feet per second and flow limitations leading to flooding in the lower Tumut River were becoming a serious restraint on the flexibility of the scheme and its capacity to meet further energy demands from New South Wales. Since Saturday, approximately 11,800 acre feet of water have been spilled from Blowering Dam since it commenced to overflow. Responsible management of water at Blowering Dam has required the curtailment of energy production from the upper and lower generating stations of the Tumut power system. At an overflow rate of 3,200 cubic feet per second, flooding would occur at the poplar plantation section of the lower Tumut River. At a discharge of 3,700 cubic feet per second, the second flood prone area would commence to be inundated. These discharge rates will be reached this week if appropriate action is not taken.
At its meeting today, the Snowy Mountains Council decided to set down operation guidelines which will have the effect of curtailing power production from the Tumut stations so as to prevent flooding in the Tumut River below the Blowering Dam, except in situations where natural inflows by rainfall in the Blowering valley cannot be fully controlled by the water storages of the system. The excessive demands on electricity generation are such that in the 4i months of the planning year, which commenced last May, the New South Wales Electricity Commission has used 70 per cent of its total yearly allocation of water for purposes of power generation.
Water of course cannot run uphill, as even the honourable member for Wannon would know. At the present time Lake Eucumbene is 50 per cent empty. It has a capacity of 7 times the water content of Sydney Harbour. Blowering Dam is the main reservoir at the lowest level of the Snowy Mountains Scheme, where generative water has been trapped from the Tumut power stations for subsequent release for irrigation. As I said earlier, it is overflowing at the rate of 1,800 cubic feet per second at a time when it should reasonably still be capable of receiving water from continued power generation.
For the replenishment of the depleted resources of Lake Eucumbene, we will this year lack the normal run-off from the melted snow because of the phenomenally low snowfall. It is to be hoped that unusually high rainfall will curtail the deficiency and safeguard our food needs. If the honourable member for Wannon listens he will learn. The Snowy Mountains Council has clearly outlined the flooding dangers of the lower reaches of the Tumut River. The main irrigation season is from December to May. The rate of wastage with the Blowering Dam overflow is equal to 40 million gallons per hour and 972 million gallons per day. Each day water is spilling uselessly over its walls-
– The Coombs task force said you do not need the water.
– Oh, dry up. Each day, I repeat, water is spilling uselessly over its walls at a rate which would fully irrigate 44,000 acres of land. The choice that faces the Snowy Mountains Council has been between maintaining adequate water supplies for Australia’s main food bowl in the Mumimbidgee Irrigation area and generation of power beyond the excess safe capacity of the Snowy Mountains scheme, with the added embarrassment of Tumut valley flooding.
In his political bias, the honourable member for Wannon, who with his rural interests should have been one of the chief advocates of prudent curtailment of power generation, has rushed in, to his own embarrassment. It is ironical indeed that on the very day when the Government is moving to legislate for a referendum to curb prices the honourable member for Wannon, this laird of broad acres, wants to deny the irrigation area its essential needs and create still higher prices due to inadequate production with water limitations. No member of this House ever rushed so eagerly and so stupidly into an ambush.
– Mr Deputy Speaker -
– I move:
That the question be now put
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Not one of the 4 charges made against the Minister has been answered. He has treated this Parliament capriciously and with contempt as is the custom of his Prime Minister.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! The point of order is without foundation.
– He is now gagging this debate. He has moved that the question be put. He is showing utter contempt for this Parliament. He has not answered any of the charges. He has not answered the charge that he gave a directive to the Snowy Mountains Council last Sunday.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! That is not a point of order; it is a point of debate.
Motion (by Mr Daly) put:
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr Martin)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 25 September (vide page 1499), on motion by Mr Hayden:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– When I was interrupted last evening I was making the point that we on this side of the House would have appreciated it very much if the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) had extended the Commonwealth subsidy to such local and charitable organisations as the Apex Clubs and kindred associations, if they were interested in erecting senior citizens’ buildings. 1 would like to comment on the welfare officer position. No welfare officer has been appointed under this legislation for the Darling Downs and there are none at present in Tasmania. There are 3 in New South Wales, 20 in Victoria, 7 in Queensland, 4 full time and 3 part time in South Australia, and 4 in Western Australia. We hope that the Minister can make the necessary arrangements to overcome this situation and to allow the number of welfare officers to be increased. True it is that there is a great demand and great need for these trained personnel in our society where people are subject to tremendous pressures from both within and without. I hope that the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) can have meaningful consultations with the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) in order to encourage the universities to increase their intake of people interested in pursuing the course for prospective social workers. I understand that the Universities of Sydney and Melbourne at present have made these necessary arrangements, but we want these arrangements to extend to all universities. We hope that the Commission on Advanced Education also will make the necessary arrangements for the colleges of advanced education to have similar facilities instead of facilities which will allow a person to graduate with subprofessional qualifications. Colleges of advanced education can play a significant part in the training and education of social workers. Social workers are drawn from the immediate environment. They are conversant with the ethos of the people who are living in the surrounding districts. We therefore request the Minister to have consultations with the colleges of advanced education to make sure that there are plenty of welfare officers available not only for attachment to senior citizens clubs but also to move out into the general public.
Next I want to comment on the Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill and convey to the House that we of the Country Party fully support the increased benefits that will be paid to this worthwhile organisation, Meals on Wheels. The subsidies are much appreciated and are a positive move to help the local organisations which will now be able to budget more easily, particularly when we realise that subsidy payments are to be made at quarterly rests. It is imperative to point out that Meals on Wheels has proved that tall trees from little acorns grow. The organisation was founded on sound, basic principles which have general public appeal. It was intended to meet a need that everyone recognised but had done little or nothing about.
Meals on Wheels is not a charity; it is a social experiment to endeavour to solve the problems of the care of the aged under modern conditions. Its prime aim is to be part of a wider scheme to meet all the needs of the aged and enable them to live their lives as integral and distinguished members of the community. Medical evidence would seem to suggest that the aged deteriorate more rapidly mentally than physically when undernourished.
In concluding I would like to pay a great tribute to the 2 Meals on Wheels organisations which exist in my own electorate of the Darling Downs in the cities of Toowoomba and Warwick. In both these cities Meals on Wheels has become part and parcel of the life of the cities. There has developed a deep sense of pride in its work. Sheer joy is exemplified by the many instances of barbecues, picnics, home visits, excursions and transport to church services arranged by members of Meals on Wheels. It is interesting to note that in Toowoomba 3 paid staff and 33 voluntary workers provide 13 cars a day 5 days a week to deliver approximately 150 meals a day. This organisation was founded by the St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church some 13 years ago. Similarly, in the rose city of Warwick the Presbyterian Church pioneered the organisation 1 1 years ago and is still responsible for its organisation financially and materially.
The golden thread that runs through the fabric that binds these people together in Christian charity and justice is concern when delivering meals. They have time for a chat - a chat that enriches all participants. What of the future? By encouragements such as the Government has given and the previous Government gave we realise that they will continue to fulfil a most useful need. We support the Bill but we are a little disappointed that the Minister, in view of his stand when in Opposition, has done nothing whatsoever about providing the basic machinery, the buildings, equipment, where necessary key paid staff, and foodstuffs free of sales tax and at cost. These people deserve our support and encouragement. Let it not be too little too late.
– I rise to support the 3 Bills before the House. Some members of the Opposition have in recent days sought somewhat desperately to accuse the Government of broken promises. Despite a weak and ineffective attempt to discredit the Budget, they have found it difficult, if not impossible, to launch an assault upon this Government’s imaginative and comprehensive range of welfare provisions. The care of the aged will receive much needed assistance from these Bills. All 3 Bills should be seen against the backdrop of the work at present being carried out by the Interim Committee of the Social Welfare Commission and the proposed Australian assistance plan. I refer honourable members to recommendation 11 of the annual report of this Commission which was recently tabled in this House. It states:
During the period of development of the Australian Assistance Plan, the present Home Care program should be strengthened by the infusion of extra funds.
This, I submit, is being done by these Bills. I wish to devote the brief time I have at my disposal in this debate to speak in support of one of the 3 Bills - the States Grants (Home Care) Bill. This Bill is further evidence of the
Government’s concerned determination to extend the provisions of the principal Act. The Act introduced in 1969 provided a good framework. The inclusion of home care services, the building of senior citizens centres and the employment of welfare officers in association with these centres could only be applauded as one of the more enlightened concepts of the previous Administration. ‘Unfortunately the hopes of the previous Minister for Social Services were only partially realised. A few good ideas compounded into the structure of legislation do not necessarily ensure success. The previous Government’s estimates as indicated by the previous Minister were in excess of Sim a year or $4m over the period from 1969. The figure actually expended - !$2,910,337 - is in broad terms over 25 per cent less than was promised. The total appropriations for the whole of the provision of this Bill’s proposed services, given the expectation of the necessary response by the States, is in fact over $2.4m, which will catch up on the previous Government’s deficiency over the last 4 years.
The first of the Bill’s provisions is to give financial assistance to a more enlightened and experimental concept of home care services. The plight of the lonely, neglected and dependent aged is now no longer a matter of conjecture. It is to be tragically observed by all who concern themselves in community welfare. The relatives of aged and aging parents know the situation at first hand. It is unfortunately true that some relatives remain callous and indifferent and fail to accept any measure of responsibility or to assume even the smallest degree of concern. It is also true that many sons, daughters, nephews and nieces, and in some cases close friends and neighbours, are often at their wit’s end to meet the contingencies of a problem which is emotionally complex, sociologically disturbing, domestically difficult and economically burdensome.
Some are forced into the position of placing their aged relatives in commercial home nursing services. Whilst it is admitted that advanced senility and chronic cases of physical and mental deterioration can, in many situations, be dealt with only in special geriatric hospitals, it is also true that thousands of patients in nursing homes at present have been placed there not because there is any evidence of insurmountable physical or mental incapability but because there is no alternative due to the inadequate and often non-existent facilities for aged people to remain in their homes.
The provision of supporting domiciliary services regularly maintained can and should be the right of those able to retain their dignity and home independence for as long a period as possible. The home care provisions are to be shared, with certain necessary safeguards, with the State governments on the basis of two-thirds of the expenditure of the States. The increase from one-half to two-thirds of State expenditure encourages the States to expand their programs. The considerable financial adjustment in States grants invites a response from State governments which will support and consolidate the intention of the Federal Government and will cement a partnership of concern in the area of geriatric home care.
The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) referred to senior citizens centres. One cannot be unmindful of the value of such centres in our various communities. They have provided much needed social and recreational contact and many of our elderly citizens feel that it is a place where they can find fellowship and identity. I do, however, share the Minister’s concern regarding the restrictive use of such centres and would earnestly hope that practical welfare and paramedical services could increasingly become a major factor in their development. It must be recognised that not all elderly citizens are gregarious or find that their basic needs and requirements are satisfied with club life and activity. On the other hand, useful and practical services at a central point would cater for the needs of those not necessarily seeking social and recreational stimuli. The amending Bill doubles the Australian Government’s contribution to $2 for every $1 which is contributed by the State government or by a local governing body.
Finally, I should like to comment on the amending legislation regarding the Federal Government’s subsidy increase from one-half to two-thirds of the salaries paid io welfare officers. I welcome the increase and the measures taken to put this into effect. I am, however, far from satisfied with the piecemeal manner in which social workers or welfare officers are subsidised within the range of the related subjects of immigration, repatriation, social security and other social welfare needs. One municipality in my electorate is under pressure from concerned groups within the community to appoint a social worker. The areas of need cover the whole range of social problems. To obtain a subsidy this municipality must, like all others similarly placed, meet the requirements and restrictions which are appropriate to the various departments sponsoring welfare programs. I am, of course, aware that other municipalities have, notwithstanding the difficulties I have mentioned, appointed social workers and welfare officers to work in the general field. I am also aware that local initiative and determination can be strongly influential factors in presenting claims for either State or Federal assistance.
The admitted fragmentation of subsidy arrangements can provide an excuse for local authorities for doing little or nothing at all. I must, however, concede that a more integrated program of welfare services, such as that outlined in the Australian Assistance Plan prepared by the Interim Committee of the Social Welfare Commission recently tabled in the House, is likely to be much more beneficial to the municipality I have instanced. In the meantime, I am happy to support this interim measure and I eagerly await the development of the Australian Assistance Plan. The Bills now before the House constitute encouragement and expansion of services to the aged. The legislation is an excellent forerunner of things to come. I commend the Bills to the House.
– We are addressing ourselves this afternoon to the final stages of a cognate debate. One of the Bills we are discussing is the Aged Persons Homes Bill 1973. The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) claims credit for the fact that the new Government has indicated, by virtue of this legislation, that it will increase from $10 to Si 2 a week the rate of subsidy paid to eligible organisations which provide personal care services for the aged and which provide hostel accommodation. At a time such as this, when inflation is running as it is, it is only right that the Government should increase the subsidy. For members of this Government to parade as if the Government is being generous is wrong because these various organisations are finding it very difficult to keep their head above water. The new Government stands very much for government intervention and government action. Yet, in his second reading speech the Minister for Social Security set out clearly how, at times, without private organisations very little will be done. He mentioned that in the 19 years of the operation of the grants, which total some i$171m and which have provided accommodation for approximately 50,000 aged persons, local government bodies qualified for grants of only $2.2m for the projects they had commenced and had provided beds for 500 people. In other words, local authorities, which are an instrumentality of government, provided 1 per cent of total accommodation.
The Minister, who regrettably is not present in the chamber, indicated in his second reading speech that he was worried about the system of key money and regraded as inadequate the moves of the previous Government to correct the so-called loopholes. I know that in our society certain organisations in the past have been most ruthless and unfair in their application of the principle of key money. But I believe it is a tragic mistake for members of the new Government, with all their enthusiasm, to say: ‘We have a problem; let us attack it’, without fully questioning and investigating the matter because homes for the aged in my electorate, with which I am most familiar, operate on the basis that if a person moves in to one of the homes and pays the so-called key money and, after a little time, it is clear that that person is not happy, the key money is refunded. Furthermore, if a person passes away after a short time of residence, a payment is made to that person’s estate. It is most difficult in these times of rising costs for these organisations to meet the costs of maintenance simply from rental payments.
On Monday evening last I attended the annual general meeting of the Blue Nursing Services of Queensland. Whilst I do not have its annual report with me in Canberra my memory is that after running the accommodation service its total loss was $23,000. It is all very well for a centralist government based here in Canberra, surrounded by fat cats and others, from a great distance to consider the problems faced by others who are miles away. But I wonder how often these persons actually go into the far flung areas of this continent to examine the real problems that are being experienced. I know that it is government that decides policy but I would hope that those in the position in our hardworking Public Service who are in a position to know would make every effort to present all sides of the case to these socialistically inclined Ministers.
Today we are considering a Bill to amend the Delivered Meals Subsidy Act of 1970, which is called the Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill 1973. Its purpose is to increase the subsidy on ordinary meals from 15c to 20c and from 20c to 25c for meals which include either fresh fruit or fruit juice with a high vitamin content. The original Act was a dream of the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth).
– He has the mumps at the moment.
– That is right. He has the mumps and is confined to bed. No doubt he would like to be here to speak on the Bill. As a person who has not had mumps and has had a lot of advice on not having had them, I suggest that he best lie still until he is fully recovered. However, the Bill simply increases the subsidy. This is not of great moment except that it meets the inflation which has happened under the present Government.
I believe that it was a wise move of the Government to decide to make the payment of the subsidy on a quarterly basis instead of an annual basis. This is a good move and indeed is one that was requested earlier this year by the various meal organisations at a conference which, I think, was held in Sydney. It is time that we looked again at the Meals on Wheels movement and considered it in the light of our present society - a society in which more women work than ever before. Many of the women who are now in the work force previously made great contributions to charity and assisted with various community efforts. While I commend forever those persons who give of their time to assist in this most worth while project, it is proper that we examine the difficulties various organisations are meeting in their endeavours to obtain people to deliver meals.
I have always believed that in our society some people are honest because they can afford to be honest, where other less affluent people are not so honest because of their financial situation which at times drives them to do things which they possibly would prefer not to do. The same applies, I believe, to people who give their time to charity. Not everyone is in the position to be able to afford to give his or her time to charity. I am quite sure that there are many women in our society who would dearly love to assist in delivering meals to the aged and to the sick, but who, because they are not born lucky or are not living in an affluent situation, simply cannot afford to do so. I ask the Government to give consideration to some scheme whereby a payment could be made on a mileage basis to those persons who would be prepared to give their time but otherwise could not afford to do so.
I realise that there are many people who would not hear for a moment of any form of payment for their services, and this is good. But I still believe that there is a great, untapped source within our society which could be utilised if we could devise some system which would help to finance them to be able to assist. While I confess to not having thought a lot about this particular matter, it has crossed my mind frequently. I am sure that it is the first time that it has ever been raised in this Parliament or any parliament to my knowledge, and it is something which honourable members on both sides of the House could turn their attention to because it is deserving of some thought.
In conclusion, because I have undertaken to make my remarks short, I want to refer to an article in the ‘Brisbane ‘Courier-Mail’ of Tuesday, 25 . September. The article reports that the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Doyle) represented the Minister for Social Security at the twentieth annual meeting of the Blue Nursing Service in Queensland. The honourable member for Lilley read a speech prepared by the Minister, so the Minister was responsible for it. He stated that the Queensland Blue Nursing Service had missed out on $’1.5m over the last 10 years due to the State Government not matching available Federal Government home nursing subsidies. This would have been all right if this Government which is presently in power had in the recent Budget amended the relevant legislation so that its payments to home nursing associations were not tied to the amount of money paid by the State governments. The criticism was most unfair. It is all right for this centralist Government to hold the purse and to be stingy.
I think that the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) is beckoning me to be seated and I assure him that I will very shortly finish my remarks. The point is that the Commonwealth Government is not making the money available to the States to enable them to meet these increased payments. With that final remark and bowing to the wishes of the Government - it wishes to get these Bills through before the dinner adjournment - 1 will cease my comments. But I ask the Minister not to be political and not to send his henchmen out into the field preaching stories which lack credibility because if his Government had been fair dinkum it would have done something about the situation, and it has not.
– 4 rise to support the 3 Bills which we are debating, the Aged Persons Homes Bill, the Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill and the States Grants (Home Care) Bill. No doubt the Government brought these measures down because, with inflation raging as it is, it is essential that some assistance be given immediately in the 3 fields of social welfare which these 3 Bills cover. Legislation in favour of aged persons surely has the support of all honourable members, irrespective of the side of the House on which they sit. Irrespective of whether they belong to the Liberal Party of Australia, the Australian Country Party or the Australian Labor Party, I feel sure that all members of the House are in support of this legislation and in favour of the giving of more assistance to aged people in the various fields.
The Aged Persons Homes Act was originally introduced in 1954 by the Menzies Government in order to encourage and assist religious, charitable and ex-service organisations which were providing homes for aged persons to expand their activities or, if they were not already doing so, to induce them to enter the field. There is no doubt that the Act has been most successful over the years in this regard. It has enjoyed a great deal of success in the 19 years of its operation. Grants totalling $171m have been approved and accommodation made available for approximately 50,000 people in Australia under the aged persons homes legislation.
Legislation which the Liberal-Country Party Government introduced in this House last year has enabled institutions and homes which had not previously participated in the $2 for $1 subsidy to do so. It has allowed many of the older institutions to provide up-to-date facilities for aged persons. The introduction of that legislation last year was met with great acclaim right across the board. Many charitable and religious organisations have taken advantage of it. In my own electorate of Paterson three or four institutions have taken up the challenge of the Government and decided to go ahead and build new installations. The first one to come to mind is the Yates Memorial Home at Singleton, which is conducted by the Methodist Church. It has accepted the Government’s offer and is going ahead with the building of new units for aged people. That will be of great benefit to the area.
The Maitland Benevolent Society, which is 107 years old, also has accepted the responsibility of erecting new accommodation. In this instance the grants to be made available to this institution will toe of the order of $467,000. Last Saturday week I had the privilege of opening a fete for the Society. A fete is conducted once a year by an excellent committee for the raising of funds for the Society, which provides excellent accommodation for aged people in Maitland and in the Hunter Valley. Aged people are well looked after in this institution. When the building of the new units is completed more accommodation will be available for aged people in the area. St Joseph’s Convent at Lochinvar, which is also in my electorate, will qualify for assistance under the Aged Persons Homes Act. It intends to provide 84 beds and furnishings at a total cost of approximately $676,000. This proposition is being investigated at the present time. I have no doubt that arrangements will be made after the architect has completed the preparation of plans for this institution for work to go ahead and for new units to be built to accommodate aged persons. The Convent of Mercy at Singleton also will benefit from the legislation, although in a smaller way.
I have read carefully the second reading speech of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) and have noted that it is his desire and the Government’s belief that residents of aged persons homes should be allowed to elect representatives to the boards of management of their homes. My observation, from visiting these homes, has been that the aged people in them have no desire to undertake any further responsibilities. Most of them are pioneers who have paid their taxes over the years, who have reared their families, who have accepted their responsibilities in the past and who are now happy to stay in these homes, in which they are extremely well cared for, without having to accept any responsibilities. Although I think the Minister was full of good intentions when he brought forward this suggestion, I do not think it will meet with the success that the Minister is apparently hoping for.
The Minister for Social Security has also stated that he is disappointed with the response to the Aged Persons Homes Act by local government bodies. These bodies became eligible to avail themselves of the provisions of the Act as a result of an amendment to it in 1967. Grants to municipal and shire councils have totalled only $2.2m and have provided accommodation for fewer than 500 people. That is no doubt disappointing, but one has to take into consideration the tremendous demands made upon all local government bodies to do all sorts of things. It is very difficult for them to obtain and provide finance for the provision of aged persons’ homes. I should say that there would not be a shire councillor or alderman who would not desire to participate in this field of social welfare. The trouble is that the councils are prevented from taking part by a lack of finance.
It is interesting to note the organisations which have availed themselves of the $2 for SI subsidy over the years and the number of persons who have been accommodated toy organisations which have participated in the aged persons’ homes scheme. A total of 1,143 religious organisations, 1,338 charitable and benevolent organisations, 34 ex-service organisations, 76 organisations approved by the Governor-General and 32 local government organisations have participated in the scheme. A total of 2,623 organisations have participated in it. As I mentioned previously, they are looking after approximately 50,000 aged people. I have also’ mentioned the total amount of the grants provided. Whilst it is desirable to have local governments participating in the scheme, they have not the muscle to do so, although they are entering into the social services field in many ways. I feel - I think honourable members will agree with me - that social services are in the main the responsibility of the State and Federal governments.
The Aged Persons Homes Bill seeks to increase the rate of subsidy from SIO a week to $12 a week, which will be of great benefit to the institutions providing homes for the aged. The Bill also provides for the amount of the subsidy to be calculated on the basis not only of the number of residents aged 80 years and over in a home but also in respect of any other residents - that is, those under 80 years of age - who also require and are receiving personal care in these institutions. I know that the people who are conducting these institutions will be very pleased indeed that the subsidy has been increased. No doubt it has been increased with good intention and by reason of the inflationary trend in our economy to help these institutes and their inmates.
So much for the Aged Persons Homes Bill. I wish to speak very briefly, in the time that is available to me, about the Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill. The major aim of the Meals on Wheels organisation is to supply certain persons with one nutritious meal at least 5 times a week. Of course, the service provided goes far beyond that. To many elderly citizens in our community the delivery of these meals provides the only regular social contact they have. My wife and the wives of many other members of Parliament take part in the providing of Meals on Wheels services in the various communities from which they come. No doubt the aged folk are delighted to see these kindly people visiting their homes and providing them with nutritious hot meals. This contact ensures that frail or isolated people receive a daily check on their state of health. This is important as the people delivering the meals can see at first hand the health of the aged people. Meals on Wheels helpers frequently report that an elderly person is in need of attention. Meals on Wheels workers and all those wonderful people who have formed themselves into committees, who arrange for meals to be cooked and delivered to aged persons, are giving great service to the community and a great social service to those people who have been pioneers, who have helped this country develop and who have now reached the end of their service and are being looked after in this way.
The Bill provides for a further subsidy of 5c per meal. Last year when the LiberalCountry Party was in government it increased the 5c allowance to 20c. This Government is carrying on the good work by increasing the allowance from 20c to 25c per meal. I support the legislation in its entirety. I hope it is the forerunner of more assistance to aged persons as time goes by.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to toe moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Stewart) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 22 August (vide page 221), on motion by Mr Hayden:
That theBill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Stewart) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 12 September (vide page 846), on motion by Mr Hayden:
That the ‘Bill be now read a second time.
-I seek your guidance, MrDeputy Speaker. I and other members put specific questions to the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) during the course of the debate. They were constructive questions seeking information. I ask the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart), because of the absence of the Minister for Social Security, when we will receive answers to these questions?
– I will draw the attention of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) to the statement made by the honourable member.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Stewart) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 12 September (vide page 917).
Proposed expenditure, $6,741,000.
– I could not have spoken against a better backdrop to Parliament than the proceedings of today. Were I able to speak with the tongues of men and angels and were I Demosthenes, Cicero and Winston Churchill rolled into one the purpose of my speech would be absolutely nil this afternoon. At the last count there were 10 people in this House. This is typical. The people included yourself, Mr Deputy Speaker, 4 people in the public gallery, 2 in the Speaker’s Gallery and one person in the Press gallery. Did I have all this eloquence, all that I said would be of no avail whatsoever. I repeat that this is typical of this Parliament.
This afternoon we were debating one of the greatest, most towering questions before the world and the people of this country - inflation. It is causing devastation; it could blow our whole society apart. We had2½ hours to debate the problem. Members of Parliament talked about meals on wheels and things of that kind with which everybody agreed but everybody had to say something so that his remarks could be reported in a local newspaper. As I said, I could not speak against a better background than that about Parliament. As I sat here during the divisions this afternoon a horrible picture came into my mind. I recalled going along the Kokoda Trail over 30 years ago and seeing a shallow grave with maggots bubbling above the ground in which was a stick with a tin hat and a meat ticket on it. A man was dead. The sight was horrifying; the stench was nauseating. 1 thought: That is what this Parliament is. It is dead. And I was nauseated by the smell of it.
What is Parliament? One does not have to be versed in etymology to know that the word Parliament’ comes from the French word parler’ which means to talk, to speak. It is government by discussion. Both sides of the Parliament should be heard, not just one side. Not just what Government supporters say in the Caucus room or what we say in the Party room should be heard. I have often been influenced by what has been said from the other side of the House. Is this a parliament? Are we concerned any more with debate or discussion - discussion between the people’s representatives? We could not care less. What has Parliament become? It is simply the means of giving legitimacy to the decisions of alternate juntas. That is all Parliament is today.
It is not only this Government that has made it so. When we stand at the bar of history we shall all be guilty.
I remember when Sir Eric Harrison was the Leader of the House. He would come into the Party room and use the expression: ‘I must have the Bills’. In other words he was saying: Cut out debate. Do not worry about discussion as long as the Bills go through’. Parliament is merely a machine for giving legitimacy to the decisions of the junta. That is what is happening to our Parliament. I take the minds of honourable members back to the Roman Senate. I suppose we should not regard anything such as the Roman Senate as being relevant to today because it was a long time ago. Augustus was conscious that mankind is governed by names and knew that if the people were assured that they still possessed their ancient freedoms they would submit to slavery. So, the Senate remained. The Senate was mentioned with honour to the last days of the Empire, but the Assembly which once had been the arbiter of the world was suffered to sink into obscurity and oblivion. That is precisely what is happening to this Parliament. The Parliaments of Simon de Montford, Charles I, Walpole, Gladstone and Disraeli and Sir Robert Menzies are not necessarily the Parliaments of today. The name remains. Mankind is governed by names. We shall have a parliament right to the end. The decrees of Roman emperors such as Nero, Caligula and the rest of them always went out bearing the proud letters SPQR - senatus populusque Romanus - in the name of the Senate and the Roman people. But they were just decrees of dictators and nothing else. Everything that goes out from this Parliament to the last days of our democracy will have the usual old heading concerning the Queen, the Senate and the House of Representatives.
What has brought this about? A whole host of things but I have not the time in 10 minutes to go into them all. One matter is the reading of so called speeches. Of course, a reading is not a speech at all; it is a lecture, something which is read. Nearly every member who has spoken today was reading from little pieces of paper. If one listens to a speech broadcast from this chamber one knows when a member is reading. One knows that his heart is not in it. He just reads from bits of paper. There is no meeting of minds.
That is the beginning of the problem. That is the reason why no members come into the chamber. Why should they? I do not myself. The speeches are too dull and too inconsequential to matter. The Parliament has handed public debate over to the media. That is what is has done. Parliamentary debate matters no longer. We have handed debate over to the media.
Let me go through in detail one or two small areas of concern. I mention first the farce of our timetable. Nobody knows what is to be the business today, this afternoon, this evening, tomorrow or next week. Nobody knows what is to be the business; as a result, nobody can prepare speeches. Take the situation today when, without any warning whatsoever, this matter of the proposed referendum came into the House in the form of a Bill. Take the example of question time. Answers, under the Standing Orders, are supposed to be relevant to the questions asked. Any man - he does not even need to be a Reg Swartz; he could even be a member on the front bench on the other side- can talk for hours, being relevant, albeit, but wasting the time of the chamber; and the Speaker has no power over him.
Questions range over every field. The first question may be about Aborigines, the next question about prices, the following question on the post office at WOOP WOOP. the next question about brucellosis or about a peanut marketing board. No opportunity is presented at question time to go in depth into any matter whatsoever. We just do not have supplementary questions. We do not do this as it is done in the House of Commons. Nobody can probe a subject in depth. Question time has become a farce. I repeat that it is nothing but a farce.
The time available for questions is limited to 45 minutes. Yes, I know that we who are now on this side of the House started this practice when we were in government and I will not be unkind as to the reason. But I remember that in the past, when Sir Robert Menzies was Prime Minister, question time ended when, quite evidently, most people had asked the questions that they wished to ask. The period available for this purpose was entirely flexible. Now, on the dot, on the second, the guillotine falls.
First reading speeches, of course, were abolished long ago. I remember that we had them in the New South Wales State House. They were valuable because members could express broad view on whatever the topic happened to be before the Bill itself was actually introduced. But never in my time here have we even had first reading debates. I turn to second reading debates. These are often limited, as we saw today, to 3 speakers from each side on the most towering problem of our time. We had 3 speakers from each side!
The Committee of the Whole has become an absolute farce with most members fastening on to perhaps one clause and delivering a second reading speech on it. There is no real Committee consideration in the Committee of the Whole in this chamber. The debate has become an utter farce. At the second reading stage, each Bill should be referred to a Committee which acts in the fashion of a real committee, where officers are present, where the matter being legislated on can be gone into in depth. But no, we turn the Committee stage into a farce.
As to other committees - well, the House of Representatives has practically none. I remember the House of ‘Representatives Select Committee on Wildlife Conservation - wildlife is very important - but I cannot remember many other committees of the House of Representatives. The Senate has a committee system - by accident, by a happy chance - because the Opposition felt that this was the best means of embarrassing the Government. It could do so by appointing committees. Some members of the present Government when on this side of the chamber rather enjoyed it. But this system too will be buried as soon as it can be buried.
I mention next ministerial statements. We had a statement on defence after the Government had reduced our defence forces to next to nothing. That statement was answered by one member who was the spokesman on this side on defence matters. We have had no debate on that subject since. Perhaps we willhavea debate on the Defence Estimates with 10 minutes allotted to each of 5 speakers. The same situation arose in regard to the Karmel Committee report which has turned our whole education system upside down. We had a ministerial statement from the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) and a statement in reply from this side. White papers or green papers are practically unheard of.
As to the use of our time, what do we do? We waste it talking for hours and hours about matters on which we all agree, for the purpose of getting a bit of material in our local news papers. As to the essential matters, we push them through as we did this afternoon in 2½ hours. Those factors must ultimately have a great effect on the quality of Parliament. People worthwhile will not bother to come into the House of Representatives. They may for a while continue to go into the Senate. But we have killed Parliament.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Luchetti) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I think that it is fair to say that the pressures which have come on this Parliament and the fact that the membership of the Parliament at this stage of its evolution has not developed into a Canberra dwelling group - in the case of most of the major parliaments of the world members dwell in their national capitals - are not helping the standing of the Parliament or the level of debate here. But I think that it is somewhat unfair to say that the activities in the Parliament are altogether irrelevant. It is true that more amendments have been accepted in this Parliament in the last 6 months to 8 months than were accepted here in the last 6 years to 8 years. This is, I suppose, more an expression of the political needs of the day than the result of the force of the arguments. But it is not reasonable to blame the Parliament if the force of the arguments is not good. I think that members must accept responsibility for the present state of affairs.
Let me refer to the 2 most backward steps that this Parliament has made. The first was to provide broadcast relay facilities in the offices of members. This is an extreme convenience and I do not think that any member would give it up easily. But this facility does enable members to hear the debates without being physically present in the chamber. This fact must detract from the performance of speakers in the House. The other backward step is, as mentioned by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner), the reading of speeches. It is much easier to appear to be a first class speaker if one writes one’s speech in advance or someone writes it for one and then it is presented to the Parliament. This is a very easy thing to do. In fact, provided one is a good reader, one can be the most eloquent of persons. But this practice does not necessarily add to debates.
Possibly more important, the Parliament and the Parliament’s performance of its duties are seriously detracted from by the role that the
Standing Orders, which after all are decided mainly on a free vote of the House, provide to the Speaker of the House. Under our Standing Orders, the Speaker does not have the right to reject a motion for the gag. The Speaker has very little right under the Standing Orders with relation to questions - the nature of questions or answers to questions.
– We need a non-Party Speaker.
– That is not easy especially from a House with 125 members. If we were to elect as Speaker of the House the member who had the most marginal seat in the Parliament and he were to become the non-Party Speaker of the House, his casting vote would be an extremely valuable vote in a House whose membership totals an odd number. Governments could fall on that casting vote. I do not think that the solution is quite as politically easy as the honourable member for Isaacs suggests. I am not naive enough to think that we can do it as easily. I would like to see such action made possible. But I do not think that in a House of 125 members, with the closeness of the contest at election time and the narrow margins by which governments are often elected, a solution of that type - the giving away of one seat - is one which any political party in this place will easily accept.
What has to be done if this Parliament is to process the business which it should process? We do have a number of committees. But we are reaching the stage where members are not able to give service to the committees that have been appointed and of which they are members. They cannot do so because of the limitations on their time. The proposition that I put to the Committee of the Whole is that it may well be that we need to alter the procedures used in the passage of Bills through this chamber. At the moment, because each matter has to be legislated and because the pressures are growing - the previous Government had this trouble, we will have this trouble, and future governments will have this trouble in far greater detail - Bills must be passed and debate must take place on those Bills. Yet, the Parliament should be the place where the really major debates of the nation can take place. That situation does not exist at the moment. I believe that some solution to this problem should be found.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was making the point that because of the increasing pressure of legislation to be passed through this Parliament it is becoming more and more difficult for the Parliament to debate in any depth the substantial matters which should be debated in this Parliament. The time factor is not going to improve with the passage of years. It will get worse. The Parliament will bog down in a situation in which it will be dealing with nothing other than legislation unless other methods are adopted by which we may consider legislation that comes before us.
I would like to outline a proposal which I feel should be given consideration in regard to dealing with legislation in the second reading and Committee stages. At present all legislation is debated and passed through all stages in this chamber. This is not the case in all parliaments. I feel that it would be possible to devise a system whereby the House divided into 3 or more committees. I think 3 committees would most likely be an ideal number in view of the present number of representatives in this chamber. Under this proposal a Bill, having been introduced into the Parliament and the second reading speech having been made, would be referred to one of the committees where the second reading and Committee stages of the Bill would be completed. The Bill would then come back to the Parliament for report and passage through the third reading, which is the passing stage. Protection would have to be built into such a system to enable a major Bill to be dealt with in the House if the Opposition desired that it be dealt with in the House. I think that the best way of doing that would be by providing that if a Bill had reached the second reading stage it would automatically be referred to one of the committees unless, say, one-third of the members or some such number were to indicate that they wanted the Bill debated in what would be a plenary session of the House.
A committee system of this nature would not restrict the rights of members to debate legislation. It would not restrict the Parliament’s control over legislation. Such a system may well furnish better debates on some of the smaller but important Bills which at the moment are rushed through the Parliament purely because of a lack of time. Obviously structural alterations to this Parliament would have to take place before such a system could operate. There would have to be committee rooms which could accommodate the 40 or more members who would participate in these meetings. It would be possible to adopt this system by the Parliament meeting for, say, an hour and then dividing into the 3 committees to discuss 3 matters at the same time. In this way better and fuller discussion of legislation could take place. When the legislation came back to this place I should think that debate would be restricted to the report stage and the third reading stage of the legislation. I think it is important that we look at means by which we can streamline the processes of passing legislation through this Parliament, at the same time enabling the Parliament to give adequate and proper consideration for the important matters that the national Parliament should deal with. I would like to deal with this matter more fully but I do not think that this is the appropriate time. Unless the Parliament gives serious consideration to how it is going to cope with the increased work load that confronts it, the Parliament will become a sausage machine, turning out Bills and dealing with little else. That is the evolution that confronts the Parliament, purely because of the increased pressure of work that confronts the Australian Government.
– I have listened with great interest to the 2 preceding speakers, the honourable members for Bradfield (Mr Turner) and Corio (Mr Scholes). Both of them are known to be genuine and sincere parliamentarians, anxious to put forward suggestions for the better working of the Parliament. I would like to think that I might be included in this group. Reference has been made to question time. Undoubtedly question time docs need improving. I think we should all take note of the statement - indeed, the plea - made from the Chair by Mr Speaker on 11th of this month when he especially asked members to reduce the length of their questions and when he also made a plea to Ministers to make their replies shorter and more to the point. Of course, all that is provided in the Standing Orders in relation to Ministers’ answers to questions is that they must be relevant to the question; there is nothing in Standing Orders in regard to the length of the reply.
I feel this is a matter that the Standing Orders Committee might well have a look at. I feel that more power should be vested in Mr Speaker. Indeed, I should like to see Mr Speaker’s powers more commensurate with those of the Speaker of the House of Commons at Westminster. I believe that this Parliament would function much better if there were more powers vested in the Chair and if the Chair had a greater discretion, for example, to pull up a Minister who was obviously making too long a statement in reply to a question without notice on a matter which, according to the best practice of this Parliament, should really be dealt with at the end of question time, because invariably leave would be granted to a Minister to make a statement on a matter of importance at the end of question time. I think that all members on both sides of the chamber would prefer a Minister to make a statement at the end of question time, rather than take up the time of honourable members.
Allowing for the fact that we are in opposition, our chances of asking questions without notice are reduced, especially if one is sitting on the back benches. We should be able to ask many more questions than we do during the course of the 45 minutes allowed for questions each day. I have found in discussions with my constituents that question time is the part of parliamentary proceedings which is probably of greatest interest to the people outside this place and I think it should be borne in mind by all of us that we should give maximum opportunity to all members on both sides of the chamber to ventilate their points of view and to ask questions, and that Ministers should co-operate by making their answers as brief as possible. So, I hope that we will all bear in mind Mr Speaker’s plea and that the Standing Orders Committee will also take note of my suggestion that it should have a look at this question of giving more power to Mr Speaker.
On the notice paper of today, 26 September, I notice that there are questions on notice which have been on the notice paper since 28 February. Having a look at the questions that were put on notice on that date, I should think that some of them would have been capable of being answered before now. I do not think that a serious enough effort is being made by some Ministers and departments to give answers to questions on notice. I think that there has been somewhat of a falling down of the parliamentary process in this area. It is the responsibility of Ministers to see that their departments help them to come up with answers within a reasonable time.
Another point that is worrying quite a lot of members is the growing tendency in recent times for quite important statements to be made outside the chamber. I can well understand the leader of any party, and more particularly the leader of the government of the day, making statements to the Press. I think the holding of weekly Press conferences between a Prime Minister and the Press media is a good thing, but I think it is desirable that they be kept within reasonable bounds. Let me quote one instance. I am rather concerned that a matter so important to the nation as a major change in the manufacture of Japanese cars in Australia was announced by the Prime Minister to the Press - not to the Parliament but to the Press - on 28 August. That was a major policy decision, a matter which members of the Parliament would like to have had a chance to debate and indeed should have had a chance to discuss if they bad so desired. I hope that there will be a lessening of this tendency to make statements of significance outside the chamber and that there will be more and more a tendency to come back to the parliamentary system and for matters of national consequence to be dealt with and spoken about in this chamber in the first instance.
I come now to another question which I think I was the first to initiate about 10 or 12 years ago, and that is the size of the quorum of this chamber. As we know, under section 39 of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution we are bound to a proportion of 33 1/3 per cent of members for a quorum. At the moment we do not have a quorum. I think that many people sitting in the gallery, for example, and, when we are on the air, people listening, must be disturbed when they hear calls for a quorum. It is unrealistic to maintain a quorum of 33 1/3 per cent. We have one of the highest quorums in the world. I did quite a lot of research on this subject 10 or 12 years ago and I tried at that time, as a member of the Standing Orders Committee, to get my suggestions adopted, but I was not successful. This is another matter at which members of the Standing Orders Committee might have a look. I can recall that about 3 years ago the previous Government introduced the House of Representatives (Quorum of Members) Bill aimed at reducing the size of the quorum. Somehow or other it became bogged down and did not pass through the Parliament - mores the pity.
I think that many people fail to realise - and one can understand their inability to realise this because one has to be part and parcel of the place to realise - how much time of a member is taken up with committee work, with research, with correspondence which flows in all the time, with interviews with Ministers and in a great many other ways. We cannot afford the time to sit in this chamber ali the time. In fact very often it is difficult to comply with the request of the Whip to come down into the chamber to help make a quorum because if one leaves one’s room for half an hour or so one finds another big pile of work waiting when one goes back.
I believe that there has been some improvement in this Parliament in relation to the sitting hours. I am. always very mindful of the effect of sitting hours on the staff - not so much on honourable members as on the staff of this Parliament. I have made a plea in previous parliaments for more consideration to be given to the staff. Long sitting hours are very arduous. It is not often realised that quite a lot of people in the Parliament and outside the Parliament have at least another hour’s work to do after the Parliament rises each night. When we rise at 1 1 o’clock, as we now do each night automatically - this is a good thing - there are quite a lot of people who have work to do until about midnight. In other words, they do not leave the building and go home to bed as honourable members do at 11 o’clock. They do not get away from the place until about midnight or perhaps even later. I think that this has been a good move forward.
The committee system, to which I have always attributed a great amount of importance, has suffered considerably under the new sitting hours arrangements. We sit more days in the week and we have been sitting more hours each day. This is necessary to get through the work. It also has to be realised that the committee system is an integral part of the system of Parliament. I hope that the joint committee to be set up to study and report on the committee system of the 2 Houses will be able to come up with a solution. I compliment the Government on so far keeping up regular grievance debates and general business debates. I am pleased about this because it recognises the rights of private members to speak in these debates. Inevitably with the increasing volume of work in Canberra honourable members will have to face up to spending more weeks of the year in Canberra. I think the answer lies in spending more weeks of the year in Canberra rather than spending more days in the week here because at the same time as there is an increase in the volume of an honourable member’s work here in Canberra there is an increase in the volume of work in the member’s electorate. I think that Friday and Monday sittings make it almost intolerable for members. We just cannot get through the amount of work that has to be done in our electorates and meet all the commitments we are expected to meet there and then be ready to face up to a full week’s work here. I hope that this is a matter that will also be looked at by the authorities concerned. Many matters which are referred to a member would more properly be referred to an ombudsman, and I hope that in due course the authorities will have another good look at the report of the Commonwealth Administrative Review Committee which sat last year under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Kerr. I think the report was tabled early last year. It recommended the appointment of a general counsel for grievances. Some of the States have wisely appointed ombudsmen, and I hope that the Commonwealth will follow suit.
Finally may I pay a tribute, as I very much like to do on this annual occasion of a debate on the parliamentary estimates, to the efficient and the dedicated service given to the Parliament by the staff and by the various ancillary services of the Parliament.
– I wish to pass a few comments on the parliamentary section of the Estimates. I follow up some of the remarks made by previous speakers about questions without notice in the Parliament. I think it was the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) who raised the matter of supplementary questions during question time. He said that questions ranged over a great variety of subjects either of national importance or of parochial interest - the parish pump questions - without any continuity to the type of questions that were asked. I remember that on occasions some of my colleagues and I asked a series of questions following on a particular line of questioning or a particular subject. It was unfortunate that we had to wait to get the call in accordance with normal procedure to try to get what should have been a continuous story throughout the questions. I think it is important that we give consideration in the Parliament to how we can best arrange for supplementary questions to be asked after the main question. This will be of advantage not only to those on the Opposi tion side of the Parliament but also be of considerable benefit to members on the Government side in being able to get the full story of a particular matter that they have raised by way of question. I think that this will need some investigation in the future.
I also wish to make some comment on the committee system. We have had a growing committee system in the Parliament and a most effective one. I have experienced membership on committees in both the Victorian Parliament and the Australian Parliament. From the point of view of the backbench member it is probably in the committee work of Parliament that most job satisfaction is obtained. However, it seems strange to me that the only committees under the Appropriation Bill that have budgets on which to work are the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. It seems to me that there must be a strong case for other committees, whether joint committees or standing committees of the Parliament that are substantially constituted and have the supporting staff which is necessary for them to carry out their investigations, to be allocated an appropriation for the work they do in the financial year. In this way the committees would have a great deal more flexibility in being able to decide the investigations to carry out and how fully to go into them. There are some in-built inhibitions at present when a committee is drawing from a general appropriation. I think that the Parliament could well consider giving committees their own appropriate annual budgets and the responsibility to see that the way in which that money is expended is the best possible way to produce the best possible result.
There is another problem with reports of some of the committees. This applies to reports of parliamentary committees and some of the reports that are presented from extra parliamentary committees, in the sense that often when they are tabled there are brief statements by leave by members on either side of the House explaining the reason for arriving at recommendations. It seems to me that while theoretically the forms of the House allow it, we neglect to leave discussion of these reports for a time before a general debate takes place on them. I think much is to be said for such a proposal. Another aspect of the committee system is that, I believe, the committees that are in operation should report to the members of the House the matters which they have under investigation. This could be done by reporting to the Party Whips so that they could advise the members of their Party what investigations certain committees are carrying out. One committee which has to investigate a number of matters is the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation and its activities should be advised to the Parties so that members who are interested in making submissions or who have organisations in their electorates which would be interested in taking part in the hearings on particular matters, know what is going on and can make appropriate representations. To a certain extent this is missing at the moment and yet it could be so easily corrected.
One matter that always seems to occupy the minds of members of Parliament is the question of sitting hours. I pay a compliment to the present Leader of the House (Mr Daly) for the sensible way in which meetings of the House finish at 11 o’clock each night. This has been a vast improvement on my previous experience in this Parliament. At least now a member knows that he will get a reasonable sleep. However there is the problem of integrating the hours in which we are in this House with the work of the various committees - be they parliamentary or Party committees - and using the time effectively.
The honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury), who preceded me in this debate, spoke of the suggestion that we will have to spend more weeks in Canberra. I believe that this is the probable solution to the present problem and that the Parliament will eventually arrive at that conclusion because of the load of legislation and the generally increasing pressures on members of the Parliament at the moment. But if more weeks are to be spent in Canberra for sittings of Parliament, one must not forget that members have to do a lot of work in their electorates. If this extra sitting load is imposed upon members, some consideration must be given to the staffing situation of members in their home electorates, so that persons are available to handle the many problems which occur, whether they concern social welfare, post offices or any of the other general matters that crop up. Members of Parliament cannot handle all this work on their own. If we are to spend more weeks in Canberra we will need extra assistance to be able to give our constituents the answers and assistance they require from us.
Some years ago I sat on a parliamentary committee which inquired into the matter of administrative appeal tribunals and the question of the appointment of an ombudsman. I saw the functioning of the ombudsman in New Zealand, where, of course, there is not the problem of State governments as well as a Federal government. This makes it easier for the ombudsman to operate. The argument is often put forward that the member of Parliament himself is the ombudsman in his electorate.
– And his wife.
– The honourable member for Wide Bay points out that not only does the member of Parliament have to be an ombudsman in a particular area but his wife has to be one as well. Every honourable member knows just how much his own family has to become involved in working in the electorate. This only adds more force to the argument I put previously about staffing in the electorates. My colleague, the honourable member for Wide Bay, has led me away from the discussion of the subject of the ombudsman. Despite the role that a member of Parliament plays in this sense, I still think there is an overriding role for the office of an ombudsman or parliamentary commissioner - call it what we will - as it exists in other countries. It is not always possible for a member to research problems that arise or to get down to the basic problems that occur in public administration. If one were able to find the right person with the right techniques in finding solutions to those problems, this would be a worthy ancillary service to our parliamentary system.
– I should like to refer very briefly to one or two comments made by the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins). Surprisingly I do so to commend him for them. In the latter part of his speech he referred, prompted by my neighbour, the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen), to the wives of honourable members. I am in the position where I do not have a wife any more, but I think that these ladies who work with their men do a magnificent job. They remain at home within the environs of the electorate. They have to tolerate the backlash, or accept the bouquets which come very infrequently to a Federal member of Parliament. I think that they are a wonderfully courageous and magnificent group of women. I can say this now, because, as I said, I do not have a wife.
The honourable member for Scullin referred to the time we spend at Canberra. The Leader of the House (Mr Daly) has more or less foreshadowed that we will spend more time even than the Mondays we now have here at Canberra. This creates quite a difficulty for honourable members handling great sprawling electorates. If I were to quote my predecessor - one of the finest members, I would say, that ever appeared in this House, Mr Bill Riordan - I would say that the electorate of Kennedy is one of the largest constituencies of its kind in the world, not so much in area but in distribution of towns, mining areas and grazing and pastoral areas. Just about everything is in that electorate. It has an area of 250,000 square miles. I think every honourable member in this House on both sides would agree with me that there is only one realistic way of representing people in this nation, and that is to mix among them, to go into the areas and to come into physical contact at least with the area from time to time.
Of course this is becoming increasingly difficult with the additional hours that we have to spend here in Canberra. Although it is interesting to note that in most countries - I had reason to learn this at some close quarters when I was at the ‘United Nations - the elected representatives of the people move to Washington, to Delhi, to London holus bolus and stay there during the period of the sittings. This would be quite impossible from our point of view for two reasons: One is economic. Most of us could not afford to have an additional home in Canberra. The other is that it would keep us away from our electorates for quite an unrealistic time.
Perhaps I could refer again to the Leader of the House. He is a sort of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. I think that we would all agree that he has been most compassionate, most considerate and most realistic in making additional facilities available to us. We now have the use of charter planes if we represent electorates of more than 100,000 square miles. My electorate covers 250,000 square miles. One of the things that always strikes me is how any Minister or Cabinet who would control these things could imagine that we like travelling in charter planes. To suggest that there is any great pleasure in sitting in a small Cessna for 4 or 5 hours with the obvious discomfort that may arise is quite ridiculous. However, at least we now have this privilege.
Some other improvements have been made to the functioning of the House. The suspension of the sitting by no later than 11 p.m., which was referred to by the honourable member for Scullin, is one. I think all honourable members will agree with me when I say that that is a very logical and realistic approach to adopt. I commend the Leader of the House for introducing it. But the point is the Leader of the ‘House suddenly contorts himself and changes into a Mr Hyde. When he is in that mood he acts in a most ruthless manner. It is almost impossible to believe that the congenial and lovable Fred Daly quite suddenly becomes a diabolical character who will gag a debate in a split second and deprive honourable members of the normal democratic rights they have to express their points of view. That happened today with respect to the debate on a Bill which is of absolutely monumental importance to the nation, that is, the Bill seeking to hold a referendum concerning the controlling of incomes as well as prices.
Earlier tonight or late this afternoon the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) referred to the manner in which question time is conducted. I think all honourable members will agree with me when I say that question time is the most colourful time of any sitting day. It is the time when honourable members are not inhibited and when they can put questions to the Prime Minister and his Ministers. I think there would not be one member of this House who, if he were honest with himself and not jumping to a Party whip - I do not mean a Party Whip in the formal sense, I mean a whip that is cracked by a Party - would disagree with me when I say that we should devote at least one hour and perhaps li hours to question time, which is the period of a sitting day which is of most interest to the people of this nation. During question time members of Parliament can inquire from the Prime Minister and his Ministers in a most uninhibited manner about divers questions and things of interest to the people of the nation. I for one feel quite strongly that question time should ‘be extended.
Let me get on to the conditions under which members of Parliament live in this great white building. I wish to point out to the people sitting in the galleries that once members of Parliament walk into this building each day they are prisoners until the Parliament adjourns at night. It is like being back at boarding school. Members of Parliament are not permitted to leave the building from the time the bells are rung at the commencement of a sitting day to summon members to the chamber until they are rung at 11 o’clock at night to tell us that we can go home. Irrespective ofwhether we like the conditions that exist in this building or the food or the facilities we are obliged to tolerate them.
One of the greatest disadvantages we suffer is the conditions under which we have to take our meals. With the exception of the period during which I was Minister for the Army, I have been on the House Committee for 6 years. From the moment I went on to it I discovered that I was one of the many members from all political parties who had been pressing for some sort of reasonable system of air-conditioning in the dining room. Look at the little lounge to which members of Parliament can take their guests. We ask people to come to Canberra and see Parliament House and the national capital. We take them for a drink into a dingy little room in which only about 14 people can sit. I think you will agree with me, Mr Deputy Chairman, that these conditions are utterly primitive.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Armitage) - I do not drink.
– I know you do not drink, Mr Deputy Chairman. As the proceedings of the Parliament are not being broadcast at the moment one can be quite honest about these things. But the conditions are quite primitive. Perhaps of more importance is the question of the air-conditioning of this building. It is of interest to note that a recommendation has been made to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in this respect. It is to be hoped that a favourable decision will be forthcoming. For 6 years we have been told that the matter is being looked into.
It should be understood that members of Parliament have no alternative dining facilities, unless they are affluent enough to go across to The Lobby Restaurant, which was supposed to be a restaurant built for the convenience of family groups visiting the Parliament. They were supposed to be able, if they so desired, to go to the The Lobby and have an inexpensive meal after visiting the Parliament. Honourable members know what has happened in that respect. Honourable members know the great protest that was made by both sides of the House about the services provided at The Lobby. I believe that some sort of a snack bar has been incorporated into the premises. But the people involved missed the punch altogether.
Finally, I wish briefly to pay tribute to the staff of the Parliament generally. I think the attendants are quite remarkable people. They must go through a period of boredom while they sit around waiting to do whatever we require of them. Despite that they do whatever is required of them in a very congenial manner. They are great fellows. The services provided by the Parliamentary Library are quite remarkable. Sometimes an honourable member will say to the Library officers that he wants certain information within the next 24 hours or the next 7 days.The information is brought to his room. It is fairly complete. However, I wish to make one small comment in regard to the information provided by the Library.
– You cannot read.
– Have you been drinking or something?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Armitage) - Order!
– I just thought- he is a friend of mine. He understands me. Sometimes the information we receive from the Library is in precis form rather than in longer form. I refer now to the parliamentary committees, and in particular the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. I think that Party politics should be thrust aside and members of Parliament should get together. Sometimes the times for meeting of these committees clash with the various party meetings. I think the present system is causing considerable inconvenience and results in members from all parties being unable to attend meetings they should otherwise attend. I think something should be done about that.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
MrDUTHIE(Wilmot)(8.36) -I appreciate many of the points raised by the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter). His speech was rather refreshing to listen to when comparing it with the speech made by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) just before the sitting was suspended for dinner. We heard a tirade by the honourable member for Bradfield expressing criticism and contempt for the Parliament in which he works. There was not one extenuating circumstance about his speech. I have heard the honourable member for Bradfield make many speeches in this place for many years. His speeches, while debating the estimates for the Parliament, have always been the same. He has done nothing very dramatic in his own way to change the parliamentary system and the procedures that he criticises and condemns. His speeches receive headlines in the Press because the Press will pick up criticism of this Parliament quick and lively, but a person who praises the Parliament or tries to make some contribution to it receives no publicity. The honourable member for Bradfield has been a publicity chaser in this respect.
I have contempt for any member who continually bashes this Parliament as if its members are a bunch of nincompoops, nitwits and conservative fellows who have no wish for improvement or anything like that. The facts belie what the honourable member for Bradfield said in this Parliament today. He made a speech which would be outrageous in any circumstances. If any member from this side of the House made a similar speech I would condemn it in the same way. We have so many critics outside the Parliament that it staggers me to think that a member like the honourable member for Bradfield runs with a pack of hounds baying through the countryside, as it were, against this institution. It is the finest institution in the country. It is one of the greatest features of democracy that I know. I will not receive any publicity for praising this place. It happens that I have been a member of Parliament for 28 years. On Friday I had my twenty-eighth anniversary in this Parliament.
– Thank you, gentlemen. My colleague, the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), has been here 30 years and the honourable member for Fremantle, the Minister for Education <Mr Beazley), has been here 29 years. We are the only 3 members of this Parliament who were here when Mr Chifley was Prime Minister. If honourable members wish to know the secret of survival we will be quite happy to tell them. The survival rate in this Parliament is just on 10 years. Anyone who survives beyond 10 years is on borrowed political time. As a member here for 28 years I have seen the changes that have taken place in this Parliament - for the better, too. The Standing Orders have been amended on many occasions with respect to the time allowed for members to participate in debates. Members have been given more and improved speaking rights in the Parliament. The time limit on speeches has been changed to give members more flexibility. These changes have been most sensible.
The Labor Party was in Opposition for 23 years and faced a Liberal Party-Country Party coalition Government. We co-operated with the Government on the Standing Orders Committee and quite a number of changes were made to the Standing Orders. But the argument that we were not successful in winning in that time was that seeking a sensible adjournment time for each day’s proceedings in the Parliament. The Parliament used to sit beyond 12 o’clock at night. The staff of this Parliament never knew when each working day would finish; neither did we. The House could rise at 11.15, 11.30, midnight or past midnight. The adjournment time for each sitting day was completely flexible and changed from day to day.
– It was 6.30 one morning.
– Many times the Parliament sat right through the night to finish Budget sessions in late November or early December. As I am reminded on some occasions sitting days finished at 6 o’clock or 7 o’clock in the morning.
– The Liberals look awful in the middle of the night.
– Yes. That is one of the reasons why we have changed the system. Since the honourable member has been Leader of the House, the revolutionary change of fixing an adjournment time for each day’s proceedings has been introduced. Proceedings now finish each day at 1 1 o’clock.
– What about last week?
– On only one occasion under this Labor Government has the House of Representatives sat past 11 o’clock in the evening since this new provision was introduced. This provision gives everybody a chance to recover from the sitting day. The Hansard staff has a chance to relax. Those people who are required by regulation to remain in Parliament House for an hour after the sitting concludes now know that they will be able to leave for home at midnight; in the past their hour of departure may have been 1 a.m. or later.
The honourable member for Bradfield speaks as a disillusioned, desperate, discarded member. According to him, there is nothing right with the ‘House of Representatives at all. His speech was 10 minutes of continuous criticism and scandalising, as it were, as to what this Parliament does not do. Yet there have been great changes since I was first elected to this place and, as I have said, they have been for the better. Speeches now are of a higher standard than those to which I used to listen 20 years ago. Members take more time in preparation of their speeches. I reject those critics who say that the reading of a speech is undignified, unethical or whatever else they may call it. I would far sooner hear a good prepared speech than to hear someone start at Genesis and finish at Revelations, not really knowing on what point he has begun or on what point he will finish.
– That would be a pretty long speech.
– Yes, but it would be a most exciting one, especially when going through all the battles of the Old Testament. I think that the first responsibility of a member is to give this Parliament a logical, well-prepared speech. He may make his points as (a), (b), (c) and (d) or use headlines numbered 1, 2, 3 and 4 as his guide. Such a prepared speech is better to listen to in the chamber and over the parliamentary broadcast. It sounds a lot better here and it reads much better in the Hansard report. Why does not the honourable member for Bradfield resign? Why does he not get out of this place?
– He has not resigned.
– Why does he not? He is in one of the safest seats in this Parliament. But he is the worst critic of the Parliament - of his own mates in the Parliament, as it were. The only good thing about the Parliament as far as he is concerned is the salary - I am sure of that - and he does not need it.
He spoke about the committee system. He criticised the committee system. A few years ago, we had no parliamentary committees. Now we have joint committees investigating various matters that we never even thought of before. The Senate is working flat out with committees investigating all sorts of subjects. Honourable members are running into each other going to and from committees. We hardly know where we are because of the number of committee calls on our time. In addition to joint parliamentary committees, we have Party committees covering a tremendous range of subjects. If the committee system is to be increased in the way suggested by the honourable member for Bradfield, I will give the game away, stay out of committees entirely and have a good time in this place, and have a bit of a rest away from committees and get down to working on the problems concerning my constituents and also undertake the study and research that is required of a member of Parliament.
I feel that we need to come to a decision about a site for the new parliament house. This building has been patched up like an old pair of pants for so long that it is no longer a joke. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on extensions to this building and maintenance costs run into thousands of dollars each year. I think it is time that we took a decision on the new site. That is all that is stopping us from going ahead with the new building. It is important for us to begin construction of a new parliament house because it will take 10 or 12 years to build. But once built it will be there for eternity. I was on the joint committee that brought up the report on the new parliament house. We planned for 400 years ahead. That is the only way to plan it. I think that the members of this Parliament are doing the job which is required of them. We are all dedicated members.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Armitage) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I would like to speak for a few moments about the committee system which operates in this Parliament and which has operated here for a long while. For a number of years I have felt the committee system to be quite inadequate and inappropriate. I have felt even that it was moving in the wrong direction. The Parliament has tended to appoint ad hoc committees to look at particular matters that have concerned it from time to time. I have no quarrel with that, but there are important areas of Government administration which ought to come under the scrutiny of this Parliament but which can only come under the scrutiny of Parliament if the appropriate committee system is established, and it has not been established. It was not established when we were in government and I have not the slightest doubt that it will not be established under the present Government. There are people who have examined this matter and made comparisons between our committee system and the United Kingdom and United States experience.
Basically the United States experience is not appropriate to our situation because of the divisions of power between the President, the Executive and the Congress, and because the President’s Cabinet is not part of the United States Parliament. His senior appointees have different responsibilities which are carried cut in a different manner. As a result of the separation of functions in the United States there is a system in which powerful congressional committees have been established with the right to summon and question the presidential appointees to particular positions, whether they be the Secretary of State, foreign affairs, defence or whatever the home affairs in that country are called, and the multifarious Cabinet positions in the United States. But the situation of the division of power between the United States Executive and Congress makes the committee experience in that country really inappropriate to our system.
It is much better, therefore, to look to what has happened in the United Kingdom because that country has the same kind of parliamentary system as we have. It has developed its committee system to a much greater extent and much more effectively. As a result it can get through more work in less parliamentary time. If we had the same system in Australia it might even remove from the present Leader of the House (Mr Daly) the necessity to move the gag from time to time. I suppose that is one reason why we are unlikely to have a committee system similar to the United Kingdom system. I suspect that the Leader of the House enjoys moving the gag from time to time.
– I was enjoying your speech until you said that.
– Fred, I thought you might still have enjoyed it in spite of that? You know that it was said in a non-partisan sense. You were in Opposition for so long that the look of glee that comes over your face-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Armitage) - I invite the honourable member to address the Committee.
– When the honourable member for Grayndler is going to shut vo somebody from the Opposition side by moving the gag the look of undoubted pleasure that comes over his face is hard to conceal. But there is one particular area that this Parliament has not examined as it ought to be examined. We have the Public Accounts Committee. It started off its operations by ensuring that the expenditure authorised by this Parliament was spent as the Parliament authorised. I know that the Committee has extended its operations to some extent beyond that. But in the United Kingdom, not only is there a public accounts committee but also there is an expenditure committee. That committee has a function entirely different from that of the public accounts committee. The expenditure committee is designed to make sure that, within the ambit of Government policies, departments pursue and develop those policies in the most efficient manner possible. It does not question policy itself. It looks at the formation of the estimates for government departments. The expenditure committee is a large one composed of about 40 members. I think it is broken up into about 4 subcommittees. Each sub-committee takes a number of UK Government departments and they really put the departmental officers through the hoops in relation to the very formation of the estimates themselves.
Having been a Minister in charge of 3 different portfolios I doubt whether there is a Department of State that does not somewhere or other pad expenditure votes in this country. Ministers find that this is convenient and therefore do not argue against it. But it is bad parliamentary practice, it is bad for departments, it is bad for the Public Service and it ought not to be possible to pad votes in this area. The expenditure vote that can most easily be padded is the vote for travelling. I can remember one of the Defence departments on one occasion running out of travelling funds. We could not even afford to send a senior officer on a special mission to South East Asia. So we approached one of the other Service departments and said: ‘Oh, all right, you can have one of our positions on a troop carrying aircraft and we will buy a first class ticket on Qantas.’ That is just showing in a slightly ludicrous fashion how particular votes can be padded. Of course, this can add up to a very considerable amount of money.
We need an expenditure committee to operate under the same kind of terms of reference as does the United Kingdom expenditure committee. For the first time this would give to this Parliament some degree of control over the formation of estimates and over the formation of expenditure items. An expenditure committee would not cut out the work of our Public Accounts Committee. The Public Accounts Committee would still continue under very much the same terms of reference. But at the same time there would need to be close liaison between the 2 committees. I do not believe that the committee system established by our Senate obviates in any way the need for an expenditure committee sitting right through the year to examine estimates for departments. At present we must look at the Estimates between the time of their presentation and the time when they are passed through the Budget debate. In that short time we really cannot get into the depth of how departments go about this business of expenditure.
It is notable that 30 years ago the United Kingdom started off in the same way as our Senate Estimates committees have started off. The United Kingdom soon moved to a system where it had specialist committees sitting all the year round, not looking at estimates in relation to the presentation of the budget but looking into the totality of the way in which departments go about this function which is very important in terms of financial responsibility. In addition, I strongly believe that there ought to be 2 general purpose standing committees of this Parliament to enable the business of the Parliament to be decentralised. Again I suppose that proposition is against the philosophy of my honourable friend and colleague, the Leader of the House.
If we had 2 general purpose standing committees, non-controversial matters, the committee stages of non-controversial Bills and the second reading stage of non-controversial Bills could be referred to the standing committees. If on examination those standing committees felt that those matters should come before the whole of the House, that could be done. This is the practice in the United Kindgom. This is not a step into the dark. It is not a step into the unknown. These procedures have been tried and proved over many years in the United Kingdom. So if somebody says that we cannot do this until we get a new parliament house - and that might be 10 to 20 years away, I do not know - that is not true. We could build an underground pathway leading to the car park or the gardens on this side of the building and put up an appropriate committee building or two. I regret to say it may be on the bowling green. Whilst that may disturb those who use the bowling green for its present function, the purpose of this Parliament comes before bowls. We could even have an underground walkway going beyond the bowling green and not disturb the bowlers. But to say that we do not have adequate facilities at present is no answer to this important and urgent necessity facing this Parliament. The 2 general purpose committees would do a very great deal to achieve a more efficient use of parliamentary time. Nobody would be kept off a particular committee if he was interested in a particular item. In the United Kingdom there is a permanent membership, together with a floating membership, so that members who are interested in a particular matter can speak to that matter and take a part in the debates that might be involved with it.
The only other specialist committee that I think it might be worth while to consider establishing would be one on tariffs. Then, those particularly interested in these problems could in committee examine the Tariff Board reports in very great detail and in a way that may not otherwise be possible because of the pressures of time on the business of this Parliament. I think it would be much better to have 2 general purpose standing committees, rather than committees covering the totality of departments, one for each department. Again, this follows United Kingdom practice. There is not time in this debate to relate the reasons for this. I do not think we can go beyond that at present because of the numbers in this House. That is a limiting factor on the committees that can be established. I ask the permission of the Committee to have incorporated in Hansard a report that I made for a former Prime Minister - about 3 Prime Ministers ago - in .1965 concerning a comparison between the United Kingdom committee system and the Australian committee system. It is an entirely non-political document. I would not agree with every part of what I then wrote because times have changed and moved, but I have given some indication in this speech of the . changes that I think need incorporating in this document.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins)Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
The purpose of this paper is to make a comparison between the United Kingdom and Australian use of Parliamentary committees, to see if there are some lessons inherent in United Kingdom practice which will enable us to expand the effective use of Parliamentary committees of one kind or another. The paper is not concerned with what may be called the ‘domestic’ committees of the respective Parliaments, in our case the Committee of Privileges, the Standing Orders Committee, the Printing Committee, the Library Committee or the House Committee. It is not concerned with these or with their equivalents in the United Kingdom. It is, however, concerned with those Committees which assist the Parliament in carrying out its own functions and duties in an effective and efficient manner. Therefore, it is probably necessary, in brief terms, to set down some of the main objectives of parliamentary activities in our system of Government.
What Kind of Committee and the Function of Parliament:
The House of Commons has always strongly rejected the idea of departmental committees on the United States or French pattern. These are committees that have responsibilities for overseeing the work and function of one particular department or, in the French case I think, of more than one department. Under these circumstances a Minister in the respective countries would have a committee of this kind breathing down his back at every possible turn. It may be argued in French experience that such committees provided a useful stabilising factor during their period of grossly unstable Government. On the other hand, it could equally well be argued that the strength and power of these committees in the French Parliament through the days of the third and fourth Republics before De Gaulle, made it almost impossible for Ministers to gain proper control over their own departmental affairs. The United States’ practice provides no realistic analogy of what may be expected under our system of Government. The separation of powers in the United States is reasonably complete and the strength of the Committees of Congress in relation to any department are fairly strictly limited by the exclusion of the Executive from Congress. On the other hand it is probably correct to say that United States Congress needs committees of this kind from the very fact that the Executive is not part of Congress. Based on their own experience and on the examples that have been provided in France and America the House of Commons has. I think, quite rightly, rigidly and repeatedly rejected the idea of departmental committees of this kind, and has rather supported the establishment of select committees to form a particular function which might have some relevance at one time or another to some aspect of the work of several departments, or of every department. The Select Committee on Public Accounts, the Select Committee on Estimates and the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments are three such committees. This point could probably be made in another way. Parliamentary control really means influence rather than direct power, advice not command, criticism rather than destruction, scrutiny as opposed to initiation and publicity as opposed to secrecy. If these functions can be carried out effectively the Parliament will have an influence whatever Government may be in power. Parliamentary committees, therefore, should be composed in such a way that these particular duties can be carried out in the best possible manner.
It will not be surprising to see that Australian practice has closely followed United Kingdom experience, in the Public Accounts Committee and in the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances - which is roughly equivalent to the Committee on Statutory Instruments. It may be useful to compare the terms of reference of the Committees in the respective Parliaments.
The Select Committee on Statutory Instruments has had its terms of reference summarised in this way. Its purpose is to draw the attention of the House to provisions which -
impose a charge on the public revenues,
The Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances is charged with the responsibility of seeing the clause of each Bill conferring a regulationmaking power does not confer a legislative power of a character which ought to be exercised by Parliament itself, and that it shall also scrutinise regulations to ascertain -
that they are in accordance with the Statute,
Although there is a considerable differencein the form of the terms of reference, the purpose of both committees is roughly the same, to impose some limits to the extent of delegated legislation and to see that rules made by some delegated authority are in accordance with the Statute itself.
The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has had its terms of reference summarised in this form. Its stated duties are -
The duties of the Commonwealth Parliament’s Joint Statutory Public Accounts Committee are -
It can be seen again that the functions of both Public Accounts Committees follow similar lines. In each case their main purpose has been and is to see that moneys have been spent as they were ordered to be spent by Parliament.
The Australian Joint Statutory Committee on Public Works:
In the Federal Parliament you will find committees which have no counterpart in the United Kingdom - the Joint Statutory Committee on Public Works is one, its purpose being to report to Parliament on the advisability and practicability of various public works over £250,000 which are referred to the Committee in the appropriate manner.
In considering and reporting on any work the Committee shall have regard to -
Committee on Foreign Affairs:
The Joint Foreign Affairs Committee also finds no counterpart in the United Kingdom Parliament probably because the House of Commons, as I have pointed out, has always sternly turned its back against committees which are established on a departmental basis. The problems that could arise as a result of this practice have been overcome in Australia by certain strict limitations on the powers of the Foreign Affairs Committee compared to the powers of equivalent committees in the United States Congress for example. The nature of our parliamentary system makes such limitations necessary.
So far I have mentioned instances of parliamentary committees which the two Parliaments have in common, and pointed out also that in certain fields the Australian Parliament has proceeded further in this direction than the House of Commons. This doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t some further lessons to be learned from United Kingdom experience.
The large Standing Committees to which legislation is referred in the committee stage have no relevance to our Parliament. This practice has been made necessary in the United Kingdom by the increasing pressure of work and of public business and by the size of the House of Commons. In this context we probably need to remember that the House of Commons is responsible not only for all the duties and obligations conferred upon out Federal Parliament but, in addition, it is responsible for all those matters that are decided by the States in Australia, and thus it has a much broader spectrum of work to cover. This alone would make the House of Commons” a busier Parliament than our Federal Parliament, but when this is coupled by the very large membership it is clear that tremendous pressures would develop on the time of the House of Commons. These problems have largely been overcome by the practice of referring committee stages of Bills to permanent Standing Committees, this removes the committee stage of the Bills from the floor of the House of Commons, except in unusual cases or in cases of exceptional importance. These Standing Committees are composed of a nucleus of about twenty permanent members, and up to thirty additional members are appointed to one of these committees for any particular Bill and for that Bill only. To the present point of time it is clear that no pressure and no need for such Committees has developed in the Australian House of Parliament.
Select Committee on the Estimates
Since the war the House of Commons has had experience with the Select Committee on Estimates which has served a useful purpose in a field which is not covered by parliamentary committee work in the Australian Parliament. Such a committee could be worth consideration in Australia. This Committee had a chequered experience until 1939, largely, because the Committee was groping for its proper function. In addition, its activities were interrupted by two world wars because estimates were not presented to the Parliament in the normal manner during the war. At such times a National Committee on Public Expenditure was established, which, in large measure combined the work of both the Public Accounts and the Estimates Committees. Despite the varying fortunes of the Committee its terms of reference have not been altered since 1921. The terms of reference are these -
The Committee is not meant to transgress on policy. It does not involve the time of Ministers, it deals with officials and through officials.
In the periods between the two world wars, there may have been people who thought that the Estimates Committee as such could not provide a particularly useful function, because the Committee was at that time largely trying to re-do the work that had already been done by the Treasury and by Treasury experts and officials. It was probably doubtful if a committee of politicians could perform this particular function any better, if as well, as the trained officials.
At this time the Committee was largely try.ing to draw the attention of the House of Commons to changes in the estimates between one year and the next. They thought it would supply information to the members which would be used in the Supply debates. It didn’t work out this way, largely because most members were more interested in making political speeches at this time than in conducting a detailed consideration of the estimates. It might be said that we would find the same attitude in Australia but, in any case, the history of the Select Committee on Estimates has shown quite clearly that a detailed examination of the estimates figures is not the best way to go about its business. The Committee has been successful only since it departed from this practice and adopted that of the Committee on Public Expenditure which was established during the war.
Since the war however the fortunes of the Committee have changed. It is now widely recognised that it fills a most useful purpose. It now understands the limitations to its own authority and its own effectiveness, or perhaps it would be appropriate to say it has more clearly defined the proper field for its own activities.
The Estimates Committee now largely disregards estimates qua estimates, it uses the estimates as a starting point for investigations into administrative efficiency, which are designed to discover whether the taxpayer is getting proper value for his money. In order to do this more effectively and to cover a larger number of departments, the Estimates Committee has divided itself into several sub-committees, each of which has the assistance of House of Commons clerks. It should be noted that the Committee’s reputation has increased during a period in which it has not had the assistance of specialised technical staff in the sense in which its staff were trained in estimates or in financial procedures.
In the years since the war the Select Committee on the Estimates has not suffered from the absence of specialised staff to do the kind of work for it that is done for the Public Accounts Committee by the staff of the Controller and Auditor-General. The Estimates Committee has overcome this particular problem by getting the information it needs through various official witnesses and particularly from the Treasury.
Quite often the House of Commons pays considerable attention to the Estimates Committee’s reports, but even if no major debates follow the announcement of their reports the fact of the Committee’s existence must have a considerable effect on morale and outlook of various departments, and on the attention they give to their own estimates.
It must be emphasised that although it is desirable for an Estimates Committee to get its reports published as early as possible, it is not necessary and I don’t think it has been the practice in the United Kingdom, for the reports to be published by the time the estimates for that particular department are debated in the House of Commons. The fact that the reports are made, that criticisms or praise could be levelled at certain officials or certain departments in itself has a salutory effect on the way in which estimates are drawn up.
The work of the Estimates Committee is, of course, closely related to the Public Accounts Committee, and in the United Kingdom contact between them is maintained by appointing the Chairman of the former to be a member of the latter. There have at various times, been proposals that the two Committees should be amalgamated, but this has been resisted not only because they have two specific functions to perform but also I think because it was felt that one committee of public expenditure would be too powerful. It must be remembered that the main purpose of the Public Accounts Committee is to see that moneys have been spent as the Parliament previously ordered, while the main purpose of the Estimates Committee is to see that departments draw up their estimates in a most efficient and businesslike manner designed to get the best value for the money that is to be spent.
In 1960 the work of the Estimates Committee was further recognised by changes that were announced by Mr Butler. Membership of the Committee was increased from thirty-six to forty-three to enable it to establish an additional sub-committee, which Mr Butler hoped would enable it to expand the scope of its activities. An example of the Committee’s work may be given in these terms. In 1954 one of the sub-committees decided to examine the estimates concerned with Civil Defence. The Committee’s task was to examine how it was proposed to spend something over £40m during one year within the framework of Government policy. The Committee found that before it could examine the expenditure of the future year in an efficient manner it would have to have some understanding of how funds had been spent in previous years. The purpose here was to see if there had been consistency in policy, to see if matters once started had been properly carried through in accordance with policies announced by the Government. The function of the Committee was never to question the nature of the policy but to see if the policy itself was being carried out as efficiently as possible.
It should be noted that the Estimates Committee of the United Kingdom gives plenty of notice to departments of the nature and scope of any intended inquiry and usually asks for some preliminary material. The object of the exercise is not to trap departments but to acquire information and if necessary reveal difficulties and black spots that might be present. Surprise is not necessary and it is probably not even desirable. The corrective effect of the knowledge of an inquiry is said to be high in the United
Kingdom, and this is probably one of the main advantages of such a Committee. It is not possible to judge the worth of committees of this kind by the notice they achieve in the press by the number of parliamentary questions or the length of parliamentary debates that follow their reports but rather by their effect on the nature and actions of the Public Service itself.
It is possible to divide the work of the House of Commons Estimates Committee into four types. Hie Committee has reviewed activities represented by blocks of expenditure*. For example, reviews of the work of the Control Office, Colonial Development and of Expenditure on Research. Secondly, the Committee has reviewed the work and financial affairs of departments and other bodies spending public moneys, such as the BBC, the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the British Council. Thirdly, they have investigated a series of current problems, some applying to one department and others concerning more than one. Investigations of this kind were those on the release of requisitioned property, the organisation of methods and its effects on the staffing of Government departments and the use of Royal Ordinance Factories and Royal Navy establishments. Finally, they have investigated suspected black spots, either as a result of public doubt or by unusual figures occurring in the estimates. The reports on the use of motor fuel and on the civil service commission have been cited as examples of this type of inquiry.
The Estimates Committee has at least one major point in common with other committees which we have discussed. It is not authorised to formulate or criticise policy, it is there to scrutinise the application of policy, and the way it is to be implemented. This represents the limits of the Committee’s concern with policy. This general limitation is usually made clear in the terms of reference of the different committees.
If an Estimates Committee were to be established in Australia it is probable that the terms of reference of the Public Accounts Committee would need to be reviewed to minimise any difficulties between the two Committees. There would also need to be some overlapping membership as in the United Kingdom so that the work of the two committees could be properly co-ordinated. However, the main concept of both Committees should be kept clearly in mind. The purpose of the Public Accounts Committee is to see that moneys are spent as Parliament ordered; the purpose of the Estimates Committee is to see that the taxpayer is getting the best value for money within the framework of established Government policy.
A Committee on Tariffs:
There is one other field in the Australian Parliament in which committee work could possibly be extended. A parliamentary committee on tariffs would provide a useful function under our circumstances. At the present moment debates on the tariffs are desultory affairs involving the few interested people in the Parliament. Others sometimes begrudge the time made available for such debates, and even though this may be true the fact remains that too little parliamentary time is devoted to this function, that is to the debate of Tariff Board reports and of the Government’s action as a result of those reports. These are decisions that can affect industries and livelihoods in every corner of Australia; they can affect economic policy and Australian development for many years, even decades ahead. It is important that Parliamentary scrutiny of such decisions and of the methods at which they are arrived should be as complete as possible. A House of Representatives or a Joint Committee on Tariffs which would report to the Houses of Parliament would provide a most useful function and, I believe, a necessary one. As the Estimates Committee in the United Kingdom has had to guard against doing the Treasury work over again so a parliamentary committee on tariffs would certainly have to guard against doing the work of the Tariff Board over again. Its purpose rather would be to make an examination of the standards and principles which motivate the Tariff Board, to see if there ls consistency in Tariff Board judgment between one industry and the next, and consistency also in Government reaction to the reports. This is just one field in which a parliamentary committee to scrutinise would be most valuable.
Any committee that exists or any committee that is likely to be established must be served by an adequate staff. That staff should not be a purely technical staff, technical in relation to the subject matter under discussion. In other words, if a parliamentary committee on Tariff Board reports were established it should not be serviced by somebody expert in tariff procedure. Expert technical knowledge in this field would come to such a committee by hearing officers of the Tariff Board and getting the evidence direct from them. The sort of person who should serve such a committee is one who would have some knowledge of research and of parliamentary procedure. He should be able to assist the Committee in these particular fields. The staff would need to have broader capabilities than might be attributed to a purely technical officer in one field or another. The Committee’s staff must be independent, in other words it must be staff employed by the House of Representatives or by the Senate itself. An Estimates Committee or a Tariff Committee would function uselessly if they were served by officers of the Treasury or of the Tariff Board. Some may say that this is one of the real weaknesses of our present Foreign Affairs Committee. However, this again may not be quite true, because the Foreign Affairs Committee is one that from its nature does impinge on the realm of policy. This is the kind of committee which has been rigidly shunned in the United ‘Kingdom, and from the nature of the system of Government with some cause.
The Public Accounts Committee, the Estimates Committee, the Committee on Statutory Instruments, together with the Australian Public Accounts Committee, the Australian Public Works Committee and the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances all have one major point in common, they do not discuss the merits of a proposal, they do not discuss policy. The functions of the Committees are these -
These are the sorts of things that such committees examine.
If these matters are well done parliamentary government will prosper and the politician will fill a more valuable role as a counter-weight to the Executive, but it must be noted that these functions are ones that belong to Parliament and which do not transgress or limit those particular prerogatives that lie with the Executive. They do not in British practice, or in our practice, with the possible exception of the Foreign Affairs Committee, examine policy and motives. If these limitations are placed upon the committees, limitations which are perfectly proper, it is appropriate that the committee be given a reasonable degree of independence, which means an independent staff. Perhaps it should be pointed out that these committees would not create additional demands on the times of Ministers, they would work largely with officials of one kind or another.
A More Effective Parliament and a step to the Future:
It should be emphasised that in parliamentary work most of us are laymen, whether we are lawyers, accountants or doctors in private life, in the field of parliamentary affairs we all have to learn the hard way. We need appropriate forums in which we can become informed so that our own debate, our own criticisms in the Parliament and outside can have more value. One of the best means of informing the politician is through committee work and particularly through parliamentary committee work. The members of both Parties - Government and Opposition - work in the same atmosphere on these committees in an arena that is largely divorced from Party politics.
At this point I would like to return to my introduction to this particular paper. Perhaps one of the most important functions of the Parliament is to scrutinise, to bring out into the public gaze. In this way the Parliament has its influence on the national forum and on the Government. Scrutiny and publicity in the proper form depends upon the well advised politician, sure in his own knowledge. A politician left to his own devices, working by himself, often finds it difficult to gain the information and the depth of knowledge that is made possible through committee work.
There are peculiarly Australian reasons why it may be appropriate to have the committee work of our House of Representatives expanded in the not too distant future. Our Parliament is to be enlarged. If there are to be a greater number of members in the Parliament, it is important that the avenues of parliamentary scrutiny and advice and knowledge be improved and made more effective than they have been in the past. This is especially so when the necessities of modern government place great power in the hands of the Cabinet and of the Prime Minister. But if, in the final resort, initiation of measures is to be almost entirely a prerogative of the Government, the capacity of Parliament and of the individual members of Parliament to examine, to advise or to criticise should be adjusted to meet that situation.
Experience of the Public Accounts Committee and of the Public Works Committee should give us some confidence that committees of this kind can work effectively and to good purpose without cutting across Government policy. They have shown that members from the Government and from the Opposition can work together within the limited but important pur poses of the Committee. We should borrow a little from the experience of the House of Commons and build on our own practice and expand this work in the appropriate fields. I suggest two parliamentary committees - one on estimates and the other on tariffs - may serve as an appropriate field for future moves in this direction.
September 3rd, 196S
– I will not take up too much of the time of the Committee. As a matter of fact, I was not going to speak at all, but I felt impelled to speak in reply to one or two of the remarks of the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) who made statements in the typical manner of a member of the Australian Country Party. I will not say that his statements were hypocrisy, Mr Deputy Chairman, because you would immediately rule me out of order.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins) - I can assure you I would.
– But I would say that his approach to the question was insincere. I refer in particular of course to his statement that li hours should be allowed for questions without notice. I remember that when the honourable member for Kennedy was a member of the Government last year and I was sitting on the other side of the Chamber I rose time and time again objecting to the practice of the Right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon), who was then the Prune Minister, of cutting question time short. I can recollect on one occasion when question time lasted for only 28 minutes or 32 minutes, I am not sure which. I used to sit on the other side and each day I would take a note of the time that was allowed for questions without notice and each day, we found that the time allowed for questions was getting shorter because the Government had a new lot of Ministers, including the honourable member for Kennedy, and they were frightened of answering questions. Accordingly, the time for questions was cut down and cut down until finally I had to stand and move for the suspension of Standing Orders. We then received justice for a fortnight - a whole fortnight - and then suddenly the time allowed for questions started to drift back again. It grew less and less and I think it was then that on one occasion question time lasted for only 28 minutes.
I think you would agree, Mr Deputy Chairman, that since this Government has been in office, the time allowed for questions has never been reduced below the normal 45 minutes. I have noticed this day by day because I am a man with some sense of justice and I have always felt that if I criticised the Opposition when it was in Government, I would have to take up the matter within my own Party if we were being deprived of an adequate time for questions. I think that you, Mr Deputy Chairman, would know that I would do that. So I have been watching the situation very carefully indeed and there is no doubt that we have been given a full 45 minutes for question time each day - something that was very seldom given to us during the course of the last Parliament, except when it was absolutely forced by public opinion, the Press and the members of this House. I thought I had to reply to the honourable member for Kennedy and the insincerity - I would not say hypocrisy - of his suggestion that question time should be increased to 1) hours. Honourable members cannot have their cake and eat it too.
It is remarkable how little critic sm has been levelled against the Government and the conduct of the Parliament during the period since this Parliament first met. In fact, I have heard the honourable member for Kennedy pay a compliment to the manner in which the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) has improved conditions in the Parliament since the beginning of this year. Without a doubt, he has abolished that ridiculous situation where we would be legislating at three, four, or five o’clock in the morning. This is something which surely the honourable member for Kennedy, when he was a Minister, should have done something about. I think that one of the great assets of this Parliament is that we now rise at 11 p.rn. and that we legislate when we have our wits about us. We no longer have that terrible spectacle, that we saw in the past, of honourable members with blankets covering them, and so forth.
– And every one a Liberal member too.
– Yes, every one cf them was a Liberal member. When we were in Opposition we never saw a member of the Australian Labor Party with a blanket covering him in this chamber. I think it is quite remarkable how the Leader of the House has improved the conditions in this Parliament since he took over that office.
I should like to make one or two other points. Firstly, I believe that this Parliament does not have sufficient powers. I know that some of the more conservative members of the Parliament would not agree with that but I think they have to be a little more logical. Everyone should realise for example that in New Zealand there is only one House of Parliament. There is no upper House; just a lower House. There are no States, but purely local government organisations. Yet we have not seen in New Zealand a situation in which it could be said that democracy has been damaged in any way and I think the New Zealand people would object very greatly to such a suggestion. We find that in the United Kingdom, where there are 2 Houses of Parliament but no States, there is a situation in which there are local government organisations. Admittedly, the House of Lords has greatly restricted powers. Once again, would anybody in this Parliament claim that the United Kingdom is not a democracy?
– Since they wiped out the rotten boroughs.
– That is right and we must do a little of that ourselves. As the honourable member for Wide Bay has said, the United Kingdom has been a democracy since they got rid of the rotten boroughs - in other words, the gerrymander. Perhaps that may have to be looked at in this country as well, particularly in some of the States, including Queensland, the State from which the honourable member for Wide Bay comes. Even in the United States we find the central Government has far greater power than the Australian Government has. Nevertheless, the facts are that this Parliament has far less power than the parliament of practically any other democracy in the world. This is the reality of the situation because of the peculiar manner in which this country was first born. In effect, it came from 6 colonies to become one nation, with the very necessary need at that stage, unfortunately, to give and take. This has left the Commonwealth in a particularly different situation. For example, what other national government does not have the power to control prices? Australia is the only nation which does not have that power.
Finally, I should like to make one other appeal. There has been a considerable amount of talk tonight on the question of the new parliament house. I fully agree that it is well and truly time that there was a new parliament house. There is no doubt that, unfortunately, this building is inadequate for the increased responsibilities of the Parliament of Australia. I make one appeal on this issue: No matter where that parliament house is built this building should be retained. In the interests of posterity it should be retained. After all, it is the first Parliament House of this nation, Australia, and accordingly I believe that in the interests of future generations of Australians this building should be retained, not as a Parliament House but in the interests of the generations to come.
– ‘Earlier in this debate there was some talk about the advantage of being able to ask supplementary questions. The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) followed on the discussion by the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) in relation to question time and perhaps it would be appropriate if I were to begin my remarks on the estimates for the Parliament toy referring to question time. It is true that the amount of time that has been allocated for question time in recent times has been approximately 45 minutes. But the allocation of this amount of time does not mean that it is necessarily the right amount of time. Question time is one of the most valuable times in the Parliament and certainly one that is most appreciated by the public whom we as members of Parliament are here to represent. If people want question time I think serious consideration should be given to the extension of the time. What has the fact that it might have been cut back, as has been claimed, got to do with the assessment of what is the right thing to do? If we are going to accept what has happened in the past as a measure we will never make progress or develop a better system.
There is one interesting point that I want to make with regard to question time. I believe that greater consideration should be given to the Opposition at question time. I know that in the years when we were in government and when I was sitting on that side of the chamber I did not raise this point. Perhaps if I had been generous enough I should have done so. Perhaps I did not feel the necessity to do so because when I was in government I found that I was able to ask questions quite regularly. Since I have been in the Opposition I have found it extremely difficult to ask a question. I have often wanted to ask questions but I have not done so because 1 did not want to waste the amount of time provided.
– I have the same problem.
– I am pleased to hear the honourable member for Wide Bay being fair enough to make that point. I would like the Parliament to look at the situation. I hope that the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) will spare some time to listen to what I am putting up now. I think that at the present time, the Government after electing a Speaker, has some 66 members of Parliament. Correct me if I am wrong. I did not check this completely. I think it is right.
– That is right.
– Then there are 27 Ministers, so that leaves 39 backbenchers on the Government side. On this side of the chamber when the new member for Parramatta comes in there will be 58 members. If one works on the basis of 58 Opposition backbenchers as against 39 Government backbenchers one finds that the Opposition asks one question to every li questions asked by honourable members opposite.
– You have 4 leaders whereas we have only 2.
– The honourable member for Wide Bay points out that the Opposition has 4 leaders whereas the Government has only 2. That might make the position worse. I will leave that to one side. As the honourable member was generous enough to confirm my previous comments perhaps I will let him get away with that interjection without being nasty about it. I believe that, in the light of that circumstance and in the interests of Parliament as it will go on through the years, it would be reasonable if the Opposition were allowed to ask 3 questions for every 2 asked by honourable members on the Government side. I think that that would be fair enough. One finds that for every question there is a Government Minister on his feet. Do not tell me that those Ministers do not take the opportunity to score political points when answering questions. They may answer them in the manner in which they choose. There is no restriction on them. On careful examination one will find that question time is very heavily weighted on the side of the Government. I do not think that is the way it ought to be. The Opposition is here to provide some sort of criticism of the Government. I hope that it is helpful criticism, although sometimes it may not be. I do not think it is unreasonable that at question time at least 3 questions should be allowed to the Opposition against 2 for the Government, and that would apply at any time. Even then I believe that the advantage would still be with the Government. This is something worth having a look at.
I turn now to the committees. It has been my privilege for a number of years to serve on one of the statutory committees, the Public Works Committee. I see the former chairman sitting up there with the dignity for which he is always noted. I refer to the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly). Now I serve under the very genial and capable chairman, the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton). I am very proud, as I am sure every member of the Public Works Committee can be proud, of the fact that this Committee has looked at all its references from the point of view of what would be in the best interests of Australia. That is borne out by the fact that certainly during the time I have been a member, which is now 4 years, the Committee has never divided on party lines. When I see the shemozzle that sometimes happens in this chamber as a result of completely party outlooks it is refreshing to be a member of a committee which is prepared to look carefully and clearly at and to study in depth, as far as it has the time to do so, the problems which confront that committee, and to bring down to this Parliament and to the Government of the day the decisions which the Committee has arrived at, looking at its references from the point of view of what would be in the best interests of the nation. Only a week or so ago my predecessor in office, Mr Brimblecombe, passed away. He was a former member and chairman of that Committee. Even before I came into the Parliament he spoke very highly of the work the Committee did and the cooperation it always received in trying to arrive at the best decision.
I want to pay tribute to the officers of the Parliament. I have found them to be very helpful even at times of great strain. Their advice and impartiality reflects great credit on them. I join with the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury) and others who have mentioned this point. It is to their very great credit that they keep up a standard of asssitance and maintain the dignity of this Parliament day in and day out, even at times under great strain. I would also like to pay a tribute to the Parliamentary Library staff.
The Library service is of tremendous advantage to members of Parliament. I have been treated with unfailing courtesy and consideration at all times when I have looked for some assistance from the Library staff. I am very happy indeed to pay them the tribute which they so justly deserve.
There is one other point I would like to make and in this I may be chided with being somewhat parochial. I believe it is necessary when we have in the Parliament a party which is not a major party but which represents quite a large section of the Australian community, that its voice should be heard in major issues that come before this Parliament. Today, because of the way the Parliament was conducted, the voice of the Country Party was not heard in the debate on the Constitution Alteration (Incomes) Bill. The Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Sinclair) spoke for only a minute before he had to sit down because the guillotine was applied. Surely it cannot be in the best interests of the Parliament that a Party which represents quite a large section - I reject completely the actual percentage of votes that were recorded in our favour because we did not contest all the seats in the Parliament -
– About 20 per cent.
– I did not hear the criticism from over there. I do not know who said what but I think that might be a worthwhile interjection. It indicates that he is scared of us. I do not know that that was the point. I believe that insufficient time is allowed for debates of great importance and we cannot be sure that the voice of the Parliament generally will be heard if the number of speakers is limited. I know that the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) had his name down to speak, but unfortunately he had to leave. But then the Deputy Leader was not able to speak. I believe that this is an important point. I make a plea to the Leader of the House to see that as far as it is possible at least one speaker from the Party is heard on matters of importance. I can recall the debate on the States Grants ‘(Water Resources Measurement) Bill, which vitally affects my own area, which includes the headwaters of the Darling River basin. Not one member of the Country Party was able to say a word about the Bill. I believe that with our practical experience we could have made a worthwhile contribution to the debate on the need for the expansion of water resources measurement.
– Were you gagged?
– The time was limited and I did not have an opportunity to speak.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In speaking to the Estimates we must pay tribute to the present Leader of the House (Mr Daly). I hear some laughter from the Opposition.
– You will get an extension of time.
– Yes, I thought I might. I thought the laughter was coming from members who were not in the last Parliament, but apparently it is coming from honourable members who should know better. We must pay a tribute to the Leader of the House for the hours that have been worked in this Parliament, even though they are spread over a longer period. However the developing committee systems, both Party and parliamentary, also add to the time that a member spends away from bis electorate. In fact one would feel that they could so develop that honourable members would spend so much time in Canberra that they would forget to go home to their electorate and be re-elected. The only thing that could be said for such a system perhaps is that new blood would constantly be coming into the Parliament bringing with it fresh ideas, but then again the knowledge gained over a long period by the parliamentarians in their familiarisation and research into subjects would be lost. If the excellent committee system is to develop in a proper sense honourable members will have to have more facilities available to them. The present Leader of the House has contributed more to the j efficient working of the private member than has any other Leader of the House to date. However, for a private member to keep in contact with the people and offer service to the people who elected him to be their representative with the assistance of one staff member is impossible for any member who is intent on doing his job. He must fall behind in some aspect of his work.
Tribute has been paid already to the wives of members, who on their husband’s election suddenly find they have to become a second or shadow member in the electorate and are expected to know all and be part of it all. When one considers the size of some federal electorates, such as my own, containing up to 6 or more State seats, one can see the multiplicity of work involved, particularly with the national Government’s continuing involvement in further areas of local administration.
– Are you talking about your wife?
– Yes, I was talking about my wife, who does an excellent job.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Order! I would prefer it if the honourable gentleman would talk about Parliament, which is the matter under discussion.
– With the Government’s direct involvement in the operations of local councils it is essential that service is able to be offered, that the national representative is able fully and correctly to be informed and that an avenue for obtaining information is readily available to the electorate itself. So often one hears the complaint that members cannot be found, that they are always in Canberra where they .are elected to go. It is up to this Parliament to ensure that a system is evolved whereby members or their representatives are available to the populace.
Some references have been made to matters not being brought before the Parliament. One could say that so much has been happening so quickly that it is not possible to have all matters brought here. But to date the Standing Orders Committee of the Parliament has not brought down any recommendations on this matter, nor in fact am I aware that this Committee has discussed this subject. If the Parliament or any aspect of it is not functioning it is up to the Parliament, through its properly established committees, to solve these issues. It is not a proper course to make a political slanging match of the question, because such an exercise would reflect on the Parliament itself, as it would on a Party which, if it is not functioning properly, should discuss and solve its problems within its own confines. But this is an area which no doubt will have to be looked at by the Standing Orders Committee, seeing that there has been so much comment about it.
No mention has been made of how difficult it is for a backbench member to get the call to ask a question. The system of allowing the Leaders of parties unlimited questions leaves too much in the trust of front bench members. When a leader is questioning a Minister and he feels that he is gaining capital from it, his consideration for the beckbencher is completely lost. It is up to the Standing Orders Committee to look at this matter again. I understand that it was looked at during the last Government’s administration. The then members on the Government side, who are now in opposition, rejected a proposition to allow backbenchers more questions. Now that they have experienced the problem they understand what it is.
Some reference has been made to the need to replace Parliament House. When speaking about Parliament House we as members very often look at the question of our own facilities. Unfortunately my office is directly opposite the cafeteria, and every time I walk out of my office and see the staff standing in a queue in the cafeteria I feel ashamed of the fact that they are put to such disadvantage when I can go and enjoy myself reasonably well in a well staffed dining room. I feel that one of the things we have to look at is the facilities of the staff of the Parliament before we look at anything else. Quite frankly I am surprised that we do not have industrial problems. Perhaps it is because we have such a high turnover of staff who do the menial work. I feel that this is one area that must be looked at. I ask the Leader of the House to make sure that this matter is looked at. Perhaps he may be able to work out a system whereby there is permanency of employment in the lower echelons of the staff, because if the Parliament is to function for more hours and function efficiently everybody who works for the Parliament should be able to do so in comparatively pleasant surroundings.
I have often been ashamed when I have gone out to get a car at night to find the transport staff standing around in the rain holding umbrellas for members of Parliament. No thought is given to their convenience. On the way home, driving past the Russian Embassy I find that the police who are guarding the Russian Embassy are better looked after and better protected from the inclement weather than they are around the Parliament itself. I feel that it is about time we started to look at the Parliament as a Parliament and as a functioning place rather than as a secondary consideration. Our first consideration has always been for facilities for the members, but I think we have to give consideration to the staff. I ask the Leader of the House to consider this question when he is replying. I will not take any more time of the Committee as
I understand that other members want to speak on these estimates.
– I trust that the Committee will forgive me if I do not join in the solicitations and wishes of goodwill passed on by the honourable member for Swan (Mr Bennett) to my friend the Leader of the House (Mr Daly). I think I would prefer to wait until the next 7 weeks are over before I comment in any shape or form about that honourable gentleman. My purpose in rising tonight is to talk about the immensity of the job that Parliament has to do today. I do not think it is properly realised outside the Parliament or, to put it another way, by the community at large. Perhaps the biggest single factor working to the detriment of Parliament will historically prove to be that the people of Australia did not pass the referendum dealing with the breaking of the nexus. I can understand small States feeling that the equality of representation that they have in the other place might suffer and that a change in the power base would not be so good for that State. But the big problem that the people of Australia have posed for us - I am sure that honourable members on both sides of the chamber can see what I am trying to drive at - is the impossibility of continuing our progress and evolution towards a properly specialised form of division of powers, in other words, the committee system, without the complement to mount properly an efficient exercise. I think that parliaments of tomorrow will be forced to consider this problem more seriously than perhaps we need to tonight. 1 think that all honourable members, particularly many of those who came into this place at the beginning of the new Parliament, have suddenly been pulled up with a jolt when they have realised that they do not have dinner in the dining room at night sometimes for 3 or 4 weeks because they are working flat out on a committee in some committee room. I am a little immune from the committee system because of my present somewhat extraneous job of assistant Liberal Party Whip. I think it proper that members from both sides of the chamber should try to explain to the people of Australia that there are some members who cannot have >a meal in the parliamentary dining room from one week to the next. One of my present tasks is to try to keep some of the executive members of my Party in attendance in the House. Similarly the Government must try to have a Minister in attendance whenever the House is sitting. Frankly, on many occasions such members are not available. If a party has a member away at an International Monetary Fund conference or at an important inter-parliamentary conference the reservoir of members remaining from whom additional help can be obtained to perform duties to keep the Parliament functioning as a forum is limited. I suggest to the Committee that the people of Australia, probably voting the way they did not mean to vote, in many instances voted against, as they thought-
– You mean in your electorate.
– I suggest that the honourable member for Adelaide would not know how his constituents voted because he is too busy. He typifies one of the problem areas upon which I am trying to elaborate. He is trying unsuccessfully at present to make an impossible Committee work. This must be absorbing a tremendous amount of his time because he is nothing if not a sincere worker at his job. His electorate suffers because of his task and, because he is involved in this work, no doubt his Party is concerned that he is not available to take his place in other forums. I hope that I am not being unkind to the honourable member for Adelaide in suggesting that he has an almost impossible task in trying to make function something that cannot function successfully.
The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) referred to the division of power within the Parliament and, indeed, within the Party system. This is a subject which is most important to the future of this Parliament. I endorse many of his remarks. I also had the opportunity to spend some time in the House of Commons. I spent considerable time with the Permanent Secretary of the Whips Office. This man was a permanent civil servant. He was a most interesting character. In passing, I might suggest to the Leader of the House that one day this man should be brought to Australia to help us evolve better techniques for the administration of the Parliament similar to those applying in the House of Commons.
This House is faced with an immense problem. Australia certainly is over-governed, although not in the national forum. Australia is over-governed in other forums about which I need not be too abusive now. We badly need competent people. It is not impossible to visualise voters in outlying areas and semioutlying areas, like the electorate of Angas, in future saying to their representative: ‘We have faith in you. You are elected. You must go to Canberra to represent us. Good-bye, old fellow, we hope to see you again about Christmas time’. This is the way the job of a member of the national forum is gradually shaping up. At a time like this when members from both sides are getting together and talking with some sincerity about the future of the institution in which they believe I do not think it proper to try to pick too many holes in the Party basis. However, I shall refer to one matter. At present because of the rule which provides for the House to rise at 11 p.m. each night - a procedure which suits the older members who are able to get to bed shortly after 11 o’clock at night - the Parliament is faced with the problem of insufficient time in which to conduct the business of the House. In future I think consideration must be given to 2 possibilities. Firstly, those who represent wider areas must have some means of getting into their electorates to meet and talk with their constituents about problems that arise in those electorates or, secondly, there must be more members of the Parliament. As I see the present situation, perhaps partly because of the Government and partly because of the enormous growth of parliamentary business, the House will be sitting for a considerable part of the year to the detriment not only of the system, with which I have already dealt, but also of the people we aim to represent. I do not know of any easy answer to this problem.
Eventually I think that regional representatives or local government officials must assume more power than they have at present. Members of State parliaments possibly will have to absorb more of the hack work, if I may put it that way. Possibly they will have to deal with questions concerning social services - a matter that presently bedevils many honourable members and occupies an extraordinary amount of time. Possibly in future such matters will be referred from the other 2 levels of government to Federal members in Canberra who will find the answers and send them back. I will deeply deprecate the day when this situation arises because I believe it is essential for members of the Parliament, somehow or other, to remain in touch with people at the grass roots level. However, I can see the other side of the problem. When I and other honourable members are old and have left this place I am sure our successors will be obliged to remain in Canberra for lengthy periods each year. They will have a tremendous problem in keeping in touch with their electorates. They will have greatly increased functions to perform and heavy burdens with which to deal in the committee system and in the general administration of the House.
– The debate on the estimates for the Parliament is most important and I am grateful to honourable members for many of the constructive suggestions they have made. Before making some general comments I should like to answer in detail and as briefly as possible some of the matters that have been raised. The honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury) who generally gives much attention and study to this matter raised, as did other honourable members, the matter of question time and the limited opportunities that members have for asking questions. He referred also to questions on notice and matters of that nature. I must say that the average time this Government permits at question time is well up with that allowed by the previous Government. I do not say that the Government has an excellent record, but it is no worse than that of the previous Government. Consequently criticism of the length of replies to questions or the number of questions asked would apply more to the previous Government. Because of the time available, there are limitations. Members opposite naturally want to ask a lot of questions but one of the facts of parliamentary life is that all day cannot be allowed for questions every day. This situation does not apply in any parliament anywhere. As honourable members have said, time is the big factor.
I believe that there must be radical changes in the general procedures of this Parliament as well as in the hours and days of sitting if legislation is to be passed. The honourable member for Ryan dealt also with the matter of quorums. I believe that a quorum of this Parliament should be no more than 20. Some parliaments have no provision for quorums at all. From memory, I think a quorum of the Canadian Parliament is 40 members out of a total of about 280. It is virtually impossible nowadays for members to attend committee meetings and perform other duties if they are required to be present in the House to maintain a quorum. Our requirement of one-third of the members of the House for a quorum is out of line with the thinking of parliaments in almost every other country. I know that some time ago the House referred this matter to the Standing Committee on Standing Orders and that it was rejected subsequently by the Parliament. However, I hope, with other honourable members, to refer a more acceptable proposal to the Standing Orders Committee when next it is considering this matter.
The honourable member for Ryan suggested that there should be more weeks of sitting rather than more days of sitting. I agree with him. I think it can be accepted that in future there will be longer sittings of the Parliament, not so much by way of increased sitting hours each day but for more weeks of the year. While the procedures adopted in this Parliament remain as they are at present, with no committee system such as that suggested by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) or other honourable members, all debates must take place in full in this chamber. It will be just impossible to give everybody the opportunity to speak at length on all the debates, unless the committee of inquiry into the committee system, which I am pleased the Opposition supported, has some effective result and is able to streamline the procedure for dealing with Bills, particularly those that may be of minor importance, but also those of major importance, before the debates take place in this Parliament.
I heard the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) speak. I remind him that the Opposition has a perfect right to use to the full the Standing Orders and the procedures of the Parliament to redress grievances, to put its point of view as it thinks fit and to see that its case is put. But the Government has the same right to use the Standing Orders of this Parliament to take effective action to see that its legislation proceeds. I do not quibble at the Opposition using the Standing Orders of the Parliament, but it should not squeal when we use them in return, for one of the facts of life in a parliament is that the majority must rule. No government can allow an opposition to take the proceedings of parliament out of its hands. The honourable member for Kennedy also said that debates were curtailed suddenly. I wonder: Did that start on 2 December? I sat on the Opposition side of the chamber for 24 years and I was gagged so many times that I got knocked up trying to count them every day of the week. And who will ever forget the 20 Bills that were put through here in about 17 hours? No government in our time was more ruthless in the misuse of parliamentary procedures than was the previous Government. But is it not remarkable that after 6 or 8 months in Opposition honourable members opposite are all great reformers of the parliamentary system?
The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) has been a member of the Parliament since 1966. He never said a word about questions or the gag before and now that he is in Opposition one cannot stop him talking about reform of the procedures of the Parliament. He is like Rip Van Winkle. He has been asleep for 20 years. Opposition members talk of the conditions of Parliament House. But they were in government for 24 years. How many more years would it have taken them to remove that dingy little drinking room of which the honourable member for Kennedy spoke? How many more years would we have waited for a new Parliament House under the previous Government? Whatever is wrong with this Parliament House or its facilities is the responsibility of those honourable members who sit opposite and criticise it today. Every one of them is guilty. The Ministers in the previous Government were so affluent that they didnot even worry about their own rank and file, let alone the staff or anybody else in this Parliament. Consequently when facilities and such matters are mentioned I am interested in them.
The honourable member spoke about the Lobby’ restaurant which provides a service for wealthy Liberals who can afford to go there instead of for the pensioners and others. The Minister who approved its construction was the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) who was then the Minister for the Interior. It was a Country Party project built supposedly for pensioners and now the elite sit there and swap stories and that kind of thing. I do not mind the honourable member for Kennedy offering criticisms, but I think that I am entitled to put the case for this side of the Parliament. If honourable members opposite will persist in wasting the time of the Parliament they cannot complain if the Government has to take action in accordance with the Standing Orders to see that its legislation goes through. Frivolous matters are raised for discussion in this place. Only yesterday in this Parliament there was a debate on social services. It was an important debate, no doubt, but everybody in the Parliament was in agree ment with it and I would say that had this Parliament been properly run and the Opposition been properly organised in respect of it that debate might have been completed in a much shorter time than was actually taken.
I mention those matters so that honourable members opposite will know that this Government is not fully responsible for what has been happening here. I was a bit upset in a roundabout way that the honourable member for Wannon made a slighting reference to my desire to move the gag and things of that nature. I thought he spoke a lot of sense tonight, for once, when he dealt with the committee system and many of the suggestions he made might well receive the consideration of this Parliament. I thought that if he could introduce through the committee system or initiate some moves in his own Party in cooperation with the work of the Joint Committee that would, as I said, bring to this Parliament a more easy way to deal with debates. Many qf the things that we have to do now to get legislation through would not be necessary. I would suggest that he might take to the Committee that has been set up some of the suggestions he made tonight. We may have no need to curtail debate on legislation if the Committee system is working effectively. Only when we get a system which will streamline the procedures of this Parliament will it be possible to avoid these matters that I mentioned a few moments ago.
There are a couple of other matters I wish to mention. The honourable member for Maranoa, as I said, has been asleep for 20 years, but he discovered that there are 27 Ministers in this chamber. I wonder where the other 6 are; they must be hiding somewhere. There are only 21 here. There are half a dozen across the hall in the other place. So he is not only wrong in the number of Ministers; his arithmetic is right out. He said tonight that there are 27-
– Not as bad as your figures on the number of electors it takes to get a Country Party member into Parliament.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member for Maranoa was heard in silence. I ask him to extend the same courtesy to the Minister.
– Mr Deputy Chairman, I hope you will excuse him. It must be awful at his age to be told that he cannot count. He said that there are 39 backbenchers and 27 Ministers in this House. He is quite incorrect.
There are only 21 Ministers in this place. He was only half a dozen out. That is 25 per cent, but that is reasonable for the Country Party. The honourable member has become a real democrat. He said that the Opposition members should be allowed to ask 3 questions for every two from the Government side. We were lucky to be able to ask one question for every hundred from the Government side when we were in Opposition. Honourable members know that we would wait for 3 weeks to ask a question. The honourable member suggesting the reforms is one of those great democrats who got 10 per cent of the Australian votes at the last couple of elections. The situation is that they are finding out only now the great difficulties this magnificent Government laboured under when in Opposition under their Administration. With limited questions, limited opportunities and the gag and other measures used ruthlessly against us, we won our way to the treasury bench.
Consequently, we know the problems the Opposition has. These complaints, whilst they might have been well-intentioned, are ones that are the Opposition’s own responsibility. There is criticism of how this House is run. Let me tell honourable members this: It has never sat after 11 o’clock at night, except on one occasion, but that was because of obstruction from the Opposition. It was forced to sit on by obstruction from the Opposition which became nearly demented on postal charges and threw caution to the wind and disrupted the proceedings of this Parliament. Let me tell honourable members this also: When we sought to extend the hours of sitting of this Parliament in order to give every honourable member the opportunity to speak, every member of the Opposition side voted against it. So when they talk about wanting rights for private members they should remember this: A few days ago on Grievance Day when private members have their only chance once a month to put their views, the Opposition put up frivolous motions and took that time away from the private members. And that is humbug. The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) said: T do not want to speak on private members’ day.’ Thank God for that. Nobody wanted to hear him. The situation is that the Opposition took away the opportunity for private members to speak on that day.
I point out to honourable members opposite that the Government has allowed an adjourn ment debate to be held every night. In addition, a grievance day debate has been held whenever it has fallen due. Issues raised by private members have been brought to a vote. And how the members opposite hated voting on issues such as abortion. The previous Government put all those issues to the bottom of the notice paper all the time and never let them be debated. Not once during Budget sessions did it allow a debate on a private members’ business to be brought forward or the grievance day debate to be held; yet a grievance day debate has been held on every scheduled day since this Parliament has been in session. In addition, the Parliament does not sit into the early hours of the morning. Fancy having to look at the collection opposite in the middle of the night. It looks awful enough in the daytime. But that was the situation day after day under the previous Government. Many a night my colleagues and 1 walked home at 2, 3, 4 and sometimes as late as 7 o’clock in the morning. Legislation by exhaustion was the order of the day. There has been 1 1 o’clock closing under the present Government. In addition there have been more hours of sitting. Even when the Budget was being debated there have been debates on the matters. I have mentioned. In addition, the facilities of members of Parliament have been improved in order that they might be able to carry on their work more effectively. Consequently, I suggest to honourable members opposite that they should be much more charitable with respect to these things instead of criticising the way in which the House is run. A former Prime Minister is on record as saying in this House that an Opposition which behaves stupidly enough forces the Government to move the gag. That is precisely the case in every Parliament. I summarise that aspect in this way: Legislation originating from this side of the Parliament must go through the Parliament. The Opposition has its rights, as does the Government. Let us fight on equal terms in respect of that. But it should be kept in mind at all times that there is an old axiom: You cannot win without the numbers.
On the general matter of the Parliament itself let me briefly say that I am one of those who believe that there will have to be great changes made in the parliamentary system. I would suggest to the Opposition, after having spent 24 years on the other side of the chamber, that if it wants to have effective debates on the issues that matter it should have a look at the program before it and decide to debate the issues that really matter. In that way the time available could be spread over the debates on issues that are of importance. If members of the Opposition persist in debating every tinpot issue at great length they must inevitably suffer when the more important debates take place. That is bad for the Parliament, bad for the members of the Opposition and bad for discussion.
Whenever the Government asks the Opposition for a list of the members who wish to speak on a particular Bill the Opposition puts on the list the name of almost every honourable member on its side of the chamber and then says: ‘We wanted to have 40 speakers on this matter but the Government allowed us to have only 2, 3 or 4’. What you have to do - this is what is done in the parliaments of Great Britain and other places - is to make an arrangement between the various parties on what are important Bills and what will be discussed. In co-operation with the Committee system one then gets effective debate.
One of the problems with this Parliament is that the general procedures with regard to debate and discussion are still the same as they were at the time I ‘became a member of Parliament and even before then. I think that changes must be made in this respect. I would say to the honourable members opposite that what they should do in respect to this matter is to decide what measures they want to debate. I do not doubt that agreement could be reached on those measures. Does any honourable member opposite say that every member of this Parliament should be allowed to speak on every Bill and on every issue and to ask questions during every question time of every day? That is just a fantasy. One just cannot do those things.
– It is not a fantasy.
– It is not a fantasy?
– No, certainly not.
– The honourable member for Boothby says that every member on the Opposition side of the Parliament and on the Government side of the Parliament should be allowed to talk in every debate.
– Sit for the whole of the year.
– The honourable member for Boothby is one of the members who voted against sitting an extra hour a day and now he wants to sit for the whole of the year. Is he not being inconsistent? The honourable member for Boothby voted against the extension of the sitting hours by one or two hours a day. He also voted against allowing a minute extra to honourable members to enable them to get to the chamber in time when a vote is being taken. Honourable members opposite now say they want extended hours. I will stack up the record of this Government in regard to the proceedings of the Parliament and the conduct of the Parliament against the record of any of those governments that have been in office in the last 24 years. Honourable members opposite should read the election results of last year. If they were to do so they would see that those honourable members who sit on the side of the Parliament on which I sit are the ones who are sitting on the winning side. What honourable members opposite are trying to do on their side of the Parliament is run the business of the Parliament when they have not the responsibility for doing so. That is the Government’s responsibility.
I summarise the whole situation in this way: If the Opposition were to put reasonable propositions forward that were in conformity with the hours available for the debating of its propositions they always would be considered. But I have found it well nigh impossible to negotiate with the Opposition because its members evidently seek to speak on everything and anything at all times. That just cannot happen. Consequently, whilst I appreciate many of the constructive suggestions that have been made tonight, I must point out that the Government’s record in the conduct of this Parliament needs no defence.
– It has none.
– The honourable member for Farrer, a former Minister, said that the Government has no record. For 24 years he was a member of the previous Government ‘He ran out of gags in the end. He applied them because he did not want anybody to criticise his Department, knowing the incompetence associated with his administration.
– I did not use the guillotine.
– The honourable member said that he did not use the guillotine. At one time the Parliament passed 20 Bills in .17 hours. He was one of the members of Parliament recorded in Hansard as having voted for using the guillotine. Every honourable member on that side who survived the last Parliament is one of those guilty men. I do not worry about some of these things because I know that even if I were to move the guillotine every day for a week and the gag 100 times in the next 14 days I would not be within coo-ee of the previous Administration.
Those are things that honourable members ought to consider. The Government has no desire to rush legislation through the Parliament. It would like to have effective debate. But if honourable members opposite persist - and it is their right, of course, to use the Standing Orders to restrict the business of the Parliament - they cannot blame anyone but themselves if the Government has to take action to ensure that its legislation goes through the Parliament. I have made just a few observations. I assure honourable members opposite that the matters they have raised will be taken to the right source for consideration. To my colleague the honourable member for Swan (Mr Bennett) I say that the matters he mentioned with regard to staff and the various matters associated with the Parliament are the responsibility of Mr Speaker and Mr President. No doubt his remarks will be conveyed to them, but they are outside my scope and the scope of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam).
– Mr Deputy Chairman, I rise to a point of order. I claim to have been misrepresented.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins) - Order! The honourable member claims to have been misrepresented?
– He could not have been.
– The honourable member for Banks, who just interjected, is frequently the occupant of the Chair. He displays a partisan approach when he is a private member. I hope that he does not when he is in the Chair.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Order! What is the honourable member’s point of order?
– My point of order is about the reference by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) to me.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! I request the honourable member to state his point of order and not to abuse the forms of the House.
– I am being abused by the honourable member for whatever he is.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- The honourable member for Boothby will please come to his point of order or I will be forced to take action.
– Thank you, Mr Chairman. The Minister for Services and Property, who is sitting at the table, referred to the last grievance debate. He may remember that he referred to me as I was the first speaker in that grievance debate. He made the point that I had surrendered my position. He drew the conclusion that members of the Opposition were not interested in participating in grievance debates. I did raise a point of order at the time, Mr Deputy Chairman, but it is obvious that I must do it again. The reason why we were prepared to surrender our position concerning the grievance debate on that occasion-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member is making the point that he has been misrepresented; yet he is using the royal ‘we’.
– Yes, totally, absolutely and deplorably misrepresented, Mr Deputy Chairman. At that time I was prepared, together with my colleagues - the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) will support me on this - to forgo our position concerning the grievance debate because we had what we believed to be an even more important issue, a national issue and not an issue concerning just our own electorates. It was an issue concerning the credibility, or lack of it, of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard) and the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor). That was the reason why we were prepared to surrender our position.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member is going outside the terms of a point of order.
– He said also-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member will please resume his seat.
– Thank, you, Mr Deputy Chairman. I rise to another point of order.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I call the honourable member for Cook.
– I wish to raise another point of order, Mr Deputy Chairman. The Minister for Services and Property said that nearly every honourable member on this side of the chamber puts his name down on the list of speakers in each debate. That is what he said just a few moments ago.
– That is not a point of order.
– That is true - we do put our names down to speak because we want to speak, but he will not let us speak. He guillotines the debates.
– Mr Deputy Chairman, I claim to have been misrepresented. The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) said that members of the Opposition put their names down on the list of speakers because they want to speak. He knows, of course, that that is not correct. He knows that many of those honourable members whose names are put down on the list do not want to speak but their names are put down so that if a debate is curtailed the Opposition can say that it has been cut off. In addition, on many occasions when a debate which is to go for only about half an hour is to take place one would find 10 or 15 members of the Opposition had put their names on the list of speakers. I am too long in the tooth to be caught by that kind of trick. I know precisely the reason.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins) - Order! The Minister has made his point of order.
– What is more, I will give honourable members opposite a look at the list now.
– I wish to take the opportunity in this debate on the estimates for the Parliament to raise a point which I raised early in the last session. As a new member in the House I was of the belief - apparently mistaken - that if I came into the chamber and sat here long enough I would be told what the Government was doing. After a few weeks here I discovered that that impression was completely false. Unless one bought practically every national newspaper in this country and scanned it carefully from page to page it was impossible to be reliably informed of what the Government was doing from day to day. As a result, I directed a question on notice to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) asking him whether he would ensure that policy statements, both by himself and his Ministers, would be made in the House before they were released to the Press so that members of Parliament would be informed immediately and at first hand without having to wait for the next day’s newspapers. In answer to the question the Prime Minister said that he would make every endeavour to ensure that that course was adopted. Of course it did not happen. The weekly Press conferences continued.
Another question was placed on notice by the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly;, who was also concerned about this practice. As I recall, the Prime Minister in answer to that question said ‘Meax culpa, meax culpa’ and confessed that he had breached the convention by which Parliament becomes informed of what the Government is doing. A couple of days after that - when it was apparent that the Prime Minister, although he had confessed his guilt, was still not moved with sufficient purpose of amendment - I placed another question on notice asking whether he would take steps to remedy the situation. With his usual nimble footwork he completely sidestepped that question. A similar question was asked the other week by the honourable member for Wakefield. The honourable member was lucky enough to attend one of the Prime Minister’s Press conferences. Not every member of Parliament is able to go to a Press conference. Although we may generate articles for newspapers we do not always do it in a professional capacity so we cannot go to the Prime Minister’s Press conferences. The honourable member for Wakefield asked the Prime Minister why he did not make the statements on Cabinet decisions in the House as he does at his Press conferences. The Prime Minister in reply said that every member of Parliament has the right to ask questions and that if we asked questions similar to those that the Press asked we would be supplied with the same information in reply. Of course, that begs the question.
The Press conference starts off by having a list of Cabinet decisions announced. Members of the .Press are supplied with Press statements by the Prime Minister’s Press office and they can peruse them before they go to the Press conference. They know what the Government has done and therefore they are able to frame questions to elicit in more detail information which might be of interest to the general public. It is fatuous for the Prime Minister to say that members of this House have an equal opportunity to ask questions. As has been pointed out by other speakers in this debate private members of Parliament find it extremely difficult to catch the Speaker’s eye to ask a question. A private member might ask 2 questions in a session if he is lucky. The other difficulty is that one does not know what the Government has decided to do. If we are to have a strong Westminster type of government in Australia with the concept that the Government is responsible to this House, the House must be informed of what the Government is doing. Ministers make information available to the Press outside this House but they are not prepared to tell the House because they know that if they make a statement in the House it might be subject to adverse comment and debate.
– You should have been in Parliament last year. You have no idea what it was like.
– The Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) is one of those people who is very prolific at issuing Press statements. Private members of Parliament receive bundles of papers periodically, I do not know whether weekly or monthly. They receive a great bundle of statements that are as stale as last week’s bread. The Press has taken the Press statements apart by the time we receive them and on many occasions the Minister’s statements have been reversed by Caucus or the trade union movement and they are no longer any indication of the current policy of the Government.
– One of the Prime Minister’s decisions has been reversed by the Minister for Labour.
– Yes, the Prime Minister has been reversed by the Minister for Labour on television. Not only are we required to read a great host of national newspapers but also we are required to watch about 10 different television programs to find out who is knifing whom this week and what the Government intends to do. We had an interesting experience of this with the recent non-decision about interest rates.
– You have picked the game up quickly. I congratulate you.
– Thank you very much. I consider that high praise. The Minister for Labour was left out in the dark on this question but apparently a few of the Prime Minister’s close cronies were consulted by telephone on Sunday afternoon and told of the discussions concerning revaluation and the bank rate. The announcement was made on the Monday that the currency was to be revalued upwards and interest rates would rise.
Now that the House rises at 11 p.m. each Tuesday honourable members are able to get home and watch the Prime Minister’s Press conference on television. The Prime Minister was very careful to say that the interest rates were really a matter for the Reserve Bank. He said that it was the banking system that would increase interest rates, not the Government Of course, an interesting event followed thai. The Caucus met the following day and found that interest rates would not rise. They were going to be selective. We noticed that all the Labor Party members who were eating in the dining room on Thursday evening left. A few scouts were sent out to collect the mavericks who were still around the place. They were all rounded up. We found out, by reading Friday’s newspapers, that Caucus had rolled the Prime Minister and that the question of interest rates was now to be referred to the Economics Committee of Caucus. That is where the matter now rests. The money market is wondering what on earth what the interest rates will be. The matter was referred to the Economics Committee 3 weeks ago. We have not had a statement from either the Treasurer (Mr Crean) or the Prime Minister in the House. We have to read the Caucus leaks in the newspapers. Looking at the Minister for Labour reminds me of an occasion last session when a report was released of what had happened in Caucus about the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill in respect of the election of union officials. I remember an article on the front page of the Australian’ giving a full report of what happened in Caucus.
– How do you know it was accurate?
– I asked the Minister the next day. This highlights the point I am making.
– What did he say?
– He admitted that the report was correct. Members of Parliament have to be a jack of all trades now. We have to read all the newspapers. We have to get the call in the House to ask the Minister concerned whether the Press report of the leak of Caucus was correct and whether it is the policy of the Government. We have to try to ferret out what the Government is doing from sources other than in this place. If we relied entirely on what we are told in this House we would be absolutely in the dark. We would never know anything. The only thing we would know would be that the division bells were ringing and that the gag was being moved.
– I am one who, for a number of years now, has been critical of the manner in which the affairs of this Parliament have been conducted. I adopted this stand when my Party was in government and still hold this view under the present Government. The truth is that, until 2 December last, this side of the Parliament was known as the wailing wall. It was from this side of the House that the honourable member for Grayndler, the present Leader of the House (Mr Daly), used to cry week in and week out about the harsh injustices that were being perpetrated within the confines of the Parliament.
Today, the story is different. The Leader of the House takes delight in continually reminding the Parliament that the Labor Party is in power and how he sat in Opposition for 2i decades. I believe that the Leader of the House has become an embittered, cynical man who is pursuing a course of revenge in which he is excelling even the worst moments of those 2i decades in which he was in Opposition. When each morning the Parliament begins with Mr Speaker reciting the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ we on this side of the House quietly mumble the words: ‘Lord, deliver us from our Daly bread’. The daily bread that we receive in the Parliament is a continuation of a feed of the gag. Gag, gag, gag! You have continued to rape democracy without shame for 8 long months. Let me assure you that the young people who comprise the majority of this nation’s population were somewhat affected by your plaintive pleas over the years. They thought that the Liberals were horrible in government. But by comparison, and by the manner in which you have acted, you have made us look like angels.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! I suggest that the honourable member should direct his remarks to the Chair.
– Well, you have made us look like angels too. By comparison, we gave the Parliament a fair opportunity to operate as it is meant to operate. I can assure you, Mr Deputy Chairman, that my outbursts from time to time about the manner in which the Labor Party gags debates are sincerely motivated. Today, we had a deplorable exhibition when the House of Representatives was given the opportunity to debate a most important question, which in a few weeks time will be the subject of a national referendum, for only 2 hours. I do not believe that that was a fair or a sensible go. But I give the Leader of the House, who was present earlier this evening, credit for being a do-er. One must confess, the improvements in facilities that he has provided are most marked. No matter what we may think of him, he has made a contribution to the betterment of the way of life of members of the Parliament. I would hope most sincerely-
– He has increased your stamp allowance, too.
– The Minister for Labour, who is at the table, and who has the same surname as I - Cameron - says that the Minister has increased the stamp allowance. What a miserly old man the Minister is that he should look forward to that extra $20 a month. My mind, even with my Scottish ancestry, is on far greater and more important matters.
If the Parliament is to sit for longer periods each year - for longer hours and more days each year - we must take into consideration that the workload on members will increase. If more legislation is to be introduced, we will be required to spend more time sifting out the weaknesses and the strengths of proposed and impending legislative actions. Therefore, those of us who have responsibility to our electorates will face an even more difficult task in attending to those duties.
I believe that members of the State Parliament in South Australia are each entitled to a personal secretary. As from 1 October, State members of the Queensland Parliament will be provided with a personal secretary each. My Federal electorate in Brisbane contains 5 times as many people as the number of electors serviced by each Queensland State member. It is becoming absolutely impossible for a member of the Federal Parliament to attend to the needs of the people whom he represents. My electorate is a less affluent electorate. On the whole, my electors are not richly endowed. These people turn to their member of Parliament more frequently than do people in an electorate such as that represented by the honourable member for Hindmarsh, the Minister for Labour, who is presently at the table, and who has a great delight in representing fat cats.
My people need assistance from their Federal member. The time required to service their needs combined with the requirement for more time to be spent on attending to and studying legislation means that private members can justify a claim for an increase in their staff. I really believe with great sincerity that, in the 1970s, the failure by the present Government to take some steps to provide members with some type of research assistance is a continuation of the narrow-mindedness of the previous Government and an indication of the continuation of that narrow-mindedness or rather short-sightedness by the new Government.
– Hear, hear!
– The honourable member for Petrie (Mr Cooke), my good friend, says: ‘Hear, hear!’ It is not a case of Hear, hear!’; it is a case of: ‘Help, help!’ If people in the outside world who write to us could see the manner in which we treat their correspondence they would be shocked.
– Speak for yourself.
– Many members on the Government side boast about what they do with their mail. They look at their mail each day, pick it up in their hands and dump it in their waste paper baskets. I know that not all of them do that, but some of them do. I believe that the people of Australia deserve a better deal. If we are to service the needs of our constituents properly, it is time that we were prepared to recognise that members of the Parliament do need some form of research assistance.
In conclusion, I endorse the comments of all those members who have spoken in this debate and have condemned the growing practice by the Government of avoiding the making of statements in the Parliament. Government Ministers know that if they come in here and make statements on these subjects they must be prepared for criticism from those with expertise on this side of the Parliament who will criticise them if that criticism is justified. To avoid this, they hold these little Press conferences, make Press releases and so on in an effort to sidestep the democratic processes. I know that the honourable member for Hindmarsh wishes the debate on these estimates to conclude. I will resume my seat to give him the opportunity to do that. But do not take too lightly the words that I have uttered. The people of Australia are coming to recognise, as each day goes by, as they demonstrated in the Parramatta byelection last Saturday, that the Labor Government is not coming across with the goods as, only last year, it appeared to wish to do.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Motion (by Mr Clyde Cameron) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– On Friday, 14 September, in the South Australian town of Berri in my electorate a meeting was called by the canning fruit growers of South Australia. All major political party leaders, both State and Federal, were invited. The Federal Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), the Federal Leader of Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) and the State Leader of the Opposition, Dr Eastick, apologised for not attending personally. They sent to that meeting members of Parliament as their personal delegates. The 500 growers were angered by the fact that no representative of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was present and that there was no representative of the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) within whose personal responsibility this matter lies.
– No Government member there at all?
– None at all. Every person who was present at that meeting was disappointed and some were disgusted at the refusal of the governments, both State and Federal, to be represented at this vital, crucial meeting of 500 soft fruit growers representing over half the entire number of fruit growers in South Australia. Those men were there because they felt their entire future - the future of their farms, the future of their families, their lives and their lifetime investment - was in doubt. The meeting was chaired by the Mayor of Berri. He also expressed disappointment at the nonattendance of government representatives because this matter concerned the district. The packing sheds and the canneries in that area, which is part of the important canning fruit industry of South Australia, are also in a state of jeopardy.
I will tell the House why this meeting was called. Perhaps the easiest way of dealing with this problem is to refer to the industry as a whole. The problem affects the Leeton cannery in the electorate of Riverina. It affects the Riverland cannery in the electorate of Angas. Unquestionably it affects canneries in the electorate of my colleague the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) who I gather is to say a few words on his own behalf later in this debate. This industry has persisted over many years and has. earned untold wealth for this nation. At this time the industry is in a state of extreme financial difficulty due primarily to reasons which are not the fault of the industry. I refer firstly, to the series of currency realignments and, secondly, to a series of up-valuations of the Australian currency. Those actions have made this export orientated industry feel the pinch to a very large degree. I have a table which I would like incorporated in Hansard. Unfortunately I have not had time to show it to the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) who is seated at the table. I now show it to him. It deals purely with the fall-off in growers incomes and nothing more than that.
– Do you want the rest of the letter incorporated? It asks you to pay your debts.
– If I do not watch out the honourable member for Hindmarsh might take my mind off the job which I have set myself to do. It was a good try, but I hope he will give me leave to have the table incorporated in Hansard.
– Yes. Just the figures, not the personal stuff.
-Order! Is it a bulky document?
– No. It is a small table.
– Leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– To come to the point of this meeting held in Berri quite recently I will refer to 4 motions, the debate on which took up most of the evening. The first motion was moved by Mr Borroughs and seconded by Mr Jones. The gist of that motion is a request to the Minister for Primary Industry, Senator Wriedt, for assistance in regard to the 1971-72 fruit crop payment without further delay. The assistance referred to in that motion relates to a series of statements which have been made. I will mention one of them because I do not have sufficient time to mention them all. The Prime Minister announced during the first week of September, when revaluing the Australian dollar a further 5 per cent, that any industry adversely affected should apply for consideration of their position. All the revaluations of the Australian currency in recent times have affected this industry. Indeed, to be quite fair, no set answer has been given by any government, going back through a period of time including the year 1971-72. Perhaps no more than 95 per cent of the fault lies with the former Government. I just mention that in passing. That first motion moved at that meeting was based on statements that canneries would be helped and that the canning fruit growers would be assisted with compensation for the effects of revaluation. So far there has been no answer to a series of letters requesting the fruit payment without further delay.
The second motion moved at that meeting was put by one of the older Greek growers in that area, a very respected man called Mr Spanos. He moved: . . that unless a satisfactory answer is received from the Minister shortly, this public meeting directs the South Australian Canned Fruits Industry Advisory Committte to arrange a deputation to meet the Minister for Primary Industry, Senator Wriedt, to discuss fully with him the need for urgent financial adjustment.
This was necessary because there was no representative of the Federal Government at that meeting. One would have thought that a member of the other place and a member from the State government could have spared one evening to drive to Berri and be present at that meeting, but unfortunately that was not the case. The Premier of South Australia sent a personal representative to the meeting. It was announced that a Mr Chatterton of the Upper House was to be present, but he must have got lost on the way because he never turned up.
The third resolution which was moved by a friend of mine, a Mr Krix, stated:
This meeting supports the idea that the canning fruit industry should organise a proper stabilisation plan, based on a cost of production, financed by the Reserve Bank and promoted by grower organisations and put the plan to the Government.
I hope the Government will accept this proposition that has come from this sorely tried industry. May I say that a government of the same political colour as this Government has been very sympathetic to plans such as this in the past. The fourth motion was moved by a Mr Deakin. It read:
This meeting requests the State Government of South Australia to support the moves made tonight to the Federal Government.
That motion was moved despite the fact that, with several weeks notice, the Federal Government did not have a representative at that meeting.
They are the motions which were put to that meeting that night. I would like the Government to know that I will personally help it in any way I can to come to grips with this problem in order to try to help the growers in those areas. I think it is only fair that I complete my remarks tonight by saying that this is not the first occasion on which this Government has failed to send representatives to important meetings of primary producers. Some of those meetings have concerned mineral producers and some, as in this case, concerned soft fruit producers. I remind the House that the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) travelled the other day to Kalgoorlie to attend a big meeting there. Once again there was no Government senator representing Western Australia in attendance at that meeting. There was no representative at all to hear the people at that meeting. If this is the way the present Government is going to behave in respect of meetings involving over 500 and 600 people it presents a sorry situation for the people who voted it into this place. I want to voice my disappointment to the Government because I know that there are decent people who do not like to see this sort of thing occur.
In this case there has been a breakdown between the members of the House of Representatives in Canberra and the people.
– First of all, I wish to comment on what the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) has just said. As chairman of the Government primary industry committee, I am most disappointed that no Labor man was at that meeting. I would in no instance countenance this sort of thing. If these men were invited to the meeting, they should have had the courtesy to send a man to that meeting, even if it was a South Australian or a senator. I do not know who was invited but those who were should certainly have had the courtesy to send someone to represent our Party. This sort of thing is absolutely necessary if we are to have proper understanding and proper relations between Government and primary industry.
I have been asked to address a big meeting of dairy farmers in Tasmania next Tuesday night and on Thursday night of next week I have been challenged to a public debate at a branch of the Liberal Party at which there will be 400 or 500 dairymen and others present. That debate will take place between Senator Wright and a Mr Bessell, a Liberal Senate candidate, Senator Wriedt and myself. I do not want to run away from any challenges that are made to the Government on these issues. The resolutions referred to by the honourable member for Angas are all sound resolutions and I hope that the Federal Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) will put these propositions to our committee so that we can study them and make recommendations through him to the Cabinet.
– I appreciate that. They have been sent to the Minister.
– Good, Tonight I should like to speak on what is happening to the Post Office. The Post Office is on the warpath to downgrade 284 official post offices in Australia to non-official status. On top of this, in Tasmania alone 75 more non-official offices are to be closed in addition to about 45 others which have already been closed over the last 5 years. This information has been conveyed to a union leader in Launceston in a letter dated 10 September 1973, File No. 236/1/48 from Mr Pollock of the Postmaster-General’s Department. Mr Langford, who is Secretary of the Union of Postal Clerks and Telegraphists, sent me a telegram two or three days ago which stated:
Strongly protest decision to downgrade eleven grade two post offices and one grade one post office in Tasmania to non-official status. As proposal not discussed with union demand immediate halt to proposal until such time as discussions held with unions concerned. Proposal considered to be detrimental to staff already occupying positions at offices concerned and would affect service to the public in towns nominated.
The Post Office conducted a survey in 1970 under the previous Administration and out of this survey has emerged this plan to emasculate the Post Office, reduce its services and scatter its staff. We are the unlucky Government to be here when the report comes down.
What are the details of this move? The Post Office proposes to reduce 284 official offices to non-official status over the next 3 years. The State figures are as follows: 103 official offices in New South Wales to be reduced to nonofficial status; 48 in Victoria; 45 in South Australia; 39 in Queensland; 36 in Western Australia; and, 13 in Tasmania. The 13 offices in Tasmania due to be downgraded in this manner are at Swansea, Campbell Town, Oatlands, St Marys, Westbury, Railton, Beaconsfield and Cressy, all of which are in my electorate of Wilmot; Cygnet and Geeveston, which aTe in the electorate of Franklin, where the Federal member is Mr Sherry who most certainly would be opposed to this move; Savage River and Stanley, in the electorate of the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) - he too will have something to say about this; and, New Town in the electorate of Denison, a suburb of Hobart. I had the honour to open 5 of those 8 official offices in Wilmot during the past 20 years, and excellent offices they are. Now, however, they are to be reduced to non-official status.
The status of the staff of these official post offices will be downgraded in many cases. The staff in most official offices consists of the Postmaster, a postal clerk and a postal officer. When reduced to non-official status at least 2 and perhaps all 3 of these officers will have to be transferred to other places, probably to the nearest city. This movement of staff will cause a lot of heartburning and disruption of homes and families and possible setbacks in the careers of the displaced staff members concerned. They will have to sell at moderate prices the houses which they own in the country towns where they are living and will have to buy homes in the cities at inflated costs.
I believe this decision of the Post Office has been made on economic grounds. Service considerations have been and are being ignored in these matters. In recent years, the Post Office has been obsessed with profit making procedures. It is not in a bad economic position, anyway. In the financial year 1971-72 the telecommunications branch of the Post Office made a profit of $68m while the Post Office itself incurred a loss of $14m, which was reduced from $26m the previous year. These results indicate a total profit over the 2 divisions of the Post Office of $54m. Why therefore should this emasculating process be launched amongst Post Offices and staff when the Post Office in total is in credit? Why should even letter boxes - letter boxes, mark you - as well as public telephone booths have to be profitable before they will be approved by the Post Office? Why should rentals on telephones increase? Of course, there have been wage and salary rises, but does the Post Office have to increase all these and other charges, downgrade 284 official offices and knock out 75 more non-official offices in Tasmania alone over the next 3 years?
I hope the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) can answer these questions because I am very disturbed at this latest guerrilla action by the Post Office to reduce postal services in hundreds of Australian towns. This is not happening in the cities. The cities have everything. In one part of Launceston, along Hobart Road, there are 4 public telephone booths in a distance of three-quarters of a mile. Yet one cannot get a public telephone cabinet in the country where there is a distance of 28 miles between Post Office telephone cabinets. This is outrageous discrimination against country areas. And this is not all. I understand on good authority that it is proposed that as from Tuesday of next week, if a person moves from his home for a holiday and wants his mail re-directed to another address, he is going to have to pay $1 a month for that privilege; businesses will pay $3 a month.
This means that pensioners who want to stay with their daughters or sons for a holiday and want their mail to be redirected will have to pay $1 a month for that privilege or leave the mail to be delivered at their old address although nobody is there to collect it. This is another pettifogging attitude of the Post Office which horrifies me. The Post Office had a $54m profit in its telecommunications branch, yet it is getting down to this sort of pettifogging attitude. I only hope that the indiscriminate closing of post offices throughout the country and the downgrading of official offices to non-official offices will be reconsidered because the staff will be affected, the country towns will be affected and it is not justified on economic grounds.
– I wish to congratulate the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) both for his courage and for his honesty. I also wish to tell him that his attendance at a fruitgrowers’ meeting at Shepparton in my electorate earlier this year was appreciated by the people there. I was also in attendance at the meeting at Berri referred to by the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles). Basically I wish to support his comments about the problems confronting the canning fruit industry and in particular 3 canneries - Riverland, Jon Preserving Co. and Leeton - over 1972 fruit crop payments. The canning fruit industry has many problems but I do not wish to mention them all. I do not even wish to mention what happened last week when the Reserve Bank advances were increased by 2 per cent. This will cost the canneries in the Goulburn Valley over $500,000 next year. The manager of the Leeton Cooperative Cannery advised in a telegram that it will cost his cannery $170,000 or the equivalent of $7 a ton - in other words, 7 per cent of grower returns.
I do not wish to dwell on that because I want to concentrate on this one problem of the 1972 crop payments. This problem began with the revaluation of the Australian currency by about 6 per cent by the previous Government in December 1971. The Government stated that the industry would be compensated if it could show demonstrable losses. It also advised the industry that because of the devaluations by the 2 other competitors of Aus- traliaininternationalcannedfruitmarkets– the United States of America and South Africa - it should match them in the market, which meant a reduction in price. This basically represented a loss to the industry. This was compounded by the floating - or, more accurately, the sinking - of sterling in June 1972. These canneries competed in the world market, as they have to if they wish to sell their fruit, and they lost heavily.
By the time of the Federal election in December 1972 the losses for the 1972 year had not been finalised. As an interim measure and showing the good faith of the Government in honouring its commitments, loans were made to these canneries against these losses. The South Australian canneries received $383,000, Leeton cannery received approximately $680,000 and one of the Goulburn Valley canneries also received a loan. This was to allow growers to be paid up to 85 per cent of the contracted price. I assume that not only is the grower not receiving a price that has not been altered in line with inflation for some years to any degree but also he is not receiving more than 85 per cent of that particular contract. The industry finalised its losses for the 1972 year only about 6 weeks ago. This is because of problems of payment from overseas markets. The industry presented its case for 1972 to the Government - to the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) - about 6 weeks ago and it is anxiously awaiting the Government’s decision.
These 3 canneries have paid only between 75 per cent and 80 per cent of growers’ returns for 1972. The lesser figure is because some of the canneries have revolving funds to pay loans outstanding to the Reserve Bank or other banks. These canneries will be able to pay in full their contracted price for 1973 because of the growing fruit shortage in the world if they do not have to repay the loans advanced to them in 1972. These loan repayments are due in 4 six-monthly instalments. The first instalment was due in June or July but was deferred until December. The first repayment will have to be made in December. This brings 3 critical problems for these canneries. The first is one of grower liquidity, the problems of growers meeting their commitments and making a living when they are not receiving the contracted price. The second problem is that if the canneries are forced to repay these loans the canneries will not be able to meet their commitments for the 1973 and 1974 crops.
An additional problem concerns the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. A sugar rebate is paid to canneries to compensate them for the disability of using Australian sugar when they are competing on a world market. One of the conditions of the sugar rebate is that it is payable only if the contracted price - the official FISCC price - is paid. Up until now the FISCC has not made a final decision on whether to withdraw the rebates or not allow them for 1972. The next meeting of this Committee will take place in
Hobart in about 2 weeks time, and a final decision will be made then. Unless there is some indication given by the Government by then that compensation will be paid for these losses over these revaluations, the growers and these canneries will not only not have the full payments for 1972 but there will actually be a reduction of what they have now which will be taken out of growers’ returns for the next crop.
This Government is not to be criticised on these matters up to this point, just as the previous Government is not to be criticised. I believe that the previous Government acted in good faith in making this statement to the growers, and at the time that Government lost office it had done all it could to honour its commitments, because finalisation had not been made and, as I said earlier, was not made until about 6 weeks ago. As an act of good faith the previous Government provided these interim loans. Until these finalised returns were made 6 weeks ago one could not point to anything which showed that this Government had not honoured any commitment it wished to make or which the previous Government had made.
But now the time of decision has arrived. It is of critical importance to these canneries that a favourable decision be made quickly. I urgently request the Government to make a favourable decision to honour what I believe was an honourable commitment of the previous Government made to a group of Australians to allow them to meet their commitments. I ask that the Government, in making this favourable decision, make it in the most favourable manner possible, which would be by the payment of approximately $20 a ton. If the Government considers it is not able to do this, I ask that at least it accept the lesser of the 2 possibilities and that is to convert these loans into grants for these 3 canneries. It would mean that they would not have to make the repayments. They would not receive any more for the 1972 crop but at least they would be able to meet their 1973 payments in full. That would not be as favourable as the payments of about $20 a ton revaluation loss but at least it would be more acceptable than the present position. I ask the Government in good faith to act and to act quickly in a favourable manner for these growers and these 3 canneries which find themselves in this critical position at the present time.
– We constantly hear complaints about the escalation of land prices. The fringe banking organisations such as hire purchase companies and building societies blame everyone else but themselves. They cry piously about the matter, and the consumer continues to pay. The land agents, the hire purchase companies and the building societies make public statements that governments should not interfere. Let us look at one incident of which I am aware. It shows only the tip of the iceberg of wheeling and dealing, of deceit and vested interest of those people involved in the financing and dealing in land and the falsely inflated values which they create. It adds to the mounting cries for royal commissions into past deals and for controls for the future.
A constituent of mine, a Mrs Hogarth, was persuaded to invest an initial amount of some $15,000 from her previous deceased husband’s estate in a land syndicate. She now stands to lose not only the $15,000 but also her home and assets because of the laxity of conduct of the people responsible for financing the syndicate and the actions of the operators of the syndicate. Those involved were a Mr Murdoch, a developer, Beneficial Finance Corporation Ltd, Merchantile Credits Ltd and Town and Country Permanent Building Society. Mrs Hogarth had an initial sum of. $15,000 invested in land for her by Murdoch in a syndicate of 20 people. Subsequently mortgages were taken out on behalf of the syndicate for $701,000, the land being syndicated back at $857,000. The sum of $114,500 in secret commissions was allegedly taken by Murdoch.
The finance companies must have known that these commissions were taken, that the value of the undeveloped land was heavily inflated at book values and that it was wrong to so act, because I understand that it is illegal to take such a commission. If the finance companies say that they were not in fact aware of the inflated values and the commissions, what is wrong with their checking system for their own investors whose money they are re-investing? One block involved was a 10 acre block with a main drain through it. Incidentally, the drain would cost over $100,000 to redirect to allow the development of that block. The block was valued for the purposes of mortgage at $75,000 and was sold by Beneficial Finance for $30,000 after the collapse of the syndicate to a person who, it is alleged, had filed for bankruptcy. On the day that it was sold to him it was remortgaged for $43,000 to a man with no money. Yet I am given to understand that he purchased from the finance company in the same area finance company land for $70,000. I ask: Is he a dummy for the finance company? One must bear in mind that the previous developer had entered into a deed of trust to develop the land using finance company money and providing no finance himself. He was to receive 50 per cent of the profits and the finance company was to receive 50 per cent of the capital increases plus interest at 15 per cent on its money. Why would the finance company not make such an agreement? It received from the syndicate’s mortgages an income of $221,200 per year on its investment plus 14 per cent in interest, and on the secret commission section of the investment it received $27,538 in interest payments from the buyers.
No matter which way he moves the financier of such a deal must profit from the inflation and from the multiple deals. He can lose only if the value of the land is deflated suddenly below the market value which he and his associates set, and so long as they are prepared to sell to people with little or no collateral outside the actual piece of ground being sold they have nothing at all to lose. Of course, if it were a bank transaction the situation would be entirely different, because the bank would require its investment of the finance to be otherwise heavily secured, and in the main banks are not interested in the false values set by the dealers. They in fact make their own valuations.
There must be some arrangement between agents and finance companies because one is assured that finance is readily available for one and all. In fact one is told that the land will appreciate once that particular subdivision is sold out because the agent immediately is prepared to place it on the market at an increased value. Some would say thai it is a good investment for a young couple to make a few dollars on a block, but they must pay again and again for the inflated values because they pay not only the initial cost but also the additional costs of rates and taxes based on the false values set by such syndicates as that in which Mrs Hogart was inadvertently involved. I say ‘inadvertently’ because documents were transacted by the promoter of the syndicate with signatures witnessed by a person required to do so toy State law but who was not in fact present. He then represented that the signa tures were official as affixed to the document. In fact, even to this day he does not know the person whose signature he purported to witness.
This lady, with an income from her present husband of only $60 to $80 per week, was allowed to become responsible on paper for repayments ranging from $700 to $1,000 a month. In fact it is alleged that at one time she became involved in a syndicating system that was responsible for debt repayment that could have been anywhere in the vicinity of Sim. No one is quite sure what the real position was because, as I mentioned previously, documents were allegedly exchanged without syndicate members’ knowledge. I reiterate that it appears incredible that the financing organisations involved were not aware of what was taking place with the money invested by their own investors. But whatever their knowledge, the real losers were the syndicate members and in the end the consumer, who in this case must pay for what could be $1.5m mortgage losses wiped off the books of the collapsed syndicate.
The law must be inadequate to allow this type of transaction to take place. It is up to State and Federal Attorney-General’s departments to look at the situation and to secure the loopholes whereby land can be falsely inflated, falsely valued and finance virtually unsecured. Some will say: ‘Let the investors beware’. This must be so but they too should have the protection of the country’s laws. The type of people who become involved in these fringe areas are people who do not have experience in operating financial investment. To expand further the problem faced by Mrs Hogarth, she presented a not negotiable cheque with the syndicate organiser, who opened an account with Town and Country Building Society, a fringe banking organisation, which no doubt had had previous dealings with the syndicate operator and had no reason to be suspicious. Because of the lack of any real controls on the operation that cheque was negotiated without Mrs Hogarth’s authority, and I understand that that and other sums were disgorged without her signature, with Murdoch acting as trustee. Whether this could be a common occurrence no one could say because there are no real checks in that area and in the other areas.
I ask the Federal Attorney-General’s Department to look at the matter. I ask the
Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron), who is sitting at the table, to draw to the attention of the Attorney-General the fact that controls in these areas are so loose. So many young people and young couples today without knowing it are paying for operations which are taking place before land is actually developed for them. Unfortunately too many people at the moment are caught up in the hysteria of making a fast dollar. They finish as Mrs Hogarth has finished. She lost ail that her husband worked for and all that he slaved for and in fact his superannuation. I dare say that nothing can be done to retrieve the situation for people such as herself. I do not know about the other 19 members of the syndicate. I believe that they too must bear the losses. I ask that something be done. I know it is closing the gate after the horse has bolted, but perhaps royal commissions could reveal what has happened in the past and protect not only those people involved in the past but also those people who could become involved in the future.
- Mr Speaker, this evening I wish to draw to your attention and to the attention of the House the added burdens that are being imposed by the present Government on young families of this country and in particular young families in South Australia. These burdens are being imposed in many directions on young families seeking to establish homes, to buy them, to build them, to set them up and to bring up young children. They are being badly hit by inflation, by rising interest rates and by rising taxes that bear upon them as a result of the illusion of added or increased money incomes. But there is another area in which young families in South Australia are bearing a particular burden. It is well known to this House that there has been much controversy over the question of doctors’ fees. The Minister of the Australian Government in charge cf this matter, without seeking the professional advice of an expert committee, arbitrarily determined that the increase in fees that he would approve would be an increase of 10 per cent. The Labor Premier of South Australia, on his own initiative but with the approval of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), appointed the Prices Commissioner in that State to examine doctors’ fees. The Prices Commissioner, with some experience in the examination of prices, went into the matter. He relied, in the main, upon information supplied by the Australian Government - information which has subsequently been proved to be incorrect in the extent of $10m on one line and other amounts of so far undisclosed errors. But the Prices Commissioner, having examined the matter on the information that was available to him, brought down a report. In that report he recommended that the fee should not be raised by more than 15 per cent. He furthermore recommended that in the case of a general practitioner charge for a confinement the fee could be raised from $40 to $60. He made no recommendation with regard to the fee charged for confinements by specialists.
The benefit organisations, seeking to provide insurance cover for their contributors, made an application to the Minister for
Social Security (Mr Hayden) seeking hi? approval to an increase in their premiums to enable them to pay benefits to cover the increased charges which Mr Baker, the South Australian Prices Commissioner, had recommended to be appropriate. The Minister for Social Security refused the request. As a consequence, young families expecting children are now faced with an added burden. They are faced with a general practitioner confinement fee of $60 as approved by the Prices Commissioner. Because of the ceiling placed by the Minister for Social Security upon the benefits that can be paid by an organisation, when a claim is lodged with a benefit organisation it is able to reimburse the insured patient only to the extent of $35. The absurdity of this situation is that if one visits a specialist who charges $80 - the approved fee - and subsequently lodges a claim for a refund from the benefit organisation and the government benefit, one receives $75, which represents a net charge of $5 to the patient. But if, as is the case with 85 per cent of those people seeking medical assistance on their confinement, one goes to a general practitioner, that general practitioner can charge the Baker price of $60. If one lodges a claim for a refund one receives $35 - a net charge to the contributor of $25. This is an indirect form of placing an added burden on young families which the Government indicated it would assist when seeking election prior to 2 December 1972.
I draw this matter to the attention of the House this evening and ask that the Minister for Social Security once again look at this question. If the recommendations of Mr
Baker, the Prices Commissioner in South Australia, are, as he claimed, the recommendations of an expert, will he ensure that the Government contribution is such that added burdens are not placed on young families in South Australia? If the Minister will not provide money to enable the difference to be made up out of government resources, will he grant approval to the benefit organisations in South Australia to increase their premiums so that the burden on young families, who seek general practitioner attendance on confinements, can be reduced from $25 to $5, as is the case now if a young mother seeks specialist treatment? Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.59 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The matters referred to fall within the authority of Ministers in the House of Assembly for Papua New Guinea. The Ministers for Finance and Foreign Relations and Trade have provided the following information -
The total direct Japanese investment in Papua New Guinea is currently estimated at $20m. This excludes loans made by Japanese companies to the Bougainville copper project.
The main geographical areas in which this investment occurs are East and West New Britain, Madang, Morobe and Central Districts.
Japanese investment is mainly involved in timber utilisation, fishing, agricultural and mining ventures.
It is understood that Japan introduced during the 1950s a scheme for insurance of private overseas investment against risks of war, appropriation, nonconvertibility of foreign exchange, etc. It is not positively known that Japanese parent companies have taken out such insurance in respect of their Papua New Guinea enterprises although the expectation is they would have done so.
Japanese enterprises investing overseas have available soft loan finance and infrastructure assistance from Government institutions such as Overseas Economic Co-operation Fund and Japan Overseas Development Corporation provided their projects qualify for assistance under the laws relating to those organisations. OECF interest rates are understood to range from 3-5.5 per cent per annum. JODC provides assistance for infrastructure requirements by extending interest free loans involving only a servicing commission, usually 0.75 per cent per annum. Some Japanese projects in Papua New Guinea have attracted loan funds from both organisations.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What action has been taken to initiate income tax free provisions to assist pioneering industries in Northern Australia during their initial development period.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There has never been any general exemption for the purpose referred to by the honourable member, although up to 1952 there was an exemption for primary production income in the Northern Territory which did little to develop the Territory. Quite apart from any constitutional difficulties they might present, the kinds of income tax concessions the honourable member has in mind would not sit easily either with the Government’s policy of selective decentralisation or with our decision, announced in my recent Budget Speech, to abolish or modify a wide sweep of disguised expenditures within the taxation laws.
Yugoslav IntelligenceOrganisations (Question No. 960)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
IncomeTax (Question No. 857)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What is the estimate of the increase in income tax collections for each 0.5 per cent increase in average weekly earnings beyond the forecast 13 per cent during the year 1973-74.
– The answer to the right honorable member’s question is as follows:
Assuming other parameters move as forecast, gross PAYE income tax receipts in 1973-74 would vary from the Budget estimate by approximately$30m for each 0.5 percentage point variation in the increase in average earnings from 13.0 per cent.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 September 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19730926_reps_28_hor85/>.