28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon.J. F.- Cope) took the chair at 10 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 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 women of 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 Charles Jones, Mr Les Johnson, Mr McMahon, Mr Armitage, Mr MacKellar, Mr Morris, Mr Mulder, Mr Ruddockand Mr Turner.
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 tointerfere with the existing health scheme.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Donald Cameron and Mr Cooke.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘free’ national health scheme is not free at all and will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme.
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an individual’s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the basic principles of the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by MrDrury and Mr McLeay.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The bumble 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 Wilson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will move to make available to the Tasmanian Government a special grant for the purpose of securing Lake Pedder in its natural state.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Crean and Mr Hurford.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully shows:
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 child to equal per capita grants of government money spent on education, and so instruct the proposed National Schools Commission.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lynch.
To the ‘Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should acknowledge the right of every Australian child to equal per capita grants of government money spent on education.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Gorton.
– Does the Minister for Defence recall my question to him on Tuesday of this week concerning the resignation of senior Army officers? Does he recall also that, although he provided figures concerning the substantial increase in the number of resignations which have been accepted - a 100 per cent increase over that of the previous year - he specifically avoided answering how many applications for resignation are now before the Military Board? I ask the honourable gentleman: What is the number of applications for resignation now before the Board? Will the honourable gentleman tell the House why the normal monthly figures of resignations and of recruiting have not been released for the month of September even though they normally come out in approximately the middle of each month.
– There has been no intention on my part or on the part of the Department of Defence not to make figures available. Indeed the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will concede that not only did I indicate that there had been an increase in the number of applications for resignation but also that I tabled the figures for the honourable gentleman. The figures as to the total number of applications that are before the Department of Defence in terms requesting a resignation are not available to me at the moment, but I undertake to obtain the figures for the honourable member. I will let him have them as soon as possible, and, if necessary, I will table the document in this Parliament.
One fact which is quite clear from the resignations that I have personally studied and of which the honourable gentleman will be aware is that when a resignation is put before the Department of Defence by a senior officer it normally comes to the Minister for his signature before it goes to the Executive Council. In the case of every application for resignation that I have considered personally, no request for a resignation has been based on the ground of discontent. It is quite clear that for the great majority of those who are now seeking to resign the attractiveness of the defence forces retirement benefit provisions has had some influence on those who believe that they would be advantaged not only in terms of their retiring allowances but also in terms of a full employment economy, that is, that they would have greater opportunities by retiring somewhat earlier than at the ages at which they would retire if they completed their terms. Finally, I say to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that I will undertake to obtain the figures as early as possible, and I will let him have a full and considered reply.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Immigration been drawn to an article in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ on
Monday, IS October last, under the heading “‘Whites Only” Plea’ which states:
Australia is being destroyed by its immigration policies -
– Order! It is out of order for the honourable gentleman to quote from a newspaper in asking a question.
– AH right, I will ask the question.
– The honourable gentleman can re-phrase his question in regard to the newspaper report, but he cannot quote from it.
– All right. In regard to this article in the ‘Daily Telegraph* on Monday, 15 October last, is the Minister aware of the formation of a white Australian league by a man named Clapperton? Has the organisation any significant support from the Opposition? Is it in fact an Opposition front organisation?
– My attention has been drawn not only to the article in that newspaper but also to an announcement by a gentleman, I think named Mr Clapperton, that he had a league which was dedicated to the white purity of the nation based on Aborigines, which seemed to me to be an extraordinary exercise in acrobatics and semantics. However, that is his privilege. But to answer specifically the honourable member’s question, I do not think the organisation could be properly described as having the support of the Opposition, because my information is that in 1952 this gentleman was railing at the then administration and the Department of Immigration for having the temerity to permit into Australia Catholics and Italians. He then proceeded some years later, I think in 1958, to rail against the previous administration for holding citizenship conventions which were designed to soften up the Australian people to admit Asians. So I think that the answer to the honourable member’s question is that a very insignificant, perhaps lunatic, fringe may have peeped out into the national light for a brief moment, but I am sure that if these people held a mass rally, a telephone box would be adequate for their purpose.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General, by referring to a statement by the Minister for Services and Property yesterday that his Government would make sure that another Watergate did not happen in Australia. I ask: Has any approach been made to the Attorney-General to grant a waiver of parliamentary privilege to allow the Deputy Prime Minister to give evidence to the investigation proceeding in Tasmania, alleging conspiracy to bring down a lawfully elected State Government by the offering of bribes - alleged to have come from major gambling interests - to the then Deputy Premier, Mr Lyons? Is it a fact that the signed statutory declarations allege that the present Deputy Premier and Attorney-General in Tasmania was the chief conspirator? Is it also a fact that the present Australian Deputy Prime Minister refused to divulge the source of funds paid to the Labor Party in Tasmania?
– The simple answer to the honourable member’s question is that I know of no such representation and I do not believe that there has been any such representation. I should go on to say that questions involving the Australian federal system - this Parliament here and the States - always bring into play what this Government or the Ministers who constitute it should do in regard to something that is happening in the States. Almost invariably and consistently members of the Liberal and Country Parties, who sit on the Opposition side, say that nothing or little should be done, because of the strict dichotomy or division between the States and the Federal Parliament. The simple answer is that I know of no such representation.
– Mr Speaker-
– I merely want to say that the question asked is a complete and deliberate distortion of the facts.
Opposition members - Sit down!
– Order! The Minister will resume his seat.
– I suggest that the honourable member make a withdrawal.
– Order! If the Minister has been misrepresented he will have ample time to speak at the end of question time.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of statements that oil supplies from the Middle East to a number of Western countries will be reduced substantially? Will the Prime Minister inform the House what action the Australian Government intends to take to ensure that Australia’s oil supplies are protected from the tremendous pressures for exports which will take place if oil supplies to the U.S.A., Britain and other Western countries are cut off? I ask the Prime Minister whether he can inform the House what Australia’s position with regard to future reserves and the utilisation of the same if oil supplies from the Middle East cease.
– The question comes within the portfolio of the Minister for Minerals and Energy.
– The Government has appointed and sent abroad an ambassadoratlarge to the Arab countries so that we can preserve the best possible relations with them, particularly in relation to the availability of crude oil supplies. As honourable members are well aware, one-third of the Australian refinery through-put comes from heavy crude imported particularly from the Middle East As I outlined in a speech I made on Tuesday night, we will have our problems. It is for that reason that I included within the Pipline Authority Bill special provision for the retention of all liquids from natural gas. We will use our best endeavours to supplement Australia’s oil reserves. As I pointed out to the House on Tuesday night, in particular we also will ensure that natural gas will be used to replace heavy furnace crude wherever possible. We will use the best technical advice that we have. We will conserve and, above all, we will budget for our energy reserves in the terms that I announced to this House some months ago.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. He will be aware of the fact that, unless Queensland Mines Ltd is granted mining titles to its areas in the Northern Territory and is permitted to develop its uranium reserves, it will lose its areas at the end of this year and will be unable to fulfil its contracts. He also will be aware of the fact that, whilst the Minister for Minerals and Energy says that he supports the rights of the company and wants to see its contracts honoured, other Ministers have refused to grant the titles required. I ask the Prime Minister whether he will intervene in this matter to ensure that this company is not forced into having to forfeit its titles as a result of a difference of opinion between Ministers. I ask this particularly in view of the fact that the Deputy Prime Minister gave assurances to the company earlier this year.
– The Minister for Minerals and Energy will answer the question.
– My question relates to a difference of opinion between Ministers.
– I rise on a point of order. Mr Speaker, it is true that your rulings and the rulings of your predecessors have been that the relevant Minister - the Minister functionally responsible - has the right, if the Prime Minister wishes it, to answer questions of this kind, but the Minister for Minerals and Energy is not the proper Minister. He has already made his decision. The Minister who will not make up his mind-
– Order! The right honourable gentleman must be aware that it has been the general practice and procedure in this House always that the Prime Minister, if he so desires, can transfer the answering of a question to any Minister he thinks may be able to answer it more fittingly because it comes within that Minister’s jurisdiction. The Minister for Minerals and Energy is in order in answering the question.
– I pursue this point of order.
-Order! The right honourable member has taken a point of order and I have ruled on it.
– But I had not completed my point of order.
– Order! I heard quite sufficient at the start to know what it was all about.
– On a further point of order-
-Order! The right honourable member, as a former Prime Minister, knows that he had power to transfer questions to any Minister he thought more fittingly able to answer them. That has always been the rule of and the general practice in this House.
– Mr Speaker, I rise to order. My point of order is that the question asked was not directed to the administration of the Department presided over by the Minister for Minerals and Energy but related specifically to the Prime Minister seeking to intervene in relation to that Minister’s administration.
-Order! I have no control over this. If the Prime Minister wants to transfer a question he has the right to do so. The Prime Minister has always had that right. No point of order is involved.
– Mr Speaker, with due respect to you, as Leader of the Australian Country Party I am not asking a vicious question but am trying to get some decision from the Prime Minister as to whether he will intervene in respect of differences of opinion within his Government. If the House wishes it, I am prepared to read my question again. It is not an offensive question but its subject matter involves the livelihood and savings of many thousands of Australian people.
-Order! I have noted every point of order that has been raised. I reemphasise that I have no power to instruct the Prime Minister to answer a question if he desires to transfer it to the Minister for Minerals and Energy. This is a matter for the Prime Minister. The Minister for Minerals and Energy has the call and will answer the question.
– The right honourable gentleman’s question is based on entirely wrong premises. There is no conflict between myself and my colleagues who have an interest in the uranium affairs of the Northern Territory. I have made my position very clear and that is that I want to see the uranium mined. Other colleagues of mine within their respective administrations have similar problems to consider and resolve and will do so. I cite in particular the case of, shall we say, the Minister designate for the Northern Territory who has returned only today from overseas and who no doubt will be directing his attention to this particular problem. The actual exercise is a matter of Mr Milner wearing 2 hats and deciding that as the Chairman of Kathleen Investments he will launch an attack on himself as Chairman of Queensland Mines, in respect of which Kathleen Investments holds a half interest and also to which it has loaned some money. It is purely an exercise in journalistic arm twisting. It is foolish and it is futile because in fact, as I pointed out in a telex message to Mr Milner, on 5 October, I fully support their being granted the leases. I have no reason to believe that my colleagues would refuse to give it their approval. In particular, Queensland Mines found the Nabarlek deposits and it is entitled to develop them in a proper way, at a proper time and on conditions that will be decided. But to suggest, as the Opposition attempts to do, that we will not renew those leases is a piece of political humbug.
– I rise on a point of order. This is not a correct interpretation of the situation. The leases expire at the end of the year and the holders of these leases have been notified by the Department-
– Order! The right honourable gentleman does not have the call.
– My question is also directed to the Minister for Minerals and Energy. Has the Minister examined the interests held in Australia and overseas by the Australian Mining Industry Council? If so, what are the results of his investigation and can he say what are the activities of the members of the Council?
– I thank the honourable member for Port Adelaide for his question. I have investigated in particular the ownership situation of the Australian Mining Industry Council. As has been stated in debates in the last fortnight, it is quite a common thing for overseas interests naturally to assume an Australian name, and their operations proceed from there. The Australian Mining Industry
Council comprises some 92 affiliated companies. Of those, 29 are either wholly or substantially Australian. I make no imputation in respect of them. They are well behaved and go about their business in a proper way. But in respect of the 63 others ‘I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard the full details of research made by my responsible officers as to their ownership overseas. The document is a revelation in itself.
-Is it a bulky document?
– It comprises 6 pages and contains 92 names.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Leave is granted. I take it that the honourable gentleman will permit us to debate the matter when we have the opportunity to see the document.
– With pleasure.
-Order! The House will recall that I made a plea the other day that any honourable member requiring the incorporation of material in Hansard should, before the question arises or before he commences his speech, show that material to the person in charge of the debate on either side so that he can have a reasonable opportunity to read what is in it before giving a decision on the matter. (The document read as follows) -
– My question is directed to the Treasurer and relates to the 2 basic assumptions on which, first of all, revaluations and, secondly, the Budget were based. The first one relates to revaluations and the view which members of the Government expressed that it would have a substantial impact on the price of imports into this country. I ask the honourable gentleman whether he has read the most recent monthly bulletin of the Reserve Bank, which indicated clearly that despite the immense suffering that has been caused to efficient Australian export industries the price index, as set out in the Reserve Bank bulletin, has fallen by no more than 5 points from 116 since 2 December? The second assumption relates to the Budget and particularly the actions taken by the Government to reduce tariffs by 25 per cent immediately before the Budget was introduced on the basis, according to the Minister for Overseas Trade, that we would have a pretty big increase in imports of the order of $ 1,200m, $400m worth being associated with the reduction in tariffs. Has the Treasurer seen the latest statistics-
-Order! Will the right honourable gentleman ask his question?
– Yes, Sir. I am coming to the last part of it now, but it needed some explanation. Has he seen the statistics relating to the month of September, which indicate that imports have fallen, I believe, by about $10m to $41 lm, thus invalidating the very assumption on which the Budget was based - that is, an increase in imports?
– There have been a lot of complaints about long answers. I think equally there should be some complaint about long questions. I am quite prepared at another opportunity to examine the so-called facts that the right honourable gentleman has interpreted in his own way. I say briefly that the import price index has fallen. I say also that the time when revaluation took place was also a time of rising world prices.
– They fell.
– Fair enough. The circumstances would have been even worse had the revaluation not taken place. The other thing is that imports are increasing.
– They fell in September.
– The right honourable gentleman takes a month in isolation. I suggest that he take a quarter or 6 months. There is nothing worse than the selective use of statistics and politely multiplying them by 12 or 4 or 6 to get an annual figure. I regard that as an abuse of statistics. I will consider the question raised by the right honourable gentleman and give him a detailed answer.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. In view of the likely campaign by local government in New South Wales to win public support to assist in its efforts to gain loan funds direct from the Federal Government, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald’ of Saturday, 13 October, will the Prime Minister confer again with the State Premiers before holding a referendum into this matter and will he discuss the matter with the chief antagonist, the Premier of New South Wales?
– While it would be true to say that the present Premier of New South Wales is opposed to the Australian Government’s proposals it would not be true to say or to believe that he is the only Premier opposed to them. The Government was elected on a party platform which had been framed in this regard in July 1971 and on a policy speech which I delivered last November, committed to the proposition that local government in each State should have a voice and a vote on the Loan Council. Related legislation to enable local government, on a regional basis, to receive assistance from the Australian Government by way of topping up revenues was passed in the form of the Grants Commission Act in the autumn session of this year. The whole proposition of giving local government a voice and a vote on the Loan Council could, in the opinion of the Solicitor-General, be achieved by amending the Financial Agreement of 1927 pursuant to the referendum which was carried in 1928. However, to amend the Financial Agreement requires the unanimous agreement of the 7 Australian governments. It is impossible to get that agreement. I would not propose to discuss the proposition again with the Premier of New South Wales or with all the Premiers. It is clear that unanimity cannot be achieved. It would be a waste of time. It would be a deferment of the legitimate hopes and aspirations of local government not only in New South Wales but throughout Australia. Accordingly-
– Can we have the statement after question time?
– I thought the right honourable gentleman would be on his best behaviour today, not only for the luncheon but also for the dinner.
– Why don’t you turn round and act like a man instead of standing there snivelling?
– Snivelling Snedden!
– Accordingly, as I mentioned as a contingency at the Constitutional Convention at the beginning of last month, there will be a referendum put to the people at the time of the Senate elections.
– You are an arrogant cur.
– Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. This is the second occasion on which I have had to ask the Prime Minister to address this side of the chamber at question time. After all, we on this side of the House also are interested in the proceedings.
-Order! I ask the honourable member for Barker to withdraw the remark he just made.
– I withdraw, but I also -
-Order! I do not want any qualification; I asked you to withdraw. I do not want any speeches.
– Mr Speaker, I take the point of order that the Prime Minister has used in this House a terra which was quite unparliamentary and unnecessary.
-Order! I heard every word that passed and there was provocation. But in regard to the other interjection which I heard quite plainly, it was very unseemly and not fitting for a person sitting on the front bench.
– Mr Speaker, I was answering the question while facing you; I am sorry that the honourable member for Wimmera could not hear. I am only too happy for him to hear what I have to say in my answer. As I forecast as a contingency at the Constitutional Convention at the beginning of last month and as I told the Premiers a week ago, the Australian Government will now be asking the Parliament to pass a Bill for a referendum on this matter to be held at the time of the Senate elections, which have to be held before the end of next June and the proposition in essence will be that the Australian Government should be able to make the same agreements with elected local government bodies in respect of raising their borrowing programs, meeting their borrowing programs and guaranteeing their borrowing programs as the Australian Government has been able to make with all the State governments since 1927.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. He will recollect that not long ago he told a large Jewish audience in Sydney that the sovereignty of Israel was not negotiable. Can he now inform the House what steps the Government has taken to assert this policy in the United Nations Security Council, particularly during the time our Ambassador there was acting as President of the Security Council?
– I am glad to say that Australia’s Ambassador to the United Nations is continuing to act throughout this month as the President of the Security Council. The Australian Government is committed to the sovereignty of Israel. The present Australian Government is of the same political party as the Government in 1948 when the UN accepted the sovereignty of Israel. My predecessor as Foreign Minister, Dr Evatt, presided over the General Assembly at that time and was very much instrumental in bringing it about. I do not want to make any political point of this. I believe that all the intervening Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers have been committed to the same proposition. The emergency in the Middle East is taking on very grave aspects, since the 2 super powers backing the opposing forces are now busy resupplying them and thus promoting the prospect of a spread of hostilities. In these circumstances, the Australian Ambassador to the United Nations - the President of the Security Council - is making undiminished efforts to bring about an end of hostilities. I regret to say that the combatants still are not doing anything to put the matter in the hands of the United Nations.
– Has the Prime Minister made any progress in giving local government authorities access to an enlarged Grants Commission as a new source of Commonwealth finance?
– The Grants Commission has had further members appointed to it. It is recruiting the additional staff required. I expect that by the beginning of next year it will be in a position to hear and determine the applications by local government bodies on a regional basis for assistance from the Australian Government. I have no doubt that the Grants Commission, as now reconstituted, will command for its recommendations as regards local government the same unanimous support and the same bi-partisan support as the old Commonwealth Grants Commission, as it was then named, was able to obtain from both Houses of the Parliament for its recommendations concerning the claimant States.
– Is it not regional government?
– ‘Regional government’ is a term I would prefer, but the honourable gentleman will realise that we have some way to go before we achieve regional government in Australia since there are well over 800 local government authorities in Australia. In Sydney and Melbourne there are more local government authorities than in any other city in the world. Accordingly, the Australian Government is doing what it can in a constructive way and the Australian Parliament has enabled it to do what can be done in a constructive way to see that regions are given the resources to enable them to provide proper facilities for their people.
Hitherto, the Commonwealth Grants Commission has been able to see only that the smaller States were able to supply services comparable with those provided by New South Wales and Victoria. It will now be possible for the Grants Commission to recommend assistance which will enable regions everywhere, including regions in New South Wales and Victoria and particularly, I suppose, in the metropolitan areas of Sydney and Melbourne, to provide services for their residents as good as those provided in the longer settled or more affluent areas. I am hopeful that the whole process will be well under way by the beginning of next year. I appreciate the support which has been given for the appointments which the Government has made to the Grants Commission to enable it to fulfil its augmented role.
– My question again is directed to the Prime Minister. In view of the fact that the Minister for Minerals and Energy did not explain the situation and did not reveal the full circumstances of the threat that is being held over Queensland Mines Ltd - that it may have to be liquidated - the question that needs to be answered is this: In view of the fact that the licence of this company expires at the end of this year and it needs to get title to be able to develop this lease so that it can honour its contract, how is this possible when the Department of the Interior has informed the company that it will-
– It is not the Department of the Interior now.
– That went out with you people.
– It is all right for the Prime Minister to be smart, but it was the previous Department of the Interior which gave the advice that it could not make a decision on giving a lease until the Woodward report came forward and that it did not expect that report until the middle of next year. This is an impossible situation for the company. I ask the Prime Minister, as the Prime Minister or the senior man of the Government, to try to resolve this difference between departments.
– The right honourable gentleman has now mentioned an aspect in this question which would entitle me to give an answer. The substantial matters in his earlier question concerned the Department of Minerals and Energy. Therefore I asked the Minister for Minerals and Energy to answer the question because he has the responsibility in those matters. He has my support in discharging them and my praise for the manner in which he has discharged them. But the right honourable gentleman now mentions one aspect which he did not put in his earlier question, and that is the aspect of the inquiry being made by Mr Justice E. A. Woodward. Mr Justice Woodward is pursuing his inquiries into this very difficult matter in as expeditious a way as is possible. I have complete confidence in the way he is dealing with this matter. I think this is one matter where there can be more haste, less speed. The Government is determined-
– Will they be compensated?
– I did not interrupt when you were asking your question. The Government is determined to ensure that the Aboriginal citizens of this country will achieve land rights. The Government acknowledges that the common law which was planted from England into the Australian colonies did not give proper rights to the Aboriginal inhabitants. They did not have land rights as individuals. Therefore the common law as implanted in Australia did not recognise them. Furthermore, they were not formed into companies or corporations. So that meant they had no land rights. The Australian Government is committed by a long-standing plank in its Party platform as well as by policy speeches I have made at successive elections to see that the Aboriginal people of Australia do get land rights. Mr Justice E. A. Woodward has been commissioned by us, as he has by preceding governments, to make inquiries on behalf of the Government.
– You are evading the question again. You are making a speech.
– I would have thought that all honourable and right honourable gentlemen would concede his competence in dealing with these matters. I believe that we should wait for his further report so that any legislation which the Government puts before the Parliament will be as invulnerable as it is possible to anticipate. The right honourable gentleman referred to the Department of the Interior. It is part of his nostalgia for the Country Party’s Satrapies.
– I rise to order. It must be obvious to the House and to everyone who is listening to this broadcast that the Prime Minister is not answering the question which was asked by the Leader of the Australian Country Party. He asked the Prime Minister whether he would take up the matter in order to carry out what is the clear intention of the Minister for Minerals and Energy, that is to have this matter of the leases disposed of immediately. All that the Prime Minister has to do is to refer it to the Minister for the Northern Territory and not go on with a long debate about the very worthy cause of the Australian Aborigine.
– Order! There is no point of order involved because the Prime Minister has not as yet finished his answer to the question.
– The present Australian Ministers will not overlook the rights of the Aborigines as successive Country Party Ministers for the Interior did overlook those rights.
– That is wrong. That is absolute rot.
– The shaft has struck home. The culprit identifies himself.
– Absolute rot and you know it.
-Order! There will be no further business conducted until the House comes to order. I call the Prime Minister.
– Further mining leases will not be issued in disregard of Aboriginal rights where they are relevant. This Government will not act as its predecessors did in Gove and as its predecessors connived at being done at Weipa.
– The Minister for Transport will recall my question on Tuesday of this week regarding the vessel ‘Blythe Star’ now overdue at King Island. I ask the Minister: What initiatives have been taken to step up the search for the vessel ‘Blythe Star’? In asking this question, I thank the Minister for the information that he has kept up to us since last Monday. In view of the information that the Minister has just passed on that there is an oily substance reported on the sea and on the beach between Sandy Cape and the Pieman River and because of the undoubted greater efficiency of helicopters as opposed to the conventional Royal Australian Air Force aircraft now operating in the area for search purposes, will the Minister authorise the immediate chartering of helicopters based at Wynyard Airport in Tasmania for an immediate search in case there are survivors along this isolated coast?
– My reply to the honourable member no doubt will be of interest to other honourable members. At 9.45 this morning the latest position with respect to the search for the ‘Blythe Star’ was that there had been no change in that no wreckage had been sighted, but an oil slick had been sighted on the west coast. Those in charge of the search have arranged for the police to visit the area of this sighting. It is in a pretty isolated place, as the honourable member would know, adjacent to his electorate, between the Pieman River and Sandy Cape. It is not expected to be able to determine whether the oil slick is from the ‘Blythe Star’. It would be tomorrow at least before this would be known for certain, allowing for time to recover samples of the oil slick and to have them tested.
With respect to the search that is continuing, thanks to the co-operation of the Services - the Department of Air and the Department of the Navy - through the Minister for Defence, 4 Royal Australian Air Force planes and 2 Navy tracker aircraft have been made available and they will continue to carry out the search. It was intended that, last night, there would be a search by RAAF aircraft again using flares which would be dropped. The hope was that in this way the attention of the men who may be on board the ship or who may be in lifeboats or on rafts might be attracted. This is considered to be one of the best methods of searching. Because of the inclement weather and low cloud level last night, those searchers were unable to carry out this operation. The honourable member raised the point of introducing helicopters into the search. As soon as question time is concluded, I will confer with the Minister for Defence to arrange for as many Service helicopters as are available to take part in this search.
– Pursuant to section 25 of the Apple and Pear Organisation Act 1938-1971 I present the twenty-seventh annual report of the Australian Apple and Pear Board for the year ended 30 June 1973.
– For the information of honourable members I present a financial and statistical supplement to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department annual report for the year ended 30 June 1973.
– For the information of honourable members, I present a statement of Australian Government policy entitled ‘A National Approach to Water Resources Management’, dated 10 October 1973.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I claim to have been misrepresented by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) who, in the exchange across the table, said to me, The culprit indentifies himself, meaning that I, as the former Minister for the Interior, was in fact the culprit for not having granted land rights to Aborigines. This is a complete misrepresentation of the facts, and I wish to make the position clear by informing the House what happened in my 2-year term as Minister for the Interior. We tailored a special general purposes lease to suit the requirements of Aboriginal communities. In that time we also determined to apply to Aborigines generally the law that applied to all Australians. There is leasehold title in the Northern Territory. The Aborigines themselves were happy with this arrangement to the extent that more than 180 applications were made to a Land Board, to which I appointed 2 Aboriginal members. At the time when the former Government went out of office, 110 of those applications for leases were granted by the Land Board to Aboriginal communities, individuals and groups. These included 4 pastoral stations. Every property that has been purchased for Aborigines was either purchased or negotiated for in the time of the McMahon Government. What the present Government has succeeded in doing has frozen all mining leases, and has frozen the applications for mining leases made by Aborigines to the Land Board for hearing. The 68 applications for land that were outstanding at the time we went out of office no longer will be heard.
– Mr Speaker-
– Order! Is the Minister for Defence making a personal explanation?
– Mr Speaker, during question time-
– Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do, but there is one other matter that I want to deal with first.
Opposition members - Oh!
– I only wanted to table the information for honourable members opposite.
-Order! The Deputy Prime Minister will have to seek leave to make a statement. Is leave granted?
– Leave is granted.
– I am not asking for leave. Mr Speaker, I will deal with the other matter. I claim to have been misrepresented.
-Order! Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Warringah (Mr Mackellar). Quite frankly, it does not surprise me that he would make the kind of insinuations that he made in this House this morning. While it is not my prerogative to refer to members of the Tasmanian State Parliament, I inform the honourable member that it is true that the person in Tasmania who initially made the allegation did refer to me. I was referred to because I was then the State President of the Tasmanian branch of the Australian Labor Party - indeed, I had been for some years. I correct what the honourable member has said by informing him and this House that as the former State President of the Labor Party I completely cooperated with those who were conducting the investigation. I gave them complete information concerning my activities as the State President of the Labor Party, and the source of any donations that came to the Party was conveyed to the officers concerned. 1 suggest to’ the honourable member that if he believes that these kinds of insinuations are directed in this House to damage my reputation, he might make the same statements outside.
– Mr Speaker-
-Order! I ask the Minister for Defence: Was it his intention to table a paper? Is that what he wanted to do in the first place - to table a paper?
– I did propose to table a document providing information in relation to the question that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition asked me this morning. The information is available and, accordingly, I table the document.
– On a point of order-
-Order! Do not get excited.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard) said that 2 was basing my question on insinuations or making insinuations. I based my question on a statutory declaration made by a man named Dell, a former member of the Labor Party. It is a public statutory declaration which involves the Deputy Prime Minister. If he would like me to quote the section of the statutory declaration which involves him I will do so.
-Order! I do not think it is necessary to do that. I am not trying to stifle discussion on this matter. In making a pesonal explanation, the honourable member must say where he has been misrepresented. He has made the point that he was quoting from an affidavit. That is accepted as a point of misrepresentation.
– It did involve the Deputy Prime Minister. I am very pleased to hear from the Deputy Prime Minister that he has co-operated with the investigation which, I take it, is a closed one. I have not seen any public statement by the Deputy Prime Minister about that-
-Order! The honourable gentleman has made his point.
– I have received a message from the Senate acquainting the House that Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson has been appointed a member of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory in place of Senator Hannan, resigned.
– I move:
That in the opinion of this House homosexual acts between consenting adults in private should not be subject to the criminal law.
This is one of those rare occasions - those all too rare occasions - when the Parliament can act as it was originally theoretically intended to act; that is, to act as a collection of men, representing sections of the community, able to listen to a case and to make up their minds as to what is right without the constraints of party or of faction. The proposition which is before you, Mr Speaker, is that we should say that homosexual acts between consenting adults in private should not be punishable by the criminal law. The operative words which we all should have clearly in mind are ‘consenting’, ‘adults’ and ‘in private’.
The motion says nothing about homosexual acts committed with minors. It says nothing about homosexual acts which are the result of constraint. It says nothing about public soliciting in the streets or creating a public nuisance. It having said nothing about that, those acts which are offences will, if this motion is carried, not be affected; they will continue to be offences. Therefore, agreement with the motion leaves the offences as they are. We are concerned with one question and one question only. That question is, I repeat: Should homosexual individuals who are adults, who both wish a homosexual relationship with each other, who do not flaunt it but who act in private, withdrawn from the public gaze, be dubbed criminals and be subject to punishment by the criminal law? I suggest to the House that they should not be treated in that way.
If the House agrees with such a suggestion, it is in no way approving homosexual acts; it is in now way condoning homosexual acts. It is merely asserting that such acts under such conditions ought not to be subject to prosecution and long terms of imprisonment. I have noted a number of arguments which have been advanced against the proposition which I have put before the House. I think the House should have these propositions against my ideas put before it and should judge those propositions and the answers which I suggest can properly be made to them. In the first place I have been informed that in moving such a motion or in suggesting such a course of action I am acting contrary to God’s law. I do not know that I am qualified to interpret God’s law. I have no hot line to the Almighty but I do know what those who are spokesmen for the relevant churches and the major churches in England and Australia - who presumably are interpreters of God’s law - have to say on this matter. The original Wolfenden Committee in the United Kingdom - the United Kingdom Parliament passed a resolution such as I want this House to pass - was advised from the Roman Catholic Church, by a body set up under Cardinal Griffin, in full agreement with the Wolfenden Committee’s report, that what I suggest this House should do should be done.
– The Wolfenden report stunned Britain.
– At the moment I am dealing with whether it is against God’s law, not against your ideas. The point I make is that Cardinal Griffin did set up this committee. I do not know the situation in Australia. I do not believe that the Roman Catholic Church has take a position on it. I think it is neutral. However I do know that in the ‘Catholic Weekly’ of 4 October this year there is a strong and compelling argument printed as to why what I am suggesting to the House should be done should be done. I do not wish to suggest to the House that that is the opinion of the ‘Catholic Weekly’ but I suggest that if the ‘Catholic Weekly’ puts such a case prominently in its paper it is clear that the church is not opposed to it. The Presbyterian Church has considered this matter and I should like to quote what Douglas Cole, the Convener, had to say about that debate. He said:
The Assembly declared-
That is, the Presbyterian Assembly- that, while it believes that homosexuality is contrary to man’s ethical development, that homosexuality is productive of personal moral disintegration rather than any true personal wellbeing and happiness, it nonetheless supports the Wolfenden report that homosexual behaviour between 2 consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence and that the appropriate authorities should be advised accordingly.
In commenting on this the following relevant words were used:
Many would agree with one of the central contentions of the Wolfenden report, viz., that it is not the function of the law to intervene in the private morality of citizens. Nor is it the duty of the Church to try to impose Christian standards, or any other religious standards upon people by means of law. . . . The present law encourages blackmail, and may also encourage the seduction of children by those who would otherwise prefer adult contacts, but who imagine that child seduction is less risky.
Lord Jowitt testified that during the time that he was British Attorney-General, 95 per cent of all blackmail cases had a homosexual origin.
In conclusion, the spokesman for this Church quoted the words of W. D. G. Cole. He asked:
Is the Church a fellowship of reconciliation, of love and accepting forgiveness, or is it made up of self-righteous Pharisees, gossiping and judging and rejecting? Does it surround the sinner with hostility and threaten him with harm; or does it welcome him into the community of those who know themselves to stand in need of forgiveness, who cannot cast the first stone because they, too, fall short of the demands of a righteous God?
This aspect has been put succinctly in the old jingle that some members of this House may have heard about people who compound the sins they are inclined to, by damning those they have no minds to. The Church of England in its report on homosexuality in 1971 reached the same conclusion. It said:
We recommend that the special offences, sodomy and attempts to commit sodomy, which presently carry higher penalties, be repealed and that the present provisions of the Victorian Crimes Act which renders criminal those homosexual acts committed in private between consulting males of 18 years or over should be repealed,
I suggest to the House that if the argument is advanced that considering this matter is against God’s law, those speaking for the major churches in Australia do not agree with that contention but rather, I would think, agree with me. I cannot imagine it to have been a function of God’s law to commit people who are built differently in some way from ourselves to live a twilight life of guilt and fear.
I have heard it advanced as a suggestion why this should not be done that there will be an upsurge in homosexual activity if this resolution is accepted and translated into law. Country after country in Europe - country after country throughout the world - has changed its laws from those which used to apply 600 years ago, as these laws used to, and there is no evidence from any one of those countries that there was any upsurge in homosexual activity as a result. There being people who are strongly opposed to this suggestion, that evidence would have been forthcoming if that evidence had been in existence. We have been told that this has been a law for 600 years, and indeed it has. It used .to be subject to death in early Britain As late as 1861 in Britain the law made it not only a punishable offence - a gaolable offence - but laid down that the minimum term of imprisonment for it must be 10 years.
Because a law has been in existence 300, 400 or SOO years, is anybody to argue that therefore that is necessarily a good law? If it was we would still be hanging people for sheep stealing or transporting them for stealing a silk handkerchief.
The question is posed: What will happen in the armed Services if this is done. Will discipline not be completely destroyed? There are 2 answers to that. One is that the Services are able, and always have been able, to write their own laws and denote their own offences. If in fact this were to be found in the Services to be destructive of discipline the Services can themselves, even if we pass this resolution, take the action necessary to overcome that. There is perhaps another answer which in the House of Lords debate was advanced, and that is that homosexuality between females is not an offence now. Does anybody suggest, therefore, that the women’s Services have no discipline and are completely destroyed because they are not subject to this law. It has been suggested that personal abhorrence can persuade many people to object to passing such a resolution - that because a person himself shrinks almost in horror from the concept of a homosexual relationship applying to himself; that because he finds it disgusting, therefore it is reasonable to punish it by civil law. I call to my assistance on this argument words which were used in the House of Lords debate and which are much better and much more cogent than words I could use myself. The words are these:
The third point to which I would draw Your Lordship’s notice - and it is an argument which seems to me to be quite irrational - is that based on the revulsion which people feel at the behaviour of the homosexual. Many, who want the law changed share this revulsion.
But surely no one sincerely believes that everything which he personally feels to be unpleasant or disgusting should for that reason be a crime. The fundamental point at issue here ls not whether we can or cannot stomach the thought of this or that type of sexual behaviour; it is whether or not we believe that true morality and the best way of culivating personal responsibility is to be found through freedom ot through compulsion, and whether or not we believe that the present law on this subject does more harm than good.
According to those who have carefully gone into this matter, including representatives of the churches, it does do more harm than good. We have always been careful over the years to get rid of the confusion between the ecclesiastical idea of what is sin and the
State’s idea of what is a crime. Lord Goddard said:
We must draw distinction between conduct which may be held by some to be sinful and conduct which ought to be held by the State to be criminal.
That is the distinction which I seek to draw now. There is one other argument that has been advanced and that is: Why change the law? It is not usually applied. It is only infrequently applied. Therefore, leave lt as it ls, I would regard that argument as unmoral and indeed as a completely wrong argument from the point of view of any member of Parliament. It is immoral because it -seeks to shelve the question and to say: A man is subject to this sort of threat but the threat is rarely carried out so I can salve my conscience by just letting it go because rarely is the threat carried out. But it is wrong from the point of view of a Parliament or anybody with a vestige of interest in the legal position because it is clear that a bad law is a law which is not applied, which has fallen into desuetude. A bad law is a law which is not applied. It must be bad, and a law which is applied in a discriminatory way - sometimes applied and sometimes not - must be a worse law. A law which is sometimes applied and sometimes not and which gives an opportunity for blackmail must be the worst law of the lot. Yet this is precisely the law as it stands at present. It is occasionally applied, not often. It gives great opportunity for blackmail and it gives an opportunity for some bashing because quite often the victim who is bashed knows that complaint might lead to a charge against him under the law as it exists. All this in my view must completely counter the suggestion that the law should be left as it is because it is rarely applied.
Having dealt with the reasons that have been advanced against this proposition I now want to deal with the reasons for ft. First, I believe that it is unjust and wrong to dub as criminals people who in some way are built differently from ourselves, who may not be able to help themselves, who in many cases I believe live lives of desperation and pain because of the way in which they were constructed.
– Committing suicide.
– And sometimes committing suicide because of it. .It is wrong and unjust in my opinion to impose on top of that the threat of gaol, the .threat of being dubbed a criminal. Do not forget that every person sitting in this House is not just going to cross the floor or sit in his seat and that will be the end of the matter. What happens here will affect not thousands or tens of thousands but quite possibly hundreds of thousands of individuals. It will leave them, of course, with the social condemnation which this country has for them. It will leave them with that desperation of which I spoke and on which the honourable member for Hunter agreed with me.
– I agree with all you have said, which is surprising.
– Good. It will remove from them one overriding fear of state laws applied against them. That fear should not be allowed to remain.
I do not know that there is much more for me to say. on the matter. I have sought to indicate to this House the arguments which can be advanced against those who say that this is wrong. Everyone sitting here ought to consider himself at this moment as a judge. He ought to say to himself: ‘If I were sitting in a seat and before me was brought a man who has been convicted of, in private, committing homosexual acts with some other adult who wanted him to, would I, if I bad to make the law, send that man to gaol? Would I happily do that? If honourable members would not do that, it is equally wrong to vote that the law should continue as it is because they are then acting as judges, to say that this man can be sent to gaol.
Basically, this is a matter for each individual. It is not a matter to be decided on emotion; it is a matter to be decided on justice. It is a matter which, in the ultimate, is what this Parliament is all about because every action we take, however important in the national field, has one ultimate justification - the welfare of the individual citizen of Australia. That is what we all want and this is an occasion on which we can make up our minds and cast our judgments as to whether, because something has continued for a long time, it should continue still; as to whether unfortunate people should have their lot made yet more unfortunate;, as to who would be hurt or harmed by private actions. Let us put out of our minds what sometimes is’ in mine - the thought of people walking hand in hand down the street or with their arms around each other or in other ways acting in ways which we find objectionable. Let us think instead of the thousands of men who are not like that, who could not be discovered in an ordinary glance at the population, who hurt no one, harm no one and yet have this hanging over them.
– Order! The right honourable gentleman’s time has expired. Is the motion seconded?
– Mr Speaker,’ I second the motion. Australia does not look favourably upon homosexuals. In our predominantly conformist, overtly masculine society, fixed on the 2-child nuclear family mushrooming in suburban wastelands, the homosexual is an unwelcome outsider. Unmasculine by popular consensus, unmarried, non-fathering, anti-suburban, homosexuals are Australia’s most obvious minority group. In this country the homosexual is not merely shunned as a mora] leper or despised as a pervert, he is actively discriminated against. Our criminal penalties are severe, and our social sanctions savage. At a particularly barbaric level ‘poofter-bashing’ is virtually a recognised national civilian team sport, while police harassment in some States is accepted as an office perk by ‘the police and as an occupational hazard by the victim.
Of course, all minority groups suffer by being different. But sexuality and identity are so profoundly connected, and so profoundly important, that homosexuals in a dominant heterosexual society live under unique and potentially crippling psychological pressure, In Australia, they a,ISo have to cope with legal, social, and institutional discrimination. Both sources of pressure, operating simultaneously every day, mean that homosexuals suffer doubly for their difference, they are victims of double jeopardy. Difficulties such as these, however, have not prevented homosexuality from enduring through the ages. Whether treated as an illness, a crime, or an aberration, homosexuality has survived. As an expression of sexual preference, its validity has been confirmed by history.
There is still, of course, widespread basic concern in the community about the so called abnormal’ sexual behaviour of homosexuals. But then, heterosexuals have stretched the meaning of ‘normal’ by their behaviour as well. The community’s selective moral indignation is misplaced. Homosexuals are human beings whose sexual preference differs from hat of heterosexuals. Neither group has a monopoly on so-called ‘perversion’. We accept the principle that, as long as it does not interfere with other people’s civil liberties, heterosexual behaviour is a personal matter and ought to remain outside the interests of the state. It is now time for us to go one step further and recognise that there is no justification for society or the law to concern itself with any sexual activity - heterosexual or homosexual - which is otherwise legal and mutually acceptable to the people involved. Since, most homosexuals are indeed lawabiding citizens, except in the expression of ‘ their sexuality, it is bn tait for the rest of us to continue to impose the crushing institutional costs of being a sexually different human.
As politicians, of course, we are as concerned with public response as with general principles; and it is a fact that limited information is available on the attitudes of Australians towards homosexuality and the law. The Roy Morgan Research Centre has never conducted a survey on this subject. The Australian Nationwide Opinion Poll organisation had conducted only one usable survey before this year. The Australian Sales Research Bureau has conducted 2 vague tests in recent years; and even a pair of academics, Drs Duncan Chappell and Paul Wilson, conducted limited, although well-phrased, surveys in 1967 and 1970 which unfortunately were not strictly comparable. What information we do have, however, suggests a surprising level of public liberality on the issue. The recent survey by the A.S.R.B of attitudes to 10 social issues revealed that fewer people were willing to make moral judgments about homosexuals than about marihuana, poker machines, capital punishment, abortion, censorship and communism. Twenty-eight per cent of 2,000 respondents felt homosexuals were neither right nor wrong’, compared with a spread of between 8 per cent and 26 per cent for the other 6 issues. Only the firmly entrenched habits of cigarette and alcohol consumption and the question of ‘hippies’ extracted a greater level of moral detachment.
As well, the 1970 survey by Wilson and Chappell of 900 people in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane showed that 56 per cent believed it should not be a crime for 2 adult males to engage in homosexual practices in a private home. Their previous survey in 1967, while not strictly comparable, indicated support for this move at only 22 per cent. Most recently, A.N.O.P conducted a national survey in August, asking respondents whether they believed homosexuality between consenting adults should be legalised. For the first time in such a poll, a majority were in favour - 48 per cent agreed, only 46 per cent disagreed and 6 per cent had no opinion. A roughly comparable survey in March 1972 resulted in 50 per cent of respondents opposing the legalisation of homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private. These responses suggest a high degree of tolerance - in both relative and absolute terms - which is clearly far more liberal than the laws of the land. A few days ago the Federal Council of the Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists approved a clinical memorandum on homosexuality. It strongly condemned ‘community attitudes and laws which discriminate against homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private’.
Buggery and attempted buggery have been illegal for centuries in the English speaking world - regardless of the gender of the participantsever since the offence was forbidden in ecclesiastical law. However, changes to Britain’s criminal law in 1885 introduced the new and specifically homosexual serious offences of ‘indecent acts’ and ‘indecent practices’ even when performed in private between consenting male adults. Those changes remain enshrined in Australia’s State and Federal laws relating to homosexuality, even though some were removed from the British original in 1967. Lesbian behaviour, which was deliberately excluded from the 1885 legislation and required no attention in 1967, consequently remains non-criminal in Australia.
The language of legal sanctions against homosexual behavior is as interesting as the penalties themselves. In Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania sodomy is referred to as ‘carnal knowledge . . . against the order of Nature’. In the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Victoria the relevant statutes speak of the ‘abominable crime of buggery’. Only in South Australia is the offence referred to merely as ‘buggery’.
Not surprisingly, the more colourful statutes impose the heavier penalties. The Australian Capital Territory law provides for a maximum of life imprisonment and a minimum of 5 years; Tasmania allows a maximum of 21 years; Victora may impose 15 years imprisonment - or 20 years when vio lence or an under-age offence is involved; while New South Wales is content with 14 years. In New South Wales, incidentally, it is possible for an abominable man to be guilty of indecent assault with consent.
Clearly, there is an urgent need for reform. But, Mr Speaker, it needs to be pointed out that to defend the rights of homosexuals is not to endorse or advocate homosexuality; it is simply to recognise that, as long as homosexuals abide by laws to which all citizens are subject, they ought equally to be free to express their sexual preferences. Genuine offences - such as rape, assault, indecent exposure, child molesting and other acts - occur amongst heterosexuals as well as homosexuals, and are capable of being dealt with by laws which apply equally to all. Similarly it is important to recognise that this motion does not seek to legalise homosexuality in the sense of issuing a licence or charter for homosexual activity. Rather, this motion supports the decriminalising of homosexuality - the removal of sexually selective legal discrimination. This is, of course, only the first step. Hopefully, the removal of legal insult will result in the abandonment of social stigma. Social pressures, police harassment, housing difficulties, and job discrimination exacerbate the intense pressures constantly felt by homosexuals in Australia. The passing of this motion would constitute a signal that the time has arrived for the end of sexually biased social oppression in Australia.
– I am opposed to this motion. I oppose it principally on the ground that I believe it will open the door to social recognition of homosexuality as a normal way of life. I cannot accept that proposition and I do not think the Australian people want to accept it. I am surprised that a motion of this sort has been introduced into this House. I cannot understand what motivated the moving of this motion.
– We just spent 20 minutes trying to tell you.
– One wonders what motivated the moving of this motion and also whether an ex-Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), could not think of more important matters to discuss. To me it is rather significant and extraordinary that this motion has been seconded by the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) in the atmosphere which exists in the community today because I do not know of any subject that tends more to mora] pollution than homosexuality. It is true, of course, that homosexuality exists. I do not know much about it. I believe it is completely distasteful to the average man and woman in this country who I think would prefer to have nothing to do with it. But as I said, homosexuality does exist. We can feel sympathy for these people because they are unable to control themselves. No one can deny that homosexuality is a twist in normality. It is unforunate that there are many twists in normality in our community. Very often the actions of the people who are so affected are very unacceptable to society as a whole. I refer, for instance, to kleptomania - the urge to steal. These people cannot control themselves. But their actions are an offence and are punishable by law. It is a criminal offence. Drunkenness is an offence. Drug addition which some people cannot avoid is an offence also. Violence in many ways and in many aspects, although some people cannot help performing violent acts, is an offence. Prostitution is an offence in many countries. One could go on. These are all twists to normality. But there is no reason why society should have to accept them as the normal way of life.
It must be admitted that this is predominantly a Christian society. The right honourable member for Higgins mentioned the question of the Church. The Christian churches fundamentally are opposed to homosexuality which always has been an offence against normality. The Bible makes that perfectly clear. One need quote only from a report which is currently being examined by the Church of England Synod. An article on the report states:
The report warns that ‘gay liberation’ and similar movements attack society in a fundamental way. That was real and not imagined.
Previously society asked the homosexual to change his ways, now the homosexual demands that society change . . . to suit the homosexual. The article continues:
The significance of this change could not be clearer, the report says.
This is why the Committee wants legal sanctions against overt homosexuality to remain.
That is the view of the Church of England. I have not time to quote views from other churches.
It is quite true that in recent years as we are aware there has been a drift to a permissive society. This has encouraged the homosexual to come out into the open. He now demands not only the passing of a resolution such as this but official recognition by society. If this resolution is passed and its terms put into effect, the activities of homosexuals in certain respects will be made legal. It certainly suggests that they should be made legal. But the homosexuals do not want to stop at recognition. They want homosexuality to be accepted by society as a normal way of life. I cannot accept, and I do not believe that people will accept, that kind of approach. To legalise is to give the green light to promote, publicise and encourage homosexuality in all its forms. There are many people, I believe, who can be saved from this distorted way of life. It is a distorted way of life and it should be branded for what it is. Young people must be protected from being persuaded to drift into this obnoxious habit. I refuse to believe that many people who practise homosexuality could not refrain from doing so; they should be encouraged to refrain from these activities.
I do not want to take up too much time because I know that others wish to speak in this debate. But I have a letter with me. It came to me 2 or 3 days ago when I presented a petition to this House. It is so significant that I wish to read it. It is from a constituent. It deals with a petition in another matter. I will not refer to that now. A number of petitions of the type mentioned have been presented in the last few days. My constituent states:
This letter and the enclosed petition is to protest against the increasing decline in the moral standards of our community.
I think that everybody accepts that this is so. The letter continues:
A society in which sex-shops, pornographic literature and films, homosexuality, drug indulgence, sexual permissiveness and similar evils are encouraged, will decay and destroy itself.
We have a Government-
I am not making this a Government matter but my constituent says this in her letter: . . actually legislating to permit such things and at the same time religious education is being limited or eliminated and our children are being taught that even right and wrong are only relative.
This is ridiculous.
How can a generation flower into decent manhood or womanhood with such teachings?
TV could be a power for good, now it is being used to propagate all that is worst in human nature. Our children are subjected to the constant glorification of sex whilst only pitying sneers are given to the age-old ideals of integrity, national pride and self-sacrifice!
The great majority of Australians–
And this is absolutely true -
Don’t want to see magazine racks full of filth and pornography!
Don’t want to see films degrading womanhood, motherhood and marriage!
Don’t want to see our children exposed to drugs, sex, homosexuality and violence!
We want a stable community, based on sound Christian ethics in which decency, truth, law and order are exalted and sordid filth relegated to the gutters where it belongs.
It’s time the Government took some responsibility for the decline in moral standards in Australia.
It’s time for the Government to act to save our young people from themselves and from those who exploit them.
Keep on the way we are going and you can wrap Australia up in a neat little package and hand it over as a gift to our enemies . . .
I endorse every word that my constituent has written.
– Next year we will have Federation.
– It is all very well to laugh the thing off, but it is a serious matter. It seems to me that if the Government acted in accordance with the motion which has been moved by the right honourable member for Higgins, it would bring down on Australia a further advance of the permissive society that is so destroying the fabric of the moral rectitude of the Australian people. I think this is a terrible thing. I cannot understand any decent man or woman opening the door wider to these kinds of things. Therefore, I violently oppose the motion. I sincerely hope that the common sense and decency of honourable members in this House will prevail and that we will reject this motion, and indeed reject an amendment which has been foreshadowed. I do not believe that we should go any further in interfering with the law as it stands at the present time. I hope that this House will reject the motion and not open the door to depravity as a way of life.
- Mr Speaker, as I did not expect to be called because of the limited time allowed for this debate, I did not do the homework that other speakers in this debate have done. Prior to coming to this Parliament homosexual acts were as repulsive to me as they were to any man. But having read material of the Parliamentary Library and having conversed with men here who have made some study of the problem, I find myself now more tolerant to the homosexual than ever before. I applaud the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) and the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) for bringing this matter before the Parliament. In my view, politicians usually shirk their duties concerning these very serious social questions because they say that there are ‘no votes in homosexuals’. I believe that the legalisation of homosexuality was first raised in the Mother Country, Great Britain, by the Wolfenden report which was referred to by the right honourable member for Higgins. To my mind, that report virtually stunned the British people when they were informed of the prevalence of homosexuality in their society.
Had it not been for a peer or the son of a peer in Great Britain being charged withthe criminal offence of homosexuality, the Wolfenden Committee might never have been created to bring down its report. It was because someone influential in society was involved that the Wolfenden Committee was asked to investigate the extent of homosexuality in Great Britain. Because the British people were stunned, the legislators were not game to bring own legislation or to debate the matter in the House of Commons until many years after the Wolfenden report was submitted. Since then psychiatrists and different sections of people in our society have made a study of the prevalence of homosexuality in the United Kingdom and Australia. It is estimated that one male in 20 is afflicted with homosexual tendencies. In other words, if those figures are correct - I believe them to be correct - there are 6 people with homosexual tendencies among honourable members in this House and 3 in the Senate.
On the serious side, to any decent, thinking man, blackmail should be more repulsive than any other crime. I have never been blackmailed. No attempt has ever been made to blackmail me. But I know that people with this unfortunate affliction have been blackmailed for many years. That in itself sways me to support the liberalisation of the homosexual laws. Another point that was omitted by the right honourable member for Higgins and the honourable member for Maribyrnong is that our police forces are brought into disrepute when they have to enforce an unpopular law in something with which a person at any level of society could be afflicted. Invariably judges reprimand police officers in court when they enforce the law. We are the ones who should be ashamed because we have not had the courage, the spunk or the guts to liberalise the law and to remove this unpleasant phase of police duties which is repulsive to every decent policeman in the country who has to enforce this law.
Why is it not enforced today, as has been pointed out? It is enforced today by the police forces of Australia only on the complaint of some citizen. The police feel that, if they do not investigate a complaint, disciplinary measures may be taken against them which may affect their careers in the police force. Reluctantly, they have to enforce this very unpopular law. As we all know, homosexuality is prevalent in Australia today. Many of us live in our ivory towers and never go to the rendezvous frequented by homosexuals. Homosexuals congregate in certain toilets in Sydney and certain meeting places in public parks. I do not believe, as the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) has said, that if this law is passed it will accentuate the growth of homosexuality in our community. I believe to the contrary - that it may induce the habit-forming homosexual to leave the public parks and the toilets knowing that he cannot be blackmailed when he goes to a room to carry out and practise the weakeness that he has, and which, in many cases, homosexuals have fought to overcome.
It is also true, as has been pointed out by the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass), that many homosexuals throughout their life fight against the affliction. A very high suicide rate exists among homosexuals because of their inability to overcome this affliction that is either hereditary or which has been brought about by environment. I think there are conflicting opinions on this particular aspect of the subject. I find the homosexual today more to be pitied than criticised. I should like to see a more moderate liberation of the law. I should not like to see homosexual acts removed from the law altogether because from my own personal experience, in my previous profession, I have had to go and knock on the door of decent homes and say to the parents that their 10 or 14-year-old son had been found with an old man in the Sydney domain. I have had the personal experience of having to do that and therefore I should not like to see the homosexual liberated altogether. I do not intend to take up the full time allotted to me in this debate. To those who laugh and to those who criticise we who support this amendment to the law, I want to say that one day they may have a son, a brother, or a near relative afflicted with homosexual tendencies. I am positive that steel bars and grey walls are no place for those unfortunate people who are so afflicted.
– Mr Speaker–
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the question be now put.
– I am sorry about this, Mr Deputy Speaker. I should have liked to speak to this motion. Nothing was heard against the motion except from the honourable member for Bennelong.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– The question is That the motion be agreed to’.
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wish to draw to your attention and ask you to ask the Speaker to consider that we have had less than an hour’s debate on this particular subject.
– Order! There is no point of order.
– We will not have a chance to debate this matter again.
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. There is no point of order. The House made a decision that the question be now put.
– The Leader of the House made a decision.
– It is not competent for the Speaker or any Presiding Officer to alter the will of the House. I think that it is time that honourable members stopped taking that sort of point of order. There is too much of it.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. It was mentioned, by way of interjection, that the Leader of the House had decided that the question would be put. That is not correct, of course. The position is that a function has been arranged in Parliament House in connection with the visit of Her Majesty the Queen. Like many other members, I should have liked this debate to have continued for a considerable time, but it is one day of the year–
– Order! I think the honourable gentleman should make his point of order.
– I suggest regard might be had to the circumstances.
That the motion (Mr Gorton’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 12 noon to 3.15 p.m.
– Order! The time allotted for precedence to general business has expired. Government business will be called on.
Debate resumed from 30 August (vide page 658), on motion by (Dr J. F. Cairns):
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Declaration of Urgency
– I declare that the National Investment Fund Bill 1973 is an urgent Bill.
That the Bill be considered an urgent Bill.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. J. F. Cope)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time
– I move:
That the time allotted in connection with the Bill be as follows:
For the second reading until 3.50 p.m. this day;
– You are a gangster.
You are deplorable as a man.
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat. The honourable member for Griffith will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– The Opposition certainly does not intend to bow to the threats which the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) has made on this occasion. One of the reasons why this Government has lost such a massive support throughout the country is simply because of the tactics it has adopted in this House which deny the Opposition Parties adequate opportunity to scrutinise and fully debate the legislation which comes before the House.
– That is only one reason.
– It is only one reason but it is a very powerful reason. I thank the honourable member for Kooyong for his interjection. The plain fact is that this Government apparently is intent on interring democracy in this House; the Government apparently will not learn the lesson of the Parramatta byelection and the Greensborough and Murray by-elections in the State of Victoria. This Government apparently has a manic preoccupation with the concept of the volume of legislation which is passing through this House. There is no attempt- (Government supporters interjecting) -
– Order! I know that everyone has had a very enjoyable lunch, but let us leave it there.
– This Government is intent on running Australia like a company which is busy going broke. In other words, there is a manic preoccupation with volume, pressure, expedition, speed and numbers. It has no conception of the need for this House to be given an opportunity to scrutinise legislation and no recognition of the need for quality in legislation. One of the major reasons why the Government has lost such a massive percentage of votes in the country is because of the jackboot tactics which the Leader of the House has adopted.
I put down for the record the fact that this is the sixth guillotine moved by the Government this year. We make the strongest possible protest to the Parliament about the manner in which the Government has abused the forms of the House at every opportunity. The responsibility lies with the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), but he is a man who is intent on using this Parliament as a forum for his own grandiose pretensions and not as a house of legislative review, as its democratic functions are prescribed under the Constitution.
– Who wrote that?
My LYNCH - The facts are plain and undeniable. Every major legislative proposal advanced by this Government has been subject to a guillotine. The Minister for Housing asks: ‘Who wrote that?’ I hope the people of this country in their hundreds of thousands are listening to the inane interjections of honourable members opposite and will recognise that one of the most important pieces of legislation which the Government has put before this House - that is the Government’s judgment; the Government says this Bill is important and significant - is being guillotined. Let the listeners of this country know that this is a government which is prepared to deny the Opposition Parties a real opportunity to look at the details of legislation. As I said before, I put down for the purposes of the record- (Government supporters interjecting) -
-Order! I have appealed for order for the last time. If I do not get order, I will take the appropriate action, irrespective of what side of the House the disturbance comes from.
– I put down for the purposes of the record of this House the fact that the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was guillotined on 8 May, the National Pipeline Authority Bill, the Bill to establish the Prices Justification Tribunal and the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill were subject to the guillotine on 16 May, the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1973 (No. 2) was guillotined on 20 September, the Constitution Alteration (Incomes) Bill was guillotined on 26 September and the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill was guillotined on 17 October. Now, on 18 October the Government has moved the guillotine on the National Investment Fund Bill. These are not urgent Bills. The only reason why the Government has taken this action is that it seeks to force through this Parliament approximately 200 Bills this session. I would have thought that if there was one lesson or moral that this Government would have learned by now it would be the simple lesson that momentum of legislation is no criterion for success in the country. That is one reason why the Government has lost support throughout Australia. As far as the Opposition Parties are concerned, the Government may be expediting the business now but when the legislation goes to another place the Government will find that this move has been counter-productive. We in this place will not listen to the politics of confrontation. We will not bow to threats but we will make certain that this legislation is debated in another place.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I do hope that a lot of people are listening to the radio this afternoon because in recent times we have had the extraordinary record of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) neither of whom previously had used this style of addressing the House like a bellowing bull, without any attention to details or facts and without any logic, but merely making unconnected assertions one after the other, in which every second word is an adjective. When they are not addressing the House in this style they sit constantly interjecting as they are doing now. lt is a long time since I have heard in this House such an unruly performance from every corner of the Opposition benches as I have heard in recent weeks. Frequently we have heard that high pitched voice that comes from the honourable member for New England. When listening to the radio, I find constantly repeated that high pitched voice, full of synthetic emotion. I have heard the honourable member for Flinders who previously was a Minister time and time again approaching this table, roaring into the microphone believing that this is an effective way of appearing to convey to the people outside that there is a strong Opposition in action. I believe that the people outside this Parliament do not accept this as evidence of a strong Opposition.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has just been telling us how much support we have lost in the country. What a wonderful technique this is. If you say a thing often enough and long enough, the argument is that somebody is going to believe you. This cacophony of interjections that comes from the Opposition is ever present. Of course, listeners will be well aware that all the noise they are hearing on the radio these days is coming from the Liberal-Country Party Opposition. It is well known by anyone who is aware of electoral figures that any government in office loses support at by-elections. I remind the honourable member for Ballaarat, who is trying to interject, who has never been distinguished by his contributions to this House and who had less success in the lobbies of power than he had here in the forum of this national Parliament, of this fact. I would seriously ask the experts in psephology - the study of electoral affairs - as I have seriously asked members of the Opposition, to study those by-election results a little more. It is well known that some 5 per cent or 6 per cent fewer people vote in by-elections than in general elections. It so happens that at the Parramatta by-election 7 per cent or 8 per cent fewer people voted than normally. At the Greensborough by-election 6 per cent or 7 per cent fewer people voted than normally. The situation in a general election is totally different. In a general election the Prime Minister of the nation and the Leader of the Opposition - one only has to put them together-
– Let us have an election now.
– It is up to the Opposition. It amuses me to hear the honourable member or Kooyong says: ‘Let us have an election now’. Whether we have an election now is up to the Opposition. If it wants to have an election now, it is in its hands to have one. There is nothing holding it back.
– Order! I think the Minister is getting a little away from the business before the Chair.
– The obloquy which has come from the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) will fool no one at all. The honourable gentleman has sought to convince the Parliament by resorting to insults, and he has sought to do so by speaking in reasoned terms. The honourable gentleman has spoken reasonably in terms of quietness. He has reminded me, I must confess, of a very large, truculent, bull calf coming into the ring prior to being branded - destined to be ruined in more than one capacity.
We make a mistake in treating the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) so generously. What a shy, fragile little being he has turned himself into this afternoon. He said to us: T would love to tell you the reasons why we must truncate this debate, but I dare not’. Since when has modesty consumed the honourable gentleman’s being? He said to us: You have known all about this measure since 30 August’. But he did not say whether that is any indication that the Parliament has had an opportunity to debate it. I said to the honourable gentleman yesterday afternoon that I feared that he had become a victim of the
Munchhausen syndrome. Fearing, of course, that the significance of that remark has escaped the honourable gentleman, 1 am bound to say to him that if he says that the Parliament has had an opportunity to debate this great issue, and if he means it, I can only accuse him of being the most polished tergiversator of our day. The honourable gentleman can find out what I mean by that.
The Minister for Services and Property is seeking to build up for himself a reputation as the Stalin of Australian politics - the man of steel, smiling away. He cannot smile away the great traditions of this Parliament. Parliament is supposed to be a talking shop. The word comes from ‘parle’, meaning ‘to speak’.
– The Minister for Labour, of course, has built up a sturdy reputation in Australian Workers Union politics. He is the only person ever to become the secretary of a branch of the AWU by his opponent dying during the course of a poll. If the Minister for Services and Property takes the view that he is doing a service to the parliamentary tradition I must - I hope with characteristic courtesy - say to him: ‘You are in error’. It is to no avail for the Minister for Overseas Trade, in his unctuous, schoolmasterly fashion - if the Minister put his glasses on intellectually he would be better off - to seek to hector us and to lecture us. The honourable gentleman’s days are numbered. I warn him of that. When the people of this country understand the miserable, contemptible way in which he is working on the parliamentary traditions, they will take to him like ants to a mutton chop - and I hope they do not miss one bit of the meat.
– Have honourable members ever heard such hypocrisy (Opposition members interjecting) -
-Order! I am willing to listen to the honourable member if nobody else is. I call the honourable member for Chifley.
– That must have been a good lunch. Have honourable members ever heard such hypocrisy from an Opposition which was a government until 2 December last and which in one single day guillotined through this House 17 Bills? One Minister had only 2 minutes to speak to his own Bill. He did not even have time to read the title. Of course, this was shortly after the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) became Prime Minister. He was so nervous that he did not know how to handle things. So he thought the easiest way to get out of the situation was to guillotine 17 Bills, to gag another 3 - 20 Bills in all - and to put them straight through the Parliament so that he could get down to his place at Double Bay, or wherever it was.
What the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) said was utter and complete hypocrisy. In speaking on a national issue, he dealt purely with personalities. Up to this point of time I had a lot of respect for him. I thought he was a good bloke. But, on a very important piece of legislation, the National Investment Fund Bill, which involves a national issue, he could deal only with personalities. All he could do was call the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) names. All he could do was call the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) names. I think it is time we got on with the job. Like it or not, the Opposition does not have the numbers. The second reading stage of this Bill is scheduled to conclude at 3.50 p.m. The Opposition has 8 minutes in which to deal with it. It is time the Opposition stopped talking on this motion and got on to dealing with national issues.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The honourable member for Chifley was completely incorrect in what he said. He said that 17 Bills were guillotined through this House. In fact, the number of Bills was 19 and they were not guillotined through this House. The then Opposition went to sleep. The Bills were not guillotined through this House; they were put through in the normal and proper way.
-Order! The time allowed for the debate has expired. The question is: That the motion be agreed to’.
Question put -
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Honourable J. F. Cope)
-Order! If you do not behave yourself I will not let you marry Elizabeth Taylor when you grow up.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I claim to have been misrepresented today and yesterday by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). Yesterday in debating a minor procedural motion - and also today - which I had moved to assist the House in conducting its business with suitable expedition, the honourable member for Moreton referred to me as one suffering from the Munchausen syndrome. As my usually encyclopaedic memory for literary references had temporarily deserted me, I did not take up the point in depth at the time. I am now able to inform the House that Baron Munchausen - the person to whom the honourable member was alluding in his allegation - was a gentleman much prone to exaggeration. I also understand that he was given to talking to monkeys.
The imputation that I might, at any time, be guilty of exaggeration is quite without foundation, as every member of this House knows. The second imputation regarding monkeys, however, as I look across this chamber, I can hardly deny. To be fair to the honourable member for Moreton, it may be that he was referring to another of the Baron’s well known exploits. The good Baron claimed that he had once, with a single shot, brought down 68 ducks. As honourable members know for a fact, without any exaggeration, I regularly come close to emulating this feat. Quite often in this place I am to be seen shooting down 58 galahs with a single well aimed gag.
– Order! The time allotted for the second reading debate has expired. The question now is: ‘That the Bill be now read a second time’.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved inthe affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Clauses 1 and 2 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
A reference in this Act to the assets of a Division of the Fund is a reference to -
In this Act -
a contributor to a superannuation or retirement scheme or savings scheme maintained by the Corporation; and
a reference to a subscriber, in relation to a Division of the Fund, is a reference to-
A reference in this Act to the relevant terms and conditions, in relation to a Division of the Fund, is a reference -
DrJ. F. CAIRNS (Lalor - Minister for Overseas Trade) (4.2) - Mr Chairman, I move:
In sub-clause (1), before ‘register’, insert ‘appropriate’.
This is the first amendment which appears in my name. It results from an examination which revealed that it is desirable to have more than one register of those who have subscribed to the National Investment Fund. Previously, we considered that one register might be sufficient, but it seems reasonable and practical that provision should be made for the possibility of more than one register being kept. Therefore, this amendment and the next 4 amendments that 1 shall move in relation to this clause and clause 9 arise as a result of the need to make it possible to have more than one register. That is the purpose of the first amendment. The other amendments related thereto are merely matters of expression. The third, fourth and fifth amendments that I will move seek the insertion of the word appropriate’ to change the wording to appropriate register’ instead of ‘register’. These amendments, therefore, are mostly matters of mere expression arising out of the basic question of providing for more than one register.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (byDrJ. F. Cairns) agreed to:
In the definition of ‘Registrar’, omit ‘the’ substitute ‘a’.
– I move:
Omit sub-clauses(3) and (4), substitute the following sub-clauses:
In this Act-
a reference to a subscriber to the Fund is a reference to the holder of an investment bond; and
a reference to a subscriber, in relation to a Division of the Fund, is a reference to the holder of an investment bond in the series of investment bonds in relation to which that Division is maintained.
A reference in this Act to the relevant terms and conditions, in relation to a Division of the Fund maintained in relation to a series of investment bonds, is a reference to the terms and conditions on which the bonds in that series were issued.’.
This amendment to the interpretation section of the Bill is consequential to an amendment the Opposition proposes to move to clause 16. That amendment seeks to prevent the establishment by the National Investment Fund of superannuation or retirement schemes and savings schemes, including schemes for the payment of moneys in the event of death, and with the consent of the Chair and of the Committee I will speak to that amendment at this stage.
The Opposition rejects the proposal to give the Australian Industry Development Corporation the power to augment moneys constituting the National Investment Fund, in addition to the issuing and selling of investment bonds, by the authorisation of the establishment and maintenance of superannuation, retirement and savings schemes. We believe that support of this proposal would create a further diversion of funds from the private sector, supplementary to the funds to be raised as a consequence of the issue of investment bonds by the National Investment Fund. We believe there is absolutely no reason to assume that the Corporation will have the capacity to maximise higher or even equal rates of return than those now obtained by institutions in the private sector. As its area of operation and influence is to be determined by an overriding consideration that it must further Australian ownership and not by what is economically viable, the view of the Opposition parties in respect of this proposition is that it will do decidedly worse. It is particularly doubtful whether, in the short term, the Corporation will have the capability to develop the expertise which existing institutions have taken many years to acquire. To justify the existence of these new schemes, it must be demonstrable that the Corporation can at least equal the rate of return that is available at present, and that they did not simply rely on the question of tax concessions and other subsidies for the purpose of seeking to attract the necessary investment funds.
I ask the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) why the Government proposes that funds of this type should be established and, further, what justification there is for Government subsidy to maintain their effective rates of return. The effect of the Corporation’s moving into this already well served area of the Australian economy is that by establishing in competition to existing entrepreneurs in the field it will reduce their economies of scale and therefore increase the cost of their services to the public at large. The very nature of the type of programs the Corporation seeks to establish requires the amassing of massive actuarial reserves to meet liability under contracts stretching many years ahead. As it is vital that these funds are available when called on, it precludes the institutions currently operative in these fields from investing in anything but extremely low risk ventures, which of course partly explains their low rate of return.
The proposed use to which the Corporation will put the funds gathered in under its superannuation, retirement and savings schemes will be ruled not simply by what is essentially low risk schemes but by what fits into its program of buying back Australia. There is no certainty that the supervisory council of the Fund will be able to prevent the divisions of the Fund from investing in high risk ventures, with the possible result that the Government may have to take on board expensive guarantees. Finally, by establishing in competition with existing institutions, the Corporation will diminish the worthwhile benefits which the community has received over many years.
In 1972 life offices held 11.78 per cent of the total Commonwealth securities on issue, and they were particularly significant as holders of long term bonds. This sector is also a substantial investor in the less attractive area of local and semi-governmental securities, apart from the important indirect assistance that they give those loans through sub-underwriting support. Derived of this support, this particular market could not have continued adequately to meet its requirements. In the field of rural finance these institutions are important, and several of the larger ones have taken a direct interest in the pastoral industry. In the area of housing finance, the savings banks and the rapidly expanding building societies have played a vital role.
Those persons in the Australian community seeking to purchase homes are now in effect bearing. the main burden of the Government’s decision to raise interest rates to record levels. The decision to raise interest rates to their present level was taken by a Government which last year publicly advocated low interest rates. It seems incredible, against the background of the Government’s fiscal irresponsibility, that it should now propose to divert funds away from the area of housing finance. This, of course, will further exacerbate the situation for prospective home buyers who already have been hit by a general tightening in credit and a substantial increase in interest rates as a direct consequence of Government measures. The entry of the Australian Industry Development Corporation, in its proposed enlarged form, into the capital market will worsen their plight by causing a further reduction in available loan funds and a general hardening in interest rates.
Therefore, it is a matter of great concern that the Minister should introduce such a proposal into this chamber without adequate explanation or justification. The Opposition is resolutely opposed to the Government’s entry into this field. There has been no proper inquiry or public debate in the terms I have mentioned. In short, we see this proposal as a device to secure an even greater entree to private sector funds without any guarantee of efficient utilisation and without any perceived need to provide a service to the community which does not now exist. Therefore, in the terms of the amendment moved, the Opposition expresses its complete rejection of the proposal contained in the Bill which, in fact, will come before the Committee at a later stage. This amendment is moved consequentially, foreshadowing a further amendment.
– In some ways this amendment, which the Government cannot accept, brings out the essential feature of this Bill. What the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) wants is that the normal conventional method of gathering together funds from the community should prevail and that it should not be modified or interfered with in any way. The Government cannot accept that. The Government agrees that the establishment of the National Investment Fund can be expected to increase the proportion and the aggregate of funds available for a public authority created by the will of this Parliament, a public authority which expresses as well as anything can express the will of the people because this Parliament expresses as well as anything can the will of the people. It seems to me that the Australian people have already clearly indicated that whilst they are happy and satisfied with the general private enterprise nature of the economy, they want to see a properly constituted public authority express a little more power and a little more competitive influence in this situation.
Over many years opinion has grown that if we leave the resources of this nation to the free enterprise system they will become increasingly under the control of a few people and a few companies and that significantly those companies will be controlled from overseas. In the House yesterday the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) quoted statistics that are now well known. They concern the basic resources of this nation. He pointed out that 100 per cent of the companies that own bauxite resources in Australia are controlled from overseas; 83.6 per cent in the case of copper; 64 per cent in the case of ilmenite; 49.19 per cent in the case of iron ore; 74.7 per cent in the case of lead; only 7.4 in the case of nickel, through the initiative of a particular Australian company which deserves great credit; 86.76 per cent in the case of rutile; 75.8 per cent in the case of tin; 29 per cent in the case of tungsten; 71.59 per cent in the case of zinc; 78.5 per cent in the case of zircon; 23.8 per cent in the case of black coal in New South Wales; and 88.2 per cent in the case of black coal in Queensland.
This is what is known as the sellout of Australia. It is a sellout which members of the Opposition now and when they were in government have been ready to see continue. Sir John McEwen was not ready to see this continue. He is a great Australian. He saw it as necessary to bring into existence the Australian Industry Development Corporation to try to hold the pass against this development. But, as I pointed out yesterday, the Australian Industry Development Corporation has had its hands tied even in relation to what Sir John McEwen wanted to do. At the present time it is able to provide only about $53m to attempt to hold the pass. Unless this Corporation receives a greater amount than that, the pass will not be held and finally this country will be sold out. The significance of that is that we no longer will have any control over the prices of our basic minerals and of our basic energy and fuel resources. So I reject completely the idea that the Opposition expresses in this amendment, namely, that we should agree to tie the hands of this Corporation.
We want to establish a National Investment Fund with a part of it which allows the Fund to provide for contributors on a superannuation or retirement basis. There is no earthly reason why this national Parliament should not set up a corporation that is able to do this. Why should it be left only to a few large insurance companies? What is there about them that is private enterprise? They are enormous corporations which are the very antithesis of private enterprise. They are a group of people who are responsible to no one and over whom no one has any influence whatever.
– What about their shareholders?
– As everyone knows, their shareholders have no influence at all over them. They are run by professional managers in the interests of the corporations, and very often they are run in the interests of the corporations very well indeed.
– They are mutual funds.
– Those are deceptive words. These corporations show no participation by the citizens of this country in their operations. They are run by professionals - competently run - as large business organisations.
– Do you want to put a squeeze on them, or something?
– We believe that in this field there ought to be a little competition with these enormous corporations which have such complete control over such a vast amount of funds. That is not free enterprise. It is not private enterprise. But that is what honourable gentlemen opposite stand for. I am afraid that they are the spokesmen for large monopolistic organisations that are the very antithesis of the principle of liberalism.
There is no purpose, in this Bill or by this Government, of introducing any kind of an alternative; but we believe that the people of Australia through this Parliament should have a little more say in what is going on in the allocation of resources. In relation to these particular funds, where does the money go? It goes predominantly into building up the urban centres, building up skyscrapers - those massive structures of steel and concrete that are being built long ahead of the need. Thousands of square feet of office space that has been made available is not being used and is not likely to be used. It is well beyond the need. Yet, in the housing sector, for which members of the Opposition say they have some sympathy, and do have some sympathy, but which in practice they will not do the things necessary to shift resources into-
– But you are going to cut it down.
– We are not.
– The Treasurer said you are; and you will increase interest rates.
– For a long time the right honourable gentleman supervised a Treasury that gave him exactly the same advice as it has given to us, which advice he accepted time and again.
– What was that?
– The argument that if there is surplus liquidity or surplus money in the community one way of getting it back is to increase the interest rate. I have heard the right honourable gentleman, when he was on this side of the House, time and again put forward that argument. It is insincere on his part now, merely because he finds himself in Opposition, to begin questioning something that he has accepted throughout the whole of his life since he first began to study economics at the University of Sydney some 35 years ago. I know how well the right honourable gentleman, who was Prime Minister of this country-
– The Minister has his dates wrong. It was 25 years ago.
– Well, 25 years- but it looks longer.- 1 know how well the right honourable gentleman has been brought up on the theory of neo-classical economics. I know how completely he subscribes to the theory that if one wants to draw off surplus money or surplus liquidity one increases the interest rate. I have heard him say it a dozen times from this dispatch box. I will not take any notice of a man who changes his expression merely because he changes his place in the House. I do not think that point needs any further attention.
– It does, because you do not know what you are talking about.
– Order! I suggest to the honourable gentlemen that if they debate the clause - I am allowing a fairly liberal debate on the clause because of the time factor - we will have more debate on it before the time expires.
– I want to see the Australian Industry Development Corporation made into what Sir John McEwen wanted it to be. I want it to have the resources that he and anyone else who looks at this position as an Australian know the Corporation ought to have. That is why we cannot accept the amendment proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– I intended, when I rose to speak on this and other clauses of the National Investment Fund Bill, to compliment the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) on the statement he made yesterday, namely, that he understood the difficulties involved in the presentation of Opposition views. He admitted that it was not the desire of the Government to have clause 5 inserted.
– I did not say that. I said that it did not come from me.
– But the Minister did not want nationalisation under it.
– That is right.
– He stated quite clearly that he did not want that. I welcome that statement because I think it showed a willing disposition to act in a way in which all honourable members would want a Minister responsible for a Bill to act - that is, to give careful consideration to any recommendations or suggestions made by the Opposition. I assure the Minister that a tremendous amount of attention has been given, particularly by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) and myself, to this Bill and to the accompanying Bill - the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill.
– I agree. What you have done does you credit.
– Thank you. Firstly, 1 want to clarify two of the assumptions on which the Minister has made his recommendations or put these provisions in the Bill. He says that he wants to make the AIDC what Sir John McEwen wanted it to be. I can state emphatically that Sir John McEwen did not want it to move in the direction that is proposed in the Bill that was before the House yesterday and the day before. The Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill, followed toy the 1970 Bill, was drafted in a way that would be to the best advantage of the Australian people, would not cause dislocation in the money market and would not cause the misappropriation or misallocation of resources, which in turn would reduce productivity and affect the standards of living of the Australian people. Secondly, he made it abundantly clear that he does not know much about the structure of assurance in Australia. Most of the big assurance corporations are mutual assistance corporations which are not run for profit. The Australian Mutual Provident Society, for example, is not run for profit. Of course part of the Mutual Life and Citizens’ Assurance Co. Ltd is run for profit, but there are few organisations of that kind. The policy holders in corporations like the
AMP do notionally and legally elect the persons who will be responsible for the proper investment of their funds and such investment is done fairly well.
I turn now to the question of whether this legislation is necessary. I do not believe it is, because there is no gap in the existing system. Not only is there no gap, but I believe the Australian life offices have achieved a degree of efficiency that is at least the equal of any other group of corporations of which I am aware.
Finally I believe that the establishment of a national investment fund will be an interference on such a grand scale that it will affect the proper appropriation of resources. I think it will do it in a discriminatory and totally unfair way. I believe that the Minister for Overseas Trade must ensure that the 30-20 rule would be changed in favour of the existing life offices if they were to lose business to the Australian Industry Development Corporation. If the AIDC is to get this power - I hope it does not do so - I trust that the Corporation also will be subject to the 30-20 rule or any changes of that rule which requires that there should be a diversion of life office funds to governments.
I must concede that I agree with the Treasury view that the 30-20 rule was not good. It was introduced not at Treasury’s request or Treasury’s will but against its will, at a time a supervisory economic group had been established in the Prime Minister’s Department. That group brought the proposals to Cabinet and had them accepted. I wish I had been a little more influential on that occasion. I think I would have done something to correct the market and make it more competitive than it was.
Not only will the National Investment Fund be entering a world where it is not wanted and where there is no public demand for it but also it will be producing a degree of competition, spreading the work load, increasing the capital costs of maintaining and running organisations and bringing no benefit to anyone. I believe it will be discriminating unfairly and savagely against the existing life offices.
I put these points against the background that yesterday the Opposition voted against both the second and third readings of the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill. We could not honestly have voted against that Bill unless we vote also against the second and third readings of this Bill ‘because they are so closely interlocked in their functions. Clause 6 of this Bill relates to the terms and conditions of issue and sale of investment bonds. Powers are conferred upon the Australian Industry Development Corporation which can invest funds in various projects. One cannot really distinguish between the 2 Bills. For these reasons I favour the deletion of sub-paragraph (ii) from paragraph (a) of sub-clause (3). This sub-paragraph reads: -a contributor to a superannuation or retirement scheme or savings scheme maintained by the corporation;
Similarly I support the deletion of subparagraph (ii) of paragraph (b) of sub-clause (3). It reads: a contributor to any superannuation or retirement scheme or savings scheme in relation to which that Division is maintained.
I also agree with the proposition that paragraph (b) of sub-clause (4) be deleted. This is the effect of the Opposition’s amendment. I am certain that Australia will be better off if the management of these affairs is left in the hands of the Australian life offices that have performed a remarkable job and had no complaints against them that I am aware of. There were none when I was Treasurer or Prime Minister. It seems alarming to me that without any will on the part of the Australian people seeking this change this legislation should be introduced and the National Investment Fund established in an unfair and competitive way, to the detriment of contributors to the Australian life offices.
– The Opposition is proposing the deletion of the essential part of this Bill. At the last election the Australian Labor Party proposed to the people an extension of the role of the Australian Industry Development Corporation, a corporation set up by a Liberal government, but, of course, started at the behest of Sir John McEwen. In its original form the Corporation was limited. It was financed with a government appropriation of SI 00m of which to date about $53m only has been spent. The Labor Party secured a mandate from the people to design legislation to attract and marshal the credit of the small investors throughout the length and breadth of Australia to give them some stake in the national growth of Australia and in its vast mineral and energy deposits and also its vast secondary industries. As the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) said a few moments ago, it is near impossible to buy back the farm which, in minerals and energy, is so overwhelmingly controlled by foreign capital both in equity and in voting power on boards. It would need far in excess of an appropriation that the Parliament could provide to AIDC by way of capital to achieve a buy-back operation. The only way that this sort of capital can be raised is by the subscriptions of the Australian people, by companies, by life offices and by pension schemes. The Bill has designed in it a National Investment Fund but the Opposition’s amendments are designed to destroy that concept. The Government cannot accept the amendments because they are contrary to the spirit of the Bill.
We have heard much talk about life assurance offices. I do not think any supporter of the Government would quibble about the role of life assurance offices, but I do not think there is any great thing to be said for growth for growth’s sake in life offices. They have grown quickly in the last few years. The investment decisions of the life offices have, in many ways, run against the interests of the national economy, particularly when one has regard to the areas into which money has been channelled. As the Minister has said, a lot of money has been spent on high rise office buildings in the capital cities. Money has gone into investments which have shown a good rate of return for the life office funds but not good in terms of the priorities that should be fixed in the national interest. The chairman of perhaps Australia’s largest assurance company told me that the Liberal government of the day refused to allow his company to invest in the Hamersley deal in Western Australia when it was being put together in the late 1950s or early 1960s. Such money should have gone into that area but did not. The Government is trying to marshal the people’s money into those areas.
All that we are suggesting in this Bill is that the National Investment Fund be given the same type of assistance and be recognised as the same sort of organisation as life offices. The Government will allow a tax deduction up the level of $1,200 for money subscribed to the fund in the same way as it allows it for insurance payments. The Government is offering investment bonds which can be taken up by the public. The Government intends to add $10 to the value of every $100 invested in such bonds. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) asked why the Gov ernment should complement the $100 with a $10 subscription. Basically the answer is that the National Investment Fund money will be used by the Australian Industry Development Corporation in a number of areas which are in the national interest but which may not produce a high return on investment. It would be fair to assume that in those circumstances the bonds would have a low yield. The Government felt obliged to boost the buoyancy of such a bond by adding a 10 per cent supplement to it. When the bond is sold the supplement remains with the Commonwealth. The fact that the money would not be invested in a high growth area indicates that the Government should at least assist in making the bonds attractive to the public.
– Why should people be apprehensive about this scheme?
– If there is any apprehension I do not see why there should be. If the public can get a 10 per cent complement for every $100 invested I cannot see why they should be apprehensive. The previous Government gave the life assurance offices more than a good run. The endowment policies were in fact used in 2 ways: Firstly, to build up the life offices; and secondly, to operate as a taxation concession - and it was a very generous taxation concession. Someone could take out an endowment policy with a maturity date in 5 years time and find that he was able to deduct $1,200 from his taxable income each year and then receive an increment on the value of the policy at the end of the 5 years. So he saved taxation for 5 years and received an increment as well. That sold a lot of insurance. It also cost the Commonwealth Treasury a fortune. We have stopped that. We are prepared to continue the $1,200 taxation deduction to assist life offices with genuine life assurance and endowment policies extending over a reasonable period. All the funds that went into short endowment policies naturally assisted life offices too much. All we are saying is: Let us have the same assistance in principle for the National Investment Fund, not as extravagant perhaps as that given in relation to an endowment policy, but certainly assistance to the point where this Fund has a real opportunity to attract money.
The Oppositition will move a subsequent amendment to limit the capital of the Fund to $500m. It says that the reason for this is that if the Fund is able to attract unlimited funds it will upset the capital market so drastically in Australia and that it will affect the amount of money going into housing. People investing in building societies would do so for reasons different from those of people investing in this Fund. People invest in blue chip stocks and blue chip organisations for reasons of security and return - modest return with reasonable security. I think that is the reason they would invest in the National Investment Fund. But if they invest in a building society and get li or 8 per cent at call, it is a different prospect altogether. There are 2 different types of investors in that case. It is not a matter of robbing one to feed the other. What the legislation is doing, of course, is limiting the capacity of multi-national corporations to raise money on the Australian capital market.
Frankly, I never heard any words uttered by the Opposition when in government particularly by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon), the 2 speakers who have spoken on behalf of the Opposition, about the raising of capital in Australia by multinational corporations. We have seen a lot of them go to the investing public of Australia for $30m or $40m, not to be invested by Australians in an Australian company to give Australians equity but being raised by a foreign company, and Australians being paid 8 to 10 per cent for it, which has then taken up equity in an Australian enterprise. That has been the way that a lot of capital has been used in Australia. We want to chop that out. .We do not think it is a good thing. We think that the Government should assist in marshalling funds to be invested for the benefit of all people in national development projects. This is what the National Investment Fund is designed to do. It is the vehicle by which the expanded AIDC can achieve this aim, and the Opposition’s amendments would only destroy the concept of it. They do not deserve support and I commend the original Bill to the Parliament.
– I will not detain the Committee for long, but there are a couple of extra points to which I would like to draw the attention of the Parliament at this stage. Are we dinkum about keeping Australian resources in our hands or are we not? The fact is that the Australian Labor Party that now governs went to the people with such a proposition not so much to buy back Australia, which we heard a lot about, but at least to attempt to buy a proportion of the increasing investment in Australia. We need some overseas investment. Technology will be coming in. But at the same time we want to harness as much savings within Australia as possible so that the resources of this country are kept in Australian hands. It is the future investment that I am particularly interested in, at the same time attempting to buy back some of the sales that have taken place, with all that that means - and I need not go into that.
The clause we are discussing contains a proposition to harness the funds in order to do that. Here we have the Opposition showing its true colours in opposing this attempt. It does not put up anything as an alternative to what we are suggesting. Admittedly in the second reading debate the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) went a stage further than Opposition members have previously and laid down some guidelines in the matter of Australian management and a few things like that, but I suggest that they were pretty nebulous. They did not come to the kernel of what we are attempting to do here - raise the funds, harness the funds within Australia to take the place of the overseas funds which have been bringing about so much that we do not want to continue. The debate on this Bill shows up that one opportunity we have of tapping an important area where the smaller man can invest in his own country. We had a year or two ago - many members will remember this - the proposition of the present Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) and the present Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) to attempt to raise funds to buy a portion of the Simpson Desert. The way the small amounts flowed into their offices at that time showed that the small man in this country has a great deal of interest in buying a part of his own country. The endowment insurance and public retirement fund provisions of this legislation will be a means of harnessing the funds of the smaller man to do just this.
We have heard the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) in particular talk about nationalisation and what this legislation can do in that area. I must tell him, if he does not already know it, that an appropriation would have to be made and brought to this House in order to harness funds in that way in our country for the Government to invest on behalf of the people in any enterprise. There will be plenty of future occasions when he can debate whether that is right or wrong. In this legislation we are attempting to raise funds voluntarily from the little men of this country in order to buy part of their heritage, part of the resources of this country. That is what we are attempting to do and I support it wholeheartedly.
– I think the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) let the cat out of the bag when he made 2 statements. The first one - he was immediately challenged by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) - was when he said that the yield or return on the bonds will probably be low. In other words, he gave a clear indication that the investment on behalf of the subscribers might not be to their satisfaction and that unless a subsidy was given the inducement would be too low and there would be little or no contribution to the bonds themselves. He went a stage further to indicate why. We were led to believe until today that the very purpose of these bonds was to ensure that money would be subscribed and would be satisfactorily invested and that the people would get a return on those investments which would more than repay them, one which would be much better than an investment in a unit trust or some other kind of investment. But what he said is that a large section of the funds would be put - use the word ‘investment’ if you like - but I cannot call it investment - in national development projects in which there is no return whatsoever to the people who provide the funds. For this reason he wanted to give a subsidy.
That was supported by the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) himself, whose words must be taken as clear and absolute. He said that one of the main areas in which investment was to take place was in urban areas. In other words he was saying that the funds would be invested in such areas as urban and regional development, which concerns the building up of local areas where people can get out of the central areas of the metropolis and be able to carry on their occupations, if necessary supported by some kind of government activity, and be able to live their lives and have their children educated and looked after without having to live in the somewhat suffocating atmosphere of a great metropolitan centre such as Rome or some other continental part of the world. We have to realise, and the Australian people have to realise, that they now have life offices which can in fact invest their money for these purposes. In the large majority of cases they are mutual offices capable of going overseas and fighting the great international corporations overseas and beating them too.
– We are not complaining about that.
– Then why destroy them?
– We are not going to destroy them.
– Of course you are. You do not like to admit it. But I am glad that I have got under your skin to the point that at long last a weakness, a chink has been found in your armour. I think that we have shown pretty conclusively that there is no gap that needs to be filled. We have found that the reason for this legislation is to get into the infrastructures of great national development projects.
– What is wrong with that?
– It gives no return to the people whose money is involved, who have earned it, who have saved it and who have every right to get the biggest return they can get for their savings.
– You presided over the sellout.
– Show how agitated you get. The more agitated you get the more it will show how sensitive you are to what you have done. The Opposition objects to all the clauses to which I have referred - 3. (3) (a) (ii), 3. (3) (b) (ii) and 3. (4) (b). We will divide in the House against these clauses.
– I do not think anybody regards seriously the comments of the previous speaker. One must be impressed by the continual defence of the life assurance funds and the reference to overseas corporations. The legislation provides for the raising of funds by several different methods through different divisions of the National Investment Fund. Because the contributions to these different divisions will be tax deductible up to the limit of $1,200, as is provided for in the present deduction for insurance and superannuation premiums, that will be an added attraction for the individual who wants a secure form of saving to invest in the Fund. The small savers will have an opportunity to participate in the ownership and development of Australian resources and industries.
I want to know why honourable members of the Opposition are opposed to an opportunity being extended to the ordinary Australian to participate in the ownership of their own resources. That is the opportunity the National Investment Fund will provide to all Australians. Are Australians to be denied the right to share in the benefits of their own heritage in the safe way? What is the motive behind the Opposition’s attitude? I know that much mention has been made in recent days, both in the Press and in this House, of donations by foreign controlled companies to campaign funds of Opposition parties. Judging from the reaction of certain honourable members opposite there would appear to be some basis for believing that foreign funds have been received by Opposition parties. I do not know the answer to that question, but I am sure that the people of Australia would like to know.
Australians want to participate in the development of their own nation and to share in the benefits of that development. Why should they not have that opportunity? It is their right as Australians. In the few minutes available to me I want to draw the attention of the House and of the people of Australia to the inadequacy of the present financial structure of this country and to the loss of confidence that has developed in the whole financial sphere of activity in Australia. One has only to glance at the comments made at the election of the Chairman and Council of the Sydney Stock Exchange in recent days. The newly elected Chairman of the Exchange said that it was time to convince the investing public that the Stock Exchange had to take real strides to restore the confidence of the small investor in the operation of the Stock Exchange, and that many questionable mining stocks had been brought before the people of Australia. In fact each time one of these mining ventures or companies fail, generally it is the small man who gets burnt. ‘The big man has the know; he has the nod and he gets out in time. It is the small investor whose fingers are burnt. We heard in this House only a matter of weeks ago-
– Mr Chairman, I draw to the attention of the Committee, with the greatest respect, that there have been 4 Government speakers. The Government has guillotined the debate. It is taking up the opportunities to speak now. The Opposition will not have a chance to debate the other significant clauses of the Bill. We would have divided on this matter but for the question of time. I think it is a fair point to put down in the record that the Government has guillotined us and now it is using the time available.
– Order! The Chairman must call honourable members as they rise. The only way in which the Chair can terminate a debate is if no one rises or if the question is put.
– Mr Chairman, there has not been a member of the Australian Country Party present in the chamber during the whole of the debate. There have been only 2 members of the Liberal Party present.
– Order! It being 4.50 p.m.-
– Mr Chairman, I rise to a point of order.
– Order! No points of order may be taken at this stage. I am in the process of putting the question. The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The time allotted for the Committee stage of the debate has expired.
That the sub-clauses proposed to be omitted (Mr Lynch’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Government amendments -
Question put. The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported with amendments.
– Order! The time allotted for the remaining stages of the Bill has expired.
Question put -
That the report be adopted and that the Bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr Luchetti)
Majority . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 27 September (vide page 1635), on motion by Mr Whit lam:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate on this Bill is resumed I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) as they are associated measures. Separate questions, of course, may be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
– Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 2 measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– The Australian Country Party is opposed to the establishment of the Industries Assistance Commission, and therefore it opposes this legislation. This proposal, worthy and innocuous though it might seem, should be critically examined on both sides of the Parliament and by the industries that will be so critically affected by it. I believe that industry has not made this critical examination of the proposal and that a much longer period of time should be allowed for the members of this House to examine the proposal, the deep implications of which become apparent only after thorough study. Therefore, I propose later to move an amendment seeking to have further consideration of this Bill deferred until the autumn session of the Parliament.
This is monumental legislation which will have far-reaching consequences on the use of the nation’s resources and on the people who are making their living with and by those resources. The nation’s real wealth, and how it is to be used, is in question. Perhaps the reason why there has been little reaction to this proposal lies in the esteem in which Sir John Crawford is held. His report has not drawn critical attention. But one must realise that he was given a prescribed and limited task to prepare a report on how such a commission could be constructed. I wonder whether he would come up with the same conclusions if he were asked what he thought was the best and most practical method of devising the policies this Parliament should adopt for industry. His conclusions might be the same, because he was responsible for advising the Government in 1950 to create a primary industry protection board. However the members of the Government of the day rejected that proposal because they saw it as erecting another bureaucracy and furthering government interference in industry. That proposal was a babe in the wood compared with the Bill before us today so far as is provides for the intrusion of bureaucracy into the policy-making and planning activities of industry.
I believe that many of those who support this proposal, including those industries which have not opposed it, have based their support on the mistaken assumption that the Industries Assistance Commission will live up to its name. This proposed body should be called, not the Industries Assistance Commission, but the Industries Assistance-Withdrawal Commission. Withdrawal of assistance from industry is the clear policy of this Government. There cannot be the slightest shadow of doubt about that. The record of the last 10 months cannot be denied. The Coombs report cannot be denied. The Commission proposed in this Bill is to be established, it is said, to devise ways of assisting industry. I believe its task will be to devise justifications for the denial of assistance or for the withdrawal of existing assistance. A new bureaucratic organisation is to be set up to provide the Government with the justification it seeks for its well known and forcibly demonstrated attitudes to this nation’s productive industries. Sir, this Parliament is being asked to approve a measure which can do no other than reduce the Parliament’s standing and authority. We are being asked to authorise the Government to act in ways which will damage not only the principles of ministerial responsibility and government discretion, but which will take away from this Parliament some more or what little respect and authority it has left under this Government. We are being asked to destroy the system of consultation and negotiation which until now has been the foundation stone of the formulation of industry policy, particularly, but not exclusively, so far as primary industry is concerned. We are being asked to approve the establishment not only of an organisation with im mense powers, or authority- call it what you will - which the Government will find irresistible, but powers which the Government could welcome for the shelter and refuge they will offer. We are being asked to approve, in effect, the creation of a central planning authority with powers, duties and responsibilities which should be the Government’s own. We are being asked to approve the creation of a situation in which the elected representatives of the people, the elected Government, will be bound - not simply permitted, but bound - to seek the advice and the recommendations of a statutory organisation before it can make decisions on assistance for industry; not just temporary arrangements but permanent policies. Not only will this clearly inhibit the Government; not only will it give the Government a way out of what should be its own responsibilities, but it will establish situations in which the Government will virtually be bound to accept and act upon the Commission’s recommendations. No doubt that is what the Government wants. It wants a body to which it can pass the buck - a body which can carry the odium of its decisions. This is a bad and dangerous principle.
In theory, the Government need only regard the Commission’s recommendations as recommendations which it is not bound to accept. That is the theory. But in practice, the Government will find that it will have the greatest difficulty in rejecting the Commission’s recommendations because if it does, it will lay itself open to a great deal of public criticism. And this is bad and dangerous because the Commission will have sweeping powers, and it will exercise those powers and make public its views in such a way as to place the Government in an intolerable position. Not only will it be mandatory for the Government to refer assistance proposals to the Commission and to receive the Commission’s advice before it can act, but also the Commission will be empowered to initiate its own inquiries and to present recommendations to the Government without waiting to be asked by the Government to do so. And the serious implications of this are that we are being asked to create a powerful central planning authority with extremely wide terms of reference - far wider than those of the Tariff Board - and a body which will, by the nature of its genesis in the national Parliament and the deference with which it will inevitably be treated by the Government, exercise an influence of such power as should not be vested in any organisation outside the Government itself.
The legislation provides that the Commission will be required not only to consider the immediate circumstances of an inquiry and the consequences for an industry of assistance that might be sought, or which might already exist and is sought to be reduced or abolished, but it will also be required to consider the following matters: The allocation of national resources, in itself a vast consideration and a tremendous responsibility to be removed from this Parliament and the Government and given to a statutory body without direct responsibilities to the people; full employment; price stability; external balance; conservation of the environment; the interests of consumers; national economic policy; and trade policy. It boggles the mind to think of all the divisions in the Commission adequately to handle those matters.
This Commission will not be simply an advisory body, as the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) would have us believe. I am sure that the Prime Minister would be frank enough to say, even now, that he intends to accept virtually whatever advice the Commission gives him - as he is doing with the Coombs report - although that is child’s play compared with this new body. That is why I say the Commission will be a central planning body with vast powers conferred upon it by this Parliament. The Commission will, in fact, determine policies - not mere statistics but policies - and highly complex arrangements which should be determined by the Government itself, and by the Parliament. I do not object to the principle - in fact I support it - that industry which seeks protection or assistance should be subjected to an examination to determine its economy and its efficiency. These are the criteria on which the existing Tariff Board is required to base its judgments. The existing Tariff Board already has the authority, if it is needed to be used, to examine and report upon protection and assistance not only for secondary industry, but also for primary industry as well. In the case of protection for a primary industry where a level of protection has to be determined, the Board carries out this examination as with any secondary industry. But there are schemes giving assistance to secondary, mining and primary industry which have not involved the Tariff Btard, and for good reasons. Even where this particular kind of examination of industry has not preceded the provision of assistance, I believe there has been proper and adequate justification for what has been done. But the criteria of economy and efficiency are by no means the only criteria on which the Government, as distinct from a body set up to look dispassionately at the economics of an industry, must make its decisions. The same applies to the proposed Commission. What I am complaining of is the clear intention of the Government to hand over to this body the decision-making responsibilities which should be the Government’s own.
Let us not think, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the Commission will be simply an expanded Tariff Poard with a new name. It will be a vastly more powerful body with vastly wider authority and influence than the Tariff Board. It will not be simply making economic judgments on the circumstances of industries, but it will be making judgments on virtually the whole range of national economic policy. These judgments will be presented to the Government in such a way and with such powerful authority that the Government will be unable to resist them. In other words, the responsibilities which the national Government and the national Parliament should accept and exercise in national economic policy, will be in future exercised by the new bureaucracy which this Parliament is being asked to establish. The dangers in this are clear. Take the practical example of the situation in which the wool industry found itself two or three years ago. This is one of the nation’s largest industries with assets of probably >$10,000m. The wool industry was in a desperate position, and many people were predicting that it had virtually no future. What would have been the response of a body like the proposed commission if it had been asked to recommend what assistance should be given to the wool industry at that time, taking into account the criteria which it will be required to consider in reaching iti decisions? It must be quite evident that the wool industry would have been denied assistance. On the face of it and on the face of the criteria which are proposed, there clearly would have been no justification for assistance, except perhaps welfare assistance and vast reconstruction and dismantling of the industry. This would have turned a crisis into a catastrophe. But because the Government of the day was prepared to accept its responsibilities instead of unloading them onto people who would have no requirement on them to consider vital factors other than those laid down in the law, we were able to respond to the need of the wool industry and to give it the assistance it had to have. In other words, we had the courage to make a political decision and to accept the consequences of it. That is what this game is all about. That is democratic government. We did it in the face of the most trenchant public criticism, and in the face of the arguments of those who said that wool was finished and the industry should be allowed to wither. In accepting this legislation, we would be supporting the possibility - the strong possibility - of creating just that kind of situation.
What this legislation means, of course, is the end of the long-established and successful system under which industry policy has been devised - the system of discussion, consultation and negotiation between industry and government. This legislation means that it will be quite pointless, even if it is permissible, for industry to put its views directly to the Government, to Ministers, or to Government departments. I cannot see how any industry which feels its case has not been properly dealt with by the Commission can have any effective right of appeal. No doubt it will be claimed that there will be a right of appeal to the Government, that the Commission will only be making recommendations on what should be done. But, as I said earlier, the the Government is asking us to approve the establishment of a Commission of such power and such authority that the Government will find it virtually impossible to reject or amend the Commission’s recommendations - and that is something which should not be acceptable to this Parliament. This Commission, artfully using maximum publicity, would be able to brow-beat Parliament. As an ex-Minister responsible for the operations of the Tariff Board, I say that statement is not as exaggerated as some people might think. Further, if the Commission wished to delay or to withhold advice on measures needed to sustain industries, it could quite easily manipulate circumstances under its allembracing charter to carry out the most complicated and involved inquiries. The scope for opportunity to do this, if abused, either wittingly or unwittingly, would be enormous.
We are told that this Commission is being established so that the principle of public scrutiny of the process of providing assistance to industries can be extended beyond the area to which it at present mainly applies - that is secondary industry - to the area of primary industry. But surely, the principle of public scrutiny has always applied. If it is claimed that it has not, that is an indictment of the Parliament, and of the Press, and of the Australian people. It is simply a subterfuge for the Prime Minister to claim that it is necessary to establish a huge new bureaucratic organisation, and it will be huge - to do what? - to extend the operation of the principle of public scrutiny. Again, I am very concerned that Government enterprises are to be exempt from the Commission’s inquiries. Private industry will be subject to the Commission’s inquiries, but not publicly-owned industry, of which we are seeing an increased amount and in which we will see further great increases. Publicly-owned industry competing against private industry will be free of the requirement that it justify any assistance which it might seek from the Government. Is this Parliament content to accept that kind of proposal? In his second reading speech on this Bill, the Prime Minister said the system of public inquiry and report which he wanted extended denoted a ‘deliberate, orderly and widely accessible system of communication between the Government, industry and the wider public’. That is not what is going to happen. Communication between industry and the Government will be reduced, not expanded. The access which industry of all kinds has had to the Government through its contacts with Ministers, with members and with Government departments will, if it does not cease, at least become pointless. What will be the point of industry talking to the Government? All the Government will be doing will be rubber stamping the decisions of the Commission. Ask industry - not the Press - how effective it has been in influencing the Government about Tariff Board recommendations. Governments are very reluctant to be accused of being influenced by vested interests.
What will happen when, say, the wheat industry, or any other industry, needs to renew its stabilisation arrangements - and that is due to happen fairly soon? Will the industry, as in the past, come and talk to the Minister for Primary Industry, with his Department, with the Bureau of Agricultural Economics? Will there be discussions between the Commonwealth and State governments and in the Australian Agricultural Council? There may be - but everything that is said or done will take place under the shadow of a huge remote, unresponsive Commission. Without disrespect, I say that industries will find themselves talking to wooden-faced bureaucrats instead of to Ministers who at least can be responsive to the approaches of industry and who can apply - as should be applied - other than the cold, hard economic criteria on which decisions will be made by bureaucrats who have no direct responsibility to the people.
This Bill is so constructed that all communication will be between the Commission and the Prime Minister. This means that the Prime Minister will deliberately avoid the guidance and advice of his Ministerial colleagues. On page 86 of his report, Sir John Crawford indicates that all dealings should be directly between the Commission and the Prime Minister, or a Minister designated by him. It would be an advantage, he adds, if the go-between Minister was not directly involved with sectional economic interests. It is regrettable that people and departments who have experience and knowledge of industry should be branded ‘sectional*.
What this really means is that members of the Cabinet, backed by the expertise of departments such as the Departments of the Treasury, Primary Industry, Secondary Industry, Overseas Trade, Northern Development, Minerals and Energy and Tourism, will not be allowed to supervise what the Commission is up to in the structuring and the determination of policy. There will be just a cosy little arrangement between the Commission and the Prime Minister.
Since the Prime Minister seems to be a sucker for a theory, and has shown himself a clumsy tyro in the handling of Australia’s economic affairs, this can have only one of two results. One result is that the Commission will virtually be given an open cheque. The alternative result is to make the Prime Minister an economic dictator. That is strong language, but I use it to highlight the point that much of the knowledge and expertise of Government departments will be emasculated and ignored.
Mr Deputy Speaker, what does the term allocation of national resources’ mean when it appears in the criteria for the Commission’s decisions? One thing it certainly includes is our most important resource - people. Questions of the most vital concern to people are going to be decided, not by the elected representatives of those people, but by a body not responsible to the people - a body set up by a Government which is not prepared to shoulder the responsibilities which should be its own.
For that reason, Mr Deputy Speaker, and for all the other reasons I have described, I oppose this BUI and the proposal contained in it. I believe that further consideration of the Bill should be deferred until the members of this House, and the people in industry - and indeed the community generally - are able to acquaint themselves of this Bill’s full implications. Such a deferral would allow for the proposing of amendments which would at least tend to make the proposal more acceptable. I am realistic enough, of course, to accept that the Bill could be passed sooner or later. Nevertheless I say that this House should reject this Bill because the proposal it embodies will reduce the standing and authority of the Parliament; it will remove from the Government and the Parliament responsibilities which should be theirs, and it will place those responsibilities in the hands of an extremely powerful central planning authority which I believe will not have the capacity to make the kinds of decisions which will be in the interests of the majority of the Australian people - the kinds of decisions which only elected governments can and should make. I move:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: the House is of the opinion that the Bill should not be proceeded with until the autumn sittings in 1974 so that the deep study required to make possible an appreciation of the full implications of the Bill can occur and so that, should the Parliament then decide to support the Bill, it will be possible to place before the House amendments which will make the Bill more acceptable and the proposals it contains more likely to serve the interests of the Australian people.’
Mi DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti) - Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak at a later stage of this debate.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I am in an invidious position. I find myself rising as the opening speaker in this debate on behalf of the Government, set the task of answering the case put forward by the right honourable member who led for the Opposition. I find myself sparring with shadows. The best thing that could be said for the speech of the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) is that while he was making it I could see the discomfort being experienced by certain members of the Liberal Party sitting on the Opposition benches, and I have no wonder at that. I understand that the Leader of the Country Party led for the Opposition in this debate because the Liberal Party had not, until a short while ago, determined an attitude. I believe that somebody is now quickly trying to compose a speech which will reflect that attitude. I myself would have been extremely happy to know just what was to be that attitude. However, I trust that the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) and the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) who sat in this chamber during the contribution of the Leader of the Country Party will stay true to their principles and support this measure. Of course I trust also that their Liberal Party colleagues will do likewise.
Let us analyse the argument put forward by the Leader of the Country Party. To me the whole gist of his argument was: ‘Let us put off debating this Bill because we have not had the howl from the community that we expected from it’. This was the main purport of his message. The members of the Country Party howled when the Australian Labor Government introduced measures against inflation in the form of revaluation - measures which were correct. They howled, incorrectly again, when the 25 per cent across the board tariff cut was introduced on 17 July last. That has proved to have a completely hollow sound as well. Because they have not heard the opposition to: this measure that they expected to hear from industry and those outside this Parliament, they want to put the measure off until they can hear that opposition and until they can get a better idea of which way they should go. ‘Do not confuse me with the facts’ is their argument. ‘We have an intuitive judgment one way and that is the way we ought to act’ is the essence of their argument on this legislation.
In the Industries Assistance Commission Bill the Government is trying to improve the working of the Tariff Board. It is the function of the Tariff Board to find out the facts on complex economic issues and to advise. I put the emphasis on the word ‘advise’. That is what the Industries Assistance Commission will do, but it will be set up in a far more satisfactory form in order to do this and it will be given wider terms of reference so that it is not advising in just a narrow sphere. Seeking further consideration in the autumn session does not achieve anything for this Parliament or for the people. I am looking now at Sir John Crawford’s report. His letter to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was dated 19 June 1973; so we have had the report before us since then. He is a man who has great support on all sides of this Parliament and, indeed, in this country. I am sure that the honourable member for Wakefield will agree with me, even if nobody else on this side of the House does, that this Bill follows pretty well completely the report by Sir John Crawford. It is a well argued, well documented report which, I repeat, has been before us since 19 June. Is that not sufficient time for people to study and to know the arguments in favour of this Bill? Of course it is. We do not need any further delay in order to look at the facts.
Another of the favourite catchcries of people such as the Leader of the Australian Country Party, which was brought out in his emotional, hollow address, is that the Government is erecting another bureaucracy. How is this Commission any different from the Tariff Board, which has been supported on all sides of this House? It is different only because it is being given wider functions and made more streamlined in order to be able to carry out those functions and because it applies to primary industry good principles which previously have been applied to secondary industry and covers not only imports and tariffs but also duties and bounties. Indeed, it is the first chink in the armour of having a look at the facts relating to tertiary industry - something which is close to my heart. I am sorry that at this stage, because of the lack of well qualified personnel in our community, it is not possible to make it mandatory for all matters relating to subsidies and bounties to tertiary industry to be reported on by the Industries Assistance Commission; but I have no doubt, from the way that good sense is prevailing in the Government of this country and the way that improvements are being made, that in time matters in relation to tertiary industry also will be included.
The Leader of the Country Party referred to industries assistance withdrawal. Why should it be withdrawal if the facts show plainly that the assistance shoud be there? I repeat that ‘do not confuse me with the facts’ is the principle on which he bases his argument. I trust that the Liberal Party will not be following the very poor lead that the Opposition has received in this debate. The Leader of the Country Party referred to the Commission as a central planning body with vast powers. It has not any powers other than the power to advise. I repeat that the cry of the Leader of the Country Party is: ‘Do not confuse me with facts’. All that the Industries Assistance Commission is obliged to do is to seek out the facts and to advise the Government on those facts. The Government still has all the cards in its hands in order to make the policies in relation to those facts. The Commission will not be a central planning body.
Fortunately, a long term planning body is being set up in the Department of the Special Minister of State. I think, and many people in industry think, that it will be of great advantage to this country to have some long term, indicative planning so that, whether we are in the Australian Government here in Canberra, in State government, in commerce or in primary, secondary or tertiary industry, we all will know where we are heading. I think that in that there is a great virtue - virtue which is accepted by almost every other mixed economy in the world. But this Commission is not the body for long term planning. This is not a central bureaucracy in any way. That was merely an example of an emotional approach by the Leader of the Country Party.
Another of his claims was that industry cannot put its views. Industry has 2 opportunities to put its views when matters of policy in this area are determined. Industry can put its views openly before the Industries Assistance Commission, just as it can put its views now before the Tariff Board. Industry can and will continue to converse with Government. I am the Chairman of the Parliamentary Labor Party’s Economic Committee, and I know that dialogue goes on not only between various areas of the business community and industry and Ministers but also with committees such as ours. This will continue. It is of mutual advantage. I am sure that this practice occurs in the Opposition as well. So, there is another kite which was flown by the Leader of the Country Party and which deserves to be shot to ribbons.
We were told that the Government cannot reject or amend the Commission’s recommendations. That is completely false. I remind you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the Industries Assistance Commission has no function other than to sort out the facts. I know that you are aware of this. But, by the contribution so far from the Country Party - I trust that we will not hear a similar contribution from the hon ourable member for Berowra (Mr Edwards) who will be leading on behalf of the Liberal Party - one would be led to believe that the Government could not reject the Commission’s recommendations. The central thought arising from the speech of the Leader of the Country Party is that he is afraid of the facts.
I turn to some of the features of the Bill before the House. ‘I remind the House that if there is one thing that any government of this country can achieve it is an improvement in the standard of living of the people of this country. An improvement in the standard of living of the people of this country cannot be measured just in terms of gross national product or gross national income. Many more people are coming to this country and we have a rate of inflation. So, measurements in those terms are fairly meaningless. What it can be measured in terms of is the per capita growth in this country. Under 23 years of LiberalCountry Party government in this country we have had a shocking record of per capita growth. When compared with almost every other country with a similar mixed economy to ours, we are well down the league table. The reason for that is that in this country we have suffered a government which has not seen to a proper allocation of the resources of this country; in this country we have suffered a government which has responded to every little sectional interest in one way or another. If it were not by some form of tariff, bounty, dairy subsidy or some taxation concession, some other way would be found to help a sectional interest. But now Australia has a government which believes in looking at the country as a whole and in looking at per capita growth. That is why the Labor Government is not afraid of the facts relating to where resources should be allocated in Australia. We are particularly keen that these facts should, as part of open government, be collected in the open. That is the rationale behind the Industries Assistance Commission. It is a rationale which should be supported wholeheartedly by this House.
I will not detain the House longer. I do not want merely to repeat what is in the Minister’s second reading speech outlining the particular features of this Bill. There will be plenty of opportunity for others to do that. I do not want to repeat what is in the Crawford report which all honourable members have had since 19 June. Others in government have had longer to study that report. I am waiting with bated breath to hear the honourable member for Berowra (Mr Edwards) leading on behalf of the Liberal Party. I trust that he will not be supporting the stupid arguments that we have heard from the Leader of the Country Party.
– I am happy to seize the opportunity to give some measure of reassurance to the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford). The broad objective of this legislation is to extend the system of public inquiry and scrutiny of government assistance to industry, which now applies to secondary industry through the Tariff Board, to rural industry and, indeed, if the Government should so elect, to areas of tertiary industry as well. Generally speaking the principle is one which the Liberal Party, as a truly national party, welcomes. In that way this Party is in sympathy with the central principle and thrust of this legislation. The argument for the single body is made cogently by Sir John Crawford, a good friend and mentor of mine, in the report which forms the basis of this Bill. It is essentially that a decision regarding assistance to one industry inevitably has implications directly or indirectly for a whole range of other industries and therefore it is desirable to co-ordinate decisions and, in particular to take account of the inter-relationships as between industries. These are perhaps obvious enough in the context of the rural sector as such. My colleague the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) who will be speaking later in this debate, will elaborate on this aspect. But, of course, the same applies as between manufacturing and rural industries and, indeed, tertiary industries - for example, transport - as well. Nor can it be denied, as I said in a recent speech in this House, that the examination of industries ad hoc - I have in mind the secondary sector under the present Tariff Board arrangement - and piecemeal in isolation undoubtedly has led to some extent to inconsistency in tariff making and to an upward creep perhaps in the overall level of protection. It is thus necessary to seek coordinate policies of assistance to different industries in Australia, lt can be argued cogently that procedures for examining the merits of proposals for government assistance to industry should be on a common basis. This was forcefully contended by a variety of industry bodies in their submissions to Sir John Crawford. These bodies included, as Sir John perhaps not without some sublety quotes in his report, the
Australian Industries Development Association. At page 28 of his report Sir John quotes that body as saying:
It is recommended that questions of government assistance to any industry - rural, mining, fishing, manufacturing or tertiary -
I will comment presently on the reference by the honourable member for Adelaide to tertiary industry - should be referred to the Commission. Procedures for examining the merits of proposals for government assistance to industry should be on a common basis.
I stress the words ‘should be on a common basis’. The Commission should, in effect, stick to its last - the cobbler’s last. The focus of the Commission is or should be on the assessment of long-term trends - trends in new technology, in productivity here and abroad, in likely trends in relation to international currency movements and exchange rates. Of course exchange rates is a real guessing game under the present Government - there should also be assessment of the balance of world trends. This is the focus and speciality of such a commission. This is its task and its focus; its ability to make judgments, looking five or ten years hence, as to how far any particular industry is likely to prove - to use the old terminology now considerably elaborated in section 22 of the Act - ‘economic and efficient’ in the Australian context.
Hence it can be argued that one commission should be charged with the job of making long-term judgments about industries in all sectors of the economy - of course in an advisory position only. Only the Government makes tariffs and grants financial assistance. To these remarks I would add the hope that the activities of the one protection commission will serve to foster greater mutual understanding of one another’s problems by the various sectors of industry and the community at large. For too long there has been a widespread attitude that assistance, protection to the rural sector has been too generous - too much in comparison with protection to secondary industry. In my judgment as an economist, that attitude is not soundly based, as a glance at the calculations in the appropriate appendix to the report of the Committee of Economic Inquiry, the Vernon Committee, of a few years ago - admittedly a little dated now - would show. Examined under the umbrella of one body, hopefully a more balanced appreciation of the relative extent of protection to primary and to secondary industry may emerge.
In these terms the Liberal Party supports the thrust of this Bill. It is a cardinal principle of policy in this Party that we stand for the adequate protection of Australian industry - economic and efficient industries viewed within the overall context of the development of a sound and balanced Australian industrial base. As I said, this Bill, concerned with assistance and protection to industry and with its emphasis on the co-ordination of assistance measures under the purview of one body, is not opposed by this Party. But the acceptance of the Bill in broad principle is one thing; its detail can be a different matter. There is the matter of the guidelines set out in clause 22, about which my colleague the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) had something to say in his speech. The clause makes good reading, even good rhetoric. But I am doubtful, save for the specific reference to, the addition of, urban and regional development to the general objectives of the Government as written into the clause, that it moves in practical effect beyond the guidelines laid down many years ago in that notable speech by Sir Robert Menzies. The combined emphasis, one might suggest, of paragraphs (a) and (b) taken together undoubtedly expresses the intention of this Government to move for generally lower protection. That is in line with the professed belief of the Prime Minister (.Mr Whitlam) that protection afforded to secondary industry in this country is too high. I do not know how far concern for urban and regional development may turn out to qualify or to muddy that intention. Still, the Prime Minister’s judgment is an interesting one, but I suspect largely a doctrinaire and theoretical one, light on for good evidence, especially when everything is taken into account, including the non-tariff barriers to trade so much more widely resorted to overseas.
Meanwhile, though, the Prime Minister and other members of the Government will doubtless claim, as they have on earlier occasions, that despite loud crys of opposition and anguish, the 25 per cent across-the-board tariff cut that the Government imposed last July has led to very little dislocation of industry. Of course it has not. The nation is in a state of high boom resulting from the policies of this Government.
– Is that not the time to reduce tariffs?
– Let me carry on a moment. The nation is in a state of high boom and there is undoubtedly a boom in all the leading industrial countries of the world. The Government knew or should have known that this was the imminent position at the time of imposing that cut. Estimates were that a number of the order of 29,000 persons were to be displaced from industry. These estimates which were fed out to underline, in effect, the great courage of the Government in this sensitive policy area were phoney estimates in the circumstances in which that cut was made.
Put the 2 things together and let the Australian people be the judge. On the one hand the professed justification of the measure was to ensure a surge of imported supplies to add to domestic production and thus counter inflation. Every day it was becoming more and more evident that too much money was or would be chasing too few goods. On the other hand it was safe politically. The Government knew, as everybody knew, that in the current world situation goods for import were hard to come by, so industries vulnerable to imports were for the time being safe. What hypocrisy! The Government can get away with it just because the measure could not do the job that the Government professes it would do.
I only give this warning: As the world boom reaches its peak - it may have already done so - there will be a flood of imports and a setback to industry in this country of very significant proportions and that will be a major contributing factor to the stagflation - continuing inflation but a slack and perhaps some unemployment in the productive sectors of the economy - which will in due time inevitably be the outcome of the policies of this Government. Meanwhile the damaging effect of this measure will be on business confidence and the long term forward planning by industry on which the thrust of continued sound economic growth depends and on which many of the proposed policy objectives of the Government depend.
In saying these things I recognise that in the way this Bill is drawn, such acrosstheboard cuts are not ruled out. It is not our intention to suggest any amendment that would do so. But I take the opportunity of saying that that is not the sort of treatment that this side of the House would wish to mete out to industry. I take the opportunity to stress that at the same time as I say that, lest it be said that I speak as an arch protectionist, let me say that the Liberal Party, while committed to adequate protection of economic and efficient Australian industry, when in Government did not rest content with the existing levels of protection. It was the Liberal-Country Party Government in office which instituted the present systematic review of the tariff. It was in 1971 that the progressive or systematic review of the tariff, as it came to be known, commencing in those areas where protection was highest and had not been reviewed for many years, was instituted, and that was followed by the April 1972 so-called 1,000 items excess margins reference. The membership of the Tariff Board was enlarged to expedite these inquiries. This Bill, despite the vast increase in the purview of the Commission, cuts its number of members back to nine. That is a significant matter. I believe it is significant in relation to some other clauses of the Bill, and these perhaps we can discuss more fully when we come to the Committee stage.
In the time that remains to me let me indicate that the Opposition has had some difficulty with some clauses in this Bill. In relation to the mandatory clause 23 we will find it necessary to move an amendment. I hope that in the application of that clause the Government is sincere and that it does not represent a compromise between that one side of the Government which I believe is committed to that principle, and the other side of the Government represented by the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) which is not. For clearly it can be bypassed where it is provided firstly that a time can be laid down during which the Commission must deliver a report, and 30 days after that, in the absence of a report, the Government may act. It could therefore be circumvented by the simple expedient of laying down a time that is infeasible for the Commission, and thereafter the Government can act.
The only other matter that time permits me to touch on is the provision in clause 26 relating to temporary assistance. In this area there is a proposal that in the event of the requirement for emergency assistance the Chairman of the Commission shall nominate a Commissioner to hear evidence on the matter and to prepare a report. I believe it is of the utmost importance that the Commission should stick to its last’, and its last is the consideration of the issue of long term protection - whether in the light of trends in technology, productivity and relative exchange rates, looking 5 or 10 years ahead, this or that industry is likely to be viable in the Australian context. The problem of assessing the day to day problems which could arise through trading practices perhaps originating from overseas is a problem in a different context altogether. In this area there should be a temporary assistance authority separate from the Commission to deal with these problems.
Sitting suspended from 6.16 to 8 p.m.
– We address ourselves now to the Bill setting up the Australian Industries Assistance Commission. The Bill has been based on a report prepared by Sir John Crawford. I believe that Sir John Crawford is one of the most astute public servants this country has produced. I had the great pleasure and honour to work with Sir John Crawford on a previous report that he prepared. I would like to put the record straight in regard to what the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) said. He said that in preparing this report Sir John Crawford was proscribed. The honourable member indicated in his comment that he did not understand the man. Sir John Crawford has his own way of displaying his support or otherwise for the material that he prepares. On the first page of the report, he ends his letter to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) by saying:
While enjoying the help of all people … I wish in fairness to them to stress that the conclusions and recommendations of this report are solely my responsibility.
Where else could we get stronger support for the report than in Sir John Crawford (Quorum formed) I thank the Opposition for the audience. I notice that there are still only 5 members of the Opposition on the other side of the House. When I was interrupted I was making the point that far from being proscribed Sir John Crawford gave his enthusiastic support to this report that he prepared for the Government. On page 13 of the report he puts his personal view on a set of arguments which are crucial to the report. He states:
I strongly support these arguments and believe that, they establish an unanswerable case for public scrutiny.
If a man who does not support the sentiments contained in his report writes that sort of statement into it, we are faced with a peculiar kind of logic. In fact that particular reference relates to the fundamental purpose of this report, and that is to allow public scrutiny of the processes whereby the Government determines the different amounts of assistance given to different industries. This is a part of the ongoing process of open government under Labor - a process which is foreign to the Opposition, which has raised ali sorts of concepts which it cannot understand or accommodate itself to.
Let us consider exactly the need for this sort of commission. Currently we have tariffs on imports that are estimated at $3, 300m a year, direct payments to rural manufacturing, mining and other industries of $402m a year, promotion and research payments of $37m a year, and revenue foregone varies up to $282m depending on the financial year - a grand sum of 54,02 lm worth of protection in the Australian economy. Surely it is obvious to anybody that from time to time this sort of protection needs to be adjusted in the light of changes in the economy. Surely it is obvious that this sort of adjustment needs to be exposed to public scrutiny, which is the basic purpose of this report and on which Sir John Crawford has given his unqualified personal support.
There are 3 reasons which have been set forward for this particular approach to assistance. First, it will assist in allocating the national resources. Secondly, the Commission will provide disinterested advice on these matters. Thirdly, it will facilitate the public scrutiny of policy. The Board has an advisory role, not an executive role. Therein, I think, lies a fundamental difference that the Australian Country Party has failed to understand not only here, not only since we have been in government in other places but also while it was in government. It failed to make the distinction between rational advice taken on a completely objective basis, giving all the parties involved the opportunity to put their point of view, .and the policy decision. There is indeed a fundamental distinction which it is vital to make if we are to have a properly founded policy and sensible government.
This report recommends quite strongly - a recommendation taken up in the Act - that the Commission should have a purely advisory role and not an executive role or policy role. This Government is increasingly making public inquiries, as the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said in his speech on the matter, providing public scrutiny and making public reports as a basis for major policy decisions. How important this is. Once again I refer to Sir John Crawford. He says on page 12 of his report that the parties to such conflicts of interest which arise whenever we consider a question of protection may equally well be represented in argument and discussion under this Commission program. Those likely to gain directly from a particular measure such as tariff or subsidy will tend to be more concentrated, organised and articulate and those likely to lose from the measure are likely to be less well organised and less articulate. Naturally, without such an open inquiry as this Commission will conduct those minority groups will not get the opportunity of putting their point of view. In fact, such groups may be indeed the majority of the community who do not realise that their economic base is being slowly eroded away by disproportionate protection for individual vested interest groups. It is for that reason that this proposal deserves the highest praise and support and I am very pleased to see that it has that support from the Liberal Party.
There are problems. There will be many problems. We heard earlier tonight a reference to the Vernon Committee report. The Prime Minister, Mr Menzies at the time, made it quite clear that he was not prepared at that time to accept the sort of recommendation that this report represents. If I recall his words correctly, he said: ‘We cannot give the opportunity to criticise policy to a group which does not have responsibility’. There is no question that government becomes vulnerable once we establish a research group or fact finding group which has independence. It becomes vulnerable because the group will be well informed in its own specialist area. But the price we pay for protecting government from this sort of criticism is a sluggish economy and policy that is not properly based and researched. This price is far too high for a sophisticated economy to pay. It is high time we set aside these petty protection mechanisms, to the Government’s good name and reputation. It is high time we turned the hard glare of the public gaze and the maximum amount of research possible on to the policies of governments. There is no doubt that there will be problems in this respect. The present Government, I am proud to say, is prepared to accept that consequence and live with the problems it creates. It is also difficult in this situation to facilitate the basic objective of the report, that is, to disseminate the information that is required to come back from the public or to go to it, depending on the direction of transfer.
We have seen recently in regard to the meat prices inquiry a classic example of people shooting from the hip. The public process of refining policy in the eyes of all the media and in the eyes of all the groups involved and interested in the meat industry resulted in the Government being accused of making decisions before that process of discussion and dissemination had been completed. There is no question that while ever there is such a petty approach to the question of policy making as we have seen displayed by the Australian Country Party this sort of criticism will continue, this sort of shooting from the hip will continue and this sort of mis-statement will continue. Once again we find the Country Party basing its facts on half-truths. Its facts are half-facts. Let me give honourable members an example. The Leader of the Australian Country Party in hinting that the Prime Minister and the Commission would have a secret tete-a-tete - that the information between the two would come across secretly - quoted from the Crawford report which says that all directions to the Commission and advice by the Commission to the Government should be through the Prime Minister or the Minister designated by him. The Leader of the Opposition made great play of the idea-
– The Leader of the Country Party.
– The Leader of the second most important Opposition Party made the point that the best qualified Ministers would not be a party to this process. He deliberately misquoted that quotation which begins by saying that all communication between the Government and the Commission on matters of importance should be public. The Leader of the Opposition must think we are fools to misquote from a report which we all have before us.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! I would suggest that the honourable gentleman refer to the Leader of the Country Party as the Leader of the Country Party.
– I am sorry. My apologies to the Leader of the Opposition.
– The Leader of the Country Party is only the third most important man.
– That is right. These half truths and these distortions of fact are the reason for the lack of credibility suffered by the previous Government. While ever we have policy which is not based on research, which is not based on facts and which is not given public exposure there can be no question but that it will not be successful and that it will discriminate against important minority groups within our community. The spirit of this report is the objective to overcome that form of discrimination and to develop and evolve properly based policies. The rewards of this report will be just that, that is, that we will get proper policies and we will avoid the sorts of contradictions which Sir John Crawford illustrated in his report.
Sir John Crawford referred to a situation which often occurs in our economy in which we encourage an industry by direct subsidies and discourage the same industry by tariffs on its inputs. What absurdities we lead ourselves into when we do not take an overall view of the web of economic relationships which exists in our community. Each economic decision has its ramifications and builds up into a significant position for the most unlikely sections of the community. Without the sort of comprehensive approach that this Commission represents we will have one problem after another. It was because we had sectional interests being represented in different ways under the Country Party’s leadership that we had so many problems, that we had so much dissension, that we had the agricultural community complaining about the level of tariff protection given to secondary industry and that we have the public at large misunderstanding the basis on which assistance is to be given to agriculture within the confines of this Commission, where all the economic parameters will be considered, there will be a better understanding of not only our agricultural community but also all those other sections of our economy which from time to time require assistance. These interrelationships between one economic decision and another are far too vast and great for any member of Parliament or, indeed, for any economist or any individual to grasp. I believe it is important that we develop, in conjunction with this Commission, properly based inputoutput studies. We have computers, we have the expertise, we have the academics who are so sorely criticised by the Country Party who can make their contributions to this wider appreciation of the ramifications of change in the economy. It is in this Commission that we will be able to develop that expertise and bring to the community a greater understanding of each of the economic decisions as they are made.
Another misquotation by the Leader of the Country Party in addressing himself to this report was the idea that the report will cover inflation, employment and all those short term economic management measures which are necessary from time to time. This report specifically excludes those measures from its considerations. In his speech the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) specifically excluded those issues from the consideration of the Commission. A very important distinction has been made in the terms of reference of the Commission. It is to look at resource allocation, an area which has received no systematic study, at least in the government area, in the past. It is vital that we have a systematic approach to resource allocation, and the distinction between that approach to economics and the short term measures that are necessary to alleviate unemployment or to stem inflation or in any other way to manage the economy on a day to day basis, are quite correctly not the prerogative of this report.
In a sense, this report is concerned with the base of our economy, and a better understanding of that base will lead to a better management of the economy. It is the enlightenment that will flow from this report which will be of assistance in the short term management of our economy. It is incredible that the Leader of the Country Party should have either misunderstood it, misread it or tried to deceive this House on this vital distinction which was emphasised not only in the report but also by the Prime Minister in his speech on the matter.
– The Leader of the Country Party is the member for rural poverty.
– He is the member for rural poverty, as my very close compatriot, the honourable member for Macarthur has just informed me. Some case could be made out to justify that title. Many of the statements made by the Leader of the Country Party were a clear vote of no confidence in the integrity of the people who will be running this Commission. We can perhaps understand his concern if we recollect the circumstances that existed just before the election. The credibility of the economic policy of the Country Party was in tatters. Any rational statement about the state of the economy at that time would have sounded like criticism. Indeed statements from the Tariff Board near the end of the previous Government’s reign - statements that would have stood the study of any objective economist - did sound like criticism. That, no doubt, is why the Leader of the Country Party is so sensitive to the power of the new Com mission. It was not a question of the public servants involved in the Commission lacking integrity or in any way were politically biased; it was a question of their ‘being’ objective and rational. That is what the Leader of the Country Party objects to. Indeed, the rationale of much of what he said today can be explained away only if we use that explanation.
Another illustration that the Leader of the Country Party used to condemn this report was the situation that existed in the wool industry just 18 months ago. Once again, this situation was a short term economic position which this Commission had no charter to cover. The situation arose within a matter of months and had to be resolved very quickly. The crisis was over before this Commission could have brought its attention to bear on the issue. Adequate provision has been made in the legislation to cope with exactly that situation, t the time, it was not considered by any formal mechanism in the Government. It was considered by the appropriate departments as, indeed, it will be considered in the future. The Leader of the Country Party complained: What right of appeal will these industries have?’ I leave the House with the question: What right of appeal did they have before?’
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is now generally recognised that the protection of industry is a major economic issue. That has not always been so - at any rate, not to the same degree. I should like to quote from a speech I made in this place more than 5 years ago. The first quotation is: . . the time has come for a careful examination of the rates of tariff protection applying in this country and, perhaps even more important, full consideration of the question of whether the methods currently employed to determine the rates of protection are based on sound economic principles.
The second quotation is:
Unless we are prepared to make a thorough objective assessment of our current tariff policies and where they are leading us, the economy of this country, and especially the export industries, I believe, are in for serious trouble . . .
The third and final quotation is:
I hope that Parliament will be instrumental in formulating a programme to establish a tariff policy in Australia that is based on sound economic principles, with an appreciation of the problems caused by current demands on the rapidly expanding full employment economy and with a much greater appreciation of the wider issues involved than has been evident in recent years.
It will be apparent from those quotations that I support this legislation. I came into the field of tariff debate at a time when, in the words of the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), who had made such a great contribution to this topic over the years, an interest in tariffs had become almost respectable. There has been a steady improvement in our tariff policy over recent years. This has been due, to a considerable extent, to the Chairman and members of the Tariff Board. Their careful, patient and logical exposition of the effects of tariff policy has created a new awareness in the public and the Press on this topic. It is impossible even to think that we would return to a policy of uncritical indiscriminate protection.
The reason usually given why tariff policy is important is that it affects our allocation of national resources. That is a very good phrase. It is a good shorthand way of describing it. But what exactly does it mean? What are the effects of tariff policy? The first and most obvious effect is the direct one. Tariffs are a tax on imports. They enable a local producer to charge more for a product than he would be able to charge in the absence of protection and still remain competitive. The higher price, of course, is passed on to the consumer. This has a special effect on exporters, particularly in those industries which nave to export the major proportion of their production and accept the world price for it. It also has a growing importance for our manufacturing industries. Therefore, all exporters have a common interest in this subject.
Australian technology is advanced and we have a relatively small population. The combination of these 2 facts makes it extremely important to attain economies of scale in our production. Because our population is relatively small and our technology is advanced, it is inevitable that in most industries if we are to attain an economic scale of production we will have to export some proportion of it. If we are to export it, it has to be at a price at which we can sell it on world markets. In these circumstances there is a grave danger of excessive protection leading to fragmentation. This fragmentation occurs because when an industry has excessive protection potential investors in that industry think to themselves: This looks a pretty good cake to me. I am going to have a piece of that’. When too many of these people invest in the industry of course there is not enough cake to go around, and all those left in the industry then need excessive protection which in fact was not needed in the first place.
The second major effect of tariffs is an indirect one because, particularly in secondary industry which has unused protection, industries are able to pay over-award wages. This is fine for the employees of the particular industry, but it is a grave disadvantage to the other industries in the economy which do not have unused protection: In many cases they may not have any protection at all. If the overaward payments are made in a large industry, such as the metal trades industry, the flow-on effects of these increased wages are virtually impossible to contain in the industry concerned. The third effect is the distribution effect. It is sometimes forgotten that tariffs direct income to those who have protection and take away incomes from those who do not have it. This simple effect is often overlooked. You cannot protect one industry and give it a larger share of the national cake without depriving some other section by a corresponding amount. So these are the reasons why tariffs are important.
The next question we have to resolve is how this great issue should best be handled. The need for the Tariff Board has long been recognised. I do not think anybody questions this. Its reputation certainly has fluctuated over the years but, as I mentioned previously, it is now held in very high regard. Due to the improved quality of its reports and the undisputed logic of the writings and speeches of its chairman in particular, the Government has wisely taken notice of its advice.
It is some years since the Liberal Party advocated an approach to primary industry similar to that which has been long adopted in relation to secondary industry. There are several reasons why it does so now. The first is the logic of the situation. A similar critical approach should be applied to all sections of Australian industry, and it must be remembered that primary industry is an extremely important area of our economy. It supplies more than 50 per cent of our export income. The second reason is the growing interdependence of industries within the Australian economy, that is, the effects on an industry or group of industries through decisions made in relation to other industries, either granting or withdrawing assistance. The Australian economy is a complex one in the primary, secondary and tertiary fields. Perhaps previously a case could have been mad that decisions could have been justified on a more or less ad hoc basis, but this certainly no longer applies. The inter-relationship of industries in the primary, secondary and tertiary fields, and between these fields themselves, make this no longer a tenable argument. Error in protection policies, therefore, has a cumulative, compound effect which will multiply any original error, thus making it more difficult to correct.
The third reason is that there is a great need to overcome the unfortunate but historic distrust of people who live in the urban areas for those who live in the country, and vice versa. Certainly, a major factor in this distrust is that many people in the cities are unaware of the degree and value of protection of consumer goods by tariffs, that is, by a tax on imports. On the other hand, they are very much aware of the value of direct assistance given to primary industry because such assistance is made public. It is listed in the Budget for everybody to see. This attitude of mutual distrust and suspicion must be broken down. We are all members of one national economy with a common interest in each other’s prosperity or the lack of it. No one section of the Australian community can be seriously disadvantaged for any length of time without disadvantaging the economy as a whole. But to eliminate the old attitude of distrust and suspicion there has to be - even more importantly, there has to be seen to be - a common approach to all industries and to all requests for assistance, whatever the industry involved. No matter how compelling or valid an argument may be for an industry to receive some assistance by way of bounty, tariff protection or some other form such as quantitative restrictions on imports, if the assistance is to gain public acceptance and be properly understood there must be a suitable forum in which to argue the case in public. No industry with a good case to put has anything to fear from such a course, and this applies particularly to rural industries, the great majority of which are extremely efficient when judged by international standards - and that is more than can be said for some of our secondary industries, particularly those enjoying high rates of protection and which have not been the subject of a Tariff Board report for many years and, in some cases, have never been the subject of a report by the Board.
It is a fact of life in Australia, as in all advanced countries, that the percentage of the population engaged in primary production will decline. In these circumstances it will become correspondingly more difficult to ensure that this relatively small but extremely important section of our community receives fair and equitable treatment at the hands of government. It will become increasingly more difficult to convince the substantial and growing majority of people who live in the cities of the need for fair treatment of primary industries and those who are dependent on them. It will become more difficult still unless the issues affecting primary industry are subjected to the same impartial examination as applies to other industries. It is my firm belief therefore that a body such as the Industries Assistance Commission can make a major contribution to minimising the risk of uninformed, sectional and divisive attitudes developing in this country. It will be a 2-way contribution. Not only will it perform a most useful function in creating an awareness amongst those who live in urban areas of the particular difficulties and requirements of the rural industries; it will also help to make primary producers and particularly the leaders of their organisations aware of the economic realities of the world market situation in which they have to operate and of their own industry’s place in the Australian economy.
Finally, on this very topical issue of what the Government has done to primary industry since it came to power, I cannot emphasise too strongly that had this Commission been in existence when this Government was elected the rape of the rural sector which has taken place since 2 December would have been impossible. It would have been illegal for this Government to take such arbitrary action as abolishing the butter bounty - with all that implies for individual farmers and certain country districts - without any investigation or report. The establishment of this Commission will be a most valuable safeguard for primary industry against hasty, ill considered and capricious actions by any government with strong anti-rural bias such as the present Government has exhibited.
These, then, are the principal arguments as I see them in favour of the Commission in the context of primary industry. I have been reassured in my view by the fact that the force of these arguments has been recognised by the principal primary producer organisations at the federal level which have indicated their broad support for the basic concept of this Commission. There are, however, aspects of the legislation which we consider need either amendment or further clarification. The committee stages of this Bill will provide the opportunity to discuss most of these aspects in detail, but there are some more general areas on which I would like to comment now. The first is the subject of joint industry-government funds for research and promotion. These funds have made a major contribution to the industries concerned and indeed to the Australian economy and since, in my opinion, it would not have been appropriate to make these subject to this legislation, I am pleased to learn that in fact the legislation does not apply to them.
The next issue I raise is that of financial assistance to an industry; that is, assistance other than by way of increased protection or import control. Because such assistance is likely to be required as a result of some sudden unforeseen circumstances, it is reasonable that the Government should have the authority to grant such assistance immediately without it being mandatory to refer the question to the Commission. But it is important to appreciate that direct financial assistance of this sort is readily identified; that it is itemised for all to see and cannot be disguised.
The possible problem that I see arising is this: Having granted financial assistance to an industry and at the same time having referred the long-term issue affecting the industry to the Commission, what happens if the time limit of 12 months placed on this emergency financial assistance expires before the Commission has been able to submit its report? Even if the time limit is extended to 2 years, the same problem could arise, although no doubt less frequently. I am assuming, of course, that similar circumstances apply when the time limit expires as applied when the emergency assistance was granted. It seems to me that the Government may be in danger of painting itself into a corner on this issue, not being fully aware of the possible consequences of the legislation as drafted. I am conscious that it would be difficult to write adequate safeguards into the legislation, so what I am suggesting is an assurance from the Minister in due course that in this sort of situation the Government would adopt a commonsense approach; that is, the Chairman of the Commission would be asked for an interim report which would enable the Government to continue financial assistance in exceptional circumstances.
The third reservation I have concerns the mandatory reference provisions. According to clause 23 of the Bill, if a report from the Commission has not been received within 30 days after the date requested by the Government, the Government can take action even in the absence of a report. It is obvious that in these circumstances the Government could circumvent the mandatory reference provisions if it put an impossible time table on the Commission, knowing it to be impossible. One way in which to prevent circumvention in this way would be to make it obligatory for the Chairman to inform the Government if he considered the timetable to be unreasonable. However, we felt that in a situation such as I have outlined the Chairman would certainly make his views known. In addition, I can assure the Government that honourable members on this side of the House will be keeping a keen eye on this question and we will be alert for any sign of any Government attitude which would nullify the mandatory provisions in this way. We would make it absolutely certain that Government action of this sort got wide publicity in and out of the Parliament, and in the current climate of interest in tariff by the media, especially in the financial and technical Press, I doubt very much whether any government would lay itself open to the inevitable storm of criticism which it would bring on its own head.
There are 2 other aspects which I felt I should mention. The first is that this is quite properly only an advisory body. It is up to the Government to make the final decisions. The second aspect is that there is nothing in the legislation to prevent or inhibit representations being made to the Government by the various primary industry organisations, just as the existence of the Tariff Board has never prevented manufacturing industry from making representations to government on issues of concern to them. Indeed I would expect that many references to the Commission would be as a direct result of such industry-government discussion.
Any body such as this Commission requires 2 things if it is to be successful in achieving its objectives. The first is to have people of the highest calibre to serve as chairman, commissioners, associate commissioners and staff. I know that we have such people. The second requirement is that the legislation should be administered wisely and responsibly. The Liberal Party will be carefully and critically assessing the performance of this Commission and the Government’s decisions consequent on the Commission’s reports. Should it appear that the Commission is exceeding its charter or failing to fulfil the high hopes that we have for it, these deficiencies will be corrected on our return to government, so that the Commission operates in the way in which we envisage it should operate to the benefit of the Australian economy and of the individual industries which comprise it.
– I support the Bill, and I am heartened by the statement of the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) that he, too, supports the Bill, although, mind you, it seems as though he may support it for slightly different reasons - at least superficially. I thought that his reason for supporting the Bill was a rather curious one in that he argued that there was a need for an appropriate public inquiry to protect primary industry. This seemed to be the essence of a substantial part of his argument. I hope that he is successful in persuading members of the Australian Country Party - who seem less than enthusiastic about this Bill, although the Liberal members of the Opposition have found some attraction in it - to see the particular point he puts forward. For myself, I am more concerned about the need to develop a system which protects the consumers and the taxpayers. For too long in this community of ours - for more than 2 decades in fact - the consumer has had to pay more than a reasonable price for too many commodities because there has been too much political jobbery going on in the community. Either too many votes have been bought at too high a price at the taxpayers’ expense or the donations to political party funds have been bought, again at too high a price, at the taxpayers’ expense.
The completely unjustifiable way in which subsidies and protection and other forms of support, many of them indirect, in which these payments have been thrown about at the taxpayers’ expense-
– They are listed in the Coombs report.
– The Minister anticipates me too well. He is much cleverer than I. As I was saying, the payment of these forms of support which were made to keep a government in power long after it had run out of ideas and energy is something which will be a stain on the administration of this country for too long. That is why this proposal has been brought forward. I cannot say often enough that we do not spend our money in this Parliament; we spend the hard earned income of taxpayers. When we give a tax concession that concession is a cost to the community. Tax concessions forgone in one area are tax collections that must be made up in another area. If we give a tariff which has not been properly justified on the basis ot an objective and rigorous inquiry but has been granted because the particular recipient is a generous supporter of a political party, we impose a cost on the community. When we subsidise an industry, whether it is primary or secondary, when rational economic criteria would advise us otherwise, we are wasting economic resources in the community. We are not getting the return we ought to be getting, a return which can be ploughed back into the community in many ways such as investment, as better welfare provision and as better consumption standards for people in the community. We are denying the rest of the public, and for too long this denial has occurred as a payoff to the various powerful, albeit minority interests, in the community who have been able to prop up a tired lethargic government that had run out of inspiration at least a decade ago.
The Minister for Secondary Industry (Mr Enderby) reminded me by way of interjection that that is what the Coombs report was all about. The Coombs report extracted various forms of indirect hidden subsidies many of which most of us had either forgotten or never knew about, which had been introduced in some cases a decade or more ago and which had continued, again at the taxpayers’ expense, to prop up industries. No assessment had ever been made to establish whether these payments should be provided, whether they should be continued or whether the taxpayer should be required to continue paying to surrender some of his living standards so that in some cases a particular powerful supporter could continue to get what can be fairly termed as a welfare payment at the expense of the rest of the community.
One instance that immediately springs to mind is the dairy industry and the butter subsidy which was mentioned by the honourable member for Corangamite. There was a program for free milk for school children. How many thousands of gallons of milk have been poured down the drain in the years that this scheme has been operating? How many people have taken home milk from schools when children did not want it? This program which was not necessary was introduced because of the power of a particular lobby in the community. These are the reasons why the Industries Assistance Commission Bill has been introduced. This Bill, which is designed to set up an Industries Assistance Commission, is one of the most significant elements in this Government’s approach to the making of economic policy. By extending the role of the Tariff Board from the consideration of protection for, and assistance to, secondary industry to the whole spectrum of protective activity in Australia, we are taking a major step forward in the introduction of rationality into official policy towards the fostering of economic growth in Australia. The history of the free trade versus protection controversy in Australia is a long one, and a well known one. Originally the advocacy of protection was closely related to the view that national independence and the welfare of wage earners in this country would be promoted by the effect of tariffs in redistributing income from the owners of land to industrial labour and capital. The free-traders, on the other hand, informed by a fairly elementary and superficial grasp of nineteenth century English economics, felt that it would be to the long-term benefit of the community to specialise in those kinds of economic activity in which we from the point of view of international trade and a comparative advantage, namely land-intensive kinds of productive activity - that is, rural industry.
There was some rational core in the free trade arguments, in that they emphasised the benefits of concentrating on those kinds of productive activity which would contribute most to the increase of the national income; there was, however, an important flaw, in that no attention was given to the distribution of income or the desirability of economic diversification and innovation. The protectionists, in their manifestations, were concerned with the distribution of income. It was always the policy of the Australian Labor Party to use the tariff to promote the economic growth of Australia, to diversify Australian industry, to raise the incomes of wage earners, and to do this by transferring to secondary industry part of the wealth deriving from that asset which, despite any differences in title - leasehold or freehold - still remains primarily the property of the Australian people as a whole, namely, the land.
There were sensible cases to be made on both sides - protectionist and free trade. Unfortunately the controversy often became an argument between the interest groups representing rural industry and those representing secondary industry, with very little attention being paid to the interests of Australia as a whole. The free traders were able, with rationality temporarily prevailing, to have the Tariff Board charged with the duty of considering not just how to protect secondary industry but whether a particular industry should be protected. But the irrational free traders, which can be pretty directly identified with rich rural interests, were able to claim that the rural sector had some kind of claim for compensation for any measures of protection for secondary industry. Thus, over the years, we have had the absurd situation created where protection for secondary industry was introduced to compensate other sectors of the community for the monopoly of the nation’s wealth by landowners, and then the landowners have claimed compensation for this compensation.
Such a Gilbertian result could only have derived from a set-up wherein assistance to industry was subject only to selective examination whereas a manufacturing industry was expected to justify any assistance it received. The crude doctrines of agricultural primacy could be. invoked to justify any kind of handout to a rural industry without examination. So there developed the notion that secondary industry assistance could not be granted without at least the semblance of inquiry and justification, but rural industry had claims which for some ‘mystical reason were unexaminable. Of course there was no mystical reason; there were very hard cash-value reasons, reasons intimately connected with the long-term corruption practised by the Country Party, now fortunately no longer enjoying the Treasury benches or having access to the public funds pork barrel.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the Country Party is bitterly opposed to the establishment of the Industries Assistance Commission, for the primary purpose of this Bill is to abolish the special privilege which rural industry has enjoyed for so long - exemption from the proper processes of examination. Whenever public funds are to be spent on any sector of the community, whether by way of social security transfers, subsidy to industry or indirectly by way of tariff protection, the community has a right to demand that such a use of public funds should be justified in terms of the contribution to the community’s objectives. We recognise that in many cases assistance to industry is justified, but feel that the process of investigation and justification which has for so long been demanded of secondary industry should also be demanded of primary industry. It will be the purpose of the Industries Assistance Commission to treat primary, secondary and tertiary industries - all these different kinds of productive activity - on an equal footing when it comes to any claims they may wish to make upon public funds.
It is possible to speculate upon why such an obviously sensible extension of the role of the Tariff Board was not undertaken in the past. And in indulging in such speculation, the history of Country Party attitudes to both the Tariff Board and protection to secondary industry, and to assistance to rural industry, cannot be ignored.
There has been a lot of attention given in this House today to the Government’s proposals to legislate for disclosure of contributions to political party funds. The Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) is obviously unhappy about the idea. But his dislike of the disclosure of contributions made by individuals and companies to Country Party funds pales into insignificance by comparison with his objection to the proposed functions of the Industries Assistance Commission because he knows very well that the major source of the Country Party’s electoral strength has derived, not from shady dealings on a private basis with individuals and companies but from large-scale jobbing in public funds.
The Country Party has always been concerned with pilfering from the public purse upon a massive scale. It has, over the last generation during which the Liberal Party has, willy-nilly, been forced to accept what it knows to be dishonest in order to retain the perks, if not the realities, of power, diverted public funds to rural areas, without examination or justification. And at the same time it has perpetrated a monstrous confidence trick upon the people who vote for it. the large number of residents of non-metropolitan areas who think that because the Country Party calls itself by that name - it is, of course, quite prepared to sell its name as, long ago, it sold its virtue to the highest bidder - it is really concerned with the interests of country dwellers.
Of course any program of assistance to rural industries promoted by the Country Party has always been marked by two major characteristics - inequity and inefficiency. The major part of assistance to rural industries ends up in the pockets of the well-off. The poor and struggling farmers get a handout which is not worth much more than unemployment benefits. If you are a struggling wheat grower on $10,000 a year or more, you will do well out of Country Party programs; otherwise, you might as well forget about them. Nevertheless, the Country Party has misrepresented itself as the benefactor of the countryside, and it has grossly misappropriated public funds in order to do so. The million or so dollars which the Liberal Party has received under the lap from its multi-national friends looks petty beside the hundreds of million of dollars which the Country Party has stolen from the Australian taxpayers by way of its generous assistance schemes for rich rural interests and so-called decentralisation programs - hundreds of millions of dollars which have been spent on buying votes.
It is therefore not surprising that the Country Party should object to a Bill for an Industry Assistance Commission which will be examining the justification on grounds relevant to the guidelines pertaining to general economic policy laid down in clause 22 of the Bill. The Country Party will, of course, find it equally difficult to swallow clause 23 with its provision that any government must seek the advice of the Commission before implementing proposals for assistance to industry.
In the peculiar alliance of the Country Party with some sections of manufacturing industry which grew up in the latter years of the Liberal-Country Party government, it was commonplace for the Country Party Ministers to do their utmost to subvert the mandatory provisions of the Tariff Board Act. In their attempts to apply the same standards of dishonesty to assistance to certain sectors of secondary industry - usually those marked by monopoly, inefficiency, and foreign ownership - which they were accustomed to in the rural sector, the Country Party Ministers did their best, by way of loaded policy references and unofficial pressures placed upon the Public Service, to undermine the independence of the
Tariff Board, which, was based on the mandatory provisions. Not surprisingly, the Country Party is not happy about the existence of such mandatory provisions for a Commission which will have the powers, and the duty, to investigate the many forms of assistance for rural industries which have grown up, like weeds choking out the productive areas, in the last generation.
It should not be thought that the Government considers all the forms of assistance which have been given to rural industries and non-metropolitan areas as undesirable. On the contrary, we are concerned with subjecting all kinds of assistance to industry to thorough and independent examination in the confident expectation that such a procedure will show many forms of assistance to be justified and desirable. Such forms of assistance can be financed by reducing or abolishing the many wasteful handouts to the non-needy rich which the Country Party has instituted in the past. Nor should it be thought that it is even true that the Country Party, in its fondness for the behind the scenes deal, is in fact representative of rural interests generally. It is increasingly the case that rural industry groups, as well as secondary industry interests, have expressed their realisation of the fact that pork-barrel politicking of the Country Party variety does not serve their long term interests. Thus, in a letter to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) dated 24 September, the Australian Farmers Federation expressed its strong support for the mandatory provisions of clause 23. The Australian Farmers Federation is of the opinion that mandatory provisions should apply equally to primary and secondary industry. The secretary of the Federation writes:
The President of the AFF, Mr W. N. Hogan. M.B.E., has asked me to convey to you his concern that exceptions might be made to the mandatory provisions of the proposed Industries Assistance Commission in the case of the mining and manufacuring industries, leaving the rural industries as the only sector fully bound by its operations.
My President wishes me to say that such a situation would not only be regarded as discriminatory and unfair in the countryside, and would be most objectionable on the grounds of appearing to favour selective interest groups in the generally well-to-do extractive and manufacturing sectors, while exposing other industries, seeking Government assistance, to the full rigours of the Commission.
My President firmly believes that if it is good enough for some areas of activity requiring public aid to be dealt with by the Commission, then it should be good enough for all other sectors also.
We realise that there is a good deal of support for the principles of this Bill on the other side of the House. The Government is prepared to accede to amendments which are put forward in good faith and which might contribute to the greater efficacy of the Industries Assistance Commission. However, we will not be swayed by partisan or sectional considerations, and we know that in the Opposition there are many members who agree with us on the necessity for the changes and innovations embodied in the Bill.
In conclusion, let us be clear about one fact. When misuse is made of economic resources - money is only the representation of those resources; it represents the power or the authority to command those resources and to direct them within the economy - there is waste. Investment is the key to economic growth in an industrial economy such as ours. If that investment is taking place in the wrong parts - that is, if unwise decisions are being made not according to rational economic criteria but according to the pay-off that can be achieved in the back room deals between the Country Party and the people, who are its backers, or it hopes will be its backers - we will not achieve the sort of growth we should achieve; we will not achieve the sort of progress and prosperity we should achieve; and we will not achieve the living standards that should be provided in the community and the welfare services that should be achieved.
This is represented in our long term growth, where we have not a particularly exciting record. I quote from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development economic survey ‘Australia’, which was published in December 1972 and which stated:
On a per capita basis, Australia’s performance-
That is, in economic growth- appears much less impressive . . . The high growth rate of total real GDP was thus more a reflection of relatively rapid growth of population rather than of output per head.
It stated further:
Throughout the period 1950-1970 Australia had one of the highest investment ratios of all OECD countries. In terms of growth of output per head of population, this high rate of capital formation appears to have yielded a low return . . .
The political deals were done, but the community suffered as a result. This Bill will end this political corruption and jobbery. It is overdue.
– It is significant that in recent times the only party which has been prepared to offer its soul for the sake of a ha’p’orth of tar has been the
Australian Labor Party. Even today at question time reference was made to a $25,000 contribution by the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union to the Labor Party, provided sanctions were not applied under the industrial legislation. Of course, the sanctions were withdrawn; and the Labor Party received its $25,000. Not only in that field is their relevance to the comments of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden); these is also a company called Marrickville Margarine Pty Ltd. I am delighted to see the Minister for Secondary Industry (Mr Enderby) sitting at the table. I understand that the company has contributed significantly to Labor Party funds, both directly and indirectly. That company was given, without reference to any of the other major margarine companies in Australia, a licence to produce margarine in the Australian Capital Territory. On the Opposition side there is concern about a Bill which is designed to deny government an opportunity to exercise effectively the charge which the people of Australia - the electorate of Aus* tralia - presents to it.
I think that before I go into the details of this Bill it might be of interest to honourable members if I reverted to an earlier debate in this chamber, a debate which took place on 21 September 1965. I shall quote several passages of a speech made by the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, on the Australian economy. He said:
No government, from whatever side of the House it may come, and indeed no parliament, can abdicate its own authority and responsibility for national policy. It will welcome the assistance of experts, but its tasks will take it far beyond the limits of economic expertise. Political policy in a democratic community does not depend upon purely economic considerations.
At a later stage, as reported at page 1079 of Hansard, he said:
In the early 1940s, proposals were submitted to the Australian Agricultural Council which, as honourable members know, is a ministerial body, for the establishment of an institute of agricultural economics, with wider functions and powers than the present Bureau of Agricultural Economics, and wim complete freedom independently to carry out and publish the results of research into a whole range of matters affecting primary industry. These proposals were rejected . . .
Sir Robert continued: for reasons which were admirably summed up by the present permanent head-
That was the permanent head in 1965 - of the Department of Primary Industry when he made his presidential address to the annual conference of the Australian Agricultural Economics Society in Sydney in February 1963.
Sir Robert quoted those words. They were:
Governments were asked to finance an organisation removed from political control which could report on the matters of policy but let the chips fall where they may. It is not hard to imagine governments shying away from the concept of a body which was committed to publish all its reports and advice on policy but whose findings could be used in evidence against governments which did not adopt them. On matters of fact there could be little argument, political or otherwise, against immediate publication; on matters of policy it could quite often happen that the published report of the independent authority presented only half the story. To be realistic governments have political convictions which might not always be in line with the philosophy espoused by the Institute.
I substitute ‘Industries Assistance Commission’ for ‘Institute’. Sir Robert continued:
What the protagonists of this scheme were really supporting was a system where policy should be guided only by expert advice when policy is often a compound of a number of factors, only one of which can necessarily be expert advice.
Those words of Sir Robert’s are more pertinent to this Bill than to any other Bill which has come before the House in recent times. The Industries Assistance Commission Bill is a diverse and complex Bill. Earlier today my Leader moved an amendment which stated:
That all words after That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: the House is of the opinion that the Bill should not be proceeded with until the autumn sittings in 1974 so that the deep study required to make possible an appreciation of the full implications of the Bill can occur and so that, should the Parliament then decide to support the Bill, it will be possible to place before the House amendments which will make the Bill more acceptable and the proposals it contains more likely to serve the interests of the Australian people’.
It is utter poppycock for the Minister for Social Security, who preceded me, to suggest that the forms of assistance that have enabled the growth of the great primary industries of this country were in operation only because of the interests of the Country Party. The trouble with the Minister for Social Security is that he sees others in the light of his own behaviour. He fails to realise that there are those on this side of the House in both the Liberal Party and the Country Party who have pursued policies in government which have been designed to help the growth of industries which in their turn have enabled and financed the development and progress of this country.
– Real wealth.
– Real wealth, as the honourable member for Moore so rightly says, which has enabled the establishment of Australia today as one of the middle ranking, thrusting powers, a position which in the international arena the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) so proudly asserts. The growth has been financed by industries supported by schemes implemented by this Parliament, advocated by the Ministers representing the Liberal and Country Parties - schemes which have taken account not just of economic motivation but of social purpose, national growth concepts and the desire to develop regions and the large tracts of country in Australia which are underpopulated and which need assistance to enable them to sustain the uncertainties of international markets and climatic variation. These are factors which no remote, isolated, ivory tower body is able to take into account.
Let it not be thought for one moment that we on this side of the House, we in the Country Party, are opposed to independent advice - far from it. But we are concerned that an industry such as the wool industry should not be denied the opportunity of sustenance at a time when it was on its knees. Does any member of this House or any of those who are listening to this debate honestly believe that had there been an industries assistance commission in operation 2i years ago when I became Minister for Primary Industry anyone would have advocated assistance to the extent necessary to revive the great Australian wool industry? Wool was in such a state that everybody said: ‘All those dags, all those offcuts, all those skirtings should be taken to sea, should be dumped’. There was an apparent over-supply.
– Not skirtings.
– Yes, skirtings.
– The Australian wool industry was in a position where the financial assistance given the Austraiian Wool Commission and implemented by the Australian Liberal-Country Party coalition Government actually financed the purchase of one-fifth of the Australian wool clip, nearly one million bales of wool.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member for Moore and the Minister for Labour are not assisting the Deputy Leader of the Country Party in making his speech. If they wish to conduct a conversation they should leave the chamber.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, thank you for your assistance. I believe that the intervention of those on the Government side demonstrates how incorrect they are in believing in the efficiency of this remote, ivory tower organisation. Unable to feel the vital pressures which enable the implementation of real political assistance if we had this sort of a body operating it would deny government the capacity to function where it has so effectively in the past particularly in the provision of sustenance to an industry such as the wool industry.
If any member who is in this chamber or away from here feels that all this is nonsense and that there is no basis to feel that industries will not continue to receive assistance in the future, perhaps it is worth my adverting for a moment to appendix 4 of the report prepared by the distinguished Sir John Crawford titled ‘A Commission to Advise on Assistance to Industries’. He there lists the primary industry assistance measures which might be included in a settled inquiry program for the Commission in 1973-74 and 1974-75. In other words, no wheat stabilisation scheme, no sugar industry scheme, no canned fruit industry scheme, no tobacco industry scheme, no apple and pear industry scheme, no wine grape industry scheme, no brandy industry scheme, no rice industry scheme, no dairy industry scheme, no nitrogenous fertiliser scheme, no phosphate’ fertiliser scheme could be implemented in this Parliament without the Industries Assistance Commission running its thumb, its rule, over it - not by reference from the Government, not by reference from the Parliament, but by automatic individual initiative adopted and implemented by the Industries Assistance Commission itself. In other words, the Parliament, the Government, the elected representatives of the people will not be those who will determine which industries of this country will be assisted nor in what way.
There will not be any guarantee or insurance against change. A report will be submitted. I again remind honourable members of the words of Sir Robert Menzies who said that the published report would serve as a reference to governments and would represent only one of a compound of a number of factors necessary for the implementation of a government decision. In other words, this body will not be able to take account of the range of necessary considerations which in the past have motivated governments of whatever political party to provide the constructive schemes of assistance which have enabled the sustenance, growth, development and maintenance not only of primary industries but also of secondary and tertiary industries in this country.
I think it is worth while to advert very briefly to the present state of our economy. Some Government supporters seem to have forgotten that there has been a 25 per cent tariff cut. That tariff cut and the antiinflationary measures that supposedly are being pursued by the Government are to be taken from its control. Measures that affect assistance to industry as a result of this legislation will necessarily be referred to the Industries Assistance Commission. I am delighted to see that the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) is with us. I understand that as a member of the Committee investigating prices it was he, more than any other member, who suggested that firm and strong action had to be taken in order to penalise meat producers and to stop expansion of their industry by restricting exports of meat. He was one of the members of the Committee who signed the majority report which recommended a penal export tax on meat.
– Not true.
– I understand that he certainly supported a penal export tax on meat. I believe it was advocated by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro as one of a series of schemes which, if he genuinely believes in helping consumers, he would not have asked the Government to implement. Such schemes would have to go to the Industries Assistance Commission. We are worried not only about the producers and consumers in this country. We believe that it is necessary for the Government to take into account the availability of goods and the stimulus necessary to production. What did the Government do in pursuing its policies? It withdrew the stimulus to the manufacturing industries. It withdrew the development allowance schemes and other schemes which would encourage expansion of production. It has produced uncertainty and concern about tomorrow. The mining industry has been completely depressed on the stock market because of the maladministration of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) and his Cabinet colleagues.
This situation has been induced by the Labor Government and the climate of uncertainty is to be aggravated. Government supporters say: ‘Look, irrespective of what we have today, in future we will refer all industries to some body outside. An outside body will take over.’ Government supporters may say that the outside body will make recommendations which will not bind the Government but every report will be tabled in this House. In order that there will not be any doubt about that we intend to move an amendment at the Committee stage to ensure that that course is followed. We believe that every report produced by the Commission will be more than just persuasive to the Government. This legislation will mean that every government will have recommendations put to it which it will find extremely difficult to reverse even if it might believe this to be in the national interest. The advice of the Industries Assistance Commission will subvert the general policy recommendations that I believe are correctly the responsibility of government and not of an outside body of experts, no matter how expert they may be. I am concerned not only about secondary industries. Two other types of industry will be adversely affected by this legislation. It has been said that in the present circumstances secondary industry goes before the Tariff Board but not primary industry. That just shows the deplorable ignorance of the Minister for Social Welfare of the procedures now available, yet he aspires to the Treasury portfolio. Section 15 of the Tariff Board Act provides: (1.) The Minister shall refer to the Board for inquiry and report the following matters: -
Paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) have been deleted. Paragraph (d) stands and reads: the necessity for new, increased, or reduced duties, and the deferment of existing or proposed deferred duties; (e) the necessity for granting bounties for the encouragement of any primary or secondary industry in Australia; (f) the effect of existing bounties or of bounties subsequently granted;
If honourable members opposite read through the rest of the section it would become quite apparent that it is not just for the Tariff Board to inquire into secondary industries. Section 15 of the Tariff Board Act provides a scheme which enables the Board as it is now constituted to inquire into any primary or secondary industry on the reference from the Government. That is one of the major significant differences between our belief in the operation of outside economic bodies and that which is envisaged by the Australian Labor Party. It seeks, presumably because of its ineptitude and incompetence in administration to pass the responsibilities of government to others. We seek advice but do not wish to pass responsibility. Apparently, the members pf the Australian Labor Party see themselves unable to employ for particular purposes experts who are able to give them technical advice on areas or industries that are of concern to them or to use the Tariff Board’s very wide, embracing and all inclusive provisions as they now exist. They see themselves as unable to pass references to those bodies so that they may ask industries what form of assistance should be provided for them.
Of course, they fail to realise that there is a complexity of problems that face industry today. The addition of a further factor of uncertainty will not only prejudice the stability of companies on the stock exchanges, it will also further prejudice future private investment in this country in an area already depressed by the budgetary tactics of this Government. It will affect not only companies that are in production today but also it will fail to overcome the very real problems that face industries competing with the low wage economies of Asia. I refer to countries which produce goods increasingly at a cost which makes it extraordinarily difficult for Australian companies active in fields producing competitive goods ti provide a range of goods at a competitive price. In my opinion, in that field a Tariff Board can provide adequate advice to government and government can then consider, if necessary, the non-tariff measures which may be necessary.
What of the international sugar agreement? Today the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Rex Patterson) returned to us after 10 weeks of assiduous arguing - I would commend him for it - on behalf of the Australian sugar industry in Geneva. His advocacy would be denied if there were an Australian Industries Assistance Commission. He, having agreed on terms of compliance necessary for Australia - which regrettably other countries failed to do - on an international sugar agreement, the matter would have to be referred back to the Industries Assistance Commission. In the tertiary field, we have the transport industries. What will happen in regard to the airlines? What will happen to Trans-Australia Airlines, the Government airline, to Ansett Transport Industries and to
Connair Pty Ltd, to East West Airlines. What will happen to the shipping companies? Presumably, no form of assistance could be introduced without reference back to the Industries Assistance Commission. I believe that there is a necessity for outside independent advice, but from the Tariff Board.
All that we have heard about honourable members on this side of the Parliament receiving some type of hidden subsidy from companies which have assisted is arrant nonsene. The only political party in the Parliament that has been assisted by companies is the Australian Labor Party. They have assisted that Party and it has delivered the goods. We on this side of the House regard it as completely abhorrent that anybody should make a contribution to our political parties and that there should be any conditions attached to it. The members of the Labor Party see others in their own light. They see this Bill as a means to introduce an outside body designed not to assist the development of Australia but to hinder it. We are concerned that adequate consideration should be given to the implications of this measure. My leader has accordingly moved an amendment standing in his name to the motion that the Bill be read a second time, which I second. In the committee stages I will move significant amendments to the Bill as it now stands. We believe that the Tariff Board Act provides the protection which this country needs.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– We have just listened to a long apology from the Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Sinclair). I gathered that he was defending the record of the McMahonAnthony administration. He defended more than that. He defended his record for 25 years. He gave us a picture that seemed to say that all was well in the countryside when the previous Government left office last December. He also made a plea in his speech for what he called - I use his terms - ‘political protection’. He comes to the Parliament with his rump - his group - tonight to plead for a continuation of political protection. That was the essence of his plea. In his long apology he mentioned the wool industry. The Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party and his associates allowed wool in our country to be sold at 29c per lb. It was this group and this administration that allowed the Australian wheat industry to be led into some of the worst difficulties that it had had in a generation. It introduced wheat rationing in the middle of the season. It did this and, I might say, insisted on it. It supported this action until the change of government. It left the greatest mess in the countryside we had had in a generation. In case honourable members think that I am voicing a political sentiment I should like to draw the attention of the House of Representatives this evening to the Social Justice Statement prepared for the Australian Episcopal Conference by the National Commission for Justice and Peace. I draw attention to page 17. In this statement by the archbishops and the bishops and the members of the heirarchy there is a reference to poverty in Australia and a reference, no less, to the situation in 1969 at the great zenith of the power of the McMahon-Anthony administration. It reads: in 1969: ‘in the dairy industry of the 62,000 dairy farmers in the Commonwealth 31,000 earn less than $2,000 a year.’
This is the sort of payoff for the ordinary producer for political protection - something that we are asked to continue this evening. This is not my statement, and not a statement by the Government, or indeed by any political party, but by assembled archbishops and bishops looking at the poverty and the difficulties in the countryside. They say that in 1969 the position was dreadful and terrible. This is what the figures show. This is the end result of a system we are attempting to replace. But of course we find that there are all sorts of objections from only one source. After all, what are we talking about? We are talking about a Bill before the Parliament to set up an industries commission with a simple objective to ensure that protection of particular industries is no longer imposed by stealth, by improper or back room political jobbery. It is an attempt also to give the Australian people access to decisions in relation to their taxation. It should be remembered that tariffs are taxes. It is improper and wrong for taxes to be imposed by stealth. So, of course, under this procedure they will no longer be so imposed. It will be possible for the whole of the population to look at the decision making process. I have long waited to see such a development. I welcome it warmly. I welcome it particularly because there is a very serious development in our community that concerns me most deeply, and that is the continuing division which is deepening between the city and the country. There is the great cry of the consumer for justice when he is paying high prices for basic elements of his diet. He wants justice. Incidentally the price of bread, I think, rose yesterday. In the great cities of our nation that will mean a thought that the wheat grower is already reaping the benefit of that increase.
– Who is?
– That is a very good question but the honourable member is 25 years late in asking it. Nevertheless, it is a welcome interjection by someone who is studying the form of the nation and perhaps considering where his party should have been going over the last quarter of a century. It should have been looking at the long pipeline of costs and the situation as we see it today where the consumer is exploited and the producer is inadequately recompensed. This is the situation which is a legacy of the last administration and a legacy of the sort of protection and the sort of taxation measures. by stealth which a section, indeed only a rump, of this House wishes to set perpetuated.
What has it meant in terms of real protection to the great export industries of the nation that are based in the countryside? It is very doubtful whether the export industries that are based in our rural areas in fact command more than $300m a year in the form of protection, bounties, subsidies and assistance. The sum total of protection for the nation exceeds $3, 000m - ten times as much; yet the rump has been saying tonight that it is satisfied with what it has had in the past. We are not satisfied. Incidentally, there are some sections of primary industry that have not had an effective increase in return for 10 years. That is a situation for which there is no redress at the present time. Of course, under what we have proposed there will be redress. There will be an opportunity for justice. There will be an opportunity also to put aside once and for all protection and taxation by stealth.
What we have seen develop in the last quarter of a century is a situation where people in the countryside have been, for political reasons, asked to turn in on themselves. They have been asked to look at the consumers - their customers in the cities - as being their enemy. There has been a consistent attempt to keep the producer and the consumer apart, to separate them, to divide them and, if at all possible, to make sure that they never meet. By gosh, if they ever do they will find that they are 2 sections of the community which are being exploited with high impartiality. How do we tackle that situation at the present time? Do we tackle it by political protection? In some instances the methods used have been nothing more than political protection rackets. That is not good enough by far for a nation as great as ours. What we should be doing in the Parliament tonight is unanimously accepting that this is a means of putting all our industries on a sound footing and of giving all of them an equality of opportunity to ask for a fair go. Surely that is something upon which we all should be agreed. I am delighted to think that the great majority of the House of Representatives and the Australian Parliament tonight is of one mind. It must be a matter of sadness to many of us to think that there is anyone in the Parliament who would want to perpetuate a system which is shot through with anomalies and which is in fact highly immoral from anyone’s standpoint.
When we come to look at the costs involved in many of our export industries - surely that is what this legislation is all about - we find that there are what are described as fixed costs. The term ‘fixed costs’ is a very interesting one. It means everybody’s costs but the producer’s. So, if there is to be any saving, that is the only area in which it can be made. Of course, we can cut them back. That was done by some processors of foodstuffs, who cut them back so successfully that they now have nothing to process. Let us take a peach as an example. A peach can give employment to people in 10 different industries. If we are going to look at the peach producing industry, for example, we should look at all of them together, publicly, and examine their costs publicly. We would in fact take claims for protection under public scrutiny. That is what this is all about, that is, having protection and taxes brought under public scrutiny.
The old system is inadequate and bad. It takes us back to a situation in which we have had rural poverty amid plenty. Of course there has been protection, but who received the protection?
– It was not the producer; that is for sure.
– The honourable member for Hawker is right.
– And the consumer did not get it. As the Minister for Secondary Industry has pointed out, the consumer did not get it. He is not getting it today. There has been some reference made to the meat tax, which incidentally, was the subject of the grossest misrepresentation by Opposition propagandists across the countryside. But I will refer to it. If the price of meat on the hoof dropped by SO per cent in the saleyards on Monday, the price of steak in Vaucluse, Redfern, Adelaide and Brisbane would remain the same. Surely we should be looking at our pipeline of costs in relation to these vital products which play a key role in the consumer price index because everyone relates inflation to the consumer price index. It is very interesting to look at the makeup of that index.
I was pleased to hear the point made tonight by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) who said that he was totally opposed to the idea of uncritical and indiscriminate protection. I commend that thought. I thought it was well put and well said. I would stress again to the House that tariffs are a tax and, therefore, people should know something about the decision making in relation to their taxes. Let us consider the arguments which have been put against this measure. It has been suggested that it ties the hands of the Government in relation to situations of urgency. I say immediately that there is one inimical thing against which we must always be on guard on this country, namely dumping. Dumping, as far as we are concerned is an irresponsible acceptance of somebody’s surpluses in a temporary way. If we accept it and allow our own industries to be hurt and allow the temporary easing of somebody’s else’s problems, we then find that our own industries go out of production. We have killed our own production and put ourselves in a disadvantaged position. It has been said by some members of the Opposition that this provision ties the Government’s hands. I think it should be remembered that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in introducing this legislation said: . . the mandatory provision does not restrict the Government’s freedom to make changes of policy such as the recent 25 per cent reduction in tariffs, to negotiate changes in levels of assistance for the purpose of international trade agreements, or to extend preferential treatment to developing countries.
That answers the one sound point made by the Deputy Leader of the Country Party, the honourable member for New England. I do not know why the honourable member has sought to bury that part of the legislation. It does not tie the Government at all. In fact, it gives all industries, particularly the soundly based industries, an opportunity to put their case.
When the case for industry is before this Commission the industries that will be found to be in the strongest position on the basis of efficiency will be found, in my opinion, in the countryside because in my own electorate what one finds are industries that have doubled their productivity in 10 years, and they are still increasing productivity per man and per unit of investment in a way which, if we were able to achieve it in secondary and tertiary industry, would put this country on the high road to a better prosperity than we have at present. Therefore, why run away from a public examination of the situation? I cannot understand how any member of this Parliament could pretend to say that he was looking after some particular rural segment and then say that this legislation is no good. The Australian Farmers Federation led by Mr Noel Hogan, who is a distinguished resident of my electorate of Riverina, and its secretary, Mr Norquay, who has been there for a generation, the United Farmers and Woolgrowers Association of New South Wales and the Victorian. Farmers’ Union are all bodies representing the grass roots of the countryside. They have all been saying: ‘Do not weaken on this legislation. Do not give up the mandatory provision. Stick to your guns because we know the strength of our own representations; we know the strength of our own industries; we know the strength of our own case’. Here in this House we have a group of people saying: The case is not good enough. We cannot have such a public examination of our industries. We do not want it’. They want to go back to what the last speaker in this debate, the honourable member for New England, called political protection.
I say again that, when one’s case is sound and one does not have to apologise for it and when one does not need to have recourse to jobbery, one can go before this Commission on one’s own merits. That is what our industries can do in this nation. Some cases in the primary, tertiary and secondary spheres, of course, will be looked at critically. That is all right. What is wrong with that? People should not be sentenced to a life of servitude in dead industries, whether they are in any one of those 3 sections. I think that on this occasion the Government can say that it has a measure which is long overdue. It is a sound measure. It is a good measure. What is more, it will reduce the doubts about the processes of government decision making - doubts which have been growing for a very long time.
– What you are saying is a direct contradiction of what you said in your second reading speech on the legislation concerning wheat stabilisation.
– There is no one so deaf as one who will not hear and no one so blind as one who will not see. Even in my condition I think I can see better than some of my friends opposite. The only thing I would say is that perhaps it is better to be one-eyed temporarily than two-faced permanently. Having said that with a gentle joust, I wish to sum up by saying that the Government can be proud of this legislation. It has the overwhelming support of the industries of Australia and the overwhelming support of the Parliament. 1 am sorry that the rump is sagging tonight and failing in its duty.
– Almost for the first time I find myself in substantial agreement with some of the sentiments expressed by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby).
– You must be wrong.
– I take that point. I remember an honourable member of this House, long departed and now dead, who in a different context talked about straddling a barbed wire fence and the sorts of problems that caused. The honourable member for Riverina, from the point of view of his Party and the difficulties he had in his own electorate, tonight showed consummate skill in doing just that. The honourable member for Riverina is a member of the Government. He is a member of the inner Cabinet of 27 as opposed to the outer Cabinet of 93. One of the things on which we, the people in the country and the honourable member’s constituents should reflect is not so much the words and sentiments which he expressed tonight but the contrast between those sentiments and the sentiments expressed by his senior colleague, the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden).
I interpreted the honourable member for Riverina as saying that if any primary industry goes to this Industries Assistance Commission with a good, sound case it will be in no difficulty. I happen to agree with that statement.
However, that is not what the Minister for Social Security said. He came into this House and, except for a few saving words for political purposes at the end of his speech, made it perfectly clear that if he has his way every single bit of assistance which has been provided to the primary industries of this country will be withdrawn. Nothing could be clearer from the words he used. He used expressions, which outside the Parliament would be libellous, about the way in which my friends and colleagues in the Country Party conducted themselves in government. On this particular measure I am opposed to my friends in the Country Party and I intend to support it.
But I would like to make it perfectly clear that I disagree with the Minister for Social Security and throw back into his teeth everything that he said about my colleagues in the Country Party in regard to the way in which they operated in relation to primary industry when in Government. I was a member of that Government myself for 9 years. I took part in the decisions about which the Minister spoke. If I ever had any disagreement with my friends in the Country Party in Cabinet it was that they did not provide enough by way of legitimate assistance to primary industry in the circumstances in which it was placed. But I could understand that. During the whole of the time I was a member of the previous Government, Country Party members had the portfolios which carried the main responsibility. They consulted the people. They had the experts. They had the responsibility to provide the responsible advice to the Cabinet. I cannot remember over 9 years one single instance in which after searching my conscience, after consulting my own constituents and knowing a great deal about the industries which operated in the electorate I represent, I found myself in basic disagreement with the responsible recommendations which were made by my Country Party colleagues in relation to assistance for primary industry. I throw back into the teeth of the Minister for Social Security the accusations made by him.
I ask the honourable member for Riverina, in good conscience to his own constituents, at some stage to place in print in the local newspapers in his electorate the speech which he made tonight side by side with the speech made by the Minister for Social Security in order to show the contrast. I invite his constituents to consider just how much weight he will carry, as one of the few representa tives in his Party of rural areas in Australia, against the heavyweight Minister for Social Security who is the fourth most important Minister in the Cabinet and who is backed up by a vast array of Ministers, almost threequarters of whom come from the metropolitan cities of Australia. I ask the honourable member for Riverina to publish those 2 speeches in the newspapers-
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am interested in the challenges made by the honourable member for Barker and, of course, I accept them. But I would like you to ask the honourable member to come back to the Bill and discuss the subject matter of the Bill. I do not mind discussing Riverina; it is a great province. But it has nothing to do with the Bill.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member for Barker is rebutting the previous arguments.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. Let us leave this lightweight in the inner Cabinet of 27.
– He is a fruit-fly weight.
– Thank you, Bill. Charming.
– Let us be clear on what we are talking about in this debate. After carefully reading this measure and after taking into account the amendments which we on this side of the House propose, what is basically in question and what is basically proposed, as I understand it, is to extend to the primary industries of this country the same system of examination of requests for assistance as has previously been applied by the Tariff Board to secondary industries. I know that tertiary industries are included but I think the primary debate at this stage, as would be recognised by both sides of the House, is that this is what is involved. ‘I have for years advocated strongly the case for Government assistance to the primary industries because I believe that the arguments for Government assistance for the primary industries are unanswerable and unassailable, and basically - and this has often been said - because the costs which are met by the primary industries in Australia are determined locally in Australia on the local market. Prices for the bulk of our primary products are determined on world markets. These costs determined in Australia are heavily influenced by national policies pursued by governments - not only by this Government but also by previous governments - being such things as economic growth, full employment, the diversification of industry and the pursuance of a high scale of immigration. All these things add to the Australian cost structure and place a burden on the primary industries which are much higher than they would be if natural economic forces were left to work themselves out.
If resources flowed naturally without interference by governments to the most economic and the most productive sectors of the economy, I have no doubt that - if that theoretical situation applied the primary industries in Australia would have no difficulty whatever in standing on their own feet without assistance at all from governments. But it does not apply, and I do not quarrel with its not applying. I support these national objectives which have lead to an increase in the cost structure. As I said, primary industries have natural advantages and resources would flow to them if a free market applied; and as I also said, if this were the case they would not need assistance. But this is not the case, and as a result those sections of primary industries which export have to carry the burden of policies designed to achieve national objectives. There is no doubt in my mind, and there is no doubt in the minds of any of the knowledgeable and responsible people connected with the primary industries, that the assistance which those industries have received in compensation can be more than justified in these terms; and yet there is a marked reluctance - and this was mentioned by the honourable member for Riverina - on the part of people outside the primary industries to accept the argument that this is valid or even to give it serious examination. Here I refer to a number of our great metropolitan newspapers which consistently carry leading articles about the necessity of the primary industries having to stand on their own feet in circumstances in which, as far as I can find out, nobody else in Australia stands on his own feet unhelped or unaided. Very few sections of secondary industry stand on their own feet without assistance and unaided. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) himself talked about $200,000m in protection to manufacturing industries as opposed to, I think - taking his phrase - a few hundred million dollars to primary industries.
– How much?
– I said $2,000m. Look up your own Prime Minister’s speech.
– You said $200,000m.
– Several thousand million dollars.
– That is not what you said.
– I apologise if that is what I did not say. What the Prime Minister said - and it makes my point valid - was that assistance to the rural sector involves several thousand million dollars a year. But despite this there is a tendency in many quarters to talk about handouts for political and other purposes. There has been reference to primary industries standing on their own feet, as I say, in circumstances in which nobody else stands on his own feet. The manufacturers do not stand on their own feet. The wage earners of this country do not stand on their own feet; they do not operate in a free market; they operate under legislation which provides them with a minimum remuneration. Looking around the Australian community, it is very difficult to find anybody who does not receive protection by one means or another. Yet the people to whom 1 am referring - the newspapers and the many critics and pundits in many quarters - constantly talk about these handouts to primary industries, this assistance to primary industries, and the necessity for them to stand on their own feet. They say to primary industries: You are no good. You must go to the wall. You must be reconstructed if you cannot get on without help’. How often have we heard that sort of expression from quarters which should know better? I despair from ever reaching the situation in which this matter will be properly examined by the people about whom I am talking and proper credit given.
To me, the advantage of this Commission is that it will cut right through this cant. I am convinced, and so is the honourable member for Riverina, that it will either provide as much or more assistance, or make recommendations, having the capacity to look at the spectrum as a whole, and be able to determine that in relation to secondary industries and primary industries - it has also a responsibility for primary industry - and to the burden that it imposes on those industries, it should make an equivalent cut in tariffs on secondary industry so that there will be no requirement, or a lesser requirement for assistance to primary industries. In other words, there will be an interrelation or an interaction between the various types of assistance. That is my first reason for supporting this measure. I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that primary industries will do as well, if not better, as a result of going to this Commission because they have an unanswerable case.
My second reason for supporting this measure - ‘and this was alluded to in the excellent speech made by the honouarble member for Corangamite (Mr Street) - is that I personally regard this measure as a protection for primary industries against the predatory citybased Labor Party. The Labor Party has demonstrated in a very short 9 or 10 months in office that it does not care a damn about primary industries and country people, and the speech of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) tonight was a good demonstration of that. Without something like this Commission, I am quite convinced that every bit of assistance provided to primary industries by the previous Government will be quickly dismantled without the slightest consultation with the industries concerned. The present Government has done a pretty good job of that already.
Take the dairy industry. To my mind the case for the retention of the dairy industry subsidy is unanswerable. If this Commission had been in existence it would have been illegal for the Government in one stroke of the pen without consultation to take the subsidy away. The Government would have had to refer such a move, the leaders of the dairy industry would have been able to put their case and in my considered opinion in those circumstances that subsidy would still be there. It would not be gone. We also should consider all of the other things - the taxation concessions and so on - that were contained in the last Budget. We have to live with the reality of a Labor Government which is opposed to primary industry and country interests. I would infinitely prefer the approach in this Bill to that of the Coombs approach in which the Government hands over to a small group the job of sifting through all these schemes which we set up after careful examination and after receiving expert advice, and then without consulting with industry removes them with one stroke of the pen, without consultation and without giving the opportunity for the industry to put its point of view.
Basically it is for these 2 reasons - firstly, because I believe that the primary industries will do just as well under the Commission as they do at present and secondly, because the Commission will protect them against a preda tory city-based anti-primary industry Government - mat I support this measure with the amendments that we propose.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– This is the first time since I have been in this Parliament that I have heard the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) speak on any subject that had any relevance to economics. Having beard his first efforts since I have been here I think he would be better off sticking to his pop-guns. It is obvious from what the honourable member said that ,he is very unhappy about the opposition of the Liberal Party to this Bill because he said almost nothing in support of it. We have just heard the honourable member for Barker demeaning himself and sacrificing any integrity he ever had at the altar of the Australian Country Party. It is quite obvious that the honourable member for Barker is extremely worried about the activities of the Country Party in South Australia and particularly the activities of the Country Party in the electorate of Barker. So he is pretty quick to jump off the bandwagon of his own party and dissociate himself from the decision of that party to support the Bill.
– He is having 2 bob each way.
– It is a perfect example of trying to have 2 bob each way. This Bill is one of enormous importance. Its purpose is to ensure that there is proper justification for all forms of government assistance to private industry. It means an end to the pork barrel type of politics which have been practised for so many years by successive Liberal and Country Party governments and especially by the Country Party. In future all forms of government assistance to industry will have to be subject to rigorous analysis to ensure that it will mean the most efficient use of the nation’s resources. From now on, before any forms of State aid are to be given to any private industry it will be mandatory for the matter to be referred to the Industries Assistance Commission for report. After the Commission has made its report the Government can make its decision one way or the other. It does not mean that the Government must carry out the recommendations of the Commission, otherwise that would mean that the Commission would be usurping the role of the Government.
The Commission’s role will be advisory only. But if the Government makes a decision which differs from the recommedations of the Commission the Government will be morally obliged to give a public justification for its departure from a decision which was made by an impartial body. This means a very great change from the days when state aid to industry was doled out on the basis of Country Party patronage. It is scarcely surprising, therefore, that the Country Party is so strongly opposed to this legislation. It is contrary to its whole system of government which consists of handing out state aid to sectional interest groups at the expense of the taxpayers and the consumers.
It is no wonder that the Country Party opposes this measure. Let us not forget who paid for the building of McEwen House, the lavish headquarters of the Country Party in Canberra. Of course, it was the recipients of political patronage under the wing of the Country Party. No doubt these are the same people who enabled the Country Party to purchase its splendid premises in Mugga Way, Canberra. These people will not stand for being displaced from their positions of privilege. The Country Party is dead scared of there being an impartial inquiry into its method of government. Without doubt, many Country Party schemes would never have hit the deck if they had had to go before the Industries Assistance Commission. A very obvious example of this is the wool deficiency payments scheme which subsidised wool prices so that growers received at least 36c per lb for their wool. The great trouble with the scheme was that the more wool a grower sold, the more he received. So the big growers - the ones who least needed help - received the most. That is precisely what the Country Party intended. But if the proposal had gone to an industries assistance commission some more equitable method would have been found to help those wool growers who were most in difficulty.
The Australian Labor Party believes in intervention where it is necessary to protect full employment and to ensure high living standards. For that reason we believe that assistance to private industry - whether it is primary, secondary or tertiary - must be based on sound economic or social grounds and not on short term political gain. The Australian Labor Party believes in economic planning. The Commission will be able to carry out effective economic planning to ensure that Australia’s resources of material, manpower, technical knowhow and capital can be used to ensure rising living standards for all Australians. This Government has already taken some very courageous and important economic decisions. I refer to decisions such as the revaluation of the Australian dollar and the 25 per cent reduction in tariffs. Not surprisingly, these decisions have drawn criticism from certain special interest groups. But they were essential decisions under the prevailing economic conditions.
In these circumstances I think it is worth looking at the attitude of the 2 Opposition parties. The Liberal Party’ was pretty nonspecific and generalised in its criticism. For the most part its members were careful not to criticise specifically the decisions that were taken. The one exception that surprised me was the view expressed earlier tonight by the honourable member for Berowra (Mr Edwards). I hope to have enough time to refer to what he said. As far as the Country Party was concerned, there was no equivocation. There was round condemnation of those responsible decisions taken by the Government. We have seen, as we so often see, a division of opinion betwen the Country Party and the Liberal Party. It is the same sort of situation we had when the question of revaluation of the currency arose in 1971. I suggest that the people of Australia ought to ponder over this question because it will always be the Country Party that prevails. I have no doubt that when the decision about the currency was being taken in 1971 the Country Party members of the Cabinet threatened to withdraw from the coalition unless they got their way on the currency alignment. I say to the people of Australia: Do not be deceived by the support the Liberal Party is giving to this Bill because if the day ever comes again when there is a non-Labor Government in Australia it will be the Country Party that makes the decisions and the Liberals, as they have always done, will meekly follow along behind.
Just have a look at what has happened in regard to the Bill before the House. The Country Party is against it. The Liberals say that they are in favour of it. Which side has vigorously come forward and put its point of view? Has it been the Liberals? Of course not. They let the Leader of the Country Party, the right honourable member for Richmond (Mr Anthony), lead for the Opposition. The Leader of the minority Party led for the
Opposition. What happened when the honourable member for Berowra led for the Liberal Party? What did members of the Country Party do? They staged a walk out. Only one member of the Country Party remained. They showed their digust. They are prepared to bludgeon their coalition friends to get whatever they want.
I believe that there are people within the Liberal Party who know that the measure that we have introduced is a correct measure. Probably the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury), who now is in the chamber, appreciates that this is a just and correct measure. However the Liberals do not want to make the running. They let the Country Party make the running for them every time. While the right honourable Leader of the Country Party loudly pleads for the retention of pork barrel politics the Liberals are cowed into silence. This is how the coalition works in opposition and is certainly how it would work in government. As I have said, there may be some men of goodwill within the Liberal Party but in all cases they will be cowed by the gross materialism of the Country Party. The Country Party wants to continue giving handouts to all industries without their having to be subject to scrutiny.
The attitude of the Australian Labor Party is to give assistance to industries where such assistance can be publicly justified and shown to be in the interests of the recipients and of the community at large. We want assistance to be justified on proper social and economic grounds, not on the ground of political patronage. The Industries Assistance Commission will be able to carry out effective long term planning. It will be something more than the present system under which the Tariff Board makes an ad hoc examination of particular industries to see whether they are economic or efficient.
I want to make a few random remarks about the functions of the Commission in this regard. It will not just make ad hoc examinations of individual industries; it will consider the overall allocation of resources in Australia in primary, secondary and tertiary industries. I agree - I think we all agree - that we should provide adequate protection for economic and efficient industries, but we have to look beyond that. If we look at comparative efficiencies of different industries we should honestly say which industry might - be the more efficient.
The more economic and more efficient industry might be that which by definition requires a lesser degree of assistance from the Government. I think that this is a consideration which applies especially in rural industries.
The most important function of protection is the provision of full employment. I am very pleased to see that this is spelled out as a most important factor in clause 22(1) of the Bill. This, of course, is consonant with the policy of the Australian Labor Party which is the Party of full employment. At the same time we should be directing our resources to areas where we can provide full employment while at the same time avoiding excessive protection. If we can provide full employment without providing excessive protection, we will gain higher living standards for Australian workers. It will mean that the capacity of industry to pay higher wages is much increased, and in the long term I believe that it will mean greater employment opportunities.
There may be other non-economic reasons for providing protection or assistance to an industry. The Industries Assistance Commission might look at an industry and decide that on economic grounds alone there may not be justification for assistance to it, but it will be able to look at other factors as well and the Government, in subsequent consideration of the matter, also can look at other factors. There are other reasons why protection may be justified even if there is no aggregate unemployment. There are particular cases. For instance, a decentralised industry may require some special assistance. I suggest that, if part of an industry is decentralised, the best way to protect it might be to give that part a special subsidy rather than to give an across the board subsidy to all people operating in that industry.
Another reason for special assistance might be on the social ground that a particular industry is providing for females employment which otherwise might not be available. Apart from economic grounds, we sometimes justify the retention or provision of assistance to an industry which may be inefficient on the basis that if that industry were to go it would mean that many workers in that industry, either primary or secondary, might have to be uprooted and to change their whole way of life. That action might not be justified on social grounds. We have to bear in mind, when we say this, that the person involved might be paying some price for not going into a different industry. The price he might be paying is the capacity to earn a higher wage in another industry which is more efficient.
There has been one other important revolutionary change in attitude to tariff policy during the lifetime of the Whitlam Government. This change came about during the recent 25 per cent reduction in tariffs. I refer, of course, to the provision of S25m assistance to those industries and employees who may have been or may be affected adversely by the tariff reduction. This is a most important innovation. I think that pretty soon we must come to the time when if, for any reason - technological change, alterations in tariff policies, mergers or any other reason - a worker is required to change his job he will require support to ensure that he does not lose anything in wages, he will require support in retraining and he may even require support in re-housing and moving himself and his family to a place more convenient to his employment.
I should like to refer briefly to a matter that was raised by the honourable member for Berowra before dinner. I was very surprised to hear him express opposition to the 25 per cent tariff reduction. I really find it hard to believe that he is opposed to the proposition. It is a good idea to reduce tariffs without causing unemployment, if that can be done. If there is a time to reduce tariffs, surely in the present economic circumstances this is the time. The honourable member for Berowra suggested that after the industrial boom in certain Western European countries quietens down there may be a flood of imports which could cause some degree of unemployment in Australia. I find this proposition hard to accept, especially at present when there are 80,000 unfilled job vacancies within Australia. The implementation of the policies of the Government is creating a considerable number of employment positions within the public sector, which means, of course, in the fields of education, housing and health. Apart from that, there is a radical departure from previous policies in that there is a reduction in the overall immigration quota.
In those circumstances I find it extremely hard to accept the proposition that anything this Government has done has compromised in any way the employment situation in Australia. Even if a situation of unemployment did arise, we have provision for temporary assistance to be applied on an emergency basis, as any honourable member who reads the present legislation can readily see. If we are to restructure industry to bring it to its most efficient state, surely now, in the present economic circumstances, is the time to bring about such a change. I have much pleasure in supporting this Bill. I am sure that it is a correct economic decision and that the result of it will be a great improvement in the living standards of the people of Australia. I point out that this Bill would not have been achieved under any government other than an Australian Labor Party government. Honourable members can be sure that if the Australian Labor Party were not in power, whatever members of the Liberal Party felt about the Bill they would be stood over by their Country Party coalition partners who would do what they have done on every occasion in this Parliament that a progressive measure suggested by this Government has been debated - oppose it.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! It being 15 minutes past 10 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House, I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Last night I gave some notice in the House that I was hoping to speak tonight on the motion for the adjournment of the House about the Government’s conduct in the House, with particular reference to the conduct of the Leader of the House (Mr Daly). I make it clear that at no stage do I reflect on the Chair. I am turning my mind to the action of the Government and particularly the action of the Leader of the House. Today other honourable members have drawn attention to the Government’s habit of applying the guillotine so that important measures cannot be debated. I will not go into that matter further because it has already been spoken about in this House. The Government’s action has reduced the conduct of this House, in some respects, to a farce on these major matters.
Tonight I wish to look at the procedures of the House. I speak, for example, of what happened last Monday when the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson) was perhaps a little tardy in rising to his feet. A mistake was made. I do not know where the blame lies. But there was confusion. It could easily have been sorted out, with a little goodwill. There was no reason why the honourable member for Cowper should not have had an opportunity to speak. I know that in the past when similar events have occurred the member concerned has been given the right to speak. To insist on meticulous points such as this is not in accordance with the best spirit of the House, nor was it in accordance with the best spirit of the House on Tuesday last to refuse me the opportunity to reply to some of the scurrilous imputations which had been made by the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) at question time. When that kind of thing is done in the House, even if it is in strict conformity with Standing Orders, it does not do the Government any credit.
What I wish to speak about primarily is something that was not in accordance with Standing Orders. I wish to rehearse to the House what happened some time ago but which, because of the intervention of the recess and the temporary absence overseas of the Leader of the House, has not been brought to the attention of the House as promptly perhaps as one would have wished. On 29 August, the Leader of the House, as reported at page 589 of Hansard, said:
From memory, not one member of the Country Party has ever won more than SO per cent of the primary votes before being elected to this Parliament. Of course they get more than 50 per cent after the distribution of preferences, but not one Country Party member has ever gained a majority on the first count. The honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey) is a good friend of mine. A couple of years ago he was elected on 27 per cent of the primary vote. I could mention all the members of the Country Party.
That statement, as honourable members know, was a false statement. It is quite pardonable for a member, having made a false statement and finding his fault, to correct it, to correct it even in Hansard, and to apologise. Nobody would think worse of him for that. Mistakes can be made. But this is not what the Leader of the House did. The following day, as reported at page 677 of Hansard, the falsity of the statement was pointed out. The Leader of the House took a most extraordinary course. I refer tohis speech on page 696 of Hansard. He claimed mispresentation. He came into the House suddenly. I shall quote what he said. The Hansard record states:
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Today while I was in my office I heard certain members of the Australian Country Party, not all of them, quoting from the proof issue of yesterday’s House of Representatives Hansard.
He claims misrepresentation through eavesdropping. I think this was the first time I have ever heard such a claim made in this House. But of course it was not misrepresentation at all; it was the truth. He then went on to say:
That copy of Hansard is the uncorrected copy which was printed late last night. What I said actually was: not many members of the Country Party’. I said that on 2 occasions and I didmake a mistake in regard to the honourable member for Moore.
He said that his actual words were: ‘not many members of the Country Party’. That was false. That was absolutely and completely false. His words were recorded in Hansard. If honourable members will look at the text of Hansard they will see that it is not very easy to amend it in the way that the Minister wanted to amend it and falsify it. The fact that he was prepared to go to these lengths of believing he could make these major alterations to falsify Hansard rather than coming here like a man and saying: ‘I am wrong; I made a mistake’, which is pardonable, shows something of the character, I fear, of the Minister.
He did not end there. In the debate on the adjournment that night the matter was raised again by the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson). The Minister then said again that he had been misrepresented and again I quote what he said:
I remind the honourable member for Cowper that he is quoting from a proof or uncorrected copy of my speech last night. If he had been in the House earlier tonight and heard my explanation, he would have understood the position perfectly.
The Minister is out to falsify Hansard, not to apologise for his mistake, and then accuses the honourable member for Cowper. But it did not end there. In the adjournment debate I brought the matter up further and asked the Speaker to have a look at it and verify what the Minister had said. A most disgraceful thing was said by the Minister. He implied that I was speaking falsely, because he said I had been asleep during the speech. That was utterly untrue. It was a disgraceful, filthy imputation. The Minister does not seem to be ashamed of himself, as indeed he should be.
The matter came to a conclusion at the next sitting of Parliament. The Minister was overseas, but the Speaker, by what means I do not know, verified Hansard. I imagine - I do not know - that he listened to the taped recording of proceedings and he found out that what the
Minister had said was utterly and completely false and was not very far from being a concerted conspiracy to falsify, because it was not just one thing. Here we have a Minister who, when he is caught out, tries to cover up. He uses his majority; he uses every form of the House; he abuses his position as Leader of the House. He is lost apparently to all sense of honour when he does things like this. Let me quote what the Speaker said as recorded at page 730 of Hansard:
The Minister even now has not apologised. He has not apologised to the House for his dishonourable conduct. All I can say is that I have tried to put this on the record and I shall endeavour, by every means at my power, to have this matter published in the Minister’s electorate so that his constituents can gain some kind of knowledge of the standard of truth which is embraced by the honourable member who represents Grayndler in this Parliament. What I have said is factual and to the point. Everything I have said is verifiable in Hansard and cannot be answered just by some kind of smear that the Minister is capable of emitting on any provocation. His only defence is to try to bring forward more falsehoods when he is cornered. I have seen him in this position before.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I do not intend to waste a lot of time on a man who made a speech about me when he was asleep. The night I made the speech to which he has referred he was sound asleep over there on that side of the chamber. Then be got up and deliberately misled the House by saying that he had heard things said which he had not heard. The fact of the matter is that the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) was sound asleep that night, actually snoring loudly. He got up at the finish of my speech and proceeded to tell the House what I had said. It is an unbelievable experience to be accused of saying something by a man who is dead asleep. It must be an unusual event. Tonight he accused me of eavesdropping. I remind all honourable members of this Parliament that when they are sitting in their rooms listening to my speeches from time to time they are all eavesdroppers.
– You are an unmitigated liar.
– Order! The honourable member for the Northern Territory is continually interjecting. I ask him to withdraw the expression he has just used. If he does not stop interjecting I will have to warn him. I ask him to withdraw what he just said.
– I have called this Minister an unmitigated liar before and I will stand by it.
– I name the honourable member.
– I will not withdraw it because it is exactly what he is and that is what the honourable member for Mackellar was saying. He is an unmitigated liar and he has to be exposed.
– Order! I ask the Sergeant-at-Arms to remove the honourable member from the chamber.
– What about the procedures?
– Order! The chamber will come to order. I withdraw that order because it is a very severe step but I do believe that honourable members should behave like members of this House.
– Both sides.
– If the honourable member for Boothby wishes to join the honourable member for the Northern Territory he is welcome.
– That suits me.
– I suggest to the honourable member that he add to the decorum of the House by remaining silent for a few moments. Even though the honourable member for the Northern Territory has made certain statements which are difficult for me to let stand, I ask him again whether he will withdraw his remark and apologise to the Chair.
– No. I have made those statements before and I will not withdraw them.
– Very well. I am left with no alternative but to name the honourable member for the Northern Territory.
– With great regret on the occasion of Her Majesty’s visit I move:
That the honourable member for the Northern Territory be suspended from the service of the House.
– Before I put the question I again ask the honourable member whether he is prepared to withdraw the remark and apologise to the Chair. As the honourable member is not prepared to do so I put the question: That the honourable member for the Northern Territory be suspended from the service of the House.
The House divided. (The Deputy Speaker - Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the time allotted to the honourable member for Grayndler be extended.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I was in the course of replying to some statements made by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), who accused me of eavesdropping because I was listening in my room to the broadcast of the proceedings of the Parliament. I remind the honourable member that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) just came into the chamber and said that he was listening in his room to the broadcast of the proceedings of the Parliament and he heard something. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition must know that he is now an eavesdropper with me. Those were the words of the honourable member for Mackellar.
The honourable member for Mackellar also made statements tonight about a speech I made on 29 August. I say tonight that he was asleep at the time I made the speech in this Parliament because I deliberately pointed that out. Furthermore, if he recollects the speech I made in connection with the Country Party he will recollect that I said ‘speaking from memory’. If the honourable member studies the Hansard report, from which he read, of the proceedings of the following day he will see that I was under the impression that 1 had said not many’ and it was corrected accordingly. Therefore, the basis upon which the honourable member has levelled these charges has been completely exploded by my statement as reported in Hansard on 30 August. I do not mind being being attacked by honourable members who are awake in the House, but I resent honourable members who sleep in the Parliament attacking me.
When the honourable member for Mackellar and other honourable members opposite decide that they want extra sitting times and to sit late hours and then they come in here and deliberately disrupt this Parliament - as the honourable member for Mackellar does - seeking to be made heroes by being thrown out and then can muster only 37 miserable votes out of 58 they are making a sham of the Parliament. They are all being paid under false pretences because they will not stay here even until 11 o’clock at night. Barely half of them are here tonight, but all day they hold up the proceedings of the Parliament. The worst offender is the honourable member for Mackellar. He has nothing to say. The other day he could not even get a division called for on the suspension of Standing Orders. He has only one supporter. He sits in a black suit alongside the honourable member. Even the Country Party gave him away on half of his propositions. The fact of the matter is that all the honourable member for Mackellar wants to do is disrupt the Parliament. He thinks it is being run exclusively for W. C. Wentworth.
If the honourable member thinks this Government is not exercising its rights he should read the record of the infamous administration of his colleagues over 20 years. The honourable member should go through Hansard and see how often he voted for the guillotine and the gag and constantly refused to let my colleagues and I discuss everything from social services and Aborigines to other things. Anyone who reads through the list will see that the one who leads it is the great democrat who attacked me tonight. This Parliament is being run in accordance with the best traditions. Why, we see the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Sinclair) acting all day like a first-class larrikin, and an educated one, too. He acts in this Parliament like an educated larrikin from morning till night. He is dying to be thrown out, Mr Deputy Speaker, but has not been obliged yet. They think they are heroes. (Honourable members interjecting)-
-Order! The House will come to order.
– Mr Deputy Speaker -
-Order! The honourable member for Adelaide will cease interjecting.
– Why do you not name him?
-Order! If the honourable member for Wimmera wants to stay on the list I suggest that he keep quiet while I am calling for order. I call the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party.
– The uncouth and inept words -
-Order! Is the honourable gentleman taking a point of order?
– On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– What is your point of order? It has to do with the running of the House and not the speech.
– The allegation made-
– That is not a valid point of order.
– The allegations made by the honourable gentleman at the table I regard as offensive to me and I ask - indeed, I demand - that the honourable gentleman withdraw it.
– If the allegation was about you personally, I would ask-
– It was about me personally.
– He called me an educated lout. At least I am thankful he said I am educated.
-Order! I think the honourable gentleman should show some decorum in the House.
– That would be nice.
-Order! If the Minister for Service and Property made any remarks which could be held to be offensive to the Deputy Leader of the Country Party, I ask him to withdraw the remarks.
– I understand that the honourable gentleman took exception to the fact that I said he was an educated larrikin. Is that correct?
-If the Minister said that, I ask him to withdraw it.
– Do you object to the word educated’ or the word ‘larrikin’?
-Order! I ask the Minister to withdraw it.
Opposition members - Name him.
-Order! If honourable members do not come to order I may well set a world record by naming 97 members of this House. I am in the process of trying to get across to the Minister for Services and Property a request that he withdraw a remark. I cannot be heard because of the yelling from the Opposition benches. I ask the Minister for Services and Property to withdraw the remarks.
– Do you mean both remarks?
– I do so, Mr Deputy Speaker. I just wanted to be clear in my mind what the situation was. I have no further time to debate this matter as the Opposition deliberately has stopped me from replying to-
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar)- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) said a moment ago that I was asleep in the House at the time. I was not asleep at the time; I was sitting in that corner and my eyes were closed as is often my habit when I am listening. I did hear what was said. The Minister, in saying that, has deliberately cast a reflection on my veracity. I demand a withdrawal and an apology.
-Order! I think this matter has been the subject of a previous debate in this House. I think that the honourable member for Mackellar has made the same personal explanation previously as he has made on this occasion. The honourable member would be as aware of the situation as I am. I do not think that the honourable member, after making a personal explanation, can demand the withdrawal of a remark that was made some time earlier.
– I made the demand as early as I could. The remark was made at that table a few moments ago.
– I demand a withdrawal and an apology.
-Order! The honourable gentleman-
– I demand it.
-Order! The honourable member for Mackellar will resume his seat. I call the honourable member for Mallee.
– I demand a withdrawal and an apology.
-Order! I call the honourable member for Mallee.
– I demand a withdrawal and an apology. If it costs me a week’s suspension, I will do it.
Mir DEPUTY SPEAKER-Order! I have called the honourable member for Mallee.
– I demand a withdrawal and an apology. I am going out for a week, if necessary.
-Order! I ask the honourable member for Mackellar to resume bis seat. I do not think that this House should conduct its business in this manner.
– Mr Deputy Speaker-
-I ask the honourable member for Angas to resume his seat when I am on my feet.
– What about the Deputy Leader of the Opposition?
-I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is in a slightly different category, but I ask him to resume his seat now that he has risen to his feet. The honourable member for Mackellar has asked for the withdrawal of a remark which is of such a character that if it were the practice of the House to request the withdrawal of such a remark, no person could make the type of speech for which the honourable member for Mackellar is well noted, namely, a hard hitting political speech. I doubt very much whether any honourable member could demand the withdrawal of such a remark. I personally do not consider it offensive and I do not think the Chair is entitled to ask a member to withdraw such a remark.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. I do not regard it as deliberately offensive that the Minister should say I was slumbering because he knew that it was false, but I do regard it as offensive, and I must say that it is offensive, that he has cast doubts on my veracity. The Minister has said that I was a liar, in point of fact, and that is offensive.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to resume his seat.
– I will not have my veracity impugned in this way-
-Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to resume his seat.
– This remark has been made on previous occasions about the same matter. I think it would be beyond the capacity of the Chair to ask that the remark be withdrawn. I am sorry that I cannot satisfy the honourable gentleman. I just do not think I can. I hope that the honourable gentleman will accept the position of the Chair, namely, that I do not believe I can ask for a withdrawal of a remark that I do not consider to be offensive even though the remark may not be correct.
– Sir, I shall bring this matter up when the Speaker is in the Chair. I believe that your ruling is wrong-
-Order! I think you have already done that when the Speaker was in the Chair.
– I have not, because this incident occurred only a few moments ago.
-Order! I ask the honourable member to accept my ruling on this matter.
– Very good, Sir. I will raise the matter on another occasion. I will not tolerate what the Minister has done.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. A minute ago, in my plain hearing, the honourable member for Robertson told the honourable member for Mackellar to shut up. I find that remark offensive and I ask that he be made to withdraw it.
-Order! Even if the honourable gentleman thinks that is funny, it is not funny. The remark was not offensive to him, and he knows that. It may have been offensive to the honourable member for Mackellar. I certainly did not hear the remark and I doubt very much that the honourable member for Mackellar heard it. I suggest that the honourable member for Angas, in raising points of order, should show due deference to the Standing Orders. I call the honourable member for Mallee.
– I hope that the few remarks I will make tonight will return to this House some of the sanity which was evident earlier today. I wish to refer to the limitations of the maximum subsidies payable under the Aged Persons Homes Act for the provision of aged persons accommodation. I appreciate the fact that the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has acknowledged my representations to him on this matter and has pointed out that a report from his Department on the current maximum subsidy limits has been referred to the Social Welfare Commission for consideration. I raise this issue again because of the urgent action that I feel is necessary if the provision of essential accommodation is to continue. I am referring particularly to the present prepared and proposed plans.
In my electorate of Mallee 2 organisations, the Kerang and District Hospital and the Deacon Court Management of Mildura, have reached a stalemate in their plans because it is impossible for local contributions to meet the amount of finance necessary to complete their home units, due to increases in building costs.
– Many other homes are in a similar position.
– The honourable member for Murray says that many other homes are in a similar position. That is quite right. At the present time the monthly inflation rate is at least one per cent. Labour and materials have become not only difficult to obtain but also nigh on impossible to find. With the existing escalation of costs, building contractors are not prepared to sign fixed contracts but are insisting on a ‘rise in cost’ clause being written into contracts. Those organisations which have drawn up plans and called tenders now find that, instead of having to contribute only onethird of the total cost which was possible recently, the contribution that is necessary now is almost one-half of the total cost of establishing nursing homes. This is an intolerable and impossible position. How can a community of some 4,000 people, as is the case in Kerang, meet half the cost of a 16-bed nursing home costing $186,000? This means that a local contribution of some $90,000 is necessary. That amount is quite beyond the capacity of any small community to meet.
In an attempt to proceed with plans to accommodate aged people, the committees responsible for these homes have resubmitted their plans to the Hospitals and Charities Commission for modification. Plans are being revised in an attempt to reduce the cost of the buildings to within the limits of the cost structure as set down by the Commonwealth Government. However, so drastically do the new plans differ from the originals that the boards of management feel that the service that would be available in such a building would be inadequate to meet the requirements of the elderly citizens. The alterations that have been made have removed from the proposed buildings all the essential and most necessary conveniences for comfortable living - something which some of our elderly citizens have not always enjoyed. How can life be comfortable without the essential item of an air conditioner in an inland climate which has cold winters and hot summers? No other people are expected to live without essential comforts, but it is so much more important that our aged people should not be required to do so.
I feel that it should be pointed out that despite the alterations to these plans and despite the trimming of costs, the cost of these projects will still be outside the allowable ceiling. I did ask the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) to be in the House this evening but he apologised and said that he was unable to be here. I raise this matter not for political reasons but because the situation in relation to the provision of aged people’s homes is now static. It is fruitless to proceed in present circumstances. The previous Liberal-Country Party Government set the present ceiling, but we are all well aware of the shortages of labour, building materials and so on which, combined with the national inflation rate which is in excess of 13 per cent, are now making the ceiling completely unrealistic. It must be raised immediately. I ask the Minister to impress upon the committee of inquiry into aged persons housing which has been formed within his Department to move immediately in order to make a decision urgently. I suggest that an increase of at least 25 per cent in the Government’s contribution is required urgently if progress in the housing of our aged people is to continue and not be stifled. Some limits are necessary on the amount of funds made available to ensure that the appropriate number of aged people are accommodated. But in the light of current conditions, such as land prices and building costs, continual review of this is necessary.
In the few moments left to me I would like to mention that the Department of Social Security has become our largest Government department in terms of Budget expenditure. Almost one-fifth of our Budget outlay is administered by this vital Department, and I think the sum involved is somewhere in the vicinity of S2,000m. The success of this Government service depends ultimately on its availability to the people. There are many areas in Australia where I feel that the setting up of an office of the Department of Social Security is necessary. This situation has eventuated as a result of the increases in population and also because of the broadening of the services available and supplied by this Department. The city and shire of Swan Hill, together with its surrounding shires, comprises one region which has inadequate access to social security services. The nearest offices are at Mildura, which is 140 miles away, and at Bendigo, which is 100 miles away. The decentralisation of the Social Security Department would contribute to the needs of this large region. I have asked the Minister to give me an assurance, if he can, as to the possibility of this progressive, expanding region of Victoria centring on the city of Swan Hill being granted a branch of the Social Security Department.
– I rise tonight to refer to the disgraceful behaviour of the Opposition in this Parliament tonight and throughout the last week.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! I suggest that the honourable gentleman not debate the subject matter of the debate that took place here earlier in the evening. I think it would be in the best interests of the House if he did not amplify that matter too much.
– I think the most important thing for us to draw attention to at this stage - I will not simply make a political speech; I am trying to make a sincere appeal to members of the Opposition to treat this Parliament with the respect that it deserves -
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The honourable member for Chifley is disregarding your advice. Let us face it: It takes two to tango.
-Order! I remind the honourable gentleman that the remarks I made were in the nature of a suggestion for moderation, and I would have thought that the remarks of the honourable member for Chifley were rather moderate. I call the honourable member for Chifley.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. Incidentally, I hope that we are not being threatened from the other side.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has threatened us.
– I think that is a very frightful thing which causes-
-Order! I suggest that the honourable gentleman address his remarks to the Chair and ignore any remarks made by any other honourable members. If he wants to say anything he bad better say it fairly quickly.
– He had better say it next week. It is 1 1 o’clock.
-Order! One of the things I can do is tell the time. I do not need the honourable member’s advice on that, thank you. I call the honourable member for Chifley.
– I refer to the fact that we have had some very disgraceful exhibitions in this Parliament tonight.
– I rise on a point of order. The disgraceful exhibitions which took place tonight-
-Order! I will deal with the honourable member’s point of order on Monday. The time being 11 p.m., the House stands adjourned until 2 p.m. on Monday.
House adjourned at 11 pan.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Another 277 blocks were nominated by the NCDC for sale in September and the Department also has a further 34 sites for lease which have been previously ‘ leased, but the leases of which have been determined or surrendered.
In total on 7 September, the Department of the Capital Territory had 253 blocks on hand. This increased to 564 blocks by 30 September.
The National Capital Development Commission has advised that as at 30 September there were an additional 2,100 blocks reaching the final stage of servicing and or surveying. The Commission has stated that under the previous system of one or two monthly auctions these blocks would have been made available to the Department for sale over the next five or six months. These blocks will become available progressively for disposal under the revised system of land allocation which was announced on 27 September.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Board should review the general medical standards at present prescribed under the Act, in order to eliminate any requirements which would automatically preclude the appointment of handicapped persons who might be quite capable of giving efficient service in certain positions.
In 1962, in keeping with the Boyer Committee’s recommendations, the Government approved a Public Service Board recommendation to relax medical standards for permanent appointment. Those admittedat a lower medical standard contributed to the Provident Account.
In May 1971 the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare recommended that:
Commonwealth and State Public Service Boards and private industry carefully re-examine their policies regarding the employment of handicapped persons, remove any discrimination against their employment and place more handicapped people in appropriate positions.’
In October 1972 the Government, on the recommendation of the Public Service Board, approved a further relaxation in medical standards. Again an amendment to Provident Account requirements was accepted.
Between May 1962 and June 1973 16,148 persons were accepted as contributors to the Provident Account, which is indicative of the number of handicapped people recruited to the Public Service.
The Public Service Board has reported that, in addition, officers who become handicapped during their service are, as far as possible, maintained in employment. Some officers who must be retired on the grounds of invalidity later become sufficiently restored to health to return to full-time employment and are reappointed.
The Public Service Board has informed me that it employs a large number of persons who could be considered as being handicapped in some way. No distinction is made between these and other employees except that some of them contribute to the Provident Account. As a consequence comprehensive statistics on handicapped employees are not available.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Tenders were received from -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The policy to which the honourable member refers had to do solely with the provision or upgrading of exchange lines for subscribers and applied where service was provided from manual as well as automatic exchanges. The number of subscribers’ lines provided or upgraded under that policy and which, under the arrangements operating prior to that policy, would have involved part of the line being privately constructed and maintained, is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The proposed appointment of Mr C. C. Halton to head the Department of Transport is in no way comparable. The Department is of course entirely Australian and is the Government’s executive arm in the transport field. Mr Halton will be bringing to our Department the benefit of the wide experience he has obtained during a distinguished career both in private enterprise in Britain and in public service in Canada.
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (Question No. 1044)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
All Branches of the Department deal with correspondence and parliamentary questions. Furthermore, the duties of positions, including new positions, usually cover a wider range of activities than solely correspondence and questions. Therefore, I cannot give an accurate answer to these parts of the right honourable member’s question by referring to a specific number of positions. I can say, however, as an example, that a new ministerial correspondence section was established this year, inter alia to assist with the additional correspondence load, and this section is staffed by 13 persons.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 October 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19731018_reps_28_hor86/>.