28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. 3. 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 Cod to the heart of the family and national life.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Morrison, Mr Sinclair, Sir John Cramer, Mr Duthie, Mr Edwards, Mr Luchetti, Mr Nixon, Mr Turner and Mr Wentworth.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That they oppose the Australian Health Insurance Program and any National Health Scheme; That they wish to retain the right to choose their own medical care by selecting a General Practitioner, Specialist or any other medical classification of their own choice under the present conditions in private consulting rooms and also the right to choose an intermediate ward or private hospital of their own choice.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measure to interfere with the existing health scheme.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Bonnett, Mr Donald Cameron, Mr Cooke, Mr Killen, Mr McVeigh and Mr Eric Robinson.
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 tree at all and will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme.
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an individual’s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the basic principles of the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Drury.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘free’ national health scheme is not free at all and will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme.
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an individual’s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray, that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Giles and Mr McLeay.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Further, they believe that this economic support should be in the form of per capita grants which are directly related to the cost of educating an Australian child in a government school.
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, Mr Mathews, Mr Peacock and Mr Street.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of certain citizens of Australia respectfully showeth :
That they are concerned with the current Middle East conflict.
That they do not seek to have Australia send military equipment and soldiers to Israel.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives urge the Australian Government to review its stand on the Middle East crisis and give moral support in favour of the Jewishcause.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Cooke.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectively showeth:
That jet aircraft operations have a detrimental effect by way of air and noise pollution on the environment and therefore on the lives of citizens living in the general area. That in close proximity to the proposed Galston airport site are the Berowra Reserves, the Hallstrom Nature Reserve and the Muogamma Sanctuary, and areas of Sydney’s Green Belt, which would be so affected and should be preserved for future generations.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that this House take appropriate steps to ensure that the Government does not proceed with the proposal to site the second international airport for Sydney in the Galston area or surrounding north-western suburbs of Sydney.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Edwards.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled:
This humble petition of interested citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your Honourable House will at once, in the public interest, take steps to dedicate as a National Park an area of at least 1436 square miles as recommended by the Northern Territory Reserves Board.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Edwards.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representativesin 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 New South Wales and Victorian Governments a special grant for the purpose of the construction of a new bridge in keeping with modern day requirements.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr FitzPatrick.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
We, the undersigned, residents of Peppermint Grove desire to express our opposition to proposals by the City of Nedlands in Western Australia to ask the Army to release part of its land at Swanbourne, Western Australia, for a road along the Coast.
The Army land concerned is part of a unique area of about 400 acres of open coastal country situated within the near Metropolitan Area of Perth which should be preserved for the benefit of the Public in the interests of future recreation and conservation of the natural environment.
It is our opinion that the proposed road cutting through Army land would inevitably become a major transport route carrying heavy north/south industrial traffic. It would cut off the beaches and fragment neighbouring residential areas.
We therefore humbly pray that the Army and the Australian Government do not release any part of its land or make any decision on the proposals of the City of Nedlands or any similar proposals by the Government of Western Australia, at least until an Environmental Impact Study, open to the public, has been taken of the effects of such a road upon the coastal area and surrounding districts.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will eve: pray. by Mr Viner.
Speaker, I give notice that at the next sitting of the House I shall move:
That a Select Committee of this House be appointed to inquire into:
– In directing my question to the Minister for Transport I refer him to the answer he gave yesterday relating to the provision of a new dry dock in Victoria. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to an advertisement stating that a new floating dock with a capacity to accommodate bulk vessels of up to 100,000 tons is available immediately at a reported cost of US$15m? In view of the Minister’s acceptance yesterday of the urgency of providing such facilities in Victoria, will he consider carefully the possibility of making an offer for this dock which has been advertised?
– I did see a few paragraphs in one of the newspapers yesterday which stated that such a dock was available. We have not investigated it. As I said yesterday, we are still waiting on positive submissions from the Victorian Government as to what it requires as far as docks in Melbourne are concerned. In considering the purchase of a dock one has to decide on the condition of the dock, whether the price for which it is allegedly available represents value and whether we need a number of large docks. That applies not only to Melbourne but also tothe whole of the Commonwealth. We have to decide whether we need a number of large docks. These are the things that have to be examined, just the same as the interdepartmental committee some 12 to 18 months ago had to take all these things into consideration. If the Victorian Government puts forward a proposition we will be prepared to have a look at it.
– My question which is directed to the Minister for Transport refers to the vessel ‘Blythe Star’. Is the Minister aware that some of the survivors have indicated that Japanese fishing trawlers fishing inside territorial waters ignored their rescue flares and fled when the survivors fired off their last rockets? Is the Minister in a position to report to the House on this matter? Will he have an immediate inquiry made because, if the allegation is correct, such behaviour is beyond all the rules of the sea, apart from the humanitarian considerations?
– I have not personally seen a report of the allegation referred to by the honourable member for Braddon, but I am led to believe that there is a statement in one of the Hobart newspapers this morning to the effect that survivors of the disaster did fire flares to try to attract the attention of Japanese fishing boats which were illegally fishing in territorial waters. If this is true then it certainly will be taken up with the Japanese authorities. It is a well known fact that foreign fishing boats do fish in Australian waters. I know from personal experience off the North Coast of New South Wales that they do fish there, they do pinch Australian fishermen’s catches and they cut their lines adrift. These are the types of things they do. As far as I am concerned, now that the matter has been brought to our attention, it will be followed up. In fact, following on advice received of what was in the newspaper, I have asked my Department to make urgent inquiries into whether the reports are correct or not.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Defence. On 19 December 1972 the Minister issued a statement giving information on the proposed reorganisation of the defence group of departments. The merger of all defence departments bar the Department of Supply into one department was to have been completed by the end of 1973. How far has this defence group reorganisation progressed? Why was the area of procurement not included in the merger as suggested by the Minister?
– The integration of the Service departments is well under way. It is being carried out by a commitee headed by Mr Bruce White, the Secretary of the Department of the Army. He is being assisted by the Secretary of the Department of Defence. A great many conferences have been held between the officials and the chiefs of Staff. These committees are considering the situation and continuing their inquiries. I hope to be in a position before the House adjourns at the end of this year to be able to make an announcement to the Parliament concerning the progress of the integration of the Defence and Service Departments. I anticipate that it will be possible for me as Minister for Defence to introduce legislation in the autumn session of the Parliament in 1974 which would provide for the complete integration of the Service Departments.
I come to the second part of the question raised by the honourable member relating to the Department of Supply. It has always been envisaged that that part of the Department of Supply which relates to the procurement and evaluation of defence equipment would be integrate.! into the Department of Defence along with the other three Service departments. This of course will now be a matter for further discussion between myself and the Minister for Supply and Secondary Industry. We already have had one discussion on how this ought to be achieved and again, I would hope that when the statement is ready to be delivered to this Parliament, I will then be in a position to answer fully the question raised by the honourable member.
– Can the Minister for Minerals and Energy state what is the present position between the Australian and South Australian Governments in relation to the proposed petro-chemical project to be established at Redcliffs in the Spencer Gulf area of South Australia?
– I commend the honourable member for Grey for his diligence and close attention to the welfare of his constituency.
The concept of the iron triangle development within his constituency is one which I have already indicated to the House that I fully approve and support. In point of fact, -we have given very great assistance to the South Australian Government and will continue to do so, Press publicity notwithstanding. The honourable member has consulted with me on this matter and last night I also met the various Labor members from the State of South Australia. I have assured them that every possible assistance will be given to see that the petro-chemical project there is fully implemented at the earliest possible date. The Australian Industries Development Corporation has played a very notable part in mobilising a possible consortium. The legitimate developmental aspirations of the South Australian Government can be co-ordinated with the national policy which I have already outlined in this House. I believe that by the appointment of a special liaison officer who can be located in Adelaide and who will deal with the daily problems that may arise in communication, we will be able further to expedite the conclusion of this project.
– Is the Minister for Northern Development and the Minister for the Northern Territory aware of the intense feeling among the people of the Northern Territory and among the thousands of Australian small investors at the Government’s refusal to allow 2 Australian companies, Queensland Mines Ltd and Kathleen Investments (Australia) Ltd, to develop mining areas in the Alligator River area of the Northern Territory? Is it true that these companies are going to be kicked out of the Northern Territory without any compensation? Is the Minister prepared to recommend to his colleagues that licences should be issued to the companies, even prior to the finalising of the Woodward report, with guarantees against the encroachment on Aboriginal sacred sites and payment to the Aboriginals of royalties for any development which takes place on the mining areas? What is the new Minister for the Northern Territory, who is now responsible for the issuing of leases, going to do about this situation?
– I am aware of the controversy and unrest that are in the north regarding this problem of the development of mineral areas in the vicinity of the East Alligator River and the South Alligator River in the Northern Territory. Some of the mineral areas lie within Arnhem Land and some within Aboriginal reserves. Some of the licences lie outside them. Some lie within the proposed national park. Perhaps the 2 most pressing areas for decision relate to Ranger which has leases outside the Aboriginal reserve of Woolwonga and outside the proposed national park and Nabarlek, of course, which is in Arnhem Land so that its licence is inside the Aboriginal reserve. I am conversant with the area. Although I have not been there for some time, I spent a considerable time some years ago in the area. I was working there with a 4-wheel drive vehicle, horses and a full-blood Aboriginal tracker. I know the area and in particular those areas around Magela, Jim Jim, Adder and Deaf Adder Creeks and from memory Tin Camp Creek near Nabarlek. I was working in the area on land classification for cattle. The mineral areas are hungry country and in fact would not feed a billy goat. Most of the Aboriginals in the area live at Oenpelli. I did not see any Aboriginals there myself, with the exception of the fullblood with whom I was working. On the other hand, there was plenty of evidence which showed that Aborigines have lived in the area for a long number of years. There were paintings and I saw graveyards in the mountains.
The problem of granting licences and mineral leases is one which I can assure the honourable member will receive full consideration from me, but I will not be stampeded into it. I make no apology for the fact that I am biassed, as everybody knows, towards development. I believe in development providing it is soundly based and is common sense development. I make no apology for that. On the other hand I am fully conscious of the rights of others in these areas. I assure the honourable member that I am giving very serious consideration to this problem. It is my intention to make certain recommendations to Cabinet setting out the pros and cons of the matter as I see it and keeping in mind the serious unrest that has developed in the north. Personally I can see no reason why Ranger should not go ahead and provided that the claims of Aborigines are protected with respect to both compensation and rights, I can see no reason also why Nabarlek should not go ahead in those areas with those qualifications. However, I shall be putting a submission to Cabinet and Cabinet will decide, taking into account all those considerations.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by stating that I am inter.ested in a request by a naturalised Australian Chinese constituent whose aged parents, who are also naturalised and live in Sydney, are not enjoying the best of health. I shall be pleased to make the details available to the Prime Minister. I ask: Will the honourable gentleman in his forthcoming discussions with the Premier of the People’s Republic of China request that sympathetic consideration be given by his Government to the granting of exit visas to Chinese citizens who desire to be reunited with their families in Australia?
– I shall be very happy to discuss this matter and seek the opportunity to discuss it on my return visit to China next week. One of the great advantages of having diplomatic relations with China is that the Australian Government can now discuss such matters with the Government of China. There have been, for more than a century, Australians of Chinese ancestry. They are now able to be in touch with their relatives in China much more readily. I hope that the situation can be achieved where Australians who have relatives in other countries, whatever those countries may be, are able to have them visit or come to live with them. The issue of visas in the case of China and every other country is a matter for the governments of those countries. I thank the honourable gentleman for the suggestion.
-I call the honourable member for Gippsland.
– That is 2 Country Party members in a row.
– Yes, and they are still way behind.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Did the Department of Aboriginal Affairs arrange for a refit of a Taiwanese fishing vessel? Were tenders called? Why did the Department not follow the usual practice of having the Australian Shipbuilding Board call tenders? Were the plans approved by that Board? What is the total cost of the refit?
– There are 4 Taiwanese fishing vessels which were arrested by the Royal Australian Navy and which are now in the following ports: Two are in Perth, one is in Darwin and one is in Maryborough. These vessels were taken over by the Department of Primary Industry. Early in this year, the Minister for Primary Industry asked me whether the Aboriginal people or the Island people could use them. Each of the vessels is worth between $400,000 and $500,000. So this proposal was given serious consideration. One of the vessels was moved from Darwin to Maryborough. I do not know what stage has been reached there. The Walker’s Ltd shipyard at Maryborough examined the vessel with a view to refitting it. I understand that the normal procedure for refitting a vessel is that it is taken to a yard and the refitting procedures are on a cost-plus basis.
The object is to get one of these ships to sea so that the Island people will be able to use it. This is very valuable piece of equipment. I hope that, with the experience of operating this vessel, we will be able to make use of the other vessels when they are brought up to Australian navigational standards and so on. The real objective is to get the maximum use of these ships for the benefit of the people in the north. As to the cost, I will have to find out what the current situation is.
– What about tenders? Were tenders called?
– No, tenders were not called. Normally, vessels for refitting work of this nature must be taken to a yard, examined thoroughly and then negotiations entered into with the shipyard on the refitting. My understanding is that normally for refitting work of this nature tenders are not called but that the work and its cost must be dealt with on the spot according to the requirements.
– In view of the ‘Blythe Star’ disaster and in spite of the miracle survival of seven of its crew, will the Minister for Transport investigate the possibility of having 2 amendments written into the Navigation Act, namely, that all captains of ships travelling around the Australian coastline notify their shipping offices of the route they intend to take to their destination, and that all captains of ships give notification of their position at sea at set intervals? I ask for these amendments because I understand that neither of these procedures is required to be followed at present. Will the Minister confirm that, had the first amendment suggested been in operation, the survivors could have been discovered within 24 hours of the disaster? What action is the Minister taking to set up an inquiry?
– There are 2 points in the question asked by the honourable member for Wilmot. I will deal first with that relating to the setting up of a court of marine inquiry. I have said all along that I was investigating the practicability of taking this action. I now am pleased to state that I have already taken steps to put in hand the necessary preliminary investigation. Under section 377a of the Navigation Act, I have appointed Mr L. W. D. Taylor to make the preliminary investigation into the loss of the Blythe Star’. Mr Taylor, who is the Regional Controller of the Department of Transport in New South Wales, is a senior officer of great experience in this field. He is a former ship’s master and holds an extra master’s certificate. When I receive the result of his investigation I will proceed immediately to the establishment of a full court of marine inquiry.
The other part of the question dealt with the responsibility of ships’ masters to report their sailing plan and position fixing. It is perfectly true that under the Navigation Act at the moment there is no requirement for ships’ masters to lodge a sailing plan, as is the procedure with aircraft. Action is being taken to frame an amendment to the Act whereby ships’ masters will be required to lodge a sailing plan. There is no question that we have the power to do so for interstate voyages, but up to this point, as I have said previously, the shipping interests have always opposed it. I suppose they have the idea that if they give an indication of where they are going it will give some commercial advantage to their competitors. As far as I am concerned, that is no longer on.
I am hoping to have this amendment drafted as early as practicable so that we can do something about it. Ships’ masters will be required not only to lodge a sailing plan but also to give position reports. As the honourable member said, in this particular case if the ship had been required to report its position we would have known before or immediately after it sank that it was in difficulties, whereas we did not know until Monday. It was due at
King Island on Monday morning. The Tasmanian Transport Commission was concerned about the delay. It had already instituted preliminary searches and engaged a light aircraft to fly around the coast, but the ship could not be located. It was not until Monday night that the Marine Operations Centre was advised that the ship was missing. Proceedings were instituted immediately to conduct a search for it. If ships’ masters lodge a sailing plan we will know where they are going. In this case no one knew for sure whether the ship was going up the east coast or the west coast. As a guide there was only a conversation between the ship’s master and another ship’s master in the Transport Commission. In future, if we know where they are going we will know where to look. If we have position reporting at periodic intervals, such as every 12 hours, at least we will have the last known position of the vessel.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. In view of the Government’s announced support for quarterly cost of living adjustments for wage earners, will the Prime Minister support quarterly cost of living adjustments for pensioners and superannuitants, together with supplementary annual or half-yearly adjustments to maintain relationship with average weekly earnings so that those dependent on these incomes share in the growth of real incomes and are not disadvantaged by rising prices? Does the Prime Minister agree that in view of the current rate of inflation there is urgent need for a preChristmas increase in pensions to enable pensioners to cope with rising prices, including rents, rates and taxes, and to prevent their pensions from falling behind the announced goal of 25 per cent of average weekly earnings, or does he see himself as a law broker, willing to act only in return for support, on this occasion in the form of votes at the forthcoming referendum?
– I would have thought that all honourable members and most members of the public would be aware that the Government is committed to the proposition of twice-yearly adjustment of pensions. The Government made such an adjustment in the autumn session of this Parliament, it has done it in this Budget session, and in the Budget speech it undertook to do so in the autumn session next year. Yesterday I stated, and I will state again now, that there is great merit in the same periodic adjustment - I did not use the term ‘quarterly adjustment’ - of wages and salaries. At the moment the Australian Parliament cannot achieve for wages and salaries what it can achieve and what, under the present Government, it does achieve in respect of pensions. I hope that the honourable gentleman will be one of those who make it possible on 8 December for the Australian Parliament to do for wage and salary earners what it is now, under this Government, doing for pensioners.
– I ask the Treasurer whether his attention has been drawn to an advertisement appearing in the ‘Medical Journal of Australia’ on 6 October 1973 and headed ‘Farming opportunity with excellent capital gain potential’, in which successful businessmen and companies are invited to subscribe capital of a minimum amount of $600 a year for 12 years to become engaged in the raising of beef cattle in Victoria’s western district.
– What journal?
– The ‘Medical Journal of Australia’ I ask in particular: Has the Treasurer’s attention been drawn to items suggesting that the advertised project offers total tax deductions per annum of moneys contributed? Is this not an invitation to other than bona fide farmers to gain at the expense of other taxpayers? Is the claim to total tax deductibility accurate?
– My attention has been drawn to the advertisement circulating in the paper of the Australian Medical Publishing Co. Ltd.
– Are you a regular reader?
– Yes, a constant reader. The advertisement is obviously directed towards the practice described as Pitt Street or Collins Street farming. As a good Victorian, I prefer the epithet ‘Pitt Street’ to ‘Collins Street’. I would say that up to the date of the Budget, 21 August 1973, a person engaged in a business of primary production was entitled to various tax deductions for capital expenditure incurred in the year of income in improving land used for primary production. This afternoon I will be introducing a Bill on income tax that will cover a number of heads, includ ing this particular case. I would say that as a result of the announcement made on 21 August the statement appearing in the journal is incorrect. I think there is an obligation on those who accept advertisements to pay some attention to the accuracy of the contents. It is incorrect now to say that a person who invests a minimum amount of $600 per annum for 12 years will be entitled to a total tax deduction on the amount contributed each year. Furthermore, if any part of the annual contribution is used to purchase land no part of the amount so applied will be deductible on any basis. The advertisement is unscrupulous and incorrect.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. Last week the honourable gentleman indicated that he did not recall donations from multi-national companies being made to the Australian Labor Party. Is it true, as reported in the ‘Age* last October, that ‘It’s Time’ commercials were screened free of charge in Greater Union theatres throughout Australia prior to the December 1972 elections? Is it true that the Greater Union group is a wholly-owned subsidiary of a multi-national corporation? Has he assessed the cost of this apparent donation from an overseas source? Would he care to have the commercials repeated at present?
– I will be very happy to have any cinema proprietors or drive-in theatre proprietors show Australian Labor Party commercials free of charge and in fact to show any Party commercials free of charge. I believe it is a public service which cinemas and drive-ins should discharge. I fear that the cinema industry is one industry which is and has been for very many years - I think even 50 years ago there were disputes over this very fact - controlled from overseas. There are very large American and British shareholdings, maybe controlling interests, in cinema chains in Australia.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware of reports in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ and the Melbourne ‘Sun’ today indicating that the President of the Australian Farmers Federation has criticised the Australian Country
Party for its opposition to the Industries Assistance Commission Bill saying that the public should not be deluded that the Country Party was a champion of rural industry? Did Mr Hogan request a minor amendment to the Bill and, if so, will the Minister seek to have this proposal investigated?
– I am not aware of the Press reports but if what the honourable member says is correct all I can say is that I completely endorse the criticism of the Country Party. I assure honourable members that I will be looking closely at these remarks and the proposition will be put into effect straight away.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Northern Development.
-Order! There is far too much audible conversation in the chamber.
– Mr Speaker, I seek your indulgence for a moment. Will you make inquiries to see whether the microphones in this chamber can be checked? I think every honourable member in this House is having difficulty in hearing what members from both sides of the House are saying.
-I have had a look at this matter several times. I think that a lot of the difficulty is caused by members reading and by directing their heads towards the desks instead of speaking into the microphones. If they would hold the papers up and would speak into the microphones it would be much better.
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker, may I add to what has been said? It has been the practice of your predecessors to take a strong line against members reading newspapers in this House. This practice seems to have got out of hand lately and I ask you to give consideration to imposing a ban against reading of newspapers in this House as did your predecessor.
-Order! I think the point is well taken. I will have to consider banning such a practice on both sides of the House.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Northern Development. Does the Minister agree that the construction of the Monduran Dam is essential for ensuring stability of sugar production in the Bunda berg district? Has the Government reached a decision on when funds for phase 2 of the dam will be made available?
– Of course I agree that the construction of the Monduran Dam and the associated works and weirs on the Kolan and Burnett Rivers are essential for the welfare of the sugar industry in the area. As regards the physical and technical questions, the answer is yes. There is no doubt where anybody would stand on this matter, particularly in an area which over the years has been devastated by recurring droughts. Not only is it essential for the sugar industry but it is essential also to the economic nucleus of the city of Bundaberg and the area around it. On the other hand there is the question of finance, as the former Treasurer well knows. A tremendous number of other proposals are before this Government, as there were before the previous Government. What has disturbed me greatly - it is a pity that the right honourable member’s advisers have not briefed him on this as I mentioned the same subject only yesterday to the honourable member for Farrer - is that when the new Government took office I called for the economic evaluation appraisals of these projects but such an evaluation has never been made of the Bundaberg irrigation system. If the honourable member wants to raise this matter I can say that in fact the only statement on evaluation made by the previous government, by an interdepartmental committee, was that the project was totally uneconomic. How do you like that? This Government does not accept that point of view, just as we did not accept the Opposition’s decision regarding the Eton project. The Bundaberg project is being thoroughly examined at the present time, as quickly as possible, by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, the Department of Northern Development, the Snowy Mountains Corporation and Queensland Government departments. It is being done with all haste so that I can put a submission to Cabinet as soon as the appraisal is finished. In answer to the honourable member’s question, I agree with him on the need for this project but I am bound by the policy of the Labor Party and the commonsense policy of being able at least to put forward an evaluation analysis.
– Is the Minister for Housing and Minister for Works aware of a report on the price of land made for the Institute of Real Estate Developers by a Mr A. S. Tyler, former head of the New South Wales Ministry of Housing, which suggests that Federal and State governments should buy housing land to help reduce costs? Did Mr Tyler describe the price of serviced home sites in outer western suburbs of Sydney as outrageous’ and suggest that where land was to be released for urban development the price should be pegged?
– I saw the report prepared by Mr Tyler and noted some of the significant points that it contained. One was to the effect that the price of land in the outer western suburbs of Sydney had increased fivefold over the last 5 years. I noticed also that Mr Tyler had recommended that governments should be prepared to acquire land when it was made available for development. I believe that these are highly virtuous contentions. He has taken attitudes which are very much in compliance with the views of the Australian Government and I personally feel very fortified as a result of the provisions of that report. Perhaps the most significant aspect of the report is that this gentleman, who was the chief administrative officer of the New South Wales Department of Housing, has trenchantly criticised the New South Wales Government for its failure to exercise any control over the price of land. In that respect I am sure that he shares the hope which members of this Government have, that in the event of this Government being clothed with powers over prices in the near future it will be prepared to fill a vacuum in any part of Australia, in any State, where the State government itself does not exercise the power it already has to regulate the price of land. The points made by Mr Tyler are in compliance with those incorporated in the policies of the Australian Labor Party and have a great deal of relationship to matters already being put in train by my colleague the Minister for Urban and Regional Development.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Does the Minister share the view expressed recently by the Premier of South Australia that the Labor Government is treating the wine industry, adversely? Does he agree with Mr Dunstan that many Australian wineries will go broke unless the Federal Government lifts its Budget tax imposts on the industry? Will the Minister tell us what the present Government is going to do to meet the very serious situation to which Mr Dunstan has drawn attention? Could the Minister also advise the House what decision has been made about the problem which the Government has thrust on the fruit canneries by its action in raising rural credit interest rates to record levels?
– The answer briefly is no, I do not agree with Mr Dunstan, if he has been reported correctly. The Australian Labor Party has done more for the wine industry, both in Opposition and in Government, than the honourable member’s party did. One has only to refer back to the various debates with respect to the wine tax to see the attitude taken by honourable members opposite. As far as the fruit industry is concerned, this Government has done more for it than the Opposition did at any time.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Transport, is supplementary to the one asked by my colleague the honourable member for Braddon. Can the Minister say whether the Japanese fishing boats were requested to report any wreckage or survivors from the ‘Blythe Star’?
– On Wednesday, 17 October, the Japanese Maritime Safety Agency in Tokyo was requested to alert to the situation all Japanese fishing vessels known to frequent Tasmanian waters. It was requested to ask Japanese vessels to keep a lookout for the ship itself, for wreckage and for survivors. That request was acknowledged by that Agency, but as yet we have received no advice as to whether the Japanese did find anything or see anyone.
Since the honourable member for Braddon asked his question I have received some further information which may be of interest to him and also to the honourable member for Franklin. The Department of Transport surveyor in Hobart has talked to some of the members of the crew, but not to the captain as yet. They say that they saw fishing vessels which they thought were Japanese and that they were some 30 to 40 miles off the Tasman Peninsula light. The raft was about a mile away from the fishing vessels. They fired a rocket but received no response from the fishing vessels. Also, on 19 October the Royal Australian Air Force search aeroplanes reported sighting 2 Japanese fishing vessels about 25 miles south-east of Cape Pillar. These ships naturally were in open sea in international waters.
– Can the Minister for Minerals and Energy confirm a report, which has just been cabled to Australia, that another United Kingdom stock jobbing firm, Berger and Gosschalk, has announced that it will withdraw from the Australian mining and industrial market as from the close of trading tomorrow? Is he able to confirm that this is the second such firm to quit the Australian market in a month and that there are now only 2 London stock jobbers left handling Australian stocks? Is he aware that the other firm which withdrew, announced at the time that lt is difficult, to see a future in these stocks at the moment’? Is he aware further that stock broking sources in London have informed Australian Associated Press that the latest withdrawal is certainly a result of a lack of turnover in Australian stocks and a lack of confidence in the Australian market? Will he tell the House in specific terms what steps he proposes to take to restore business confidence in this country, which has been shattered so completely since he came into office in his portfolio?
– I have no information on the facts relating to the particular firms mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I will investigate them. But I would say this: There is a particular inducement because of the restrictions which were imposed some time ago by the British Government on the repatriation of money invested in Australian shares and because of the reserve requirements on investments that were originally imposed. The Australian stock market generally is particularly thin at present and it does not truly reflect the value, either in terms of assets backing or potential, of any of the companies concerned. My advice to the average Australian shareholder, both in the mining industry and in respect of reputable shares, would be to hold on to them, as they are good security, and not to be stampeded by the stupid panic propaganda of the Opposition.
– I do not know whether I favour the publication of awards and other information in various languages because it could have the tendency to create a multi-lingual community which, of course, is not what the Minister for Immigration and I wish to see. At the same time I am impressed by the reply given yesterday by the Minister for Immigration to a question asked of him by my colleague the honourable member for Phillip in which he asked the Minister to consider issuing this information in various languages. There is a strong case for doing so in certain circumstances. For example, safety regulations ought to be published in various languages because one of the biggest disputes of all in Newcastle arose from the fact that the tradesman was not properly protected at his back by the tradesman’s helper who was a migrant and did not understand the instructions that were issued to him for the observance of safety regulations. That led to a big dispute.
I want to take this opportunity to say that I believe there is a great merit in the system that operates in Scandinavian countries. I commend to the Minister for Immigration, to whom I have already spoken about this matter, the practice adopted in those countries which requires that each employer who enlists or recruits migrant labour shall be obligated to provide 300 hours in working time to study the Swedish, Norwegian or Finnish language or whatever the language happens to be in the particular country. This has the effect of taking away any advantage in the matter of wage payments in employing migrant labour because when an employer provides its employees 300 hours of working time to learn the language of the country the cost involved does take away the advantage which otherwise applies.
I want to say just one thing more about this, and I hope that it is something that will be read by those who sit on the arbitration bench, by the unions and by the employers. I believe that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and members of the various State tribunals have a much greater influence upon industrial relations than they imagine. It would be a good thing if they would give greater attention to the reasons for their judgments when they are issuing them. I remember very well when I was the secretary of a union that we had a very difficult dispute at Iron Knob. We had a team of men there who were angry; they were militant. They were not prepared to accept the decision of the court until I read to them the excellent and logical judgment by Sir Edward Morgan, as he later became when he was appointed to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, because the judgment was so packed with logic, such compelling logic that when I read it to the men I did not have to make a speech to give them the reasons why they should go back to work and accept the decision. The judge’s own reasons for judgment contained the logic of the case that anybody would want to put to persuade men to return to work.
In the case of the Ford dispute, Mr Justice Moore was absolutely correct in issuing instructions that his reasons for judgment be issued in various migrant languages because there was some evidence that until then the migrant workers in the Ford factory were not really understanding what the dispute was all about, nor were they understanding fully the negotiations .and the compromise proposals that had been worked out by the unions and the employers. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that had the suggestion of the Minister for Immigration been adhered to before the strike reached the crisis stage that dispute may never in fact have occurred at all. I see great merit in the suggestion he put forward. I hope that he will consider what I have said about the practice in Scandinavian countries.
– by leave - I seek the indulgence of the Chair to add some information to answers I gave to questions asked earlier today concerning the missing vessel ‘Blythe Star’. The honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) and the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) asked me what we had done about notifying Japanese ships concerning the loss of the vessel ‘Blythe Star’. I should like to place on record the exact text of a message to the Japanese Maritime Safety Agency from the Marine Operations Centre in Canberra on 17 October. This is the text of the urgent message which was sent:
The reply which came back the same day reads:
Ref your 170235Z Oct 73 / Blythe Star. Broadcasted your info to our Japanese fishing vessels near the scene.
– Pursuant to section 31 of the Atomic Energy Act 1953-1966, I present the twenty-first annual report of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission for the year ended 30 June 1973 together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
– For the information of honourable members I present the fifteenth annual report of the Snowy Mountains Council for the year ended 30 June 1973.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 6 November, at 11 o’clock a.m. or at such time thereafter as Mr Speaker may take the Chair, unless Mr Speaker shall, by telegram addressed to each member of the House, fix an earlier day of meeting.
Adoption of Orphans from Overseas- Taxation - Newspaper Report - Repatriation - Sydney Opera House - The Parliament - Consumer Protection - Civil Aviation - Telephone Services - Television Services- Political Parties - Environment and Conservation - Loan Council: Local Government Representation.
That grievances be noted.
– I seek to raise the question of the adoption of Vietnamese or Cambodian orphans by young Australian couples. There were days when, regrettably, young Australian couples who wished to adopt refugee or orphan babies were fundamentally prevented from doing so by governments in Australia. Happily, that is no longer the case. There are considerable numbers of young Australian couples who wish to adopt orphans from overseas. In many parts of Australia today standard Australian adoptions are taking many months if not years. The pill is, of course, taking its toll of potential adoptees. These days, as we all know, unmarried mothers are considerably more inclined to keep their babies than they were before. This naturally has led some idealistic young Australian couples to look to countries which have been ravaged by war, where thousands of babies, if they are lucky, lie often three or four to a dirty cot in crowded nurseries and orphanages. In effect, the supply is unlimited and young Australians who are balanced and sensible as well as idealistic young people find it the most natural thing in the world to look at this stage to this source, particularly because of the fact that in the case of Vietnam, we have been involved in the war there.
The authorities overseas are happy to have us help even if the numbers affected by anything we can do about adopting the babies represent only a tiny percentage of their problem. As I have said, the Australian authorities no longer make it necessary, fortunately, for the orphans to be smuggled in. It is quite clear that the numbers involved are no threat to Australia’s immigration policies. No one is looking for the adoption by Australians of thousands of young babies; all that is being looked for is a number of the order of 100, possibly up to 200, per annum. I do not think that anyone is talking about numbers greater than that. But although these numbers are small it is my view that they oan considerably improve the quality of our migration program because they recognise not only Australia’s need for migration but also, however slenderly, what is a real world problem. After all, in the case of South Vietnam, Australian soldiers have left their orphan offspring behind them on enough occasions to make us stop to consider what our moral responsibilities might be in this matter. So, it is more than a simple migration question. Accepting that certain restricted numbers of babies are coming and will come to Australia - young babies have arrived in recent days; a close relative of mine has received a young baby from South Vietnam in the last week or two - I ask the Government to do all in its power to speed up the processes both here and overseas. At the moment, adoptions are taking from 6 months to 12 months whereas they could and should take only about 6 weeks. If there were someone responsible for this matter at the other end, say in Saigon, I understand from authorities and individuals in Vietnam that the whole process could be infinitely speeded up. I do not believe that assistance from the Government would cost much at all. It need not be more than a drop in the bucket of our overseas aid.
Alternative ways in which we could help include the utilisation of our official aid program by the provision of some person to aid this process of adoption who would be appointed on a temporary basis because the need in Saigon will not necessarily last. Alternatively, I believe it could be done by assisting a voluntary agency to become established and to do the work. What I am looking for is something like an Australian halfway house in Saigon where someone could be responsible for undertaking all the organisational details, for finding suitable babies for interested Australian couples and, in particular, for cutting through all the incredible red tape that is inevitably bound up in these procedures. However, adopting parents would of course continue to bear the brunt of the financial responsibility and it is a pretty big brunt too, as I understand it, because they are up for air fares, nursing and legal fees and so on.
– We pay their air fares.
– The Minister for Immigration says that the Government now pays their air fares; that is splendid. Other nations are helping in the way that I seek Australian Government help. Other nations are helping a certain small number of halfway houses in, say, Saigon. What one should look for is a house, some nursing staff and in particular, as I say, someone with some administrative skills and drive but not necessarily any particular qualification other than a great interest in the job.
It was brought to my attention when I was in Saigon that someone on the spot can do so much to speed up this process of adoption. Of course, one wants to see the process speeded up in the interests of the babies and also of the adopting parents. This process can so easily get bogged down as it did for instance in a recent series of cases where the parents were told some weeks ago that it would not be possible for them to get their babies before Christmas. They had already been waiting for roughly 6 months and this news was heartbreaking to them because they knew that the babies were not getting the care that they would receive when they reached Australia. Yet the presence in Saigon of a young couple by the name of Robertson, who carried the forms from official to official in our Embassy - I might say to the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) that these officers have been very helpful - and through the bureaucracies in South Vietnam enabled them to cut off the last 2 months and, indeed, if this process were begun very much earlier I think there would be greater joy all round. I look forward to hearing something on this matter from the Minister for Immigration.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do. In last week’s issue of the Sydney ‘Bulletin’ there appeared an article by one Peter Samuel which was headed ‘Huge Mining Project Collapses’. Amongst other things it referred to the Comalco Ltd project for the development of the Weipa bauxite deposits. I have here the text of a telegram sent to me by Mr Hibberd, the Chairman of Comalco Ltd which I propose to read to the House. It states:
I dissociate Comalco from any implied criticism of the Government or yourself in Peter Samuel’s article appearing on page 12 of this week’s Bulletin. If you have the opportunity you may say publicly that entirely amicable discussions are taking place ‘between yourself and senior Executives of the company and that it is hoped that these discussions will result in further development of the Weipa bauxite deposits. Regards.
J. Hibberd, Chairman Comalco Limited
This is a typical example of the campaign which is being waged today. It is malicious and false and, in the case of Mr Samuel, it is typical of his complete lack of journalistic integrity.
– I have a few babies in my own electorate but they are quite different from those referred to by the honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley), the first speaker in the Grievance Day debate, and I should like to grieve about a few of them today. I did so previously to the previous Government but was not successful. I refer to the matter of sales tax on freight. This is a discrimination against people living outside the metropolitan areas and I believe it is completely wrong and should be tidied up as quickly as possible. People living outside the metropolitan areas have to pay sales tax on the freight on such things as motor cars and refrigerators. Cairns is more than a thousand rail miles from Brisbane and this tax amounts to a lot of money. It is quite unfair because most of the distributors in that area, and in any of the areas to which I refer are offered a special concessional freight rate by the Queensland Government. Nobody knows what the rate is. Nobody can find out because it is contained in a secret document between the distributor and the Queensland Government. These people certainly receive freight concessions but these concessions are not passed on to the consumer. Therefore, the consumer is paying sales tax on top of money that is not really even paid because the distributor has this concession. The distributor charges the consumer the full amount of freight as if he had purchased the article himself direct from Brisbane. This has been going on for years. It is totally unjust. I feel that the Treasury should look further into the question and try to eliminate the unjust application of sales tax.
The other matter concerns sales tax on band instruments. We have quite a number of junior bands in Australia and in particular in the north. It is encouraging to see that these young people are keenly interested and give most of their time to studying music and playing the instruments. Why should they be forced to pay sales tax on their instruments? The instruments are used only for band purposes, which are not commercial purposes. The young people do not receive money for their playing as do orchestras. The instruments I am referring to are brass band instruments and not necessarily saxophones or other similar instruments which could be used in orchestras that perform for commercial purposes. Why cannot the junior bands in particular and even the senior bands purchase their instruments free of sales tax. It is hard enough to establish a brass band and keep it going because of the costs involved. Yet, the sales tax has to be paid on top of the purchase price. Brass bands over the years always have been an attraction to the people and have always been in the forefront in any town or city when a function is held. The brass bands voluntarily go to these functions and give their services. I feel the taxation authorities should look at this aspect of sales tax.
The other matter I wish to raise concerning the Treasury is the tax zone areas. The areas in A zone are still the same as they were drawn originally but they are out of date completely. In one area in my electorate, Mount Garnett, a town which derives its main income from tin mining, has employees working in the A zone but living in the B zone. They do not receive the A zone concession; they pay the B zone rate of tax. They earn their money in the A zone but because the place of employment is on the other side of the river they do not receive the concession. The concession is not only given because of the remoteness of the areas but also because of certain difficulties. These people do not have the services of a resident doctor or dentist and therefore they have to travel hundreds of miles to receive this professional attention and this means time off work. They have to travel to Herberton or Ravenshoe to receive medical attention or dental treatment. I think consideration should be given to this matter.
Another area which has been drawn to my attention is Irvinebank. It is another mining town in the same circumstance. It has nothing other than a post office and hotel combined. There are no other services whatsoever. There is no medical officer, no dentist and no nursing facilities whatsoever. The residents have to travel 27 miles over a very rough road to Herberton to receive attention. Those residents also are not in the A zone, though they should be. I ask the Treasury to look at these matters. The zones have not been reviewed for many years and it is about time that they were. They are the few grievances I have today but I will have further grievances at a future time.
– I rise to put to the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) a problem which has been concerning me for some time. I have been approached by a considerable number of sailors who served on HMAS ‘Vampire’ under my command from 1963 to 1965 in respect of their eligibility for repatriation benefits. HMAS ‘Vampire’ served during the Indonesian confrontation in Singapore between July 1964 and early 1965 and was on patrol duty in the Malacca Straits for a very high proportion of the time it spent in the area. She did in fact do more operational patrol service in that area during the Indonesian confrontation than was carried out by any other Australian destroyer or frigate. Members of the crew of the ‘Vampire’ were awarded the General Service Medal for those operations but are not entitled to repatriation benefits. The reason for this exclusion from repatriation benefits is that in order to qualify for such benefits one had to serve in a declared special area. The special areas for repatriation benefits during the Indonesian confrontation were the Borneo coast from 8 December 1962 to 14 December 1966 and the Malacca Straits from 7 July 1965 to 14 September 1966. The reasons for the selection of these particular dates are extremely obscure. During the period that ‘Vampire’ was in the area patrol duty in the Singapore and Malacca Straits was at least as dangerous and arduous as patrol duty on the Borneo coast. As far as I have been able to determine there were more incidents in the former area, that is, the Malacca and Singapore Straits, than there were in Borneo.
It seems to me that the only reason for the selection of these particular dates for the declaration of special areas was dictated by 3 factors. The first was the desire of the British authorities - not the Australian authorities - to exclude from special awards a large number of base personnel in Singapore. I entirely agree with this. The second was the substantial numbers of Australian Army and Air Force personnel in West Malaysia who were in no way involved in the confrontation. The reason those personnel were not involved in confrontation operations was the effective patrol service of the Navy in the Malacca and Singapore Straits. The third factor which I think may have influenced the Cabinet decision was that all destroyers and frigates, with the exception of the ‘Vampire’, served in both the Malacca Straits and in Borneo waters and therefore personnel serving in them qualified for repatriation benefits. The fact that the ‘Vampire’ did not serve in Borneo waters was solely due to the accidental fact of the relative seniority of the captain of the ‘Vampire’ and the senior officer in Borneo waters. In fact, I repeat that the ‘Vampire’ did more active patrol work in the Malacca Straits than any other Australian ship and patrols in the Malacca Straits and Singapore waters were at least as dangerous as patrols in Borneo waters.
In my view this exclusion of the crew of the ‘Vampire’ from repatriation benefits which are available to the crews of other ships is unfair. This Government has taken several actions to widen the availability of repatriation benefits. Now all personnel who serve for more than a 3-year engagement receive them and national servicemen who extended their service by only a few weeks receive them. The numbers involved in the crew of the ‘Vampire’ are relatively small. Any members still serving, of course, would qualify separately for repatriation benefits and any who subsequently served in the Indonesian confrontation or in Vietnam would also qualify. About 80 persons have been excluded from these benefits. I think it is grossly unfair and I ask the Minister for Defence to have another look at the situation .and see whether it can be corrected. I have made repeated applications to successive Ministers for Defence without success. I ask this Minister for Defence whether he can do something about it. The men involved received medals for their war service but they have been excluded from repatriation benefits and I think this is entirely wrong.
– I wish to refer to the very significant event that took place in Sydney last Saturday, the opening of the Opera House. I indicate briefly that I heartily support the remarks that have been made already by my colleague, the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage), regarding the way in which that significant event, not only for Sydney and New South Wales but for the whole of Australia, was marred to some extent by the introduction of petty party politics into the whole affair. Other people have mentioned this matter to me and I do not doubt that some of them are not of my own political persuasion. They noted the studied failure to acknowledge the presence of the Prime Minister of Australia at that function; the fact that he was not even asked to appear on the official dais with Her Majesty, the Premier of New South Wales and the Premier’s entourage. We will never know the embarrassment that this must have caused to Her Majesty.
The petty politics went so far that there was not even an acknowledgment of the man who had the great foresight to initiate this wonderful project, of which we all feel so proud now. 1 refer to the late Honourable Joe Cahill, a former Premier of New South Wales. He had to fight, not only outside his own Party but also within his own Party, to get that project going. He received no acknowledgment whatsoever last Saturday. No recognition was accorded to our international visitors or, indeed, to our distinguished interstate visitors who were present at that function. I refer to State Premiers and others. The Australian Government was no mean co-operator in the staging of that wonderful event last Saturday. The taxpayers, with the Australian Government’s sanction, provided for the flyover by the Fill aircraft and the appearance of the Army and Navy bands. The Commonwealth car fleet was made fully available for use on that occasion. The Australian Government also provided television facilities for the international coverage of the event. That coverage, I would say, drew great attention to Australia. I understand that the Australian Government may even have supplied the fireworks that were used in the course of the function.
It is significant that this function took place a day or two after the Premier of New South Wales announced that a State election would be held in some 4 weeks time. This is an example of democracy at work under liberalism. In some areas, to my knowledge, the Liberal Party has not even selected its candidates - and these are candidates not for blue ribbon State seats either. This illustrates the kind of election campaign and the kind of discussion that we are to have about the great issues that will affect New South Wales, the senior Australian State, in . the next 3 years. They will all be dealt with in a matter of 3 weeks. One might ask: Why the rush? I suggest that the uncollected garbage - that was an unfortunate event, and there were other people involved in that event of which I did not approve - was not the only source of unsavoury odours in Macquarie Street, Sydney, last Saturday. I suggest that the political pollution that surrounds the Administration in Macquarie Street was just as unsavoury.
In recent weeks I have spoken to some senior police officers about the incidence of crime and the cover-up of crime that is going on under the present Askin Administration in New South Wales. It is significant that only a few weeks ago the pressure from the public media became so hot that Sir Robert Askin handed over his ministerial responsibility for the police force to another Minister. Also, it is no coincidence that the Minister for Environment Control, Mr Beale, was sacked from that office because of his ineptitude in looking after conservation matters as they affect the welfare of the New South Wales people. I mention the suspected sell-out to various mining companies. We all remember the great Clutha scandal. That project, if carried out, would have resulted in the pollution of some of the most beautiful areas of the south coast of New South Wales. I remind honourable members of the Myall Lakes controversy and other matters of that type. These are all typical of the recent actions of the New South Wales Government.
Honourable members will recall the great financial scandal of the notorious Barton affair and the cover-up which is still going on in respect of that matter. There is also the coverup of those behind the pyramid selling companies in which people in New South Wales have invested in good faith. Those behind these companies have left Australia, and investors find that their money has gone and they have no chance of recovering it. At least action in this respect has been taken in South Australia. The other day, the Australian Broadcasting Commission in a news item referred to the fact that legislation was to be introduced to cover this sort of practice. A person rang me to ask whether it was the New South Wales Government which was taking this action. I made inquiries and found out that it was not. Sure, it was not. The South Australian Government was taking action. Even the Victorian Government has introduced legislation in relation to pyramid selling, but not the New South Wales Government. It would be the last government to do so.
I refer to the fight which the counterparts of the New South Wales Government in this Parliament are putting up to prevent the passage of our trade practices legislation which will give enormous protection to the consumers of this country. My God, don’t they need it! The Trade Practices Bill to provide consumer protection was introduced in the Senate weeks ago. This Government is not in control of the Senate, and yesterday that chamber blocked the passage and even prevented discussion of that Bill. This is the kind of protection that these people are giving to others. Today, this Government must introduce the Trade Practices Bill in this House so that we can at least debate it and expose to the people the kinds of corruption and protection of vested interests, which are exploiting our community, being carried out by the Liberal Party and the Country Party, whether in the New South Wales Parliament or in this Parliament.
I direct the attention of honourable members to the ‘Australian’ of 20 October which headlined an article relating to the New South Wales State election: ‘Government has no time to pass promised legislation’. The article referred to the legislation that was announced by the New South Wales Governor when opening the session of the New South Wales Parliament which commenced in August last. No time will be available to pass much of that legislation. Yet the N<;w South Wales Government requires the N.w South Wales Parliament to sit for only a few weeks in each year. Let me enumerate some of the promised legislation which that Parliament has not had time to pass. I remind the House that these are promised actions and not the many things which need to be done in that State. The State Government did not introduce laws to control noise pollution, as it had promised. It did not introduce legislation to reform the laws of defamation. It did not introduce legislation to impose stricter regulations on the sale of second hand cars. All sorts of other spheres are involved in that matter. It did not establish the office of an ombudsman to investigate complaints against the Public Service, although Western Australia, Victoria and South Australia have already appointed ombudsmen for this purpose.
The New South Wales Government did not introduce legislation to amend the law in relation to legal aid, as it had promised. Yet we hear talk about equal justice. What justice is there in the community when persons seeking justice cannot afford it and when a State government resists providing from the public purse assistance to those who seek justice but cannot afford it. The list goes on. Some promises go back 3 years; others were made 6 years ago. But still nothing has been done by the Government of New South Wales to honour those promises. That Government promised also to give protection to people who are sent unsolicited goods or fake invoices. All of these actions were promised by the New South Wales Governor in his speech opening the New South Wales Parliament last August. This is what the New South Wales Government was going to do, belatedly, before the next State election. But no, this action has not taken place. I could continue through a whole series of broken promises. I could go into many other fields. But I have not the time to do so. Talk about grievances! I have here grievances a foot long.
I refer now to the matter mentioned by the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) here today in relation to the report of the Consumer Affairs Bureau which was tabled in the New South Wales Parliament last week. An article in the ‘Australian* of 20 October refers to that report. That article states:
Far too high a proportion of complaints falls ultimately into the “situation clarified” category’, the report says. This category encompasses the many instances where companies invoke the letter of the legal advantage which they so often enjoy in relation to the consumer and where the doctrine of caveat emptor (let the buy.er beware) is loaded so heavily in their favour.
In all too many cases the elaborate and plausible explanations offered by companies, both large and small, show scant regard for what would be fair and reasonable in the circumstances. It can be argued that, in some respects at least, the level of moral responsibility displayed by some such companies is lower than that of the trader who sets out with the deliberate intention of defrauding the consumer’.
The article states further:
This highlights the bureau’s lack of real power.
The Labor Opposition under the leadership of Pat Hills made a firm promise a week ago that it would set up a department of consumer protection in New South Wales. The next day Askin said ‘Me too’ after he has had the opportunity to do so for years.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Today T want to touch on one or two subjects. You know, Mr Speaker, how difficult it is for honourable members from this side of the House to ask questions. We have to use opportunities such as the grievance debate to obtain some information. I am glad to see the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) at the table because he is one of the Ministers to whom I would like to direct questions. First of all I want to refer to civil aviation. I am concerned about the reports I hear of the possible reduction in subsidies to some air services. I am wondering to what extent this will affect air services, particularly in my own area in inland Queensland, and in the western areas of Queensland such as the Channel country and the Gulf country, which are represented by other honourable members. It is vital that these airlines be maintained.
I hope that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) will be able to give me some assurance that there will be no reduction in essential air services or developmental air services as a result of the consideration of these subsidies. That is one of the angles I wanted to stress today. I hope that the Minister will give consideration to the problems that confront people in these areas before any reduction in services is contemplated or implemented in those areas. Air services are undoubtedly an essential part of life there. I notice in the report of the Department of Civil Aviation for 1972-73 at page 143 that subsidies to airlines cost about $2m. The total administrative and operational expenditure amounts to almost $101m. So the burden of subsidies is not very great. I trust that the Minister will give very serious consideration to the detrimental effect that such action might have on those air services.
Another point which relates to inland areas concerns telephone services. I have brought this up on a number of occasions. The PostmasterGeneral has never given me any encouragement to believe that there will be any improvement. In fact, I believe that the policy of the Government means that there will be a deterioration of services being provided in the areas where I suggest they are most seriously needed. I take some pride in the progress and development of Australia. I take pride in the progress and development of my own State of Queensland. I am pleased to note that that progress - which is based on the very sound economy that was provided for Australia by the previous Government - is still flowing on in spite of some disadvantages that this Government is bringing to this country. I will refer to my own State now but no doubt this applies to other States. The number of applications for telephone services in Queensland, according to Press reports I have seen lately, is increasing at a faster rate than telephone services are being provided. I hope that the Postmaster-General will do everything in his power to overcome this problem.
I would like to see all of those people who have made application for telephone services in the metropolitan area receive those services but at the same time, if there is to be priority on the score of greatest need - do not forget that this Government has been very vocal in its discussions and in its general claim that it is helping those in greatest need - here is one opportunity for the Government to show whether it really means that. The PostmasterGeneral has said that it costs $X to install telephone services in the metropolitan area and that it costs a lot more - possibly twice as much or even a little more than that - to provide telephone services in rural areas. I have forgotten the exact figures. I suggest that the need for these services in rural areas is at least twice as great. It is probably 10 times as great, because not only do those people out there depend on telephones from a business and social point of view, but also life depends on them. I am not drawing a long bow or exaggerating the need because I could quote instances. The Postmaster-General himself would concede that point.
It is difficult to provide all the services that are required. I ask the Postmaster-General to look at this position and to examine it. I know that a royal commission is investigating the matter at the present time. Nevertheless I dp not want to miss this opportunity to ask the Postmaster-General, when considering the report of the royal commission, to take into consideration the problems that confront the people in those areas in obtaining a telephone. For example, one gentleman in my area told me that he had an application in for a telephone for some 5 years. Under the policy of the previous Government he would have received that telephone without a charge for construction. He lives about 15 miles out of town. Despite the fact that he has waited all this time, he has been advised now, I understand, that the telephone will be provided for him providing that he pays the cost - some $5,000. Unfortunately, because of previous unfavourable conditions and the serious financial position which he was in but which he is gradually overcoming now because of better seasonal conditions and prices, he is not in a position to pay $5,000-odd to have a telephone provided.
As late as 18 October in reply to a question the Postmaster-General said that the number of country automatic exchanges which were provided under the previous policy was 93 in Queensland and a total of almost 2,000 services - including new services and existing part privately erected services - has been provided under that scheme. Very many of those people would not have been able to have a telephone at all if it had not been for the generous and understanding policy of the previous Government in providing those services. It is interesting to note that, of those 1,939 services provided in Queensland, only one was over the 15-mile line, so that would bring the cost back to an average. The need for those services is very real.
The Minister for Civil Aviation has undertaken to give me a written reply rather than taking up the time of the grievance debate. I am quite happy with that and I thank him for it. The other point I wanted to raise concerns television services in western areas of Queensland. There has been some delay in this matter. The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) has been vocal on this matter, as I have been. There is a tie up between air services, telephones, television, communications and these other things that are so sorely needed. I am sure that the Minister for Civil Aviation will be aware of this need in regard to the subsidies for airlines, which cost some $2m. I emphasise that we are not asking for the impossible. That raises the point, which I may have mentioned before in regard to airlines, that the amount of money that has been spent on television - $4m or $5m - is not very much when one considers the amount of money that is brought into the community by those areas.
Not so long ago I was in Quilpie. I was advised that the estimate of the cost of a rail strike on the condition of cattle held up as a result of the stike was something like $750,000 just for the hold up alone. I am not canvassing the merits pf the strike. One can imagine the tremendous advantage to this country of the produce from those areas, yet we are having difficulty in obtaining television in places like Quilpie. I have been informed by the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) only today that it is expected that the television stations at both Miles and Roma will begin to radiate in November 1973. But there may be some further delay in the other stage 7 stations. I just hope that the Government will give more consideration to the needs of people in those areas. I emphasise their needs because there is only a few members in this Parliament who are able to do that job.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– My grievance relates to a campaign currently being waged in the electorate of Lilley, a campaign that relates to an area of the electorate, the Brisbane airport, and to the proposal to build new runways and taxiways and to erect a terminal building and other facilities, thereby providing a new airport for the capital of Queensland. Of course, honourable members are well aware of my interest in this project, as I have spoken on it on several occasions in this House. I have been vitally interested, not merely of recent time but for many years, because I am aware that previous Liberal-Country Party governments have treated the people of Brisbane with complete and utter contempt. I point out that my interest in the citizens of the Lilley electorate is not new. It led me in 1969 to give evidence before the House of Representatives Select Committee which investigated the effect of aircraft noise. This was three and a half years before I was elected to the House of Representatives. Since my election I have been active in the interests of the people I represent, seeking protection for those who may be affected as a result of a new airport being built and seeking information in respect of the planning and work to be carried out in building this new airport.
It was gratifying for me to hear the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) in this House, when speaking on the Appropriation Bill on 10 October, recognising the interest that I have taken. I was particularly pleased to hear him tell the people of Australia, particularly the people of my area, that in this year’s Estimates, $lm has been provided for the immediate purchase of property required for the development of the Brisbane Airport. He went on to say:
The man who was responsible for this is the honourable member for Lilley, who was recently elected to this House. He is the one who has shown all the interest.
The situation is that I have held meetings in the Lilley electorate and I have kept my constituents informed about what is occurring, particularly those who reside at Cribb Island and Nudgee Beach. I have visited these areas and spoken to people whose homes may be acquired. I have visited businessmen and private residents in these places and also in the Lower Nudgee area, and I have no doubt that all these people recognise my interest in their welfare. I suggest that people of those areas saw their Federal member on more occasions during the past 10 months than they did during the previous 9 years when a Liberal represented the area. I visited these people and kept them informed because I was aware that airport development work was proceeding and that finally, after years of empty promises made by Liberal governments, a Labor Government was taking action.
I was amazed recently to learn that leaflets were being distributed in some part of the Lilley electorate - leaflets sponsored by what is known as the Campaign for the Elimination of Aircraft Noise. Its purpose as it appears to me is to attack the present Government and not make any attack on the past Government, which was responsible for allowing aircraft noise to worry the people of Brisbane for so long. This leaflet is a scurrilous document loaded with erroneous statements. It is clearly political and has a very evident anti-Labor bias. I shall quote just a couple of lines from this scurrilous document. One part of it claims:
Last December, Mr Whitlam and your Federal Member promised in an election pamphlet elimination of noise within 3 years.
It goes on to make this request to the people of Lilley:
Protest to your ALP member now. Every time an aircraft annoys you, whether walebing television, listening to the radio, dining with your family or in ordinary conversation, remind him of the broken promise.
This campaign is endeavouring to incite people to make a nuisance of themselves by ringing my home and upsetting my family life about something over which I have no control, something which is the responsibility of previous Liberal governments at the Federal level. We hear so much about law and order, yet this leaflet is asking people to make a nuisance of themselves and upset my family.
There appears on this leaflet the name of A. Langton of Post Office Box 36, Nundah. Therefore I imagine that he is one who is involved with the supposed anti-noise campaign. I explain that at no time has Mr Langton or any member of the Campaign for the Elimination of Aircraft Noise approached me or made contact in any way to inquire as to what progress was being made with the airport development. The first knowledge I had of the activity of this body was when a copy of the leaflet to which I have referred was forwarded to me only a few days ago. I will explain the rather queer way in which this came into my hands. In explanation I point out that last week I received a telephone call from a person who claimed to be a very prominent member of the Liberal Party and one who resides in my electorate. I was of course somewhat surprised at this approach. However, after indentifying himself, this person asked me whether I had seen the leaflet on aircraft noise which was being distributed in parts of the electorate. Upon his being informed that I had not he volunteered to send one to me. This is how I came by that document. He indicated that he would contact me again after I had read the leaflet.
He duly contacted me and we had a discussion on the contents of the leaflet. I am convinced that this man will fight tooth and nail for the party to which he belongs, the Liberal Party, and its objectives. Nevertheless it was very evident that he believed in fair play - a quality I admire in any man. He said that he had tipped me off on what was happening in the electorate; that he was well aware of my interest in the airport. He congratulated me on the efforts I was making not just on behalf of one section of the people but on behalf of all sections. In respect of the airport location, he expressed complete contempt for the leaflet and its contents. He informed me that A. Langton, who resides at Toombul, Brisbane, is a Liberal Party branch secretary. In reply to my query whether this was the A. Langton whose name appeared on the leaflet he said: ‘I am a betting man, and I will bet on that one’.
Following this discussion I decided to endeavour to track down the person whose name appeared on the scurrilous leaflet to which I have referred. I perused the Brisbane telephone directory and discovered that an A. Langton was listed as living at 7 Wallaby Street, Toombul, and that his phone number was 672197. I rang this number and spoke to a gentleman who identified himself as a person whose name appeared on the leaflet. I questioned him on the claim that the people of Lilley were given a promise by me prior to the last election that noise nuisance would be overcome at the airport within 3 years after a Labor Government took office. He admitted to me that he had no evidence to substantiate the assertion made in this regard. He appeared to be vague on Brisbane airport development. It appears that the so-called committee behind the Campaign for the Elimination of Aircraft Noise has not yet had a meeting. I was unable to establish when this committee was formed. However it is apparent that it did not operate during the term of the previous Liberal-Country Party Government when promises about the Brisbane Airport were broken with regularity. This indicates that the motives behind the campaign are more anti-ALP than anti-noise. .
I notice that the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) sitting in the chamber. The honourable member for Griffith, after 7 years’ silence in this chamber in relation to the Brisbane Airport, suddenly a couple of weeks ago decided to make a couple of speeches on the .airport. We checked and found that in 2 speeches over 6 years during the term of office of his own Government, and in 7 years up to this point, he made a passing reference to the Brisbane Airport. In the whole 7 years he had been here he had not asked one question about the Brisbane airport. Suddenly he became interested. I challenged him to come into my electorate and appear with me before the people I represent and show that I had not been doing my job on their behalf. He has not accepted that challenge. It is a sad state of affairs when people can, in an electorate, resort to the distribution of a gutter-type leaflet referring to something about which they admit they know nothing. It is shocking. It is scandalous if, in fact, the person whose name appears on this leaflet is the secretary of a Liberal Party branch.
– No one is more surprised than I that I am on my feet now talking about the Brisbane Airport because I had hoped, from assurances given recently by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones), that things were under way. We have just heard a speech by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Doyle) and I cannot help but think he protesteth too much. I have never seen the document to which he referred so his speech today came as a surprise to me. He presents himself in this Parliament as a champion of the Brisbane Airport - a man whose . interest goes back 3i years prior to his entry to this Parliament. It is an established fact that the honourable member for Lilley was in 1969, when he appeared before the committee to which he alluded, a candidate for the Australian Labor Party. He was simply trying to make cheap capital by indicating an interest in the Brisbane Airport. But until I started a campaign, of a like that has never been witnessed in this Parliament, about last August he remained silent in the Parliament on the subject of the Brisbane Airport.
I am pleased that for the second occasion we have the presence of the worthy Minister for Civil Aviation in the chamber because he has let pass another one of my speeches without coming into the chamber and endeavouring to counter my claims. The truth is that when the Budget came out this year the Coombs Committee report had recommended that the plans for the future of the Brisbane Airport should be amongst those plans which should be scrapped to enable the Government to channel money in other directions. Night after night I stood in this Parliament and pleaded that the Minister for Civil Aviation should come into the chamber and explain what was happening with the Brisbane Airport.
– I remember it.
– Everyone remembers it. After about 2 months the Minister came into the chamber and said that money for the Brisbane Airport was provided in the estimates for the Department of Services and Property. I asked where in those estimates and the Minister said: ‘It is there; it is not very easy to see but I can assure you that it is there’. If that money had been initially supplied or appropriated for Brisbane Airport, I wish somebody would explain to me why the Government of today was prepared to accept an editorial published in the Brisbane ‘CourierMail’ attacking it, and a denouncement by the Labor Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman Clem Jones, who said - I do not have the clipping with me but I remember it well - “I am disappointed’. For 2 months the Labor Government was prepared to stand by and not to fight off my attacks on behalf of the people of Brisbane, the condemnation by the Labor Lord Mayor, the editorial in the Brisbane ‘Courier-Mail’ and even the utterances of the honourable member for Lilley and the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh), both of whom showed interest when I commenced my campaign in earnest.
The honourable member for Lilley said that I had spoken only twice on this matter in 7 years. I will not dispute that, but the facts are that the Brisbane Airport was another which required attention outside as well as inside this House. I remember going to the previous Prime Minister and telling him that as far as
I was concerned it was time, even if he had to go and pick up a shovel or if he could not do so for the Minister for Civil Aviation to pick up a shovel, to turn the first sod because we were getting sick and tired of waiting for the new airport.
In past Hansards there are quotes of the present Minister for Civil Aviation stating how poorly Brisbane had been treated. He said these things while he was a back bencher in the Opposition. The Coombs report stated clearly that the previous Government planned to spend $lm this year, $13m next year, $18m the year after and $130m thereafter or the Brisbane Airport. This, in itself, is an admission by a committe which the Labor Government set up that the previous Government - the Libera] Government - at last was on the way. I have never praised the previous Government for the manner in which the Brisbane Airport project was tackled. I believe that the new Government, if it had been allowed to get away with it, would have scrapped plans made by the previous Government for the future of the Brisbane Airport.
The honourable member for Lilley decries a campaign - I do not know anything about the campaign - but it is an indication that the people of Brisbane are awakening and expressing a willingness to stand up and fight. I do not necessarily agree that the private life of the honourable member for Lilley should be invaded but if those persons who feel strongly about this matter were to ring him his telephone would never stop ringing. Of the 13 unlucky suburbs of Brisbane which contain some 50,000 affected persons, quite a number are in the electorate of Griffith. The poor people in the suburbs of Norman Park, Bulimba, Balmoral and Hawthorne were on the brink of relief when along came the new Government which was prepared to scrap the airport plans and until I mounted a campaign the honourable member for Lilley was strangely silent. Those persons who want to judge the correctness or the fairness of who is responsible for attaining a new airport for Brisbane should read Hansard. They will see that almost every speech made by the honourable member for Lilley followed a speech made by me. I remember those unpleasant evenings when I was subjected to a 2-pronged attack by the honourable member for Bowman and the honourable member for Lilley, in my earnestness to try to get a new Brisbane airport I was subjected to an exploitation of cheap politics.
All I wanted was for the Minister for Civil Aviation to come into the chamber and explain the situation but for 2 months he did not. He refused. It is a good thing that the people of Brisbane are talcing an interest in this matter. I hope that the Minister, who is in the chamber now, will listen to the honourable member for Lilley, the honourable member for Bowman and the honourable member for Griffith, regardless of their political guernseys and will realise that with the development of noisy aircraft in recent years the people of Brisbane deserve some relief.
My friend, the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Cooke) has asked questions in this House about the siting of another airport whether it would be near Caboolture and where was the appropriation in the estimates for this year? This is a case of where the Government has not put its money, in conformity with its utterances of recent months. The Government came here as a government beating the drum of progress but a scrutiny of the appropriations early in the piece showed that the Brisbane Airport had been given a kiss of death. I can understand the honourable member for Lilley reacting but he has been nothing but a reactor. He has reacted to all my speeches and now he is reacting to a Mr Langton who, according to him, is a member of the Liberal Party. I do not know Mr Langton. I am not saying he does not exist but 3 cheers to him and 3 cheers to all those people in Brisbane who are at last indicating an interest in their own cause.
As I have said previously in this Parliament, when the Liberal-Country Party government returns to power after the next election if it acts in the same manner as the present Government has acted towards the people of Brisbane in their desire for a new airport, I will be just as- vociferous and will attack and condemn it just as strongly. This is not a party matter; it is a matter of progress for the people of Brisbane. Just because there are only half a dozen Federal seats in the city of Brisbane its airport does not deserve to be scrubbed off the list of priorities. We have waited long enough. I frankly admit that it has been a wait contributed to by the previous Government but we are sick and tired of waiting and it is time we got back on the road to progress once again.
Mr DOYLE (Lilley)- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The silent member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) stated that I had taken no interest in the Brisbane Airport until he spoke. That is completely incorrect and he knows it.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, in this grievance debate I want to raise a matter that should be the concern of every decent Australian. A week ago today the Vice President of the United States of America resigned in disgrace and scandal. He was forced to resign because of his association with crooks. He was a grafter and a friend and associate of grafters. The day after the Vice President of the United States resigned the Premier of New South Wales announced that there would be an election in my great State. The Republican Party of the United States has been exposed as a corrupt organisation. The Liberal Party of New South Wales is tainted with the same sort of corruption. The only difference is this: Corruption in America has been exposed and the guilty men are to be punished. Corruption in New South Wales goes unchecked and the guilty men appear in white tie and tails in the company and presence of the Queen of Australia.
In the United States the former AttorneyGeneral, Mr John Mitchell, is now under indictment because of his association with crooks. The people of New South Wales are entitled to know the facts about the asssociation of their Attorney-General, Mr McCaw, with the greatest crook and rogue ever to disgrace the Australian business scene. I refer to one Alexander Barton. He was the master crook and he was the friend, associate and adviser of leading Liberals in New South Wales. He was adviser to the firm of which the present Attorney-General of New South Wales was the principal partner. The name still is over the door of those solicitors where all the crooked companies formed by Alexander Barton were fo,med. They were formed in that office. Many of those companies are called MACJOSH which signifies, in abbreviated terms, the words McCaw and Johnston.
Compared to Alexander Barton, previous scoundrels like Woolcott Forbes, and all those associated with the H. G. Palmer and Co. affair in effect were amateur crooks. They were novices. Barton was virtually a killer barracuda attacking a school of prawns and one of those prawns was, unfortunately, the previous Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon). Barton floated a huge number of public companies which he manipulated-
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask the honourable member for Hunter to withdraw that remark. It was a personal reflection on a colleague of mine on this side of the House. It was personal and offensive and I think he should be asked to withdraw it.
– I do not think it was offensive at all. I said that unforunately he was one of these prawns. He was the victim of association.
– You named him and you should withdraw.
– If it is offensive to the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) I will withdraw it. Barton floated a huge number of public companies which he manipulated for his own gain. One company would absorb or buy out another without reference to the shareholders and there were all kinds of involved share swapping deals. In all, starting from early 1970, Alexander Barton raised $25. 6m and by 1972 had failed to account for $2’2.6m of his shareholders’ money. The Commissioner of Corporate Affairs, Mr Ryan, instituted an inquiry into Barton’s affairs and submitted an interim report to the AttorneyGeneral, Mr McCaw, in the New South Wales Government. Instead of tabling that report in the New South Wales Parliament so that those shareholders could see what had happened to their money, Mr McCaw had the Commissioner of Corporate Affairs delegate 2 of his senior inspectors to make an investigation of 36 companies said to be involved, although there were many others that should have been included. Barton, learning just what was in the wind, packed up and escaped overseas. He was tipped off. I ask Parliament to use its common sense as to who tipped off Alexander Barton and caused his quick exit from Australia.
Barton came to Australia as a refugee from Hungary in 1950 - I suppose as a freedom fighter - under the name of Sandor Buchalter. He obtained work as a plumber and changed his name to Alexander Barton.
His first venture into the world of free enterprise, so proudly espoused by the LiberalCountry Party coalition sitting in Opposition here - was to move into the Landmark Corporation. With an eye to the main chance he formed an association with a man named John Bovill, of 36 Drumalbyn Road, Bellevue Hill, a leader of the society set and a man who lived close to and I understand was a neighbour of a former Prime Minister whose name has been mentioned earlier. Barton was soon boasting that he had powerful friends in political circles. His rise to riches occurred entirely under the Askin Government. While the chairman of directors of Landmark, A. E. Armstrong, was abroad, Barton moved for his ousting and the appointment of himself in his stead. Mr Armstrong was a New South Wales Liberal Member of the Legislative Council.
Barton’s first entry into big time on his own came in 1969 when he formed Associated Gem Corporation. This company obtained possession of what was claimed to be the largest opal ever found in the world which was named the ‘Desert Flame of Andamooka’. It was claimed to weigh 220 ounces. Barton then decided that the time was ripe to go really big time so he floated a company, Palgrave Corporation Ltd, with an authorised capital of $2,500,000 and the opal from Andamooka as its principal asset. The company had an issued capital of $550,000. The prospectus was a lavish presentation with a photograph of the ‘Desert Flame of Andamooka’ on the cover. By this time Associated Gem Corporation was a wholly owned subsidiary of Brins Securities Ltd, another Barton enterprise, and the prospectus disclosed that Brins had been sold to Palgrave in return for 200,000 fully paid up 50c Palgrave shares. The prospectus also disclosed that the Palgraves had bought the ‘.Desert Flame’ for $168,000. It was also claimed that an independent valuation had put the valuation of the stone as being excess of $lm. Later it was claimed to be worth $1.5m.
Barton was a great believer in keeping in with the establishment - the Liberal establishment of Sydney or New South Wales. His bank was the Bank of New South Wales, the bank which channels foreign money into the Liberal Party funds. His solicitors were McCaw, Johnson & Co. The auditors were another solid establishment firm, Hungerford, Sponer and Kirkhope - the very heart and soul of the Liberal Party in New South Wales. The whole thing was a fraud. It was a fraud from beginning to end. It was a fraud underwritten by leading Liberals. Barton’s next venture was Brins Australia Ltd, a firm of merchant bankers and investment counsellors. The directors were Alexander Barton, Thomas Barton and J. O. Bovill. The solicitors, again, Mr Deputy Speaker, were none other than McCaw, Johnson and Co.
Now for Bounty Oil. One of Barton’s most ambitious projects was Bounty Oil, incorporated in April 1969 with a paid up capital of $5m, with 50 million shares at 10c each and options for an additional 50 million shares. The directors were J. O. Bovill, Alexander Barton, C. W. Marshall, R. A. Rydge, and J. Stewart. These parties, I understand, were well known to a former Prime Minister of this Parliament. The solicitors again were none other than McCaw, Johnson and Co. - Sir Robert Askin’s mates.
Next was Harbourside Oil. Harbourside Oil was floated with a nominal capital of $30m and paid up capital of $2m. Each subscriber to the 20 million shares originally offered was given an option to take up an additional share. The directors were none other than J. O. Bovill, chairman, Alexander Barton, C. W. Marshall, R. A. Rydge, and J. Stewart. The solicitors, Mr Acting Deputy Speaker, were none other than McCaw, Johnson and Co. Next was Westmoreland Minerals. This was floated in April 1969. The purpose of the company was to engage in mineral exploration in the Northern Territory and Queensland. The directors were J. O. Bovill, Chairman, Alexander Barton, C. W. Marshall, R. A. Rydge and J. Stewart. The bankers were the Bank of New South Wales and the solicitors were - wait for it - none other than McCaw Johnson and Co.
Then there was Jetair Australia Ltd. We in this Parliament have heard something about the Jetair racket before. This crook formed an air charter company which he wanted to become the third airline in Australia’s domestic airline set-up-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I claim to have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) when he said that I had misled this House and honourable members because nothing had been done in relation to Brisbane Airport until such time as he raised the matter recently. I wish to draw his attention and the attention of honourable members generally to a number of facts which clearly establish that I have not misled honourable members and that when I said in the debate on the Appropriation Bill that Sim was included in the estimates for the acquisition of land for the development of Brisbane Airport I was telling the truth and not telling lies.
I table a copy of a minute, which I approved on 27 March this year, from the then DirectorGeneral of Civil Aviation, Sir Donald Anderson, to me. It was dated 15 March. It clearly establishes that I approved the acquisition of land for Brisbane Airport. I also have here the draft acquisition program for the Department of Civil Aviation which gives the following details of division 940.1.06: ‘2. Brisbane - Extensions to Airport (4,080 acres) - program, $6.5m - cash, $lm’. Those are the details of the appropriation. I table that document. A Cabinet decision of 1 May 1973 states:
So, we are dealing with this matter. It was decided that the Coombs Task Force. recommendations would be referred to the Bureau of Transport Economics. This has been done already. The Bureau has had preliminary discussions with officials of the Department of Civil Aviation. On those points I believe that I have clearly established - I missed another one-
– Mr Deputy Speaker, this is Grievance Day-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! I ask the Minister to restrict his comments to the points of misrepresentation.
– 1 do not mind an honourable member being political, but when he says that I tell lies he is in trouble.
– You are debating it.
– I am not debating it.
-Order! I have asked the Minister to restrict his comments to the misrepresentation.
– When an honourable member tells me that I tell lies, he is in trouble. I table also notes for the 1973 Budget debate, which were placed in the Bills and Papers Office on 18 September and which on page 2 clearly disclose an allocation of $1,128,704 for the Department of Civil Aviation to acquire land for extensions to Brisbane Airport. That amount was made up of the $lm plus the money that was left over.
Mr DONALD CAMERON (Griffith)- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I would not have intentionally described the Minister as having been dishonest. As everyone else including the Labor Lord Mayor of Brisbane believed, the Brisbane Airport extensions had been given the kiss of death by the Cabinet in the Budget discussions and this money was appropriated only on the eighteenth, I think it was. I believe that careful examination of the documents that have been tabled will show that that was in response to the indignation of the people of Brisbane. I appreciate that the papers have been tabled; so we will all at long last have a chance to see what went on in relation to Brisbane.
– Without the expertise of the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) but also with a grievance, I rise to bring to the notice of this House my concern at the procrastination taking place and the lack of response to the many important matters and requests I have raised on behalf of my electors. This Government came to power nearly 12 months ago with all the enthusiasm and glory of newfound power and boasting of what we could expect in the years ahead. Optimism was so high that Government supporters even talked about what they would do as a government after the next election. They having now settled down to the realities of life and having learned the arduous responsibilities of government, we do not hear them any longer talking about what they will do as a future government; instead we see them retreating to their foxholes and sniping at the members of the Opposition with snide remarks about election funds being collected to get them out of office, as they say. At the first fair dinkum challenge by the Australian Country Party to go to the electors, Government supporters scuttled for cover and have been whimpering about it ever since.
I want to know when we can really expect some action by some of the more romantic Ministers. I have yet to see any tangible evidence of any decisions by several Ministers who have been requested by responsible people in my electorate to carry out the lavish pre-election promises. Let me quote some of the concerns I have in order to illustrate to this Parliament how insincere those Ministers are. Let me take the deceitful boast of the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby). He thought that he would be the Minister for Primary Industry; so he quite unabashedly promised the primary producers of Australia $500m in long term finance at 3 per cent per annum interest. I have not seen any of it yet, and interest rates have gone up, not down.
The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and all his henchmen made great play to the electorate and local municipalities by saying that there would be direct grants to local government. What a . marvellous thought! But what has happened? On behalf of many municipalities in my electorate I have made numerous requests to the Prime Minister; but, being the good fencer that he is, he has directed the grants under the Grants Commission through various other Ministers. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) cannot move until he has his regions all worked out; the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) is tying up any decisions he may make with the Minister for Urban and Regional Development; and so it goes on.
But there is one Minister who does things in his own way, unhindered and probably aided and abetted by other Ministers in a more subtle way. The Minister to whom I refer is the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) who has taken all the minerals with all the energy he can muster and decided to nationalise them. He showed great strength and energy in trying to belittle my efforts to get on with the job of producing oil from brown coal. I will not repeat to this House how importantly I view the need to do just that. I have yet to hear whether the Minister has taken any action to carry out the terms of my motion which was passed by this House. Perhaps he is too busy laying traps to catch other unsuspecting mineral enterprise companies. Even the Treasurer (Mr Crean) has not been able to assist my local shire to secure a very appropriate industry. All Ministers are duckshoving their responsibilities.
Many of the proposals of the Government are very commendable. One in particular is in the field of environment and conservation. But it appals me to see the procrastination in this area. State governments have at last placed great emphasis on this field and are awaiting th support of the Federal Government to help them get on with the job. One area which has been proclaimed as suitable for a national park is the Mount Worth area in the Strzelecki Ranges which has everything to commend it economically, environmentally and conservationally. If the Minister can at least assure me that he will give this project his immediate and earnest consideration, I can assure him that he would retrieve some of the image which he has lost by his procrastination. The property owners who are suffering a financial handicap by the interim development order would appreciate his immediate action. The shire councils involved are embarrassed by the present situation in which their ratepayers find themselves. No one knows when action is to be taken and therefore the proposed sale of the properties is devalued or Sales cannot be made.
This area of country requires constant attention, otherwise it reverts back to its natural foliage. This again lowers the value of the land and therefore it creates great potential for a national park. In the interests of the people who own this country and who are dependent on receiving a reasonable acquisition price I request that some action be taken urgently and that an immediate decision be made one way or the other. It is totally unfair to starve these people out, but this is what will happen if positive action is not taken now. Not only am I promoting the plight of the resident, but I am also hoping to preserve one of our most natural beauty areas in Gippsland. The scenic views from the tourist point of view offer great attraction. Add to that the conservation of the most magnificent flora and fauna.
This area is another marvel of nature. It is within pleasant driving distance from the metropolis and for that reason it should demand the support of the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) whose constituents would be among the tourists who would benefit. As I said, priorities must be established, economics effected and immediate action taken. If it is taken much of the beautiful timber will be saved from being ravaged. A feasibility study has been made. It is supported by our field naturalists and our conservationists and the property owners. Many said that they would co-operate - some of them were very reluctant because of their love to be up among the scenic beauty where they have made their homes. These are the people of whom we must think. They will have to be re-established. If the Government starves them out by procrastination, then I will be forced to highlight this indictment of the Government. I appeal to the Minister to give this matter his earnest attention and to show his sincerity in his portfolio.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I claim to have been misrepresented by the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Hewson). Seeing that I corrected the inaccuracy of the statement he made when it was first put forward in the House by his Leader, I think I should take the same action in respect of the honourable member. He said that prior to the last election I promised on behalf of the Government that there would be an amount of $500m available for rural credit at 3 per cent. As I have pointed out previously, I first made the statement - and I have repeated it many times since - in the presence of the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) at a conference which we both attended at Condoblin. On that occasion I said, and I repeat, that it was possible to make available $500m at 3 per cent and if the money was made available at 3 per cent and the interest rate was subsidised this would cost only SI 5m a year. That is a very reasonable proposition. It was put forward at a time when no rural credit was available. At the present time $3 50m is available at various interest rates for a whole range of purposes. I made that claim and that initiative has been followed up further-
– I raise a point of order. I suggest that the Minister is now debating the issue and not speaking to the personal explanation. This is especially so because I have in my office a copy of an advertisement - which includes a photograph of the Minister - in which the promise was in fact made.
– I suggest to the honourable member for Wannon that he has further misrepresented me and I would also correct him. I also challenge him to produce the advertisement and to debate it. I would be delighted to do so. If it is a matter of his record against mine, we can debate that too.
– It is my pleasure in this debate to follow the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Hewson) who is affectionately known in this place as Mr Seventeen Per Cent. I just want to remind him that the problems that he talks about in his electorate are problems which were inherited by him from the previous Liberal representative for McMillan and that the problems were developed over a period of 23 years of Liberal-Country Party administration. I say in regard to his challenge to the Government to hold an election that it is quite pleasing to see that the Democratic Labor Party in its political wisdom is too astute to fall for the stunt of the hollow challenge of the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) to call for a double dissolution. The DLP is too politically astute to be the sacrificial goat in a game for the Country Party.
Next Monday will see the commencement at Coffs Harbour .of the 1973 New South Wales Local Government Association Conference. Today is an opportune time to bring before the notice of this Parliament and the local government representatives who will be attending the conference, and indeed before all ratepayers in New South Wales, the refusal of the Liberal-Country Party Government of New South Wales, led by Sir Robert Askin, to support the proposition of local government representation at the Australian Loan Council. The Australian Government is pledged in the terms of its policy and platform to make local government a genuine partner in our federal system. Direct representation for local government at Loan Council meetings would mean that it would be possible for the Australian Government on request to raise approved loans on behalf of semi-government and local government authorities, thus giving them the advantage of the longer period and lower interest appertaining to loans raised by the Australian Government on behalf of the States. This direct representation would result in considerable savings to local councils and, ultimately, savings in dollars and cents to ratepayers throughout Australia. But in the State of New South Wales the Premier is opposed to giving greater recognition to local government and pursues a course that prohibits an easing of the financial burden on ratepayers in New South Wales. This Government is committed to an objective of assisting and strengthening local government. The New South Wales Liberal-Country Party Government is opposed to it.
It is true that New South Wales was not the only State represented at the meeting of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Premiers in Canberra on 1 1 October 1973 that opposed local government access to the Australian Loan Council. But I single out New South Wales for several reasons. Firstly, the Premier of New South Wales is a man who so loudly cries about the so-called poor deal his State gets from this Government. Secondly, it is he who is the advocate for states’ rights. Thirdly, because by his action at the meeting of Heads of Government on 11 October 1973, as Premier of the major State in Australia, he ensured the rejection of the proposals put forward by the Prime Minister to raise the status of local government. This is the man who claims his Government receives unfair treatment from this Government, yet by the parsimonious attitude of his own State Government keeps local government and the ratepayers in a financial straightjacket.
I want all the ratepayers of New South Wales to understand clearly that the LiberalCountry Party Government of New South Wales stands in the way of local government in that State achieving access to cheaper finance, earlier work programs and accelerated progress. This so-called champion of states’ rights - Sir Robert Askin - has deliberately suppressed opportunities of local government in his own State and deliberately obstructs a course of action that would assist New South Wales ratepayers. I want all the ratepayers and local government representatives in New South Wales to know what he has done. Local government is being squeezed between the expanding expectations of society and the limits of its resources. Ratepayers are being squeezed between increasing council rates and soaring land valuations. The ‘Newcastle Morning Herald’ editorial of 11 October 1973 expressed the hopes of all ratepayers in the Hunter region when it said:
Mr Whitlam’s election speeches, his professed sympathy for local governments’ financial difficulties, the direct access of regional groupings to the Grants Commission, and a voice on the Loan Council hold promise of some relief in the future.
The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has repeatedly stated the need for a reappraisal of the arrangements of the existing Financial Agreement. These arrangements were based on needs of the decade following World War I when the relative roles and responsibilities of the Australian Government, the State governments and local government were vastly different from what they are now. They were not adequate in the past, they are not adequate now and they certainly will not be adequate for the future.
Over the past 2 decades serious deficiences have developed in the State local sector. This Government has set itself the task of helping remedy those deficiencies. Enlarged allocations in the 1973-74 Budget for education, community health, public housing, sewerage services, land management, urban transport and growth centres evidence our strong beginning on that task. Total allocations to the States in 1973-74 including the State governments’ Loan Council programs but excluding unempolyment relief grants are 24 per cent greater than comparable allocations in 1972- 73.
If local government is to play the greater and more effective role that the people of Australia require it to play, the effective influence local government exercises in relation to the fundamental decision making affecting its activities must be increased. Such an increase will represent a most significant step towards true federalism, true local participation in public affairs and, indeed, true decentralisation of government. This Government secured the representation of local government at the Constitutional Convention. It has authorised the Grants Commission to examine applications for assistance by regional groupings of local councils. Additional members have been appointed to the Commission to enable it to deal with this added responsibility. Under the Australian Assistance Plan, special aid will be made available to local government authorities to enable them more effectively to provide welfare and health services to their communities.
But let us have a look at the comparison of State and local government borrowing since 1947. In that year, the total debt of local government authorities was SI 40m or about 7 per cent of total State government debt. In June 1971, on preliminary figures provided by the government statistician, the debt had risen to $ 1,730m or almost 15 per cent of estimated total State government debt at that date. In the 24 years local government authorities’ debt had increased twelvefold compared with an increase of not quite sixfold in the State government total outstanding debt. Yet after that period of enormous growth in the range and cost of local government responsibilities its voice in the place where the nation’s broad public borrowing programs were determined was still as it was at the beginning - that is, nil.
If the existing Financial Agreement from the 1920s were being drawn up now, local government most certainly would have a say. Under present conditions, local government is left largely to fend for itself and it is no wonder that the costs of borrowing bear so heavily at an increasing rate on their budgets. The picture varies from State to State and as between individual authorities but the fact is that in 1970-71 the overall interest payment by local government authorities was equivalent to about 12 per cent of their revenue. Interest payments plus capital repayments in the same year totalled S 177.5m or about 25 per cent of revenues. If the Australian Government were able to borrow on behalf of local government authorities the servicing costs would be appreciably lower.
Let me return now to the situation in New South Wales which stagnates under the standstill Government of the Liberal-Country Party coalition in that State. The Newcastle ‘Sun’ of 15 October 1973 carried a feature article headed ‘Local Government Must Fight for its Say’. It commenced as follows:
As as professed champion of State rights, New South Wales Premier Sir Robert Askin could have a difficult task justifying his stand against local government admission to the Australian Loan Council.
He is reported as having led the fight against the Prime Minister’s proposals for local government representation because he did not like the prospect of local government representatives being in competition with their Premiers for loan funds. What he was really saying was that he wanted local government to remain a dependent child of the States and that councils should be kept in a Statetightened straight-jacket - this from a man who claims that the Australian Government is trying to shackle the States. What hypocrisy is this? But then, with the New South Wales Government, a multiplicity of standards is commonplace.
In the same article the secretary of the New South Wales Local Government Association, Mr Graham Miles, is reported as stating - I commend him for his foresight - that he is positive that local government should have a direct say in the major financial planning of the nation, that its total loan program would exceed that of 2 States and justifies a say at the Loan Council and that the present higher interest rates and shorter periods of repayment that have to be met by local government as compared with the States are a major contributing factor to the high level of rate charges at the moment. Mr Miles is not a politician. He is secretary of the Local Government Association of the major State of Australia.
It is regrettable that the State Premiers did not agree with the Prime Minister at their meeting on 11 October. If they had done so, local government would have received its greatest boost since Federation. However, the ratepayers may yet triumph, despite the negative and restrictive approach taken by Sir Robert Askin. The Prime Minister has already announced that the question of local government representation at the Australian Loan Council will be put to the Australian people for decision by way of a referendum in 1974. So, to all those ratepayers listening today, I ask you to remember quite clearly that this Government has sought to steady your rate burden and improve your local services by giving local government access to cheaper money. But it has been thwarted. When the referendum is held next year, my advice is that you should vote yes to give local governsent access to the Australian Loan Council and a voice at the national financial table.
– The Government is subservient to or is part of what it chooses to call the Australian Labor Party. I think that it should be named the un-Australian Labor Party because if there was ever a party that has betrayed Australia and Australian ideals, it is the Party which controls the Government. I say this because the Government is a socialist government and it has obtained power under pretences. It has obtained power as the agent of the international socialist movement. The international communist movement seems to be the dominant partner in that affair. It is controlled
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. I understand that the honourable member for Mackellar has just described the Government as being dominated by the international communist movement That is offensive to me and to every member of the Government and I suggest that he be asked to withdraw.
Order! I think we have had consistent rulings from the past and the present Speakers that general comments of this nature are not to be taken as personal reflections on individual members.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I point out to honourable members the close connection between various Government supporters and various sections of the ALP with the World Federation of Trade Unions - a communist international show which seems to control policy. I want again to put on record the performance of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in June 1972 when he went to communist organisations in order to obtain money to finance his election campaign. The Prime Minister knowingly gave to those communist organisations pledges to follow their policy if they would pay money to the ALP. This is what happens when multinational international communist controlled organisations pay the election expenses of this Government.
I want to have incorporated in Hansard pages 34 to 38 of the minutes of 2 June 1972 of the Commonwealth Council of Amalgamated Organisations, which consists of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, the blacksmiths, boilermakers and sheet metal workers, which records the visit by the Prime Minister to that organisation, the taking of the $25,000 and the pledges which he gave to the communists at that time. I ask permission to incorporate these pages in Hansard.
– No, I have not seen them.
– I showed the document to the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) when he was at the table.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! I have been asked whether leave is granted.
– No, I have not seen the pages.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Leave is not granted.
– I put on record that I showed the document to the PostmasterGeneral when he was at the table earlier in this debate and I understood that he was going to give permission. I appreciate that the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) who is now at the table may not know that. But I ask him again now whether he will grant leave. It is quite proper that these pages be incorporated in Hansard. They are a record of what the Prime Minister did. If he is ashamed of what the Prime Minister did, let him say so now. Is the Minister for Immigration prepared to go along with the permission which the Minister who was at the table a moment ago granted?
– I will consult the PostmasterGeneral, I will have a look at the documents and I will let the honourable member for Mackellar know.
Order! For the moment leave is not granted.
– Well, Sir, we shall see. If leave is not granted I shall take the opportunity on the adjournment debate to read the whole of this document into Hansard because I think that it is important that the country should know exactly how the Prime Minister is betraying it to the communists and how the Prime Minister has knowingly taken money from the communists and given them pledges. (Quorum formed.) Mr Deputy Speaker, thank you very much. It is significant that the Labor Party-
– I raise a point of order. In his remarks the honourable member for Mackellar has made a charge of corruption against the Prime Minister which cannot be debated in this House unless he is prepared to put down a substantive motion.
– I raise a point of order-
– You cannot call order from your seat.
– I am entitled to take a point of order.
-Order! The House will come to order. I ask the honourable member for Corio to indicate the particular reference by the honourable member for Mackellar to which he is drawing attention.
– The honourable member stated that the Prime Minister had, in exchange for a guarantee that he would carry out certain actions as Prime Minister, personally accepted money from an organisation. He stated that immediately before the quorum was called. It is an imputation and a charge against the Prime Minister and it must be made as a substantive motion. Honourable members are not entitled to make charges of malpractice against members of the House without a substantive motion.
– On the point of order-
-I intend to rule on the point of order.
– Can I speak to it first, Mr Deputy Speaker?
– No, the honourable member can speak to it after I have given my ruling. I indicate to the House that, when the honourable member for Macarthur rose to call for a quorum, I was expecting him to raise the point of order that has now been raised. Had he not done so I would have called the honourable member for Mackellar to order myself. I think that what he said immediately prior to the calling of the quorum was a personal reflection on the Prime Minister and should be withdrawn.
– May I make it quite dear that I did not mean for one moment that the Prime Minister personally took the money for his own good. What I say is that the Prime Minister took the money on behalf of his Party.
-Order! None the less the terms used have been taken in that way and are capable of being understood in that way. I ask the honourable member for Mackellar to withdraw them.
– Yes, most certainly. I am trying to put on record what actually happened. It is for that reason, instead of trying to summarise the document myself, that I asked for the permission of the House to incorporate in Hansard the trade union minutes which record what actually happened. I will let those minutes stand for themselves. I do not wish to make any comment on them. I certainly cannot withdraw the trade union minutes; I did not write them.
– The Postmaster-General is back. He will give you a ruling now, seeing that you made the arrangement allegedly with him.
-Order! It being a quarter to one in accordance with standing order 106 I put the question:
That grievances be noted.
– There is still a matter to be resolved, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– Any other matter can be resolved at some other time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I ask for leave to table 2 documents. The first document is the one that the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) challenged me to bring into the House. I ask for leave to table a copy of an advertisement published in the Griffith Times’ on 17 November 1972.
– Is leave granted?
– Yes, leave is granted. I am looking forward to seeing it again.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I table the document. It is the one in which the Minister makes his promise-
-Order! The honourable member is not in order in making further comments.
– I said I was asking for leave to table 2 documents.
-I am sorry; what is your second document?
– I ask for leave again to table a document which the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) sought leave to incorporate when he was speaking during the Grievance Day debate. Apparently there was some difference, I think, between the Minister for Immigration, who was at the table, and the honourable member for
Mackellar because the honourable member was under the impression that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Lionel Bowen) had given leave for the document to be incorporated and the Minister for Immigration would not. I am asking for leave again to table the document which proves that what the honourable member for Mackellar said was true.
– It is not granted; sit down.
– If it is tabled, all honourable members could read it.
– Can I clarify the position? I understood the honourable member for Mackellar to have asked earlier for the incorporation of the document. The honourable member for Wannon has now sought leave to table it.
– Could I have leave to make a short statement?
– As I understand it at the moment we are seeking leave to table a document.
– I might indicate for the benefit of the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) showed the document to me. I agreed that it could be incorporated on the understanding that he could vouch for its accuracy and that it was not signed. I was not present when the honourable member made his speech and sought leave to have the document incorporated. I see no objection to its being incorporated.
– I thank the House. That ends this particular chapter.
-Order! It does not altogether end the chapter because at the moment we do not have a request for the incorporation of the document, although we have an agreement that the document be incorporated.
– I request formally that the document be incorporated.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
At this stage of the meeting, the President indicated that Mr Whitlam, Leader of the Labor Party was in attendance. He welcomed Mr Whitlam to the meeting and in doing so, said that a letter had been received from the A.L.P. Federal office seeking financial assistance with regard to the forthcoming Federal elections. The C.A.C. had decided to seek discussions with the Labor Party on areas of policy before bringing before the Commonwealth Council, the subject of a donation. The discussion was held on Sunday, May 20, in Sydney, arising from which, Mr Whitlam was invited to attend this meeting.
Mr Whitlam expressed appreciation on being able to attend such an historic meeting. He reminded ex-A.E.U. delegates of his attendance at a function to celebrate the achievement of autonomy only a few years ago, and now here was the achievement of this very great amalgamation. It had to be understood that it took place in a growth industry and therefore it must be expected that the new organisation would emerge with enormous strength. He said we all had high hopes and our disappointments, but there could be no doubt what the position would be had the A.L.P. held the majority in the Senate. The current Arbitration legislation would not have been enacted and if there was a Labor Government there would not have been any government interferences in the Waterside Workers’ agreement. The Labor Government would want to facilitate union amalgamations. The multiplicity of unions in Australia is a handicap and the multiplicity of representations through State legislation imposes further handicaps. Other countries can do with much fewer trade unions. We need to see, he said, that national action was taken to unravel the existing difficulties between national and State registrations.
Mr Whitlam said he applauded the way the union had kept cool during the crisis over its amalgamation. There had been numerous discusions between officers of the amalgamated unions and the A.L.P. He expressed his appreciation at the great deal of time many union officials spent assisting the A.L.P. through attendances at Federal and State conferences. Executive meetings and other A.L.P. work. The benefit of this, he said, was reflected in the existing industrial relations platform of the party. The previous platform had become out of date. It had been completely re-written. It now represents the most extensive and thorough-going part of our platform.
With regard to the forthcoming elections he said that plans are further ahead than at any time before. These plans provide an identification of the platform with the Shadow Minister. Already the mass media goes to them on major questions. The Leader goes to well chosen places on prepared issues. There lie six pamphlets now at the printing press and because it is necessary to go beyond what is freely available, TV time and Press space has already been purchased or is planned. He asked for recognition of the fact that there are about six unions that make the main contribution to campaign funds. Many contributions are fully absorbed in ordinary communications costs. Affiliation fees is exhausted in maintenance of the party apparatus and whilst many people in the electorates contribute quite significantly when it comes to more than the routine it comes down to half a dozen major trade unions. He said that other unions will be looking at what this union contributes.
Mr Whitlam said expectation must now be taken that the election will be in November. Half the Senate is due for re-election by June 30 1974. He said that a double-dissolution involving the Senate was not altogether too easy. He said he himself wanted to establish some record of achievement before facing this question. Technically the Senate must knock out the same legislation twice in a three months’ period. They were unlikely to knock back legislation on financial matters. They are more likely to obstruct matters on ideological issues. He said that the Labor Government would want to remove from the Arbitration Act, those sections that impede amalgamation, but for a double-dissolution, it would need a big popular issue. Some things, he said, did not need an Act of Parliament. They can be handled by regulations or administratively. This could be done on the National Service Act. It is not necessary to repeal the Act. It can be suspended administratively and by recommendation release of those now in prison.
Mr Whitlam said currently there is far too much interference in union affairs, but there are many things that only a government can do for the people. For example, on taxation. Who pays; how much; what expenses; what deductions; what controls over natural resources or overseas investments. It must be recognised nothing can enter or leave the country without the authority of the government. So, too, with human resources and inequality. The current government subsidises inequality.
Mr Whitlam said there were two fields for particular intentions by a Labor Government. Without the Commonwealth, problems of education cannot be solved, and secondly, there is a major problem about where people live and what is to be done about this to make our lives better in the cities. He said of course we would be challenged as to where the money is coming from, but we must ask - what about the current massive waste? He said he would want a Labor Government to catch up on the back lag. In this he said, the Federal system was no impediment to doing it as quickly as possible. Federal systems in other countries are no bar to doing such things. They could be done here.
Mr Whitlam highlighted two areas for union attention:
Mr Whitlam completed his remarks by stating that the A.L.P. needs the advice of a union such as this. He again expressed thanks for the invitation and congratulations on the achievement of amalgamation.
The President thanked him for the address and invited questions.
Mr Whitlam said in answer to questions, a Labor Government would participate in national wage cases, providing materials, not necessarily putting argument; certainly not countering the Unions’ argument. He said the days of tickets in union elections was ended. Insofar as inerference under the Act, he stated there would be no compulsion in the conduct of ballots under Labor legislation, but for those who wanted to make use of their conduct they would be available and they would be cheaply available.
Mr Whitlam said that without a Senate majority they would not be able to repeal the current Act amendments, but expressed the opinion that administratively they could do a great deal. He said that without the Attorney-General no prosecutions could take place and stated ‘there would be no prosecutions.’
In finalisation, he said he will not put into his policy speech anything they not could honor.
The President thanked Mr Whitlam for his attendance indicating a decision would be made with respect to a donation.
The President advised that an invitation had been received from the U.S.S.R. for three delegates to represent the union in the U.S.S.R. for a period of 14 days.
That the invitation be accepted and that nominations be taken for the delegation.
The nominations were as follows:
Bros J. Scott, H. Hauenschild, H. Gillman, S. Willis, H. Wilson, R. Hines and M. Malcolm.
Bros Hauenschild, Hines and Malcolm declined. The ballot resulted in -
The Returning Officer declared Bros J. Scott, S. Willis and H. Wilson elected.
That the report be received and adopted.
On acceptance of invitations for reciprocal visits, nominations be called through State Council in each State and the Commonwealth Council, and that the selection of the delegation be made by the Commonwealth Council.
Hungarian Steel and Metalworkers’ Union
Correspondence was received from the above organisation, advising that they had pleasure in accepting the invitation extended by our union, but the date previously suggested was unsatisfactory and they requested that this union consider a date in September or October so that they could combine their journey with their visit to the Japanese Trade Union National Congress.
That the dates of September or October as suggested by the Hungarian Union be accepted.
General Trade Union Confederation of Romania
Correspondence was received from the above organisation advising they had accepted the invitation from this union, but suggested that it was impossible for them to take up the invitation at the present time and they proposed that the visit should take place during 1973.
That arrangements be made for the Romanian delegation to visit Australia in 1973.
That Bro. R. Arnold be requested to report to Council at the afternoon session of today’s meeting, on his attendance at the Paris Assembly for the Peace and Independence of Indo-Chinese Peoples, held in February, 1972.
That the lunch adjournment be shortened for today’s session to 45 minutes. carried
The meeting adjourned at 12.40 p.m.
MEETING- COMMONWEALTH COUNCIL AMALGAMATED ORGANISATION A.E.U.- B. & B.S.- S.M.W.U.
Friday- Afternoon Session - 2.6.72
President: Bro. J. Devereux.
Council assembled at 1.30 p.m.
New Zealand-Exchange of Membership
The President advised that the old B. & B.S. had an agreement with the New Zealand Boilermakers’ Union for an exchange of membership entitlements when seeking employment in the respective countries.
That the existing arrangements between the Boiler making section and the New Zealand Boilermakers’ Union continue.
Donation to A.L.P. Federal Election Fund
That Commonwealth Council donate $25,000.00 to the A.L.P. Federal Election Fund.
Report re Agricultural Industry - I.M.F. Meeting
Bro. J. Heffernan reported on the I.M.F. meeting held in Brussels, Belgium, during May, 1972. The meeting developed into a study conference in which a large amount of data on wage rates and conditions in the capitalist countries was presented and discussed. The representatives from the various countries discussed ways and means of endeavouring to coordinate activities against multi-national companies, and the importance of exchanging information between unions.
Bro. Heffernan gave a number of examples of coordinated action and of his experiences during his visit.
He outlined his discussions with the leaders of the N.U.R. in Great Britain, where the government had applied its recently introduced repressive trade union legislation. The government forced a secret ballot on railway workers, the result of which overwhelmingly rejected the government’s interference in trade union affairs.
Bro. Heffernan advised Commonwealth Council he would be submitting a written report on the conference and of his experiences.
That the report be received.
Bill presented by Mr Daly, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the Bill, which provides for a number of amendments to the Lands Acquisition Act 1955-1966, is to enable the Australian Government’s land and property requirements to be handled in a more businesslike and expeditious way appropriate to modern practices and to efficient administration. The chief provisions of the Bill are:
Apart from minor technical amendments, the Lands Acquisition Act remains unchanged since it was enacted in 1955.
Over 90 per cent of acquisitions of land and interests in land by the Australian Government are completed by agreement between vendors and purchasers and lessors. However, the Minister’s authority to conclude these transactions in a businesslike way under the principal Act is limited to cases where the price with the vendor does not exceed $1,000, or in the case of leases, where the term does not exceed 3 years, or the annual rental does not exceed $1,000. A similar limitation applies to the disposal of Australian Government land interests. The approval of the Governor-General is required for all other acquisitions and disposals of interests in land. The effect of these limitations is to impose an unreasonable burden on the Minister and the Department and virtually to nullify the process of acquisition of any interest in land by delegation to departmental officers. They impose an inordinately large burden of paper work on the Minister and the Department and in this context I must emphasise that these limitations occur in cases of voluntary acquisition of land and property where mutual agreement has been reached between the purchaser and the vendor.
Honourable members will perhaps have a greater appreciation of this problem when I emphasise that, very frequently, Executive Council action is required in terms of the Act when the amount involved is as low as $1 and where leases or licences exceed 3 years. Leases or licences over land for power lines, telephone poles, etc., could be up to 30 years or more. Therefore, the Act in its present form leads to absurdities which involve not only the Minister but also the Governor-General in Council. The Government regards it as important that approvals for land dealings on its behalf should be effected having regard to present day land values and efficient administrative practices including adequate delegations of authority. The arbitrarily fixed figure of $1,000 had no particular significance when it was fixed in 1955. Today it is even less significant and is quite out of step with practical administrative considerations and modern business practices.
Australian Government land transactions have increased with the expansion of Government activities. The number of minutes referred to the GovernorGeneral in Council for approval is now running at a rate of approximately 1,000 per annum. The proposed amendments in the Bill will limit references to the GovernorGeneral in Council to approximately 100 per annum. This is because the Government has decided that there should not be any change to the requirement that the acquisition of land by compulsory process should be authorised by the GovernorGeneral in Council. The decision to acquire land compulsory will still remain with the GovernorGeneral in Council. In this connection, honourable members will be interested to know that, although the procedure for compulsory acquisition applies to approximately 100 cases per annum, the major proportion of these are with the consent of both parties in order to expedite settlement and accelerate transfer of title at the earliest possible time. The Bill proposes that the Minister should be authorised to acquire by agreement any interests in land, including leases and licences, and also that he be authorised to dispose of, and grant leases and other interests in land owned by the Australian Government.
The Minister’s powers of delegation under the principal Act relating to the determination of compensation for land acquired or to be acquired by compulsory process is limited to $1,000. As mentioned earlier, the figure of $1,000 is quite unrelated to present day land prices and the Bill proposes amendments to the Act to remove the present limit of $1,000. The principal Act provides for payment of interest on compensation for compulsory acquisitions at 3 per cent per annum for periods up to 2 years and thereafter at 4.5 per cent per annum. These rates have remained unchanged since 1955 and are quite unrealistic and must be changed. The rates should be more in keeping with the market in order to do justice to dispossessed owners. The Bill proposes that they be changed so as to relate the interest rate payable on compensation to changes in the short term and long term interest rates.
There have been a number of cases where competition between Australian Government departments and statutory authorities or where agreements negotiated by statutory authorities have lead to excessive rentals being paid by the Australian Government for accommodation or, if negotiations had been handled by the Department of Services and Property, there would have been a substantial saving of public moneys. The Government recently directed that competitive bidding between departments and statutory authorities in the land and property market should be eliminated and that the Department of Services and Property should in future conduct all negotiations. The Government also directed that consideration be given to the amendment of Acts, which currently give statutory authorities power to make their own approaches or to arrange their own rentals with a view to having the Department of Services and Property established as the negotiating authority. Provisions have already been included in a number of Bills which have been introduced into this Parliament, but the amendment of the Acts constituting all statutory authorities would not be practicable for a long time to come.
Therefore, as a further measure to stabilise the land market and eliminate practices which lead to excessive rentals and land prices, the Government has decided that it would be appropriate to amend the Lands Acquisition Act to ensure that the Minister will undertake acquisition of land and interests in land on behalf of Australian Government statutory authorities. This provision has not been included in the Bill before the House but I would like honourable members to know that I propose to move a suitable amendment at an appropriate stage to give effect to this principle. The effect of the proposed amendments will be to substantially strengthen the Lands Acquisition Act. The Minister responsible will be given authority to acquire by agreement land and interests in land not only on behalf of Australian Government departments but also on behalf of Australian Government statutory authorities, and this can only be to the advantage of the Government and the people. The Bill deserves the support of all honourable members and I commend it to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Peacock) adjourned.
(No. 2) 1973
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
Motion (by Mr Morrison) agreed to:
That the amendment be taken into consideration in the Committee of the Whole House forthwith.
Consideration of Senate’s amendment.
Section 76 of the Principal Act is repealed.
Senate’s amendment -
After clause 32, insert the following new clause: “32a. The Seventh Schedule to the Principal Act ie amended by omitting the words ‘that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her Heirs and Successors according to law, that 1 will well and truly serve Her’ (wherever occurring) and substituting the words that I will well and truly serve’.”.
– I move:
The Government, in the Senate on 24 October, introduced an amendment to the Papua New Guinea Bill (No. 2) 1973, in Committee, which was passed. I have today circulated the text of the amendment to honourable members. The Papua New Guinea Bill (No. 2) 1973 extends the qualifications of persons who may be appointed as judges of the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea. As explained in my second reading speech, this provision is made at the request of the Government of Papua New Guinea and will enable Papua New Guinea to call on overseas expertise for as long as it takes its own legal profession to provide a sufficient number of judges. The extension of the qualifications, however, will allow persons who are not British subjects to be eligible for appointment as judges.
The principal Act provides for an oath or affirmation of allegiance to be taken by judges on appointment. But it is considered inappropriate for persons who are not British subjects but who have been appointed as judges to take such an oath or affirmation. The Government’s amendment is designed to limit the oath or affirmation to an oath or affirmation of office. This is done by amending the Seventh Schedule to the Papua New Guinea Act 1949- 1973 which is in the form of the oath of affirmation required by section 59 (2) of the Act. I commend the amendment to honourable members.
– The Senate’s amendment is sensible and proper. Its intent is clear. We accept the commendation of the Minister for Science and Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison) in this regard by supporting the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Sitting suspended from 1.1 to 2.15 p.m.
(No. 5) 1973
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill will give effect to taxation proposals announced in the Budget Speech an,d to several other such proposals. The Bill will withdraw some taxation concessions that have been allowed to primary producers, manufacturers and mining companies and their shareholders. These proposals result from a careful review by the Government, aided by the Coombs Report, of a number of revenue concessions which can fairly be categorised as disguised expenditures and which result in additions to the burdens on other taxpayers. Since the proposals were announced the Government has received, and carefully considered, representations on most of them. Mainly for the reasons stated in the Budget Speech it has, subject to one or two modifications, decided to hold to them. They are all in the interests of rational tax reform and of the ordinary taxpayer.
As to mining, the Bill will withdraw for 1973-74 and future years the exemption for gold mining income and the partial exemption 20 per cent of certain other mining profits. Income from the sale of mining rights, other than any derived under preBudget contracts, is no longer to be exempt. Dividends paid out of the kinds of profits I have mentioned, if declared after Budget day, are also to become taxable as are dividends paid out of income from profits from the sale of oil or natural gas or their products. The Budget Speech indicated also that we have decided to end a number of concessions subsidising capital expenditures or encouraging investment which would otherwise be uneconomic. These include the investment allowances which provide a special income tax deduction of 20 per cent of capital expenditure on specified new manufacturing and primary production plant. The special deduction is not to be available in respect of expenditure after Budget Day unless it is incurred under a pre-existing contract and, in the case of manufacturing plant, not later than 30 June 1975.
Other proposed measures in this class will terminate provisions which allow some capital expenditures by primary producers to be wholly deductible in the year in which they are incurred and others to be subject to accelerated depreciation over 5 years. It is proposed that the concessions will not apply to capital expenditures incurred after Budget day unless under a contract entered into before then. In future, deductions will be allowed as ordinary depreciation on plant and structures and over 10 years for other items. I stress that these measures affect only capital expenditures. They do not change the basis of deduction of running expenses of established farming or grazing businesses. It is also proposed to eliminate an anomaly in the basis of valuation of trading stock manufactured from grapes which, of course, includes wine and brandy. This stock has in the past been valued by some manufacturers of these commodities on a remarkably generous basis differing considerably from what is required of other manufacturers. The change to valuation in accordance with the general law is to be phased in over a period of 5 years beginning with the end of 1973-74 valuations. I am sure that the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) will be slightly mollified by that. This is a modification of the 3-year phasing in period mentioned in the Budget Speech and has been made in consequence of representations received from the industry. I had discussions with representatives of the industry as late as Tuesday of this week and indicated that they should have further discussions about some of the technicalities that are involved. I also indicated that if they are able to demonstrate certain things it will be possible, since the tax year concerned has a long way to run, if necessary to make adjustments later should their case be established. Having considered these representations with the utmost care, we have decided that, with the modification mentioned, it is right to hold to the principle involved. The Bill also deals with the Budget proposals on private rates and land tax and gifts to war memorial funds. As to the first matter, it is proposed that, for income year 1973-74 and subsequent years, an overall ceiling of $300 be placed on the deduction allowable and that it be limited to the Taxpayer’s home. As to the second matter, it is proposed to remove deductions for gifts to the funds, except where the fund was established before Budget day. Gifts to war memorial funds will not in any event be allowable if made after 30 June 1974.
I turn now to the amendments affecting life assurance companies. A life assurance company is allowed a deduction from its assessable income of a proportion of what are called ‘calculated liabilities’. In effect, the deduction frees from tax a basic 3 per cent return on policy holders’ funds, and this ultimately goes to policy holders in a non-taxable form. If a company’s holdings of public securities rise above, or fall below, the 30-20 investment ratio, the deduction is varied upwards or downwards. One amendment will reduce the deduction based on calculated liabilities by one-third, so that the basic deduction will become 2 per cent. Corresponding reductions will apply if the deduction allowable is higher or lower than the basic allowance. The Bill also provides for a reduction in the amount of dividend income of a life assurance company on which a rebate of tax is allowed. Part of the deduction based on calculated liabilities is attributable to the value of shares which produce rebatable dividends included in a company’s assessable income. Similarly, part of the deduction allowed for general management expenses is attributable to the amount of rebatable dividends so included. However, following interpretations by the courts, these deductions, while they reduce taxable income, cannot reduce rebatable dividends. This quite unjustifiably inflates the amount of the rebate.
Broadly stated, the Bill provides for a part of each deduction to be set off against dividends. These parts are the amounts by which the deductions are increased through the inclusion of dividends in assessable income and the inclusion of the value of shares on which dividends are paid in the value of assets producing assessable income. A further proposal announced in the Budget Speech relates to the taxation of casual profits from the sale of property within the year following its acquisition. The Bill contains provisions to treat such profits on property purchased after 21 August 1973 as assessable income. These short-term profits are essentially in the nature of income and ought to be subject to tax as such. The provisions give expression to this concept. An exemption is proposed to meet the case where a person finds it necessary to sell a home quickly because of a change in place of business or employment. An associated provision will limit the application of measures enacted last year which freed individuals from any liability to tax on profits on stock exchange transactions if the shares had been held for 18 months or more. This will in future apply only to shares acquired no later than 21 August 1973.
This Bill and the Income Tax Bill 1973 shortly to be introduced will give effect to the taxation side of the package of pension and taxation measures associated with the phased abolition of the means test for people aged 65 years or more. Partial effect has been given to the pension side of the new arrangements, and there will be further pension increases enacted in the autumn. The Bill will withdraw the tax exemption for social service and repatriation pensions, but not war pensions, paid to men aged 65 years or more and women aged 60 or more. Pensions paid to women less than 60 years of age by reason of their being wives of men aged 65 years or more will also become taxable. I think it is generally acknowledged that free-of-means-test pensions must be exposed to tax. Otherwise, aged people in the higher income groups would be put in a privileged position as compared with other aged people who have little income and with young people bringing up families. Meanstested age pensions can be paid to people with substantial amounts of other income, for example, superannuitants. For similar reasons to those I have mentioned, and to avoid larger transitional problems later, taxation must extend to age pensions that remain meanstested.
Details of the categories of taxable and exempt pensions are given in the explanatory memorandum circulated in my name. Some elements of taxable pensions, such as allowances for the payment of rent or for the support of children, will remain exempt and, in the latter case, concessional deductions will also be allowed in assessments for the maintenance of children. Although some pensions are to become assessable income, another part of the package - the special rebate of tax for aged persons proposed by the Income Tax Bill 1973 - will have the effect that appreciably more than 80 per cent of aged pensioners will not have to pay any tax or lodge tax returns. The rebate allowance will be $156 for persons with taxable incomes of up to $3,224, reducing thereafter by 25c for each dollar by which taxable income exceeds $3,224. Aged people whose taxable income - that is, after all allowable deductions - does not exceed $1,921 will not have to pay tax. Those whose taxable incomes are between $1,921 and $3,847 will pay less than younger people with the same taxable income.
The existing age allowance is being abolished. It was introduced in 1951-52 for the specific purpose of removing an anomaly which existed then. Aged persons in receipt of the full pension and the maximum permissible income allowed by the means test at that time paid no tax, while those with larger amounts of other income suffered a $1 loss of pension for each extra $1 of other income under the non-tapered means test then applying, and also paid tax on the extra income to prevent the latter group from becoming absolutely worse off than the full pensioner with maximum permissible income, it was necessay for all aged persons to be exempted from income tax if their total income did not exceed the sum of the full pension and the maximum permissible income. Above that point it was necessary for tax to be shaded in to normal tax rates and, while aged persons with incomes within this shadingin range paid less than tax at normal rates, the shading-in provisions were designed purely for the purpose of easing the transition from complete exemption to normal tax rates, and not for the purpose of placing aged persons in a more favourable tax position than people below pensionable age on the same or lower incomes. With the introduction of the tapered means test in 1969, the situation which the age allowance was designed to alleviate ceased to exist, though this does not seem to have been acknowledged until the 1971-72 Budget when, apparently in recognition of the stark anomalies it generated, the allowance was for the first time left unchanged at a time when pensions were being increased. The proposed phasing out of the means test would make the age allowance even more anomalous, and the benefits which it now provides to some aged persons with quite large incomes even more inequitable by comparison with the position of young married couples setting up home and raising families on the same or smaller incomes.
As I have said, the package of measures I have referred to will leave more than 80 per cent of aged pensioners free of tax. Most of the minority with higher incomes who will pay tax will still pay less than younger people with the same incomes. No aged person will pay more tax than a younger person having the same income. The great majority will pay no tax or less tax. Added to this, pensions will be paid at higher rates and the means test will be phased out. Altogether, what the Government proposes must, when judged fairly, be acknowledged as more equitable and generous than the largely ad hoc and unco-ordinated measures of the past,
A further Budget measure in the Bill will require a company to pay - not earlier than 3 1 December 1973 - as an instalment of the tax to be assessed on its <1 972-73 income an amount equal generally to one-quarter of its 1971-72 tax or, at the company’s option, of its estimated 1972-73 tax. This is the first step towards a system of quarterly payments of company tax to be phased in over 3 years. An important purpose of the scheme is to elleviate problems of economic management associated with the high level of liquidity in the Banking system in the first half of the financial year and the run down, largely due to payment of company tax, in the last quarter of the financial year. Quarterly payments by companies will not mean that they will pay tax on a pay as you earn basis. Company tax for a financial year will still be calculated on taxable income of the preceding year. The quarterly payments will, however, mean that companies will make payments progressively throughout the later year. To some extent, therefore, the system will reduce the existing inequity between companies and individuals who are on the PAYE basis. As a sanction against over-retention of profits taxed at a rate lower than personal progressive rates, a private company that does not distribute a sufficient proportion of its aftertax income is liable to pay tax at the rate of 50 per cent on the amount by which dividends paid fall short of a sufficient distribution. In determining whether a sufficient distribution is made, the company may deduct a retention allowance of 50 per cent of the first $10,000 of after-tax income other than property income 45 per cent of the next $10,000 and 40 per cent of the balance. It may also deduct 10 per cent of after-tax property income other than dividends from other private companies. It is proposed to increase the retention allowance on income other than property income to a flat rate of 50 per cent. No change is proposed for property income.
One measure that does not arise from Budget decisions is designed to ensure that companies that are essentially public in character, but fall in some insignificant way to qualify as public companies under specific tests in the law, will not be taxed as private companies by reason of a restriction on the circumstances in which the Commissioner of Taxation may exercise a relevant discretionary power. This amendment is to apply for the 1972-73 and subsequent income years and was foreshadowed in a statement I made on 28 June 1973 following the decision of the full High Court in the Stocks and Holdings (Constructions) Pty Ltd case. The effect of the Court’s ruling was that the Commissioner’s discretionary power to treat a company as public for income tax purposes cannot be invoked unless the company would, as a consequence, be relieved from a liability for additional tax on undistributed income.
The proposed amendment will restore to the discretionary provision the scope it was intended by the legislature to have and will avoid anomalous and inappropriate consequences that would occur if the limitation imposed by the Court’s decision were allowed to remain. In forming an opinion whether it would be reasonable to treat a company as public, the Commisioner will be able, as had been his practice until the adverse court decision, to reach his conclusion on the basis of factors relevant to the true character of a company.
The Bill will also extend the withholding tax provisions of the income tax law to dividends and interest flowing from Australia to Papua New Guinea which have, up to now, been taxed on an assessment basis. The rtae of withholding tax on interest will be 10 per cent. This is the withholding rate uniformly applied to interest paid to non-residents. The rate of dividends paid to residents of Papua New Guinea will be 15 per cent, the same rate as is imposed by Papua New Guinea on dividends flowing to Australia. The withholding tax will be payable on dividends and interest paid to residents of Papua New Guinea, including companies, after today. This income will no longer be included in assessable income and the rebate on inter-company dividends will no longer be available to Papua New Guinea companies. Papua New Guinea has withdrawn a corresponding rebate from Australian companies.
Provisions in the Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 4) 1973, which was introduced recently, are designed to frustrate tax avoidance through the payment of dividends by Australian private companies to so-called
Repository’ companies owned by Australians but set up in Papua New Guinea. Further investigations have shown that ‘Repository’ companies in other countries, and especially in tax havens, would be used for the purpose of avoiding Australian tax if the new rules were applied only to Papua New Guinea. It is proposed, therefore, to extend the relevant provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 4) to dividends paid to private companies in any country.
Another non-budgetary measure contained in the Bill relates to the income tax rebate on expenditure to develop export markets. In accordance with my announcement of 10 September 1973, it is proposed that the rebate no longer be available for expenditure incurred after that date in the development of export markets for meat, unless incurred in pursuance of a pre-existing contract. With the present buoyant demand for meat there is, of course, no reason why the Australian taxpayer should continue to subsidise its export.
The last proposal concerns the application of the pay as you earn system to weekly payments of workers compensation made to an employee who is away from work because of an injury or accident. Those payments form part of his income and are subject to tax but, unlike ordinary payments of salary or wages, are not subject to deduction of tax instalments unless the insurer paying the compensation agrees to an employee’s request to make the deductions. This has produced situations in the past where employees have been faced with large income tax bills after lengthy periods on compensation. The situation has given rise to a number of cases of hardship and both employee and employer bodies have asked that tax instalments be made deductible from workers compensation payments in the same way as they are from salary and wages. The Bill contains provisions to give effect to these requests. Weekly payments of workers compensation made after the Bill becomes law will be treated in the same way as salary and wages for the purposes of tax instalment deductions. Group certificates showing the amounts deducted would then be issued to the employees concerned for lodgment with their income tax returns along with the group certificates received from employers. The Bill will give effect to a considerable number of proposals. Its provisions are explained in detail in a memorandum being circulated to honourable members and I do not need to say more about the provisions at this stage. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Giles) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to declare the rates of income tax for the 1973-74 financial year. The rates for individual taxpayers are the same as those that applied for the previous , year. However, as I explained at some length in my speech on the Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 5) 1973 just delivered, some changes are proposed in the arrangements for the relief from taxation of aged persons with low or modest incomes. Briefly put, these arrangements are firstly that the age allowance is not to be re-enacted and secondly that a rebate of tax is to be allowed where a taxpayer’s taxable income is $3,847 or less. The rebate is to be $156 less 25c for each $1 by which the person’s taxable income is greater than $3,224. The rates of tax for companies proposed in the Bill will apply to income derived in the 1972-73 income year. The general rate of tax payable by public companies - 47.5 per cent - remains unchanged as do the rates payable by co-operative companies, non-profit companies and friendly society dispensaries. There are, however, changes in the rates of tax payable on the income of private companies, on the mutual income of life assurance companies and on dividend income of non-resident companies.
As I said in the Budget Speech there is no reason why private companies and public companies should not pay tax at corresponding rates. Notions of capacity to pay based on level of income have a place in the personal income tax system, but not the company tax system. Private companies may be owned by taxpayers on very high incomes who can obtain a number of tax benefits by using the company form of operation. It is proposed, over a period of 2 years, to bring the private and public company rates into line. As a first step, private companies are to be taxed on income of the 1972-73 income year at the single rate of 45 per cent. Previously the rates were 37.5 per cent on the first $10,000 of taxable income and 42.5 per cent on the balance. It is notorious that this encouraged tax avoidance by company splitting.
It is proposed also to do away with the reduced rates of tax on the mutual income of life assurance companies, and on the first $10,000 of dividend income of non-resident public companies. Whatever justification there once may have been for these special rates has long since ceased to exist and it is proposed to tax these classes of income at the general public company rate of 47.5 per cent. In line with the proposed increase in the rates of tax payable by mutual life assurance companies the rate of tax payable on the investment income of 1973-74 of superannuation funds which do not invest sufficiently in public securities will be 47.5 per cent. In other respects the provisions of the Bill have the same effect as the corresponding provisions of the Income Tax Act 1972. Further explanations are contained in the explanatory memorandum that I have had circulated. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Holten) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Income Tax (Non-Resident Dividends and Interest) Act 1967, which declares the rates at which withholding tax is payable on dividends and interest paid from Australia to residents of other countries.
The Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 5) 1973 that I have just introduced proposes that the withholding tax provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act be extended to dividends and interest paid from Australia to residents of Papua New Guinea. I have explained that the rate on dividends is to be 15 per cent and on interest 10 per cent. In the absence of the amendment proposed by this Bill the rate on dividends would be 30 per cent, the rate generally applicable to countries with which we do not have a double taxation agreement. This Bill -will charge withholding tax on dividends at the same rate as Papua New Guinea, that is, 15 per cent.
Further explanations on the clauses of the Bill are given in a memorandum which will be circulated for the information of honourable members. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Holten) adjourned.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the Bill introduced in the Senate was to amend section 1®(8) of the Public Works Committee Act to increase the mandatory limit for works considered by the Public Works Committee from $750,000 to $2m. .During 1972 the Committee, through the extensive efforts of its members, examined a total of 35 proposals, 17 more than in any previous year. This general increase in the number of references to Committee is continuing with 54 possible proposals listed for 1973 on the current basis of reference. On present planning the Committee would have to deal with an average of 6 projects per month. However, during the parliamentary sessions an average of only one week per month is available for inspections and hearings. It is obvious that the Committee could not possibly investigate such a large number of proposals as thoroughly and effectively as it has in the past.
In addition, the Committee has found that the cost level in real terms above which Commonwealth works proposals must be referred to the Committee has been diminished over the years by inflation. As a result the Committee is now examining proposals which, in the past, would have been valued below the statutory limit. Consequently, relatively minor projects are being delayed, and this increases the time and cost involved in presenting evidence before the Committee. The figure of $2m was set after due consideration of the number of works projects which the Government contemplates, and the relative amount of time available to the committee to look at these projects. This figure would have resulted in 36 projects to be investigated by Committee - in other words a program similar to that of 1972.
However, the Senate passed an opposition amendment to the Bill which, in its intention, would require the Public Works Committee to examine all capital works in excess of $2m undertaken by statutory authorities as well as Government departments. It is obvious that such an amendment would negate the original purpose of the Bill, resulting in the Committee being further burdened with works referred to it by the sixty or so statutory authorities.
The Government wishes to remain flexible on this matter, and has already launched an in-depth examination by an inter-departmental committee of the full range of works undertaken by all arms of the Australian Government in an attempt to draw up a more rational method of selecting those works which should be referred to the Public Works Committee. In committee, therefore, I will move an amendment which will have the effect of deleting the amendment passed in the Senate and restoring the Bill to its original form with the undertaking that the in-depth examination be undertaken and pursued as a matter of urgency.
– The Opposition supports the Government’s attitude on this matter. The previous Public Works Committee recommended, at the end of the last year before Parliament was dissolved, that the limit be raised from $750,000 to $1.5m. This recommendation was made because of the great work load that the Public Works Committee found that it had to carry in the last year of the last Parliament. When the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton), as Chairman of the present Committee introduced the report of the previous Committee, which he was obliged to do under the Act, he made the statement, and I supported him, that the limit could very well be raised to $2m. As I am on record as saying that, I have to support it, of course, and I know that the Opposition supports it. I am very glad to hear that the Government is proceeding with an in-depth study. I know that the present Minister for Housing ami Minister for Works (Mr Les Johnson), who was a member of the previous Public Works Committee, is well aware, firstly, of the work load that the previous Committee carried, and secondly, of the arguments involved in the Public Works Committee hearing references from statutory authorities. I know that he will be looking at those arguments with care and with a background of experience.
I am not going to comment on this except to say that the Committee, under the chairmanship of the honourable member for Leichhardt, has sent to the Government a distillation of our thinking on this matter and on how we could alter our system of hearings so that we could deal with the references of statutory authorities if they were given to us. My own judgment is that with some streamlining of our procedures and with some alteration of our present system we could assume this duty. I think it would be valuable for the statutory authorities to have to justify their works before the Public Works Committee. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill.
– I am not at variance with much that has been put by the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly). He is among the hard working members of the Public Works Committee whose experience in 1972, in particular, showed that there was a strain on that Committee and on the members of it well in excess of a reasonable requirement for an extraneous activity of a member of Parliament. There seem to be very good grounds for increasing the amount of money above which expenditure on projects has the effect of their being referred automatically to the Public Works Committee. At this time it is $750,000. The proposal is to raise it to $2m.
As my colleague the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) has pointed out, in 1972 the Committee was actively involved in the thorough investigation, including site inspections, of 35 different proposals, some of which were in isolated parts of Australia and many of which were in the Northern Territory. The travelling involved is extensive, and it is obvious that if the level of referral - namely, $750,000 - remains as it stands there will be no time for the members of the Public Works Committee to engage in their electoral duties or their regular activities as members of Parliament. My colleague the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton), the current Chairman of the Committee, has discussed the difficulties with me and with other Ministers. We are very anxious that something should be done.
The Senate has passed an Opposition proposal to amend the Public Works Committee Act - this has been referred to in the preceding speech by my colleague - which would require the Public Works Committee to examine not just the works which are referred by the Government and which are estimated to cost more than $2m but all the works above that cost that are done on behalf of the statutory authorities as well. Obviously, this could introduce a new dimension of complexity and problems. There are some statutory authorities which have complete authority over their own affairs; that is to say, they are responsible for their own budgets.
As honourable members who have been associated with the Public Works Committee would know, it is within the competence of the Committee to recommend to the government of the day all kinds of alterations to the proposals examined by it. If a proposal for the building of a 200-mile road were referred to the Committee, it could recommend that a 300-mile road be built. In the end the recommendation of the Committee comes back to the Parliament for ratification or otherwise. When we start to get involved with statutory authorities which are responsible for their own budgets we can easily move into an area of problem. The Committee could make recommendations to this Parliament, which could act on those recommendations, that the proposal be altered in one way or another, involving less or more expenditure. The effect of this, of course, could be to usurp the prerogative and area of responsibility exercised by that statutory authority.
There is much that I do not know about statutory authorities. Apparently there are different kinds, with different degrees of autonomy in their financial matters. The Government has taken the view that, since this obviously is such a complex question and one which requires consultation with the statutory authorities, it would be the height of impertinence to drop something from a great height on authorities of great standing and great competence. If this Parliament decided to take such a course without proper consultation with the authorities, it would be the height of impertinence. The Government does not act in that way, has not acted in that way and will not act in that way in the future. If there is to be an extension of the role of the Public Works Committee in such a way as to involve those statutory authorities and to change their traditional code of behaviour, there should be proper consultation between the Government and the authorities.
We will look at this question very thoroughly. The Bill is before us now. On behalf of the Government - because I do not think the Leader of the House put it as clearly as he could have - I want to indicate that while this Bill is in its adjournment stage we will be conducting a most thorough investigation of all the pros and cons associated with the Senate proposal; we will be consulting with the statutory authorities and getting top line advice in order to see what would happen if we gave effect to the Senate proposal.
– You will be consulting closely with the Chairman of the Committee, I trust?
– The practice of the Government is to take advice from those who preside over important committees of this type. That is not to say that the Government influences the members of the committees in the conduct of their work or tries to impress upon them the decisions they should make in respect of their inquiries. But, in respect of policy matters, as to whether it is good to include an examination of statutory authorities, of course the opinion of the Chairman of the Public Works Committee will be taken into account by this Government. I thought that would have been taken for granted, and I am surprised that the honourable gentleman is even speculating about that.
In this period of examination, as I said, we will be looking at things very carefully. That could cause the resumption of the debate on this Bill to be deferred a little longer than ordinarily would be the case. I am sure that honourable members on both sides of the House would much prefer to see that happen and to see a decision taken on the basis of good advice and understanding of all the facts rather than in a vacuum. For those reasons, I support my colleague and hope that when the debate is resumed we will all be in a much better position to understand the possible effects of the proposition.
– jAs a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, I feel that I ought to say a few things about the proposed change. Being a member of the Committee, I have discussed with other members of the Committee the possibility of increasing the mandatory minimum limit of expenditure for projects to be referred to the Public Works Committee from $750,000 to $2m. The debate on this proposal was initiated in the Senate on 24 May 1973 and subsequently was debated there on 29 and 30 August. Of course, the reason for the proposal was the increased workload on the Committee brought about by the increased number and value of the public and civil works programs of this Government and previous governments.
As has been said, the proposal now before us is to increase the mandatory minimum limit from $750,000 to S2m. I ought to say, as I think was said by the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), that the Committee made a recommendation to the then Minister for Works and to the Government that the mandatory limit should be increased to SI. 5m. I think I should read out the section of the Public Works Committee Act which relates to the subject we are now debating, namely, section 18 (8). It states:
A public work the estimated cost of which exceeds $750,000 shall not be commenced unless -
the work has been referred to the Committee in accordance with this section;
the House of Representatives has resolved that, by reason of the urgent nature of the work, it is expedient that it be carried out without having been referred to the Committee; or
the Governor-General has, by order, declared that the work is for defence purposes and that the reference of the work to the Committee would be contrary to the public interest.
That deals with the area which we are discussing today and about which we are endeavouring to reach agreement on increasing the mandatory minimum limit. As I said, the Committee talked about this matter. I believe the honourable member for Wakefield has said that he agreed that the mandatory limit for works considered by the Committee should be increased from $750,000 to $2m. The work load on the Committee would make members of the Committee try to do something about reducing that load. The Committee’s general report - a report must be submitted each year pursuant to the law - states in paragraph 6:
That indicates the variability of the work load on the Committee and the extent to which it travels around Australia throughout the year. As can be seen from the report, 62 meetings were held during the year. The purpose of meetings of a private nature is to help the Committee to formulate its report and its future program.
I feel that something ought to be said about the various aspects of expenditure by govern ments on civil works programs. I say that because in 1969 the Committee investigated civil works programs totalling $157m and in 1973 the projected expenditure on civil works programs is S245m. I put this in the context that in 1969 the mandatory minimum limit for works considered by the Committee was $400,000 whereas the proposal now is to increase the limit to S2m. That is a fivefold increase since 1969. The work load on the Committee has not increased fivefold as the figures which I have mentioned concerning civil works programs show. Expenditure in 1969 amounted to $157m and it is expected to to be S745m in 1973. The relationship between $750,000 and $2m has no bearing on the expected expenditure on civil works programs. If we can relate these figures to the Budget figures we find that the 1969 Budget expenditure was $7,000m and the 1973 Budget expenditure is roughly $ 13,000m. In other words, Budget expenditure has not increased twofold since 1969.
Another relationship that could be arrived at is in respect of the gross national product. In 1969 the gross national product was $30,000m. In 1972 it was $41, 000m. So there is no relationship between the figures in this Bill and those I have just cited. I wondered what the problem was, and I came to the conclusion that this Government and its predecessors were spending far too much money on civil works. Before I get on to that area I think I ought to say that in volume the Committee inspects about 2 per cent of the total number of projects carried out by the Department of Works. In other words, for every 100 projects that the Department of Works initiates for various Commonwealth departments only two are inspected by the Committee. At the same time I ought to say that the value of the work inspected represents some 33 per cent of the total Department of Works expenditure. In other words, we look at the projects which are of real value.
I have already talked about the travelling that members of the Committee do. This has a bearing on the ability of a member of the Committee to carry out his work in this Parliament because he is away from it so often. Now that the House is meeting on Mondays as well as Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, there is very little time left for this Committee to do its work as it did in the past. In fact, the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) said in his second reading speech that members of the Committee do a tremendous amount of work for the Parliament. In that speech he said that about one week in four would be available for the Committee to make its inspections and to do the work that it has to do for this Parliament as an arm of the Parliament. But he did not say what the position will be in November. We will not have that week to spare because the Parliament is to meet for 5 consecutive weeks. I am not sure how the Chairman and the Committee itself will carry out the work that they are supposed to do in November. I know that the Minister for Services and Property has said that the one week in four we have available for Committee work is an average availability. Perhaps he was right from that point of view.
My main concern is that so much public money is being spent on civil works programs. The taxpayers have to find that money. Most of us in this place really determine that we can spend their hard earned money far better than they can spend it themselves. I believe that this Commonwealth Government and previous governments have tended to force inflation on to this country because of the tremendous amounts of money that they expect to get from taxpayers and spend from the public purse. Whenever we initiate a program - and there are many of them - we reduce the availability of materials to private enterprise and to private individuals. We make sure that materials are in short supply right throughout Australia. Not only do we take money away, not only do we take materials, we also divert labour from private enterprise, from local governments, State governments and private individuals, and that labour works for public enterprise, for the Commonwealth Government.
I believe this is a wrong approach for a Central Government to adopt. I believe that we should take up the slack in times of stress but that we should not be making the pace and ensuring that other areas of administration - State parliaments and local governments - and individual families and the people themselves have less in materials, in time and certainly in money with which to carry out the work that they want carried out for their own personal and family benefit.
The suggestion has been made that there ought to be a second public works committee. Obviously the Public Works Committee discussed this question. We came to the conclusion that we should not recommend to the Parliament that a second Committee of a public works nature should be set up. The second thing we discussed - and this was certainly mentioned in the debate in the Senate - was the suggestion that we ought to form subcommittees. In other words, No. 1 subcommittee would assess the prospects of a particular public works program and another sub-committee would assess the prospects of constructional work in an entirely different area. But we had in mind that all members of the Committee take the final responsibility for the report that is presented to the Parliament itself. In other words, it is very nice to be talking about sub-committees making a full assessment, presenting the report to a complete public works committee and then making sure that all the members of that committee agree with what the sub-committee says. I think we concluded that this was not a practical solution from the point of view of the Committee members themselves. They wanted to interest themselves in whatever projects they could and they wanted to take a proper part in the final report. As I said, the mandatory minimum limit for works considered by the Committee was $400,000 in 1969. That limit was increased in 1969 to $750,000. This Bill proposes to increase the limit to $2m. It was said in the Senate, and I think it bears repetition that the Public Works Committee assessed 18 civil works programs for the Parliament in 1969. In 1972 the Committee assessed 35 works and it is projected that this year, it will assess 54 works. I think the Leader of the House who is at the table, mentioned this when he introduced the legislation to the Parliament. That indicates the tremendous increase in expenditure on public works by this Government that is taking place throughout Australia. I feel that we are going too far too fast and spending too much of the public’s money while doing very little to alleviate the problem of individuals and local government bodies, as well as of State governments.
Mention has been made of the fact - this section of the Bill was passed in the Senate - that the Public Works Committee should have a look at the tremendous expenditures of statutory authorities. First of all, I should say that there are now as least 60 statutory authorities in Australia and I think that one or two have been introduced in recent weeks which would add to that number. Each of them has what we call a one-line budget. In other words, they come to the Minister concerned before Budget time, make an assessment of the amounts they feel they can spend during the year and the Minister, being a convivial type, says: ‘You had better go away and spend it. I will try to get it through Cabinet and the Parliament.’ These statutory authorities and, more particularly, their expenditures are not scrutinised by the Parliament. For instance, the National Capital Development Commission in the Australian Capital Territory has an expenditure which is comparable to the civil works program which is scrutinised by the Public Works Committee. One statutory authority alone spends as much in a year as the value of the projects examined by the Public Works Committee in that year. Of course, the works at which the Public Works Committee looks are carried out under the supervision of the Department of Works, which operates throughout Australia. The work of the National Capital Development Commission is carried out only within the Australian Capital Territory and if this work and expenditure of the NCDC are not scrutinised, I believe that every member of this Parliament should say and should feel that some sort of scrutiny by the Parliament should be given to this statutory authority. We have established a national Pipeline Authority and here again, I believe that some members of the Parliament - I am not suggesting the Public Works Committee should do this - ought to know what sort of expenditure takes place in the new Pipeline Authority. We are responsible to the people of Australia because we take their taxes and we should be able to report to the people on how their money has been spent.
I have mentioned statutory authorities and I have also mentioned that we as parliamentarians and this Parliament have no scrutiny over their expenditures. I feel that this was reasonable some years ago when there were only 7 statutory authorities up to the year 1940 and they were not spending big money, anyway. But let us see how many statutory authories are in existence now. By 1950 there were a further 16 statutory authorities added to the list; by 1960 a further 13 authorities were added to the list; by 1970 there were another 16 statutory authorities; and, as far as I can assess, in the 1980 decade there will be at least another 10 statutory authorities because we have already established an additional 7 authorities since 1970 and it is fair to assess that there will be at least another 10 authorities before 1980. All of these bodies are spending taxpayers’ money and all their expenditures should be scrutinised by this Parliament. I am suggesting that another committee - not another Public Works Committee - be established to have a look at the statutory authorities and their expenditure. I am suggesting that, as we have more than 60 statutory authorities, some of them are not doing the work that originally they were intended to do and they could become obsolescent. I believe that some of them could be amalgamated. Certainly, their expenditures should be scrutinised by this Parliament. We have had a proliferation of these statutory bodies and there ought to be a good look at their activities and, particularly, their expenditures and even if we do not set up another committee to examine their activities, I believe that the Joint Statutory Committee of Public Accounts which more or less has been eliminated from looking at their expenditures, should enter this field to look at the activities and the expenditures of statutory bodies. I know that these bodies are responsible in some form or other to a Minister and I know that to all intents and purposes the Minister is a responsible person. But I believe that we as members of Parliament have a right and a duty to examine the expenditure of the statutory authorities to find out where the money is being expended and whether it is being expended efficiently.
As I said earlier, I feel that Government departments are trying to go too far too fast and are spending too much of the taxpayers’ money. As an instance, I have mentioned the NCDC and its expenditure in the Australian Capital Territory. Obviously, we will set up another body to cater for the expansion which will take place in the Albury-Wodonga area. We will have public servants there in a few short years and here we will establish another statutory body which will go to a Minister, ask for funds and receive funds and the people will have to pay. This will apply not only in Albury-Wodonga but also in Bathurst, Geelong and all the other areas where there must be and will be tremendous expansion. These expenditures should be looked at by the people in this Parliament and should be scrutinised by the Parliament itself. Therefore, I suggest that a body should be established to look at the operations and expenditures of these statutory bodies.
– I do not wish to waste the time of the House. We will have another opportunity to discuss this matter. The Bill that we are discussing is only to increase to $2m the mandatory limit for works considered by the Joint Statutory Committee on Public Works, although I know that the members of the Committee have expressed the opinion that the limit should be only $1.5m. Personally, I regard $2m as a realistic figure. However, the Senate has added to the work of the Committee the task of examining statutory bodies and I do not know how this Committee will ever get through the work it is supposed to get through.
I should like firstly to thank the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson), a former member of the Public Works Committee, and also my colleagues, the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) and the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Whittorn). All of the members of the Public Works Committee dedicate themselves to their job and I can say without hesitation that politics has never played a part in any decision that they have made. The Public Works Committee is a watchdog over the expenditure of public moneys. Like the honourable member for Wakefield, I think that a limit of $2m is a reasonable figure. As a matter of fact, of the projects to come before the Public Works Committee for examination, only two come within the category of costing less than $2m. I do not think that that is of great importance when one considers that the Parliament or the Cabinet still has the right to refer any public work, irrespective of cost, to the Public Works Committee. But the figure of $2m suggested by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) is designed to limit the amount of work that this Committee must do. The Committee cannot meet while the Parliament is sitting. Therefore, it must meet during the recess and all the time that the Committee spends in the recess is spent outside of Committee members’ electorates. Consequently, many Committee members would like to have more time to spend in their electorates.
I shall not go over the whole of the ground again but last session, as the previous Chairman of the Public Works Committee will remember, we had to seek the permission of the Parliament for the Committee to sit while the Parliament was sitting. This can be done, if Parliament agrees.
– Of both Houses, is it not?
– No, only the House of Representatives. Permission was granted for the Committee to sit while the Parliament was sitting but the Committee members were not happy about it because debates were going on in Parliament in which they were interested but in which they could not take part or to which they could not even listen. This is not a good thing at all. I would not recommend it for the future. However, we are looking at ways and means of streamlining our procedures when examining projects.
Already we have introduced some new ideas which will assist the Committee in its work. I do not agree with the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Whittorn) that we are moving too fast and a lot of work should not be proceeded with because State governments, private enterprise and all the rest are involved. As far as I am concerned every project that is referred to the Public Works Committee is urgent and needed. I refer to sewerage works, power houses, schools, laboratories and so on. Money is not being spent foolishly or unnecessarily. Such projects are necessary for the advancement of our nation. I feel that the work load on the Committee must be kept up. I feel the Committee will be able to do the work provided we can streamline some of the methods which we have adopted in years gone by. If we could streamline the procedures, the references could be considered more quickly. On the question of work of statutory authorities being submitted to the Public Works Committee, I feel sure that the suggestion of the honourable member for Balaclava will be taken into consideration. I feel that a lot of the work of statutory authorities could be dealt with by some authority other than the Public Works Committee.
I, like my colleagues on the Public Works Committee, feel that a lot of works are being undertaken and public money being spent without the scrutiny of some authority of Parliament. This is not a good thing. It is not right. I think the matter should be looked at. If the work can be handled by the Public Works Committee, well and good. If it cannot be handled by the Committee it should be handled by some other authority from this Parliament. I do not know how such an authority would be set up but these problems can be thrashed out between the Ministers and the Public Works Committee. I feel sure that the Committee can carry on as it has done in the past even if such work is referred to it. We will have to streamline our methods and get through the work as best we can and as quickly as we can and still give it proper consideration. After all it is most important that proposals for the expenditure of public money should be scrutinised to ensure that it is used to the best advantage for the nation.
– I do not not intend to take up too much time in this debate as a lot of what I had to say has already been said. I believe the important factor is the utilisation of the time of the Public Works Committee to the advantage of this Parliament atd to the advantage of Australia. The problem that has arisen is that Committee members have to devote so much time to matters coming before the Committee that this work is. encroaching upon the time they have for their other responsibilities as a member of Parliament. The proposal to increase the value of works referred to . the Committee from $750,000 to $2m is, I think, realistic. It has been mentioned before. While the Committee would have been satisfied for the amount to have been raised to $1.5m, the extension to $2m does not make a great deal of difference to the number of references that will come before the Committee. Indeed it is possible for work valued at less than the amount mentioned to be referred to the Committee if it is felt desirable by the Government that the Committee should look into it. This point has been raised and I think it should not be lost sight of even in spite of the fact that the Public Works Committee is fairly hard pressed to find the time to cope with the references that are still coming before it.
When this Bill was before the Senate discussion took place with regard to other provisions contained in it. It was said that works carried out on behalf of Commonwealth statutory authorities within the Commonwealth or a Territory should be referred to the Public Works Committee. It is interesting to note that Senator Byrne when referring to this matter in another place said that the bodies falling within the definition of a statutory authority would number about 60. This figure has been mentioned before by other people and it gives an indication of the weight of work which would fall on the Committee if it is given the responsibility of looking at works which are to be carried out by statutory authorities. On the other hand when this matter was being discussed in the Senate, Senator Wright referred to the view expressed by the then Minister for Works, Senator Cavanagh, as recorded in Hansard. Senator Cavanagh is reported as having said:
I do not think that statutory authorities should be able to construct a building without scrutiny by the Committee when the Commonwealth cannot.
There is a very good reason why there should be some scrutiny of works being done by statutory authorities. The only concern in my mind on this matter relates to the degree of scrutiny that time will allow the Public Works Committee to give to these works. However, the Committee has expressed some views on it. I feel the Committee is inclined to accept the responsibility, although I do not know whether I should commit other Committee members completely to this view. I believe that the Committee feels confident that it can undertake this task successfully. If this can be done I believe that the investigation of these works will be to the advantage of the community at large. The value of any investigation which is done by the Public Works Committee is twofold. First of all there is the investigation which in itself is very valuable. Secondly there is the pressure that is applied to any body which is bringing a proposal before the Committee in the knowledge that the matter oil be investigated. That in itself is an incentive to those bodies, to the Department of Works or to other departments to make sure that the proposals are sound. They will know that the proposals will come under the scrutiny and the test of the Public Works Committee.
It was my intention to limit my remarks on bis matter to 5 minutes. The Committee has had to devote a lot of time to the matter. It is anxious to try to undertake the work >r> relation to statutory authorities, if the Committee is given that responsibility. I trust that we will be able to handle it successfully. The only way in which we can really get a clear indication will be by the acid test of having to undertake this work if in fact it is given to us to do.
– I have never served on the Public Works Committee.
– We will put you on it.
– I am not so sure that I want to serve on it in the future. I wish to place on record my view that succeeding Public Works Committees, under succeeding chairmen, have done a very great service to this nation. I should like to express a few views to support that attitude and perhaps make some other suggestions. As I understand the provisions of the Bill the minimum cost of works undertaken by the Government which are referred to the Public Works Committee will be increased from $750,000 to $2m.
Anything which encourages public scrutiny of public works, in my view, is highly desirable. I put to the House a question that I have been trying to put to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) for the last 2 weeks or 3 weeks. Because of the situation in the House at the moment, I have not received the call at question time. It seems to me that in our inflationary situation - I think we all agree that we are in such a situation - the increasing amount of money that is being spent in the public sector, if it is justified, should be thoroughly investigated because, in an inflationary situation, on my limited understanding of economics to increase the Public Service and to increase public works is like trying to put out a fire with kerosene. I would like to be convinced that whatever is done in this way represents money spent efficiently.
Let me refer to the sort of question which I have been trying to pose for answer. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who is at the table, may care to give this question some thought. Having regard to the Government’s Budget estimate of an increase in Public Service staff of 4.7 per cent - I believe that the increase actually will be more than 4.7 per cent - the increase in Public Service salaries of nearly 25 per cent, which is quite significant, the current rate of inflation which is running at 14 per cent and the fact that there has never been a thorough-going inquiry by an outside body into the Commonwealth Public Service, will the Government give consideration to appointing an independent economies commission, rather like an expanded Public Works Committee but independent and outside the Commonwealth Public Service, which would be responsible to the Parliament for a continuing, systematic and comprehensive check on the efficient working of all 37 Government departments? 1 listened to part of what the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton), who preceded me in this debate, had to say. I think my question is along the lines of his suggestion. We should have some other body, independent of the Public Service, to report to the Parliament on the efficiency and other aspects of the ~ Public Service. If that is what he was saying, I hope that he will give consideration to supporting my proposal because it would be marvellous if both sides of the House could get together and encourage the implementation of such a suggestion. I have done a little research on this matter. It is very significant that the present Government wishes to make the Commonwealth Public Service the pacesetter by granting to it increased holiday pay, maternity leave of 12 weeks, paternity leave of one week or two weeks, a shorter working week, equal pay and heaven knows what. With the Government wishing to make the public sector the pacesetter, it will be quite impossible for the private sector to keep up with it.
For those reasons, I think it is appropriate to bring this matter up for debate when discussing the Public Works Committee because the Public Works Committee really is the body which most closely approximates what I advocate. As I said a moment ago, I have done a minor amount of research on this matter. In the history of our federation, there has never been the sort of investigation that I suggest. A thorough inquiry into the Commonwealth Public Service by an outside body has never been conducted. I believe - I am not being critical only of the present Government; I suppose that I am being equally critical of our own former Government, but perhaps this matter was too hot for it to handle - that the appointment of such an inquiry is something at which a government should look and about which it should take some action. I think that the present Government should be the Government to do this because, after all, it is the present Government that wishes the Commonwealth Public Service to be the pacesetter.
As briefly as possible, I wish to refer to the only 2 investigations on record as inquiries into parts of the Commonwealth Public Service. One such investigation took place just after World War I. To anyone who is interested to the slightest degree in this matter - I am sure that all members of the Public Works Committee are interested in it - I recommend the reading of a book entitled The Commonwealth Bureaucracy’ by Gerald E. Caiden. This book was written in 1967. I wish to quote from this book his references to the 2 royal commissions which were set up after World War I. One was the McLachlan Royal Commission which was concerned with the administration of the Public Service of the Commonwealth and particularly ‘the effect of such Acts upon the management and workings of the departments’. This Royal Commission petered out and finally died. Obviously, it was not a thorough-going economic investigation. The second inquiriy was known as the Economies Royal Commission and was under the. chairmanship of Mr R. Gibson who was called upon: to consider and report upon the public expenditure of the Commonwealth of Australia with a view to effecting economies.
That term of reference is the closest I can find to what I would like to see as the basis for an inquiry into our Commonwealth Public Service. In his book, Gerald Caiden states:
There has never been a thorough outside inquiry into the Commonwealth bureaucracy or the Commonwealth Service. The last thorough look at the Service personnel system took place at the end of World War I. Since that time there have been inquiries into parts, but not the whole, of the system and Commonwealth Governments have persistently refused to consider surveys on the scale of the British Royal Commissions, the Hoover and Glassco Commissions in North America and the McCarthy Commission in New Zealand. Behind the specious reasoning against such proposals is the very real fear of politicians and officials that a full inquiry might do more damage than good to individual reputations, Service morale and what appears to be a smooth-working system, particularly if mass media distort criticisms and exaggerate deficiencies.
In that passage, quoted from Mr Caiden’s book which was written in 1967, the author refers to the only 2 investigations which have been made of the Commonwealth Public Service. I will quote only one further passage from his book. Were I brilliant enough, this is the sort of thing that I would write. I would like to be associated with his view. This quotation refers to the work of the first Commission.
The present Chairman of the Public Works Committee, the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton), has returned to the chamber. I point out to him that I am in the process of quoting from a book entitled ‘The Commonwealth Bureaucracy’ written by Gerald Caiden which mentioned the 2 separate royal commissions which inquired into the Commonwealth Public Service. The first quotation that I made was written prior to the first inquiry - the McLachlan Royal Commission - which petered out in November 1920 after its second report in which it defended its previous report which had been attacked by critics. The inquiry died on the vine. I identify myself now with these views written after that report. I wish that they were my original thoughts. Gerald Caiden states:
This can only be secured if the duty of continuous criticism and the duty of seeing that fair value is received for money expended is placed in the hands of individuals ‘who are not in any way to blame for the failures’ -
And this is extremely important - and who will measure the efficiency and economy of all Departments and fearlessly bring to light all failures and with power to report direct to Parliament on the same principle as the Auditor-General is expected to fearlessly bring to light any lapses in honest and accurate accounting . . .
That really is the nitty-gritty of what I advocate to this Parliament as desirable action. I propose the appointment of some such economies commission - either an expanded Public Works Committee or a separate body altogether.
In the few moments that are left I would like to give the House an up-to-date reference to the inconsistencies of certain sections, not necessarily just of the Commonwealth Public Service but of spending in the public sector. I refer to the Australian Industry Development Corporation. As honourable members will know, the original Australian Industry Development Corporation Act requires the Corporation to submit annual reports to Parliament. However, these reports provide no detailed analysis of the nature and rationale for individual investments.
– They lost half a million dollars 2 weeks ago.
– As the honourable member for Balaclava pointed out, they lost half a million dollars 2 weeks ago. This is the way they go about losing it. In the past the identity of individual recipients of AIDC assistance has been revealed only in those cases where the recipients themselves - not Parliament or anybody else - have chosen to do so.
– It is a pity we cannot have two like you on the Board, is it not?
– I appreciate the Minister’s interjection. I am not so sure that I would not accept that sort of appointment if that is what he is advocating. I go on to make the point that one illustration of the desirability of greater public disclosure by the AIDC is provided by the case of Information Electronics Ltd of the Australian Capital Territory. I think that the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) will know the company to which I am referring.
– It is very successful at the moment.
– The Minister says it was a very successful company.
– At the moment.
– At the moment. I am not sure that I can entirely agree. Information Electronics produces component equipment for data communication systems and has been assisted by loan funds from the AIDC. I am not in any way blaming the Minister for that because it happened before he became the Minister. This particular company initiated a tariff reference concerning cathode ray tube display terminals where manufacturers requested tariff protection for the production of these items. The Tariff Board report presented to Parliament on 7 March - the present Minister was the Minister at that time - recommended against protective duty and also noted the unsatisfactory performance of this company. A moment ago the Minister said that it was a highly efficient company. The Tariff Board, which at that time also came under his administration, said that it had an unsatisfactory performance. The Government has deferred a decision on the Board’s recommendation pending a report by the Tariff Board on the electronics industry in general. It may be that this company has sound prospects for long term growth. Nevertheless, it seems desirable to know AIDCs justification for assisting a company- -
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Can the honourable member advise us to which clause of this Bill he is speaking.
– Yes, I would be very pleased to do so. I am advocating an expanded Public Works Committee or, in lieu of that, a sort of economies commission. I have given other examples and other views.
– In place of the AIDC or the Tariff Board, or what?
– What I am saying is that public utilities, including the AIDC, should be subject to public scrutiny. On the one hand we have the Tariff Board saying that this particular company is inefficient and on the other hand we have the AIDC saying that it should be promoted and should be lent money. That really is the relevance. I appreciate the interjection by the Minister for Overseas Trade who wished to assist me in this matter.
– We do not see the relevance even yet.
– A lot of us can see things that we want to see, a lot of us can see things that we do not want to see, and some of us do not see anything at all. This is entirely relevant to the debate.
– It is a very deep and thoughtful speech.
– I thank my colleague very much. This question of the proposed assistance by the AIDC was raised at the Prime Minister’s Press conference on 6 March. According to the transcript of the Press conference, the Prime Minister was asked:
As Minister who receives Tariff Board reports, you would be aware that the Board reported recently adversely on the prospects and performance of one of the AIDC projects, Information “Electronics Ltd. Will you have Sir John Crawford investigate the possibility of extending the protection commission’s operations to cover the implicit subsidy in the AIDC operations?
The Prime Minister replied:
This will be open to him to consider and I hope he does.
I think that the reason the Minister for Overseas Trade is so sensitive about this is that he-
– I am not in the least sensitive. I am just trying to work out how this has any relation to the Bill.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! I think that the honourable member is getting a little bit wide of the subject.
– I thank you for directing me in this way, Mr Deputy Speaker. Frankly, it seems to me that any thought, original or not, or anything that will create a situation where the public sector or any part of the public sector is made to feel that it is under the same sort of investigation as the private sector is useful and has a relation to public works. That is the relevance. I am finishing my remarks, anyway, by quoting what the Minister for Overseas Trade had to say about this same matter on 7 March. He denied that the AIDC would come under the continuing scrutiny of the proposed protection commission and did not consider that this statement was in conflict with the Prime Minister’s statement on this matter. That is the reason why he is so sensitive now. I do not think that the question of economies and efficiency in the Public Service should be confined to any one of the 37 departments. It should be applied to all departments and in any area where public funds are spent. I conclude my remarks by saying once again that I think that the Public Works Committee has done a very good job over a number of years. At the same time it is impossible for it to do the job that is required of it because of the limitations of time, facilities and so on. I hope that at its next meeting the Public Works Committee will consider the possibility of expanding its own activities or recommending to the Government the present Chairman is a Labor Government supporter that an economies commission or something like that should be appointed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 3 (Definition).
– The Government will vote against this clause which will have the effect of restoring the Bill to its original form, as I outlined in my second reading speech.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Daly) - by leave - read a third time.
– I move:
The Customs Tariff Proposals which I have just moved related to proposed amendments to the Customs Tariff 1966-1972. These amendments arise from the Government’s acceptance of reports by the Tariff Board on: Lightning Arresters; and prepared additives for mineral oils, etc. In its report on lightning arresters the Board recommended that a slightly larger range of lightning arresters be brought within the existing protective rate of 20 per cent (reduced in July by the 25 per cent tariff cut). For lightning arresters having a current rating greater than five kilo-amperes minimum rates of duty were recommended. On prepared additives for mineral oils the Board recommended that protection be granted to viscosity index improvers and pour point depressants at a general rate of 15 per cent pending a further review in about 3 years time. The Board made no recommendations on antiknock preparations based on tetraethyl-lead or tetramethyllead because they had been reported on by the Board as recently as 1971. The Board recom mended no assistance on the remaining goods under reference.
In accordance with Australia’s trade agreements, a margin of preference is being provided in favour of New Zealand on nonprotected items. However, pending possible representations from New Zealand to the effect that it has an important trade interest in the goods concerned, provision is being made for these goods to be admitted free of duty under bylaw. As these reports were received prior to 19 July the duties will be subject to the provisions of the 25 per cent tariff cut. The new duties will operate tomorrow. A comprehensive summary of the changes and duty rates is being circulated to honourable members. I commend the Proposals.
Debate (on motion by Mr Peacock) adjourned.
Reports on Items
– I table the reports by the Tariff Board on:
Lightning Arresters; and
Prepared Additives for Mineral Oils, Etc.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
Consideration resumed from 24 October (vide page 2653).
Department of Customs and Excise
Proposed expenditure, $43,128,000.
Department of Primary Industry
Proposed expenditure, $50,391,000.
Department of Overseas Trade
Proposed expenditure, $27,411,000.
Department of Secondary Industry
Proposed expenditure, $19,293,000.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (4.1)- The honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) when discussing the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry referred to the total estimated expenditure for all agricultural and rural industries of $295.2m as shown on page 63 of the Budget Speech, which is an increase of $56.4m on the actual amount spent in 1972-73. The honourable member also pointed out that a large part of this estimated expenditure was loan money and had to be paid back. I am inclined to agree with the honourable member that the Budget statement could show more details, and I am inclined to agree with the honourable member’s statement that the proposed Industries Assistance Commission should publish an annual list contrasting the various levels and forms of assistance to all industries. I believe that a purpose for which the Industries Assistance Commission will be set up is to ensure that assistance to all industries will have regular and independent public scrutiny.
I believe that this could be more advantageous to the mining industries than to the rural industries. I have in mind the cost of pipelines, wharves, hospitals and this type of thing that the mining companies have to provide in isolated areas, which facilities are used by people besides those who work in the mining industries. Further to that, because of the heavy work in mines many miners contribute to their own retirement fund and are forced to retire at 62 years of age. They have to exist from the age of 62 years to 65 years on the money they have paid in to their own retirement fund. This would save the Government a lot of money. I believe it would be a good thing to have a list published and comparisons made so that we really know where the assistance to industry is going and what the industries contribute themselves.
It seems to me that if anyone has a short memory it is not the members of the Government but it is the Opposition members. We have left behind a series of depressing years under a Liberal-Country Party government when our rural industries had to contend with rock bottom wool prices, give away lamb and mutton prices, badly planned and unfairly applied wheat quotas which had the support of the big companies and the Pitt Street farmers but which forced many small farmers and most of the share farmers off the land and which caused the greatest across-the-board black market that this country has ever known. These were years when millions of dollars of the taxpayers’ money were paid out in so-called assistance to our primary industries, though most of it never reached rural communities but went straight to the broker, the banker and the financier. In some years even the weather failed to co-operate and we had some of the most crippling droughts that this country has ever had.
Some property values have soared 15 to 20 per cent in north-western New South Wales in the last fortnight.
The report further states:
Buyers of rural holdings include many city professionals, such as building and land developers, solicitors and doctors . . .
If we multiply the percentage figures in that article by the number of fortnights in a year - as members of the Opposition do when they are referring to inflation, by picking the worst period and multiplying it by the number of periods in the year - we see that land values increased by from 375 to 500 per cent in 12 months. Of course that is not the correct way to make the calculation, but if it is good enough for the Opposition it is good enough for me. However this indicates the confidence that some people have in the future of the rural industries. Surely no one would want to invest the amount of money necessary if it was thought that there was no future in the primary industry.
It seems to me that members of the Opposition are always referring to some privileged concession that they had which has been cut out by this Government whereas they should be talking about something that is really of advantage to the primary industries - something that will be consistent. We have an inflationary spiral in Australia at present. Yet in many country areas, because they are not big enough to employ a permanent health inspector, cattle are carted elsewhere for killing - for example, from Lightning Ridge to Dubbo where cattle are killed and the meat is returned to Lightning Ridge where the people have to pay twice as much for their meat because of this type of procedure. We should be trying to make primary industry more viable. We should be cutting out all the false marketing systems and be putting into primary industry something which will be of advantage to the people who depend on that industry for a living. I had a lot more to say on this matter but, of course, time will not permit, so it is no use my starting on other matters unless I can finish what I want to say.
– There is not a great deal in the statistics and the fundamental information to which the honourable member for Darling (Mr Fitzpatrick) has referred with which I should disagree, but I do disagree with the inferences he draws from the statistics. One does not have to look far to know that the capacity for primary industry to expand in the right direction is as a result of its ability to read the market place. The reason for this ability was that the previous Government set an economy in which such individual judgments can flourish. The only mistake the honourable member can make is by interfering with that economy. If the flow of wool to countries that need it is interrupted, the wool industry will be mucked up. It will not be mucked up so long as it is left alone. A key industry that is ticking along should be left alone. I qualify this point by saying that the canned fruit industry is one industry where the Labor Party, with its marvellous capacity to try to over-govern and over-organise everything, should perhaps step in and examine the possibility of a stabilisation scheme for that industry. It is an industry where blocks are small, where the capacity for investment is low and where a stabilisation scheme must be considered seriously by this Government. By and large the only mistake the honourable member could make would be to interfere with industries that are going very well on the basis of an economy already set and on the basis of huge world demand, perhaps of a temporary nature.
The first point I deal with revolves around the debate that occurred recently on the Meat Export Charge Collection Bill 1973. We heard the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) - I am glad to see he is in the chamber - last night trying to blame the Opposition, or perhaps one party in Opposition, for a muddle over what weights should be considered as the basis for the meat export charges. I remind the honourable member for EdenMonaro - before he is involved in confrontation with the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) - to examine page 1253 of Hansard where the honourable member for Riverina is reported as having said:
That request was that the full financing and the detail of that financing should be set out by the Department of Primary Industry under the authority of the Minister for Primary Industry and sent to them directly so that there can be in all detail validation of what I have put to the Committee. I think that that was a reasonable request.
That was a request from the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) and the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair). Mr Grassby continued:
So far as I am aware that information has never been supplied to this House. The Opposition took this matter up again and it is no use the honourable member for EdenMonaro trying to argue with his own colleague and saying that proper statistics were not used. If they were not given it was entirely his fault. The previous Government went on shipboard weights of meat, as I understand the argument, where bone in or bone out was classed and it was not a matter of grave error. On these figures - the best figures the Opposition could get from the Government with the full weight of departments to help it gain such figures - the beef industry was saved by the Senate providing for a trust fund for the surplus that the Government, either in an ignorant or purposely arrogant way, would have tried to channel into general revenue. Hansard will prove that the things I am saying are correct.
I refer now to a speech made the day before yesterday by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to the Australian Farmers Federation at the Hotel Canberra. I found my remarks on one comment which amused me very much. One can imagine the Prime Minister throwing his hands aside, looking as he is portrayed in the Pugh portrait in King’s Hall and saying: ‘Can anyone believe the baseless accusation that the Australian Labor Party is an anti-rural Party’. I do not know whether I am in a position to say, in a glorious generalisation, what the rural industries believe, but I believe, and must say, that the Prime Minister’s statement is utterly wrong. I say that the rural industries do believe that the Australian Labor Party is an anti rural Party. But I do not know that that is the worst thing about it. The worst thing, it occurs to me, is its complete lack of understanding, whether it is sympathetic or not.
I want to quote an example to demonstrate this point. Every honourable member from a rural electorate will have a different example and I think they would be equally as telling. I refer to the brandy industry. Honourable members know that there is a tariff report pending on whether the brandy industry should be protected against some artificial - I use that word reservedly - substitutes for brandy, selling under that name, which are coming into this country cheaply. What happens while the Government is waiting for this inquiry and report? It removes the differentiation that the brandy industry always has had over some of its by-product competitors; it increases excise duty on it, as it did with other spirits; it introduces a revaluation of stock - this was done in the income tax amendment Bill which was introduced today - and just for good measure it equalises private company taxation with public company taxation, something that peculiarly hit many of the more famous brandy names producing Australian brandy today.
No industry can carry such a cold, calculating kick in the guts, if I might refer to it in that way. Surely people are entitled, even under this Government, to invest in their own shops, their own businesses, whether it be in brandy or something else, and to have some chance for a future return and the future viability and economic position of the industry in which they invest. This was one of the most blatant, discriminatory, shocking pieces of legislation that has ever come from this Government which either does not- care or, I rather suspect in this case, does not understand. It left the Premier of South Australia speechless although he heads a government of the same political colour as this Government. He was virtually speechless but about a week later he suddenly found words and what he did not say to the discredit of this Government was nobody’s business. I quoted that example relating to the brandy industry in an isolated fashion to prove a point. I do not know whether the Government is anti-rural industries but I do know that it does not understand, and I suspect that it is probably both anti-rural industries and that it does not understand.
– Tell us about the wine tax that your Government put on.
– Right, I will tell the honourable member about it. The Premier of South Australia said that the wine excise produced by the previous Government was nothing in comparison with the onus put on the wine industry, quite apart from the brandy industry. That is not my quotation, it is that of a left wing Premier of the honourable member’s own political persuasion. That is what he thinks about it. I also would like to quote one more statement before my time expires. It is again from the Prime Minister’s speech to the Australian Farmers Federation. Having dealt with the fact that the Government had to remove the sales tax exemption on carbonated soft drinks containing more than 5 per cent of Australian fruit juice, the Prime Minister had this to’ say:
I assure you that while abolishing the exemption the Government is ready to provide funds to assist any sector of the fruit growing industry that may be adversely affected.
I repeat, ‘any sector’. Those on this side of the House will not forget that statement. I think of the canning fruit industry that has been trying now for 6 months to remain solvent while waiting for some devaluation compensation from a year or two ago. I have been trying to get a deputation from the industry to the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) for 3 weeks but every time we nearly have it teed up he goes overseas again. He is a nice guy but he must be an awfully ineffectual one. I mention that in passing because I think the Minister needs help. If one or two of the Ministers sitting at the table, the Minister for Science and Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison) or the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson), could take over some of his duties in this regard at least the industries that I aim to represent would not be totally ignored and could perhaps feel that they can present their case and get a certain amount of consideration.
– I would like to make some comments about tariff cuts and the effect that they have not had on our economy, or the effect that they were expected to have and have not had. Some few months ago this Government slashed tariff cuts by 25 per cent. At that time there were great predictions of doom from our opponents on the opposition side of the House. Memories are extremely short, but those who now quote the Liberals’ prediction of economic doom in the future ought to remember the similar forecasts that they made at the time of revaluation and at the time of the tariff cuts. We were told that the country would be flooded with cheap imports from low wage Asian countries. This, we were told by the economic clowns of the Liberal and Country Parties, would send thousands of businesses to the wall and produce massive unemployment. It is now 9 months since the first revaluation, and nearly 3 months since the tariff cuts, and the same experts have been noticeably quiet since the news was released that only 25 people had applied for assistance available to those who were made redundant as a result of the tariff cuts.
The same Liberal and Country Party economists who put 130,000 people out of work when they said that it could not happen are the same ones who predicted bankruptcy for primary producers and miners on revaluation, and economic chaos after the tariff cuts. We are now asked to believe their forecasts about impending doom due to inflation. The Liberals have been trying to highlight excessive wage demands and government spending as the cause of inflation. Inflation causes wage demands, not the other way around. What they never want to look at is profits and one of the greatest scandals has yet to be unmasked to the general public. As I said before, because of Australia’s massive balance of trade surplus overseas the Australian Government revalued twice and did not follow the United States dollar down when that country devalued. The tariff cuts were a bold step to reduce the price of imports and make Australian business more competitive.
– Did they?
– Just control yourself for a moment and you will hear what I have to say. The incredible increase in consumer demand has had the effect of taking up any slack that might have occurred in Australian secondary industry and at the moment the majority cannot even keep up with demand. Any retailer in the country will tell you of the unique experience of being unable to obtain stocks and having to place orders months ahead. In many areas, housing, clothing and automobiles, the position is particularly acute.
The scandal I want to refer to, because it is in a field with which I am very familiar, is what is happening in the clothing industry, for it illustrates clearly how unprincipled some businessmen can be and what a mockery they make of the Liberals’ claim that they could contain excessive profiteering by co-operation. These events have been recounted to me by a ‘well known and substantial local manufacturer and importer. I shall not mention his name because it could ruin his future business relations with the companies with whom he does business. It was obvious to everyone in the clothing trade that the reductions in prices caused by revaluation were not being passed on to the consumer. Retailers, particularly the large ones, were in touch with the importers within hours of the announcement of the revaluation to insist on reductions in goods they had placed on order. That was the end of the reduction. Anyone who doubts that the extra profit went into the pockets of the retailers need only look at the massive increase in profits announced by major retailers in recent weeks. I want to quote from an article in the Australian’ headed ‘Myer Beats Rivals with 31pc Boost’. The article states:
Myer Emporium Ltd has bounded past its major retail rivals to post a 30.8 per cent or $5. 9m rise in earnings for the year to July 31.
To mark the strong improvement, directors have raised dividend from 7c to 9c a share and will recommend a one for two bonus issue to shareholders.
Directors yesterday reported that net trading profit rose from $19,097,000 to a record $24,985,000 on a 19.3 per cent rise in sales to $623.9m.
Higher profit reflects the boom in retail spending over the past 6 months and better profit margins.
Underneath those words is a table headed: How the retailers compare’. It shows that Myer had a net profit of $25m - an increase of 30.8 per cent; Coles, $15.3m - an increase of 24.2 per cent; Waltons, $8.4m - an increase of 49.3 per cent; and Grace Brothers, $5m - an increase of 12.2 per cent. Woolworths balances on a different date from the rest of the firms, so its figures cannot be included.
– You will be kind enough to tell us that they paid tax on all that profit, will you not?
– If the honourable member uses that as a yardstick, he will accept any form of profiteering on the ground that everyone pays tax. When the Government did not allow the Australian dollar to follow the United States dollar down, there was little effect on the clothing industry. The majority of cheap imported clothing comes from South East Asia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea. The 25 per cent tariff cuts were the next move that should have sent prices of clothing down even further. The Australian manufacturers certainly were made more competitive, and within days of the tariff cuts being announced many importers received visits from Customs officers who asked to see the importers’ invoices in order to satisfy themselves that the tariff reductions were being passed on. Apparently, they made it perfectly clear to importers that if they did not pass on the reductions they could well face the loss of their import licences. Once again the retailers were on the backs of the importers to see that they received the maximum reduction. Once again the reduction stopped with the retailer. The consumer never saw it. The national Government’s hands were tied because it lacked any powers over retail prices. The threats it could make to the importer could not be made against the retailer, and the retailers know it. The States held the powers and there was no way that Sir Robert Askin, Mr Hamer and Mr BjelkePetersen were going to act against their business mates in the 3 big States where 80 per cent of retailing is done.
The fact of the matter is that these goods which were being brought in from these countries were being marked up with high profit margins of 50 per cent to 100 per cent. They are now, as recounted to me, being marked up by minimum margins of from 100 per cent to 150 per cent. I have proof of that. Affidavits are being prepared to be given to the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns). The only problem is that the people making the affidavits cannot come out into the open because they would risk their future business relations. However, they are prepared to give affidavits.
– Whose mate is Ken Myer?
– What has that to do with this matter? I am no mate of Ken Myer. If Ken Myer wants to support the Australian Labor Party, that is his business. He probably does not even know what is going on amongst his buyers in his own department stores.
– Fair enough.
– The honourable member for North Sydney interjects every time the word profit’ is mentioned. I might point out that very few of the honourable members who sit on the other side of the chamber and pride themselves on their support of big business have had any business experience at all. Most of those who got on to the boards of companies got there because they were accountants or lawyers. I do not know one of them who has had any real experience in business. The last person in the Liberal Party who was a genuine self-made businessman was Sir Allan Fairhall and he left in disgust. When honourable members opposite start talking about business they should first of all find out something about it. Many of the small businessmen who sit on this side of the chamber really understand it from the grass roots.
– It is with some concern that I rise during the debate on the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry. I should like to take up just one small part of the Government’s action in this Budget which I believe will have a devastating effect on large sections of the rural community of Australia. I refer to the impact that the change in taxation deductions this year as compared with last year will have. What I should like to point out and what this Committee must appreciate is that throughout Australia we have tremendously different areas and conditions. I could not help but become very aware of this when a fortnight ago I went to the Riverina to visit my parents. In that area there is land which has been developed for at least 70 years. The farms are well improved and have been so for probably the last 20 years, with the introduction of pasture improvement, fencing and sheds, all in good order. I contrast that with Western Australia where for the last 16 years in the vicinity of one million acres a year has been brought into production. In Western Australia most of the development has taken place in the last 15 years, and is very new in comparison with the Riverina and the bulk of the Eastern States. There is quite a contrast between the older established areas of the eastern States and Western Australia where the improvement of the farming land is still in its very infancy. In the last 4 years particularly there have been crises caused by low prices and poor seasons as well as the improvement of the land being in its infancy. There has been absolutely no spare money even to keep the farms in order, let alone to upgrade them. A tremendous amount of the rural area in Western Australia is still by no means an economic area for the running of a farm.
This is the time we were looking forward to - the time when the wheel had turned and when some money could be spent on the additional development that is required to bring a farm up to being an economic area. This is the time when the advantages of the taxation deductions of the last few years could have been used. But we find today that this opportunity has been lost to these areas. I believe that this is an absolute tragedy for vast semi-developed areas of Western Australia and other parts of Australia which are still being developed. I do not think there can be any argument at all today against increasing our development and production in Australia. As we know, many food items are in worldwide short supply. The Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) very shortly is to attend a Food and Agriculture Organisation meeting in Rome at which action to meet the problems of the world food situation is expected to be discussed. The United States Secretary of State, Dr Kissinger, has warned of the dangerously low world food reserves and has proposed that a United Nations world food conference bc held next year. As a major food exporter, Australia can hardly play a responsible part in these discussions if it is seen to be simultaneously dismantling its existing incentives for food and fibre production instead of making those incentives more effective and widening them in order that Australia’s full potential for food production may be realised.
To blame the short-sighted and, I believe, punitive Budget actions of this Government on the St George’s Terrace farmer - in case 116 members of this House do not know what that means, he is the same as the Pitt Street farmer-
– There are 125 of us.
– That is right. St George’s Terrace is the main street of Perth, the capital of Western Australia, which is the great exporting State and the State that carries the rest of Australia on its back. Because Western Australia has only 9 members in this chamber - it will have 10 shortly - although in area it represents at least one-third of the continent, this Government has discriminated against Western Australia at every turn. An article in the ‘Australian’ of 24 October was headed ‘Canberra is greedy, Perth chocked’. Truly this is just what is happening to Western Australia. We have seen this Government take control of the oil and natural gas on the north west shelf. We have seen the removal of the tax incentives, of which I have made some mention, and the subsidies for the mining industry which have well been described once again by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) in the Bill he introduced today.
Just to show the importance of Western Australia to the economy of Australia I point out that Western Australia’s export earnings in 1972-73 were $1,1 58m and imports totalled $394m. It seems to me these days that it is not a great thing for us in this country to be endeavouring to earn money overseas somehow or another to pay one’s way in the world and make this a wealthier nation. It does not seem to be the thing to do. But I believe that the time will shortly come when the earning capacity of States like Western Australia will be very much appreciated by the rest of Australia.
I would just like to make the point once again that in developing areas of Western Australia particularly, but also in the rest of the continent, we have a situation today in which farms are in the very infancy of development in comparison with rural areas in the eastern States. It is just remarkable to see some of the old established land throughout the eastern States and to see how little remains to be done to it by way of improvements and capital expenditure. It has all been done. It is only a matter of upgrading and maintaining the excellent standard they have. In contrast, millions of acres of land have been developed in Western Australia each year over the past few years. I believe that somehow this Government should be able to work out - I would not suggest special consideration should be given because none of us on the land particularly in Western Australia would wish that - some method whereby we can be allowed to catch the main reason given for these punitive budget actions against the rural sector is the Pitt Street farmer, or the people who are not involved in farming, enjoying tax deductions. In order to make them toe the line, to reduce the development of vast areas of our land, must we go to these extremes? I suggest that there must be a better way to organise the present Budget for the development of our land, and for the continued prosperity of all Australians.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (4.38)- When my time expired on the last occasion I spoke in this debate I was trying to point out that the Australian Labor Party aims to develop an efficient and viable rural sector. We are striving to take the longer view aimed at tailoring production to meet the real demand of the market place and to place farming on a business-like basis with sympathy and understanding. We aim to tackle the big issues such as rural poverty, undersized farms and inefficient marketing. The Labor Government is seeking to bring a sense of purpose to rural policy-making through the proper allocation of resources.
One of the major decisions taken by the Federal Labor Government is the decision to phase out the dairy bounty. This decision is in line with the Labor Party’s contention that all Government expenditure should be purposeful. Despite an outlay of $770m over the years by the previous Government, the bounty has not contributed to solving rural industries’ major problem - that of adjusting farm production to realistic levels of demand. As a welfare measure the bounty was inequitable as the bulk of it went to the larger and wealthier farmers who needed it least. Although apparently recognised by the previous Government, the dairy bounty directly frustrated the objectives of the marginal dairy farm reconstruction scheme. Labor, rather than continue the bounty, would prefer to spend money on structural adjustment. The Federal Labor Govern ment stands ready to spend generously on adjustment programs and federal officers are being engaged in consultations with State officials and dairy organisations to discover where the problem areas are and what assistance measures are most appropriate. When these facts are known, plans will be drawn up and funds allocated accordingly. The bounty is being phased out to enable landholders to make whatever adjustments they consider necessary.
Other steps which have been taken by the Federal Labor Government to meet the needs of primary producers include: The provision of $47.2m mainly for expenditure on rural reconstruction in 1973-74; an amount of $20m has been provided to finance an expanded rural lending program by the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia for a wide range of purposes, namely financing of farm purchase, repayment of short term debts and holding a farm together after the death of the farm proprietor; an amount of $2.6m is to be made available for cattle and beef research - half of this is finance from consolidated revenue, the rest from industry levies on livestock; an amount of $lm has been provided for compensation to stock owners for compulsory slaughter of tuberculosis reactor cattle; a grant of $22m for wool research and promotion in 1973-74 ad the establishment of the Industries Assistance Commission to report on proposals for assistance to primary industries. Honourable members may remember that the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) has already mentioned the way in which this Commission can be used to assist not only primary industry but also all forms of industry. The Commission will bring out the information on where all industry assistance goes. Other steps taken by the Labor Government to assist the needs of primary producers include: The provision of emergency adjustment assistance to farmers producing export apples and pears and apricots following revaluation of the Australian dollar on 23 December 1972; an extension for a further year of the wheat stabilisation scheme to allow a comprehensive review to be undertaken in conjunction with the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation; the provision of a special incentive of 10c per bushel to be added to the usual first advance payment of $1.10 per bushel for wheat harvest and the recent from the 1973-74 wheat harvest and the recent decision to reduce tariffs by 25 per cent will be particularly beneficial to the rural sector and substantially effect the cost of many farm requirements. A cut of this sort has been sought by the rural sector for a long while, but was not introduced by the Liberal-Country Party Government.
It is relevant to note that the various forms and levels of assistance given to landholders in the past have not proved effective in halting the drift to the city. Since 1947, the rural population in Australia declined from approximately 31 per cent of the total population tq 14.3 per cent in 1971. lt is a known fact that 12 months ago many farmers were looking for jobs. They are now complaining that they cannot get suitable labour to work the farms. These are the changed circumstances under a Labor Party government. The Labor Government has indicated its concern in this matter and has established a Department of Urban and Regional Development which will be responsible for implementing a program for fostering extra growth centres. This policy is designed to stem the drift from the country to the city, to improve the educational, recreational and cultural facilities available to country people and to widen the range of employment opportunities in regional centres. It is quite obvious that . the present Labor Government is very conscious of the needs of the country people and wishes to provide them with an opportunity for a better and more comfortable way of life.
– I find it hard to believe that the honourable member for Darling (Mr Fitzpatrick) can say in all honesty that the Australian Labor Party is building up a more viable rural sector. I thought the demolition squad was in, not the builders. I was amused, too, at the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) who danced quickly into the chamber a few minutes ago and just as quickly went out again and who hurled by interjection a statement relating to what Mr Hogan of the Australian Farmers Federation was reported to have said yesterday. I hope the honourable member for Eden-Monaro will read just as assiduously a later Press release by Mr Hogan in which he said among other things that he wished to correct a misunderstanding which appeared to have come from his Press conference yesterday. Mr Hogan said that one report had confused the question of relations between the Australian Country Party and the farmer organisations. He had tried to make it clear that the Press had often fooled the public in creating an image of the Country Party as a handout party for farmers. In fact, Mr Hogan said, many good ideas had been placed before the Government by the farm groups and undoubtedly had been supported by the Country Party. There is more to Mr Hogan’s statement, but what I have just read is quite different from what we read this morning.
Although the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry occupy less than 4 pages, these few lines emphasise - if any further emphasis were necessary - what the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) said in this House just 2 days ago. He said that under this Government country and rural people have been kicked and bashed viciously, discriminately and with unprecedented savagery. That same day, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) spoke of the Coombs report. He referred to its recommendations with obvious approbation as removing wasteful expenditure. We know what he regards as wasteful expenditure; this Budget and these appropriations made that absolutely clear. The Prime Minister referred to concessions which applied to primary producers and primary production. On the same day, the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) said in the House when speaking of the increases in the cost of living index that it was attributable to the pets of the Country Party because the greatest component in the increase was the rise in the cost of food. Let the honourable member for Phillip be fair. When he is looking at award rises and wage rises he looks also at the rises in the cost of living. When he is looking at the income of primary producers, let him then look at the whole picture. Let him remember how their income has fluctuated up and down over a period of years because of prices and because of a series of droughts and let him remember that many of the concessions that were written into the Australian statute books under a LiberalCountry Party Government were there to even out for the primary producer some of these great oscillations in their income.
When I look at these estimates, of course, I find a savage reduction in the amounts allocated when compared with the previous year. There is no reduction in salaries and payments in the nature of salary. Naturally, these have risen because wage and salary levels have risen. Administrative expenses have risen for the same reason; this is understandable. But honourable members should have a look under the heading ‘Other Services’. This is the section that tells the tale. This is the one that gets into the primary producer’s pocket. There has been a savage reduction of more than $13m. When we examine where these reductions occur and when we compare them with the document of deceit that circulated last year called ‘It’s Time - Rural’ we find that these 2 things are entirely incompatible. First of all, we see that there has been a reduction in butter and cheese bounties of $ 10.5m in these estimates - despite the celebrated telegram of the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) and despite all the denials which were given by the Labor candidate in my electorate and in every electorate in Australia who said that the Labor Party would not reduce subsidies.
We could have a look at a few more industries. There has been the removal of the sales tax exemption on carbonated beverages with a 5 per cent fruit juice content. I hope to have an opportunity to say something further about that. The Government has raised many other costs in a lot of other estimates that have already been discussed. Suffice it for me to say that postal costs, fuel, radio station licences and land line fees have increased. All of these things hit in one place - in the country. They hit the primary producer. When we have a look at these estimates, what do we find about such things as the $500m at 3 per cent over 40 years which was promised before the election? Nothing at all. What we do find is an allocation of something like $20m and I think that that is just a reallocation. What about the promised interest rate of 3 per cent? Not only has the interest rate increased; we also find that the preferential interest rate that rural producers justifiably enjoyed previously has gone.
– It is 9i per cent.
– It is 9( per cent, as my colleague the honourable member for Mallee reminds me. Where in these estimates is the promised revaluation compensation provision? I know that some assistance has been provided for, I think, the apple and pear industry but that is not revaluation compensation; that is reconstruction. For all of the promises, I can see no provision in these estimates for anything like revaluation compensation.
We see that the money provided by the estimates has been cut down, but let us have a look at the other side of the picture. Let us see what this Budget has done. This is closely tied up with these estimates. The accelerated depreciation rate for primary producers has been removed. What about the deduction in one year under sections 75 and 76 for certain capital improvements? That has gone. What about the investment allowance for new machinery purchased by farmers. That has been removed under the guise of removing the Pitt Street or the Collins Street farmers or what we call in Queensland the Queens Street farmers. Perhaps the Government has hurt one or two of them but it has hurt every other bona fide primary producer in Australia in a year when these things could not be afforded. After 5 years of drought, when incomes were looking a little better and when the farmer had a chance to undertake some capital improvements - when he did have a chance to renew some of his machinery that he has battled on with over the years because he could not afford to renew it - this Budget has savagely taken away the investment allowance.
In regard to the Prime Minister’s promise not to increase direct taxation, what is this if it is not such an increase? Do you not increase direct taxation when you take away all the concessions and deductions? Of course it is an increase in direct taxation. There has also been an increase in direct taxation of private companies which will affect quite a number of people engaged in rural industries. I believe that this Budget has cost the primary producer and the people in the country something like $150m. This is a tragic document. Every one of the documents accompanying the Budget contains a reference to the primary producer. Yet the honourable member for Darling gets up and talks about what the Labor Party is doing for the rural sector. I wonder what sort of reception he will receive on the platforms in his electorate in the next election when he goes out among the primary producers. It is no good saying that this Industries Assistance Commission will help because concessions for primary producers such as depreciation allowances will have to go through the Commission. We will have to start all over again.
The Government will not help the primary producers. There is nothing left. It has taken away all of the primary producer’s concessions and it has cut the estimates most savagely for the Department of Primary Industry in the category of ‘Other Services’. The items are outlined. One is the assistance to various industries. Some industries will receive absolutely nothing and the allocation for others has been reduced savagely. I would say that the Bill giving the estimated expenditure for the Department of Primary Industry is a document of doom and will spell the doom of the Labor Party in rural electorates. There will be no rural rump left after the Labor Party goes to the people again. The Government refers to the Country Party as ‘cockies corner’. But it should look at this Party’s augmentation when we next go to the people and show them what this Government has done to the primary producers of Australia.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Armitage) - The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I should like to intervene briefly in this debate on the estimates for the Department of Secondary Industry to make a few points. I will not take up very much of the time of the House. The matter which I wish to raise was brought to my attention by an honourable member who approached me after question time and told me that he had been trying to ask a question of me dealing with one aspect of the Department of Secondary Industry. It is relevant in the debate on these estimates that that question and the answer I would have given be put before the House at this stage. The honourable member’s concern was for the lack of consultation that he felt had previously existed between the Australian Government and secondary industry and in particular the leaders of secondary industry. As I understand it he would have asked me a question with regard to the intentions of the Government in establishing better consultation than our predecessors had between the Government at this level and the leaders of secondary industry.
It is a very serious problem. We have in Australia, as we all know, a Federal system. As honourable members would know I am no great admirer of it in its strict, present form. I have been heard to criticise it often because of the difficulties it places in the way of giving assistance to secondary industry and. other industries by governments, whether State governments or the Australian Government. In the last few days I have had the opportunity of having discussions with many leaders of secondary industry and they have repeated this same complaint. They have told me that the lack of consultation goes right back many years into the days of the previous Government. The policies of the present Government include a determination to establish very close consultation with the leaders of secondary industry. Given the difficulties which exist and which arise from the existing division of functions between the States and the Australian Government, it seems to me that there is considerable merit to be obtained from regular meetings that might take place between State Ministers who have responsibilities in the area of secondary industry and Ministers of the Australian Government who also have responsibilities in the area of secondary industry.
I have already had discussions with my ministerial colleagues, the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) and the Treasurer (Mr Crean) on this point. They have given their enthusiastic support for the proposition. I hope to put the proposition to some of the State Ministers. I have reason to believe that some State Ministers who have been approached already are warm to the idea of perhaps bringing into being something that could be called an Australian industries council. It could be a model of and perhaps taken beyond the level of the Australian Agricultural Council. It would consist of 6 State Premiers and, shall be say, three principal Ministers of the Australian Government who have direct responsibility in secondary industry. I refer to the Treasurer, the Minister for Overseas Trade and the Minister for Secondary Industry, and perhaps the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor). Meetings could be held regularly so that the problems that face the country could be thrashed out and better understood and the problems which have produced ad hocery in the past could be more particularly overcome. It might make it easier for us to develop what I would call long range indicative planning for Australia as a whole.
I should also like to indicate to the House that it seems to me that there would be great advantage in such a council, if it could be brought into being having not only Ministers from the States who have direct responsibility for secondary industry and those Ministers from the Australian Government who work in the same area but also having a certain number - say 6 - of the leaders of industry representative of Australian-wide industry as a whole. Of course that makes one think of leaders of the trade union movement and perhaps they should play a role in it as well. It is a matter for consultation. I should say that I have already spoken to departmental people on the matter and was pleased to learn that they had taken some initiative some time ago but it had led to nothing then. They will be exploring and making a detailed study of the whole problem. We know that can happen under the system which we have inherited from the previous Government. There are occasions when the States are played off against each other, sometimes by overseas investors. We know that sometimes States operate unilaterally on schemes of national significance, sometimes to the non-advantage of the national interest. We know that there can be fragmentation of industry between States which inhibits the development of large scale industry, competitive by international standards.
All in all it seems obvious that there is great scope for complementary action between the States and the Australian Government. It could be called, as it has been called by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on other occasions, a new form of co-operative federalism. The other principal disadvantage of the existing system is that all too often Australian Government involvement in manufacturing tends to be reactive to a particular situation as it has emerged and not been known about sufficiently in advance because of this lack of consultative machinery that has not been in existence and which we have missed in the past. There is a difficulty in identifying priorities. There is a difficulty in obtaining responses from States which request help on particular projects. Those are the matters I wish to bring to the attention of the House in debating the estimates for the Department of Secondary Industry. I would have done so this morning if the honourable member had had the call at question time.
– by leave - The purpose of this statement is to inform honourable members of the outcome of the recent International Sugar Conference which was held in Geneva between 10 September and 13 October under the auspices of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Honourable members will be aware that the present International Sugar Agreement is due to expire on 3 1 December next. The main objective of the Agreement is to regulate supplies to the so-called ‘free market’ in order to stabilise prices at levels which will be fair and reasonable to both producers and consumers. The present Agreement entered into force on 1 January 1969 after a long period in which there was virtually no international co-operation in sugar marketing. Prior to its entry into force, world prices were at disaster levels and created major problems for all sugar exporting countries. Most sugar exporting countries are underdeveloped and heavily dependent on sugar for their foreign exchange earnings. Fortunately, Australia does not fall into this category, although an increasing proportion of our sugar harvest is sold on the free market. In 1972, about 75 per cent of our total exports of 2.3 million metric tons was sold on the free market. This proportion will rise even higher in 1975 after the termination of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement under which Australia supplies 361,000 metric tons annually to Britain.
It can be fairly claimed that the present International Sugar Agreement worked to the mutual benefit of both exporters and importers. The Agreement is essentially a market management device and over the first 3 years - 1969 to 1971 - the discipline of export quotas resulted in a better balance between supply and demand and progressive improvement in prices. Indeed, the average price realised on the London and New York terminal markets over this period closely approximated the price objectives of the Agreement. Since the beginning of 1972, due largely to relative crop failure in a number of major producing countries, the market has been exceptionally buoyant and export quotas have been suspended. In fact, market prices over the period have exceeded the supply commitment price under the Agreement, and to this extent member importers have received the bulk of their sugar at a discount.
Indeed, this created a major difficulty at the Conference because a number of developing exporting countries argued that these discounts represented, in effect, a subsidy to the major importing countries such as Japan and Canada. These exporters were distinctly reluctant to continue to accept this obligation in its existing form in any new Agreement. On balance, I am in no doubt that the present Agreement has worked to the mutual advantage of member exporting and importing countries. Equally, I am of the view that a new Agreement along similar lines to the present arrangement would have continued to facilitate the co-ordination of sugar marketing policies and the organisation of the world market. Certainly, the objective of the Australian Government at the Conference was to obtain such an Agreement and it was fully supported in its efforts by the Queensland Government and all sectors of the Australian sugar industry.
The Conference was attended by representatives and observers from some 90 countries and international organisations, reflecting the widespread interest in a new Agreement. The main issues for consideration by the Conference were basic export tonnages and prices. Substantial agreement was reached on a new schedule of basic export tonnages and net export entitlements proposed by the Chairman of the Conference, Mr Ernest Jones-Parry, who is also the Executive Director of the International Sugar Organisation. It is worth making a special mention of the fact that it was recognised by the Conference that any Australian sugar displaced from the British market after the termination of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement at 31 December 1974 would be added, ton for ton, to Australia’s basic export tonnage which was set at 1,650,000 metric tons-H)r some 550,000 tons above the equivalent figure in the present Agreement. Accordingly, even if the whole of Australia’s negotiated price quota of 361,000 tons was displaced from its traditional British market outlet after December 1974, our basic export tonnage would have risen to over 2 million metric tons.
The other major issue at the Conference was the question of prices, including a supply commitment price at which member exporters are required to offer quantities of sugar to member importers based on the average of shipments to those markets in the 2 preceding years. Naturally, the views of importing and exporting countries on the question of price tend to vary considerably and this was the case in Geneva. A compromise proposal on prices was made by the Chairman of the Conference, in consultation with the Secretary-General of UNCTAD, in which he suggested a price range of 5.40 US cents per lb. to 7.90 US cents per lb. and a supply commitment price of 8.90 US cents per lb. These prices compare with the price range in the present Agreement of 3.25 US cents per lb. to 5.25 US cents per lb. and the adjusted supply commitment price of 7.60 US cents per lb. Australia, with the support of a large majority of countries represented at the Conference, accepted the compromise proposals covering both export entitlements and prices advanced by the Chairman.
Another area of disagreement concerned the issue of reciprocal rights and obligations of exporters and importers, including questions of supply and purchase commitments. As already noted, some of the developing exporting countries interpret the obligation to offer sugar under certain circumstances to the developed importing countries below prevailing market prices as a form of disguised subsidy. It is undeniably true that large suppliers such as Cuba have forgone considerable foreign exchange earnings over the past 18 months as a result of this obligation and further substantial losses will be incurred if market prices continue at or above present levels. The problem posed for such exporting countries are readily appreciated, but equally - given the basic objective of the Agreement, which is to stabilise prices - it is understandable that importers, whether developed or developing countries, should have the assurance of adequate supplies at fair and reasonable levels. In the event, this was the major issue over which the negotiations broke down.
We must be concerned that, in an area of agricultural trade of such importance to so many countries, it has not been possible to negotiate an Agreement which would continue the degree of international co-operation in sugar marketing experienced during the past 5 years. It is disappointing that the tangible outcome of the protracted and complex negotiations was an Agreement which has no economic clauses although it will keep in being the International Sugar Organisation. It is proper to ask: What does this mean for the future? In the short term, it will have only a limited effect. The export quota disciplines of the present Agreement have been in suspense for almost 2 years and it is unlikely, given the buoyant market outlook, that quota restraints would have been imposed next year even if a new Agreement with full economic provisions had emerged from the Conference.
Moreover, the obligation on exporting members to supply sugar to importing members at the supply commitment price, which is presently about 1.9 US cents per lb. below the prevailing free market price, will cease on 31 December next. Accordingly, after that date our industry will be free to enter into contracts based on world market prices. The possible benefits to be derived from this new freedom of action will be limited with respect to returns from the current crop. However, the potential benefits could be important for the returns from the 1974 crop if the present buoyant market continues.
On the basis of the best expert advice available to me, the market outlook for 1974 is encouraging. However, I am concerned about the possible adverse effects in the longer term if a viable ISA, incorporating effective provisions covering individual country export entitlements and price objectives, cannot soon be renegotiated. Fortunately, the International Sugar Organisation has been authorised to arrange for studies to be made and discussions to be held between members and with nonmembers - notably the European Economic Community - with a view to determining the basis for such an Agreement. It will then be up to the International Sugar Council to recommend to the Secretary-General of UNCTAD a suitable time for convening a new United Nations Sugar Conference for the purpose of negotiating a new Agreement with full economic provisions. I hope that such a conference will be held as soon as possible, certainly no later than in the first half of 1975.
It is the firm intention of the Australian Government, and myself as the responsible Minister, to continue to work towards an Agreement with effective economic provisions because of the greater stability of prices and predictability of market outlets which such an Agreement offers. I would like to express my gratitude for the unqualified support I received from all members of the Australian delegation at the Conference and I received and welcomed their advice at all stages of the negotiations. The delegation included the Queensland Premier and Minister for Primary Industries, the Chairman of the Sugar Board, senior executives of the major industry organisations and of Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Limited, and senior officials from State and Federal Departments. The Australian delegation worked effectively as a team and was constantly approached by others for technical advice and assistance. Honourable members may be assured that the delegation did all within its power to achieve a successful outcome to the negotiations and its efforts were fully recognised by all participants at the Conference.
– I move:
That the House take note of the paper.
– Before I ask that the debate be adjourned I would like to draw the attention of the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) to the fact that, when in Opposition, he was most persistent in asking that adequate notice be given of statements before they were introduced. Neither the spokesman for the Liberal Party nor I knew anything about this statement until a few moments ago. It was not distributed to the office of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) or to the office of the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony). Consequently, we had no knowledge that a statement was to be made in the House on this extremely important matter.
– This is not so. It was given to the Parliamentary Liaison Officer before lunch. He assured me that it would be distributed immediately after lunch.
– Neither the Liberal Party spokesman nor I have received it. It has not been received in the office of the Leader of the Country Party nor has it been received in the office of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. In moving that the debate be adjourned I would stress that on future occasions the Opposition will not give leave to the Government to present statements of this character unless the papers are received and adequate notice is afforded to us so that we may reply. I move:
That the debate be adjourned.
– May I have the indulgence of the House?
– We give you leave.
– What the honourable member has said is true; when in Opposition I always wanted the courtesy of receiving statements, and I received them. I am assured by the Parliamentary Liaison Officer that at half past two this afternoon it was given to the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party (Mr Lynch), as is the case with all ministerial statements. It is given to his office. That is quite correct. It is not our fault. Obviously there has been a breakdown of communications. I do not think you should argue with me about it-
– It should have been handed to the office of the Leader of the Country Party too. I do not know whether that was done.
– I was not aware that that was the practice.
– That is the practice.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Enderby, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to control restrictive trade practices and monopolisation and to proprotect consumers from unfair commercial practices. The Bill will replace the existing Restrictive Trade Practices Act, which has proved to be one of the most ineffectual pieces of legislation ever passed by this Parliament. The Bill will also provide on a national basis long overdue protection for consumers against a wide range of unfair practices.
The Bill is similar to another Bill that the Government introduced into the on 27 September. Debate on that Bill has been deferred by the Senate until next year. The Government has made it clear that such a delay in the passage of legislation of this importance is quite unacceptable. The Bill deals with matters of pressing importance and has particular relevance to the problem of inflation. The present Bill is introduced into this House so as to afford it an opportunity to consider and express its views on the important provisions of the Bill.
Restrictive trade practices have long been rife in Australia. Most of them are undesirable and have served the interests of the parties engaged in them, irrespective of whether those interests coincide with the interests of Australians generally. These practices cause prices to be maintained at artificially high levels. They enable particular enterprises or groups of enterprises to attain positions of economic dominance which are then susceptible to abuse; they interfere with the interplay of competitive forces which are the foundation of any market economy; they allow discriminatory action against small businesses, exploitation of consumers and feather bedding of industries. In consumer transactions unfair practices are widespread. The existing law is still largely founded on the principle known as caveat emptor - meaning let the buyer beware. Thatprinciple was far more appropriate for transactions conducted in village markets than for modern consumer-oriented transactions of today. It has ceased to be appropriate as a general rule. Now the marketing of goods and services is conducted on an organised basis and by trained business executives. The untrained consumer is often no match for the businessman who attempts to persuade the consumer to buy goods or services on terms and conditions suitable only to the vendor. The consumer needs protection by the law and this Bill will provide such protection.
The Bill is especially important because of its relevance to inflation. The purpose of many restrictive practices is to maintain prices at levels higher than would otherwise prevail. This contributes to the inflationary trend. It also reduces the likelihood that the benefits of the Government’s recent tariff cut will be passed on to the public. Increased competition from imports will be of little benefit if not accompanied by increased domestic competition. Consumer protection also assists in the fight against inflation. It is the consumer who has to bear the burden of higher prices and of unfair methods of dealing.
The Bill gives effect to a recommendation by the Council of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in December 1971 concerning action against inflation in the field of competition policy. The recommendation urged member governments of OECD, as part of the action to be taken by them against inflation, to adopt stronger measures to control restrictive trade practices and to protect consumers. The Government has a firm electoral commitment to introduce effective legislation in the areas of restrictive trade practices and consumer protection. This implements the promises made by the Government at the last general election. The Government believes that the Bill introduced into this Parliament should, as far as possible, indicate what forms of conduct are to be prohibited. We believe that the existing restrictive trade practices legislation is unsatisfactory in this regard.
Under that legislation prohibition of a practice or agreement comes not from the law itself but from a restraining order made by the Trade Practices Tribunal. These proceedings can be instituted only by the Commissioner of Trade Practices where, in his opinion, the institution of such proceedings is desirable. To this there is a real exception in the case of resale price maintenance and apparent exceptions in the cases of collusive tendering and collusive bidding.
In our view, except for resale price maintenance, the existing Restrictive Trade Practices Act unfairly places the burden on persons whose responsibility it is to administer the law, not to make it. I do not overlook the need for some flexibility in legislation of this kind. Some agreements and practices are not objectionable. The law should provide for such agreements or practices to be treated after appropriate consideration by the administering authorities as exceptions to the general rule. This is the approach taken in the Bill. A related consideration is that a law is bound to be ineffective if it commits to the administering authorities more work than they could hope to perform. The unsatisfactory operation of the existing Act is made clear in the recently tabled sixth annual report of the Commissioner of Trade Practices. This report states that on 30 June this year there were no fewer than 12,360 operative agreements entered in the register maintained by the Commissioner. This was only 193 fewer agreements than the corresponding number on 30 June last year. The Commissioner and his staff have done their best to deal with a vast number of agreements and practices in accordance with the procedure laid down by the Act. But it is clear from the report that the rate of progress they have ‘been able to achieve is extremely inadequate if effective control of restrictive agreements and practices is to be attained within a reasonable period.
The progress being made under the existing Act is such that it would be many years before the legislation had any significant impact on the economy. This would be unsatisfactory if inflation was not a pressing problem. Such a slow rate of progress is plainly intolerable. Another important principle is that a breach of such legislation should give those who are affected by the breach the right to bring private enforcement proceedings. Under the existing Act one who is adversely affected by a practice or agreement has no right to take the first necessary step of instituting proceedings in the Trade Practices Tribunal. Under that Act the institution of such proceedings is the exclusive prerogative of the Commissioner of Trade Practices. If the Commissioner takes no action the person adversely affected by the practice or agreement has no alternative course of action. It is clear that the effectiveness of legislation with respect to trade practices will depend upon the existence of a strong administrative agency. This Bill recognises the need for such an agency. The agency will be called the Trade Practices Commission and will consist of a Chairman, a Deputy Chairman and such other members as are appointed by the Governor-General.
The Trade Practices Commission will replace the Commissioner of Trade Practices. It will have a wide range of responsibilities covering not only enforcement, but the granting of authorisations for conduct otherwise prohibited, the granting of clearances where there is uncertainty as to the application of particular provisions and inquiring, at the instance of the Attorney-General, into the need for further legislation with respect to practices that appear to be operating unfairly against the interests of consumers. The Commission’s functions with respect to consumer protection will complement those of the Consumer Standards Commission which the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) is establishing. The Bill provides for mandatory consumer standards where desirable. The method will be to prescribe the standard by regulation. Any such regulation will be made under the legislation now proposed although decisions to prescribe standards will be taken in close consultation with the Minister for Science. Some of the functions of the Trade Practices Commission will involve the making of administrative determinations of a quasijudicial character similar in a number of respects to the determinations at present made by the Trade Practices Tribunal. The Bill provides for the Tribunal to be retained as a body of review. It will have power to review determinations of the Commission upon the application of an interested party.
I refer now to some features of the drafting of the Bill. Legislation of this kind is concerned with economic considerations. There is a limit to the extent to which such considerations can be treated in legislation as legal concepts capable of being expressed with absolute precision. Such an approach leads to provisions which are complex in the extreme and give rise to more problems than they remove. The present Bill recognises the futility of such drafting. Many matters have, of course, had to be stated in detail. But other provisions, particularly those describing the prohibited restrictive trade practices, have been drafted along general lines using, wherever possible, well understood expressions. I am confident that this will be more satisfactory. The courts will be afforded an opportunity to apply the law in a realistic manner in the exercises of their traditional judicial role.
The constitutional power of the Australian Parliament to enact legislation such as that contained in the Bill was clarified by the very important decision of the High Court in what is known as the concrete pipes case. For present purposes that case established that restrictive trade practices and monopolisation legislation contained in the Australian Industries Preservation Act could validly derive support from the corporations power in the Constitution. It also established that legal problems can arise when provisions that depend on that power are drafted so as to be inextricably mixed in their operation with provisions that depend on other powers. The Bill takes acount of these considerations. Most of the provisions are drafted so as to apply only when a corporation is involved. But these provisions are given by clause 5 a separate operation in reliance upon other powers. In the result, provisions which appear to be restricted to situations involving a corporation, will have an extended operation involving interstate trade or commerce, the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory or dealings with the Australian Government, any of its authorities or instrumentalities, or the use of postal, telegraphic or telephone services or a radio or television broadcast.
The present Act places much emphasis on secrecy. Everything on the register of trade agreements is subject to secrecy requirements, as are the functions of the Commissioner and his staff until, in relation to a particular agreement or practice, he institutes proceedings in the Tribunal. Such secrecy is undesirable and goes beyond what is reasonably necessary for the protection of confidential information and can be against the public interest. The Bill confines secrecy to confidential information. However, the secrecy which has applied to the register is not to be removed. I should add that under the Bill the existing registration requirements are not to be continued. The importance of the register will become progressively less and less. The existing overseas cargo shipping provisions have been included in the Bill in their present form. This should not be taken as an indication that the Government is satisfied with the provisions. They will be the subject of a later review which will take into account, amongst other things, international negotiations. This will be done by the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones), who has the ministerial responsibility in this area.
My last preliminary comment is that the Government has received some suggestions that the Bill should contain a provision to ensure that, in appropriate cases, legal aid be available to persons involved in proceedings under the legislation, whether in a court, the Trade Practices Tribunal or the Trade Practices Commission. Such a provision would plainly have much to commend it. The matter is under consideration and we expect to introduce an appropriate provision by way of amendment when the Bill is being considered in Committee.
In brief, the Bill prohibits the following practices:
Contracts, combinations and conspiracies in restraint of trade; monopolisation; exclusive dealing; resale price maintenance; price discrimination; anti-competitive mergers; The provisions with respect to contracts, combinations and conspiracies in restraint of trade are to be found in clause 45. No exhaustive definition of these terms is provided, but sub-clause (3) makes it clear that certain specified forms of conduct are included. This clause will cover collusive tendering and collusive bidding, which are not the subject of any specific provision. Contracts covered by this clause are rendered unenforceable and this applies whether they were made before or after the commencement of the provision. Monopolisation is defined in clause 46 so as to cover various forms of conduct by a monpolist against his competitors or wouldbe competitors. A monopolist for this purpose is a person who substantially controls a market. The application of this provision will be a matter for the court. An arithmetical test such as one-third of the market - as in the existing legislation - is unsatisfactory. The certainty which it appears to give is illusory.
Sub-clause (1) of clause 46 applies where the conduct takes place in the market controlled by the monopolist. In such a case, the sub-clause applies so long as the conduct is directed to eliminating or substantially damaging a competitor; prevent the entry of a person into the market; or deterring or preventing a person from engaging in competitive conduct. Sub-clause (2) applies where the conduct is in another market. In such a case it is necessary that the anti-competitive conduct of the monopolist involves taking advantage of his monopoly position. Exclusive dealing is defined in clause 47. It covers arrangements in accordance with which either the supplier or the acquirer of goods or services has limited his freedom to deal as regards persons or places. Exclusive dealing is prohibited in 2 sets of circumstances. The first is in the course of carrying on a business in reliance on a licence, permit, authority or registration under a law of Australia or of a Territory. The second is where the effect of the practice may substantially lessen competition or tend to result in a person being in a position to control a market.
Resale price maintenance is denned in Part VIII in substantially the same terms as defined in the existing Act. One of the changes made to this definition ensures that the definition covers action by a manufacturer to induce a retailer, who has obtained the manufacturer’s goods through a wholesaler, to maintain retail prices, specified by the manufacturer. Another change ensures that the definition covers the practice by which a supplier stipulates minimum prices at which a distributor may advertise, as distinct from sell. Permissible methods of recommending resale prices have been clarified, as also have the evidentiary provisions in clause 99. The practice of price discrimination is defined in clause 49. There is no need, as under the existing legilation, for a threat or promise, and the prohibition extends to the granting, as well as the obtaining, of discriminatory prices. The .practice is prohibited where it will substantially lessen competition or tend to result in a person controlling a market.
Mergers are prohibited by clause 50 where an effect would be to lessen competition or to tend to result in the corporation being in a position substantially to control a market. The prohibition does not apply to the acquisition of shares in the capital, or assets, of a body corporate in pursuance of an offer made before tomorrow. The Bill does not conflict in any way with the operation of the Companies (Foreign Take-overs) Act. Provisions to avoid such conflict are to be found in clause 90. Subclause 9 of clause 90 enables the Government to ensure that a merger is permissible if, in the Government’s view, there are special considerations which conform to the interests of national economic policy.
Authorisations may be granted by the Commission in respect of some practices. The effect of an authorisation is to remove the prohibition that would otherwise apply by virtue of this legislation. Authorisations may be granted in respect of contracts or combinations in restraint of trade - other than those having the purpose or effect of fixing, controlling or maintaining prices; exclusive dealing; and mergers.
The Government has concluded that the impact of the legislation would be greatly lessened if provision was made for authorisations to be granted in respect of pricefixing agreements. These agreements are now generally recognised in many countries as being undesirable, particulary in times of inflation as we are now experiencing. It is essential that the Commission should be able to deal expeditiously with applications for authorisations. The Bill has been framed with this in mind. The Commission will not be required to hold a public hearing in respect of every application for an authorisation. It will be able to hold such a hearing where it considers it appropriate.
If the Commission deals with an authorisation application without a public hearing, the relevant documents will be available for public inspection, subject to special provisions for the protection of confidential information. In all cases the Commission is to be required to take any submissions into account. The approach to be taken by the Commission in considering whether to grant an authorisation is indicated in sub-clause (5) of clause 90. The Commission is directed by that provision not to grant an authorisation unless it is satisfied that a specific and substantial benefit to the public is likely to result or that the effect on competition is so slight that it can be disregarded.
The Commission is required also to be satisfied that, in all the circumstances, the benefit to the public or the slight effect on competition justifies the granting of an authorisation. The position, therefore, is that the onus will be firmly on the applicant to satisfy the Commission that the granting of an authorisation is justified. I might say, on that particular aspect, that it reflects the centuries-old attitude of the common law. Unless and until an authorisation is obtained in respect of a practice falling into one of the prohibited classes I have mentioned, such practice will be unlawful.
The Bill recognises, however, that there is a need for special transitional provisions for a period immediately following the commencement of the legislation. The prohibitions of contracts in restraint of trade and exclusive dealing will not become effective until 4 months after the commencement date. During that period it will be possible for persons to apply to the Commission for authorisations in respect of those practices. As the Commission may find itself unable to give full consideration to the applications it receives in this period, provision is included to enable the grant of interim authorisations. An interim authorisation, if granted, will have the effect of permitting the practice to continue until the Commission, after full consideration, makes a final determination.
I should make clear that the Commission will not grant interim authorisations as a matter of course. Parties wishing to obtain such an authorisation in the 4-month period would be wise to lodge their applications as soon as possible after the commencement of the legislation. The Commission will not be under any obligation to grant instantaneous interim authorisations to persons lodging applications near the end of the period. The Commission will be able to attach conditions to any authorisations, interim or final. Breach of such a condition will entitle the Commission to revoke the authorisation.
Applications for authorisations for proposed mergers will, as with all other authorisation applications, be placed on a public register as soon as they are received by the Commission. This is necessary if the Commission is to take into account the views of other interested persons. Until there has been an opportunity for such persons to make their views known on a proposed merger, the Commission could not be expected to make a determination authorising the merger. This will not prevent parties to proposed mergers having prior informal and private discussions with the Commission. Such discussions should be of con siderable assistance to parties contemplating possible mergers, even though the informal guidance given by the Commission will not be binding upon it.
The Bill provides also for clearances. The purpose of a clearance is to remove uncertainty as to the applicability of certain provisions, in contrast to the purpose of an authorisation, which is to permit a practice to be engaged in notwithstanding that it falls into what would otherwise be a prohibited class. The provisions relating to enforcement and remedies in respect of breaches of the restrictive trade practices provisions are to be found in Part VI. The question whether there has been a breach of the law will be a matter for the court, as is the case with breaches of most other laws. Pending the establishment of the proposed Australian Superior Court the only court with jurisdiction under the legislation will be the the Commonwealth Industrial Court. Under another Bill this Court is to be renamed the Australian Industrial Court. Such matters will not be determined by the Trade Practices Commission or the Trade Practices Tribunal, both of which are administrative bodies.
A breach of a provision in the legislation with respect to restrictive trade practices will render the person liable to a pecuniary penalty, an injunction; or dan’ages. Proceedings for a pecuniary penalty will need to be instituted by the Attorney-General or the Trade Practices Commission. The penalty, when received, will go into Consolidated Revenue. The amount of such a penalty will be a matter for the Court to determine as appropriate in all the circumstances. The circumstances in such matters can be expected to vary considerably from case to case and the penalty determined by the Court can be expected to vary accordingly. However, the maximum penalty the Court will be able to determine will be $250,000.
Such a penalty and the proceedings to recover it will be civil in character. A breach will not constitute an offence for the purposes of the criminal law and the penalty will not be a fine. The difference may at first appear to be only a matter of form. However, the important consequence is that such proceedings, involving business dealings to the extent that they do, will not find their way into a criminal court. Proceedings for an injunction will be able to be initiated by the AttorneyGeneral, the Trade Practices Commission or by any other person. Proceedings for damages will be able to be initiated by any person who suffers loss or damage as a result of a contravention.
Provision for certain classes of agreements and practices to be exempt from the legislation I have described is to be found in clause 51. This clause follows closely the corresponding provisions in the existing legislation. In addition there is a power similar to the one in the existing Act to exempt by regulation organisations concerned in the marketing of primary products. There is also power to provide exemptions by regulation for practices related to inter-governmental arrangements.
The consumer protection provisions are to be found, for the most part, in Part V. Some of these provisions are expressly limited to transactions involving consumers. The meaning of a consumer is dealt with by sub-clause (4) of clause 4. Unless a contrary intention appears, that provision excludes a person who uses the goods or services in question for the purpose of, or in the course of, trade or business or for a public purpose; or a person who acquires goods for the purpose of resale. The consumer protection provisions do not necessarily displace State legislation in the same field. Clause 74 expressly states that Part V is not intended to exclude or limit the concurrent operation of any law of a State or Territory. The Bill recognises that in many consumer protection matters there is a need for a national approach, and that the effectiveness of State laws is necessarily limited. Division 1 of Part V prohibits a number of unfair practices. Clause 52 prohibits misleading or deceptive conduct - and does so in general terms. It is important that there should be such a provision if the law is not to be continually one step behind persons who resort to smart practices. Clause 52 overlaps the operation of some of the other more specific provisions. I point out in this connection that a breach of a specific provision exposes the person concerned to a penalty, whereas a breach of the more general provisions in clause 52 gives rise to a right to an injunction only. Clause 53 prohibits a number of specific forms of false representations with respect to goods and services. Clause 54 prohibits the offering of prizes in connection with the promotion of goods and services when there is no intention of actually providing the prizes.
Clause 55 prohibits misleading conduct covered by the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property as revised at Stockholm on 14 July 1967. This Convention covers conduct that is liable to mislead the public as to the nature, the manufacturing process, the characteristics, the suitability for their purpose or the quantity of goods. Clause 55 does not come into operation until the Convention enters into force for Australia. This will be soon. Clause 56 prohibits the practice known at bait advertising. This is the practice in accordance with which a bargain is advertised and in point of fact the bargain either does not exist or is available only for a very short time. The purpose of such advertising is mainly to attract a customer into a store.
The practice of referral selling is prohibited by clause 57. This is the practice by which a supplier induces a customer to acquire goods or services by indicating that the consumer, after paying for the goods or services - I stress that it is after such payment - will get rebates or commissions on subsequent sales by the supplier to other persons whose names are provided by the consumer or who view the work done for the consumer by the supplier. Clause 58 prohibits the acceptance of payment without intention to supply as ordered. Clause 59 prohibits the making of misleading statements about home operated businesses.
Clause 60 prohibits coercive conduct by salesmen or debt collectors at a person’s place of residence. Pyramid selling is a practice that has been a cause of much concern in recent years. This practice is prohibited by clause 61. I have already mentioned that the Bill will enable consumer standards to be prescribed and made mandatory. Provision is made in this connection for product safety standards and product information standards. A prescribed product safety standard will require compliance with safety requirements. A prescribed product information standard will require the disclosure of information relating to matters such as the performance, composition, contents, design, construction, finish or packaging of goods. The provisions relating to both kinds of standards are to be found in clauses 62 and 63.
Clause 64 deals with the practice of unsolicited goods and unsolicited directory entries. The clause prohibits the assertion of a right to payment for such goods or directory entries. This provision does not apply if the person against whom a right to payment for goods is asserted, ordinarily uses like goods in the course of his profession, business, trade or occupation. Under clause 65, a person who has received unsolicited goods is to be relieved of liability for loss or damage to the goods, other than loss or damage resulting from the doing by him of a wilful and unlawful act.
Division 2 of Part V provides for a number of conditions and warranties designed to protect the consumer to apply and to be incapable of being excluded. These provisions are limited to consumer transactions. I have already referred to the limited meaning of ‘consumer under sub-clause (4) of clause 4.
Clause 67 (1) prevents the inclusion in consumer contracts of provisions rendering Australian law inapplicable to contracts, the proper law of which is otherwise Australian. Subclause (2) of this clause prevents the substitution of provisions in the law of another country for provisions in Division 2. Clause 68 renders void a term of a consumer contract that purports to exclude, restrict or modify the application of Division 2. Clause 69 provides for certain conditions as to title encumbrances and quiet possession to be implied in every consumer contract. Clause 70 implies certain conditions in consumer contracts for the supply of goods by description. Clause 71 implies certain undertakings in consumer contracts as to quality or fitness. Clause 72 implies certain conditions in consumer contracts for the supply of goods by reference to sample. Clause 73 implies certain conditions in consumer contracts for the supply of services.
A contravention of a provision of Part V - other than the general provision in clause 52 - is to be an offence. The maximum penalty for such an offence is to be, in the case of a corporation, a fine not exceeding $50,000, and in the case of an individual, a fine not exceeding $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than 6 months (clause 79). Contraventions that can be regarded as excusable are the subject of a special defence provided in clause 85. Provision for injunctions is included in clause 80. A right to recover damages is conferred by clause 82. Apart from that right, clause 87 (2) empowers the Court, upon finding that there has been a contravention, to direct a refund of money or a payment to a person who has suffered loss or damage.
The jurisdiction to deal with consumer protection proceedings under the Bill is to be confined initially to the Commonwealth Industrial Court. This, will assist the early development of a cohesive body of case law which might not be possible, if, in the early stages of the operation of the legislation, courts of lower status - presided over by magistrates, for example - were to have jurisdiction. In due course it will be desirable to confer jurisdiction on such lower courts to deal with consumer protection matters. It will be desirable that the ready enforcement of rights under the legislation is facilitated in this way. A suitable opportunity to confer jurisdiction on courts of lower status will arise when the proposed Australian Superior Court is established. I envisage that an amendment for the purpose will be effected at that time.
Mr Speaker, it will be apparent to honourable members that the Bill is of great importance. It represents a great advance in the areas of restrictive trade practices and consumer protection and attends to a wide variety of problems. Australia has been for too long without this sort of legislation.
This is intended to promote efficiency and competition in business, to reduce prices and to protect all Australians against unfair practices. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr King) adjourned.
– For the information of honourable members I table a statement prepared by the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission showing results of appeals by non-systemic non-government schools against categorisation for recurrent grants.
– For the information of honourable members I present a suggested delimitation of regions for the purposes of section 17 of the Grants Commission Act 1973. It is proposed that the suggested regions be considered by local government authorities and State governments and that any comments be made to the Minister through the appropriate Minister in each State nominated in accordance with section 4 of the Act.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1973-74 In Committee
Consideration resumed (vide page 2730).
– I always have been opposed to consideration of the Estimates being interrupted by the introduction of Bills. I opposed it when I was Whip and I am opposed to it today. Bills should be introduced at the end of discussion of a group of Estimates, not half way through that discussion when honourable members are prepared to speak. I am very opposed to this.
I do not share the paranoic pessimism of the Australian Country Party about the future of our Australian rural industries. Members of the Country Party are outdoing Jeremiah, the most pessimistic prophet of the Old Testament. They are having a field day in poisoning the minds of the farmers against us by making misleading and outrageously exaggerated statements and in sowing the seeds of misunderstanding in the rural areas. Members of the Country Party are prophets of doom today. It was fantastic, for instance, to hear the speech of doom this afternoon in this debate by the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann). He said that the rural man and rural industry were doomed. This is unadulterated rubbish. As proof I remind the Committee that the estimated rural export income for Australia for the next 12 months will be $3,900m, the highest in history and over $500m better than the exports for last year. The total income of farmers will rise by 30 per cent this financial year. To talk about doom in the industry is just utter rot, and I wish to emphasise that word. To say in this place that primary industry is doomed, or to go out into the country and say it, or to proclaim it through the medium of Country Party newspapers, is to tell those in the industry a great big lie.
I want to refer to the rise in the butter fat price. The Australian Dairy Industry Council has been before the Prices Justification Tribunal seeking to lift the wholesale price of butter by 5c a lb. May I point out that in my opinion an increase in the price of butter to the consumer would be suicidal for the dairy farmers of Australia. My reasons are, firstly, that the dairy man would receive only a minimal share of the increased price and, secondly, that the drastic and dramatic fall in butter consumption in Australia over the past 12 months should startle the dairy industry into some intelligent reaction. The fall in the consumption of butter in the past 12 months is absolutely staggering. If this fall continues the industry will be forced into a serious reduction of its butter fat price to the producer. In Sydney, for instance, the decline in butter consumption in the 12 months from June 1972 to June 1973 was 20.4 per cent to an all time low of 42.8 per cent of Sydney’s total consumption of commodities of this kind. In Melbourne the decline amounted to 18.1 per cent, down to 66.7 per cent. In Brisbane the decline in the consumption of butter has been 14.5 per cent, down to 49.9 per cent of total consumption of butter and margarine. These are frightening and disastrous figures for our industry. If there is a rise in the price of butter an accelerated buyer resistance will occur until the industry will have thousands of tons of butter on its hands to sell overseas at the ridiculously low price of about 25c per lb. Because the equalisation scheme averages the price received overseas and the home consumption price, it is easy to see that an increase in sales overseas, with a commensurate decrease in sales on the home market, will reduce the average price for the dairy farmer. There can be no other result. To talk of an increase at this stage is absolutely suicidal.
Let me illustrate what happens when the price of butter is increased. The last price increase in the price of butter was 3c per lb in the wholesale price in August 1971. In the next 12 months after that increase was announced there was a reduction in butter consumption of 3,000 tons throughout Australia. That sort of thing will happen again if the price of butter rises. This time there could be an even greater reduction in consumption of 8,000 tons, according to one estimate, if the price of butter is increased by 5c per lb wholesale and 7c per lb retail. This would eventually reduce the farmers’ total income. In fact, if the price rises by 7c per lb retail, it is suggested that the reduction in farmers’ incomes will amount to $7. 98m. If we increase the price of butter, the domestic butter usage could fall from 88,000 tons a year to 69,700 tons a year, displacing about 1 8,000 tons of butter from the local market to be sold on the low price export markets.
This is a disastrous situation, and I am amazed that the leaders of the industry are even suggesting such a ridiculous thing as an increase in the price of butter. Already the dairy farmer is squeezed by cost increases. The manufacturing and transport costs, of course, are passed on to him. A further increase in the wholesale or retail price of butter will ruin the producers’ best market - their home market. A price rise for butter also will increase the demand for margarine and other substitutes and give them a field day. I believe that the present price should remain as it is or even be reduced by up to 3c per lb in order to increase the sale of butter in Australia. This would result in an increase in butter consumption and would mean that less butter would have to be sold on the cheap export market and more on the better home market. In due course this trend would result in a better equalisation price being received by our dairy farmers in the long term, and the home market would be saved and expanded. I am quite sure that a price increase would kill our home market.
In respect of the dairying subsidy, there is a piece of history I want to give to honourable members. As you know, Mr Deputy Chairman, the subsidy will be phased out over the next 2 years. During the 31 years of its existence, $77 3m has been paid to our producers, and $5 18m of it went to Victoria - to one State. Queensland received 8.5 per cent of the total butter subsidy; New South Wales, 9.6 per cent; Victoria, 69.9 per cent; South Australia, 2.5 per cent; Western Australia, 2.7 per cent; and Tasmania, 6.8 per cent. In spite of this subsidy, which was introduced as a wartime measure, 25,000 dairy farmers have gone out of butter production in the last 5 to 7 years throughout Australia - 12,000 of them in Queensland in the last 10 years. No one could ever convince me that the subsidy was designed to keep men on dairy farms. It has not done that and the money has now been built into the price of land and becomes a part of the economy of the farm. It has built up a sense of false security. It was never meant to be a permanent feature of dairy farmers’ existence.
I have had a look at the history of the subsidy. It was introduced in the Federal Parliament as the Dairying Industry Assistance Bill 1942 on 8 October 1942 by the Honourable Ben Chifley who was then the Treasurer in the Curtin Government. The reference to this is in Hansard, volume 172, page 1541. From 1 October 1942, $4m a year was allocated. Features of the subsidy were: Firstly, it was to be paid to producers of butter and cheese at 1.25d per lb for butter and 1.5d per lb for cheese. Secondly, it was a wartime measure and was paid to prevent a rise in butter prices to the consumer - a consumer subsidy. Thirdly, it was designed also to help dairy farmers to pay award rates to their workers, with the rates to be fixed by the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. Fourthly, the subsidy was to be paid on a differential scale according to the relative disabilities of the producers in different parts of the country and to assist drought areas. Fifthly, it was paid to stabilise the industry and to increase the production required to try to help the United Kingdom, which wanted 60,000 tons of butter from Australia and also to supply with cheap butter the Australian consumer and the American armed forces that we were feeding.
The subsidy was criticised by the Liberal Party-Country Party Opposition when it was first introduced, although it finally voted for it. Most of the critics wanted a price rise in butter of 3d per lb, instead of a subsidy. Some suggested that it was a dole payment. Other speakers said that the subsidy should be paid on a flat rate basis to all producers. This course was finally adopted. Mr Paterson the then member for Gippsland, as reported at page 1594 of Hansard of 1942, said:
One unfortunate effect of this proposal is that it will keep the problem of the dairying industry in the political arena year in and year out, and . . . that is undesirable.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Martin)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The estimates before the Committee - those for the Department of Customs and Excise, the Department of Primary Industry, the Department of Overseas Trade and the Department of Secondary Industry - cover a very wide field. I was rather intrigued by the previous speaker, the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie), who stated in the beginning that the primary industries were better off today than they had ever been before and then proceeded to launch on to the great problems in the dairy industry and the disaster that will be brought upon it if there is a rise in the price of butter. I did not realise that the honourable member for Wilmot had done his research in relation to the butter industry. But let us put the facts straight. He read out the facts from
Hansard; but the facts are these: The Australian Labor Party 30-odd years ago introduced the butter subsidy. It was not asked for and it was not wanted by the dairy industry at that time. It was introduced because the C series index was about to rise because of a rise in the price of butter.
The government of the day introduced a subsidy to the consumer, not to the producer. That is the record. Since its introduction the subsidy has been built into the dairy industry system. But the first thing the Labor Government does when it comes into power some 30 years later is to remove the subsidy and state that it was introduced for the benefit of the dairy industry. They are not the facts of life. The subsidy was introduced because of the C series index and now that it is to be taken away we are left with a position where possibly there will be a rise in the price of butter. But the dairy industry should not be Blamed for that. Let us consider the total history of it. That is one of the facts of life that have emerged. In the estimates that are before us today, the appropriation has been reduced by $10. 5m because of the phasing out of the subsidy. But the remaining amount has been provided for the consumer. It is no good saying that the dairy industry in Victoria has received most of the subsidy. That is not the fact of life at all.
– They are the facts.
– The honourable member still cannot get the message that the Australian consumers - they are the ones we have to look at - were the people who received the benefit, not the producers. If honourable members really looked at the facts of life they will see that that is the position. That is just one of the items with which I want to deal in considering these estimates.
In these estimates debates I have listened to many honourable members saying that since the Australian Labor Party came into office the primary industries have never been better off. Farming is an industry which must be considered over a long term. It is not something about which something can be done in 5 minutes when things are wrong or when things are right. The things which the Labor Party is doing through this Budget will not have any immediate effects. It will be a long term process. The fact that the position is good today is because of certain aspects in relation to the world situation in the grain trade, the meat trade, in wool and right across the board. There have been over a number of years very adverse seasonal conditions in the northern hemisphere. Those who watch the situation hope that this is not a permanent pattern. However, there is great concern in the northern hemisphere because of what has been happening in the monsoon areas. That is the reason why we have a world grain shortage right across the board. There is tremendous worry about the weather pattern in the northern hemisphere. I will not talk about it. No doubt information on it can be gained from various documents. But this- has emerged in the last few years and it is mainly because of this that there is this shortage of grain throughout the world.
Australia has also had in the past, of course, some adverse seasonal conditions and this is one of the reasons for our problems in the past. But recently at this time we began to enter an era - this is part of a cycle in Australia, and no doubt we will enjoy some better years - in which primary industries would be in a position, because of incentives such as the taxation arrangements which have been put on the statute book over the years, to move in and take advantage of the trends and assist the world by producing great quantities of food. I believe that because of our unique position in the world we have a responsibility to do this. For that reason we should at this time be encouraging primary industries in this country to take up this slack in relation to other parts of the world which are not so important in terms of production.
Much has been said about the movement of people in this country. The movement of people in the field of farming industry, not only in this country but around the world, is very interesting. Let us have a look at one or two examples. In Britain, which produces only a small percentage of its total food requirement, 10 years ago 6 per cent of the work force were employed in the field of primary industry. Today in Britain only 3 per cent of the work force is employed in that industry. In that country hundreds of thousands of acres of the best arable land is being taken up by the construction of roads, schools, homes and factories and so on. When I was in Holland a number of years ago looking at the development in that small country an engineer who was showing me around turned to me and without any comment from me about primary industry whatsoever said: ‘I hope Australia has plenty of foodstuffs because at the rate we are developing and taking up our agricultural country we will want to import a lot of food’. Let us look at the position in Canada, a country which is comparable to Australia. In Canada 10 years ago 11 per cent of the people were employed in primary industry. Today the proportion is down to 8 per cent. The same figures apply in Australia. Ten years ago 11 per cent of the people in this country were employed in primary industry but only 8 per cent are employed today.
Broadly what is happening around the world is that there are countless millions of people moving from the various agricultural areas into the cities. This is happening not only in this country, it is happening all oyer the world. This imbalance is dangerous - I will use that word ‘dangerous’ - because there are far too few people producing food. Taking into consideration the serious situation in relation to the northern hemisphere and the weather pattern there which scientists are watching very closely, it is dangerous because there are not enough people in the country areas around the world producing the food requirements for the rapid increase in population and to cope with the movement of people into the cities. In other words, in food production the balance of consumers as against producers is something which this Government and every government in the world should be looking at.
What worries me in these estimates is that at this stage of development - and I am not talking about just Australia; I am talking about the world as a whole - we have had introduced a budget which takes away incentives. This is a great problem in this country and I believe it will have serious repercussions in the future. If the world wants food - I have said this in this place before - the people of the world have to pay for it. But if the world wants people to go back into country areas, or if it wants the younger people and the not so young people to stay in country areas then we must have these incentives. These are the sorts of things that the previous Government over many years placed on the statute book. This has put us in a position where we could when seasons were good move in and buy new machinery and so forth to enable us to produce the goods. Then when the producers got into the other situation, that is the troughs - in this game there are the peaks and troughs - they would be able to go through the bad years because they had built themselves up with the good machinery and the other things required to produce the goods. The incentives have been taken away under this Budget and that is a dangerous situation. These people will not be able to replace their old machinery because tax has to be paid on the money invested in new machinery.
There is a second string attached to this. Coupled with this drift of people from country areas to the cities is the fact that the average age of people on farms in the country today is moving up rapidly. In Italy the average age of farmers is 55 years. Ten years ago the average age in Australia - and I am quoting these figures off the cuff, taking a cue from the honourable member for Wilmot - was a little over 40 years and it has moved up to a considerably higher age. I have given those figures according to my memory. In every country that is the pattern and that is the danger as I see it.
Sitting suspended from 6.11 to 8 p.m.
– I have a poem for honourable members, with apologies to John O’Brien. It reads:
We’ll all be rooned’ said Anthony
In accents most forlorn,
Outside the House ere Question Time,
One frosty Tuesday morn.
The Country Party members stood about
Coat-collars to the ears,
And talked of stock, and crops and drought,
As they had for twenty years.
It’s looking crook’, Mac Holten said,
Bedad it’s crook me mate.
For never since the banks went bad,
Have seasons been so great’
It’s wet all right’ said Brucey Lloyd,
With which astute remark.
He rolled right over on his soid
And chewed a piece of bark.
And so around the chorus ran,
It’s keepin’ wet no doubt,
We’ll all be rooned’ said Anthony,
Before the year is out’.
The crops are big, you’ll have to work,
To get them harvested and stored.
From here way out to back o’ Bourke,
They’re wanting bigger Fords.
The cockies want us’ Kingey said,
But not one dam is dry,
The Country members scratched their head
And gazed around the sky.
There’s too much grass in any case,
Too much for sheep and cows,
There’s too much grass on Sinclair’s place.
As I came down just now.
The rain must stop soon’ said McVeigh,
And cleared his throat to speak,
We’ll all be rooned’ said Anthony.,
If the rain don’t stop thi’ week.’
A heavy silence seemed to steal,
On all at this remark,
And each man squatted on bis heel
And chewed a piece of bark.
We want a drought we do,’
O’Keefe observed at last,
But Nixon said they wanted two,
To put the danger past.
If we don’t get drought and locusts. Bracey,
Or behave like Samin’ louts,
We’ll all be rooned’ said Anthony,
Before the year is out.’
The reason I have just burst into verse is that I am overjoyed to learn that the farmers’ income in the coming year is to rise by some SI, 000m. The thought of this strikes gloom into the hearts of honourable members opposite, but I am very happy. On a serious note, I know there are many qualifications one can put on this but coupled with figures now becoming available of changes in the structure of rural debt, it simply cannot be denied that things overall are a lot better than they have been for a long time.
– We have bad-rain.
– That is right. Estimates put gross income in the rural sector up by SI, 201m in the coming year with net income up by S986m or an increase of some 52 per cent. As honourable members opposite say, the big change is mainly due to the seasons and the markets overseas. This looks good on the surface but it is not evenly distributed and we accept that; it is only representing short term stability. Flexibility in rural industries is very desirable but exceptionally hard to achieve. But again talking of the overall situation - talking more in the macro - in an article in the latest Australian ‘Quarterly’ written by Mr J. B. Paul that is largely critical of the Government, the writer states:
The Cabinet’s ready adoption of the 25 per cent tariff cut contrasts oddly and rather sadly with its watering down of the recommendations on reduction of assistance to rural industry put forward by the task force headed by Dr H. C. Coombs to appraise critically policies inherited from past governments. The two decisions taken together amount to a redistribution of income in favour of primary producers on a scale which Country Party Ministers were unable to match while in office as coalition partners of the Liberals; though with McEwenite policies in the ascendant there was Utile likelihood of such policies being adopted even if favoured by the Liberals. Hence the political reactions to these decisions, especially to the tariff cut, provided a great deal of amusement. In their unaccustomed role as revisionists of Australia’s high tariff orthodoxy, the Labor Party could claim to have become more truly a free enterprise party than its avowed free enterprise opponents; yet Mr Snedden accused them of implementing a socialist policy. Of course his situation was awkward: it was not so much as if the Labor Party had stolen the Liberals’ clothes while they were bathing, for the Liberals had never bad the guts to wear those particular clothes; Labor had simply taken them unworn from where they had been hidden from view under a protective layer of moth balls.
The major primary industry in the electorate of Macarthur is dairying and there are very few dairy farmers who are actually ecstatically happy with the Budget. They are worried mainly about the phasing out of the free milk scheme for school children which will cause a 4 per cent drop in sales which will not be regained for at least a year. However, there are some countervailing factors. They are not so concerned about the dropping of the investment allowance and the accelerated depreciation allowance because, quite simply, they have never been allowed to produce all the milk they can in the safest area of the State.
The main problem they face is with respect to arrangements within the State which at present the Liberal-Country Party Government of New South Wales is poking down their throats. Ja a situation where their farms are becoming too valuable to farm in any case, they are alarmed that negotiability of quotas is to cease and that transferability will not be allowed. They were conned at the time of the extension of quota arrangements to take in the whole State. The deal was that they were to get one-third of the increase in the basic milk quotas from an increase in overall demand, with two-thirds going to the new zone. Due to the genius of the Country Party in New South Wales, the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture, Mr Crawford, recently admitted in the New South Wales Parliament, in answer to a question from Mr Maliana, M.L.A. for Campbelltown, that. New South Wales actually imported 3 million gallons of milk last year, some 700,000 gallons going to Canberra. He also admitted that spot checks had shown that there was added water, bacteria and antibiotics in the supplies.
This is the situation dairy farmers face in my electorate. They are not allowed to produce all they can or to have access to a fair increase of the metropolitan market close by, and yet they must tolerate imports of milk from Victoria. Farmers are completely dissatisfied with their organisation which has become a political tool and recently 35 out of 55 members of one local branch of the New South Wales Dairy Farmers Association resigned at one meeting. Before I leave dairying, I should simply like to say that I thought the butter and cheese subsidy should have been phased out over 4 years and not 2 years and that the 2-pool plan will be the best plan for dairy products in general, so long as more positive incentives can be provided for the production of other products. The Australian and South Australian Governments at present are co-operating in a project in this regard and the process being developed will flow through to the Dairy Produce Board. The project concerns a butter vegetable oil spread which will be patented.
The allocation in the Budget of $47m for rural reconstruction was particularly welcome and before people swallow too much of the gloom opposite, it is instructive to learn that interest rates are still at 4 per cent with 6.25 per cent being charged for farm build-up loans. Of this finance, 60 per cent will be used for farm build-up in the coming year and recently there has been no rush of farmers for reconstruction money. Since its inception 2 years ago, some 3,433 farmers have been assisted for reconstruction and 1,485 have been assisted for farm build-up. Some $154m has now been voted towards the scheme and it is essential that this scheme should continue. I hope that the Government will continue to concentrate on schemes of this kind and the Industries Assistance Commission Bill with which the House dealt the other day was further evidence of this. I am sure that the Australian Country Party will find that it is as out of step with some rural organisations in opposing this Bill, as it was in opposing the tariff cuts. At least the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), the official Opposition spokesman on primary industry, has realised the potential advantages of the plan.
I am pleased to see that the allocation of money to the Bureau of Agricultural Economics has been marginally increased, not only because I may need to get a job there again one day but also because of moves within the Bureau to establish an enlarged marketing analysis function.
– You can go there right now.
– No, it will be about 1990, I think. Producing primary products is not the major problem in many industries so much as selling them. Marketing is not just selling and there is an enormous amount of work to be done in respect of classification of products, responsiveness of market demand and the need for market information. Too much of the work of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics at present by necessity is devoted to out of date statistics, and valuable as such work is, I believe that its move into marketing analysis is very praiseworthy. Time will not allow me to speak on some of the economic matters involved in trying to minimise price movements, but the costs of marketing immediately are apprehended by all primary producers. For example, only 2.7 per cent of the price of a $70 wool suit sold in 1971-72 went, to the producer.
One primary industry that will be affected by the decision to wipe the 20 per cent investment allowance and the accelerated depreciation allowance will be the broiler industry. At a time when we need to produce all the meat we can, it is absurd to say that a 3 per cent depreciation rate is realistic for broiler growers. To a broiler grower the shed is his farm. Given the requirements of the integrators there is no way that a shed will last for 33 years. I can only trust that the Treasury will give sensible consideration to my submission for a more realistic 6 per cent to 7i per cent rate of depreciation. The broiler industry is still trying to unite to gain the protection of the government. I am afraid the States will still not be sufficiently in agreement with the Australian Government to act at the next Agricultural Council meeting.
The Trade Practices Bill which, I suppose, will be rejected by the Opposition in the Senate, will provide a decent basis for broiler growers to negotiate contracts that are real contracts and give equity to the grower to allow him to have his investments protected. Integration is a process of primary production that probably is here to stay for quite a while and has aspects to recommend to the overall community. But the basic element of distrust that is inevitably present in the arrangements means that some form of agreement arising out of negotiations needs to be established. If agreement cannot be reached, there is need-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Scholes) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I should like to take part in this debate on the estimates for the Department of Customs and Excise, the Department of Primary Industry, the Department of Overseas Trade and the Department of Secondary Industry. I should like to support the remarks made by honourable members on this side of the House particularly in regard to the diminution of funds for the
Department of Primary Industry. The appropriation shows that there is a decrease in the allocation of funds and expenditure for this Department for this year. Provision is made for- ari expenditure of $50,391,000 as against an expenditure last year of $58,831,768. An examination of the figures indicates that in practically all sections of the Department of Primary Industry there has been a cut in expenditure. This, of course, is in line with the policy of the present Labor Government. It has made a raid on the great primary industries in no uncertain manner, irrespective of what its supporters have endeavoured to say in this debate this afternoon. Government supporters have said that conditions have never been better. This is not by reason of action taken by their Government; it is by reason of the wonderful season that agricultural and pastoral pursuits are having in Australia. The Government has had nothing to do with it.
Over the last 4 years severe drought conditions have occurred and the indebtedness of the rural industries to the banking institutions has been of the order of $3,000m. At a time when these great industries have the opportunity of getting good prices, plenty of products and rehabilitation we find that a raid has been made on them by this Government. The figures I have indicate that the raid has been of the order of $300m. I refer to some of the increase. There has been a 5c a gallon increase in the price of petrol. We cannot move in our rural areas without an abundance of transport. This increases the costs of goods coming in and going out. There has been a reduction of the depreciation allowance from 20 per cent a year to 15 per cent or 221 per cent. The primary producer has the option of taking either percentage. The initial capital allowance has been discontinued which has meant that with the poor seasons for the last 4 or 5 years producers certainly need assistance of this nature.
I deal now with the dairy farmers. Milk to the value of $l2m has been taken out of the kids’ mouths by this Government. The Government had to make an assessment of whether the health of the children of this nation is more valuable than $10m or $12m. The Government has gone for the money instead of the health of the children. The wine industry has been socked to leg. It is an industry which has stood on its feet ever since it was formed. Supporters of the present Government screamed to high heaven last year when the Liberal-Country Party Government placed a tax of some $10m on the wine industry. The tax was watered down to $5m. Now the wine producer is being socked to the extent of $20m due mainly to the Government’s method of valuation of stock. There was an arrangement prior to this present legislation that wine producers could value their stock at 15c a bottle. Now they have to value it at cost or market price in one particular year. Some of the valuable vignerons will be thrown out of business. The amount of $7m has been allocated for the eradication of tuberculosis and brucellosis. That program has to be paid for. The petroleum products equalisation subsidy was brought in by the previous Government to assist people living in the far Hung parts of Australia. Now this will be eliminated and probably will cost another 2c a gallon for petrol for people living in these areas.
An amount of $20m has been lost by the equalisation of telephone rentals. Telephone rental is now $55 a year in the country areas of Australia. I asked a question today about pensioners. They have been socked with this new rental in the country areas of $55 a year - a 100 per cent increase. These are all matters with which we are concerned. We appreciate at the present moment that the primary industries in Australia are gaining ground. There are good markets for our meat overseas, good markets for our wheat and good markets for our coarse grain.
– Where will you sell your wheat?
– All over the world, not only to your friendly China. They have just popped up again. When we look at our trade figures we find that the latest figures for our exports up to 30 June 1973 run into $6,220,148,000. Of this amount the great primary industries were responsible for $4,597,400,000 representing for the first time 77.4 per cent of the export income of this country. What do we find about the manufacturing and secondary industries. The amount for them is down to $1,205,006,000. Why is it down. It is down because there is a shortage of essential consumer goods in this country brought about by strikes. One cannot buy No. 8 or No. 10 ordinary fencing wire, barbed wire or even steel posts. I am referring to our own consumer market leaving aside our manufactured goods for export. So, unless this position is rectified we are in for problems.
I have not yet mentioned the allowance for clearing country properties that has been practically discontinued. A lot of land in Australia still has to be cleared. There should be an incentive for primary producers, the men on the land, to clear this country and bring it into production so that our exports can be increased and the economic stability of Australia improved. We have great opportunities but we are being led by a government that has no regard for primary industries. It is a matter of fact that ‘primary industry’ is a dirty expression in this Parliament and it should not be.
This afternoon I listened to a speech by the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen). As far as I could make out he did not speak to any of the matters listed in this debate. He seemed to be talking about the affluence of the retail trade. He knows of this because he is one of the biggest retailers on the posh northern side of Sydney. He was saying that the tariff cut of 25 per cent is a great benefit to the primary producers. We do not believe this. If this 25 per cent tariff cut had taken place some years ago it might have been of more benefit but at present we are subsidising tractors manufactured in this country and they are main items of machinery which are imported. The tariff cut is of very little benefit to the primary producers. One of the things said by the honourable member which concerned me was that the tariff cut would be of benefit to the primary producers. It could throw hundreds of thousands of people out of employment in Australia. The textile industry employs 120,000 people in this country. With the flowon from this tariff cut of cheap Asian textile goods the employment situation will be very seriously affected. The honourable member for Robertson said that the retailing industry and business had never been better but, mark my words, when these cheap Asian goods come into Australia - goods which are produced by cheap labour countries, where labour is employed at 80c an hour - our textile and our manufacturing industries will be affected unless quantitative restrictions are placed on them.
The honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Kerin) began his speech this evening with a poem which some honourable members thought was nice but which some of us did not think could be described in that way. The honourable member is a former member of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. It is a pity that the Bureau of Agricultural Economics did not send to this Parliament men with more practical experience in primary industry. Members of the Bureau certainly can quote figures and trends, but the practical application of what they say does not always work out in the way they suggest. If we do not get behind our great primary industries and encourage them, our failure to do will be to the detriment of this country.
– I congratulate the Labor Government, on behalf of the people whom I represent, for the initiatives it has taken in trade. I refer especially to the vital role that the Australian Government has played in creating the relationship with China that has led to the signing of the greatest long term contract ever negotiated in any Australian rural commodity. There can be no belittling of the importance of this agreement with China. It is a real bonanza for the wheat growers. It is colossal. The Federal Labor Government has won many friends in the countryside because of it. The agreement sign’ -1 recently in Peking by the Australian Wheat t Board and the China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Import and Export Corporation guarantees the Australian wheat growers chat over the 3-year period they will be able to sell China up to 4.7 million tonnes of wheat. The value of this wheat, on current interrational prices, could be at least $600m.
This historic agreement means that the Australian wheat growers can plan ahead with certainty that a large part of their crop will have a guaranteed market. This is what wheat growers want. They have wanted it for years. The Labor Government has given it to them because it believes in stability in rural incomes and certainty for the future for growers. Let us not forget that the loss of the Chinese market for wheat in 1970 was a dreadful blow to the hopes of Australian wheat growers. We should not forget that this happened because of the pig-headed political policies of the previous Liberal-Country Party Government. Let us not forget also that, as a result, Canada was given priority as a seller of wheat to China because of the realistic step that the Canadians had taken in recognising China. From then on, Canadian wheat growers had the advantage over Australian wheat growers in this vital market. Thanks to the work of the Australian Labor Party and this Government, Australian wheat growers are now back in the China market with the best arrangement ever made to guarantee an outlet for a large proportion of their produce.
But what is the attitude of the Opposition parties? All they are able to do is to try to belittle this agreement. Not one of them has uttered in this chamber a word of praise for the Government. The Leader of the Country Party, the right honourable member for Richmond (Mr Anthony), sulks with envy. Yet, he was a member of th - previous Government which could have taken the initiative to establish sensible relations with China and could have taken steps to safeguard our wheat market in China. Instead, it was the fanatical attitude of people such as the Leader of the Country Party that caused us to lose the market. Where do the Oppos ition parties stand now on the question of China? This is a very important question for Australian wheat growers. Not the slightest doubt exists in my mind that, if they were ever re-elected to government, they would throw the whole wheat agreement into jeopardy
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) claims that his Party would not disrupt the new relationship with China. But, at the same time, he still wants relations at a high level with Taiwan. Before he went to China in July last, the Leader of the Opposition told a meeting of the Australian University Liberal Federation in Melbourne that a Liberal government would renew relations with Taiwan. A news report in the ‘Australian’ in June quoted him as saying that it would be his policy to re-establish, at the highest level possible, relationships with Taiwan’. What does this mean? It means that a Liberal government - if ever elected - would treat Taiwan as a separate, independent government, separate from China. The Leader of the Opposition would try to re-establish relations with Chiang Kai-shek. I am convinced that this reactionary policy would ruin Australia’s long term wheal agreement with China and wreck the possibility of it being renewed under a LiberalCountry Party government.
What is the policy of the Country Party with respect to China? Its members have nol said a word. Nobody knows for certain because their Leader, who has been preoccupied with trying to arrange a marriage of convenience with the Democratic Labor Party, has not had the courage to say whether he is for or against the recognition of China. Obviously, the Leader of the Country Party shares the reactionary views of the Leader of the Liberal Party. The Leader of the Country Party is more captive to the fanatical antiChinese policies of the DLP than ever before. Obviously, therefore, he would share its views towards Taiwan. So, if the Country Party were ever returned to office it would jeopardise the relationship established by the Labor Government with China. The people who would be the first to suffer would be the Australian wheat growers.
I reiterate a question which I heard posed in the course of the last general election campaign. I believe that it was posed to the Leader of the Country Party by a leader of industry. This man said: ‘In 1949, every person involved in primary production was doing fine. He was prosperous. Today, after 23 years of Liberal Country Party rule, he is either broke or fighting against bankruptcy. If you can tell me why and satisfactorily explain the situation, I might vote for the Country Party’. Ten months after the election of the Labor Government, one could pose the following question: ‘Today, after 10 months of Labor Government rule in Canberra, every primary producer is doing fine. Why?’
I turn now to a different subject. I commend the Labor Government on the steps that it has taken to assist the farming community against the cost of tariff protection. I refer to the 25 per cent tariff cut announced in July by this Government. The Labor Government won many friends in rural Australia with this policy. For 23 years, under a Liberal-Country Party government, Australian farmers cried in vain for relief from the high cost that they were paying for protection of Australian manufacturers. They never received it. But the Labor Government provided it. This was a major breakthrough for Australian farmers, and they appreciated it. Every farming organisation in the country applauded this action as an enlightened and courageous move to restructure secondary industry and to attack inflation.
But what was the attitude of the Liberal and Country Parties? They both attacked the tariff cut. We have heard it attacked tonight. Playing a short-sighted game of party politics, the Leader of the Country Party described the tariff cuts as ‘cowardly*. We heard one Country Party member say that if this action had been taken years ago it might have been effective. But he was a member of the Government at that time and his Party was a partner in the Government coalition. What an absurd statement from the Leader of the Country Party, a man who claims that his Party speaks for growers.
Little wonder then that farmers all over Australia thought that the Leader of the Country Party had lost his sense of proportion and was unable to speak for farmers, just because he had to speak against whatever Labor did, even when he must have known that Labor’s actions were for the good of producers. Little wonder, too, that farmers object to the pretentions of the Country Party that it speaks for them. So, we see Mr W. N. Hogan, President of the Australian Farmers Federation, reported in this morning’s ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ as saying that the public should not be deluded that the Country Party is a champion of rural industry. Mr Hogan’s attack on the Country Party came after the Country Party proved that it was not interested in a new approach to tariffs as outlined in the Government’s new Industries Assistance Commission Bill. I could say much more to applaud the action taken by the Government to counter rising costs by the establishment of the Prices Justification Tribunal, the Restrictive Trade Practices Act and by so many Bills that have been introduced into this Parliament but which have been opposed by the Country Party. I commend the Government for its positive policies. I applaud the beneficial effects that they are calculated to have on the rural community.
– I wish to refer only to the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry. Before doing so I would like to take up some of the points raised by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Olley), who has just resumed his seat. I would say that it is one of the last times he will be occupying it, the way he is going. He misrepresented Mr Hogan, who only today said that one report had confused the question of relations between the Country Party and the farmers’ organisations. He had tried to make it clear that the Press has often fooled the public in creating an image of the Country Party as a handout party for farmers. It was the Press and not Mr Hogan that did that. In fact many good ideas have been placed before the Government by the farmers’ groups and undoubtedly they have been supported by the Country Party. That is what Mr Hogan said.
– It is the honourable member for Hume who made a fool of himself.
– The honourable member for Hume did not bother to find out the facts. He read one newspaper, saw a headline and grabbed it. I do not have any more time to waste on him. The Labor Government’s Budget has been a betrayal of the primary industries. By ‘primary industries’ I mean the pastoral and mining industries. They are the industries from which Australia gains her wealth and from she obtains the money to spend on social services and all the other things referred to by many honourable members opposite as ‘the good life’. This Labor Government has sold short and is viciously attacking the primary industries of this country, under the influences of raw, bigoted, old time socialism. It is just that. We heard about this away back in 1940, or whenever Labor was last in government.
– It was 1947.
– Thank you. Now that Labor has returned to government it is determined to introduce socialism again. By doing so it will wreck the income producers of Australia. The Coombs report was produced, I am sure, by a cynical city dweller. Dr Coombs is ignorant of what has made Australia the great nation she was until 2 December. Those same primary industries are making Australia tick today. Primary industries have taken a thrashing at the hands of Labor in this Budget. Looking quickly through the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry for the year 1973-74 as compared with last year, I notice that wool marketing assistance is down from $4.2m to $575,000; payments under the Dairying Industry Act have been cut; but the emergency adjustment assistance to apple and pear and canning fruit industries stands at $2m. The Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) comes from Tasmania. These are his State’s main industries.
– What do they think of him there? They would boil him in oil.
– I do not know what they think of him there. The honourable member for Murray says that they would boil him in oil. I know what they would do with the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) if he went to Tennant Creek and I know what they would do with the Minister for Primary Industry if he went to Katherine in the Northern Territory. Primary producers have been hit very hard. Looking at the figures again, we find that the wool objective measurement research and implementation expenditure has been cut out, as has the expenditure for the Australian Wool Commission - payment against loss in 1970-71. Payments to industries in respect of reduced returns in Australian currency arising from devaluation of sterling and other currencies also no longer exist. In introducing this Budget the Government thought of nothing but the people who live in the outer suburbs of the cities at St Ives or thereabouts, in Melbourne, or in its suburbs. They are the people who voted this Government into power.
– The people of St Ives? You must be joking.
– Is that not where the honourable member has his store?
– It is the best blue ribbon Liberal seat in Australia.
– Is that not where the honourable member runs his store? I think it would be a good place to have a clothing store. I return now to this very dangerous document - the Coombs report. Much of it has been embodied in the Budget. It has governed the Budget, the Estimates and the thinking of the Labor Government. It is attacking and ruining primary industry. We have heard honourable members opposite and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) say that no genuine rural producer has been disadvantaged by the Budget. For heaven’s sake, what absolute nonsense! People who live away from the seaboard or away from a fuel depot are paying 6.7c a gallon more for their fuel. There are no freight rebates. Tennant Creek is one of the main mining centres. It is small compared with the north-west but it is a veritable dynamo in central Australia. About $59m worth of developments are rising out of the mulga. I am certain that Dr Coombs has not seen it. If he has seen it, he would not appreciate it. He would not care about it and he would not know. He and his gang wrote this report. I have about 25 tickets in the report labelling every item which is aimed directly and vindictively at people who do not live in the cities and suburbs.
In the few minutes left I would like to emphasise the accelerated depreciation for income tax purposes for primary producers. Let us face it. Who produces the income of Australia? It is not all the Pitt Street farmers at whom the Budget is aimed. The people who produce the income of this country are the people who work out in the scrub, hundreds of miles from the city, or even 20 miles or 50 miles out. Some happen to be thousands of miles away. By the abolition of sections 57ab and 57aa tax concessions and the sections 75 and 76 tax concessions, people who are working in the country, whether they be in companies or as private individuals, find that any advantage they have achieved by making improvements on their properties has virtually been wiped. The Government is now complaining and threatening to introduce meat export taxes and charges and is screaming about the high price of beef and so on. The only thing we can do to lower the price of beef, or lower the price of anything, is to produce more. If it is produced economically the people who are buying it receive it at a cheaper price. All we are hearing is this phoney scream about high prices for various other things, but as a Northern Territory cattleman I am most interested in beef. What is happening? All the depreciation allowances and tax concessions that people once received for living in the country, for producing food and producing the beef on which we live have virtually been wiped out in one hit in the Coombs report. As I say, there are 15 or 20 items in the Coombs report which highlight exactly what I am saying. Coombs drove through the Northern Territory. He would be an expert on it! I am sure he would be an expert on the outback. He might be a banker but he certainly has no sympathy or understanding, nor has the Government, for the people who produce the real wealth of Australia.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr OLLEY (Hume)- Mr Chairman, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I do. During his speech the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) suggested that I had referred to an unsupported report in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’. I point out that it was not an unsupported report. In fact the Melbourne Sun’ today carried an article under the heading of ‘Country Party “is fooling farmers”.’ It stated:
Farmers were fooled by the Country Party, the biggest primary producer organisation in Australia said yesterday.
People are deluded,’ the president of the Australian Farmers’ Federation, Mr W. N. Hogan, said.
– I rise on a point of order. I claim that the honourable member for Hume is not speaking to the misrepresentation.
– He is quoting from an article that the honourable member for the Northern Territory never mentioned.
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. He is quite aware that that is a matter of opinion, not a matter provided for in the Standing Orders. The honourable member for Hume is explaining where he was misrepresented.
– Let him say that it is a matter of opinion.
– Order! The honourable member for the Northern Territory will not direct me on how to run this Committee.
– Thank you, Mr Chairman. I have finished my explanation. I just wanted to point out that the information was supported by an article which appeared in the Melbourne Sun’ this morning.
– Mr Chairman, may I seek your guidance? My query relates to the question of misrepresentation. When the person referred to in a newspaper report issues a further Press statement in which he denies what was attributed to him in the initial report in a newspaper, can there then be a claim of misrepresentation?
– Order! It is not for the Chair to decide what a person said, what a person claims he said or what he thinks he said, all of which can be the same.
– I do not blame the the honourable members of the Australian Country Party who sit in what I call the sectional corner in this chamber for being upset. Obviously, when the Australian Farmers Federation in solemn conference rejects them and rejects their point of view and the newspapers of the nation have such headlines as Country Party is Fooling Fanners’ and Farmers Rebuff the Country Party’, they are embarrassed because what they have been saying over the last few months to the people in the cities is that the countryside is still in the state of recession it was in when the Government changed. I just remind members of the Country Party and members of the Parliament generally that last year across the Australian countryside there was a recession which had been created by the previous Administration and sustained by it, and we inherited that situation.
In the last few months we have been attempting to get the countryside moving again.
We have instituted a series of measures. But there has been a continuing program to suggest that the Australian countryside at the present time is still somehow slumped in recession. I took note of some of the words that were used by Country Party members. As a matter of fact we heard so many of them. We heard such words as ‘savage’ and ‘brutal’. It is incredible the number of expressions that have been used to describe what is happening in the countryside at this time. Of course this was not the story when hardship in fact existed in the Australian countryside. At that time the members of the sectional group sat silent. They said nothing. They voted against measures to alleviate the situation once faced in the countryside. When the Government changed, no credit was available, there was very little hope and there was the greatest queue of bankrupts we had seen in a whole generation. But now that the Government has changed, suddenly with the prosperity that there is now in the countryside, the Government comes in for criticism, presumably because of the prosperity. It is interesting to see what the farm income is likely to be for the financial year 1973-74. It is estimated that it will rise to $2,885m, a rise of 52 per cent since the change of Government.
What has happened is that the members of the Country Party are trying to paint a false picture, but what concerns me about these sectional gentlemen is that they are giving the impression to the Australian people, who are mostly in the cities, that the currency of protest has been so debased that no one from the countryside can be believed in the future. How can a man, when his income is better than it has ever been before, complain that it is not? How can we pretend that there is a recession, that there is a depression, when in fact there has been the greatest recovery that we have seen for years? What concerns me is that members of the Country Party are making fools of the people in the countryside, not of course in their own eyes in their little rural ghettos, but in the sense that they destroy the chance of helping a genuine case of hardship when it is put forward. Of course there are pockets of hardship; of course there are problems to tackle; of course there are things to be done. But after hearing the debasement of the currency of protest by the extravagant language and the inadequate expression of opinion that we hear from members of the Country Party on minor matters, we find that the genuine case has already been destroyed because of their being extravagant and being in fact the worst propagandists since Dr Joseph Goebbels met his untimely end, or perhaps it was a timely end, in the bunker in Berlin. Frankly, I thought that Goebbels was without offspring, but I must say to the members of this Parliament that I believe his children are well represented, all of them, in terms of propaganda, because really the performance of the Country Party in the last few months has been pathetic.
We have talked about rural credit. As a matter of fact a member of this Parliament stood here today and said he was having difficulty getting credit. I do not want to mention his name, because he might be having difficulty, but that is because of his own particular situation. At the present time rural credit is available, whereas it was not before. Let us just have a look at what has happened. After 15 years the first increase in the first advance payment on wheat has been granted. The former Government was in office for the whole of the 15 years during which there was no increase in the first advance payment. Then there was acceptance of our proposal for a national storage reserve for wheat for the first time. So of course we circumvented the repressive quota wheat rationing system of the former Government, which incidentally the State governments still retain. Of course, the first independent inquiry into wheat freight rates ever held is now being undertaken by the Bureau of Transport Economics. We have released further funds for rural reconstruction. There have been bankruptcies, of course. The Rural Assistance Board in New South Wales was itself in need of rural assistance. It had no money; it had not had any for 6 months when we came to office. The Board has money now. An initial sum of $4 8m has been made available, with an offer to provide more to the States on a $1 for $1 basis if the States feel that it is necessary. This has been done.
We have released in addition $20m for farm credit through the Commonwealth Development Bank, again as a first instalment of further new initiatives for rural credit. We did this. We provided the first assistance ever granted to isolated children in country areas. The former Government had been in power for a quarter of a century, but those who are now bleating about the isolated people did nothing for them. Over the years members in this House talked about how iniquitous the tariffs were, how dreadful they were and how burdensome they were, but the former Government never did anything about them. We did. We reduced them across the board by 25 per cent. I heard one honourable member in the sectional corner say that the tariff reductions would put thousands of people out of work, and then he thought that perhaps there are not thousands of people out of work right now but that they will be out of work. Actually I think only 22 people have sought assistance following the cut in tariffs, so the honourable member to whom I refer should do his homework a bit better. Then of course we have set up the machinery to investigate cases where the tariff benefits are not being passed on to primary producers who purchase imported items.
That has been done but of course any publicity of this fact has been suppressed in the countryside because it is not in the interests of sectional groups to have the people they are supposed to represent know what has been done and know what their rights are. We have introduced these measures but members of the Country Party have suppressed information about them. Of course, we also saw for several years the idea of repressing production. We talked about clip management of wool - that was a little euphemism for in fact bringing in rationing of wool. That is what we will have - similar to what was done with wheat. The Opposition did not stay in Government long enough to bring the proposal in. If the Opposition had been in Government long enough we would have had wool rationing as well as wheat rationing. I suppose then that when the Labor Party took over the administration they would have slid gently from under; but thank goodness they were out of government
Honourable members opposite have also referred to their wonderful record. They were in government for many years. In that time a tremendous number of people moved to the cities - even between the last 2 census takings 100,000 people moved to the cities under the previous administration. This Government has made available $33m as a start on decentralisation. It is the first time that any funds have been voted from the national Parliament for decentralisation. Do members of the Opposition think that this is a good move? Do they think that it should be done? Members of the Opposition do not even have the honesty to support that. The Government was anxious to give a new deal to local government bodies in New South Wales by bringing them to the Loan Council - bringing them to the carve-up of tax revenue. So what do Opposition members say: ‘Oh no, we cannot have that*.
– Order! I ask the Minister to come back to the item of the Estimates under discussion.
– Yes, Mr Chairman. I wish to mention one other item before I come back to a particular point I want to make in the time that is available to me. The Government has negotiated long term stability for the wheat industry by the magnificent and successful negotiations with China. That has been done and these are matters for the record. None of these facts has been acknowledged by Opposition members. They have been very carefully suppressed. These facts have been suppressed behind a barrage of the most primitive abuse that I have ever heard in this Parliament. As a matter of fact, I have been thinking of asking the Speaker to circulate to the sectional group in the corner a book of unparliamentary terms because their terms are becoming repetitious. I think those honourable members to whom I refer could use some new terms. Unfortunately I do not have the time to answer all the interjections, but may I say that the tribal rock musical continues unabated.
– Order! If the interjectors keep interjecting I will answer them and they will not hear my answer.
– In conclusion, it is time that we had a look at the consumer price index. In the 60 seconds available to me it is not possible to put forward a considered case on this matter but I suggest that it is not totally relevant to the cost of living and it certainly does not reflect the realities of the situation. I draw attention to the fact that when the potato and the onion are given a status which they do not really reserve in the national diet, it is time that we had something a little different from the present consumer price index.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I wish to concentrate my remarks on the dairying industry and I do so because the Murray electorate is the largest producer of dairy products in Australia. It produces more than either Queens land or Western Australia, and New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania must be looking over their shoulders at this one electorate for production total at the present time. To begin with, I commend the then Minister for Secondary Industry and Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) on a statement he made at the New Zealand-Australia trade relations talks in May. He stated:
However, both governments are aware of the need to avoid disruptive competition in our exports of primary products, both in each other’s domestic markets and in international trade.
At that point the Minister was referring to dairy trade. I hope that this good sense between the two major dairy exporters of the world, Australia and New Zealand, which is included in that statement is continued by this Government. I wish to refer to some of the dangers of trying to predict what world trade will be because the short term outlook for dairying is the brightest it probably ever has been. According to ‘Agra Europe’ of 3 October, European Economic Community stocks are less than they were a year ago. There are probably problems for the EEC as a result of a sale of 200,000 tons of butter to Russia. The EEC stocks probably will not be sufficient. Russia, with its failure in socialised agriculture, as it changed the whole outlook for coarse grains and ordinary grains in the world from a situation of over supply to a shortage, is doing the same for dairy products at present.
In the United States of America for the first time butter soon will have to be imported. In an article in ‘Agra Europe’ of 10 October 1973 the following appears:
In view of the continuing decline in US butter production since 1971 while per capita consumption has remained steady at 2.2 kg per annum, market experts are now expecting the US Government to open a new butter import quota to maintain home market supplies. …
EEC merchants are now waiting for the announcement of a new US butter tender. Some firms have already shipped large quantities over the Atlantic into bonded warehouses in case licences are granted on a first come, first served’ basis.
If this happens it will repeat what happened recently in the United States, with mammoth sales of skim milk powder to that country. Murray-Goulburn Co-operative Co. Ltd, the largest dairy co-operative in Australia, did exactly the same thing by anticipating a skim milk powder shortage. It shipped several thousand tons of skim milk powder ahead of the release of import quotas and stored them in bond in America. The day before yesterday at a conference of the Australian Farmers Federation in Canberra the Prime Minister, in referring to the dairy bounty, said:
These bounties have done nothing to solve the industry’s major problem - the adjustment of farm production levels to realistic local and overseas demand.
At present the major dairy companies in Australia are already sold out of their total production for the year ahead and the Prime Minister was saying, and meaning it the other way, that somehow or other we have a surplus of dairy production in Australia. In the March issue of the United States magazine ‘Foreign Agriculture’, which is produced by the United States Department of Agriculture, an article concerned with dairying states:
Ample supplies and relatively low world prices for dairy products will continue to 1985.
Six months ago the United States Department of Agriculture said that there would be an over supply of dairy products for 13 years, yet 6 months later there is a world shortage and a shortage in the United States itself. This makes it all the more essential that there be stabilisation programs for agricultural production because of the unpredictability of what will happen in world markets. Such programs also are essential if one is to help overcome the present world food shortage because more than anything else food producers and food producing countries need stability and the ability to plan ahead to produce the food the world needs. In this regard the phasing out of the dairy subsidy is most dangerous because it will lead to the possible breakdown of the cornerstone of stability in the dairying industry - equalisation. At present threats are being made in certain States and by certain companies to withdraw from equalisation. While the subsidy applied they were held in check.
In reply to a recent question concerning whether the voluntary equalisation scheme would be changed to a compulsory one as a result of the referendum of growers held some time ago, Dr Patterson said that this matter was being considered at present. I hope that the Government does more than consider it. I hope it invokes it because if equalisation breaks down the stability that was so bard fought and hard won for the dairy industry over the last 40 years will be lost and the industry will be reduced to the same situation which is now facing the canned fruit industry. The canneries are short of liquid assets. They are forced to sell on the local market for less than they need to sell. There are no minimum price requirements. Quite often the Reserve Sank is forcing the canneries to sell because of its requirements for credit
There could be a canned fruit industry situation in the dairying industry and this, in the long term, will cost far more than the subsidy would ever cost. If anyone suggests that the subsidy has not helped the dairying industry, that person has not bothered to read the statistics. In the annual report of the Dairy Produce Board reference is made to the transfer of dairy holdings from the less efficient areas of Australia to the more efficient areas - within States as well as across State borders. The program provided for the orderly transfer over a period of 20 years. This has made Australia now equal with New Zealand, as the most efficient dairy producer in the world. That program has done a great service for Australia. This has been done at a time and in an industry in which ordinary social service entitlements do not apply. If one likes to apply to the dairy industry the principles of social welfare which apply in secondary industry it would be seen that the dairy subsidy has been far cheaper than would have been the equivalent social welfare payments.
At the present time, the price for dairy products is very high. I believe that instead of the Government’s saying that it will end the dairy subsidy it should have said that it would temporarily suspend it. If world dairy prices then declined below a certain level some of the money saved in those years when the subsidy was suspended could be applied back to the dairy industry to maintain minimum incomes at a reasonable level. This would have saved money for the Government, safeguarded the industry and the incomes of the producers and, more than anything else, safeguarded the future stability of the industry. If there is not stabilisation, the problems of primary industry are such that without ordinary social security benefits that do not apply, there must, in justice, be some sort of negative income tax applied to farmers. But with all the weaknesses of commodity stabilisation, with stabilisation based on the commodity rather than on income adjustments for individuals, the former is still preferred to the latter course. If income adjustments had been applied to the dairy industry instead of a subsidy, the more efficient sectors of the industry would have been retarded more than they have been because this would have encouraged the less efficient dairy producers to stay in production.
In the brief time remaining to me, I wish to state that the dairy industry is doing much to help itself with innovation. Gouda cheese is an example. One area in which the dairying industry should be doing more is in the spreadability of butter because this is a major consumer demand. At the present time, we have increased butter spreadability but not enough. We have a fat fractionisation process in Australia but not yet at a commercial level. New Zealand has a surface active agent process which is commercially viable. I do not know why we are not using it in Australia. I do not know why our equalisation system is not more flexible and why incentives required for marketing innovation and flexibility are not widened so that such things as butter spreadability are taken more into account in pricing our dairy products. The Australian dairy industry is a great industry. It is efficient by world standards and efficient by our own standards because the price of dairy products has risen by less than one-third of the rate of the increase in the average income during the last 10 years. Do not knock it and do not kill it.
– It was called to my attention that whilst I was out this evening the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) made some references to my earlier career as a part owner of a mens wear store. I am sorry that he has just walked out of the chamber. I do not like talking about a man when he is not present. I understand that he referred to me as one of the wealthiest men on the north shore of Sydney. I intend to get hold of a copy of that speech and take it to my bank manager because he is not aware of that and I am certain that most of the people who know me are not aware of it- Frankly, it is not a joke. I think that it is rather a low act to refer - I notice that the honourable member has returned to the House now - to a person’s career and make those sort of references which are totally inaccurate. Whether they are true or not, I do not think they have anything to do with the Parliament or with the honourable member for Paterson.
We on this side of the chamber certainly do not make references to some of the holdings of honourable members opposite - the wealthy landowners. I certainly have not made any references like that. If the honourable member wants, we will run through the list of multi millionaires over there. At least if we make such statements they will be true. At least we do not make wild, inaccurate statements such as the honourable member made. I understand that the honourable member attacked me for talking about the clothing trade and the fashion industry. After spending 12 or 13 years in that industry, I would assume that honourable members would give me credit for knowing just a little about it. As a matter of fact, when I spoke about wool in the House, 7 members from the other side, including 5 former Ministers came over and congratulated me. They said that it was the best speech on wool they had heard in the House for 20 years.
– They were just kidding the honourable member.
– It was a funny way in which to kid me. The members of the Country Party seem to regard it as their right to be the only people who can speak on rural matters. They claim that they are farmers and ask what could anyone who was not a farmer know about farming? I presume that those honourable members would give me at least similar credit to be able to speak about an industry in which I spent the major portion of my life. The point that I understand the honourable member for Paterson was trying to make was that I was speaking from vested interest. I know that he is not very bright. But if he had listened closely to my speech-
– Withdraw that.
– I will not withdraw anything after the way the honouarble member has behaved this evening. I know that he is not very bright. But if he had listened to what I had to say he would have heard that I was attacking the retail trade of which I was a representative, not defending it. I said that the big retailers had been dishonest in failing to pass on tariff cuts that should have reduced the price of clothing in the major stores, by a considerable amount. I said that they were now taking profits of 100 per cent to 150 per cent. I understand also that the honourable member made reference to the fact that the country was going to be flooded with cheap imports. I do not know what will happen in the future. However, I do know and obviously the honourable member does not know, that there are quotas on imported goods and they still exist. The fact of the matter is that at the moment the clothing industry, for which honourable gentlemen opposite predicted absolute doom and in which they predicted that hundreds of country businesses would go to the wall, is burdened with work. It is unable to meet most of its orders.
– A temporary situation.
– That is the situation right now. If the honourable member knows anything about the trade he will know that it works 6 months ahead and it is booked out for next winter. There are quotas to protect the industry if necessary. But the fact of the matter is that the honourable member was completely and utterly wrong. That is the point. I was not defending the retail trade. I was attacking it for not doing the right thing and passing the tariff cuts onto the consumer.
– The honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) is not correct. I did not attack the retail clothing trade in any manner at all. I said that the honourable member would know about the retail trade because he has 2 shops in the posh area of the northern suburbs of Sydney. That is all I said. The other remarks made by the honourable member are untrue. If he has a look at Hansard he will find that to be so. I thought that I was paying tribute to him, with his knowledge of the retail trade. It is quite true that I did indicate that he had 2 stores in posh suburbs.
– If that is the case I owe the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) an apology. But I was informed by members of the House-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Berinson) - Order! The honourable member has already spoken twice in the debate.
Mi Cohen - I do not wish to-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Order! I think that the point has been made. I call the honourable member for Wimmera.
– It was not my intention to speak in the debate on the Estimates tonight. But I feel obliged after some of the things I have heard since the debate on the Estimates recommenced late this afternoon, to make one or two comments. Many misleading statements have been made in the chamber, particularly this evening. As the proceedings are being broadcast I feel quite sure that there are a lot of people listening in who would have gained a completely wrong impression of the actual situation. The honourable member for Hume (Mr Olley) was one of the early speakers in the debate. He quoted from a number of statements made in Canberra yesterday which appeared in the newspapers this morning and which were attributed to the President of the Australian Farmers Federation.
It is all very well to make a comment on one side of a story, but I think that honourable members should get their facts correct. The President of that organisation, a Mr Hogan, corrected the statement late this morning. He was very perturbed about it. I think that it is only right and proper that what he said should be quoted. After all, people do get the wrong impression. Mr Hogan said that one report had confused the question of relations between the Country Party and the farmer organisations. He had tried to make it clear that the Press had often fooled the public by creating an image of the Country Party as a hand-out party for farmers. I hope the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) is listening because, after all, he tried to make some capital out of this also. In fact, Mr Hogan said, many good ideas had been placed before the Government by farm groups and had undoubtedly been supported by the Country Party. Mr Hogan went on in his statement to say that the support on such occasions of the Country Party and other parties had always been appreciated. I think all honourable members appreciate the fact that he was referring to the Liberal Party. He said that the Australian Farmers Federation, in common with other national organisations, naturally looked for their support in matters of mutual interest.
Members of the Government and Government supporters who tried this morning to make some capital out of this statement ought to be corrected. To use the old expression, they ought to be ashamed of themselves for making the statements they did make.
Some of the contributions this evening from Government supporters in defence of actions of this Government in relation to trade and primary industries were some of the weakest I have heard since I came into this place 15 years ago. They all adopted the line of excuse, excuse, excuse, while some tried to indicate how well primary industries are situated today and how the Labor Government has helped them. Anyone at all would fully appreciate that any success that primary producers are having in the year 1973 is not due to the Federal Government. I think it is in spite of the Federal Government.
– What I said is true. It is in spite of the Government. We are having one of the best seasons in Australia, and over Australia, for many long years. As far as prices are concerned, basically they are all based on international rates and have nothing to do with what is taking place within Australia. Look at the price of meat. It is an all time record, and an all time record as far as exports are concerned. This is not attributable to the Government. It has nothing to do with the Government. It is the primary producers who are making this possible. The prices being received again have nothing to do with the Government. This is a case of the importers, the United States of America, Japan and other countries wanting to buy our goods and wanting to buy our meat. The same thing applies to the price of wheat.
– And China.
– Yes, I will come to China in a minute. In wheat there is an all time record as far as Australia is concerned and an all time record as far as the world is concerned. The Minister for Immigration referred to sales to China. What about sales to China? Let us look at this question and see what the facts are. Be fair about this matter instead of playing politics. The Minister for Immigration is smiling. He virtually says that his Government made the sales to China. What is the position? What was the position in the last 10 years while the Labor Party was in Opposition? The Australian Wheat Board - I am glad to see that the honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey) is present because he had a very important part in this - was responsible for selling over $ 1,000m worth of wheat to China. Now, what about that one? It sold over $ 1,000m worth.
– And you lost the market.
– All right, we did lose the market, but why did we lose the market. This is where the academics do not understand the situation. They simply do not realise that there are different wheat qualities. China today produces the type of wheat that is produced in large quantities in Australia and when the
Chinese have a glut of this type they do not want our varieties. When they have a shortage of hard wheat varieties they do not look to Australia for the simple reason that we literally have only a handful of hard wheat varieties for sale from the northern part of Australia. Therefore the Chinese look to the United States and to Canada. That is the issue that this Government is not prepared to talk about. Even last year when the present Opposition Parties were in Government the Australian Wheat Board came to an arrangement with the Chinese to sell, from memory, some 70 million bushels of wheat. The only problem was that we did not have it to sell.
– Ha, hal Who caused that?
– Some Government supporters are laughing about this. This raises a question so often raised by the Minister for Immigration. Why has the Minister been carrying on as he has been in the last few weeks? He has repeatedly told us that he is against quotas. Is that right?
– Yes, consistently.
– How can he genuinely support a government that believes in the principle of quotas?
– The quotas are State quotas and you know it.
– When you say: ‘What about State quotas?’, why blame the previous Federal Government?
– That is a very good interjection.
– Order! The honourable member for Murray will cease interjecting.
– If it is not State quotas then why is the Minister for Immigration so vocal about this? Why is it that the Commonwealth is prepared to put into legislation that this is a quota year? I wonder why. The Minister for Immigration knows very little about this question. He is more concerned about going back into his electorate and talking about what his Party will do for the people, what it has tried to do and all this sort of claptrap. This matter has been raised in this House on many occasions but the Minister has not been prepared to get up and flatly deny the question. I think that this morning the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) again asked what this Government is doing to assist primary producers. What about this question of interest rates and long term loans at low interest rates? It is true that the Minister for Immigration did not say: ‘The Government will give it to you’, but his statements were so worded that every grower looked at them and said: ‘Yes, that is what the Minister means’ or ‘That is what the honourable member for Riverina means.’ He was not a Minister at that time. The Minister is not prepared to turn round and completely deny it.
The Minister referred to some of the results achieved by the present Government. I wonder what such a statement is all about when I start to add up the increased taxation facing primary producers. My advisers tell me that the increased rates for primary producers will mean that about an extra $250m will be collected in tax this year. That is a mighty lot of money. If that sum is spread over every farm in round figures it is near enough to $1,000 extra per farm. And what about the interest rates? I have not got time to explain all this in detail but on average, as a result of the increased interest rates introduced by this Government, each farm will pay about $300 more per year. This is the low rate of interest that the Minister for Immigration promised us.
– This 3 per cent.
– Yes, this 3 per cent. What did the Government do? The Minister was talking about giving us -
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
– I table a statement relating to Vietnamese and Cambodian orphans and their adoption by Australian couples.
Debate resumed from 10 October (vide page 1827), on motion by Mr Grassby):
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Speaker, the Wheat Tax Bill makes provision for increasing the contribution by the wheat industry by 20 per cent for the purpose of research into all aspects of the industry, with a corresponding increase by the Government on a dollar for dollar basis. It will increase the funds available for research from $2m to approximately $2.4m a year. I am pleased to see that it has the support of the industry. It has the support of the Opposition, although in our opinion the legislation is deficient in one respect. We will be seeking clarification and further assurances on another aspect of it.
Over the years these joint industry government funds for research and, in some instances, promotion have made a great contribution to the industries concerned. In the case of wheat the funds have enabled Australia to remain in the forefront of world research in plant breeding and new varieties suitable for a wide range of climatic and soil types, in soil fertility and fertilising techniques, in solving storage problems and in many other aspects of the industry. It will be noted that the investigation of storage problems is one of the functions on which money raised by this legislation can be spent. It is a most important function, and the Opposition would have liked to see greater attention paid to it by the Government. For a while it looked as if this would be done. The Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) indicated to the Australian Agricultural Council that provided the wheat industry and the States each contributed $250,000 the Commonwealth Government would add a further $500,000, making a total of Sim to be used on a program for the control of weevils in wheat. The industry agreed to this proposition. The States agreed. Suddenly the Commonwealth withdrew its support and its money.
There are several points of principle involved, and the Opposition would have liked to move an amendment to this Bill which, while not refusing it a second reading, would have indicated our concern that special provision should have been made for implementing an extended research program into insect infestation of wheat, on the basis outlined by the Minister for Primary Industry to the Australian Agricultural Council and the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation. Unfortunately, this Bill not being what is generally described as a purpose Bill, the forms of the House do not enable us to take that course. But there may be another way of dealing with the problem. I will be referring to that later in my speech. But that was not the main principle involved in this rather unsavoury episode. The real point was that this was yet another example of the total unreliability of this Government when it comes to policies affecting primary industry. The States, and the industry taking their cue quite reasonably from the Minister for Primary Industry, made arrangements so that they could fulfil their side of the bargain. Now they are left out on a limb. No wonder the primary producers have lost ail confidence in this Government. The Government, by its actions, has forfeited all right to confidence.
The question of insect infestation control is an important one, for 2 reasons. It is important, firstly, because of the costs involved in controlling and, one would hope eventually eradicating insect infectation; and secondly, because our reputation as a supplier of high quality produce can be put at risk. We should remember that it is unlikely that the world wheat market will remain a sellers’ market indefinitely. While prices are good, we should be taking the opportunity to improve the quality of our produce. In this context I think it is interesting that work is going on in South Australia, at private expense I understand, on new methods of protecting grain. I trust that the Australian Wheat Board and the various bulk handling authorities in the States are keeping closely in touch with this work to ensure that new storages are able to take advantage of new technology as it becomes commercially proved.
The need for new materials and technology is becoming more urgent. For some years the insecticide generally sold under the trade name Malathion has been the principal means of controlling insect infestation, especially on the farm itself. Unfortunately, there is growing evidence that insects are building up a resistance to this product. To the best of my knowledge, no comparable or more efficient replacement is available or is even likely to become available in the near future. The industry is very conscious of the danger of this situation. I hope that there is an equal recognition on the part of the Government of the need to find a safe and satisfactory substitute for Malathion in the protection of grain. The need is becoming increasingly urgent.
As I said earlier, there- may be a way round getting extra finance for insect control and research, in the absence of a special program such as the one which was proposed originally by the Minister for Primary Industry. The House will note that this Bill makes provision for a rate of tax not exceeding 15c per tonne, although the actual amount collected is to be 11c per tonne. That is a 20 per cent increase over the present rate. The Minister has indicated that it will be matched by the Federal Government. I now draw attention to clause 3 (2) of the Bill which provides that the rate can be varied after consideration by the Governor-General of a report made to the Minister by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation’. Therefore it is possible under this legislation to increase the tax on growers. The Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby), in his second reading speech, said.:
The Government has decided that it will continue to provide funds to match industry contributions at the new rate of tax proposed, that is, 11c per tonne.
As I interpret this reference, there is no guarantee that if the industry increases its contribution above 11c per tonne this increase will be matched by the Government. Certainly it has always been the practice in the past that in such circumstanres the Government has made a corresponding increase in its contribution. I am not prejudging this aspect of the matter, but it may be that the Government intends to follow past practice. What I am seeking from the Minister for Northern Development and the Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson), who represents in this chamber the Minister for Primary Industry, is a firm undertaking that if the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation decides that the tax of 11c per tonne is insufficient to meet the needs for which the fund was established, and if it agrees to a higher grower contribution, the Government will match that increased contribution from the industry.
There is one further issue which is raised by this legislation. It is of more general application than to the wheat industry alone, but it is relevant to this Bill. I have referred to the benefits which have resulted from these joint industry government research and promotion funds. In my opinion, they have one particular defect. They tend to limit flexibility in the use of research funds and thereby inhibit the development of alternate land uses. The House will remember that the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) made specific reference to this point during his contribution to the debate on the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry. Unfortunately, this defect is selfperpetuating because when an industry - in this case the wheat industry - contributes money for research and/ or promotion the money has to be spent on projects involving that specific product. It is very easy to understand that the industry would be concerned if it felt that money it had contributed was to be spent on something unconnected with its own industry. But I should like to remind the House that the situation could arise, and in fact has arisen, that the most valuable research which could be done from the point of view of the industry is research into alternative uses for some land devoted, in this instance, to growing wheat.
We had a classic example of this situation a few years ago at a time of wheat glut, wheat quotas and depressed world prices for wheat. Growers were casting around for other crops to grow. Many of them tried oilseeds of varying kinds and with varying degrees of success. It soon became apparent that we were severely limited in the choice of seed varieties. Naturally, there was not the same experience in growing those crops as there was in growing wheat. I am certain that there are good prospects of substantially raising the profitability of growing crops of this type. But, because it is not a very large or long established industry, no funds are available to pay for the necessary research and plant breeding programs. For example, we import large quantities of soya beans. I have no doubt that we could increase domestic production by substantial amounts, but the necessary research just has not been done to enable farmers to take full advantage of the opportunities that are available for growing this crop.
We know that to grow soya beans successfully the variety planted must be the right one for the latitude in which the crop is to be grown. Soya beans are highly susceptible to variations in the hours of daylight. I understand that in North America varieties of this crop have been developed which can be grown in latitudes as high as 40 degrees. As far as I know, our efforts to develop varieties of soya beans for Australian conditions have been restricted almost to a one-man effort in northern New South Wales. Unfortunately, the situation that I have described is likely to continue unless funds are available to correct it. But, as I have said, under the conditions applying to these research funds there does not seem to be much prospect of being able to divert money into research in other fields which not only would reduce the dependence of wheat growers on demand for one crop but might in some areas provide growers with an increased income. I fully appreciate that changing the present system will require close co-operation with the primary producer organisations concerned. All I am suggesting at this stage is that those responsible should be giving serious consideration to the problem I have described and what should be done to overcome it in the best interests of the industry and of the individual farmers concerned. With those reservations, the Opposition supports this Bill.
– The honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) has made one or two comments which I think need to be answered before I begin to discuss the content of this Bill and its implications for wheat research. First of all, the proposition in regard to the Australian Government’s involvement in the program for eliminating weevils from wheat was never agreed to by the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt), as I illustrated recently by quoting from the minutes of the appropriate meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council. He has at all times qualified the Australian Government’s involvement in this program by the need for Cabinet approval.
The second aspect which should be borne in mind is that the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation placed a condition on this program, which made it extremely difficult to initiate. That condition was that inspectors involved in the eradication program could not enter private farms in order to inspect stocks of wheat held on the farms. Quite clearly, if we are to eliminate weevils from the national wheat crop it is ludicrous to expect this job to be done if a fairly substantial proportion of the crop cannot be approached by the people who are carrying out the eradication of the weevils. If weevils are being generated in farm held stocks, a great deal of money will be wasted on a national program to eliminate weevils. It is quite obvious that we need to have an opportunity to approach those wheat stocks. The Australian Wheatgrowers Federation was not prepared to give the inspectors that opportunity.
– The black marketeers in wheat did not want it.
– I agree.
– It is mostly in Queensland and New South Wales.
– This is quite so. We are in complete agreement on this matter. It is quite clear that a national program could not operate unless we were able to cover every grain of wheat stored.
This Bill applies to wheat research. A tax is proposed to be collected to finance wheat research. A summary of the research that was conducted last year is contained in the 15th annual report on wheat research for the year ended 31 December 1972. A very interesting range of subjects will be financed by this money: Firstly, as to the environment in which the wheat is grown - namely, the soil itself - moisture, organic matter, nitrogen content, microbiology and nutrients within the soil which are required for the adequate production of wheat. That fascinating range of subjects involves a great many disciplines. It is clear that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation - this is reflected also in the report - plays a very dominant role in this research. In 1972-73, $193,000 in a total expenditure of $800,000 on wheat research was spent by the CSIRO. It is also encouraging to note that other organisations are so deeply involved in research; namely, the various State departments of agriculture, the universities and the Bread Research Institute in New South Wales.
As I have mentioned in regard to soil research, a great range of disciplines is involved. The only way in which we can get a productive outlet is through research. If we look down the list of the fields of research we find such things as plant physiology and plant breeding - to which the honourable member for Corangamite referred in his speech - and then we come to an aspect which I believe deserves a great deal of attention, namely, wheat quality. The prelude to a proper marketing system is a proper classification system. It is important to understand the parameters and properties of wheat, or any other commodity for that matter, in a detailed way. If we pay a great deal of attention to the analysis and composition of individual wheats, we are in a better position to exploit the unique advantages those wheats have for particular markets.
– The moisture content is the most important one.
– Also protein. Many properties of wheat, which at the moment we do not suspect as having an economic value, will in the future become more important as the wheat consumer becomes more discriminating. Therefore, it is important that a wheat producing country such as Australia should have a greater understanding of the quality, range and potential of its wheat product than the consuming countries have. It must be in a position to meet the buyer ahead of the buyer’s requirements. So wheat quality, which in a sens: becomes the basis of a classification system, deserves a great deal of attention. It is no longer satisfactory in a sophisticated marketing system to depend upon a basis of fair average quality or any other quality for describing wheat. We have a very good demonstration - the honourable member for Corangamite agrees with me on this - in relation to wool. The wool industry which is the traditional industry in this country was prepared to sell wool at an f.a.q. standard for so long. It was only in recent years when we approached the whole question of wool marketing from the point of view of understanding its composition, and then directing those unique batches of wool towards unique end uses that we were in a position to capitalise to a greater extent on the virtues of specialised products. The idea that any commodity, particularly wheat, produced on such a wide scale and subject to such a huge variety of environments, the idea that we are producing one commodity and one commodity alone, just does not stand up to examination. We have traditionally used wheat in the way that is suggested by this basic premise that in fact there is only one type, only one quality, with broad classifications - hard and soft wheat. Clearly the research into wheat quality can be, and I believe almost certainly will be, the prelude to a much more sophisticated marketing system for wheat which will extract the last possible cent for the wheat grower. Ironically, this particular knowledge does not blossom until conditions are bad for the producer. Under those conditions he is then in a position to exploit his ultimate knowledge of his product. In other words, he is able to get a monopoly for some wheats with a particular balance of qualities for some end uses where the Australian market has established its fundamental claim.
– It all depends on how much water you can put in the flour.
– Oh goodness, can you not keep quiet?
– He is thirsty. Let us face it; the man is thirsty.
Mc SPEAKER-Order! I will not permit private conversations. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro is addressing the Chair.
– The report then gives a very impressive list of research areas including wheat diseases, wheat storage, legume pasture studies, and then it deals with an area on which the honourable member for Corangamite concentrated in his speech - alternative crops in wheat growing areas. In this report, outlining the research that was done in this regard in 1972-73, is a separate paragraph headed Alternative Crops’ deals with exactly this question. It reads:
Research .is being supported into grain crops which can be grown in rotation with wheat or as alternative crops for wheat growing areas. The program is concerned with legume and oilseed crops and includes plant breeding and selection to develop varieties with improved yield, seed quality and disease resistance.
Clearly the research into alternative crops, and in particular in relation to oilseeds, is already under way. As the honourable member for Corangamite emphasised, it is important to ensure that the wheat grower does indeed have an alternative crop iri a low priced wheat year; an alternative which will maintain his income at a reasonable level; an alternative which will allow him to include into his cycle of crops a crop which will enhance the capacity of the soil to produce a satisfactory wheat crop. Already in this program we have recognised the need - in the future I believe this will be so particulalry in regard to the State endeavour - to continue this research into alternative crops.
I come now to research carried out into weeds. Again this is an obvious area for such funds to be used. I would like to conclude my contribution tonight by concentrating on 2 areas which I believe are extremely important. I refer, firstly, to the question of our contribution to research into agricultural economics in relation to wheat, and, secondly, the matter of studentship for the production of new research workers in the field. We have 2 areas of research which complement each other. One is the purely physical, chemical area of studies into wheat quality which lay the basic groundwork for wheat classification and, subsequently, a marketing system. The second area of study is the micro-economics of marketing. This area has been seriously neglected in the past, not only in relation to wool but also in relation to every other agricultural product. It is vitally important that we develop the area generally called micro-economics so far as agricultural economics is concerned, because it is in this area that we can develop the sensitive marketing mechanisms which give the grower, and therefore the seller, a much more powerful and much stronger bargaining position in the market, not because the Government imposes on the market some artificial restrain or some Draconian pressure but because we can impose on the market a better understanding of market requirements and use the market mechanisms to further the interests of the grower or the seller. So our very elementary knowledge of marketing of wheat - I now think that in some sense wheat is falling behind wool in this regard - requires a great deal of attention and a great deal of research effort. I am glad to see that this has been acknowledged in the past and will be continued in the future. Once again it is significant that the Bureau of Agricultural Economics is developing a marketing section in order to obtain a better understanding of the marketing problems of wheat and other crops.
– It is certainly long overdue. It knows nothing at the moment.
– I thank the Country Party for its intelligent contribution tonight. The emphasis that the funds place on the development of studentships of various types is extremely welcome. We need to increase the supply of research workers at all levels. The program allows for postgraduate and undergraduate studentships. These are being offered at all levels. Both cadetships and scholarships are being offered. In other words, we are sponsoring here not only the university graduates but also graduates at other levels, if I read the program correctly.
It is extremely important that we do not get a disproportionate emphasis in our expenditure on studentships. Far too often we concentrate on the rarefied education of the university. It is important to have this but it is also important to ensure a good and adequate supply of technologists in this and other research areas. Too often we have had these 2 bodies of research - I level this as a criticism of research in the past - one completely fundamental and the other experienced with the knowledge of practical conditions. There is an important gap between these 2 areas which has been overlooked in the past, partly because we tend to finance research on too short a basis. It is impossible to get to the applied level of research if we finance research only on a hand to mouth basis. It is of vital concern that we bring together the fundamental research carried out by the scientists, particularly in the CSIRO and the universities, and the practical problems that are experienced by the farmers at that level. The way in which we can bridge this gap is by providing technological research.
In the wheat industry, as indeed in almost every other aspect of research not only in agriculture, we find this incredible gap between the fundamental research workers and the practical problems of the man on the land. The solution to the problem is not only a matter of providing the technologists and the research workers; it is also a matter of providing those people who can interpret the results in a meaningful way for each of the groups involved in research. We lack the interpreters who can carry the message backwards and forwards between the farmer and the fundamental research worker. It is not just a matter of technologists who might work pardy in a laboratory and partly in industry - and again I would point to the Bureau of Agricultural Economics which is making a major contribution in this area - but it is also a matter of the journalists and the whole multitude of people who act as interpreters in this process of taking research results to the farmer and the farmers’ problems back to the research worker. We do not have a highly developed technical area of journalism in which journalists can understand either the results of the work of the research worker and then be in a position to interpret them for the farmer of the problems of the farmer and be able to define them in clear terms for the research worker. This question of applied research goes well beyond the laboratory. It becomes a question of communication. I would like to see these funds for wheat research applied to this particular area because of the neglect in the past of this question of communication. The legislation to which we are addressing ourselves tonight is a part of an ongoing research program with which this Government is proud to be associated. Not only that, but this Government will in fact enhance and increase the program as the Government’s years in office continue.
– It always seems to be my lot to follow the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan). Over recent months I have found myself in great disagreement with what he has had to say. I have endeavoured to correct him and advise him. He has often informed the House that he has been an adviser. But tonight I find myself in a rather different situation. I find that I cannot altogether disagree with him. I would like to make the brief comment that I believe his contribution, on an academic line, was no doubt quite a good one. However, I think - and I want to say this as kindly as I possibly can - that his services are wasted in this place. I feel quite sure that he could forward his knowledge better in the field in which he worked before he entered this place because I believe that many wheat growers would not altogether appreciate what he had to say this evening.
As to the honourable member’s comments in relation to the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation laying down conditions for the contribution of funds, he is only partly right. It is true that the Federation was somewhat divided as to whether it should, firstly, enter the field by making additional funds available and, secondly, enter the actual properties in order to make an investigation. But I want to tell the honourable member for EdenMonaro that in the broad there was overwhelming support for the contributions. I am informed by a very reliable source that 90 per cent of the members of the Federation supported this principle. If I have sufficient time in this debate I will make a few more comments about this later on.
Broadly speaking, the Wheat Tax Bill seeks to amend the Wheat Tax Act by extending on the one hand the date of operation and on the other hand the amount to be deducted from the various wheat growers. The original Act which commenced in 1957 fixed a rate of a quarter of a penny - a farthing for those who do not recall the old currency - per bushel of wheat delivered. The second Act altered the rate to three-tenths of a penny and that was to operate from 1 October 1965. Today we are discussing a further alteration to increase the amount to 15c per tonne, or approximately half a cent per bushel, which is an increase of about 20 per cent. However, the Bill makes provision for a figure lower than the 15c, namely 11c, but that rate can be increased to 15c after discussion between the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) and the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation. I have no criticism of those proposals. Research into any industry is, of course, of the utmost importance and with ever increasing costs it is inevitable that the contribution be increased. In the case of wheat the increase is effected by the industry or the Government or both. This Bill, of course, makes provision for the Commonwealth to match the grower contributions, so in turn it is near enough to a fiftyfifty affair. I think this is acceptable to both parties.
Wheat research can cover a very wide range and it just as well that it does so. If success is to be achieved in this industry there are many .fields which must be looked at very closely. Apart from seasonal conditions which vary from year to year there are other issues that are important. They include: Soil fertility - to which I think the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) made reference; the types of wheat to be grown in certain areas; the quality of the wheat to be produced - this is important; combating the various diseases that appear from time to time; continuous plant breeding programs in the various States to combat the changing conditions. These programs include propagation of the various legumes used to build up soil fertility. All these are aspects of the growing side of the industry. They are but a few of the matters that are covered by the introduction of this Bill.
After wheat is grown it has to be stored. At one minute we see a world glut of wheat and the next we see a world shortage. Many people believe that wheat can be stored indefinitely. This is partly true but the cost is very high. Wheat can be kept indefinitely if one is prepared to pay and to look after it. I do not refer only to the cost of storage. I also refer to the problem of vermin infestation which again was mentioned by the honourable member for Corangamite. This is where the costs are extremely high. In addition to this cost there naturally is a downgrading of the quality of the wheat and the losses that invariably occur in any event. So there are a a number of cost factors and it is not true to say that one can store wheat indefinitely at very low cost. I have estimated that the real cost of storing a bushel of wheat over a 12-month period is approximately ‘20c per bushel. This varies according to conditions, naturally.
So when one reads and hears some of the comments of the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) I wonder just how little he knows about such problems. He has plenty of talk but he tells us nothing. In recent days he has harped on the question of wheat restrictions and how he was opposed to them. Yet under this legislation we find the Government in principle supporting them. I do not know why the honourable member continues to support the Government. He forgets about the cost of storing grain which can, as I said, be anything up to 20c per bushel. To me it is strange that the Minister for Primary Industry in another place has not spoken out against quotas. I wonder why. There seems to be a little difference of opinion. I would be very interested to hear comment perhaps later this evening from the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson). When I said there seems to be a little difference of opinion I was not referring to you, Mr Speaker, on this occasion. We do appreciate that you have a great knowledge of this industry. Sometimes I wonder whether the Minister for Immigration has even heard of the word weevil’, quite apart from having seen one or knowing what it does. I can inform him that it certainly is playing havoc with the wheat industry. This insect is building up a resistance, as was mentioned by the honourable member for Corangamite, to various insecticides, including malathion. This is a major field of research into which we are entering and it is a very important one. Any falling off in research certainly could spell disaster for the wheat industry.
Time will not permit me in this debate to explain in detail all the various problems of the industry. I have not mentioned the great threat hovering over the industry right now, particularly in the State of South Australia. I refer to the problem of rust caused by excessive heat and moisture at the same time. This alone could mean huge losses running into millions of dollars for the wheat industry. There is no doubt that this is another important angle in the research program. I do not have time to cover the costs of training personnel to carry out the various research programs. I think of student training. I think of the wheat research centres in the various States, including the one that was established more recently in the heart of Wimmera, namely, at Horsham.
Perhaps it is worthwhile covering some of the various expenditures that were recommended firstly by the Wheat Industry Research Council and adopted by the previous Government. They total some $800,000. I mention the amount $193,000 for the Commonwealth
Scientific and ‘Industrial Research Organisation; $84,000 for the Department of Agriculture in Victoria; $83,000 for the University of Adelaide; $71,000 for the University of Western Australia; $68,000 for the University of Sydney; $58,000 for the Department of Primary Industry in Queensland; $57,000 for the Department of Agriculture in New South Wales; $48,000 for the Department of Agriculture in Western Australia; $25,000 for the Department of Agriculture in South Australia; and $38,000 for the University of New England in New South Wales. They are but a few of the areas of expenditure. But that expenditure does not cover the areas of the various wheat industry research committees, which are different bodies altogether.
One of the big problems facing the various research areas is the uncertainty of money available. It varies according to the amount of money contributed by the Government on the one hand and the wheat growers on the other. We, as a Parliament, can set the contribution, based on a bushel or, to use the new formula, tonne delivered. But the deliveries vary from year to year, based mainly on seasonal conditions. A comparison of the deliveries to the Australian Wheat Board between the year 1968-69 and last year will reveal that they ranged from as high as 515 million bushels to as low as about 250 million bushels, which is less than half, in just a few years. Naturally the growers’ contribution is reduced accordingly.
I believe that the time has arrived when the Government must underwrite the amount of money that is necessary for research, irrespective of the amount collected. A scheme similar to the wheat industry stabilisation scheme could be adopted. The growers could contribute a certain amount per tonne up to a certain figure. If their contribution goes beyond the sum that is needed by the various research committees the Government contributions could be reduced; likewise, if the contribution by the growers was insufficient the contribution by the Government could be increased. I believe that this is something to which the Government must give a great deal of consideration.
I said at the outset that I wanted to make reference to a matter raised firstly by, I think, the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) and secondly by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro, that is, the decision of the Australian Cabinet not to agree to the Sim contribution for special research and to control weevil infestation that was first mentioned at an Australian Agricultural Council meeting. It is my understanding that this arose from a recommendation by the Standing Committee of the Council that the Commonwealth should contribute Sim that the States between them should contribute $500,000 and that the industry should contribute a further $500,000, making a total of $2m, for special research and to control weevil infestation. The States accepted the proposal. After a deal of controversy among the growers they also in the main accepted it. But then the bombshell was dropped. The Minister for Primary Industry announced that the Government would not play ball. That has certainly left a very nasty taste in the mouths of many. The Minister has been reported on several occasions as having claimed that he did not agree to the proposal. But from information I have at my disposal he left no doubts in the minds of the members of the Agricultural Council that he had put the proposal to Cabinet. I have no doubt he did. Either he failed when he presented it to Cabinet or Cabinet rejected it out of hand. I do not know which is correct. Perhaps the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory will comment on this aspect in his contribution to the debate.
It has always been the practice of previous Ministers to indicate Government thinking when they are talking to various business houses and industry alike and to pass information on to them but not to make promises unless they are pretty sure that Cabinet and their Government support them. In other words, I am saying that the Minister’s word is gospel. I know that when the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) was a Minister we could take what he said as being factual. We could always rely on him. But it appears to me as though those days have gone. It was either the honourable member for Corangamite or the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) who made some comment earlier about this being one of the reasons why people are losing confidence in what is said in various ministerial statements - -and believe me we are certainly hearing plenty of them.
Recently I asked in this House: Who is running the Government? If one asks the same question outside of the chamber one soon gets a variety of answers ranging from Mr Hawke, through a number of individuals to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and, as the honourable member for Calare (Mr England) has said, even the Australian Country Party. I am very proud to think that the Australian Country Party has been able to quell some of the crazy statements and decisions made by the Government. It is still my belief that decisions should be made by Ministers and the Cabinet and that their non-acceptance by other members of a party is tantamount to saying that there is a lack of confidence in, firstly, the Ministers and, secondly, the Cabinet. If the Caucus overrules them or, in this case, the rural rump overrules them it is likely to sap the confidence of the people. It is very easy to say that the Minister for Primary Industry is on side with the rural community on a certain issue but Caucus or Cabinet lets him down, but I will not accept that. If that is the way in which the present Government is to operate, all I can say is that it will not operate for very long. It will soon fall if it continues to operate under those conditions. No Government could operate under those principles. If an individual Minister is a good bloke but his mates in the Cabinet are a whole lot of snags, how long would one give them? In my opinion, not very long. Caucus does interfere occasionally and some strange statements are made as a result.
I will finish my remarks right now. I have some 4 minutes of speaking time left, but I intend to take up only one of those minutes. I am sure the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory would like to say a few words about this matter. I say finally on this point: Should a man be congratulated on a job that is harmless and useless because he has not done any harm? That is what honourable members opposite are doing in this place: They are congratulating Ministers for doing harmless things or congratulating them on a job that was not badly done, in other words, congratulating Ministers for not having made any really bad mistakes. They even congratulate Ministers on not doing anything at all. I have found myself listening to a lot of people saying in this place that the Minister for Primary Industry is not a bad bloke. He may not be a bad bloke, but if he does not achieve anything in the Cabinet and if he does not achieve anything in the Parliament I do not care how nice a fellow he is - he is a failure. And that goes for the Minister for Primary Industry.
Dr PATTERSON (Dawson- Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the
Northern Territory) (10.9) - It is a pity that the honourable member-
– Mr Speaker, is the Minister closing the debate on this Bill? I am on the list of speakers and I would like to speak on the Bill.
-The Minister is not closing the debate, no.
– It is a pity that the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King), who has just spoken in the debate, did not confine his remarks to the substance of the Bill. For that matter it is a pity the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) also did not do the same. The involvement of the State and Australian governments and the industry in a weevil eradication campaign has nothing to do with this Bill. This is a research Bill. That has nothing to do with this Bill.
– The storage of grain is part of a research Bill.
– Yes, it is, but this is a particular, specialised job that was worked out between the Agricultural Council and the industry and has nothing to do with the Bill. However, let me say that it is true that State entomologists have indicated that there is a definite resistance to malathion and there has been a definite build up of the insect population. This is the basis for this campaign. In fact, the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) has sent a message to State Ministers informing them of the decision of the Government and why the Government will not contribute the $lm which has been requested. The Minister will discuss this matter with the State Ministers at the Agricultural Council meeting next Friday and I have no doubt that he will give the Ministers the reasons for this decision. There are 2 points regarding this matter that I think should be mentioned. State governments, through the bulk handling authorities, traditionally have looked after this matter for a very long time and will continue to look after it for a very long time. The responsibility for weavil control and infestation of grain on the farms is 100 per cent the responsibility of the farmer. Let us not forget, of course, that this does not mean that there will not be efforts made to assist him. However, let us not forget those 2 fundamental aspects of the situation.
The point of substance with respect to this Bill raised by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), who is at the table, and one or two other honourable members is: What would happen if in fact the operative levy were increased above 11c? The machinery of this situation would be that the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation would examine the matter and write a report to the Minister for Primary Industry who would examine the recommendation and then take the matter to the GovernorGeneral. If the Governor General agreed to an increase there would be an increase and the Australian Government would match the funds necessary for that increase. So, there is no question about that; the Government will continue to match industry contributions towards the cost of wheat research. This is the machinery of the matter. Of course, it would work in reverse also. If the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation wanted to reduce the operative levy, the same thing would apply but the contribution of the Australian Government would be reduced. Honourable members can appreciate that the Minister for Primary Industry cannot reduce or increase the operative levy unless he has a recommendation from the Wheatgrowers Federation. So, there it is, I think that answers the question. I do not want to take the time of the House any longer. That was the substance of the question and I think that I have answered it.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Order! Is it the wish of the House to proceed to the third reading forthwith?
– That is a lousy idea, Mr Speaker. I should like to debate the third reading, if this is the proper occasion to do so.
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the question be now put.
– Order! The Minister has not sought leave to proceed to the third reading.
– Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. I understood you to say a moment ago that the Minister for Northern Development was not winding up the debate. On that understanding, the honourable member for Angas did not rise to speak. But now it turns out that the Minister apparently was closing the debate. I think it is quite reasonable for the honourable member for Angas to seek an opportunity to speak on the third reading.
– Order! A motion was moved ‘that the question be now put’, and that was carried. That concluded the debate on the second reading. The Minister now is seeking leave to move the third reading forthwith.
– I might make the point that I did not move the original motion, so Mr Speaker was quite right in what he said. I seek leave of the House to move the third reading forthwith.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Dr Patterson) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
- Mr Speaker, if this is the right occasion I should like to comment on this Bill.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the question be now put
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I have the honour to present the seventh report of the Publications Committee sitting in conference with the Publications Committee of the Senate.
Report - by leave - adopted.
– Order! It being 15 minutes past 10 o’clock and in accordance with the order of the House of 1 March, I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I want briefly to allude tonight to a matter which is of great interest and concern to an enormous number of Australians. I refer to the frantic search by this Government for what it chooses to call a national anthem. I have before me a Press release from the Prime
Minister (Mr Whitlam) dated 24 October 1973 in which he outlines national anthem poll plans. The report goes on to say:
The Bureau of Census and Statistics, at the request of the Government, is planning a nation-wide opinion poll to establish preference for a new National Anthem.
The poll will be conducted in February next year and people will be asked to make their choice from the three songs already selected by the National Anthem Committee. These are: Advance Australia Fair, Song of Australia, and Waltzing Matilda.
I believe that the Australian Government is perpetrating a gigantic hoax and confidence trick on the Australian people by not including in that poll the present national anthem ‘God Save the Queen’. If the poll is conducted as outlined in this Press release the Government will then say that one of those 3 songs is obviously the preference of the Australian people when this could easily not be the case. I believe that an enormous number of people would still prefer ‘God Save the Queen’ to be Australia’s national anthem. It is absolutely vital that they be given the chance to express this view when the poll is conducted. Not to do so is a shabby trick. We are used to this Government pulling shabby tricks but this is something which will have a great number of ramifications for Australian people.
The poll will not reflect the true attitude of the people of Australia and I appeal to the Government to give them a real chance to express their views on what should be their national anthem. This is something which transcends party lines. It is something which people feel personally about and not to give them a full choice in relation to the song which they believe should represent them as the national anthem is selling short the people of this country.
I repeat that it is a shabby trick not to include in the poll the present national anthem because if it is not included the results of the poll cannot truly be said accurately to reflect the will of the Australian people. I do not wish to speak for long on this matter but I do believe that I speak for an enormous number of Australians when I say that if this Government wants truly to find out the will of the Australian people in relation to this important matter - it is an emotional matter and which impinges upon the feelings of all Australians - it should in all conscience give to them the opportunity of a full choice of a national anthem. In February next year when this matter comes before the Australian population the choice should include the present national anthem ‘God Save the Queen’. The people of Australia can then express a full and clear choice.
– I want to raise as a matter of public interest some questions about the very devious means being employed to attack this Government’s health insurance program - a program for which we were given a clear mandate at the last election. The program is of course being openly attacked by those people in the medical profession who believe that health care is a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder rather than a social utility which should be available as a right to everybody in the community. It is also under attack from the czars of the big business health funds who are so desperately clinging to millions of dollars of contributors’ money they have managed to lock away as reserves’.
That a health insurance program which aims to provide coverage against medical and hospital costs on the equitable basis of ability to pay should come under attack from local groups with vested interests in maintaining a system which offers the most benefits to those on the higher incomes is perhaps understandable. The motives and the methods of these groups are questionable enough. But what I want to discuss are the motives and methods of yet another group. I want to do this because I believe the people have a right to know who is trying to manipulate their opinions. The group I am referring to are the multi-national drug companies. Certain members of the Opposition are fond of telling us how badly we need the friendship of multinationals and how badly they are needed to sponsor projects that Australians cannot or will not finance. The Opposition has, of course, expert knowledge about that. Now it seems that, apart from some of the big business health funds and the more militantly conservative members of the medical profession, nobody in Australia wants to finance the project of attacking the universal health insurance program.
So, apparently by way of demonstration that multi-nationals will finance any venture, the international drug companies have decided to attack our health program. But of course they do not want to be seen doing so. This brings me to an organisation calling itself the Australian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association and 2 publications - one called the Health Economics Service Bulletin’ and the other the ‘Australian Health Education
Advisory Digest’. The Australian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association is, of course, a lobbying organisation for the major drug companies operating in Australia, and, as a committee of this Parliament revealed, a very great majority of those are overseas owned. The Health Economics Service Bulletin’, without revealing who its real publishers are, has embarked upon a blatantly biased campaign against the health insurance program. The Health Economics Service Bulletin’ lists the address of its editor as 45 Macquarie Street, Sydney, that, by coincidence, is also the address of the so-called ‘Australian Health Education Advisory Digest’, which upon examination turns out to be published by the Health Economics Service - a division of the Australian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association. Now, just to compound the coincidence, 45 Macquarie Street, Sydney, is the address of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association and also, of course, the business address of the Association’s Director, Dr Wylie Gibbs, a former Liberal member of this House. Again by coincidence the misleading material appearing in the mysteriously published ‘Health Economics Service Bulletin’ pretty well replicates opinions and assertions which have been published in newspapers over the name of Dr Gibbs and which curiously enough also coincide with the Australian Medical Association’s propaganda planks. Strange, is it not?
I have not been able to ascertain whether all the companies which fund the Australian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association subscribe to the views and methods being used in this devious campaign of misrepresentation. But, until any or all of them disown what is being done with the funds they subscribe, they must bear the responsibility for it. On the same subject there is yet another question to which the public’s attention should be drawn. The AMA has also been engaging in a deliberate smear campaign against the health plan. Honourable members will know the sort of postures and so on that have been shown around the place. It has already spent, as any observer who knows advertising rates could determine, a very large sum on advertising, a sum running into hundreds of thousands of dollars. But it is pretty clear that all that has been spent is not AMA money. AMA officials have issued anguished appeals to their members because they have not contributed anywhere near the amount sought by the AMA for its fighting fund. I refer honourable members to the news item which appeared in this morning’s ‘Age’. The AMA officials will not reveal what they have collected or what they have spent. In these circumstances the public is surely entitled to speculate on whether the curiously devious methods being employed to issue propaganda from 45 Macquarie Street, Sydney, have been extended to financing the AMA smear and fear campaign. Journalists, in particular, may be interested to know whether the large AMA ‘come up and see us sometime’ advertisement appearing in ‘The Journalist’ has in part been financed by secret drug company money. They may also be wondering about other aspects of that advertisement, such as whether the AMA really does love them for themselves or whether perhaps its Mae West invitation is part of a planned seduction. But that is just by the way.
The point I want to register with the Australian public is that there is a chain of very curious coincidences linking the international drug companies with the AMA propaganda campaign. And since the AMA has so suddenly offered to open its heart to journalists I wonder whether it would care to give details to the Australian public of the amount and the source of the money it is spending on its propaganda campaign. In addition it should also be noted that the General Practitioners Society is known to be pressuring drug companies to support their campaign or have their drugs boycotted by doctors.
This is typical of the General Practitioners Society. In its August journal it outlined an ingenious scheme to compile a register of approved consultants to whom Society members should give preference when referring their patients. To be included on this list, consultants would have to ‘donate’ an annual fee of $20. Of this amount $10 would be classified as a subscription fee to the Society’s journal - a worthless collection of League of Rights type propaganda and personal vilification of Mr Hayden, members of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, and anyone else who dares to disagree with the Society’s warped view of the world. The balance is to be placed in a fund known as the Consultants Fighting Fund’ to be used appropriately and at the discretion of the G.P.’s Society.
– It is a racket.
– It is a racket. This will obviously be spent to further the right wing predilections of the Society. In conclusion, I would like to stress the underhand tactics being used by opponents of the Australian Government’s health insurance program. The Government does not mind legitimate criticism and analysis. What we do mind is the deliberate misrepresentations, character assasinations, the machinations of big business and the overseas influence being brought to bear on the health debate, which is after all a debate on the best possible health insurance system for Australia, not on what is best for big business, or people who only profit from peoples’ ill health.
I would like to draw the attention of the House to the way in which overseas drug companies in fact have control of the drug companies in Australia. One-third of the pharmaceutical manufacturing companies in Australia are Australian owned. But 93 per cent of the value market for pharmaceuticals went to overseas controlled firms. Twenty manufacturers provided 74 per cent of the market in 1969-70 and of these only one was an Australian company which supplied 3 per cent. Medical services and the supply of valuable drugs are too important a subject for us not to consider them in this place. I would ask honourable members to consider very carefully all the matters that I have raised.
– Tonight I want to raise again my voice in protest at the procrastination of Ministers of this Government. Earlier today I raised several instances of this procrastination. I now want to raise another matter which is of great importance. I remind the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) and the Treasurer (Mr Crean) that the Shire of Warragul is still awaiting their decision on the very important project which has been Submtted to them in a thoroughly documented form. This project is without doubt a most appropriate industry which would be compatible with the serene environment of the Shire of Warragul. All feasibility studies have been successfully documented. The Treasurer has studied and applauded them. He was hosted by the Shire of Warragul and the whole program was shown to him. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) was co-opted to give his support. He has not yet made any report as to whether he is in favour of this development.
Today I received the report of the regional layout for the State of Victoria, in which I find that the shire of Warragul is in the Latrobe Valley area. If this is so, this project is still within the same regional development area in which it was proposed to be and which the shire of Warragul has spent much time and effort in trying to bring to fruition. The shire of Warragul also entertained officials of the Reserve Bank, which is the industry that we are trying to attract to the area. Those officials have investigated the whole plant and found that there is not one portion of the industry which cannot be located and operated successfully in the area. I point out that 1,200 acres of residential land has been set aside. The water supply is adequate. All facilities are adequate. The shire of Warragul would appreciate a reply from the Treasurer or the Minister for Urban and Regional Development in order to see whether it will be successful in having 800 extra people working in its environs.
– My electorate at present is absorbing most of the southward growth of the cities of Sydney and Wollongong. In 10 months, electoral enrolments have risen by nearly 13,000. Most of this growth is in the Campbelltown and DaptoKiama sub-divisions. With this sort of growth, obviously there will be enormous pressure on land for building purposes, and land prices have been rocketing not only because of the demand but also because of speculation and inadequate action at the State and local government levels. There are only 1,000 acres of land left in the area immediately south of Wollongong in my electorate which is not now owned or spoken for.
As honourable members are aware, at present the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) is negotiating with each of the States with a view to forming land commissions whereby Australian Government money can be spent through the States for the purchase of land so that land may be developed and leased or sold at cost. The New South Wales Government has wisely placed a freeze on land prices in the southwest sector of Sydney and some stabilisation of the giddy spiral may be effected. However, unless the State Government nominates an area there is no way the Australian Government can desirably affect land prices. It goes without saying that there is much more that State and local government can do if they use their powers or their heads. For example, section 10 of the State housing advances legislation now allows the States to do something with respect to even their housing commissions.
There are few local government areas in my electorate where there are not constant rumours and alarm about alleged land deals and corruption, but rarely can anything be proved. I heard recently that land to be sold at Nowra at 6 o’clock in the morning by the Lands Department of New South Wales was all sold by 6.10 that morning. Many allegations have been made in the Shellharbour Shire Council by a councillor about an estate known as Nob Hill at Albion Park. I do not wish to comment too much on the allegations because I have no proof one way or the other. The issue has been canvassed widely on television and in the local Press. But I have a pretty firm idea about what is happening.
My colleague in the New South Wales State Parliament, Mr George Petersen, the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Illawarra, made a speech on this matter on 20 September 1973. He pointed out that a firm known as Fender Management, on the application of a Mr Moclair, received approval in principle from the Shellharbour Shire Council in October 1972 to develop 295 blocks of land at Albion Park over an area of 75.5 acres with 14.48 acres of open space. But a strange thing happened: Without changing the title, without providing a bit of kerb and guttering, without obtaining a certificate of availability of water from the Water Board and without obtaining a guarantee of electricity supply from the Electricity Commission of New South Wales, the land is being sold by Mr Peter Wilson to unsuspecting home buyers - 311 lots now - at prices ranging from $10,500 to $14,000. By the previous map issued to the Council, he was to reserve 14.48 acres of open space; but on the map now available to the Council there are only 3 tiny lots of open space that appear to be about 5 acres altogether.
Who approved this? It is alleged that it was not the Council. There has been no approval of the Council although it now has a copy of the revised map. The ‘Illawarra Mercury* of last Saturday quotes Mr Wilson as having said:
I attended a meeting at the Council with the Mayor, engineer and town clerk. The whole subdivision has been approved.
As I have said, by 28 August some 119 of 311 lots had been sold at prices ranging from $10,500 to $14,000 and averaging $12,000. What sort of set up is it when that type of trafficking takes place? If it did take place in that way, one must take serious account of local government and the way in which it acts. Surely there is a need for tightening the legislation. Surely such matters should be investigated. If it is found that these matters are being handled in that way and that no regard is being had to decisions of democratically elected local government, and if speculators can go their own merry way without getting approval from the local planning authorities, it is time that the Housing Commission and other authorities took up all land development. I used to think that the State Planning Authority held the whiphand too much, but these sorts of things alarm me greatly. If we take, for example, the average cost of a block of land at $12,000 and consider that all the developer has done. is to knock a few trees over, a 10 per cent deposit on that block would amount to $1,200 and the development costs would average $3,000. So it looks as though the so-called developer is using deposits to finance the development of the blocks.
I put it frankly: These developers were granted approval subject to the guarantee of water availability, and they did not get that guarantee. It is unlikely that they will get it because some areas are so high that a reservoir would be needed before water could be piped to them. The developers were granted approval subject to developing some areas as high rise areas. Normally that is an indication to a land developer to write his own ticket and to make his own bank, but the developers in this case have not done that because obviously they are short of capital. As far as I can see, they simply wanted to use the purchasers’ money. They are not interested in providing facilities for people. I do not want to go into this matter to a great extent, but I have here an advertisement for Nob Hill which sets it out. It is typical of many of these real estate advertisements. They contain nice drawings. I think there is a good case for saying that much of this is dishonest and untruthful advertising.
It has been stated that the Shellharbour Municipal Council had approved the development in principle subject to certain conditions. The Council admits that certain conditions have not been complied with, but officers of the Council maintain that it is not altogether the Council’s fault and that nothing has been done illegally. A 34b certificate from the Water Board has to be obtained before final approval can be given but, as I have said, it has not been obtained. All this is subject to much local controversy and I have no intention of commenting publicly on it as the situation is obvious for all to see. The Mr Wilson whom I named said in the ‘Illawarra Mercury’ of 15 September 1973 that he had offered people their money back. I do not know what he means by this. I believe that this practice has commonly been described as ‘gazumping’ The point I make is that if these sorts of operations can go on where land is not developed before it is sold under rather strange conditions, then surely governments should be able to enter into land deals on the same basis. At least if developers are to be allowed to develop land after they have accepted money on it, a government could give more stable guarantees and security to purchasers. I think that local government could well act as agents for this process, and as much funds would not be needed it seems to me to be obvious that a lot more could be done. I think that one of the greatest blights on the present Government in New South Wales is its failure to act on land prices. In fact, it exploits the market itself ruthlessly. I think that Sir Robert Askin promised a royal commission on prices in 1971. He has not kept that promise. People in my electorate feel that the Commonwealth will involve itself in land dealings but it will concentrate on only a few selected areas. They realise that money cannot be spent all over the State and that land prices cannot be brought under control everywhere, but when these sorts of deals are going on the people cannot understand why Commonwealth, State or local governments cannot act on their behalf.
– I should like to underline the point which was made earlier that the so-called Australian Labor Party is really an un-Australian Party because of its affiliations with the international socialist movement and the left wing of that movement, which is sometimes called the communist movement. I should like to recall to honourable members some remarks which were made by Senator Gietzelt on a program called, I think, “This Day Tonight’ as recently as 12 October. I saw this program myself. In order to refresh my memory I have a transcript of it which was prepared by the Parliamentary Library. Therefore, the quotation that I make will not be just from my memory but from the transcript that the Library has made.
It will be remembered that when the communist Government in Chile was overthrown a great deal of indignation was expressed by certain members of the Government. This was in curious contrast to the lack of indignation expressed when governments which are either anti-communist or non-communist are overthrown. For example, one remembers the involvement of the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) in the attempted overthrow of anti-communist governments in South-East Asia. Indeed, the Party of which he is such a conspicuous ornament was involved as a party in activity against those governments, activity which was carried on by violence, by murder and by aggression. It is unfortunate that the Party which controls the Government has associated itself with this campaign of murder and aggression.
But I digress. Let me come back to Chile. In this case I understand from the remarks of Senator Gietzelt that 57 members of the Labor Caucus - I think there are 95 members altogether, so 57 is a considerable majority, and I understand that those 57 included 12 Ministers - signed a petition requiring the Government not to recognise the new anticommunist Government of Chile. However, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) did recognise that Government, and this was indicated to the House. On the program ‘This Day Tonight* Senator Gietzelt said that he proposed to get the Labor Caucus, with these 57 signatures, to reverse this decision. When asked for his reason he said of the communist Chilean Government: ‘It’s a brother party, it’s a party affiliated to the socialist international, and I think we have some obligations to give them moral support in their hours of trial.’ There we see a complete link-up. Fifty-seven members out of 95 of this un-Australian Labor Party - a good majority - signed this petition because, they say this is a socialist brother party, a party affiliated to the socialist international.
The Labor Party talks about foreign control. Its heart and soul are sold to foreigners. Its ideology is a foreign ideology, and it openly boasts that it will be influenced and will take its direction from the needs of this socialist international. It is perfectly true that when this matter came before the Labor Caucus the 57 crayfished. They would not follow Senator Gietzelt. In the interview Senator Gietzelt had made quite specific threats to the decision of the Prime Minister. I wonder why they went back. I am told that they got a clearance from the Communist Party before they changed their minds. I am told that they got a clearance from the left wing and that that is why these 57 people, although they had signed a petition, failed to get behind Senator Gietzelt. This is, of course, one of the rare occasions on which there has been a difference ‘ of opinion between the Prime Minister and Senator Gietzelt. It is worth recalling to the House that in a sense the Prime Minister is Senator Gietzelt’s protege, because Senator Gietzelt ran his election campaigns for him and in fact - this happened a long time ago - master-minded and organised his pre-selection in Werriwa when Mr Lazzarini, the previous member died and the seat of Werriwa became vacant. It stands on the record, I think, that at that stage the Prime Minister took his preselection at the hands of what was, if not the Communist Party, something very near it - because in this interview Senator Gietzelt practically admits his close association with the left wing.
I do not know whether Senator Gietzelt always maintains this hold over the Prime Minister but at any rate, although he failed on this occasion, it is pretty clear that the Prime Minister is vastly beholden to him. I think it will be found on examination that the Prime Minister intervened when Senator Gietzelt was expelled, whether rightly or wrongly I do not know, from a certain organisation because of his pro-communist sympathies. The Prime Minister, I believe, personally intervened to have him taken back into the good graces of that organisation. So this association between the Prime Minister and the left wing in his Party is very well documented and I think we can understand what is happening behind the scenes in the Labor Party. I do not for one moment accuse the Prime Minister of being a communist; I make it quite clear that I am not saying that. I do say that he is beholden to people who have been closely associated with communism and with the communist machinations, and that when Mr Lazzarini died the Prime Minister took his pre-selection at their hands and communists worked on his booths at the poll. That is a little bit of history that the Communist Party might well remember.
– The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), we know, is exceptionally clever at smearing but tonight he has given the best exhibition of smearing that I have heard him give for many a long day. He implied that the Prime Minister is the prisoner of the left wing. The Prime Minister is not the prisoner of any clique or body or left wing or right wing. When the Prime Minister recently appointed an ambassador to the Vatican, did he get the approval of the lift wing to do so? Certainly not. The left wing would not approve of a thing like that. That destroys the argument of the honourable member for Mackellar in one blow. That was the weakest effort he has ever put up in this Parliament. However, I do not intend to waste any more of my time. I want to disclose some facts, not to smear. I shall do so wholly and solely for the purpose of trying to purify our society. I came here with that objective: To purify our society, and to purify society one must constantly expose the rackets of the Liberal forces in this country, whether they be Federal or State. Today I disclosed to the Parliament - and I would never withdraw one word of it - the rackets perpetrated on the people of Australia by Australia’s No. 1 master crook - I do not suppose that in my lifetime I shall ever see one of greater criminal talents. I refer to none other than Alexander Barton, who has skipped away out of the country after clipping members of the Australian community who were shareholders in his crook companies of $22.6m. However, I want to say something further about this man Barton and link it with the remarks I made in the grievance debate today. Prior to my time expiring during that debate today I had disclosed the name of another one of the crook companies that was originated by Alexander Barton and his crook partners. The legal advice that was given to the company came from none other than the present Attorney-General of New South Wales, Mr McCaw. Mr McCaw has been hobnobbing with other leading Liberals and the Queen in New South Wales during the last week.
A significant feature of the Barton story is that all the companies he formed were not formed until after Alexander Ewan Armstrong was expelled from the Upper House of the New South Wales Parliament. In 1968 Barton had taken a writ out against Armstrong alleging that Armstrong had threatened to have him murdered. The case went before Mr Justice Street in the Equity Court. If my memory is correct, Barton persisted in the court with his allegations. It was stated in the court that Armstrong had played a part in obtaining evidence of collusion by a woman who had admitted committing adultery with MajorGeneral Eskell, a leading Liberal. I believe that he is still the leading Liberal in the Upper House in New South Wales. On 25 February 1969 a motion was introduced into the New South Wales Legislative Council to expel Armstrong for unworthy conduct. Eskell was leader of the Liberal Party in the Liberalcontrolled Council, but no action was taken against him by his Liberal mates.
I could go on about Corporate Mining Investments, about Halls Peak Ltd, about Citadel Mining and Investment Co. Ltd - about all these phoney companies which McCaw, the New South Wales Attorney-General, acted for. These are the goings-on of people, all involved in the great Liberal Party of New South Wales. These are the kind of people cavorting with the Queen while Australia’s Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was left for an hour in the wind and the rain by Premier Askin. Imagine the outrage of the Fairfax Press and the Packer Press if even the humblest member of the Australian Labor Party were involved in these sorts of dirty doings - adultery, allegations of murder, corruption, bribery and theft. Askin, the Premier of New South Wales, asked his police force to go into the Shortland electorate, as the honourable member for Warringah (Mr Mackellar) knows, but his friends in crime go scot-free. I want to shoot this home positively and definitely: Throughout the Barton operation one name comes up every time, and that is the name of the firm of solicitors - McCaw, Johnson and Co. McCaw is the AttorneyGeneral of New South Wales and has claimed repeatedly in Parliament that he has had no connection with the firm of McCaw, Johnson and Co. since 1965. I now want to read a letter written by a lady to a member of Parliament, but before I do so let me point out that as reported at page 419 of the New South Wales Parliament Hansard of 22 August Mr McCaw denied that he had had any connection with the firm of McCaw, Johnson & Co. since 1965. But listen to what this distinguished lady has said in writing to a State member. She said:
On 29.7.70, at about 9 a.m., I was in the Offices of Johnson, McCaw & Co. re Blue Mountains City Council v. Power. This matter involved a property at Hazelbrook. I was in the office of Mr Boland talking with him. The door was closed. A knock on the door came. Mr Boland went to it, opened it - Mr McCaw, the Attorney-General himself. Mr Boland returned to the office and got some papers. He left his office and went out for about 10 minutes. Returning he said to me-
That is the signer of this letter -
My partner wanted to sign cheques before he went to a funeral.’ This was Mr McCaw. I have repeatedly heard Mr McCaw deny any interest in this legal firm since 1965. He does so in Parliament on 22.8.73.
Mr Boland directed me to the Public Solicitor to see Mr Bland and at once he himself phoned Mr Bland and gave him details of the Blue Mountains City
Council’s action involving fraud regarding a Hazelbrook home and by this Council. I then saw Mr Bland who told me he will get in touch with the Council and book it for selling this property.
But no action was done.
The lady was not protected. The honourable member for Warringah can scan this. This unfortunate woman was a war widow. I will name you on the hustings if you make a joke of this. I will go into the electorate of Warringah and tell your people if you make a joke of this. This was an unfortunate war widow. And when I expose to you the rooking of a defenceless woman who got no aid through Mr McCaw you are trying to make a joke of my remarks. It ill becomes you. I thought that you were a man of richer character than that. So the Public Solicitor was informed and he did nothing. He was under the control or the influence of the Attorney-General of New South Wales. I will not name the signer of the letter. It is a war widow battling for her rights. I will make this letter available to Mr McCaw and I challenge him to deny it. If the letter is true, then the Attorney-General of New South Wales should be where the former Attorney-General of the United States now is - in the courts like any other common criminal.
Other scandalous things have been happening in the Liberal Party ranks in New South Wales. Not so long ago Sir John Pagan borrowed $100,000 from a building society of which he was president. A building society makes money available to the small people of the community at low rates of interest so that they can get their first home. Then on top of that he backed up after that scandal and was fined $500 by the Department of Customs and Excise for making a false declaration. This is the president of the Liberal Party of New South Wales, Sir John Pagan. He was president of a building society from which he was able to extract $100,000. This is the type of thing which is going on in New South Wales. It is the duty of every member of this Parliament with information-
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I move an extension of time for the honourable member. This is a most serious accusation which has been made. I ask the House to allow him to continue. I move:
That the honourable member for Hunter’s time be extended.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I am grateful to honourable members and I will be very brief. I asked the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) - and he agreed with me earlier today to have this document incorporated in Hansard. It refers to Sangara (Holdings) Ltd which is based in New Guinea and of which Stanley Louis Mowbray Eskell is or was the managing director. It is a letter signed by or on behalf of Mr R. A. Butler, the Deputy Registrar of Companies. It points out the numerous breaches of the Companies Act of New Guinea.
– Order! Is the honourable member seeking leave to have that document incorporated?
– I am.
– Is leave granted?
– I think the document will have to be examined before leave is granted.
– I do not mind if it is examined as long as fair judgment is delivered on it. I thank you again, Mr Speaker, and the House for giving me an extension of time.
– I would like to defend the character of my friend the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) from the accusations made by the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), who sits opposite. He has a character of such unblemished richness that the honourable member opposite would never, in his whole life.
– Order! Is leave granted for that document to be incorporated? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
SANGARA (HOLDINGS) LTD and related companies
A searching examination of all documents filed relating to this group reveals an everworsening history of consistent and considerable non-compliance and breach.
I assess that since the respective dates of incorporation these provisions of the Companies Ordinance have been disregarded.
Section 9. An officer not to act as auditor.
I now consider initiation of proceedings in relation to recent defaults.
Further occurrence or recurrence not rectified shall cause exercise of the most stringent measures available.
Copies for information to:
Current directors - Robin Adair Barnes, Douglas Street, Port Moresby; Bryan Kent, Devan Apartments, Boroko; Kenneth Crosby James, Box 34, Goroka; Annelies Else Pfeng, Geregere Ave, Boroko.
Official Liquidator- James Hardie Jamison, C/Coopers and Lybrand, A.N.G. House, Port Moresby.
– Order! It being 11 o’clock the House stands adjourned until Tuesday, 6 November, at 11 a.m. or such time thereafter as Mr Speaker may take the Chair unless Mr Speaker shall by telegram addressed to each member of the House fix an earlier day of meeting.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the following question of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Provision of the information requested would involve detailed examination of records of all rural subsidy schemes, involving a great number of individual transactions administered in some cases through nongovernment organisations - for example, the butter and cheese bounty is paid to individual producers through factories. A comparison would have to be made with lists of Senators and Members of Parliament because they would not be identified as such in the payment records. There could be no certainty that the information would be fully accurate and comprehensive, when the possibilities of partnerships, private companies, etc., are taken into account.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Is he able to furnish details of the amounts written off as bad debts by public hospitals in each of the last 3 years for which figures are available.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Comparisons between figures relating to bad debts written off by public hospitals can be notoriously misleading. Differences occur between hospital administrations both in the procedures adopted to assess a patient’s ability to pay and in the method of subsequently raising accounts and recording adjustments in the hospital’s ledgers. Changes in the accounting procedures used will also result in amendments to previously published bad debt levels.
The relevant authorities have, however, provided the following figures:
A change in the accounting system after 1969-70 in New South Wales is primarily responsible for the sharp decline in the figures shown. Part of the increase in the amount written off in 1971-72 for that State is attributable to the fact that a 50 per cent increase in patients’ fees was introduced on 1 August 1971.
The amounts written off in Queensland are in respect of public hospitals controlled by the State.
It should be noted that public ward treatment is free in Queensland and bad debts are in respect of private and intermediate ward patients. The amount written off for the year 1970-71 was particularly low and there was a substantial carryover of bad debts to the following year. Increased fees also contributed to the amount written off in 1971-72. Private ward fees were increased in November 1970 from $10 to $13.50, and in November 1971, to $17.00 (plus extras). Intermediate ward fees were increased in November 1970 from $8.00 to $11.00, and in November 1971 to $14.00 (plus extras).
Chronic ward fees were increased in November 1971 from $5.00 to $14.00 per day. During 1971-72 there was an increase in hospital fund contributions in Queensland, accompanied by a two month waiting period to obtain benefits. The increase in chronic ward fees during the two month waiting period was written off by the hospitals in 1971-72.
The increase in bad debts written off in the Australian Capital Territory in 1971-72 is attributed to an increase in in-patient fees. On 1 August 1971 general ward fees were increased from $10.40 to $15.00 and private ward fees from $16.40 to $26.30.
In Victoria the practice is to charge in-patients in public hospitals the full normal fee and later to assess their ability to pay, thus reducing the charge to that level. The amount by which the charge is reduced is expressed as an adjustment of the fee to a practical level. Assessed deductions and uncollected income for public hospitals in that State for the three years 1969-70 to 1971-72 were, 1969-70 $2,100,293; 1970-71 $1,521,683; and 1971-72 $2,490,693.
Amounts written off as bad debts by public hospitals in South Australia are not available at present. However, in answer to House of Representatives Question No. 3351 in 1971, an amount of $633,700 was shown as representing the value of bad debts written off during 1969-70 by public hospitals in South Australia other than Country Subsidised Hospitals.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice: Does the Government support the desirability of allocating any general issue of International Monetary Fund special drawing rights initially to underdeveloped countries.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Various proposals of this kind have been discussed in international forums over a number of years.
Recently the developing countries agreed to give their joint support to a particular scheme involving a change in method of distributing newlycreated special drawing rights (SDR) among participating countries so as to increase the share going to developing countries. This proposal has had a mixed reception among developed countries: a few have strongly opposed it, a few have leant it their support, while others have indicated a willingness to consider it fully when the major issues of monetary reform have been settled.
The Government agrees strongly with the objective of increasing the total flow of development assistance from developed to developing countries. At this stage it is difficult to judge whether increasing the share of SDR going to developing countries would be a desirable way of attempting to meet that objective. Some authorities have questioned whether using the SDR as a major channel for development assistance would be compatible with the SDR becoming a principal reserve asset in a reformed international monetary system. It is important to Australia that this status should not be in doubt.
Discussions on these matters are continuing in the Committee of the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund on Reform of the International Monetary System. The Government is reserving its position until these discussions are further advanced and the issues clarified.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
-The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
If Fourth Division public servants obtain the 16 per cent salary increase as supported by the Minister for Labour, what will be the additional wage and salaries bill to the Commonwealth and the taxpayers in general.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Public Service Board is the appropriate authority to consider claims of this nature. I am informed by the Board that a number of salary claims have been received covering various groups of Fourth Division public servants. Some of these claims have sought pay increases of 16 per cent. In accordance with its normal policy the Board examines all claims on their merits.
In advance of the Board reaching its conclusions on all such claims I am unable to indicate what the total increased cost might be. I am informed, however, that the Board has recently responded to a number of these claims in respect of certain designation groups and is currently examining others. Those in respect of which the Board has recently made offers are as follows:
Clerical Assistants and related designations - (14 per cent offered and accepted).
Marine Staff- (13 per cent offered and accepted). Physical Grades- (8 per cent offered).
Technical/Drafting Grades- (offers ranging from 8 per cent to 10.8 per cent accepted).
Preventive Officers and Investigators, Customs and Excise - (12.5 per cent offered and accepted).
The above groups cover approximately 111,000 Australian Public Service employees and I am advised that if agreement is reached in all instances the total cost of the increases is estimated to be 850.4m in a full year.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the answer to the honourable member’s question as follows:
(a) The level of imports has increased compared with previous years but contributes a comparatively small quantity to overall supply. The shortage is world-wide and the high price and long delivery times quoted by overseas suppliers have restricted imports.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Will he provide a list of the interdepartmental committees, which have been established since 2 December 1972, of which officers of his Department are members.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
No. On 20 September 1973, my colleague, the Prime Minister, informed the right honourable gentleman in reply to a Question Without Notice about interdepartmental committees that, if he wished to know the composition and function of any particular interdepartmental committee, and for what period of time it had been active, the Prime Minister would be happy to provide him with that information.
If the right honourable gentleman wishes to have information about a particular committee on which my Department is represented, I will assist him as far as possible having regard to the Prime Minister’s answer to Question Nos 964 and 1057.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 October 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19731025_reps_28_hor86/>.