28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. S. F. Cope) took the chair at 11.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That they oppose the Australian Health Insurance Program and any National Health Scheme;
That they wish to retain the right to choose their own medical care by selecting a general practitioner, specialist or any other medical classification of their own choice under the present conditions in private consulting rooms and also the right to choose an intermediate ward or private hospital of their own choice.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measure to interfere with the existing health scheme.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Adermann, Mr Bonnett, Mr Cooke, Mr Corbett, Mr Drury, Mr Jarman, Mr Ratter, 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 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 Berinson, Mr Donald Cameron, Mr Viner, Mr Wallis and Mr Wilson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the undersigned men and women of Australia believe in a Christian way of life; and that no democracy can thrive unless its citizens are responsible and law abiding.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will see that the powerful communicator, television, is used to build into the nation those qualities of character which make a democracy work - integrity, teamwork and a sense of purpose by serving, and that television be used to bring faith in God to the heart of the family and national life.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Edwards, Mr Keating, Mr Ruddock and Mr Wentworth.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should acknowledge the right of every Australian child to equal per capita grants of government money spent on education
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jarman and Mr Staley.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The bumble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
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 Muogamarra Sanctuary and those 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 in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will move to immediately revoke all whaling licenses issued by the Australian Government and to reimpose a total ban on the importation of all whale produce.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Staley.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether he proposes to appoint a committee to advise him on the construction of a series of destroyers. If any of the committee’s recommendations are accepted, will the Minister be willing to accept responsibility for those recommendations? Will he postpone any formal announcement until after the House has risen so that there will be no possibility of the House scrutinising the serious decline in our Navy?
– A committee is to be established to consider the naval program in relation to the addition of new destroyers to our naval strength. A timetable has been provided to me, but I shall probably want to make some adjustments to it because I think it ought to be brought forward. Every import- . ance is being given to the deliberations and work of the committee. It will investigate a number of ships that are already available, ranging in size from about 800 tons to about 5,000 tons. They will all be under consideration. On Sunday night I shall be meeting with the Chiefs of Staff and other members of the Department of Defence at the Department of Defence complex. This is one of the matters that will be under discussion at that meeting. I assure the honourable member that when recommendations have been made to me by the committee and the Government has reached a decision I shall inform the Parliament of the committee’s recommendations.
– I direct a question to the
Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Do the results of the recent referendum on the export of merino rams provide support for the historic position of the Australian Labor Party on this matter? Was the vote a representative decision of woolgrowers? Do the results raise questions in relation to the representative nature of the Australian Wool Industry Conference?
– It is quite obvious that the majority decision of rank and file wool growers made in the recent referendum or. the question of the embargo on the export of merino rams and semen to countries other than New Zealand was a serious rebuff for the Australian Country Party. The lesson to be learned by the Country Party is this: Its members should pay more attention to the rank and file wool grower than to the large, rich vested interests of wool growing concerns and the large stud breeders. The point has consistently been made that the .Australian Wool Industry Conference is the parliament of the wool growers. This is the second occasion now on a highly controversial issue when the decision of the AWIC has been reversed by the rank and file wool growers. The first occasion concerned the reserve price plan. I think that the Country Party would argue that because fewer than SO per cent voted it is not true representation. But anybody who has a look at the facts behind this issue will see that the Country Party can thank its lucky stars that the others did not vote, because if they were supporters of the Country Party they would have been there in droves to have a shot at this Government. If they had voted it would have made an even greater majority in favour of the embargo.
It will be interesting to hear what the Country Party will say now. If its members are consistent they should issue a Press statement saying that the great majority of those who supported the embargo are nothing but hillbillies and galahs. That is what the Country Party members called us. Yet the rank and file wool growers have completely overthrown the Country Party policy and have supported the Australian Labor Party on this matter. The Government respects these hillbillies, as honourable members opposite may call them. It respects their decision and it will enforce the embargo, which has been Labor Party policy for so many years.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether a retired Arbitration Commissioner of dubious expertise in the field of economics and a bright young man from the field of university Labor politics, now an adviser to the Prime Minister, are regarded as fit and proper persons to participate in a report which apparently took 16 days to produce and which purports to advise the Government on important matters relating to the persistent inflationary situation which is tearing the fabric of our society to ribbons. Would not a council of respected economic advisers, as proposed by the Vernon Commitee and unhappily rejected in a different situation by the then Prime Minister, given time to deliberate and to advise the Parliament and the people as well as the Government, inspire more confidence in a bewildered and strife torn nation?
– I welcome the rather belated tribute that the honourable member for Bradfield pays to the Vernon Committee. He will find that I had no criticism of the Vernon Committee when it was appointed or when it reported. In fact, I very much regret that its advice was disregarded and rubbished in the way it was.
– No more than I did at the time.
– I do not recall the honourable member going on record in its favour at the time when the Party that he supports - more or less - was in power. The present Government has availed itself of the services of all the living members of the Vernon Committee, including Sir James Vernon himself, Mr Kenneth Myer and Professor Karmel. All of them are very happy to be advising the present Government, knowing full well that when their advice comes to hand it will be made public promptly and has a good chance of being acted upon. The honourable gentleman referred to one of the advisers available for Mr Terry Winter to consult in the preparation of his paper, which I tabled yesterday. I do not know to whom he was referring; I do not know whether »t was Professor Gruen, Mr Brogan, Mr Bannon, Mr Spigelman or Mr Troy. I believe that the gentlemen whose names I have mentioned are respected both inside and outside the Parliament for their public spirit and economic expertise.
(Mr DOYLE proceeding to address a question to the Minister for Immigration) -
– Order! The question is out of order if it relates to any debate that took place during this session.
– I wish to direct a question without notice to the Minister for Overseas Trade. Is it a fact that the Australian
Industry Development Corporation would be well set up, if and when the Australian Labor Government’s amendments to its Act are passed by both Houses of this Parliament, to assist any winemaking companies with a liquidity problem? It is a fact also that such a liquidity problem may arise in some companies as the $15m deferred taxes are collected over the next 5 years? Further, is it a fact that this excellent prospect of assistance to the South Australian winemaking industry is now put in jeopardy because of the irresponsible actions of the Opposition majority in the Senate in failing to pass the Government’s amendments to the Australian Industry Development Corporation Act?
– It is possible for the AIDC to assist the South Australian wine industry in relation to the problems of that industry that have followed the changes in the tax arrangements that inevitably should have been made.
-Order! There are too many interjections and they will cease. There should not be interjections when a Minister is speaking.
Br J. F. CAIRNS - My grandmother used to say that empty vessels make the most sound and I have had to come here to find that out. The AIDC would be equipped to assist. We have had no request, as far as I am aware. While we would welcome one, I do say to the House that the implication in the question is a correct one. Under present circumstances I do not think the AIDC would be able to assist the wine industry. Because of the level of funds available to the Corporation it must have first regard to basic developmental projects. I would not say that the wine industry is a basic developmental project in fact or in terms of the AIDC’s very limited powers to act according to the present law, which is, of course, affected by what the Senate is doing.
The Senate is proposing to refer the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill and the National Investment Fund Bill to the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control for inquiry and report I believe the Democratic Labor Party senators are genuine in their attitude. I think they wish to have the Bills more closely examined by that Committee and, given that view, I am quite prepared to see that examination made. However, I do say that the other Opposition parties - the Liberal Party and the Country Party - are not genuine at all. They do not want to see the scope of the AIDC widened in any way.
– On a point of order. Mr Speaker, I do not know how you can permit the Minister to go on like this knowing that we have no opportunity to debate a matter which is a major current issue. You are providing an opportunity for the Minister to say things-
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition is reflecting on the Chair. I have no control over the way the Minister answers the question as long as the answer is relevant to the question asked.
– Mr Speaker, quite clearly this question relates to a Bill which has to come before this House. To allow this to be anticipated without any opportunity for us to answer or to speak about a Bill which is currently in the Senate is quite clearly not the proper use of the forms of this House.
-Order! That is a matter for the House to decide, but the question as it is now is quite in order.
– Then, Mr Speaker, as a further point of order, may I ask the Minister whether he will make a statement on this matter after question time and allow it to be debated so that there is not just a one-sided presentation?
-Order! Decisions on such matters rest entirely with the Leader of the House. I call the Minister for Overseas Trade.
Br J. F. CAIRNS - I do not wish to rely on any precedents but I sat on the Opposition side for 18 years listening to the honourable member as a Minister misusing question time. Any complaints about my doing so receive no response from me, I can tell you. I do not wish to take up any undue time but I do think that it is necessary for me as the Minister responsible for this Bill to take the first opportunity that I have to state the attitude of the Government to what is happening in another place. I have done that. I have done it clearly. I think that that is my responsibility as the Minister who introduced the legislation.
– My question, which I direct to the Prime Minister, is supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for Bradfield. I refer to the Dorothy Dix report on prices and incomes by Mr T. C. Winter. Has the Prime Minister decided to accept the suggestions in the report in the event that his referendum proposals are accepted? Finally I ask him, as I asked him last week, whether he will outline in some detail before 8 December in what areas and to what degree the proposed constitutional powers will be exercised and what supplementary measures will be adopted if those referendum proposals are carried.
– I do not believe that it is proper or even in order to refer to this report in the terms that the right honourable gentleman has used. I believe that he was a member of the Government - at least he was a suppporter of that Government; I forget whether he was then a Minister - which appointed Mr T. C. Winter to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Honourable members now in Opposition would not have referred to Mr Winter in such terms while he was in office. They now feel free to do so when he is in retirement. Arrangements have been made, as the House has been told, for a meeting of all persons with industrial responsibility to be held in the very week after the referendum, that is on 11 and 12 December.
– Mr Justice Moore has accepted the invitation.
– The President of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, Mr Justice Moore, has agreed to preside over that meeting. That meeting will be the first and the best body to advise the public, including members of Parliament, how the new powers can be appropriately exercised. I believe that members of that conference which my colleague, the Minister for Labour, has called for 11 and 12 December, in the week after the referendum on 8 December, will be helped in their deliberations by the valuable report which Mr Winter has prepared and by the material which he attaches to it.
– Is the Minister for Labour aware of the difficulties that are being experienced by unemployed persons in certain areas of the northern part of South Australia in obtaining employment? If so, what steps are being taken by his Department to overcome these difficulties?
– The subject of employment assistance in rural areas is one upon which it is very difficult for the Government to make a final decision. The Cabinet decided some weeks ago to postpone further consideration of a proposition I had then put on rural unemployment relief, on the ground that the employment position was improving at such a rate that to give massive unemployment relief assistance in the country at that stage could easily create a situation in which employers in country areas would find it impossible to obtain workers because all the otherwise available workers in those areas would be employed on rural relief schemes. Subsequent events have proven that the Cabinet was right in the cautious attitude it took on that occasion because, whilst there were 31 distinct areas of quite bad unemployment in relation to the number of vacancies at that time in the areas concerned, we now find that the number of bad areas has been reduced to something like five or six; thus giving support to the Cabinet’s hesitancy to rush into the proposition that I was then putting to it. I admit that it was right and I was wrong when I put the proposition at that time.
The main areas of distress at the moment lie in the State of Tasmania. The Deputy Prime Minister and the honourable members for Braddon, Wilmot, Denison and Franklin have constantly been putting to me the need for something to be done in that State. We are looking at the matter. We hope that we can do something for Tasmania.
– What about my request for Bendigo?
– The honourable member for Bendigo has spoken to me about this matter. The honourable member for Cowper also has spoken to me about it. The honourable member for Darling has constantly been bringing to my attention the position of Broken Hill. I might say that the honourable gentleman, who spoke to me about this matter again only this morning may be sorry to know that everything he said about Broken Hill’s plight has been borne out by the official figures. Broken Hill is now the worst hit area in the whole of Australia. Port Pirie comes second. Coffs Harbour and Dubbo are other areas which are in a bad condition.
– What about Lismore?
– Parts of Lismore perhaps are not too well off. Of course, they are not very well off politically, either, because of the kind of representation that they have in this Parliament. Until now, by way of a silly interjection, I had not heard a word from the member representing Lismore about the condition of the people in that city. I hope that the people of Lismore will remember that is was only at question time, by way of a flippant interjection, that their member of Parliament bothered to mention their plight to me.
The seriousness of the employment situation was brought to light by the provisional midNovember figures, which have been given to me on a confidential basis but in relation to which I am prepared to let the House into the secret. What is happening in Australia at the mement, provisionally, is that we have no fewer than 87,500 unfilled vacancies and 62,000 people registered as unemployed. In the half-month to mid-November the number of vacancies increased by 1,900. That has happened at a time of the year when unfilled vacancies usually fall. Let me give the figures for the last 3 years. In 1972 unfilled vacancies fell by 5,000 in mid-November. In 1971 they fell by 3,500 in the same period. In 1970 they fell by 6,000 in the same period. So, we are reaching a very delicate situation in which we have to consider very carefully how much money we will spend in rural areas on unemployment relief. There is, however, a special problem in Dubbo and Broken Hill. I intend to look at this problem. If it is possible to make some special grant that will relieve the distress there-
– You said yesterday that you had no funds.
– I do not have any funds. That is what I am saying. If I had funds I would be able to say: ‘I have plenty of funds and I have decided to allocate a certain sum to Broken Hill’. It is because I have no funds that I have to say that I will look at the situation and see what can be done. Broken Hill is a distress area. The honourable member for Darling is also distressed that these people might have to face Christmas with a house full of children and no work. We want that position to be avoided, if possible, and I intend to take the matter up with the responsible Ministers or authorities to see whether we can relieve the situation for these people.
– On what date did the Prime Minister request Mr Winter to inquire into the 3 matters which are dealt with in Mr Winter’s report? What fees were paid to Mr Winter? When did the Prime Minister decide that the industrial peace conference to be held on 11 and 12 December was the appropriate place to discuss Mr Winter’s report? When does the Prime Minister expect that that conference of 11 and 12 December will be equipped to discuss measures such as tax reform, proposals for an incomes policy, proposals for a prices policy, etc., as recommended by Mr Winter? Finally, if there are to be consultations and if this industrial peace body is to be the vehicle for the consultations, how is it that the Minister for Labour has specifically excluded every politician from attendance at the conference?
– I wish the right honourable gentleman would co-ordinate his attitude towards this conference with that of the Opposition spokesman on labour, the honourable member for Wannon. I see that the honourable member for Wannon praises the idea of the conference but I gather that the Leader of the Opposition is still opposed to it or confused about it.
– Oh, answer the question. This is the whole thing that goes on. You never answer the question.
– Answer the questions. Stand up and answer them properly. You look like Noddy when you do that; be more respectful.
– Order! The House will come to order.
– I will dob you in. Did you hear what he said about me, Mr Speaker?
– No, but I think it must have been good.
– The conference which my colleague, the Minister for Labour, has called for the 11th and 12th of next month and over which the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission will preside will deal with all these matters in the Winter report, not only including those that the right honourable gentleman chose to mention, important as some of them may be, such as the adjustment of the tax schedules which we inherited, and so on; it will also deal, of course, with matters like equal pay and automatic cost of living adjustments and some matters relating to social services if the members of the conference believe that they are relevant to industrial peace, such as negative income tax and new forms of social services. Mr Winter’s report identifies a great number of those subjects where Australian Governments - the previous Australian Government and the present Australian Government - are unable to implement a full range of industrial and social policies because the Australian Constitution is deficient in several respects including the fact that, alone among industrial and trading countries in the world, the Australian Parliament cannot pass laws about prices and incomes. The right honourable gentleman asked me a couple of precise questions. One was: What was the date Mr Winter was asked to make his report? My memory is that it was 8 November. He also asked me precisely what fees were paid to Mr Winter. I do not know. I do not believe I was ever told. I do not believe that any request came from Mr Winter about it. If the right honourable gentleman wishes to know this, he should put the question on notice. There was an earlier question addressed to me which I can take the opportunity of amplifying now. Sir John Crawford is the remaining member of the Vernon Committee who is still alive. He also, as honourable gentlemen will know, has advised the present Government, and his advice was promptly publicised and acted upon.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! We cannot interfere with question time for personal explanations.
– Has the Minister for Defence received any approaches or had any reports from any source advocating the provision of a free defence force for Australia by selling Australia’s natural resources to overseas interests and so attracting various foreign armed forces to Australia to defend those foreign owned resources? Will the Minister assure the House that he will do what he can to protect Australia from such a potentially dangerous and treasonable policy?
– I think the honourable member was referring to a statement made by Sir Charles Court in Western Australia. I read the statement with a great deal of interest. I must say that I was surprised that a man of his position and with his authority would suggest that Western Australia would be better served if it were able to raise its own defence force. He made some comparison, of course, with the forces in Singapore and Malaysia and suggested that it would be possible for Western Australia to have forces at very little cost. He suggested that there had been no cost involved to the countries in South East Asia to which he referred. I do not believe that anyone with a proper sense of responsibility to the defence of this country would take Sir Charles Court’s suggestion very seriously. I am sure that in that respect the people of Western Australia would be most concerned that he had made such a statement.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister and concerns the apparent and obvious inconsistency between his policies in opposition and in government. Does he realise that the answer he gave at his Press conference yesterday that Australian officials would not be allowed to visit Southern Rhodesia in a private capacity because you cannot divorce the private from the official life of an official directly contradicts the attitude he took last year when he argued that the then Minister for the Army should be permitted to visit the People’s Republic of China in a private capacity without relinquishing his official position as Minister?
– There are good international reasons, to which the right honourable gentleman when in government also subscribed, although without enthusiasm, for Australian officials not to visit Zimbabwe, the British colony of Southern Rhodesia. The present Australian Government adheres fully to those international obligations. The right honourable gentleman draws a comparison with the situation under his Government when, through whose veto nobody knows, the then Minister for the Army was precluded from visiting the People’s Republic of China. The inhibitions which were then placed on the Minister for the Army visiting China were not of an international character. They were self-imposed by the then Australian Government, which adhered to the archaic notion that Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek was still the President of the whole of China, including not only the province of Taiwan, where he had been in residence for more than 2 decades, but also the mainland where the Minister for the Army of that time had been invited to make a visit. There are international obligations why Australian officials and officers cannot visit Zimbabwe. There were no international reasons but only reasons based on sheer indigenous archaism why Australian Ministers were not able to visit the People’s Republic of China last year. I am happy to say that those lost decades during which the Australian Government sought to impose a blackout - a veto - on communications with the People’s Republic of China have now been happily forgotten.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether interest in migration to Australia is rising rapidly in South American nations. If so, will the Minister ensure that better arrangements are made for transporting from South America migrants who are arriving in steady numbers at the present time?
– It is true that there has been a resurgence of interest in migration to Australia in the Americas, both North and South. In view of the fact that we have not had the same level of interest in recent years from traditional sources, such as Great Britain and Italy, the resurgence of interest in the Americas is most welcome. I take this opportunity to say that it is good to know that the interest in the traditional areas is still maintained. We have present in the precincts of the House today the Italian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Grianelli. I am sure we are all very happy to see him in the Gallery today.
Honourable members - Hear, hear!
– To reply specifically to the honourable member, it has been a matter of concern to this Government and to the past Administration that there should be better communications for migration and other purposes with South America. I am pleased to say that negotiations which were begun as long ago as 1971 have reached fruition and the first of a series of charter flights will arrive at 6 o’clock, I think, in Sydney on 1 December. These flights will not only bring people from Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and other areas but they will also be able to take back relatives and friends for visits to South American countries. This will facilitate family connections. It will be good for all of the people who have been concerned. I am delighted to report the success of those arrangements for charter flights directly to Australia from South American countries.
– Will the Minister for Minerals and Energy inform the House as to the present and future bunker supplies of oil in all Australian ports. What percentage of the Australian bunker requirement is imported from Arabian Gulf countries? Have supplies from overseas been cut? If so, to what extent? Has there been an increase in bunker oil prices? If so, by how much? If the Minister is not in a position to inform the House on the situation will he, because of the importance of this matter to Australian trade, make a detailed statement as soon as possible?
– I will treat the question as being on notice and give the honourable member an exact reply.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Overseas Trade been drawn to a statement by Sir Robert Norman, Chairman of the Australian Banks Export Refinance Corporation, that Australia does not need a Federal Government backed export bank? Is it a fact that Australian exporters have been missing out on export sales in the past because of the lack of an export bank? What progress is being made in implementing the Government’s policy on export banking finance?
– My attention has been drawn to the statement by Sir Robert Norman who is Chairman of the Australian Banks Export Refinance Corporation. It is true that Australian exporters have lost a great deal of business because of high interest rates and the inadequacy of export finance in this country. Only in recent times contracts worth $80m in one case, $20m in another, $2m in another and $l.Sm in yet another have been lost as a result of the unduly high interest rates that are payable in this country. Even in the figures in the report of the Australian Banks Export Refinance Corporation that Sir Robert Norman is relying upon in which he quotes more than SI 20m of commitments, he hides the fact that in the tail of that report the actual money lent is given as only just over $40. Time and time again commitments are taken and because of the high rates of interest they are not carried out and we lose them to other countries. This has very adversely affected Australian industry. It is the intention of the Government to change this situation. The Australian Banks Export Refinance Corporation is a monopolistic office for the 7 trading banks which has been generously subsidised by preceding governments. Its capital is based on $4m loaned by the Reserve Bank at very favourable rates.
This office of the trading banks is permitted to withdraw from its special reserve deposits on which it earns 0.75 per cent. It is permitted to earn at the rate of 9 per cent and over on those withdrawn funds. This is a handout to a monopolistic organisation. This Government does not intend to allow that operation to proceed. We have had that matter examined. An interdepartmental committee agrees that there are inadequate funds in the long term and medium term. Incidentally, a report of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation shows business of $407m. All the contracts undertaken by the trading banks organisation are fully insured by EPIC. There is no risk whatever, yet ABERC has been able to lend only $41m in the current term. In its current report EPIC states:
It should be mentioned, however, that the cost in Australia of export credit finance for medium and extended credit term transactions is competitively less favourable than that available to suppliers in a number of major trading nations.
Sir Robert Norman is speaking for a sectional interest, that of the top monylenders in Australia. It is a very unbalanced and unfair situation. When the Government produces legislation very shortly to deal with this matter I hope the Opposition will not obstruct it.
– I put a question to the Minister for Overseas Trade. The Minister will recall his recent statements that the Australian Industry Development Corporation will have to curtail a number of operations unless it is provided with additional finance. Is the honourable gentleman aware that Mr Bennett, a First Assistant Secretary of the Department of Secondary Industry, told Sen ate Estimates Committee F on 18 October that the AIDC had adequate capital reserves to meet its present level of activity and that it does not require a capital instalment this year? Is he also aware that Mr Bennett agreed that the AIDC did not anticipate the need to borrow beyond its $200m limit this financial year? I ask the Minister: Why have the needs of the AIDC changed so radically since 18 October, assuming that the views that were put by Mr Bennett in fact were correct?
– The position of the Australian Industry Development Corporation has changed substantially since 18 October. Several large projects of a developmental nature that even every member of the Opposition would support to the hilt, like the Redcliffs venture, have in fact been considered by AIDC. These projects will require more money than AIDC has been obliged to produce so far. I imagine that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would be aware of that. The position has changed since 18 October. The statement by Mr Bennett would be accurate provided that AIDC was geared to expend up to $200m in terms of its obligations at 18 October. But at that stage AIDC was not geared to do that and was prevented from doing that by some of the restrictions imposed by the legislation that was passed by the Opposition Parties when they were the Government and which still operate and which I am trying to amend. If Mr Bennett’s evidence is correctly stated, if at that date AIDC had been able to raise $200m, it could have met its obligations then. But AIDC was not in that situation. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition would know that AIDC does not use for loan purposes the money provided to it by appropriations through the Treasury. It uses that money as capital to help finance its direct operations. It relies mainly upon money raised in the money market in Australia, but principally overseas, for its loan funds. Because of the restrictions that the existing legislation places upon it, AIDC was not able to provide funds to the extent of $200m as at 18 October.
– I ask the minister for Urban and Regional Development whether his attention has been drawn to statements by executives of real estate companies such as L. J. Hooker Ltd to the effect that there has been a mass reduction in the price of land and houses. Is this reduction a result of the Government’s economic policies and will its eventual result be to the benefit of hundreds of thousands of people, particularly young people, seeking homes? Will this reduction result also in greater economic savings for people over both long and short terms?
– My attention was drawn to the statement of Mr Campbell, the Chief General Manager of L. J. Hooker Ltd, that the price of land on the fringes of capital cities is levelling out and that this is due to the Government’s economic policy. The Treasurer, the Minister for Housing and I have made early examinations of what is occurring to land holdings on the fringes of our cities. We are concerned that in Sydney during the period September 1970 to March 1973 though the consumer price index rose by 18 per cent, the wholesale price of building materials for housing rose by 21 per cent and the average weekly earnings rose by 29 per cent, the price of land located on the fringes of that city rose by 157 per cent. The Government is examining events particularly as they relate to the fringe banking institutions and land speculators who hold large tracts of land on the fringes of our capital cities and we are aware that they are now feeling the squeeze of the Government’s economic policy. This is one action we are taking to lower the cost of land but the Government believes that the real solution to the present housing and land situation is for the establishment of land commissions or their equivalent to work in co-operation with State governments so that when land is rezoned from rural to urban it is acquired by a public authority and subsequently developed both by private enterprise and public authorities.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the House. In view of conflicting reports as to the number of remaining days of sitting of this House in the current session will the Minister give an indication as to how many sitting days remain and the date of the final day of sitting?
– Mr Speaker, like the honourable member for Hindmarsh I have keen anticipation. Of course that makes me, like him, so outstanding. Consequently I anticipated that a question of this nature might be asked today. I should like to advise the honourable member that I hope it will be possible to finish the business of the House by the end of next week. It has been a lengthy session and I know that some members are feeling the strain. I know also that many members have commitments in their electorates and elsewhere in the subsequent week and it would be most inconvenient for them to have to forgo those arrangements.
Yesterday the Prime Minister said he thought it likely we would be sitting for an additional week. I am a more optimistic fellow than the Prime Minister and I am hoping to avoid that. However, it will depend upon a number of things. First and foremost, it will depend upon co-operation. We must get through the legislative program before the House rises, irrespective of what happens. If honourable members opposite choose to employ delaying tactics or to debate at length measures which are not in dispute they will have to bear the consequences of longer sittings. Perhaps I should say in fairness that that applies equally to members on this side of the House.
As honourable members know, the Bill to implement the Government’s new health scheme is to be introduced tomorrow. Naturally, we will want to provide adequate debating time for it next week and obviously this will be a factor in determining whether we can complete our business by the end of the week. If the prophets are right, those who miss out the first time will get a second go. I suppose we must also expect that those in another place will not always be as co-operative as we hope they will be. It is largely in the hands of honourable members as to how long we sit. Lengthy speaking and time wasting tactics will serve only to ensure Christmas in Canberra. Honourable members can be assured that, in the event of the need arising for the consideration of important legislation, the Government will arrange for the House to sit into the following week, and longer if necessary. That is, the week commencing 10 December. For my part, I am confident that we will finish next Thursday night. That is the objective of the Government and it is to be done without attempting to curtail debate, by giving adequate time for proper consideration of the measures before us. I think that, with sensible co-operation on a number of minor measures, this House ought to be able to rise on Thursday next week.
– I have received from the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Publications, Senator Milliner, a letter which conveys to me the following resolution of the Committee:
That the Committee respectfully request the Presiding Officers to give consideration to increasing the number of Hansard extracts available to senators and members of the House of Representatives of speeches delivered by them in the Parliament to 100 copies.
I find that the Government Printer is able to supply the 40 additional copies at minimal cost - that is, the cost of the paper - and, therefore, I have authorised the Principal Parliamentary Reporter and the Government Printer to increase members’ entitlement by that number.
Mir MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon) - I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is not capable of quoting himself accurately so I suppose I should not be concerned when he quotes me inaccurately. He may in part have been misled by the Melbourne ‘Age’ which reported me as having said that I supported the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron), when the actual statement that was issued said that I supported the Objective of trying to get industrial peace. The ‘Age’ transposed the words ‘support for the objective of industrial peace’ to ‘support for the Minister for Labour’. A copy of the full text is in my office and it will be made available to the Prime Minister if he wants it.
I, like the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), have expressed reservations on occasions about the terms of reference of this industrial peace discussion. The additional matters which the Prime Minister now seeks to impose on that conference twist the original objective. They submerge the original objective. This would seem to put the Prime Minister into conflict with the Minister for Labour. The Prime Minister is seeking to turn the industrial peace conference into a Labor Party referendum benefit. I hope that the Minister for Labour will prevent it.
-Order! When a personal explanation is made it is not in order to debate the question. The honourable member must state where he has been misrepresented.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the Prime Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) claims that I misrepresented him. I do not believe that I did. I did not knowingly misrepresent him. I want to explain to him and to honourable gentlemen the reason for my making the reference that I did. It is true that the ‘Age’, which I shall quote in detail in a moment, reported the honourable gentleman under the heading Fraser backs bid for union peace’. The Melbourne ‘Sun’ also reported the honourable gentleman under the heading ‘Fraser backs Labor move’. Each newspaper reported him last Monday. On page 3 - not a bad position for him these days - the ‘Age’ had this to say:
The Federal Liberal spokesman on industrial relations (Mr Fraser) yesterday backed the Minister for Labour (Mr Cameron) in convening a ‘peace conference’ between employers and unions.
The Federal Opposition Leader (Mr Snedden) claims the conference will achieve nothing.
Mr Fraser said he wanted to indicate ‘general support for the Minister for Labour (Mr Cameron)’.
We need to defuse the industrial debate and take the political heat out of industrial relations,’ he said.
This is terribly important to all of us.’
The article continued:
Mr Fraser congratulated Mr Cameron for asking the chairman of the. Arbitration Commission (Mr Justice Moore) to chair the peace conference.
Mr Cameron said earlier that he did not want too many politicians around and I am pleased to see that he is following his own principle, Mr Fraser said. When Mr Cameron announced the conference earlier this month Mr Snedden said he did not want to discourage the move, but he insisted that it would do nothing to resolve the present industrial turmoil. Mr Snedden attacked the Federal Government . . . When he announced his peace conference proposal, Mr Cameron said he would be putting a package deal to the meeting. This includes the restoration of costofliving adjustments to wages . . .
– On a point of order. This is not a case of a personal explanation on the ground that the Prime Minister has been misrepresented but rather that he had been badly informed by his own Department or his own officials. He has not been misrepresented by my colleague. He has taken the information in newspapers without checking and it is the usual rule in this House that a check should be made before misrepresentation occurs by the Prime Minister or any other member of this House.
-Order! The Prime Minister has made a statement and a personal explanation is offered in reply. The Prime Minister is now explaining why he made that statement.
– I submit that I am entitled to clear myself from the allegation that I misrepresented an honourable member. At page 7 of the Melbourne ‘Sun’ the following report appeared:
A senior Victorian Opposition MP last night backed the Federal Government’s industrial peace conference. Mr Fraser, labour and immigration spokesman, said he generally supported the plan by the Labour Minisster, Mr Cameron. The plan was to try to establish a better industrial climate, Mr Fraser said . . . Mr Fraser’s statement is the strongest from the Opposition yet in favour of the meeting. The Opposition Leader, Mr Snedden, has said the conference would not help solve the present industrial problem. Mr Fraser said there was a need to defuse the industrial debate, ‘and take the heat out of industrial relations’.
This is terribly important for all of us,’ he said.
Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon)- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Mr Speaker. I would only emphasise to the House that the statement issued - and a copy would be available to the Prime Minister if he wanted it - indicated support for the objective in pursuing industrial peace. I repeat the word objective*, which the statement in the Melbourne ‘Age’ left out. I think it might have also been left out of the article in the Melbourne ‘Sun’ but it was not left out of the statement that I made.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the right honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Minister for Labour deliberately and maliciously misrepresented me this morning. He said that except by way of frivolous interjection that I have never drawn attention to the unemployment situation in Lismore. I wish the House to know that I asked the Minister questions on this matter in September and that I wrote letters to him on 27 September and 17 October.
Indeed, I have sent him other information drawing his attention to the unemployment in Lismore and other country areas. I might say that I have not received satisfactory replies by the Minister to any of these matters. It is quite obvious that unemployed people in country areas are being given very low priority as far as corerspondence is concerned.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman is not in order in debating the unemployment situation. I think he has made his point.
- Mr 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 Prime Minister in his reply to my question earlier this morning. In his reply he sought to belittle and rubbish me by attacking my credibility as a responsible member of this Parliament. He that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him and makes me poor indeed, as he knows. The point of my question was that the Winter report was not as authoritative a document as it was made out to be. In his reply, the Prime Minister referred to various eminent gentlemen who, he said, had been consulted and whose authority I would accept as being very important indeed. He referred to a number of people all of whose names I cannot recall but he certainly referred to Sir John Crawford, Sir James Vernon and, I think, others-
– Professor Karmel and Mr Myer.
– Professor Karmel and others; I am glad that he reminds me who they were. They were people of great authority. I have looked at the report entitled ‘Power over Prices and Incomes’ which he tabled yesterday. I find in Appendix 1, the letter of appointment, where the Prime Minister said:
The Australian Government Departments which have particular responsibilities touching upon the area of your inquiry are the Attorney-General’s Department, the ‘Department of Labour and the Treasury. These Departments are available to assist you as you require.
He went on to say:
I have also arranged that you may call upon the services of the following people who have expertise or knowledge in matters relevant to your inquiry -
He mentioned Professor F. H. Gruen - for whom I have the highest respect - Mr B.
Brogan, Mr J. Bannon, Mr J. Spigelman - to whom I referred obliquely - and Mr P. Troy. He nowhere mentioned those gentlemen to whom he has since referred. The implication in what he said in answer to my question was that I irresponsibly referred to a report which had the backing or endorsement of very eminent people and that I misrepresented the report as not having that backing. There is not a word in the report to indicate that it had their backing. I suggest that, if it had, it would be right and proper that not only the Parliament but the whole community should know that it had their backing. The Prime Minister has stated that it had. I think that we should have the authority of those gentlemen themselves as to whether they did in fact support this document.
– I find in the ‘Australian’ newspaper of today’s date - and it is through the newspapers that the Prime Minister generally seeks to inform the Parliament-
-Order! The honourable member for Bradfield!
– I want to quote 5 lines in a paragraph.
-Order! The honourable gentleman may refer only to the point on which he has been misrepresented.
– I am referring to that point.
-Order! I have allowed the honourable gentleman quite a lot of latitude up to now.
– No, Mr Speaker.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will be brief on the point of misrepresentation.
– This is right on the point; I assure you of that, Mr Speaker. The newspaper report states:
Advised by members of the Prime Minister’s staff and officers of key departments, a retired Arbitration Commissioner, Mr T. Winter, recommends in his report that prices and incomes policies will be necessary to control inflation. and so on. There is not a word in that report of anybody except Mr Winter and the Prime Minister’s staff. I quote this because it demonstrates the usual method of the Prime Minister in communicating with the Parliament-
– . . . . that is, to do it by newspaper.
-Order! Do not debate the matter.
– I believe that I have been utterly misrepresented. I ask for an apology.
- Mr Speaker-
– I call the right honourable member for Lowe.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to ask for an apology.
-Order! I think the Prime Minister may have to answer two personal explanations at the one time.
– Mr Speaker, 1 wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the right honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, on 2 occasions, by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister implied, in an answer that he gave to a question by me in the House this morning, that my Government was not prepared to permit Ministers to visit the People’s Republic of China, prior to recognition of that country, on an official invitation from the Chinese Government itself. This is untrue. I had made it clear that I was prepared to permit the then Minister for Foreign Affairs and the then Minister for Labour and National Service to visit the People’s Republic of China if an official invitation was received.
– Didn’t you get one?
– No, never. They themselves did not, and neither did I. The second point is this: The Prime Minister must know, as he was Foreign Minister for a short period, that the advice tendered to me as the Prime Minister was that the then Minister for the Army could not visit the People’s Republic of China in a private capacity-
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
– This is a personal explanation of a misrepresentation.
– This is not an answer to a misrepresentation. It is an explanation in the form of a debate. By allowing this practice to con- tinue every day we are taking up the debating time of the House. Mr Speaker. I suggest that-
– We remember what you were like.
– I took it up effectively. The right honourable gentleman is completely out of order. He is not making a personal explanation in accordance with the Standing Orders
– Order! I appreciate the fact that many personal explanations are inclined to develop into a debate on the matter that is the subject of the personal explanation. I have appealed to honourable members from time to time to confine their remarks to the matter upon which they have been misrepresented. I ask the right honourable member for Lowe to confine himself to the matter upon which he has been misrepresented
– That is the first point in relation to which I was misrepresented, Sir. The second point relates to the fact that the Prime Minister, having ‘been the Minister for Foreign Affairs for a short period of time, will know that the recommendation given to me by both the Department of Foreign Affairs and the then Minister for Foreign Affairs who is now a Justice of the New South Wales Court of Appeal was that a Minister would not be able to visit the People’s Republic of China in a personal capacity. That vindicates completely the substance of the question I asked of the Prime Minister earlier this morning.
Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa- Prime Minister) - Mr Speaker -
-Is the Prime Minister claiming to have been misrepresented by 2 people?
– That is right, Sir, by 2 senior members of the Parliament for whom I have great respect and tolerance since this is the last Parliament in which one will be able to respond to their suggestions. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) mentioned the Winter report and the Vernon Committee’s report - he linked them in his question. I pointed out that the Vernon Committee’s report was rejected by the Government of the day and I also pointed out that by contrast the surviving members of the Vernon Committee have all agreed to give advice to the present Government. Sir James
Vernon is the royal commissioner who is inquiring into the Post Office. Sir John Crawford is on the Industries Assistance Commission. Professor Karmel and Mr Kenneth Meyer are the other members. I did not in any way intend to imply - I do not think anybody could have inferred that I did - that any of those honourable gentlemen was involved in the preparation or endorsement of the Winter report. The honourable gentleman, in referring to the Winter report, referred not only to Mr Winter himself but also to a person - without naming him - who had advised him. In my reply I listed the persons who are named in my letter to Mr Winter. Perhaps the people reading Hansard who do not have before them a copy of the Winter report would be helped if I were to read from it 3 further paragraphs of my letter to Mr Winter. They read:
The Australian Government Departments which have particular responsibilities touching upon the area of your enquiry are the Attorney-General’s Department, the Department of Labour and the Treasury. These Departments are available to assist you as you require.
I have also arranged that you may call upon the services of the following people who have expertise or knowledge in matters relevant to your inquiry:
These people and officers of the Departments named will assist you individually and collectively and you will doubtless wish to discuss the subject-matter of your report with them. But the responsibility for the report is yours, and it is for you to make the decisions about its scope and final form.
Perhaps it might be appropriate for me to say that while I sent that letter on 8 November an approach was made to Mr Winter by my Department on 2 November as a result of a cabled request I sent to the Department from Peking. Mr Winter’s fee is at present under consideration by the appropriate Minister - the Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee). It will be in accordance with the normal rates for consultants.
– Did the Prime Minister not have a second point that he wanted to raise?
– I do not believe that I misrepresented the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) in my references, and nothing that he said indicates that I had or how I had.
– Pursuant to section 37 of the Australian Industry Development Corporation Act 1970, I present the third annual report of the Australian Industry Development Corporation for the period 1 July 1972 to 30 June 1973. I seek leave to make a statement on this matter.
– Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Honourable members will see from the report a quite detailed statement of the activities of the Australian Industry Development Corporation which I want to relate to the proposals being advanced by the Government about the charter of the AIDC. I have sought leave to make this statement because in answering a question this morning I was pressed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) to seek leave after question time to make a statement and I shortened the answer I gave to the question, as I did to the subsequent question, for that reason. I thank the House for granting leave for me to make this short statement. The House will notice in the report that the AIDC discussed the Government’s announcement concerning the AIDC. It states:
In March, 1973, the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry . . . announced Government plans for expanding the Corporation’s activities and financial capacity. It is understood that proposed new legislation, now in preparation, will preserve and extend the present role of AIDC; provide new sources of equity funds for Australian ownership in industry; and strengthen the Corporation’s capacity to provide capital for nationally important industrial enterprises.
The AIDC, through Sir Alan Westerman and otherwise, has made it clear that it supports the proposals of the Government to extend the capacity of the AIDC and that it considers such a step is necessary if the AIDC is to perform properly its functions. About that there can be no question. I relate this specifically to what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition asked this morning. If he sees the correspondence from the AIDC and the Press release that was agreed upon ‘between the AIDC and me on these matters, he will see that there is no possible room for argument about that. It is necessary for the AIDC to have a capacity to raise both in Australia and overseas an increased amount of money if the AIDC is to meet its current commitments, taking ‘current’ to mean up to IS October and subsequent to 18 October, an J especially to meet those projects that the AIDC is considering for the immediate future in terms strictly of its existing charter.
The point I want to make quite clearly is that, given the existing charter of the AIDC and given its scope and its functions, it is necessary for the AIDC to be able to raise additional funds. The AIDC has made this clear, as I do. Surely we can have no argument about that. As I have said before, I am not concerned to argue about the details of much of the legislation that went through this House. As I think I pointed out at the time to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, much of that detail is detail that comes from the lawyers - from people who say that it is necessary from a legal point of view to have these provisions. As far as I am concerned, it is not so. If the AIDC has a specific function relating to development and Australian ownership, both the AIDC and I would ensure that this is carried out lawfully and properly. If the lawyers require the details of how this will be done to go into the Act, that is another thing. That did not emanate from me, nor am I concerned, as I say, to make those things an issue. But at this point, in presenting the report to the Parliament, I put it seriously to the Opposition that if honourable members opposite want the AIDC to perform the function that Sir John McEwen designed for it, they must find room for the AIDC to obtain additional funds.
– by leave- I regret very much that the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) did not in fact foreshadow to the Opposition or to the spokesman concerned the fact that the report would be tabled today, and secondly, that he would seek the opportunity after question time to pursue matters which were raised during question time. Therefore I do not take the opportunity now to respond to the Minister, because I was out of the chamber, not knowing that the matter was to be raised again. I therefore have not seen the report. I did not hear the Minister during the first part of his comments, but because of the very substantial nature of the matters which are referred to I take it that the Minister having taken the opportunity of making a statement to the House, the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) will allow the Opposition Parties during the days that remain before this Parliament rises to debate this matter.
I also say to the Minister responsible for the Australian Industry Development Corporation that if he is aggrieved that certain matters have not been fully articulated in this Parliament or outside it his Government must accept that responsibility, because at the time the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill came before the House both sides of the House were very much aware that the matter was subject to guillotine, that the Bill would be gagged through, and that there was no opportunity for the Opposition Parties to put a point of view or indeed to speak to a large number of amendments which were brought down in the House at the time. The proceedings at that stage were a total farce. I think that the Minister himself is not happy that they were a farce, but he was a party and an accomplice to that single fact. If he now takes some objection to the decision by the Senate to refer this matter to a committee of that House he must accept responsibility for that, because the matter was gagged through without proper debate and without proper scrutiny.
If the Minister is prepared to allow the report of the AIDC to be subject to the scrutiny of the House in the manner in which he should, I invite the Leader of the House to make that comment, because I am sure that the Minister for Overseas Trade would be the first to appreciate that the AIDC presents an annual report which surely, because of the significance of that body and the various matters which I assume are in the report, should be subject to complete, total and absolute parliamentary scrutiny. We are very anxious to know of the detailed manner in which the funds of that Corporation have been expended during the course of the past 12 months.
– And lost.
– In some cases, in terms of ventures, as I understand it, sums of money have been lost for reasons which I hope that the report makes clear. So specifically, because I do not want to take the opportunity now to respond in depth and lose the opportunity to respond in detail later, I ask the Minister whether be will make arrangements with the Leader of the House for that report to be subject to a parliamentary debate so that a considered response can be made by the Opposition Parties.
Br J. F. Cairns - I ask leave to make another statement, because this the only way I can speak on this matter.
-Order! Is leave granted?
– Before leave is granted may I make one comment to seek clarification so that when leave is given the Minister might answer my point?
-Is the honourable member seeking the indulgence of the House?
– Yes. I want only one minute. The Minister’s statement does nothing to clarify a position that is in some doubt in my mind with respect to the borrowing rights of the AIDC. It was my understanding that the former Government made available to the AIDC $50m, with a right to borrow up to $200m, and with an optional right to take up a further $50m, enabling it ultimately to borrow up to $400m. I have not been able to ascertain why the AIDC has not been able to borrow up to $200m in the first count, and secondly, why the additional $50m has not been appropriated to the AIDC to enable it to borrow on the home money market and overseas a total of $400m. May I have that point clarified?
-Order! The Minister has sought leave to make a further statement. Is leave granted?
– Provided we are given leave to respond again.
– That is a matter for the House to decide. No debate is allowed on the question of granting leave.
– We on this side of the House will not gag him if those on his side do not continue to gag us, because we are sick and tired of the way that this matter has been handled.
– I am sick and tired of hearing the Deputy Leader of the Opposition tub thumping on this kind of thing.
– When a Minister or any honourable member is seeking leave to make a statement-
– We will not deny the Minister.
– Order! I am not concerned about the consequences of a person asking leave to make a statement. What I am concerned about is getting a yes or no as to whether leave is granted.
– I indicated that we will not deny him the opportunity.
– Order! Is leave granted?
– Leave is granted.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I will not take more than a minute or two. First of all, when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch), spoke to us on this matter he told us in his first dozen words that he rejected every aspect of the Bills, lock, stock and barrel. He was not concerned to examine the legislation to see whether some of it was good or some of it was bad. In those circumstances the debate becomes a second reading debate. It is nonsense for the Opposition, having said that it will reject the whole of the Bills, to say that it wants time to consider the detail. I considered this was nonsense. I therefore thought that the move made by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) to limit the debate to a reasonable time for a second reading debate was not unreasonable. But I have now mentioned that some specific questions of importance are current in respect of the Australian Industry Development Corporation. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition questioned me about that this morning. I told him that was so. I have told him I will show him if he wishes the letter from Sir Alan Westerman to show that that is true. There is a considerable amount of detail in its annual report showing -the limitations of the scope of AIDC in the past because of a lack of funds and those limitations are getting worse. It has not been the practice of AIDC to use money drawn from the Treasury. It has scope to draw money from the Treasury for ordinary lending operations. It has kept that scope fairly distinct and we wanted to do this in the legislation. We wanted to say, in effect, that if we are going to use Treasury money we want to put the matter specifically to the House to get the agreement of the House.
The reason I accepted the amendment that was proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and incorporated in the legislation that went to the Senate was that that would be made clear. I do not want to leave the door open so that AIDC or any other body can draw on the Treasury without the matter going through this House. I do not want to have to turn to that direction for funds. AIDC is limited for the greater part of its financial operations to what it can draw from the money market overseas or in Australia. It is limited by the Bill to borrowing principally overseas. The whole power in the Bill and the emphasis in the existing Act limits its borrowings in Australia. We are seeking to have those limits lifted so that the AIDC can establish a national investment fund to give the ordinary Australian citizen on his way home from work an opportunity to invest in national projects through AIDC if he wishes. We do not have that power at the moment. We want to be able to reach a situation in which we can get more funds from life offices and other financial sources. I do not want to use compulsion about this. I am quite prepared to go a long way, in fact all the way in reaching agreement with those institutional lenders.
I say to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that I am prepared to agree to the Senate referring this matter to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. The Opposition can fully probe and examine through that Committee every aspect of these 2 Bills. But I want to make sure that that is a genuine move, not just an obstruction - not just something to push this matter off into time with a view to gaining the political capital that the Opposition might think it would gain from doing that. I feel that the Democratic Labor Party was genuine about this but I wish I could feel that the Opposition as a whole was genuine, too.
Mr LYNCH (Flinders)- by leave - I do not want to extend this opportunity at too great a length. I just want to say 3 things to the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns). First of all, it is not for the Minister to agree to have this matter referred for examination by a Senate committee. As I understand it, the Senate has so determined that the matter will be referred.
– Has the Senate determined that?
– That is my understanding. It is not a matter, in terms of procedure, to which the Minister needs to give personal assent. The matter is being referred. I imagine that there will be a genuine and bona fide inquiry. The Opposition parties welcome that inquiry because it will enable the searching out of a number of quite specific areas of concern which we share and which were not brought out in the debate in this House. Secondly, so far as the procedures of the House of Representatives are concerned, the Minister will be aware, as I recall it, that the second reading debate was gagged. The Opposition parties, of course, can never assume that they have a majority in the Senate and for that reason we positively and constructively went through the whole series of amendments which could not be brought on in any realistic fashion. Thirdly, I specifically again ask the Minister whether he is prepared to have the annual report of the Australian Industry Development Corporation debated in the Parliament. I have just obtained from the Clerks a copy of the report. The opening statement of it reads:
During the year the Corporation undertook new financial commitments totalling $61 million in respect of 34 projects in the manufacturing, processing and mineral sectors. In addition, conditional approval has been given to providing finance for several relatively large-scale projects that are still at the planning stage. All told, AIDC has undertaken commitments for $115m to 60 projects since it became operational in April, 1971.
I want the Minister to be quite clear about what I am saying. Specifically, is he prepared to have this report subject to a response from the Opposition parties? If he is not, I put it to him that he is indicted by that approach and, quite clearly, his bona fides are subject to very great suspicion, to put it at its least possible moment. If the Minister is prepared to tell this House that this Corporation has the significance which he attaches to it and which I do not deny, and if he is prepared also to seek to appear, in this House and outside it, to assume a mantle of sweet reasonableness, let him put his answer on the record and agree that this matter should be the subject of debate.
The real problem in relation to the AIDC and so many other significant areas of legislation in this House has been that we have not had the opportunity to put on the record the full and considered view of the Opposition parties. If the Minister is genuine and sincere about this matter, he will come forward and say: ‘Of course the matter can be subject to debate next week’. I remind the House of the facts on the first page of the report. It states that an expenditure of $61 m has been undertaken in respect of 34 major projects. We are a little tired of reading in the newspapers of Australia about the AIDC and the leaks that come out of it as to what money has been lost on certain projects. Is the Minister prepared to allow the House to have a fair scrutiny of the activities of the Corporation? If he is not, one wonders whether he might have the view that they cannot stand the scrutiny and examination of the House.
– You appointed it.
– The honourable member, who is a junior in this House, is interjecting from out of his place, and he should know better. If the Corporation can withstand parliamentary scrutiny, as it must if the democratic institution of this Parliament is to be preserved, let the Minister now say that this matter will be debated during the course of next week. I say to the Minister again - if I labour the point it is because I want to make it perfectly clear where we stand - that we want the matter debated. We believe that it ought to be debated. This is a report of such significance that it cannot be allowed to go by default. If the Minister refuses debate, he does so only on the basis, as suspected on this side of the House, that in this report there are matters that would not withstand scrutiny.
– Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make another statement.
– Is leave granted?
– No. We want to know yes or no. You have had enough licence.
– And you have exercised a tremendous amount of licence. You have slandered the AIDC.
DrJ. F. Cairns - You have slandered your own Liberal Party Treasurer, and I want an opportunity to say something about it. I am sick of your slander.
DrJ. F. Cairns - I will not give you any opportunity in this House to continue it. If you want to go anywhere else, go to the Senate committee and examine the report there.
– Order! The Minister is out of order. Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– Pursuant to section 33 of the Australian Capital Territory Electricity
Supply Act 1962-1966, I present the tenth annual report of the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority for the year ended 30 June 1973, together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements. I hope that everybody will read the report; the Authority is a socialist enterprise.
Sitting suspended from 12.59 to 2.15 p.m.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
States Grants Bill 1973.
States Grants (Capital Assistance) Bill 1973.
Social Welfare Commission Bill 1973.
States Grants (Housing Assistance) Bill (No. 2) 1973.
Wheat Tax Bill 1973.
Mental Health and Related Services Assistance Bill 1973.
Student Assistance Bill 1973.
MrJARMAN (Deakin) - As Vice-Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee I present the 147th report of the Public Accounts Committee.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a short statement in connection with the report.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– For many years the Committee has conducted combined inquiries relating to expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer and expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund but has tabled separate reports on both aspects of these inquiries. The 147th report relates specifically to evidence taken by the Committee in connection with expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer in 1972-73. As honourable members are aware, after the close of each financial year the Treasurer submits to the Parliament for its consideration and approval a statement of expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer showing allocations to heads of expenditure made by him from the Advance under section 36a of the Audit Act. The Committee carries out the parliamentary scrutiny of this past expenditure by obtaining explanations from departments for each item of expenditure charged to the Advance and selecting the more notable of these for public inquiry.
In chapter 1 of its report the Committee has stated that, in examining expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer, it has sought to ascertain whether or not expenditure from the Advance has been confined to urgent and unforeseeable requirements for which provision could not have been made in the original and additional estimates. The Committee has also sought to ascertain whether or not the departments concerned in the inquiry have maintained efficient administration in the expenditure of funds under the items selected for public inquiry. As the report shows, there were cases where expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer was confined to urgent and unforeseeable requirements for which provision could not have been made in the Appropriation Acts. In other cases, however, there was evidence of clerical errors, inefficient estimating procedures, and delays which caused expenditure to be charged to the Advance when provision should properly have been made in the additional estimates. Attention has been drawn to these inadequacies where they have been discovered.
As in several previous inquiries relating to expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer, the Committee has found evidence of amounts being charged to the Advance without warrant authority, in contravention of Treasury regulation 90(1.). All of these overcharges arose from clerical errors. The Committee had cause to comment adversely on the briefness of some departmental explanations and the fact that some witnesses appearing before the Committee were inadequately briefed. I commend the report to honourable members.
Discussion off Matter of Public Importance
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The inaccurate statement of the Minister for Minerals and Energy that Australia has no more than 8 years known recoverable reserves of crude oil, and the unsatisfactory way in which he seeks to increase those reserves.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– The Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), whose ability to get any figures correct is extremely suspect, made the statement on Monday that there are in Australia no more than 8 years known recoverable reserves of crude oil. Anyone with the least knowledge of oil research and production would know this statement to be absolute nonsense. One does not merely add up our total reserves and divide that figure by our current and anticipated demand. What happens, of course, is that an oil well is brought into full production in its early years and over a period of about IS years or more this production gradually declines until the particular field is exhausted. It does not suddenly cut out.
Australia has some 1SS0 million barrels of known reserves of oil. Local production satisfies about 66 per cent of our requirements. The remaining 33 per cent of our requirements are for heavier crude oils and are supplied from overseas sources. Production in Bass Strait will be kept up for some years through the third platform on Kingfish and the deeper levels in Marlin. Later Snapper and Tuna oil fields will offset the reducing flow from the earlier established fields. The reserves of oil discovered in the north-west shelf of our continent are unfortunately not large at this stage and because of the economics involved in bringing fields into production in that area have not been declared commercial. However, the area is extremely prospective. The Cooper Basin also has prospects and, of course, some known oil. Already we know of the existence of some 60 million barrels at Mereenie in the Northern Territory.
Thus, while Australia’s reserves of coal, natural gas and uranium are sufficient for our reasonable requirements for some considerable time to come, the urgent need is to step up dramatically the search for oil. There is only one way that that can be done and that is by the expenditure of vast sums of money. All existing commercial reserves will have been developed fully and will be in production by the end of the 1970s. Production will continue into the 1990s, but on a declining scale. Significant new discoveries are needed. In fact, if in 20 years Australia is to produce 70 per cent of its oil requirements it will need a fivefold increase in oil discovery and even greater discoveries to be self-sufficient.
So far average returns from petroleum exploration in Australia have been disappointing. In fact, from a cumulative expenditure of about $ 1,000m, used to drill some HOO wildcat expoloration wells, only 5 really significant oil fields have been developed. If one works out the cost per barrel of discovering oil so far one estimates that an annual rate of expenditure of approximately $200m will be required to maintain the present standard of self-sufficiency. Where is this money to come from? At present only about half this amount is being spent each year but even that is likely to drop drastically as a result of the policies of this Government.
As I have pointed out to the House on a previous occasion, exploration in Australia is already dropping rapidly and disastrously. Now only one rig is operating on-shore over the whole 3 million square miles of the Australian continent. Twenty rigs are idle. Who would blame the operators for this? If they do find a commercial field the Minister has announced that he will take the oil from them. It is no wonder that the London ‘Economist’, in a recent article on Australian oil entitled ‘Find It and Hope’, said:
The apparent contradiction in the Government’s policies will effectively stop exploration by nonAustralian companies.
The article went on to say:
Without the promise of future profits from development, oil exploration is not worth the huge expense. This seems to be only dimly recognised by the Government’s advisers. Since the removal of tax concessions for local residents to invest in oil exploration there has been a distinct lack of interest in providing Australian risk capital for the business. The off-shore drilling program is at its lowest level for over a decade.
What the article might also have said is that another off-shore rig has left Australian waters, probably permanently. It might have said that 3 major international oil companies have ceased to search in Australia over the past 12 months, and that Australian companies are working in South East Asia in preference to Australia. The article might also have said that the search for oil in Australia is rapidly coming to a standstill.
The Minister appears to welcome this situation. It has become apparent that he would sooner have no oil discovered in Australia than have it discovered by one of those wicked companies owned by a majority of shareholders resident overseas. Why he has this vindictive spirit against these companies I am completely unable to understand. No company - Australian or overseas - can export 1 gallon of petroleum from Australia without his permission, and it must pay more than half its profits to the Government, as well as many other taxes. We have the simple choice. Australian investors simply cannot provide all the necessary capital to explore adequately. The Government certainly cannot, and it should not use taxpayers’ funds for risk capital anyway. There have been rumours of the Government’s putting up $50m, but this would be only a drop in the bucket, and the Government lacks the new technologies and the exploration and management skills to carry this out.
So the only other choice available to us if we want the $200m necessary to retain selfsufficiency spent here annually, as the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) said last week, is to allow a resumption of foreign investment under specified guidelines and local equity provisions. As he said so clearly:
We must not throw out the baby with the bath water. Exploration is needed.
After all, what is so evil about foreign investment? Lee Kuan Yew welcomes it in Singapore. He welcomes all he can get. Yet there is no country more nationalistic than Singapore. Foreign investment is encouraged by both Federal and State governments in the United States of America, usually with no limits. The United States Department of Commerce even administers an ‘Invest in the United States of America Program’. Foreign investment is welcomed generally in Canada. I do not have time to go through the list which has been given to me by the Parliamentary Library, but if honourable members are interested, I have here to show them a very long and full list of the principles and policies of various other countries under which they allow investment from overseas.
Capital liberalisation started in Japan in 1967 and the final stage took effect on 1 May 1973. Now 100 per cent foreign ownership in Japanese firms is permitted, with certain exceptions and provisions. Again time does not permit me to go into this matter fully but if honourable members are interested they could obtain a copy of the research work undertaken by the Parliamentary Library which shows the conditions under which foreign investment is allowed in other countries and is welcomed. For example, the New
Zealand Government welcomes foreign investment. Joint ventures are favoured, although there are no legal limitations on 100 per cent foreign ownership in New Zealand. The South African Government recognises that a steady inflow of foreign investment is necessary to maintain South Africa’s economic development. Foreign investors are encouraged to take local partners. France is one of the few countries which prohibits foreign investment in certain fields, but even there many foreign firms have been encouraged to invest in the French provinces.
Every day one sees headlines in the newspapers such as a few I have here which appeared in the last day or two. The Bulletin’, under the headline ‘Strangled’, had this to say:
Oil Drilling and Exploration has a chilling tale of how exploration work is declining in Australia under the auspices of Rex Connor.
In their annual report, directors say that while the company obtained the majority of oil drilling contracts available in the past year, the overall on-shore rig utilisation in Australia was the lowest for more than 12 years.
Another newspaper had the heading: ‘Government copying United States Errors on Gas - Broker’. The article said:
The Federal Government’s ‘foolish’ attitudes on natural gas policies probably will prove a temporary phenomenon . . . sharebrokers say.
It went on to say that we are repeating the errors that have been made in the United States, where there has been a tendency not to look for gas because of the inadequate rewards for it. A further article, under the headline: ‘Attack by Abrolhos on Government oil, gas policies’, reads as follows:
A strongly worded attack on the Federal Government’s attitude to natural resources was made yesterday in the Chairman’s address of Abrolhos Oil NL.
The Chairman . . . said that at a time when the discovery of oil and natural gas was so vital to the future of Australia, the directors were gravely concerned and puzzled at the Government’s lack of ground rules and its removal of incentives.
So one can go on. A further article has the heading: ‘Search declines to its lowest point’. It says:
The search for minerals in Australia is at its lowest point for years.
Every day one can pick up a newspaper and read these things.
Of course, at the same time as talking about energy crises, the Government should be doing everything it can sensibly to reduce our dependence on oil. For example, we could substitute gas, coal and electricity for oil in stationary burners. The Minister has suggested the use of Australian liquid petroleum gas in making local motor spirit. Whilst this may be technically feasible, it is a good deal more expensive and at present virtually prohibitive. In addition to that, of course, one would have to draw enormous amounts of gas, much of which could not be used, just to convert a certain amount into motor spirit. Coal liquefaction and oil from shale is again more expensive than looking for oil, but it could play a part in the future. The situation is that Australia’s energy resources will take a lot of money and effort before they are reasonably explored. ‘Unless some of that money and effort comes from both Australian and overseas investors we will fall far short of the effort necessary to maintain reasonable selfsufficiency.
I have put forward these suggestions to the Government in a genuine attempt to persuade it to review its disastrous policies, as even some of its own members would undoubtedly desire. But I am afraid that these pleas will fall on deaf ears. As one person with many years experience in the fuel section of the Bureau of Mineral ‘Resources said recently:
When the Minister recently said ‘our search for crude oil is continuing, especially off-shore’ this would be read as indicating that the Australian Government is actively and directly involved in the search for oil, when in fact it is actively involved in reducing the exploration effort.
It is unfortunately a fact of life which we must acknowledge that Australia’s exploration for petroleum will continue to languish until there is a change of Government.
– We have heard all this before, but that is typical of the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn). He referred to petroleum search exploration. The figures supplied to me by the Bureau of Mineral Resources to the end of June this year show that the amount expended for off-shore exploration was $79m and for the previous year it was exactly the same amount - $79m. The Government subsidy was increased. The amount for on-shore private drilling dropped from $24m to $13m. There is a very sound reason for that.
Mr Fairbairn What about
– Oh, dry up.
-Order! Interjections are out of order. The honourable member for Farrer spoke in complete silence. I ask him to extend the same courtesy to the Minister.
– He would not be capable of it. Australia is the oldest of the continents, geologically. The prospects of finding substantial flow oil on-shore are limited. The mass of figures quoted by the honourable member for Farrer were in respect of on-shore exploration. Offshore, where the young sediments are and where the oil is, the success record has been remarkable. In the case of Woodside-Burmah Oil NL the ratio has been 1 : 3.2 - one of the best in the world. The normal average world ratio is 1 successful hole in 16. In respect of Bass Strait, similarly, Esso-BHP went straight in and got it - and in big quantities. The honourable member for Farrer has the gall to read a sermon to the Government on what should be done with relation to oil exploration, but he is the guilty man. As a matter of fact, today in Australia natural gas supplies only 5.6 per cent of the total black coal equivalent in the energy market. It ought to be supplying 20 per cent as that is the world average figure, excluding the Soviet Union and China. If it were supplying 20 per cent, there would not be the present strain upon hydrocarbons, particularly upon crude oil. As for what is available, I shall quote no less a person than Mr Wittwer, who happens to wear 2 hats. He not only is the president of the Australian Petroleum Exploration Association but also is in charge of hydrocarbons for the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. In an address this year Mr Wittwer had this to say:
In the absence of further oil discoveries within Australia in the next 10 years we could find ourselves once again virtually dependent upon imports for our crude oil supplies.
Mr Wittwer has every reason to be reticent about it because, thanks again to the mismanagement of the honourable member for Farrer when he was the Minister holding this portfolio, his company will keep mum as to what it really has until it can re-negotiate the price for Bass Strait crude oil. As for the nitpicking-
– Are you alleging dishonesty?
– I am alleging business canniness, and the honourable member would do the same. On-shore the position is not good; but off-shore it is good, and we are going about it in the right way. In future there will not be any handouts or overseas farmouts similar to what was attempted in respect of the Woodside-Burmah company. The typical Woodside-Burmah farmout was this: It holds more than it could ever hope to explore and test and it would farm it out to someone else with a 50-50 split of the profits. In the case of the Shell Company, it was 66§ per cent to Woodside-Burmah and 33i to Shell. When the Petroleum and Minerals Authority commences operation we will not be rushing into these vast expenditures of money. Plenty of overseas firms will be prepared to come in on a proper basis so that the equity of the Australian people is protected. I have never heard such a dirge, such a jeremiad, on behalf of overseas interests.
Let us look at the record of the honourable member for Farrer. As a result of the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act, what is the position on the north west shelf? lt is that only 15 per cent is owned by Australia. It is an absolute disgrace, and the honourable member for Farrer is the guilty man. In respect of Bass Strait, 83 per cent of BHP shares are owned in Australia and that company has a 50 per cent interest in it. So, there is a 41 per cent Australian interest. This is what he wants to continue - giving resources away. In addition, he wants to jump on the bandwagon with respect to coal hydrogenation. Life is an equation in hydrocarbons. It is a matter of transmuting one to the other, and we are in the hands of the chemical engineers on it. I refer to an instance of nitpicking for which the motivation was a letter from a Mr Condon of the Hartogen firm. The honourable member chose to try to twist it around. If the oil recoverable in Australia is a total figure and one divides that by the present consumption of what is produced in Australia, one gets what is the recoverable amount for a period. Anyone with an elementary knowledge of oil technology would know that it would vary according to the pressure. However, this is the other side to it: We will take every possible step to conserve all hydrocarbons in Australia.
I remind the House that section 13 of the Pipeline Authority Act states specifically that all - I emphasise ‘all’ - liquids associated with natural gas will be retained in Australia and restructured into motor spirit. What will they be? In the case of the Redcliffs refinery they should be of the order of 12,000 to 15,000 barrels a day. In the case of the north west shelf, where they will come ashore in 1978, I would say that they will be in the order of at least 50,000 barrels a day, because that is a particularly wet gas. On this matter I have had the advice of no less a person than Dr Lewis Weeks, who is the world authority. I saw him yesterday, and we will be acting on his advice as to what we should do. Even the honourable member for Farrer would not be able to tell me anyone better in the world to go to than Dr Weeks. We shall accept that advice and act on it strictly and for the benefit of the people of Australia and not for the benefit of foreign shareholders and the local friends of the honourable member. He is the man who made the deal with Sir Henry Bolte. Australia today is stuck with that deal, under which only 5.6 per cent of the Australian fuel market is supplied by natural gas when it ought to be 20 per cent. Yet the honourable member has the gall - I repeat, the gall - to stand up here and attack the Government because it is not finding the necessary amount of oil on the methods that he suggests. His methods have proved to be incompetent and the honourable member has proved to be incompetent. He is the tragedy of all time in respect of his administration and its consequences.
– We have been selling our resources for years.
– Exactly, and the honourable member for Farrer would continue to do so and so would his Party. This is the man who was responsible for the present Act and for a situation whereby, out of $841m spent on petroleum exploration, $4 19m will go, either by cash payments by the State and Federal governments or by taxation concessions into the pockets of the overseas oil companies and not one red cent, not one share, will be retained for Australia. Nevertheless, he has the impertinence to stand up here and attack this Government. Shame on him. As I stated quite recently in Parliament, there is a very real need for quite a number of industries in Australia to give thought to the future. We need to conserve oil and to conserve natural gas. There is also a real need for industries which at present are using imported fuel oil for their boilers and heat treatments to move over to natural gas where it is available. Similarly, there is a very real need - although not quite so urgent - for some of the domestic consumers in the colder climates to give thought to using electric power, of which there is plenty in Australia, thank God and thank the Labor governments in New South Wales and Queensland which achieved a plentiful supply of electricity generated from coal.
– You did not do it.
– It was done when I was a member of the New South Wales Parliament, and I am proud of it. We were in office in Queensland until 19S6 and the infrastructure of the Queensland electricity system is the result of the efforts of the Labor Government there. Oil is becoming scarcer and dearer. The crucial year will be 1980, by which time we will find that there will be a considerable depletion in oil reserves throughout the world. Even at present there is an oil crisis. Of course, the Opposition would prefer to see Australia embarrassed in terms of oil supplies, provided it could tip the Government out of office. However, it would not have a hope and, more than that, it would not know how.
In 1980, and possibly even 2 years before that, it will be found that the price of crude oil will be beyond the cost of extracting by hydrogenation motor spirit and the other derivatives from coal. As I have told this House before - and I hate to have to repeat it even for the dim intelligence of the honourable member for Farrer - we will undertake a crash program in coal hydrogenation research. This is necessary because coal will be the bridge to the future - the bridge between the rapidly dwindling oil supplies and the ultimate world energy sources which will be uranium and solar energy. Coal will be the bridge.
– Does not the honourable member for Farrer know anything about that?
– He would not know what a coal mine was if he saw one.
– I cannot hear the Minister.
– Order! Interjections will cease. The Minister will address the Chair.
– In all prudence, we will take every possible action which may be necessary. We are most tolerant. At present about 24,000 barrels of liquid petroleum gas is being exported each day from Australia.
– And at shocking prices too.
– Yes, at shocking prices. It is being exported as the result of another deal made by the former Government on behalf of its friends. If it is necessary - and in a grave crisis it could be - we will give serious thought to using that liquid petroleum gas in Australia. Who would say what the future holds in terms of our imports of oil? But I repeat that only in a grave crisis would we take that action. We will honour contracts where it is possible to do so. But, in a grave crisis, we would need to give consideration to using those exports ourselves. In terms of heat equivalent those exports amount to a great deal more than 24,000 barrels a day. That would be an addition of about IS per cent to Australia’s output of crude as - and again the honourable member for Farrer chooses to ignore this fact - in terms of the oil allocation agreement for Bass Strait crude both liquid petroleum gas and condensate are treated as crude oil. The honourable member for Farrer would not admit that, but that is the truth and he well knows it. It is for that reason that we will enforce the agreement strictly to the letter, if the emergency arises. I hope that it will not. It would be thanks only to the subversive activities of the Opposition that our imported supplies of crude could possibly be interrupted.
– I should like to make brief reference to 2 inferences drawn by the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor). Firstly, he gave his usual catchcry when he referred to having heard a dirge on behalf of overseas interests. Let me make one point clearly and decisively. Any interest that I have - I am sure this refers also to the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) - in this disaster that has hit the mining and the energy industries, concerns the greater numbers of people who are affected by it - not the mammoth companies who can well look after their own interests but the rank and file. The Minister for Minerals and Energy, and speakers from that side of the House who may follow him in this debate, would do well to visit the areas of production, mix with the rank and file and find out what their views are. I issue that challenge and that invitation to the Minister. So much for his claim about the dirge on behalf of overseas interests.
The Minister made reference to some minimal action which was taken at some time in the history of Queensland by a State Labor government. Honourable members will notice that he religiously avoided any reference to the huge mining and energy interests that exist in that State and in New South Wales at the moment and which are staggering under the blows which have been perpetrated by this Minister and by this Government. They are staggering under those blows wondering what the future holds and whether there is any security left in the industry. The little man is wondering whether he should develop some lease that he has sat on for years and now sees no future prospects of making a go of it.
The Opposition has introduced again for discussion as a matter of public importance the conduct or, perhaps more particularly, the attitude of the Minister for Minerals and Energy to matters which we claim are of critical importance to the future prosperity and, what is far more important, the future security of the people of Australia. I refer, of course, to the matter of our reserves of crude oil and the lamentable, unsatisfactory and totally inadequate way in which he and this Government seek to increase those reserves.
It is an attitude, of course, stimulated and regimented by the determination of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Government to reduce all phases of national life in this great country to the sort of radical jackboot bureaucracy that recently reduced the mining industry in Chile to chaos and which brought the workers of that country to their knees. I say again - I think it is worth repeating - that just prior to the regrettable revolution in Chile about 750,000 workers rose in rebellion at one public meeting. This great mass of people could no longer stand tyranny. A ripple is going through this nation at the moment, believe you me. There is only one way that that ripple of insecurity, almost of revolution, can be removed; this Government should go to the people. That is the only way that this problem can be cured.
Repetition is only rarely justified. On this occasion is it. I, therefore, again ask honourable members to consider these very telling facts which reveal in appalling clarity just how this Minister and this Government have almost completely brought to a standstill any effective oil search activities in this country. I ask honourable members to examine a couple of these facts. I do not like to quote figures but the ones that I will quote are such an indictment that they must be quoted and recorded in the hearts and minds of the Australian people.
The Queensland oil index was at an all-time high of 458.3 in July 1968; at the end of 1969 it stood at 296.1; at the end of October 1973, it was 101.4. If that fact alone was produced, it would be an indictment of the Minister and his Department. The Sydney Fuel and Power Index in January 1973 stood at 238. I ask honourable members to listen to the next figure. Hold on to your seats. The Sydney Fuel and Power Index at the end of October 1973 was 176. We heard a great tirade - or should I describe it as another historic volumeof unimpressive stuff from the Minister when he referred to the great activities occurring in Australia at the moment. Let him answer the question posed by these facts. Capitalisation of oil explorers in January 1973 was $550m and at the end of October 1973 was $260m. I say again as was pointed out by the honourable member for Farrer quite explicitly that only 11 of the available 31 drilling rigs in Australia are working. That is the fact of the matter.
Total expenditure on oil exploration development and production to mid- 1973 was estimated at only $1.5 billion. A further $1.6 billion will be needed to develop our existing reserves. These are facts. To the end of 1971 the total government subsidy for this work was $11 lm. These are not fictitious and built up figures that have been thrown at us from the other side of the House. It is a small price to pay over 20 years or more to reach a state of 70 per cent self sufficiency. Much has been said about Australia producing 70 per cent of its petroleum requirements. That is the current position. I point out that the previous Government’s policy, and the previous Government’s attitude of co-operation with the industry, stimulated by a real concern for the freedom and the security of the people of Australia, did much to achieve this self reliance. But the stark reality is that Australia’s demand for petroleum, now about half a million barrels a day, will grow to 2 million barrels a day by the year 2,000. That is a 300 per cent increase. When we enter the 1980s, production from the existing known oil reserves in Australia will be starting to run down. I ask honourable members and the people of Australia to note that point well.
If we want to keep our 70 per cent rate of self sufficiency we will need to find another 10 billion barrels over the next 20 years or 5 times our existing discoveries to date. If Australia is to be 100 per cent self sufficient we will need to find an additional 4 billion barrels. Exploration effectively, at the moment, has come to a standstill. Despite this dangerous situation the Minister for Minerals and Energy sluggishly, dangerously and with a boorish determination to close the door on constructive dialogue with those in the industry is turning his back on those whom he regards as mugs and hillbillies. He has destroyed all confidence in the people who can produce the oil. Honourable members might well ask: What should be done? How do members of the Opposition see the position?’ Let me quote what has been said by the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony). My Leader said:
We have 4 choices: First, make drastic efforts to encourage the exploration for, and the development of, new reserves. Second, steadily increase our dependence on progressively dearer and scarcer overseas supplies. Third, drastically restrict our consumption and, by inference, our pattern of economic growth. Fourth, develop alternative energy sources. Perhaps the most unacceptable alternative would be to allow our dependence on overseas supplies to increase, with a consequent loss of independence in foreign policy, and a growing economic reliance on a politically unstable source of supply. Facing this situation, and in view of its closeness, logic should compel considerable intensification of our exploration efforts. It should also compel a comprehensive effort to fully investigate our future energy requirements, and the energy sources that will be necessary to adequately meet them.
As one who comes from the frontier parts of this nation, I have my mind firmly set on our defence. It is not necessary for me to tell anyone in this House how much the defence of this nation depends upon the availability of reliable oil and fuel supplies generally. Is it not quite obvious that we have here a rather appalling and terrifying cocktail of national disaster, that is, the mixture of a reduction of our defence capabilities to something that is a joke internationally with the freezing of oil exploration in Australia? What would be a greater formula for disaster than a cutting down of our defence capability and a reduction in our oil resources? On this issue alone I challenge the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) - I am sure every person on this side of the House would be delighted if he were to do so - to call a double dissolution and to get the verdict of this nation on just how the Government, in particular the Minister for Minerals and Energy, is performing.
– The attitude of the Opposition to the subject of oil and minerals is obvious. Even though the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) trots into this place regularly every couple of weeks with an industry handout, the Opposition does not treat the subject seriously, as is illustrated by the fact that the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), who is one of the Opposition’s most incompetent spokesmen, is the second speaker for the Opposition in the debate. Early in his speech the honourable member for Kennedy gave some details about the state of the mining industry in Queensland, which is the State from which he comes. He was not talking specifically about oil; he was talking specifically about minerals. Let me tell him something about Mount Isa Mines Ltd.
– Come up to Mount Isa with me.
-Order! The honourable member for Kennedy will cease interjecting. He was heard in silence when he spoke in the debate.
– Let me tell the honourable member for Kennedy something about Mount Isa Mines Ltd, which is in the electorate he represents but never lives in. This year Mount Isa Mines Ltd achieved-
– Come up to Mount Isa with me and say that.
-Order! The honourable member for Kennedy will cease interjecting. I remind the honourable member that there will be a week’s holiday for him on the next occasion.
– This year Mount Isa Mines achieved a net profit of $31,740,000. What was the average price at which the metals were sold? Copper was sold at $963 a ton, lead at $259 a ton and zinc at $313 a ton. By comparison Australian prices quoted on 16 November 1973 at the London Metal Exchange were $1,460 a ton for copper as against the $963 with which the money was earned, $295 a ton for lead as against $259 and $400 a ton for zinc as against $313. So the profit next year will be much greater than $31,740,000. So much for his remarks about the state of the mining industry in Queensland.
The fact of the matter is the Opposition will do anything and come at any shabby tactic to topple the Government. As far as the Opposition is concerned the interests of the public of Australia can go to hell. Only a couple of weeks ago we had the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) and members of the Liberal Party of Australia goading the Government to kick the Arabs and to refuse to sell them wheat. They were trying to do everything possible to jeopardise the flow of oil from the Middle East to Australia. But 2 years ago we saw the Leader of the Country Party come into this chamber and introduce amendments to the Export Payments Insurance Corporation Act to enable the Corporation to accept liability for the sale of wheat to the Arab countries. Because the Country Party’s own electoral base was in trouble and its wheat stocks declining the Country Party agreed to the sale of wheat to a market which might not pay for it. The Country Party let the Commonwealth of Australia, through the Export Payments Insurance Corporation, pick up the Lability. But what happens when the tide changes and the Country Party is in Opposition? The Leader of the Country Party walked into this place 2 weeks ago and said of the same countries in relation to the continuation of the same contracts: ‘Refuse them wheat’. At the same time the honourable member for Farrer and the honourable member for Kennedy have come into this chamber and said that we ought to be looking forward to Australia’s oil reserves and the continuity of supply from the Middle East. How can there be any continuity of supply from the Middle East if we offend the Middle East countries by breaking off commercial transactions we have with them for the supply of wheat? Not only that but the self-appointed industry advocate - the Leader of the Country Party - and his cohort, the honourable member for Farrer, came into this chamber a couple of weeks ago and badgered the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) because the Government wanted to acquire natural gas and condensate at the well head. They said that was a trespass upon the rights and properties of the Woodside-Burmah consortium. What they were in fact trying to do was to protect the rights of Woodside-Burmah to export gas and condensate from the North West Shelf. On the one hand they say that the Government must allow this group to export because it has spent money and explored and on the other they say that the Government has to look after Australia’s domestic requirements. They say that the Government has to look after the continuity of oil and petrol supplies to Australia while at the same time allowing Woodside-Burmah to export. They should get their case clearly in their minds. The fact is that the Government has absolutely no case whatsoever to answer in terms of the conservation of oil and the continuity of supplies from the Middle East and in relation to what it does in terms of oil exploration in Australia.
Earlier in this debate the Minister gave some figures concerning oil exploration in Australia. For the last 12 months to June 1973 a total of $79m was spent, which is the same as was spent in 1972. That means that there has been no diminution of the amount of money being spent on oil exploration in Australia. As the Minister pointed out, the reason why there has been a downturn in on-shore exploration is because the propensity for finding oil on-shore is not as great as it is for finding oil off-shore. Another factor that he mentioned, and quite properly, is that the success ratio for off-shore drilling in Australia has been unparalleled anywhere in the world. One well in every 3.5 holes drilled is almost 5 times better than any comparable area anywhere in the world. The honourable member for Farrer mentioned that a couple of weeks ago, but it did not suit his argument to mention it again in this debate. So it was conveniently forgotten. But the fact of the matter is Australia is quite self sufficient for the moment in terms of oil.
It is true that in the aggregate we have 8 years supply. But 2 years ago, when the Australian Labor Party was in Opposition and the present Minister for Minerals and Energy was a back bench member of the Parliament, he was saying in this chamber that Australia’s oil supplies are limited to 8 or 10 years and that there ought to be an increase in the exploration for oil in this country. He was the only sentry at the gate who was talking about the possibility of a restriction of the supply of fuel to the rest of the world from Arab countries. He was the only sentry at the gate who was talking about the energy crisis that could face the world and this nation. Now honourable members opposite want to hop on the bandwagon and say that the Government has failed in its responsibilities. But for this Government, the future of every motorist in Australia, of every person who enjoys heating in his home and of every industry that enjoys the use of fuel oil, natural gas and so on would be in jeopardy. The most telling point that the Minister made was that because of the administration by the honourable member for Farrer of the National Development portfolio in the days of the previous Government, through the deals the honourable member for Farrer made with the Victorian Government, the consumption of natural gas in Australia is limited to only 5.6 per cent of Australia’s energy requirements, whereas in every other comparable country in the world it is 20.7 per cent. If we were supplementing our intake or our usage of petroleum with natural gas to the ratio that most other countries are supplementing their intake or usage we would not be facing these problems. The honourable member for Farrer mentioned furnace oil. It has been referred to in this House by myself and the Minister for Minerals and Energy for about 3 years. There is absolutely no reason why commercial enterprise in the city of Melbourne and the State of Victoria for the moment cannot switch across their furnaces from the firing of petroleum to the firing of natural gas. That is something that should have happened. It is something that honourable members opposite should have encouraged to happen but did not.
So, at the moment, Australia is dependent on the Middle East for only 18 per cent of its oil consumption. Because of the heavy gravity of Middle East oil, after cracking the 5 per cent to 10 per cent of residuals is used for furnace fuel. If we were not worried about the question of furnace fuel and the need for the importation of heavy crude from the Middle East and if the honourable member for Farrer and the previous Government had encouraged industry in Australia to use natural gas for the firing of furnaces, we would not be needing Middle East crude at all. The other 12 per cent of our requirements which is imported comes from Indonesia. Together with our importation of crude from the Middle East it means that a total of 30 per cent of our requirements for crude is imported. So we are dependent on the Middle East for only 18 per cent of our oil requirements and this Government is going to encourage industry to move into natural gas for firing furnaces and boilers. Not only is the Government going to do that; as the Minister for Minerals and Energy said, the Government is also going to embark upon a program to investigate the possibility of the hydrogenation of coal to turn it into motor spirit. At the moment, the estimates are that a barrel of petrol can be produced by the hydrogenation of coal at $10.50 a barrel and it is estimated that by 1978 the price of oil in the world will be at about that figure. So by 1978 this process will be worth our while. At the moment. Australia produces 56 million tons of coal a year. We have reserves of 200,000 million tons of black coal of which 50 per cent is recoverable and about 200,000 million tons of brown coal, again 50 per cent of which is recoverable. It is quite easy for us through this process to convert a broad proportion of that coal into motor spirit.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Unfortunately we have heard from the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) a tirade of abuse which had nothing to do with the subject matter of public importance and which in no way clarified the issues that are facing the Australian public at present because of the administration by the Minister of his portfolio. Let me mention one matter to which both the Minister and the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) who preceded me in this debate referred and which relates to the hydrogenation of coal. The Minister spoke about instituting a crash program to investigate this process. I wonder how that stands as a public statement with the evidence that was put before the Estimates Committee of the Senate dealing with the Department of Minerals and Energy. Officers of his Department told members of the Senate Committee that there is no laboratory in Australia which is capable of conducting the research and applying the technology necessary to develop a program of hydrogenation of coal, nor is there any provision in the Estimates of the Minister’s Department for such a program. I think that matter needs some explanation by the Minister to this House and to the people of Australia.
What kind of crash program will it be? It will be a program which will crash as much as has the Minister’s administration of petroleum exploration in Australia. At a time of world energy crisis of incalculable proportions and a time of Arab gunboat oil diplomacy of the most callous and calculated kind, when a world depression is almost a foregone conclusion in the face of that diplomacy by the Arabs, Australia requires from the Minister 2 things: Firstly, a clear, simple and accurate statement of Australia’s domestic oil supplies and future domestic demands. That ought to be something with which the Minister can come forth, with all the forces of his Department to back him up. Secondly, a sense of urgency is required of the Minister and the Government in decision making and in action. This is not a time when the Government can sit back or when the Minister can delude the public or when there can be an air of complacency about this energy problem.
Australia has an energy problem. It is not as bad as it is in Western Europe or America but nevertheless Australia has its own energy problem. What have we heard from the Minister in respect of the 2 things that are required? Inaccurate, conflicting and misleading information has been given to this House and to the public and we have had this air of complacency from the Minister which pervades the whole administration of his portfolio. The conflicting, inaccurate and misleading statements are in the Hansard record and I will refer to them only briefly because of the limited time available to me in this debate. On 31 May in a debate on the Pipeline Authority Bill at page 2973 of Hansard the Minister said:
On this basis-
Having dealt with the subject before- our recoverable Australian crude oil will be exhausted in 12 years.
The Minister for Minerals and Energy gave a figure of 12 years in May. By October the Minister had changed the figure and the statement to one of an anticipated supply of 8 years. He put it in this context:
Australia is notably deficient in crude oil. We only have 8 years supply, allowing for projected expansion of consumption.
Then on Monday last - 26 November - in answer to a question he said that Australia has no more than 8 years known recoverable reserves of crude oil. The periods are different, the language is different and the concepts are different. We in this House want to know what the Minister means. The public needs to know what the Minister means.
– He does not know himself.
– That probably is the case because quite obviously the Minister has not read the material that is available to him from his own Department. When the Minister speaks of 8 years supply being available to Australia, does he mean that in the eighth year from now there will be no oil available? That is what supply’ means, as I understand it. If that is the truth, the public ought to know because the possibility that Australia can literally run out of oil in 8 years is a most serious matter.
The truth of the matter, as the industry well knows - even if the Minister does not know that his statement is not correct - is that within 8 years or thereabouts the recovery decline, or the production curve to use the technical term, will start to decline. What the Minister must talk about is the gap between production and demand. The public needs to know what is that gap, how quickly it will widen and what action is to be taken by this Government to see chat it does not widen too far but narrows again. There will be oil in the ground in 8 years time and there will be oil that can be produced for use in Australia in 8 years time, but how much is available for production will depend upon how much oil has been discovered. This is where the Opposition crosses swords with the Minister and where it condemns the inaction of this Government and condemns the Minister for the way in which he has tried to delude this House, and has misled the Australian people. The Minister for Minerals and Energy gives the impression that supplies will run out in 8 years but that everything will be all right because a crash program of coal hydrogenation will solve all the problems in Australia. Everyone in the industry and everyone who reads the documentation from the Minister’s own Department knows that during this year there has been in Australia a radical run-down in the amount of exploration, both on-shore and off-shore. All that anyone needs to do in order to get the truth is to read the publications of the Minister’s Department. I refer to a publication called “The Petroleum Newsletter No. 54’ put out by the Bureau of Mineral Resources this year for the period 1 April to 30 June. In the table of drilling activity one can quickly see what the drastic downturn has been. If one turns to the schedules of on-shore rigs being used as at 30 June 1973, one comes across the word idle’ time and time again - ‘idle’, ‘idle’, ‘idle’ - until one realises that in Australia about 20 rigs are idle.
There is one solid contribution that the Government could make to ensure for the Australian public that there are adequate reserves of petroleum in Australia in the foreseeable future, and that is to accelerate, and rapidly accelerate, the exploration program. There is no substitute for that, and the Minister knows it. He ought to read a publication in the ‘Oil and Gas’ journal of May 1973 by Mr J. M. Henry and Mr K. Blair-both of the Department of Minerals and Energy and in particular of the Bureau of Mineral Resources - entitled ‘Australian Contribution in Expenditure And Development Of Its Indigenous Petroleum Resources’. The magnitude of what is required in Australia can be judged very quickly from these figures: To satisfy our crude oil requirements over the next 12 years, exploration expenditure of the order of $1,1 50m is required. Then, in addition to that, expenditure for development of those wells and the cost of other facilities is another $2,000m, making a total of $3, 150m. It has been mooted that through the National Petroleum and Minerals Authority, foreshadowed by the Minister some $50m will be available to that Authority. If only half of that is put into petroleum exloration over the next 12 years, representing $3 00m for exploration, there will be a massive shortfall of thousands of millions of dollars, which will have to be made up in order to explore for and discover the reserves to satisfy our crude oil requirements for a mere 12 years.
Where will that money come from? It must come from private industry. What has this Minister done? He has killed off the opportunity for private industry to invest that sort of money. He has killed off the incentive to private investors to put up that risk capital. He has denied to the international industry the opportunity to come and aid Australia in what is required-
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired. The discussion is concluded.
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill proposes to amend the Canning-Fruit Charge Act 1959-1966 to express the rate of charge in terms of metric instead of imperial tons. Canning-fruit charge is payable by growers at the rate of $1 per imperial ton on apricots, peaches and pears delivered to a cannery and accepted as of canning quality or taken into a cannery for use in the production of canned fruit. The proceeds of the charge are used by the Australian Canned Fruit Sales Promotion Committee, a statutory body authorised to promote the sale of canned fruit in Australia and overseas. As the fruit canning industry is to change over to the metric sysetm of weights from the commencement, early in December 1973, of the 1973-74 season, the Australian Canned Fruit Sales Promotion Committee has requested that the rate of charge be varied from the present rate of $1 per ton to the nearest metric equivalent. This is $1 per metric ton, or tonne, and represents a fractional increase of 1.6 per cent on the present rate. It is proposed that the amendment of the rate of charge should come into operation on 1 December 1973 so that all deliveries of fruit for the 1973-74 canning season will be subject to charge at the new rate. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.
Bill presented by Dr Patterson, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time
The purpose of this Bill is to implement the Australian Government’s decision to amend the statutory marketing arrangements for the apple and pear industry by establishing an Australian Apple and Pear Corporation which will replace the present Australian Apple and Pear Board. As many honourable members are aware, the apple and pear industry has for some seasons now been facing problems of increasing seriousness and complexity, mainly in the export field. These problems derive principally from the large volume of exports which the industry has traditionally sent to markets in the United Kingdom and Europe. Because of developments in these markets the export operation is characterised by increasing uncertainty. These developments include the effects of British entry into the European Economic Community, the increasing competition in this region from European fruit, and the increasing competition from other exporting countries supplying the British and European markets.
The general uncertainty created by these developments is aggravated by difficulties in the field of shipping chiefly the high and increasing level of freight rates to the ‘United Kingdom and Europe and the difficulty of finding adequate shipping for the purpose. The latter is most acute in regard to conventional refrigerated shipping. Although all States have some interest in export, the position is most serious for Tasmania, because of its heavy dependence on the export trade and on the
United Kingdom and Europe to take the bulk of its apple exports, and because of its dependence on conventional shipping. The position also presents significant problems for Western Australia, the second largest apple exporting State, and for Victoria because of its large pear exports. These export problems have had their impact at the grower level in a feeling of general insecurity and low farm incomes in important producing regions, particularly in Tasmania.
It is against this general background of critical industry problems that this Bill is introduced. It must be recognised that proper solutions to these problems will only be achieved with the acceptance by the industry at large of the need to restructure on a broad front. Such restructuring of the industry must be directed towards tailoring production, in respect of both quantity and quality, to the needs of remunerative outlets; to adaptability in introducing the most economic techniques and practices designed to reduce costs; and, most importantly, to the consolidation of viable farm units. Allied with the need for the restructuring of the industry on a broad front is also the need for the industry to have a highly skilled, effective and nationallyorganised body that can come to grips with the marketing problems that beset the industry. I believe that the Corporation will supply this latter need and that its operations, hand in hand with the industry’s own restructuring efforts, will place the industry once more on a sound economic foundation.
I now turn to the details of the Bill. The Corporation will consist of 9 part-time members, namely, an independent Chairman, 4 members to represent growers, one member to represent the Australian Government, and 3 other members. All the members of the Corporation will be appointed by the Minister for Primary Industry. The members representing growers will be selected from nominations submitted by the Australian Apple and Pear Growers Association and the ‘three other members’ referred to in the Bill, which I might term ‘members with special qualifications’, will be appointed after consultation with that Association, the Australian Apple and Pear Shippers Association, and any other appropriate bodies.
It will be important for the most effective functioning of the Corporation that its members generally be soundly qualified and, in particular, that the 3 members with special qualifications bring to the Corporation the widest possible backgrounds consistent with the range of functions that the Corporation has to perform. For this reason these members will be people specially qualified for appointment by reason of their experience and expertise in marketing generally, or in the marketing of apples and pears, the processing and marketing of apple and pear products or by reason of other experience in commerce, finance, economics, science and industrial matters.
I should mention that I have used the term marketing’ in the context of these qualifications as covering all aspects involved from the time the fruit leaves the property until it reaches the final consumer. The position of Chairman will also be of major importance. The qualities demanded will be a capacity for leadership and broad commercial experience, not necessarily confined to the apple and pear industry. All members will be appointed for a period of 3 years, and will be eligible for re-appointment.
The functions of the Corporation are set out in clause 6 of the Bill. These functions include the control of the export from Australia of fresh apples and pears and the Corporation has been given, in clauses 7 to 9, powers appropriate to the performance of these functions. These include, the power to recommend to the Minister the terms and conditions of export; the persons who may engage in export; packaging and labelling for export and quality standards and grading for export. It also has power to determine quantities for export by State and country of destination, and to negotiate shipping arrangements.
For the performance of its other stated functions, the Corporation has been empowered to promote or engage in research; to promote by financial assistance and otherwise new apple or pear products; to act as agent for producers or exporters; to appoint agents or arrange for the performance of work on its behalf; with the approval of the Minister to enter into agreements with a State and to trade in fresh apples and pears and in apple and pear products.
For its trading operations, the Corporation is empowered to charter ships and, under clause 30 of the Bill, to borrow moneys subject to the approval of the Minister and the Treasurer. The Corporation’s borrowings may be guaranteed by the Australian Government. The power to trade will be a significant power available to the Corporation in a major task confronting it, namely, the development of new markets. The element of risk connected with the development of new markets is often too great to present attractions to private exporters. The Corporation’s trading power is qualified by a requirement that it must seek the approval of the Minister to engage in trade in competition with Australian concerns and must conduct any such trade in a manner that accords with commercial practice.
There is also expressed in clause 7 (3) of the Bill a general requirement that the Corporation must comply with any directions given it by the Minister with respect to the performance of its functions and the exercise of its powers. This power of direction over the Corporation is a power which would only be drawn on in unusual circumstances. It might need to be used, for example, to restrain activity by the Corporation if such activity is having serious and undesirable repercussions in important areas outside the cognizance of the Corporation.
There are certain fields of activity, apart from trading and the regulation of fresh fruit exports, in which the Corporation is expected to play a prominent role. A major role is seen for it in the field of research and an expanded role in the field of sales promotion of apples and pears or products derived from these fruits, not only overseas but also in Australia. The Corporation’s research role will be to encourage and if necessary to initiate research into all aspects of the industry including quality improvement; cost saving practices and techniques at all stages of the productionmarketing chain; packaging; handling; storage; transport; the control and eradication of pests and diseases; the development and marketing of new processed products for apples and pears and the provision of technical advice in the processing field. The research role envisaged for the Corporation in the development of new processed products is of particular significance. The Corporation is specifically empowered to assist financially and in other ways in this important activity. I believe that there is considerable potential in this field.
The promotion role contemplated for the Corporation is of equal importance. To encourage the increased consumption of apples and pears and apple and pear products throughout Australia requires an imaginative and well co-ordinated promotion program.
The Corporation will be ideally placed to achieve this. At the same time the Corporation will be giving constant attention to overseas promotion. This is particularly significant in the light of the pressing need to which I have referred earlier, to find alternative export outlets to the traditional markets.
It is also envisaged that the Corporation, for the effective carrying out of its functions, will maintain an efficient marketing research and intelligence unit. The Bill proposes that there should be available for the immediate financing of the Corporation the moneys collected under the Apple and Pear Export Charges Act 1938-1973, which is presently the source of the income of the Australian Apple and Pear Board. This is intended as an interim measure only to meet the immediate establishment needs of the Corporation.
A levy on all apples and pears produced and sold is considered to be the appropriate permanent form of Corporation financing, since the Corporation can be expected to produce benefits for all sectors of the industry.
The Government currently has under study, in consultation with the industry, the most practicable method of imposing and collecting such a levy and will he submitting measures to the Parliament for adoption in the near future. The Government fully appreciates the need to establish the Corporation on a firm financial footing as quickly as possible.
The Corporation proposals have been developed in discussions with the Australian Apple and Pear Growers’ Association and are supported by the Association. As I stated earlier, I believe the proposals constitute an important step towards alleviating many of the difficulties that currently beset the industry, particularly its export sector. The Corporation will provide the industry with a marketing instrument directed by persons with the necessary skills and expertise in the broad field of marketing. It will be armed with appropriate and adequate powers and, accordingly, should be capable of tackling effectively the industry’s problems on a co-ordinated national basis. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.
Bill presented by Dr Patterson, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to introduce amendments to the Apple and Pear Stabilization Act 1971-1972. The amendments are necessary as a consequence of the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation Bill 19.3 which I have just introduced. The Act contains references to the Australian Apple and Pear Board and the Apple and Pear Organization Act 1938-1971. The Bill substitutes the Corporation and the Act establishing the Corporation for these references. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.
Bill presented by Dr Patterson, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to introduce amendments to the Apple and Pear Export Charges Act 1938-1968. The amendments are necessary as a consequence of the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation Bill 1973 which I have just introduced. The Bill substitutes the Corporation for the Australian Apple and Pear Board where referred to throughout the Act, and continues in force regulations made under the Act which were operative immediately before this proposed amendment. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.
Bill presented by Dr Patterson, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to introduce amendments to the Apple and Pear Stabilization Export Duty Collection Act 1971. The amendments are necessary as a consequence of the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation Bill 1973, which I have just introduced. The Bill substitutes the Corporation for the Australian Apple and Pear Board where referred to throughout the Act. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.
Bill presented by Dr Patterson, and read a first time.
– 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this short Bill is to obtain Parliamentary approval for the agreement entered into by the Australian and State Governments on 24 November 1973 to extend the Fruitgrowing Reconstruction Scheme for a further 12 months to 30 June 1974. The Scheme, which commenced on 14 July 1972, provides assistance, supplementary to the main Rural Reconstruction Scheme, to meet some of the special needs of the horticultural industry. Financial assistance is provided under the Fruitgrowing Reconstruction Scheme for the removal of surplus fruit trees. This assistance is available only to those orchardists who are experiencing, or are threatened by financial difficulties. A subsidiary benefit of the Scheme to the industry is that the removal of surplus trees has helped to bring the industry’s productive capacity into closer alignment with the market for its products.
The Scheme offers two forms of assistance: Clear fell, for the grower who is predominantly a horticulturist, who is in severe financial difficulties, and who wishes to remove all his fruit trees and leave the horticultural industry; and partial removal, for the grower whose property would become viable if some or all of the fruit trees were removed, and the land put to an alternative use, but, who lacks the financial resources to withstand in the short term the effect of the removal of the trees. The Scheme was announced on 14 July 1972 and was to have operated for one year. The closing date for applications was 30 June 1973 and trees were to have been removed no later than 31 October 1973. The setting up of the necessary administrative machinery caused a delay in getting the Scheme under way. Most of the growers who might have taken immediate advantage of this Scheme had incurred spraying, pruning and fertiliser expenses for the 1972-73 crops before the State administering authorities were in a position to accept applications.
As a result, the early response to the Scheme was less than had been expected. When it was reviewed in March 1973 by the Ministers of the Australian and State Governments who were concerned with the Scheme, it was agreed that in some sections of the horticultural industry there was still a need for the kind of assistance provided by the Scheme. The Ministers concluded that the Scheme should be extended for a further 12 months and this view was accepted by the Australian Government. Since the initial response to the Scheme had been slow, ample funds were still available from the original $4.6m allotted by the Australian Government for the operation of the Scheme. Thus no additional funds have to be allocated for its extension. Originally, the Scheme was confined to producers of canning peaches and pears and fresh apples and pears. Under the terms of the Fruitgrowing Reconstruction Agreement it was, however, open to any State to seek approval for the extension of the Scheme to other varieties of fruit. This was, in fact, done early in 1973 when canning apricots were included at the request of New South Wales.
Since the Scheme is designed to assist horticulturists who are in financial difficulties, the Australian Government has taken the view that no useful purpose would be served by allowing growers, after the extension of the shceme was announced, to withdraw applications, take one more crop off their trees and then re-apply for assistance. It was considered that such a course of action was likely to aggravate a grower’s financial problems. The States concurred with this view and the supplemental agreement therefore provides that where an application had been submitted before 1 July 1973, the trees concerned should be removed by the original deadline; that is, 31 October 1973. An application from a grower who failed to meet this deadline would automatically lapse. The Government recognised, however, that there can be situations where a grower’s failure to remove trees by the deadline may be due to circumstances outside his control. For this reason, the supplemental agreement gives the State authorities necessary flexibility in administering this provision. The amendment of the agreement has also provided an opportunity to correct an inconsistency between the prescribed average rate of assistance for the removal of fresh apple and pear trees and the rate applicable to canning fruit. The average assistance for fresh fruit which a State must not exceed has been increased from $200 to $250 per acre. This amendment applies as from the date of commencement of the Scheme; that is, 14 July 1972.
Industries which have experienced problems of the dimensions of those confronting the canned deciduous fruit and the apple and pear industries obviously need help to regain stability. The Government’s recognition of the needs of these industries is implicit in other measures which have been taken. These include the emergency adjustment assistance payments to growers following the December 1972 revaluation of the Australian dollar; the subsequent provision of $1.5m in additional assistance to export canneries; the proposed establishment of the Apple and Pear Corporation; and the operation of the apple and pear stabilization scheme. The continuation of the Fruitgrowing Reconstruction Scheme is another component of the Government’s broad program for the reconstruction of Australia’s horticultural industries. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.
Bill presented by Dr Everingham, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
On 16 January last Cabinet authorised me to set in train arrangements for the establishment of a Hospitals and Health Services Commission. This Commission would study Australian health care needs and make recommendations to the Government on the allocation of capital and operating funds for the development and maintenance of health care delivery systems in Australia. The need to set up this commission is based on the recognition that a high standard of health care is one of the fundamental rights of every Australian, and that the Australian Government must accept its full responsibility in this regard. It is our belief that health is a family affair and a community affair and that communities must look beyond the person who is sick in bed or who is in need of medical attention. The need for health services begins at birth and continues throughout our lives.
In the past the emphasis in the delivery of health care has been on the provision of curative rather than preventive health and rehabilitation services. As an initial step it is the aim of this Government to correct this imbalance by encouraging the rapid expansion and co-ordination of community health services. The Government has committed itself to a policy of promoting the regionalisation and modernisation of hospitals, linked with the development of community based health services and preventive health programs. It is interested in the full range of services, facilities and funding arrangements required to promote a high standard of health.
To make an immediate start on the work envisaged for the Commission, an Interim Committee on Hospitals and Health Services was appointed within my department soon after this Government took office. This committee has already undertaken studies and made recommendations to the Government. As a result of those recommendations positive action has been taken to improve the health services of this country. It will be a feature of the Commission’s examination of health needs for Australia to consult with the many authorities and organisations in Australia with deep interests in health care. And, of course, the Commission will have to rely heavily on the support that these bodies can give the Commission in ascertaining the existence and state of health services throughout the nation. As a practical example of this type of consultation and co-operation, the Commission is presently examining the hospital facilities position in Australia and is being actively assisted by such bodies as the Australian Medical Association, the Royal Australian Nursing Federation, the Australian College of Medical Administrators, the Australian Hospitals Association, the Australian Institute of Hospital Administrators, the Australian Department of Health, the Bureau of Census and Statistics and the health authorities in participating States.
Earlier this year the Interim Committee invited by advertisements in the press submissions and comments from bodies and persons. Over 600 submissions have already ‘been received. This is a firm basis for commencement of the Commission’s work and I believe that many more submissions are yet to be lodged. The Interim Committee’s first report, A Community Health Program for Australia”, was tabled in the House on 30 May last. This report has been exceptionally well received by health administrators in this country. That program has been endorsed by the Government and a sum of SI Om was allocated in this year’s Budget to meet capital and net operating costs of approved community health projects in 1973-74. The program should provide the required impetus for the establishment of much needed, but often overlooked, community based health services and should encourage communities and regions to examine their own needs and priorities and to express them to the relevant health authorities.
To date assistance totalling $9m has already been approved under the community health program. This program is an indication of the enthusiasm and earnestness of the Interim Committee in tackling its responsibilities, and indicates the wholehearted approach and the concern for the health care of the Australian people that the Commission will bring to bear on its tasks. The appropriation of $10m appears in Appropriation Bill (No. 2) within the Department of Health appropriations. It is intended that the Department of Health will be implementing the program of approved projects and be expending the moneys on Australia’s behalf. Following the passage of this legislation through the Australian Parliament I expect that payments to States and organisations can be speedily arranged and the full allocation of $10m spent by 30 June 1974.
The Interim Committee has also been busy on other fronts. It recognised quickly that its own efforts were not enough but that it was necessary to encourage all administrations within the health services community to plan, research and evaluate their activities. The Government has provided funds of Sim a year and has given to the Interim Committee the overall co-ordinating role for an initial 3-year program for health services planning and research. Australia will continue to suffer from periodic shortages of various health professionals until a systematic approach is developed which anticipates requirements in the various skills to enable training facilities to adjust accordingly, which studies imbalances in the distribution of personnel and generally ensures that they are being both trained and used effectively. A special committee, which it is intended will report directly to the Hospitals and Health Services Commission, is already starting to examine some of these problems.
As a first step in ensuring a high quality regionalised and rationalised hospital system across the nation, the survey of the Australian hospital system will focus on areas in which there are shortfalls of facilities and equipment. In the even shorter term, there is a need to remedy acute hospital shortages which exist in a number of areas throughout Australia and the Government has already provided funds for an immediate start in developing additional hospital facilities in hospital deprived suburban areas of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Meanwhile, the Interim Committee has involved itself with plans for accreditation of health facilities and services, and it has recommended that funds be provided to the Australian Hospitals Standards Committee for a draft plan of a scheme for accreditation of Australian hospitals for consideration by the Commission. The Interim Committee is co-operating on this. Australian Hospitals Standards Committee with the Australian Hospital Association and the Australian Medical Association.
This Bill establishes the Hospitals and Health Services Commission on a permanent and sound legal basis, enumerates its functions and gives it all the powers necessary to enable it to operate effectively. The Commission will consist of 3 full time Commissioners, including the Chairman and Deputy Chairman, and between 4 and 9 part time Commissioners. The period of appointment of full time Commissioners is up to 7 years, part time Commissioners up to 3 years. Its staff will be employed under the Public Service Act. The functions of the Commission in general terms are:
The Commission is given adequate powers to allow it to perform its functions, including the power to hold private and public inquiries, and to engage outside consultants. Honourable members will note that the Bill contains provisions to ensure the confidentiality of information on the affairs of individuals which may be acquired in the course of the Commission’s operations.
Establishment of the Commission is yet another step in the Government’s progress toward a total approach to the nation’s health care needs. The Interim Committee has already more than demonstrated its capacity for hard work and sound responsible judgement and recommended the means of tackling some of the inadequacies in our health care system. However, what has been achieved has also served to illustrate how much remains to be done. High quality health services do not just happen. Health care needs must be identified and services must be planned and financed in a co-ordinated manner. The establishment of the Hospitals and Health Services Commission by this Bill will ensure the continuation of the identification of those needs and provide the apparatus for planning and co-ordinating the resources necessary for their fulfilment. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.
– I move:
That in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1973, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the Committee has duly reported to Parliament:
The proposal involves the alterations and additions to existing buildings, demolition to make way for new construction, construction of a new unit assembly building complete with cranes, reconstruction of two slipways, including a new berth crane, and reconstruction of associated engineering services. The estimated cost of the proposed work when referred to the committee was $7. 6m.
The Committee concluded that there was a need for modernisation of the shipbuilding facilities at the Williamstown dockyard; that the sites selected for the proposed new facilities were suitable; and that the work should proceed to construction. This Government’s decisions to review the Navy’s destroyer replacement requirements and in the interim to allocate the construction of the oceanographic ship to Williamstown have made it possible - indeed prudent - to extend stage 1 of the dockyard modernisation by some 2 years. Thus, whilst the work content of this stage remains the same as that reported on by the Joint Standing Committee on Public Works, the completion date for stage 1 is now planned to be November 1977 instead of November 1975, as shown in paragraph 62 of the Committee’s report.
In tabling the Committee’s report last May, the Chairman expressed concern that ministerial approval had been given for the Department of Works to carry out the documentation of stage 1 before his Committee had examined the project. The view also was expressed that stages 1 and 2 should have been considered together rather than allowing stage 1 to preempt stage 2. However, at the time the proposal was referred to the Committee, planning was still proceeding on the destroyer program set by the previous Government while that program was being examined by this Government. In that context it was necessary to proceed with some detailed planning concurrently with the Committee’s investigations. On the question of reference of stage 2 of the modernisation works to the Committee, Government approval has yet to be sought for the later stages of the project. Planning is only now proceeding sufficiently to seek that approval and reference to the Committee as appropriate. Upon the concurrence of the House in this motion, the project can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
– As a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Public Works, I should like to make a few comments. The Minister for Works (Mr Les Johnson) mentioned that the Committee was critical of the fact that approval for documentation was sought before the hearing commenced in May. Evidently there was a great deal of urgency about it between earlier in the year and May. But since 14 May, when the Committee heard the reference, all urgency seems to have disappeared. We have the queer picture that the Government sought and obtained approval for prior documentation to proceed, yet now we find that the length of time during which the work is to be done is to be extended by 2 years. It is quite clear that there is a difference in the urgency as the Government now sees it.
It is probably related to what we understand to be the urgency that the Government sees for our defence requirements. The Government has said that there will not be any threat for 15 years. I guess that this explains the measured tread with which the Government is attacking the problem of refurbishing the Williamstown dockyard. It is quite clear from the programming for the destroyer refitting and rebuilding in particular that unless things are put in hand early there will be a very serious gap in our destroyer strength in a few years’ time. The Navy spelt it out to the Committee with crystal clarity and said that there was an urgent need to proceed with the infrastructure - the dull business of building and refurbishing the docks - so that the vital requirement of having the destroyer strength ready to meet a future threat might be met. The timetable was exacting, so the Navy had to have permission for prior documentation. Then everything had to proceed in an orderly manner and with some urgency so that we could fulfil the need to refurbish the dockyard in order to have the destroyers ready to meet a threat.
But evidently things are different now. Perhaps there is not a threat now. This must be the motivation behind the Government’s decision to adopt this more leisurely pace. I presume, therefore, that it springs from the Government’s assessment - as spelt out by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) - that there is no foreseeable threat for 10 to 15 years. I am not an authority on these matters, but I use again a quotation that has been used in this House before. Mr John Curtin said on 2 November 1938-I repeat the date, 1938- as reported at page 1095 of Hansard:
Defence expenditure must depend entirely upon the conditions which prevail in the world from time to time. Obviously that must be the position.
I do not think anybody would cavil at that. He continued:
I say that any increase of defence expenditure after the Munich Pact so far as Australia is concerned appears to me to be an utterly unjustifiable and hysterical piece of panic propaganda.
This is what I am concerned about. The Minister’s assessment of the possible threat may be as wrong as Mr Curtin’s was in 1938. Within a year we were at war. All I am expressing is my grave concern that the Government’s leisurely approach to the refurbishing of the Williamstown dockyard inevitably places the destroyer strength in 10 or 15 years’ time at grave risk.
Destroyers are queer things. As soon as they are put in the water they start to go bad; their skin starts to decay because it has to be very highly stressed. They are like racehorses: If they cannot go fast they are no good at all. For that reason their skin has to be highly stressed. They have to be combatant ships because that is what they are for. They ought to be in the water as soon as possible because their time span is limited. We know that it is limited. The Navy spelt out how limited it is. The Government said to the Public Works Committee: ‘Let us hurry up and hear it. Let us obtain permission for prior documentation’. The Committee met that request. Now we have dropped back to a slow walk after being urged into a brisk gallop. I express my concern that this is another judgment that the Government is making on the basis of its opinion that there will be no threat for a long time. The Government may take some comfort from that opinion; I certainly do not.
– in reply - I think the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) would be the first to concede that a committee such as the Joint Standing Committee on Public Works does not exercise the preprogative of determining such matters as defence and foreign policies. The Public Works Committee in particular has always been quite constrained in seeking to assume such a role. It does not take the view that it has the right to challenge Government policy on such matters. It looks at the ramifications of the works project itself. I explained to the House that the change in the timetabling of this program related to the fact that a review of the naval destroyer replacement program is under way. That is not to say that the Goverment underrates the significance of defence in any way. In fact, the Australian Labor Party has always had as a very prominent part of its policy the firm and precise commitment to provide adequate defence for Australia. But it is apparent that we do not have to do that in precisely the same way as our predecessors did it.
The destroyer program is being reviewed and obviously that permits the existing facilities to be used for a longer period and to bring other facilities into operation at a little later time. Another matter that hardly needs mentioning again is the decision to base the oceanographic ship on Williamstown. This will take some little time to eventuate. Again the time factor which we have proposed is very much in compliance with the Government’s objectivity in that connection. I rose mainly to make it quite clear that the Government is mindful of its defence obligation and is setting about it in what we regard as a far more contemporary, desirable and efficient way than the way in which our predecessors in office sought to do it.
We have a very real appreciation of the role of the Public Works Committee and the need to avoid pre-empting its attitude. Those principles will be firmly upheld in the future, as we have endeavoured to ensure that they should be on this occasion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 27 November 1973 (vide page 3966), on motion by Mr Bryant:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Last night I had time only to mention briefly one small segment of what I propose to say. I was speaking about the elections for the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. At this time we do not know what are the voting figures. We have not had any figures from the outback - or at least I have not - but there are disturbing stories of hundreds of Aborigines having enrolled but only a few voting. Criticism has been made of this approach. First, it is said that the authorities responsible for setting up the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee have acted with indecent haste to impose this bureaucratic farce on the Aboriginal people of this country. This aspect has been raised by some Aborigines not from the outback but from the coastal areas of Australia. These people have made some points and they were genuine in their concern. They asserted that there had been misrepresentation to blacks - that is their word - of the office and purpose of the elected body. Many thought that it would be a true black Parliament, when it will have no such function or power.
I have not sufficient time to refer to all the points raised and I shall pick out only a few. They allege that intimidatory practices were used against Aboriginal persons to force them to vote; that is, they were told that if they failed to vote the normal entitlement of citizens to such things as social services would be withheld. Further, during the elections certain militant Aborigines in their genuine concern to stop the farce - that is what they call it - forced blacks away from the polls so they could not vote. Aborigines everywhere have complained that the time allowed between voter registrations, the nomination of candidates and the actual voting day did not allow sufficient time to permit the people to become acquainted with the true function of the body to be elected or with the processes of nomination. Further, the vote is not a democratic process because the points outlined are being forced on the people as white superstructures. That was expressed in writing by the Aborigines themselves. I imagine they are probably part-coloured people but nevertheless they fall within the definition of Aboriginal Australians. They suggest that a more positive alternative is possible.
From the experience that I have gained over the past 35 years as a result of living in association with Aborigines, and from speaking to men who have had the same - if not more - experience, I believe that a grass roots approach should be adopted. I know that there is no quick and ready way of doing this. It means going back to a hard slog of getting departmental officers or interested people - I would say both black and white Australians - to go out and consult with Aborigines in their own groups. A fairly strong feeling is coming through at the grass roots level that although this Consultative Committee was set up and it was hoped that it would be a success, the way to discuss their affairs or any matters with Aborigines is to go and confer with them in the small groups in which they live. Their tribal life is based on the family, which in some cases may total only 40, 50, 80 or 100 people. For instance, one might think that all the Aborigines at Hermannsburg, south-west of Alice Springs, were of the one group and one representative would speak for them. I know that they are not all of the one tribe. They comprise Pitjatjantjaras, Walbiris and other tribes.
Paul Albrecht and Gary Stoll have given me advice on the problems. Gary Stoll has lived at Hermannsburg for many years, and both the people I have mentioned speak the language. The Aboriginal people need to be consulted at the tribal level. There is no quick and ready made approach to the situation. I do not intend to be critical; I am suggesting that we will probably have to go back to the concept of having teams trained to contact and talk to the Aborigines. One must face the situation that these people differ from the Aborigines who are located on the fringe of towns or who work in cities. 1 recall some years ago talking it over with Mr Charlie Perkins and we agreed that there were 5, 6, 7 or 8 different classes of Aboriginal people and one could not have one blanket arrangement to handle the whole situation. I think the Minister and the Government would be well advised to use some of this grand amount of $117m which, although it is not in the Bill, was mentioned by the Minister, for .the purpose of training people. This would be more appropriate than spending money on the many things that have been bought; I do not know who is going to run them. I have spoken about that subject before and I may have time to mention it today but I am not hopeful of doing so.
I would strongly press the Government to aim at training people to go out and work among Aborigines, to sit down with them and find out what they themselves want. This cannot be done in one day; it probably cannot be done in one week. It will take patience and many years. One of the problems that I have encountered since I have been in the Parliament is that some people believe that this is something that can be achieved with the flick of the finger. This cannot be done. If one is to obtain the view of Aborigines one has to give them time, time and more time. I have been saying this for years, as have a lot of other people who live in a fairly close relationship to Aborigines. The moves that have been taking place recently are working towards separatism. What is separatism if it is not apartheid? This is the very thing for which we are slamming South Africa and other nations. The Government is espousing a very similar sort of system here, and it is wrong. I repeat, we should be going back to the grass roots. Practical teams should be employed to do field work. I have previously listed in this House some 15 to 20 Europeans and 15 to 20 Aborigines - that is only in the Northern Territory - who should constitute an advisory panel to initiate advice to the Government and to Aborigines. It could also train teams to do field work.
I have said often that I consider that the Minister and the Government are getting the wrong advice about Aborigines. Let me mention only a few of the people who could be advisers to the Government. I will mention the Europeans only this time because I consider that Aboriginal groups should be allowed to pick their own advisers. This cannot happen on one day, whether it be Saturday 24 November or any other day. If we are to get the right answer to the problems of Aborigines arid if we are to take the right action to assist them - this will take a long time - what I propose is the way that we will have to do it. I have included in my list some of the men who have been passed over. Among them would be Mr Giese. I would say that men such as Bishop 0’Loughlin who has been in the Northern Territory for years, Paul Albrecht, who was born in the Northern Territory, Reverend Symonds, Ted Evans, and Martin Ford could be appointed to such a panel. These are department men. I know that the Minister will say that we are going back to the old system. But we cannot by-pass the experience of such men. The self- determination theory is not really working very well at the moment.
The Government should listen to men like Gary Stol! who is from Hermannsberg. He works with the Aborigines and is, incidentally, the Superintendent of the settlement. By the same token, he works with the Aborigines and they with him. There are others including Ted Miliken, Jack Larkham, Rupert Kentish, and Jim Taylor from Groote Eylandt. These are the people who have been working with Aborigines right down the line for years. I am certain that the Aborigines themselves do not want to turn their backs on such men and the experience these men have.
This Sill essentially deals with housing as $ 14.4m out of a total allocation of $32m is earmarked for housing purposes. The Minister mentioned that another $10m will be allocated to provide 500 houses for Aborigines in the Northern Territory. The cost of each of these houses will be $20,000. I know that the houses being built in the States will cost about $13,800 each.
Speaking of housing brings to my mind another point about Aborigines. We should teach them how to live in these houses. I know that once again this matter - I will not say the problem - falls under many headings. I speak of people who have not previously lived in first class housing. I am not saying that they should not be living in first class housing. It is a very difficult thing for an Aborigine to go into a house and run it the way we do. We have been trained and slapped into running a house properly all our lives. Mirrors are broken, taps are pulled off, windows are broken and so on. The place gets dirty, and the rent perhaps is not paid.
Only last year or perhaps it may have been the year before, Mr Bernie Kilgariff, the member for Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory Legislative Council, Jock Nelson and I - I do not remember whether he was the Mayor of Alice Springs - went around in an endeavour to stop the Housing Commission evicting Aborigines. The Housing Commission was doing its business, trying to get the rent and to see that the houses were kept clean. It was going to put Aboriginal families into the streets. We managed to prevent this. But, in so doing, once again we came up with the idea that the Department or the Government, should ‘be supplying great numbers of people to teach Aborigines how to live in houses.
Honourable members can say this is paternalism if they like but someone has to do it. There are Aborigines who could do this job. Those who have gone through the learning process could go back and teach their own people and be paid for doing so. They could be taught by Europeans who are interested enough to do it. But someone has to do it. I seem to remember Charlie Perkins talking about this matter years ago when we held a meeting on Aboriginal affairs in Canberra. He insisted that this is what would have to be done. I am certain that he was right then. These people have to be taught to live in houses. By all means the houses should be built for them but we cannot expect them just to move into these houses and cope with living in them immediately.
There are several other points I should like to raise, but in particular I wish to refer to the drinking problem of Aborigines. A lot of money is being spent on material requirements for Aborigines. I do not think we are spending enough money on the training of people to educate them, whether it be in their everyday life needs or how to live in houses that they are not used to or how to handle the problems that can arise from drinking. The problem at Yirrkala, although it is only 2 years old, has been allowed to go too far. A number of other drinking problems as they affect Aborigines are a lot older. Aborigines have been drinking in excess and a lot of them have been on the grog for many years. I am not picking them out only. But they are the ones who are not used to alcohol. It is doing them a tremendous amount of harm. A large amount of money is made available by the Government to them to improve their lot. I think alcohol is one of the biggest menaces to the Aboriginal cause. I think that education of Aborigines in the proper use of alcohol should be foremost in the Government’s thinking today. It is all right to spend $2m on buying properties for the Aborigines which they probably will never work because they are all in the local pub! It seems to me a need exists for education in the use of alcohol.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I do not wish to speak at length on this Bill, but there are one or two points I should like to make. The Opposition supports the Bill and I personally see no basic reason for a partisan approach to this matter. The Bill allocates $32,250,000 to the States as against S22m for this purpose last year. The Government has allocated that amount after discussions with the States. It is part of an overall Government expenditure this year of $1 17.4m for the Aboriginal people as against $61. 4m last year. I understand that the latter figure is double the amount provided the year before that. As I see it, the nation does not need to be ashamed although some regrets can be expressed at our record over the years. I am pleased to see that the role of the States in this area has been accepted. I do know something of the Queensland Department which deals with Aborigines. Within that Department there is a dedication and an expertise. This was mentioned, I think, last night by the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) who made, in my view, a considered and reasoned contribution to the debate.
These allocations are desirable. The largest allocation is $ 14.4m for housing, an increase of 35 per cent. We all accept that it is the desire of the Australian people to own their own homes. Therefore, this action in the Bill is desirable. I would hope that when these houses are built the Aborigines become part of the neighbourhood and part of the community life. The allocation for health services has been increased from $3.7m to $ 10.3m mainly for water and sewerage purposes. Particular emphasis has been given to the needs of the rural and remote areas. I do not think any honourable member would dispute the fact that if we are to have good health amongst all sections of the community - which leads to contentment and satisfaction - essential services ought to be given some priority. An amount of $4.6m is allocated for education to cover pre-schools, kindergartens, and both primary and secondary schools. The Opposition believes in equal opportunity for all children. If that objective is to be achieved, education is obviously of supreme importance. Other allocations are made for employment opportunities, working through local authorities, teaching, road making, kerbing and guttering, forestry and flood mitigation. I hope that employment opportunities develop an interest and an expertise within the trades for the Aboriginal people.
Looking at the overall Government expenditure of $ 117.4m in this field, I think the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr
Wentworth) was correct last night in warning the Government that this amount of expenditure could be regarded by some as being too lavish. It is a very large amount. It amounts to more than $1,000 a head. It is important that it be spent wisely and has total community support in Australia. It is not a matter of saying: We are spending over $117; therefore we are doing a lot’. It is what we achieve by that sizable allocation that is important. Unless we achieve what the total community accepts as desirable there will be a backlash. We have seen signs of that already. I hope that they will diminish.
I would like to make 3 points as to the general problem. It is essential to maintain a most harmonious relationship between the Australian Government and the State governments as the State governments will have a continuing role to play. As an Australian, I was concerned about the tensions that existed between the previous Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the Queensland Government. I am not going to suggest that they were solely the fault of the previous Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and present Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant), who is now at the table, because I know him to be very genuine and sincere in his service to the nation and to the Government in this area. But it was of concern to all Queenslanders. I know of instances where the rivalry created a degree of wastage. It certainly was divisive. In some areas where common sense should have ruled an emotive content took over. That is not in anybody’s interest. It is certainly not in the interests of Queensland. But we do have the assurance from the new Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) that ministerial responsibility will be accepted for all expenditure and that all expenditure will be reported to Parliament.
As to special projects, there is of course an element of risk in any project, whether it is conducted by a government or by private enterprise. The success of private enterprise has been due to the success of most of the people engaged in it. The importance of special projects to the Government is that they are successful. Therefore careful consideration needs to be given to the viability of such projects. We know about the problems that have been experienced with the turtle farming enterprise. It was commenced by the previous Government, but it is very true to say that there was a degree of looseness in some sec tions of the administration of the enterprise. Figures I have been given put the administrative costs of the project in Canberra - I understand that the figures are correct - as about 60 per cent. That seems to be too. high for administrative costs for such an enterprise. Assurances have been given that this matter will be thoroughly investigated. I see no conflict between a demand by the Parliament that these ventures be put on a sound commercial basis and with doing what is right for the advancement of the Aboriginal population of this country. If this project can serve one useful purpose it is surely the underlining of what is an acceptable criterion to everyone.
I believe that we can make tremendous progress with this important national problem if we involve the State governments and the local authorities and if we can develop community interest. One hopes that the Aborigines themselves will be involved as much as possible, giving them self satisfaction while at all times maintaining their self respect and dignity. With that in view, I believe that it will not be too many years before we can look back with a very real degree of pride to what we have done with regard to Aboriginal advancement. There is no doubt that many of the details of the Bill Wil require substantial investigation. In the debate yesterday the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) listed at some length a number of items about which he wanted to have more information. I believe that that would be helpful to all members of the Parliament, irrespective of whether they are from the Government or Opposition side of the chamber. Honourable members have pointed out the need for flexibility in housing. There should not be a rigorous approach to the problem generally. The Opposition supports the Bill.
– in reply- I thank honourable members opposite for their remarks, those who were critical and those who were not critical. This will not be a lengthy dissertation on the subject as the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) is getting a bit toey at this time of the year. But I will take a few minutes to explain the situation as we found it on taking office and the direction in which we hope we are heading. First of all I wish to comment upon the remarks of the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Eric Robinson). It is true that there is a good deal of concern around Australia that we might be too lavish in our expenditure. I know that the honourable member does not feel like that. But it is true that the community on the whole is likely to look at the situation and say, ‘What are you spending all that money on them for?’, without paying much regard to the resources that are behind the average citizen in the Australian community, whether he is the citizen who has students at secondary school, the citizen who travels in an airline or the citizen who drives on the roads. Every one of us has very substantial community resources backing him. It is true that the community resources backing the Aboriginal people as individuals or communities throughout most of Australia are minimal indeed. I do not have time to go into that this afternoon but I hope to be able in the next month or two - before the House resumes - to prepare a situation study on this very subject.
The honourable member for Mcpherson mentioned the tension that occurred between myself, as the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and the Queensland Government. Actually what I did have was a difference of opinion with the Premier of Queensland. As I understand it, I am not unique in that respect. In fact I got along fairly well in my personal negotiations with the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs and the head of his Department, as long as we did not get around to what one might call general principles. I found it quite easy to deal with them in relation to individual projects. In fact, they were a bit easier to deal with in some areas than my State colleagues in Victoria. There was in fact a sharp difference of opinion between myself and Mr Bjelke-Petersen on his interpretation of our policy on the Torres Straits. I still hold the view that the point he was putting at that time was very disadvantageous to Australia. However, that is for another debate.
This Bill seeks to make grants to the States for the purpose of Aboriginal advancement. Many of the State instrumentalities are gradually being phased out and their staffs are passing into the Australian Government system. But that does not mean that every instrumentality in Australia - Australian governmental, State municipal or private- does not have a role to fulfil. As we see it we have the task of implementing policy matters and taking them through to fruition and of stimulating other people, policing the policy and keeping it under scrutiny. In this respect I want to comment on the remarks of the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) about the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. I conceived this Committee at the beginning of my regime as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I asked myself: How will I be able to get the facts and the feelings of the Aboriginal people themselves? The logical thing to do was to convene some gathering which would be representative of them, if it were possible to do so. I convened the first gathering at the beginning of the year so that we could discuss the matter. I gave them the task of deciding on the system. They appointed their own steering committee, which divided Australia into 41 districts. They set up the whole apparatus of enrolling the Aboriginal people. They set up, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Electoral Office and other authorities, the machinery for carrying out the election.
The honourable member for the Northern Territory said that the election was carried out with undue haste. Actually most of us involved in it were regretful that it seemed to take so long, although one has only to look at the map and consider the geographical situation to appreciate what an enormous task it was. But the major proportion of the work - the administrative exercise - was arranged by the Aboriginal people themselves. Aboriginal members of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and casual employees were involved in enrolling people. At one stage over 2S0 people were involved in this exercise. Somewhere between 38,000 and 40,000 Aboriginal people in Australia enrolled. Nothing like that figure voted. There were 192 -candidates. I take up the point made by the honourable member for the Northern Territory that those people are not necessarily representative. That is true enough. There are large areas of Australia in which the simple electoral system will not produce a person representative of the Aboriginal people. The next step is to find the apparatus by which we can do that. There have been many attacks upon this Committee. I presume that one can expect attacks in any operation of this nature. There have always been advisory bodies of various sorts. These 41 people are to be the eyes and the ears of the Minister. It will be their job to be on the ground, finding out what the Aboriginal people need and reporting continuously on their situation. After long deliberation it was decided that they should receive a salary so that in fact they would be working full-time and would be free of other duties.
We recognise that this is a fairly adventurous undertaking and that, with the Committee not being inside the apparatus of the Public Service, there are certain disciplinary matters that cannot prevail. But we believe that this is the way it must go. At least there will be 41 Aboriginal people on the ground, working for their people as their direct representatives. Every effort will be made to give them full support and to guarantee that they have the capacity to carry out their duties. None of us in this place have any way by which we can give any guarantees about how representative duties will be carried out. But the Government regards this as a very important operation and I hope that as time goes on we will be able to report continuously to the Parliament on its operations. As the body will meet in this city, we make take the opportunity to have a major meeting between the members of this Parliament and the Aboriginal people. The people elected will be Aboriginals from across the board socially. There will be conservative people and radical people. I hope that there are a number of women amongst them. There certainly will be some people who are basically tribal.
– Will you be there?
– I always go wherever I can. Honourable members on the other side of the House asked several questions which I should like to answer. The honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) raised the question of the supervision of expenditure and asked for more information. There are 18 pages of simple statements in regard to the organisations in the States to which the money has gone and the areas to which it has gone. I suppose that we could prepare a number of details on each of these instances, but I will refer to just two or three of them now.
Firstly, in relation to the matter of supervision, my friend the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) referred to the question of States grants. That is simple enough; it is the States’ duty although it is our responsibility. In the case of non-government organisations, supervision is difficult; but we have instituted procedures by which there can be an internal audit which will provide some supervision without a big brother approach. It is a difficult task, but all the allocations were made in good faith and were based upon a pretty close scrutiny of the situation. Everything that came to me - in the end, I suppose, my signature was on a good number of those things - was scrutinised pretty closely OUt of my own experience of public affairs, out of my very close regard for money and what one ought to be able to do with it and also, I expect, out of a long experience in Aboriginal affairs and of many of the people whom I knew. I can say only that in relation to supervision of expenditure.
The honourable member for Herbert raised the matter of the Glenairy-Sunnyside properties which adjoin the Cummeragunga properties which were acquired years ago and on which we established a co-operative undertaking some 8 years or 10 years ago. This project is one of those that are prospering. It comprises several very fine properties which, added together, will give the project a great deal of viability. I know that when I visited the project some months ago, I took some pride in the fact that I could look at those rolling pastures and the sleek cattle as one of those who had been responsible for the project initially, before it became a government supported enterprise.
The honourable member for Herbert also referred to the purchase of property for an Aboriginal club. He raised the necessity for community centres. From the figure the honourable member quoted, I think he probably was referring to the establishment in Sydney in which basically a club facility is being created which will include an administrative centre for the Aboriginal organisations there. The question of the caravans at Redlynch near Cairns also was raised. One of the members of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Reg Saunders, visited Redlynch and saw on an acre or so of ground the normal miserable shanties. He conceived the idea of replacing those with caravans, with the idea that eventually the people would be rehoused in a proper way. There was no doubt in my mind, when I visited Redlynch, that this project was a complete revolution and that it was a simple and most direct way of housing the people there. Of course, we will not leave the caravans there forever. This is one of those spots where probably there are more people wanting to live on the piece of real estate than is feasible. So, right across the board, this is the way things are being done.
The honourable member mentioned places such as Ernabella and Yanderarra. Again, these are places where there are long established Aboriginal communities which I hope now are receiving adequate support. Take for example the Yanderarra station, as it now is, south of Port Hedland. The Western Australian Government handed over that property to the Aboriginal community, which was formerly a part of Mr McLeod’s group, and when I was their earlier in the year they had collected something like $24,000 or $30,000 in income from the cattle project. The question of the legal service was raised. The legal service has been established right across Australia. Legal services are expensive, but all the money which has been allocated for this purpose has not been spent - not by a long shot. The honourable member for Herbert raised the question of the Aboriginal situation in Tasmania. It is a fact that there is quite a community of Aboriginals in Tasmania and, like all Aboriginal people in Australia, they are likely to be victims of the law, even in places where the police are sympathetic. They are most helpless before the courts. We feel that the legal service is one of the major enterprises we have established.
There are just one or two other questions which I wanted to answer. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) mentioned that the Government was providing to the Aborigines an amount of $ 1,000 a head. This is true enough; but, if one takes a simple demonstration of what it means, one can see that the allocations are not unduly lavish. For instance, Palm Island has 1,600 people. We have allotted $375,000 for the water supply and $200,000 for sewerage. That represents a sum of about $3,500 a head for the normal facilities of that Island. Of course, in large areas many people do not receive anything like $1,000 a head, whilst many are capitalised at more than the figure of $1,000.
During the course of my ministry I avoided, as much as I could, any idea of recrimination against my predecessors. We all have to inherit things from the past and I feel that this Government inherited some very substantial obstacles. In the past few months there has been a good deal of consideration and criticism of the turtle farming project in the Torres Strait, and this has been true enough. My colleague, the honourable member for Mackellar, initiated this as a research project. My own view is that it expanded too rapidly.
The former Minister, Mr Howson, at one stage said on television that he had kept the project under strict control and that only $30,000 had been spent during the previous Government’s time in office. In fact, in 1970-71, $27,730 was spent; in 1971-72, $117,000 was spent; and, in the 1972-73 Budget, $250,000 was provided for and that amount was handed over shortly after I became the Minister. So, in fact, something like $394,000 was budgeted for in relation to this project during the previous Government’s regime. So, we all must accept responsibility for the project. The previous Government had the responsibility for initiating it and my responsibility was to try to make it work. I am certain that the steps we have taken will do that. It will not be easy, but it was an adventurous project and the fact that errors have been made is something that we will have to overcome.
There are other matters from the past to which I could refer but which I will leave for the sake of peace and quiet. I aim grateful for the remarks that honourable members on both sides have made. I know that there are sharp differences of opinion on what should and should not be done; but, generally speaking, at least in Aboriginal affairs, we have arrived basically at a bipartisan policy. If we can continue that, perhaps we will remove this blot from the Australian scene.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommendation appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Bryant) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 8 November (vide page 3062), on motion by Mr Charles Jones:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Air Navigation Charges Bill as they are associated measures. Separate questions may of course be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 2 measures? There being no objection, I will allow mat course to be followed.
– The 2 Bills under debate now are the Airlines Agreements Bill 1973 and the Air Navigation (Charges) Bill 1973. The first point that needs to be made comes out of the first paragraph of the second reading speech of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) on the Airlines Agreements Bill 1973, which states:
When the previous Government introduced the Airlines Agreements Bill 1972 towards the end of the previous Parliament, we who were then in Opposition expressed the view that it was inappropriate to enter into a further important agreement between the Government and Ansett Transport Industries Ltd and the Australian National Airlines Commission at that particular time.
The important point to register is that this Bill is expressed to be supplementary to the 1952-1972 agreements and is to be read and construed as forming part of those agreements. As the Minister for Civil Aviation has signed the 1973 Agreement himself on behalf of the Australian Government, it is quite clear that he has given political endorsement to the 2-airline policy contained in that Agreement and the earlier agreements developed by the previous Government. So on that point I congratulate the Government, because it means that despite the criticism that was heaped on the 2<-airline policy by members of the present Government when they were in Opposition they have come to realise that the policy has been the basis of a viable and stable domestic air transport system. So in that respect this legislation is a significant landmark in 2-airline history.
The main product of the Airlines Agreements Bill is to bring into effect the expressed wish of the Government as stated by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) in his Budget Speech that a cost recovery program should be introduced that will recover 80 per cent of costs within 5 years. We had, when in Government, initiated a policy of recovery of the cost of facilities properly attributable to civil air trans port, subject to taking into account the level of air fares, the rate of growth of the industry and the requirement of airlines to provide a reasonable return on capital. To ensure the reasonable progression to full recovery consistent with the stability of the industry the Commonwealth contracted under the Airlines Agreements with Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Transport Industries Ltd not to increase charges in any year by more than 10 per cent or to increase fuel tax by more than the corresponding amount of increase in motor fuel tax. We had as a Government not reached any decision on what costs were properly attributable. For example, should interest and depreciation be recovered? What part of the costs were properly attributable to defence and national development? Should fuel tax be regarded as part of a recovery, and if so, what weight should be given to the fact that international operators do not pay fuel tax yet make the greatest demands for expensive facilities?
To resolve these questions the previous Minister appointed a working group to study the costs and revenue of the Department of Civil Aviation. The second report of this working group has been made available to the Parliament. It is quite apparent from page 27 of the report that it was: an impossible task of properly apportioning costs between the various class of users in any meaningful way and therefore not possible to determine whether any particular class of user was paying in air navigation charges a higher or lower proportion of costs attributable to it than other class of users.
The working group did not quite throw up its hands in horror, but almost. It suggested that the Department of Civil Aviation should undertake further studies with a view to determining whether new methods could be developed whereby meaningful allocation of costs between users could be achieved.
In the meantime the Government had appointed the now famous, or should I say infamous, task force to review the continuing expenditure policy of the previous Government. The report of this task force, known as the Coombs report, was tabled with the Budget papers. Items 38 and 39 dealing with air service subsidies for development and rural services are relevant. In essence the report suggested that these subsidies should be discontinued immediately or phased out over a period of, say, 3 years, The subsidies are paid in respect of services to the most isolated areas in Australia where other means of transport are non-existent or inadequate. In 1972-73 the subsidy for developmental services was $1.87m and for essential rural services only $130,000. The amount saved by phasing out these subsidies is insignificant, but the abandonment of the subsidy to the communications and development of rural and outback areas could be disastrous. The coffin Coombs report apparently, and without any real study of the implications, had no difficulty in making judgments. This miserable proposition typifies the Government’s mean handed approach to country people and its lack of genuine decentralisation policies, and is bringing a severe rebuke from one side of Australia to the other.
Then in June 1973 the domestic airlines applied for an increase in airline tariffs to take into account escalation of costs. The airlines were advised that the increases would not be approved unless the airlines entered into an agreement relating to the attainment of the Government’s cost recovery policy and an agreement relating to industrial negotiations. The Government - indeed the Minister himself -subsequently, under union pressure, withdrew its requirements in relation to industrial negotiations. This was an occasion when the Minister for Civil Aviation was really caught with egg on his face.
– That is not true - not union pressure, a Cabinet decision.
– The Minister can explain later. The airlines agreed in accordance with the wishes of the Government, to negotiate for a revision of the 1952-1972 Airlines Agreements relating to air navigation charges. What is proposed, in brief, is that the Air Navigation Charges Bill will increase air navigation charges by 15 per cent per annum with effect from 1 December 1973. As such an increase would be inconsistent with clause 8 of the Airlines Agreement 1961, it is necessary for Parliament to amend the relevant provisions of clause 8 in order to increase the charges by 15 per cent without being in breach of the Agreement. Because this is a Budget Bill and because the Opposition has said that the Government ought to get its Budget Bills through the Parliament, we will not oppose the measure although we do not like it.
As it has been duly executed by all the parties to the previous agreements, it must be assumed that there are no valid grounds why TAA or Ansett should object to the legislation. Indeed an examination of the agreement dis closes that it establishes a number of principles which are of considerable importance to the airlines. Under clauses 6 and 7 the Commonwealth undertakes to increase fares and freight charges to offset losses resulting from the imposition of the higher charges. The Commonwealth recognises that the tax on aviation fuel is deemed to be received by way of recovery of the cost of facilities properly attributable to civil air transportation. It should be pointed out here and highlighted that the international operators do not pay fuel tax and therefore on this basis are not making contributions to recovery comparable with the domestic airlines. The Commonwealth undertakes to increase the rate of navigation charges to international operators by the same percentages as that applied in respect of TAA and Ansett
Clause 12 is also of great importance since the Commonwealth now undertakes to consult annually with TAA and Ansett on departmental activities, programs, practices and costs with a view to minimising the amount to be recovered by way of air navigation charges. Whilst this provision is not yet operative, since it requires the passing of this Bill, and whilst it may be argued that the terms of clause 12 require only annual consultation, I find it difficult to understand how the Minister would approve an ad hoc expenditure df $1.35m for aerodromes and facilities in Western Australia to enable TAA to operate DC9 aircraft because there has been no mention of it in the civil aviation works program. This expenditure seems quite incongruous against the background of the activities of the Coombs task force because Western Australia is well served by a fleet of modern, fast F28s.
The F28s are able to maximise the use of runways at airports. But the decision to allow TAA to use DC9s will call for a further expenditure of $ 10m before a viable network of DC9 operations could be mounted. The proposition runs counter to the position taken by the previous Government on the extension of operations by TAA in the West.
The former Minister for Civil Aviation, Senator Cotton, in a letter to both airlines dated 6 October 1972 said:
In this regard, the Government’s decision on the Perth-Port Hedland-Darwin route is on the basis that there is no commitment on the Commonwealth to upgrade airport facilities at any proposed intermediate stopping place to cater for any proposed aircraft type.
In other words, if TAA wanted to enter Western Australia it should not expect the taxpayers to pay for costly alterations to meet its convenience when alternative excellent aircraft that can make use of the present facilities are available. The proposal runs completely counter to what the Treasurer said, and I quote: ‘We see no reason why the general taxpayer should subsidise air services in this way.’ He also said: ‘We have decided that all future proposals for investment in civil aviation projects should be subject to economic evaluation.’
I ask the Minister these questions: Were there consultations in the spirit of clause 12? Can the Minister answer that question?
– The Minister may answer when he replies.
-With great respect, if the Minister is able to answer-
– I wanted to say something a while ago but you would not let me.
– I further ask: Will the Minister give an undertaking to consult in the future? Has there been an economic evaluation - as the Treasurer promised - on this Western Australian deal? If not, will he proceed with one before the work is commenced? I should like answers to those questions when the Minister replies because I believe that the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) will restrict the time for debate. I would appreciate answers when the Minister replies in this debate. If the Minister is unable to answer the questions because he does not know the answers then that is OK.
Another gratifying aspect of the legislation which emerges from the Minister’s second reading speech is the Minister’s assurance that the new agreement does not mean that charges to TAA and Ansett Transport Industries Ltd, which provide the bulk of the revenue, will automatically be increased by IS per cent each year. Nor does it depart from the principle contained in the 1961 airlines agreement that in implementing the policy of full recovery the Government will take into account the level of air fares, the rate of growth of the industry and the requirements of the airlines to provide a reasonable return on capital. The Minister has also given an assurance that expenditure on aviation facilities will be kept to a minimum consistent with safe and efficient operations.
I want now to turn to the proposals as they affect the general aviation industry - that is, private owners, charter, agricultural and general aerial operations. The Minister states in his second reading speech that it cost $8 .25m to operate the general aviation aerodromes Moorabbin, Parafield, Bankstown, Archerfield, Cambridge and Jandakot and the total revenue including sales tax on fuel was some $3.6m. In line with the policy of recovering 80 per cent of costs the Minister has increased the rates of charges for general aviation by 15 per cent while the weekly charge for private and aerial work aircraft will be doubled and that for charter will rise by two-thirds. He then says that a rebate of one-third of the higher charges payable from 1 December 1973, will be made in respect of such aircraft as are not normally based at a Government aerodrome or at an aerodrome which is subject to Government financial assistance under the aerodrome local ownership scheme. The opposition believes that these charges are outrageous. These aircraft, along with the aircraft on previously subsidised routes, have played a tremendous part in the development of Australia. Now the Government turns its heavy hand, guided by the destructive Dr Coombs, to make life in the outback, life in areas away from the capital cities and life in agriculture more difficult and more costly.
The proposals in this Bill are expected to raise about $300,000 this year and $600,000 in a full year. Combined with the extra fuel tax of 5c a gallon, which will raise a further $800,000, the total amount raised will be $1.4m. This still leaves a gap of over $3. 5m which by next year, with increasing costs, will probably again be about $4m.
What concerns the Opposition is the Government’s hell bent approach to increase the charges in this area of aviation which cannot simply increase fares to recover costs as can civil aviation. We believe that the general taxpayers are concerned to see that every encouragement should be given and that every opportunity should be taken to ensure that there should be transport opportunities equal to those available to people who have the benefits of civil aviation. We also believe that agricultural operators should be encouraged not discouraged, because they provide the most efficient and modern means of boosting agricultural production. Because the Minister has not foreshadowed what charges he proposes to make in future years and because any further increase would lead to a serious deterioration in services, I move the following amendment which has been circulated in my name:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, the House is of the opinion that the general aviation industry, which is so important in national development, should have a clear and precise understanding of future Government charges.
There is one other matter about which something must be said and that is the strike by TAA pilots following the grounding of an air pilot for apparently following the wrong procedures when landing at Wynyard, Tasmania. A pilot coming in to land at Wynyard has to follow a flight pattern that brings him in at 1,200 feet. It appears that because of bad weather the pilot on this occasion came in, I believe, at about 200 feet. Either there are explicit instructions laid down by the Department of Civil Aviation in respect of landing at Wynyard and diverting in bad weather to another port or there are not. If there are explicit instructions then there can be no deviating from them by any pilot who wants to give it a go. The pilot has not only his own life but also the lives of the passengers at stake. The passengers have the right to expect when they are issued with a ticket that there will be no breaking of a long standing safety regulation. Indeed that fact should be unquestionable. The pilot’s salary level is commensurate with that responsibility, and indeed Australia has the best safety record in the world in civil aviation because the procedures are followed so closely and so correctly. There can be no argument about ‘giving it a go’. Nor should there be any argument about having the rights of appeal on matters so absolute, because safety of lives in civil aviation is a matter that is absolute.
There should be no shifting of the responsibility in this matter for the serious mistakes made by the pilot. Whether TAA is engaged in a lockout should not be taken by way of an appeal to the courts. The matter of public safety cannot be allowed to be lifted to a situation where there can be an appeal if a pilot has breached safety procedures. There is no second chance with the lives of the passengers in these matters. The Government is quite right in standing by TAA. Whilst the loyalty by the pilots to a member of the Federation is admirable, the Federation must recognise how necessary it is to preserve the integrity of the safety procedures that have given Australia the best safety record in the world.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker. I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak to it.
– I rise to make a number of references, which I shall keep brief to keep faith with the request that 1 facilitate this cognate debate on the Airlines Agreements Bill 1973 and the Air Navigation (Charges) Bill 1973. I wish to oppose the amendment which has been moved and honourable members will see why as I proceed. I shall refer to the aspect that although increased charges are levied, no allowance in extra charges is made to provide protection to the majority of people affected by air travel; that is, those people who live near airports and under flight paths. When one considers that $8.60 per airline passenger trip of taxpayers’ money has been expended in the past by way of subsidy, one realises that money coming from the pockets of those affected by noise and, in the main, not utilising aircraft travel, subsidises this nuisance.
It appears a strange coincidence that it is only working class and middle class areas which are affected by this nuisance. But perhaps it is wrong to call it just a nuisance for it is a threat to health. World authorities recognise the threat to health and education by this nuisance. Why can we not? If in doubt, I suggest honourable members should attend a school. Students have to wait while a plane passes overhead before the class can continue. Would Parliament itself accept such interruption or such distraction to concentration? Of course not. It would shift the airport, shift the Parliament or provide sufficient sound insulation at public expense to prevent the noise being an interference to the daily life of the Parliament. Why cannot the same provision be made for the workers’ homes, schools, hospitals, etc., and the charge be made against the aviation industry?
The people of my electorate are concerned about the American Service aircraft which used Perth Airport and apparently not the Royal Australian Air Force Base at Pearce. The noise from those aircraft is as bad, if not worse, than the so-called ‘hush-power’ VC10, as they make their slow - and residents claim unnecessary - climb away from the airport, without the added noise of warming up, etc., being considered. It is to be hoped .that the United States Air Force contributes its share towards the cost of air service facilities. If the charges have not been sufficient in the past for civil aircraft, it is obvious that the Australian taxpayer has subsidised the US Air Force. But perhaps a special charge is levied against these US Air Force planes, or do they enjoy tax and other concessions? The people adjacent to the airport would be very interested to know, as I would.
Perhaps the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) will clarify this aspect and perhaps in the future order these planes to use only Service airfields. But we must commend the Minister for the steps which are being taken to ensure that the actual users .of air travel - that comparatively small percentage of the community - actually pays for the convenience it receives at the expense of the rest of the community. However, I reiterate that it is time the industry was obliged to compensate those who they inconvenienced by noise; that is, the people living adjacent to and under flight paths.
– Basically, the Airlines Agreements Bill 1973 and the Air Navigation (Charges) Bill 1973 provide for a greater rate of recovery, by way of increased air navigation charges, of the cost of providing facilities for the aviation industry. This action was foreshadowed by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) in his Budget Speech when he announced that it was the Government’s intention to increase air navigation charges by 10 per cent as from 1 December 1973. The Treasurer also announced at the same time that the Government would seek to renegotiate the airlines agreement so that the constraint of a maximum increase in charges of 10 per cent per annum could .be removed in order to meet the target date of recovery of 80 per cent of expenditure by 30 June, 1978. The 80 per cent recovery aim could not have been met if the Government were limited to a 10 per cent increase in rate in any one year. The present recovery rate accounts for less than 50 per cent of the actual expenditure.
The Government’s aim is full recovery of those costs properly attributable to civil air transport. This is referred to in the 1961 airlines agreement and was the stated policy of the previous Government. I believe it to be a reasonable policy, although the intention to recover 80 per cent of costs within 5 years will lead to sharp increases in air fares. The Government has now renegotiated the airlines agreement with Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Transport Industries Ltd and the rate of recovery of air navigation charges has been increased to a maximum of 15 per cent a year. Therefore, instead of increasing the charges by 10 per cent from 1 December, they will be increased by 15 per cent from that date. I think that it should be pointed out that a factor in gaining TAA and ATI agreement to the amendment of the Airlines Agreements Act was undoubtedly the inclusion of the following provision in the agreement. It is paragraph 7, which states:
Whenever the Minister is satisfied that because of the imposition of higher air navigation charges loss or loss of profit is suffered by the Commission or the Operating Company he will as soon as possible and to the extent be considers necessary to make good the loss complained of by the Commission or the Operating Company approve increases in either or both air fares and freight charges as the case may require.
Landing charges in Australia for international aircraft, already the highest in the world, will also be increased by 15 per cent as from 1 December 1973. This is in line with the following new provision included in the airlines agreement, paragraph .11:
In the implementation of its policy of full recovery of the costs of facilities properly attributable to civil air transport, the Commonwealth will increase the rate of air navigation charges to international operators by the same percentage as that applied from time to time in respect of the operations of the Commission and the Operating Company.
As the present Government’s policy of recovery is in line with what we asserted over the past years to be our policy, we are not opposing the main provisions of these Bills, and, as mentioned, the 2 major airlines have already agreed to the increases. However, I now come to the general aviation field, where there will not only be an increase of 15 per cent in air navigation charges but other costs associated with the operation of aircraft in the general aviation field will be doubled on some activities and increased by 66) per cent for charter aircraft. I interpose here that it has been a great suprise to the Liberal Party that it has received only one representation from an aero club over these increased charges, although the general aviation industry has expressed concern at the level of increases and particularly at the uncertain future facing the industry.
As the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) would probably know, rumours are going around now that on top of the doubling of charges this year there will be a further doubling next year. The general aviation industry must know what the Government has in store for it so that operators can have some idea of whether they will be able to continue. This is an area where the Opposition believes that a more realistic and sympathetic approach should be considered by the Government. Australia has an unparalleled history of achievement in aviation. This has been due in very large measure to what is often called grass roots aviation; -that is the private owner, the aero club and the flying training orgainsation and, more recently, the charter operators, commuter third level airlines and the aerial agricultural operators. These sectors of the industry have all made a tremendous contribution to the development of aviation in Australia and indeed to our national development. It is worth remembering that general aviation flies by far the majority of hours in civil aviation in Australia. The latest figures I have show 1.1 million hours in a total of about l.S million hours.
Australia has always been known as an airminded nation. Thousands of Australians have learned the skills, disciplines and joys of flying. However, the future of general aviation is in real danger if the Government insists upon recovering costs from this branch of aviation on the same basis as it intends to recover costs from the regular public transport or RFT operators. In fact, the working group appointed by the Minister has not been able to allocate the costs of operating our aviation system among the various categories of users - international RPT, domestic RFT and general aviation. The group made an interesting recommendation, namely, that the Government might consider a revised charge structure with separate charges for airport and airway facilities. This might prove to be a basis for a more equitable distribution of costs. I should like to emphasise that, whether this recommendation is accepted or not, the Government must realise that general aviation just cannot stand indefinitely rises such as will be imposed upon it by this legislation.
The amount of revenue to be raised from general aviation is very small when considered in the context of the cost of operating Australia’s aviation facilities, but the effect on the individual operators will be very severe and out of all proportion to the minimal increases in government revenue. I concede that the Government has made a concession of a rebate of 331 per cent for aircraft normally kept at locations other than government licenced aerodromes or locally owned aerodromes in respect of which government subsidy has been paid. I applaud the Government for that concession. Indeed, I think a greater incentive should be given to keep general aviation aircraft away from the secondary city airports such as Moorabbin and Bankstown which are already by far the most crowded airports in Australia. The Government would be doing the industry and the air safety record of this country a service if it gave every encouragement for owners and operators of aircraft to keep them away from the secondary city airports.
I trust that common sense will prevail in relation to charges for general aviation. This is not a party political issue. It would be a tragedy if the Australian general aviation industry, which is just recovering from the severe recession it has experienced over the past few years, were to be sat back on its heels by being required to pay impossibly high air navigation and registration charges. The tremendously expensive facilities have had to be built not for general aviation but for the large and sophisticated passenger aircraft. Let us show some vision and encourage general aviation, in all its forms, to continue to expand its activities to the benefit of Australia as a whole.
– Mr Deputy Speaker-
– If the honourable member mentions Brisbane Airport I shall move that the question be now put.
– The Minister has just threatened me, and I am quite certain that he means it; so on this occasion I shall not refer to Brisbane Airport and I shall make my comments brief. I support the comments of the previous speaker, the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), who put forward a case on behalf of the operators of small aircraft. I suggest that these increased charges might well send some small operators to the wall. For instance, I refer specifically and without request to the Stradbroke Gardens Air Service, which runs a service between the Eagle Farm Airport in Brisbane and Dunwich on Stradbroke Island. The fact that this service operates from Eagle Farm Airport suggests that it will not qualify for the 33 i per cent rebate. This service is meeting a requirement of the tourist industry. I believe that the tourist industry is an area in respect of which the Government has failed to use vision.
The increased charges that are to be imposed on aviation will retard the advancement of tourism in this country. Time and time again the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) and his advisers have emphasised that one of the matters holding back the advancement of tourism in Australia is that travelling costs in this country are so expensive. As I mentioned a few days ago in this Parliament, Australia now earns $139m of overseas currency through tourism. If my memory serves me correctly, the number of tourists who came to Australia last year was 428,000. I know that there is a system whereby an overseas visitor to this country who travels more than 1,000 miles is allowed a 30 per cent rebate on internal fares. However, the proposed increased charges will wipe out that rebate.
The Government correctly points out that there is a deficiency of some $6 8m in aviation, but it is being shortsighted in not recognising that an increase in the number of tourists coming from overseas to Australia would help to offset that loss. It is remarkable to see the trend of the losses incurred in aviation. No doubt in recent months inflation has increased that figure of $68m. If another year were to pass without an increase in charges, perhaps that figure would grow to $80m. The Government has a responsibility to recognise that when it proposes to increase charges in the airline industry other industries are involved.
Many overseas countries earn in foreign currency approximately one-third of Australia’s annual Budget. Australia is located remotely in the South Pacific and that is a disadvantage in the promotion of tourism here. People must pay a lot of money in fares to get here. I hope that, in return for my not mentioning the Brisbane Airport, the Minister will recognise that his colleague the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, though remaining silent today, is greatly concerned at the effect these increases will have upon the important tourist industry.
– The Bill before the House has been debated at some length and I do not intend to go over ground that has been covered already. However, I shall take a few minutes to refer to some particular factors which have a bearing upon air services in inland Queensland, and western Queensland in particular. I received a letter from the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) in which he stated:
In the case of developmental air services, while the previous Government had not taken any firm decision to phase out of this form of subsidy, it has nevertheless expressed the wish that the level of expenditures on developmental subsidies should be reduced as much as possible. On this aspect, in October 1970 my predecessor authorised the Department of Civil Aviation to undertake a review of the services operated in the Gulf and Channel Country networks in Queensland with a view to substituting light aircraft operations for TAA’s Twin Otter services. This review was begun, but, because of the possibility of the elections, it was not completed before the change of Government.
I venture to suggest that it would have received a pretty rough passage had there been no change of government. I am very strongly in favour of the continuation of the Twin Otter service.
It is true, as pointed out in a later part of the Minister’s letter, that the subsidies are fairly high. But whilst they are high on a per capita basis, they must be looked at against the general background of the value of these areas to the nation as a whole. One cannot just look at the pure figures of economics and say: “This is justified on those grounds.’ One has also to look at the value of utilising that country. Whilst I know that the intention of these Bills is to reduce the deficiency between revenue and expenditure as at the present time - the Minister stated in his second reading speech on 8 November that the expenditure for 1972-73 was $127.6m, revenue was $58.65m and the deficiency was $68.95m - the situation is that even if these subsidies had been continued the difference in total would have been only a matter of $600,000. Confining the argument to that particular aspect, instead of being $68.95m the deficiency would have been $68.35m. So it is not a major expenditure in relation to the value to the Australian community of the areas served.
That angle is rarely accepted by this Government. It was not accepted as fully as I would have liked it to be even under the previous Government. To get an idea of the value of these areas I asked the Shire Clerk of the Quilpie Shire for some figures which illuminate the value to the nation of these areas. I asked him to give me some figures for an -average year because the seasons vary there. The Shire Clerk is not a primary producer. He was not trying to do something for himself. He said that in the calendar year 1969, which he regarded as an average year, the railway loadings were 38,175 cattle, 124,636 sheep and 31,724 bales of wool. They were from the Quilpie railhead which serves the Channel Country to which I have referred. He estimated the value of this production at present prices as being somewhere between $18m and $20m. The people living in those areas deserve some consideration from any government because they do not have the facilities that are provided in many other areas. They do not share in the expenditure of the Government that the general public shares in many other ways.
It is interesting to note that, despite the fact that those figures were for an average year, in the period July to October this year the figures for cattle trucking reached 34,270 as against the figure of 38,175 for the full year 1969. So the Shire Clerk was not trying to exaggerate the situation. I do not have the figures for sheep and wool for that particular 4-month period, which are the latest figures. In addition to the revenue that comes out of those areas through the railhead at Quilpie, stock from the Channel Country and south west Queensland are also trucked from Cunnamulla and taken by road to the southern States. So there is an added amount of revenue coming from those areas. The people who live there should be given a satisfactory air service so that that country can be utilised. I should point out that a very high percentage of this revenue goes into export income for Australia and thus contributes very substantially to the economic stability of this country.
That is only one of the things we have to take into consideration. It is one of the things that have been forgotten so often. The human element should be considered. People should be enabled to live decently in those areas and to have the facilities to get out of the areas when they need to. I believe that the expenditure that has gone into providing air services for those areas has helped in the decentralisation of Australia. There was some mention of that in the Coombs report and some suggestion as to how it should be utilised. There was recognition of the need to promote decentralisation, for example, in conjunction with the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Department of Civil Aviation. Perhaps some means of offsetting the costs of those departments could be arrived at.
As a result of the difference in the amenities provided in those areas there is tremendous difficulty in getting people to work there. I am not blaming this Government for it, but the town of Quilpie - despite the fact that it has a population of some 750 or 800 people - was not included in the Stage 7 provision of television stations. When television comes into the other towns, the Channel Country will be disadvantaged again in finding labour. In a discussion with the Shire Clerk only yesterday I was advised that to attract skilled labour to that area the Shire Council is at present paying a foreman not less than $35 a week above the award rate. So the ratepayers of that area have to meet this extra charge. These are some of the difficulties that are experienced. I do not have time to run through them all. I point out that the Government should not wipe off the problems of people living in those areas by looking at the figures in a book. I would also like the Government generally - not only the Minister for Civil Aviation- to look at the comparatively small amount of money expended in these areas. I know that quite a bit is expended. As I mentioned, there is no television; there is no public transport west of Quilpie; there are no bus services or anything of that kind. There are the beef roads. The amenities which make living there a little more attractive are very few. These air services do a great deal in that direction. Very little money is expended on tourist or sporting facilities in those areas. I could go on and on.
In the light of these facts, is it too much to ask the Government to reconsider the decision to take away the Twin Otter services and to continue to provide the existing air services for the people who provide so much of Australia’s export income? I also have a concern about the future of air services there. The Minister can correct me if I am wrong but my understanding is that he told me that a subsidy would be provided for the commuter services which are taking the place of the Twin Otter services which are being discontinued in the Channel Country and the Gulf Country. There will be a need for these services. That was the impression I gained from him but it is not stated in his letter. Unless this is done, the commuter services will not continue. If they do not continue, this will jeopardise the introduction of the Friendship service which will run from Brisbane through western Queensland to Birdsville and Alice Springs. So I do say it is necessary that these commuter services be maintained. They have to obtain sufficient subsidy to permit them to operate economically. I am concerned about that particular aspect and I put that point pretty strongly to the Minister, who I hope will give consideration to it.
Taking into consideration the Government’s general attitude towards people living outside metropolitan areas, the subsidies, even if sufficient at the inauguration of the service, may be reduced as a result of the pressure of the capital city dominated Caucus. I say that because Caucus has changed the opinion of Ministers and the opinion of Cabinet. Although the Minister may hold the opinion that the subsidies should be maintained I hope also that the members of Caucus will give consideration to the arguments that I have put forward. I should like an assurance from the Minister that the commuter services that are to be provided in lieu of the Twin Otter service will be given sufficient subsidies to enable them to continue to operate.
Notwithstanding my urging that the present Twin Otter services should be maintained, if on the ground of economy they are to be discontinued it is absolutely necessary that commuter services as envisaged, and indeed other services, should be maintained. Of the 14 airports that are to lose their services in western Queensland, no less than thirteen fall within my own electorate of Maranoa. We did have quite a good Twin Otter service in that area but now 14 airports will lose their services, including Jundah in the electorate of Kennedy which adjoins my electorate and is so ably represented by my friend and colleague, Mr Bob Katter. We have endevoured to maintain these services as they existed but if they are not acceptable and if the Government is determined not to continue with them I hope that the Minister will give full consideration at least to the provision, maintenance and continuation of commuter services.
My concern over this whole operation is for the fact that we have to try to keep in full production what is undoubtedly the finest and largest natural irrigation system in the world. We cannot give the people in these remote areas the standing of living that is enjoyed in many other areas in the way of amenities; there is no Opera House in Birdsville. If we are asking people to continue to live there - and I believe that it is in the best interests of Australia that they should - surely we must try to provide them with those benefits that are able to be provided and indeed which have been provided, even at some cost to the. community. However, the community in turn receives the benefit from the production that comes from these areas. I have said the same thing before and I shall repeat it and repeat it until some time someone may be prepared to accept the logic of that argument.
I did say that I would limit the time that I would speak on this subject, and I have concentrated on that particular aspect only in the interests of these people. There are not many of them. If anyone thinks great political advantage arises out of it he is making a mistake because there are not a lot of people in the areas to which I have been referring. However, justice is needed for those who live there and I ask the Minister to ensure that if he cannot maintain the Twin Otter service at least to make sure the commuter service is provided and that in turn will assist in the running costs of the Friendship service to the areas. I make this appeal very sincerely and I hope that it will be given full consideration by the Government.
– in reply - Several members asked me to reply to a number of questions and I shall do it as quickly as I can. The honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) asked me to clarify a number of points. I think the first one he raised was the matter of the agreement and whether we would consult the airlines. I assure him that we will consult the airlines. Already I have asked Ansett Transport Industries Ltd to give me an opinion, which it has done, on whether $62,000 should be spent at Carnarvon airport for the purpose of enlarging the apron. The Department has informed me that it is a safety issue and as far as aircraft are concerned, there is no need for it. In actual fact, what we said in the agreement is already in operation. We are consulting with them and I propose to continue to consult with them.
– What about Western Australia?
– I am talking about Western Australia. This was in Carnarvon, Western Australia.
– Is the $5m in it?
– No. You have asked me whether there was an economic evaluation and the answer is yes but I shall give you a reply on that in a moment.
– What about the consultations?
– Let us be clear on it. So far as ATI is concerned, it would do anything to stop TAA operating in Western Australia. Let us face the facts of life. Allow me to say quickly why TAA should be allowed to operate the intrastate services in Western Australia and between Perth and Darwin and which will show clearly that there is great advantage and value to the people of Western Australia. Some of the extensions and strengthening of aerodrome pavements at the intermediate ports will be necessary if TAA is to use the DC9. The cost of the works is estimated at $1.3m. This represents an annual cost of about $180m allowing for amortisation of the investment over the life of the asset together with recurrent maintenance. DCA revenue will increase by about $50,000 per annum as a result of the operation of the DC9. This will partly offset increased costs. On the other hand, there will be great benefits to the traveller which will amount to about $800,000, representing a fare reduction for economy class passengers who at the present time are travelling under economy class conditions but paying first class fares.
TAA is proposing that the DCS will have first class and economy class accommodation, which we believe will represent a considerable saving to travellers on that route. It will represent an immediate reduction of 20 per cent in respect of fares for those who wish to travel economy. The DC9 is set up on the basis of approximately one-quarter accommodation for first class and three-quarters for economy class. So it does represent a very substantial and major saving. A further saving is in respect of air freight. What the honourable member said in regard to the F28 is not 100 per cent correct, because the F28 is leaving behind a considerable amount of freight each trip. This was one of the major complaints that was made to me - that whereas the rest of Australia could send freight at the average freight rate, in Western Australia in order to ensure delivery it has to be sent as express freight, which means an increased charge. This is as a result of the F28 not being big enough and not providing a service for the people of Western Australia. The DC9 aircraft will provide them with a service.
For these few reasons that I have mentioned I believe there is any amount of justification for the cost, which will be roughly $1.3m to upgrade the airports, but the annual saving to the people of Western Australia will be the equivalent of about $800,000. So I believe one has to look at all aspects and not just whether it will mean that Ansett will have to cut down expenditure or services by half. What the former Minister, Senator Sir William Spooner, had to say was that TAA could come in provided it did not cost the Government any more. The increased revenue from the use of the DC9 aircraft plus the great saving to the people of Western Australia more than balances out the increased cost.
– Very strange economics I must say.
– To me it appears to be pretty good economics.
– You cut out the service to Queensland.
– Do not change the subject. We are talking about Western Australia and you are jumping to Queensland. You are flying too fast; I cannot keep up with you. You have asked me for the Government’s attitude and I have answered your inquiry. We think that the Western Australian people will obtain a saving of something like $800,000 a year if TAA is to come into operation on the Perth to Darwin service and the intrastate services in Western Australia.
Questions were asked concerning general aviation revenue. In my second reading speech, I set out the facts fairly clearly. The cost of running the 6 major general aviation airports in Australia - that is one in each of the State capital cities - is $8.25m. I am taking into consideration not the expenditure on the hundreds of small general aviation airports but the expenditure on the 6 major city airports only. The cost of operating those 6 airports is $8.25m annually, yet the total annual revenue from general aviation is only $3.6m. General aviation provides a service for the community as a whole. It is a means of recreation or a hobby for some people. I think that at the same time this factor should be taken into consideration: The Australian taxpayer should not be required in some cases to subsidise heavily the provision of these facilities.
– The taxpayer also subsidises some of the bludgers who get social service benefits from time to time.
– One can pick on all sorts of things which are subsidised. We view aviation as a whole. Take for example a comparison of the figures showing the numbers of people who use general aviation services. Last year, general aviation services were subsidised by $69m yet only about 160,000 people a week used them. The former Government made no contribution to public transport which is used now by 23 million people each week. We must determine where our priorities will lie. This is what we are trying to do. We think that the airline industry and the general aviation industry should make a greater contribution to their costs.
I have given an assurance to a number of organisations associated with general aviation that I am prepared to confer with them before the next Budget is introduced to see what economies can be achieved by suggestions which they wish to put forward. In the same way as I have agreed that my Department should confer with the airlines, I am prepared also to confer with recognised organisations in general aviation. In fact, some organisations have put to me a number of suggestions already to which I have been seeking answers by feeding them into the system. We want to see whether economies can be achieved so that we may reduce some of our expenditure on general aviation. I do not want to see these matters blown up unnecessarily. I do not want to see too great an expenditure and, in many cases, unnecessary expenditure. The Government is prepared to act and prepared to confer with the people involved.
– What about the question of the Treasurer’s economic survey?
– We are conducting economic surveys at present on the Townsville Airport project, Brisbane Airport, the second Sydney Airport and Melbourne. Major expenditures are involved in those surveys. In the figures which I quoted to honourable members earlier in my remarks on the upgrading of Western Australian airports to DC9 capacity, I established that there is a clear and good case on reasonable grounds to carry out the improvements that we suggest. The Bureau of Transport Economics has not made an economic evaluation of this proposal, but my Department has made an evaluation which shows that the expenditure and the revenue, spread over the lifetime of the asset, will indeed pay for this upgrading. My friend, the honourable member for Swan (Mr Bennett), referred to the possible introduction of a curfew at Perth Airport. From his point of view, the present situation is unfortunate. By reason of the time difference between Western Australian standard time and eastern standard time or eastern daylight saving time international aircraft operate through Perth. I would like to see a curfew introduced at the Perth airport, as would the honourable member for Swan, but I am afraid that at this stage he is the odd man out. The State authorities, city councils and the like in Western Australia, with the exception of the Belmont City Council, do not give him any support. Because of the time lapse between Western Australian standard time and eastern standard time or eastern daylight saving time I am afraid that I cannot help him by instituting a curfew. He raised the question of American Service aircraft using our airports free of charge. A reciprocal agreement exists between countries whereby charges are not imposed on Service aircraft.
The honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) raised the question of the possibility that the Government may increase general aviation charges by 100 per cent. The answer to that question is no. We will not increase charges for general aviation by 100 per cent. The Government will examine the figures before the next Budget and we will continue to examine them bexfore each Budget. We will continue to confer with the people in the industry to see where economies can be achieved, always subject to the condition that there is no reduction in the degree of safety. We are not prepared to reduce expenditure at the expense of safety. I make that one positive qualification with which, I believe, honourable members on the other side of the House will agree.
The only point I make in conclusion is that the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) once again referred to the problems of people living in the Gulf country. When the honourable member for Maranoa first drew attention to this matter the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton) and Senator Keeffe were also raising it with me; I was being blasted from 3 sides at that time. As my time to speak in this debate has almost expired, 1 seek leave to incorporate in
Hansard the text of a letter similar to those which I wrote to the 3 honourable gentlemen who raised this matter.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
I refer to your letter of 28 October in which you asked me to outline the situation which exists in relation to the possible reduction of subsidies to some Australian inland air services, particularly those in areas of Queensland, including the Channel and Gulf Country.
Since taking office this Government has carried out a thorough review of the policies relating to the provision of subsidies for uneconomic air services and has made a number of decisions on the subsidy schemes. With relation to essential rural subsidies, the Government has confirmed the decision of the previous Government to terminate the essential rural schemes as from 30 June, 1974.
With developmental subsidies, it was decided, in principle, to phase out payments for the operation of this form of uneconomic air service, other than those conducted by Connair Pty Ltd, over a four year period. The Government also decided to take immediate action to reduce its commitment in this area by asking the two major domestic airlines to submit plans for the transfer of their developmental services to light aircraft operators by December 31, 1973, or to the withdrawal of subsidy effective from that date.
The Australian National Airlines Commission (TAA) has since submitted a comprehensive proposal for the restructuring of the Gulf Channel networks.
TAA has given careful consideration to the circumstances existing and forecast in relation to these services and in the knowledge that TAA does not own or operate the type of light aircraft that would be required to substantially reduce subsidy requirements, the decision has been taken to terminate all TAA Twin Otter operations in the Channel and Gulf areas wilh effect from Monday, December 31, 1973.
The accompanying route map (attachment 1) indicates the names and locations of the 37 ports of call embraced by this decision, which will, unless other arrangements are made, be without air services as from December 31, 1973.
I might say that TAA has genuine concern for the welfare of the people who will be affected by the necessity to withdraw Twin Otter aircraft from the Channel and Gulf areas which currently absorb 3000 hours flying per annum, serve 45 ports of call (37 of which will be eliminated) and costs the Commonwealth in excess of $300,000 per annum in subsidy.
An alternative route pattern and operational program has therefore been prepared and is- illustrated in attachment 2 which envisages the following arrangement:
TAA will withdraw all Twin Otter operations from the Channel and Gulf area as previously mentioned.
A commuter operator will be encouraged to take over the three times weekly Gulf services, the once weekly Gulf station run and the once weekly Channel Route 1 restructured as illustrated (attachment 2) and extending to Windorah where it could connect with the F27 service mentioned below.
TAA is prepared to upgrade the service to the Central Channel area by operating a once weekly F27 Fokker Friendship Mk II aircraft Brisbane-Alice Springs and return calling at Charleville, Quilpie, Windorah and Birdsville in each direction. This service would place in excess of 40 homesteads and IS previous ports of call within a radius of 100 miles driving distance from an airport serviced by a modern airconditioned aircraft offering hostess, bar and meal services. It would also offer connections at Alice Springs to Adelaide and Darwin and at Brisbane to points north and south and on the east coast.
A commuter operator would be approached to operate a once weekly service from Broken Hill north to Birdsville landing at 7 station homesteads en route in each direction as required. Connections could be made with the Fokker Friendship at Birdsville both westbound and eastbound if a demand existed.
It is estimated that these services could be performed at a total annual cost in subsidy to the Commonwealth of $88,000. This figure includes a contingency amount of $15,000 for flood relief operations with light aircraft operating from Charleville, Windorah and Birdsville as may be necessary during periods when the channels are flooded and an amount of $55,000 payable to TAA as a contribution towards the cost of establishing the F27 operation from Brisbane to Alice Springs in the first year only. TAA estimates a probable loss in excess of $100,000 on this service in the first year of operation, but the airline believes it has a potential for development as a unique tourist route and is, therefore, prepared to make this financial contribution in the developmental stage of the service.
In essence, however, I would like to conclude that these plans for the re-arrangement of the Channel and Gulf Country services are the same as plans under final study by the previous Government _ in 1972 but which were shelved due to the approaching elections.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mir Nixon’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . . . 13
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Charles Jones) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 8 November (vide page 3064), on motion by Mr Charles Jones:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Charles Jones) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 12 November (vide page 3111), on motion by Dr Patterson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill continues legislation that was introduced in 1971 by the previous Government. I think it should be put on record at this time that the Rural Committee of the Liberal Party of Australia had stressed since the late 1960s the need for a program of rural reconstruction. I think it is fair to say that the Committee was well ahead of its time. The legislation which eventually was presented to this House in 1971 followed closely the general recommendations which the Committee had been making for some years. It is reasonable to ask: Why should there be a rural reconstruction scheme and what is the need for it? After all, the process of adjustment in agriculture has always been going on. People leave the industry, people come into the industry, demands change, products fall out of favour and so on. So, in a sense, rural reconstruction is a natural and continuing process.
But a really acute situation can be reached when there is a combination of a high rate of technical change and a drastic reduction in world prices for many primary prodoucts allied to rapidly rising domestic costs. When all those things happen at the same time the normal processes of reconstruction, such as I mentioned a moment ago, are unable to cope; in other words, the factors which lead to the need for reconstruction proceed at a faster rate than natural change can cope with them. Any government then has 2 choices. The first one is to let pure economic forces continue to operate. I do not think anybody would doubt that adjustment would take place if that were allowed to happen; but in a great many cases it would be adjustment at the cost of personal hardship and perhaps even personal suffering.
The second choice open to a government faced with such a situation is to take action which can cushion the effects of the sudden drastic changes with minimum interference with the normal processes of change. That is the course which the Committee of my Party advocated some years ago and which was followed by the previous Government.
There were 3 main features of the legislation that was introduced at that time. Firstly, it was designed to enable the consolidation of debts of farmers and to allow repayment to be made over an extended period and a concessional interest rate. Secondly, it was designed to enable those farmers whose scale of operations was too small for them to earn a reasonable living to expand their scale of operations by giving them access to long term finance, again at a slightly concessional rate of interest and originally to be repaid over 20 years. The third aspect of the scheme was the retraining and rehabilitation of those who could see no future for themselves in agriculture and were forced to leave the industry.
The total amount appropriated for the scheme since its inception is now approaching $137m. That sounds like a lot of money. But it should be considered in the context of the total rural debt, which at the moment stands at well over $2,000m.
– Gross. It is also important to realise that 75 per cent of the total amount appropriated for rural reconstruction has been made available by way of loans to the States and only 25 per cent by way of grants. So I want to dispel any misconceptions there might have been that the full amount which has been made available has been made available by way of gift or grant. Initially, in the very difficult economic circumstances in which the original scheme was introduced, it was natural that the great demand for the funds available should be by way of debt consolidation and I am informed that between September 1971 and October 1973 approximately two-thirds of all funds made available went into debt consolidation. In that time, there were almost 3,500 successful applicants for debt consolidation. For farm buildup, which accounted for the remaining one-third of the funds, there were approximately 1,600 successful applicants.
The House will remember that when the original scheme was introduced it was on a basis that $10Om was to be made available over 4 years. But very wisely the previous Government accelerated this program and compressed the 4-year period into a 2-year period while leaving the amount of Si 00m unchanged. The present situation, of course, reflects the major improvement which has occurred in the rural sector since the scheme was originally introduced. I understand that the proportions now applying to applications for debt consolidation and for farm buildup have reversed - that is, about two-thirds of applications are now coming in for farm buildup and the remainder for debt consolidation. Nothing could illustrate the success of the scheme better than these changed proportions. I think it is now true to say that the scheme is really fulfilling the original objectives of reconstruction.
One of the major provisions of the new legislation is that which requires the States to allocate for the purposes of farm buildup at least 50 per cent of the funds made available to them, unless they obtain the permission of the Federal Minister to vary that proportion. However, on the present type of application that is being received, there should be no difficulty in coping with that requirement. I have no doubt that should circumstances radically change, there will be a consultation between the Federal and State Ministers concerned to see what may be needed to be done about the situation.
It is interesting to note that the third aspect of rural reconstruction, the rehabilitation aspect, has attracted only 147 successful applicants since the scheme was originally introduced. In its original form, of course, the rehabilitation loan was only $1,000. Last year, the Government increased this to a more realistic figure of $3,000. But the very small number of successful applicants for this type of loan perhaps indicates that we need to look closely at the retraining and rehabilitation provisions of the scheme to assess whether they are adequate and whether they are fulfilling the role that was originally envisaged for them, that is, to provide a not overgenerous scheme for those who are unable to continue in or choose to leave agriculture to enable them to become skilled in some other occupation and to earn some money while they are undergoing retraining.
It is also worth noting that last year in the review of the scheme which took place at the same time as the rehabilitation loan was increased, the maximum term for the repayment of the farm build-up loan was increased, from 20 years to 30 years and I think that indicates the very real requirement which exists for financing the operations of primary producers on terms which take account of the inevitable long term nature of much of that form of investment. Such long term finance would enable a producer to ride out the inevitable wide fluctuations which will occur in his income and his seasons. I am informed that at the current rate of application the $3 6m which will be available this year, $24m of which will be provided in the calendar year and the remaining $12m which will be available for approvals which will carry over into the following year, will be adequate. I trust that that will be so. I assume from the second reading speech which was delivered with the Bill that while the term of rural reconstruction will extend to 30 June 1976, the actual allocation made available each year will be the subject of discussion on a yearly basis. I think that is quite a reasonable provision to make.
The next point I make, and which I should like to emphasise, is that there will be a continuing need for some form of rural reconstruction scheme. The very factors which I mentioned a moment ago, namely, the rapid rate of techical change and the tremendous increase in domestic costs due mainly to inflation, will make it increasingly difficult for many producers to stay in agriculture without some form of special assistance, and it is extremely important that this form of assistance should be flexible and able to take account of possibly quite rapid changes in circumstances in rural industry generally or in particular sectors of it. For example, some soldier settler schemes in the various States have not been as successful as others and some of the fruit industries at present are facing problems peculiar to them.
This raises the’ question whether it might be better to have one rural reconstruction scheme rather than several separate schemes. At the moment, we have the marginal dairy farm reconstruction scheme, we have the one that we are now debating, and we will have another scheme which was foreshadowed today relating to fruit. I do not make any judgment at present on this point but I think that some thought perhaps should be given as to whether for the sake of consistency and administrative efficiency there might be a case for putting all these rural reconstruction schemes under one roof, so to speak.
With those suggestions and comments the Opposition supports this Bill. I. think the original legislation has fulfilled a most valuable role so far. It has enabled some thousands of producers to stay in agriculture who almost inevitably otherwise would have been forced out of agriculture, and I trust that the original concept of the legislation will be continued for the rest of the term of this Bill.
Sitting suspended from 6.13 to 8 p.m.
– In speaking on the Bill I would like to say how interested I was in the comments of the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), who went into a fair amount of research and detailed the way the rural reconstruction scheme had been working since its introduction in 1971. The Government accepts the continuing need to facilitate the adjustment process in rural industry, and in terms of debt adjustment it is much the same as ‘ providing means for adjustment overall to the rural industries. You can lead a horse to water but you cannot always make it drink. I think what we have to try to give the rural sector is an option of being able to adjust to change to different forms of industry or to different scales of the particular primary industry in which a farmer is engaged.
My mind goes back to when I was studying at the University of New England and doing some economic history. At one stage I read a book that covered 2 centuries of rural innovation with respect to machinery in primary industry. This woke me up to the fact that adjustment in primary industry has always gone on, and there has always been the impact of technology, and of course there has always been the impact of the way the scale of farming enterprise changes over the periods.
As the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) said in his second reading speech, this Bill is to secure parliamentary approval for a new agreement between the Australian and State governments. It is supplementary, of course, to the States Grants (Rural Reconstruction) Act. As honourable members are aware, with the tremendous demand placed on funds available, ‘the allocation for 4 years was used up in 2 years - that is, by the end of June 1973. That was $100m plus the $15m additional allocation. I entered this Parliament at a time when the New South Wales Minister for Lands, whose electorate is entirely enclosed within Macarthur, was seeking to embarrass the new Government. I figure that he gave vent to his pent up frustration with the previous Government for some reasons, and this was a great opportunity to kick us in the head. But there was a hiatus for a while and the New South Wales Rural Reconstruction Board was embarrassed.
I will not refer too much to the New South Wales Minister for Lands. I just did not think his negotiating ability was particularly good. But I would say that the reason for the hiatus was that New South Wales, in common with the other States, had undertaken at the April 1972 review meeting to try to deal with applications for rural reconstruction assistance at such a rate that approvals and expenditure would have been spread as uniformly as possible throughout the year, within the limited total funds available. Unfortunately New South Wales did not stick to this and subsequently decided to decline all applications for debt reconstruction assistance and agreed to allocate all available funds to farm build up assistance. That was reasonable enough. This step was taken to permit the State to honour another undertaking that it, in common with the other States, would encourage farm build up applications and would approve all eligible cases for that form of assistance. The fact that its rate of approvals was such that available funds were allocated well before the end of the 1972-73 financial year was brought to the attention of the Rural Reconstruction Board in New South Wales and the New South Wales Minister for Lands on several occasions after September 1972 by the previous Government. The Minister in February of this year suggested to the Board that a more cautious approval policy might be adopted.
It is worth mentioning that the average amount of assistance granted for debt reconstruction in New South Wales had been some $10,000 higher than the average in other States. I would like to make some comment on that in a moment. The second major review of the rural reconstruction scheme which was under way under the previous Government took place in March 1973. It was agreed that this should be continued by all States and by the Federal Government, but by this time things had generally got better in the rural area. By March 1973 there had been 33 monthly applications for debt reconstruction assistance compared with 450 at the peak about 18 months earlier and about 116 applications for build-up assistance, compared with over 200 at the peak. It is not necessarily the level of rural debt at any time which indicates the problems that rural industry is facing. My own experience in fanning was that you are often better off when you are well and truly in debt. Until you can get into debt by way of an overdraft or loans you quite often cannot effectively work your property. So I would not say that because rural debt is at a high level farming is necessarily unprofitable. What does count is the capacity to pay the debt off. The Minister’s second reading speech set out the way in which the 1973-74 basic allocation of $36m is to be disbursed.
I would like to make a few comments on the rural reconstruction scheme overall in Australia. Each State has a very different approach. The criticism of New South Wales in allocating over $10,000 on average to applicants is not valid in my opinion because New South Wales takes a very different approach from that of the other States. It has good justification for doing this. The New South Wales Rural Reconstruction Board is probably the most experienced. It was set up basically in the 1930s and has been an on-going thing since then in some form or another assisted by the Rural Bank of New South Wales. It set up rather sophisticated budget procedures for the farmers who are eventually granted rural assistance. It did have some problems with staff at one time, particularly at the beginning of this year, but by and large the way it determines which farms are eligible for rural assistance is based on a rather sophisticated means. Victoria has had some sort of scheme going since about 1962, but the other States set up their schemes of assistance in 1971, consequent upon the Commonwealth legislation.
But as I said, the States had very different methods of assessment, and the major problem in assessing viability still remains. What is a normal year? What historical data are relevant? Are taxation records relevant? If there is conflict of evidence, just where do you go? Do you go to the banks? Do you go to the pastoral companies? Just what sort of records do farmers keep in any case? Most of the time the records they keep are either inadequate or certainly not uniform. The problem of future capital expenditure being incorporated into the various budgets set out for the farmers to pay their restructured debt also causes problems. Eventually what the various States come up with amounts to a budget for the farmer who is being assisted, and it is a budget over IS or 20 years, but is on a very different criteria. I maintain that there is need for a conference on ways and means of arriving at a conclusion so the information gained since the start of the scheme can be collated in some way and so that the States can see where deficiencies lie in their own scheme and where advantages can be gained from perhaps following the way other States approach the scheme.
I am very lucky. The main problem that the farmers in my electorate have is that the land is now too valuable to farm. So far to my knowledge there has been only one application in my electorate for rural assistance, but I have had quite a few cases referred to me from people, particulary people in some of the other electorates in New South Wales, before I got into Parliament. I have one minor criticism of the way the scheme has been working in New South Wales inasmuch as the expertise, the enthusiasm, the ability or the experience of the various branches of the Rural Bank in the first instance seems to vary greatly, I know that on one occasion the Bank took 8 weeks just to process an application in the very simplest basic initial steps. Some of the form filling when there is a delay at the local bank might become excessive. In another case forms had to be filled out identically 3 times over a period of some 8 months.
Related to this general problem of assessment and varying enthusiasm by branches and the way officers process applications for assistance, I would like to make a few other general observations on the whole scheme. What has struck me can be illustrated by way of drawing a parallel with decentralisation in some country areas. If assistance is given to a new engineering firm setting up in a country town this immediately has the effect of cutting the throat of the local home grown engineering works, which is disadvantaged because the newcomer gets some special assistance. By way of parallel, I have known cases in which farmers on the margin, not eligible for rural reconstruction assistance, have been placed at a disadvantage with respect to those who have just become eligible for it. This causes some problems locally in the area concerned. There are other farms that have received assistance the assets of which have been so large, and which have just run into a genuine liquidity problem, that an unreal advantage has been given when their debt has been reconstructed. Some farmers are as game as Ned Kelly. Others take on money at up to 14 per cent - in one case of which I know - and they have subsequently gained assistance and this has put them well ahead of their neighbours.
There has always been the problem of marginal areas. I believe that, at one stage, a lot of applications in New South Wales came from around Condobolin in the electorate of the honourable member for Calare (Mr England) which could be generally regarded as a marginal wheat growing area. It causes problems when almost identical farms are treated differently. I think it was largely these factors that caused more emphasis on farm build up which, in my opinion, is probably going to help more. But here again there is another problem: You have the situation in which the big farms tend to get bigger. This gives an opportunity for some people to buy up the place next door which is not doing too well. The problem here is that the ability of the farmer himself is not recognised. If we do not wish to confuse rural reconstruction with rural credit but simply look at this situation with a view to restructuring and adjusting industry and providing the option to move into other occupations or other areas of primary industry, the long term rural credit where the Government or other powers that be have more control in the context of as fully viable a rural sector as possible is more of an answer.
I was interested to see today in the October 1973 Quarterly Review of Agricultural Economics which is put out by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics a report on a study which indicated that as far as rural credit was concerned liquidity is of far more importance than’ interest rates. I think this is an area that should be developed a lot more by government. There are also the other areas involving the need to secure longer term markets, stabilisation of industries and, of course, marketing information. It is too hard to predict markets into the future but I think there is a great need for marketing information.
– I want to speak only for a few moments on this legislation. As one who was responsible for the initial introduction of this scheme there are a few aspects of the proposed changes which are now being introduced by the Government on which I would like to make a few comments. The first is that I think it is unfortunate, in view of the very remarkable change in circumstances of rural industry, that there is not perhaps a more fundamental reassessment of where we are heading in the smaller agricultural holdings which are held by a multiplicity of citizens in each of the States through policies of closer settlement, each of which have had some difference in origin. There is no need for me at this time to refer to some of the land development schemes that emerged out of soldier settlement. Yet that is one of the areas in which there is a very real problem in respect of the viability of areas of agriculture in Australia.
It is true that under this general scheme of rural reconstruction soldier settlers are entitled, as are others, to receive financial help. As Minister for Primary Industry I initiated a study into the whole of the operation of the rural schemes that are known as ‘soldier settlement’. There is of course a marked contrast between the principal States and the mendicant States as to the nature of soldier settlement blocks allocated within each State. But it is of concern that so much of this legislation in fact originated largely as a result of the initiation of policies of closer settlement by governments which were unable, at either the State or the Commonwealth level, to determine accurately or effectively what was a reasonable living area. I still see as one of the major problems facing agriculture in Australia the question of how the minimal living area for a man, his wife and his family is to be determined.
There are many who are soldier settlers and there are many who are new land settlers, particularly in a State such as Western Australia, who have suffered, whether it be from wheat quotas or the decline in wool prices in recent years, and whose land holdings are not able, certainly for the future, to give them a reasonable return. For that reason, I do not believe that this Government has treated rural reconstruction in the way that I believe might have been necessary. I have looked at the figures that are included in the Minister’s second reading speech and they worry me. Last year in circumstances where we had a review of the scheme in February we committed this year’s Budget to an amount of about $l<8m in order to enable forward commitments for rural reconstruction to be com pleted. That $l<8m seems to be covered within the $24m which we are told will be funded in 1973-74.
This piece of legislation was in fact intended as a 5-year scheme. While I am pleased to see that the Labor Party is prepared to continue the scheme for 5 years I am concerned at the amount of money which has been allocated to rural reconstruction. An amount of $36m has been allocated. Of that amount we are told in the Minister’s second reading speech that only $24m is available this year. An amount of 5 18m - $3m for Queensland in some special circumstances and $l5m for the other States - presumably subtracted from that amount would leave only $6m for distribution among the States for the balance of the year. A further amount of $ 12m is to be made available in the 1974-75 year.
There is a fundamental problem and those who have spoken in this debate earlier have referred to the necessity for forward planning in the field of rural reconstruction. I do not differ from that assessment. Yet I am worried about the quantum of money that is to be made available at a time when I see the need in particular for farm build up and also for the rehabilitation of those who are unable to operate profitably on the land to be greater than it ever has ‘been. Rural reconstruction was a trial scheme. It was introduced at a time when nobody was too sure how to operate, when things were pretty grim and really the whole future of rural industry was suspect. Today the situation is in such marked contrast that rural reconstruction is almost seen as a left over from another era. But it is not a left over from another era. My criticism of this Bill is that in fact it is picking up rural reconstruction only as a left over from another era. Yet we are in fact still in a very critical period for agriculture.
The honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Kerin) has spoken of the changed emphasis on land use in his electorate. There is a changed emphasis on land use everywhere in Australia. There is an uncertainty as to what sort of land use will be capable of returning for the land owner or those who are using the land a reasonable return. I do not believe that this Bill has picked up all those strings of uncertainty which, I believe, a government must look at if it is to be able to take agriculture out of the profitability situation of today and put it into a situation of assured reasonable profitability for tomorrow.
We have spoken from the Opposition side in this House about the $ 1,000m increase in returns for agriculture last year and the extra S 1,000m this year that have come out of improved price circumstances and improved seasons and out of policies which we, when in government, implemented in order to ensure that industries could survive. I see this rural reconstruction scheme as being tremendously important. I am disappointed that it has not been looked at with the measure of positive direction which I still see as being necessary for those small landholders whose uncertainty is still not determined and whose profitability must be questionable, given the inevitable swing of the pendulum which is part and parcel of agricultural operations wherever one might be in Australia. While 1 welcome the fact that this scheme is introduced into the House I question quite critically whether or not rural reconstruction, as it was framed yesterday, is the appropriate medium for solving the problems of agriculture tomorrow.
I do not want to take up the time of the House. I am concerned about other aspects of the legislation. We have certainly had difficulties with individual States, particularly the State of New South Wales, in regard to the sufficiency of funds available for different areas of expenditure. I note that the Bill and the appended agreement are designed to provide a specific requirement that States spend only designated funds in designated areas and that the percentages and the time of expenditure are specified to a greater degree than ever before. I am disappointed that this is necessary. I do not really see, given the necessary flexibility that I believe is part and parcel of the proper administration of rural reconstruction, that this is the way that the scheme can best be administered. But I accept that there have been problems. I know something of the quandary in which the officials within the Department of Primary Industry found themselves, when through perhaps over expenditure in an effort to meet the genuine needs of individual primary producers, certain States spent more than the specified amounts in certain areas of the 3 categories of expenditure.
As Minister for Primary Industry there were 2 areas in which ‘I would have liked to have seen more done. One was in the field of farm build-up and the other was in the field of rehabilitation. I do not believe that either of those aspects has been adequately attended to in this Bill. For all that I support the legislation in its present form, I criticise the Government for both the amount of money it has been prepared to provide and for the pattern of this legislation. I think, given the circumstances and the change of profitability and given the fundamental problems for the future, it is unfortunate that this legislation did not look at where we are going in a more critical and sympathetic manner than it has. However, one understands that the general attitude of the Australian Labor Party is not really of concern for the future of the rural industries and perhaps this is part and parcel of the reason for the application of this Bill.
I am not critical of the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) who is sitting at the table opposite me. I believe that he alone among the Labor Ministers has a genuine understanding and a genuine sympathy for the man on the land. I would only that the Labor Cabinet echoed the sentiments which he has expressed privately and publicly. Another thing I should say before I conclude is that I see very real problems in other industries. I introduced the tree pull scheme which, because of seasonal conditions, flooding and particular varietal problems in the fruit industry seems not to have really provided the help that we hoped that it might have. It had been my intention that the tree pull scheme and the scheme for the assistance of the fruit industry would be included in this legislation. I believe that the legislation would have been better had it done so. Again, given the changed circumstances of profitability there was a golden opportunity for this Government to have taken the bit in its teeth and to have done something positive to resolve future problems.
The previous Government faced an entirely different climate at the time we first introduced the tree pull scheme, and indeed, at the time we introduced rural reconstruction. Agriculture was in a state of depression. The whole of the rural sector looked as though there was virtually no future. Yet the previous Government believed that we should give it an opportunity for a future. The backing of the Wool Commission, which has been so deficient in its successor body the Wool Corporation, is one of the areas which shows contrast between the sympathetic approach which the Liberal and Country parties pursued in Government and the unsympathetic approach which the
Australian Labor Party pursues. In the field of rural reconstruction, the tree pull scheme and the scheme of assistance for the fruit industries there was a golden opportunity in this Bill which I believe Labor, if it had had any genuine sympathy for agriculture, might well have been able to grasp. It has failed to do so. I believe it is unfortunate that that should have been the result. I can understand why it has happened and yet I regret that given the Opposition’s genuine concern for the future of agriculture we see this Bill unfortunately as not really moving ahead as a piece of legislation produced by a sympathetic Government might well have done.
Accordingly, while I accept the Bill I do it somewhat in a spirit of reluctance which is a reflection of my concern that the profitability and the circumstances of today are not necessarily permanent. One hopes that there could well be for those in agriculture a hope and assistance given by an Australian Government which would ensure the future. Regrettably this piece of legislation does not ensure the future. It provides nothing more than a minimal financial extension of a scheme which was generated in a period of uncertainty. I believe that the scheme itself was the best that had been devised up to that time. I regret that more fundamental changes have not been provided in this Bill to try to accommodate the real needs for guaranteeing the future - a guarantee which any one of us, whether we live in the city or in the country, deserves. Given the general affluence of the rural community, perhaps this piece of legislation could have been framed in a more positive and constructive way to provide a genuine hope for the future. Yet regrettably that has not been so.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (8.25)- The Government is to be commended for the interest and consideration it has shown to the problems of our primary industry. It is a satisfaction to know that a new agreement has been made between the Australian and the State governments on the important matter of rural reconstruction measures. No one directly or indirectly concerned with our primary industry should want to give anything but credit to the Australian Government for this new agreement. It is supplementary to the rural reconstruction agreement of 1971 which provided for a scheme to operate to 30 June 1975 Conditions in the rural industry under the previous Government were so bad that the funds originally intended to cover 4 years had to be used up in the first 2 years of the scheme.
One farmer in my electorate early this year made application to the State authorities for rural reconstruction assistance. He was told that the new Australian Government had refused to supply funds for further grants from the rural reconstruction scheme. This shows how dishonest the Liberal and Country parties are in this matter. They knew quite well that the funds that were provided were intended to last for the full period and they blamed the new Government for the lack of funds in the rural reconstruction scheme. But what was not generally known was that most of the rural reconstruction grants, or a good deal of them, were being provided for debt reconstruction. The money was not finding its way back to the rural industry, but was going to city based bankers, financiers and brokers. In every scheme that the previous Government introduced it always seemed to cater for these people first and to consider the man on the land later.
I can remember during the 1970 Budget debate when the present Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) made a lot of noise about a record sum of $2 15m appropriated for assistance to the primary industries. At that time a record number of our primary industries were facing an economic crisis. This amount of money was spread so thinly that it had little or no effect anywhere. More of the taxpayers’ money was poured in in 1971 and 1972. But in spite of that, conditions were the same until the new Australian Government came into office. The new Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) was severely criticised by the members of the Opposition but he has proved to be one of the most efficient Ministers for Primary Industry that Australia has ever known. He refused to follow the familiar but disastrous pattern set by the previous Government.
We said that primary industry did not need charity; all it needed was secure markets. On several occasions when we were in Opposition we pointed out to the then Government the state of the markets. The then Government told us that Australia’s trading partners could not afford to pay more for our primary products. We said that it was time that the Government shopped around and found some new markets for our products. Honourable members will recall that the Australian Labor Party, at its own expense, sent a delegation to China.
We were accused of trying to make friends with Red China or Communist China. But when it became obvious to everyone that we would have some success our old trading partners suddenly decided that they could pay a little more for Australia’s primary products. The previous Government changed its tune. It announced that it was negotiating with nationalist China or mainland China. What a lot of hypocrites. It cannot be Red China and Communist China one day, and Nationalist China and Mainland China the next day. We cannot trade effectively on that basis. Of course, all primary industry needed was access to new markets. Nevertheless, where assistance was justified this Government has not hesitated to give it to primary industry.
Page 63 of the Budget Speech clearly shows that $295.2m was appropriated for assistance to agriculture and the pastoral industry. That is $51m more than was appropriated in the previous year. It is of satisfaction to know that agreement has been reached with the States for 70 per cent of the total approvals to be allocated to farm build-ups. In order to avoid the situation that occurred under the previous Government the States will program their funds so as to achieve as far as possible an even spread over the 12-month period. However, in my opinion the responsibility of the States should not end at that point. The States should give a more detailed account of how millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money has been spent.
I remember pointing out to this House on a previous occasion, when speaking to the Water Research and Measurement Bill, that a new drilling machine had never left the Orange district and had never been to the western division where it was most needed. It seems to me that a good deal of rural reconstruction finance is allocated in a manner similar to that. Though my electorate covers more than one-third of New South Wales it receives only a small proportion of rural assistance grants made to that State.
I invite the attention of this House and that of the Minister for Lands in New South Wales to the circumstances existing in the Cobar-Byrock area of my electorate due to the problem of scrub and timber regrowth. On several occasions members of the United Farmers and Woolgrowers Association in that area have expressed concern to me about the reduced carrying capacity of their properties due to regrowth of scrub and timber. Most of the people I have met in the area are big strong hard working Australians who not only battle along on their properties but also take outside work so that they might survive on their land. They have told me that that is the area in which they live and work, where their homes are situated and where their hopes and aspirations for the future have always been. However, they are quite emphatic that there will be no future unless the Australian Government can convince the New South Wales Government that assistance should be given to this area. It would be wrong to say that the State Government does not know anything about this problem. I have here a report of an inter-departmental committee on scrub and timber regrowth in the CobarByrock district and other areas in the western division of New South Wales, made in February 1969. The terms of reference for the committee were:
On 29 February 1968 the Minister for Lands established an interdepartmental committee, under the chairmanship of the Commissioner for Western Lands, and with representatives from the Rural Reconstruction Board, the Department of Agriculture, and the Soil Conservation Service, to investigate and report on the problem of scrub and timber regrowth as it affects parts of the Western Division of New South Wales, and the Cobar-Byrock district in particular, under the following terms of reference.
Land settlement problems where the productive capacity of the land has seriously deteriorated because of timber and scrub regrowth.
Practical steps which should be taken to restore the productivity of the land, including the best form of land utilization.
Measures which may be necessary as far as affected landholders are concerned.
The area to which I am referring was first settled in the 1870s and extends in a belt about 100 miles wide from 40 to 50 miles south-west of Cobar, north-westward through Byrock to the Bogan River about 100 miles north-east of Cobar. Much ringbarking and clearing has been carried out in the intervening years and during this period 2 major invasions of scrub and timber regrowth have occurred. I have read this report and many other lengthy reports. I have talked to farmers in the area and I have visited most of the farms.
The timber involved in the regrowth is white pine, western cypress pine and Murray pine. Recently I attended a meeting of the western division of the Pastoralists Association at which an authority was speaking on this problem. He put forward a suggestion that some of the holdings should run an equal number of sheep and goats in an attempt to overcome the trouble. People who have lived in the area for a long time felt that that suggestion might have been all right had it been put into effect before the scrub and timber reached an advanced stage of growth. The inter-departmental committee report pointed out that most of the scrub and timber regrowth had occurred because of the non-recurrence of bush fires. Evidently before this land was settled and much of the scrub cleared, periodically bush fires had gone through the area clearing the land.
Many graziers in the area claim that a lack of rabbits has caused scrub and timber regrowth. There has been quite a deal of debate on this subject. One farmer made an extensive study of the problem. In one paddock he allowed rabbits to multiply and in another paddock he used effective means of exterminating rabbits. In one area there was no scrub and timber regrowth but in the other area there was no doubt that the scrub and timber recurred. It has been suggested by a State authority that the area to which I have been referring should be declared a large national park. That is a stupid suggestion though it might sound all right at first. This type of country suffers periodic droughts and kangaroos and other fauna would not stay there once a drought started. The droughts usually start in Queensland and spread to this area. Kangaroos come down from Queensland but by the time they reach this district they are often so weak that they cannot jump fences. On one occasion a local grazier inserted an advertisement in a newspaper inviting conservationists who wanted to give assistance to go with him and take a few buckets of muddy water out of the muddy tanks to keep the kangaroos alive.
– How many came?
– No one came. Many graziers in my electorate are far from satisfied with the assistance they are getting from the rural reconstruction scheme. They have asked me to extend an invitation to the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) to visit the area and have a look at their problems. These graziers want me to point out that those who have enjoyed good seasons and have had enough finance have weathered the problem because they have been able to employ labour to cut down the scrub. Also, those who are fit, who can work hard on the land themselves and cut down the scrub have made some progress. Every one of them is getting a little bit older as the years go by and this is becoming a major problem. There is no doubt that the scrub and timber regrowth are gradually overtaking these people. I hope that the Minister will have a chance to look at this problem. I hope that anyone who is in contact with the responsible State Minister will ask him to have a look at this problem in my electorate. Once again I would like to congratulate the Government on bringing down this Bill. It is supplementary to the States Grants (Rural Reconstruction) Act 1971 which was to operate until 1975. 1 believe that this is a step in the right direction and it will be greatly appreciated by the man on the land.
– The Bill before the House has the support of the Opposition, primarily because it seeks -o remove from the rural sector some of tha problems resulting from low prices, high certs and bad seasons, thus enabling this significant section of our economy to recover and become stabilised. But they are only emergency measures, geared to a specific danger. I submit that these plans are merely a start. If rural Australia is to survive there must be a long range permanent toughening of the national muscle when it comes to defending rural people and people who live in rural towns and cities, with the prime objective of their having a fair share of the expanding affluence oi our society. Unless there is a reawakening of the Australian conscience to the fact that the vast majority of our export income is from primary industry, proposals such as this will still leave things up in the air.
There was a grunt need for finance for debt reconstruction, farm build-up and retraining schemes, and the wisdom and statesmanship of the Liberal-Country Party coalition has been vindicated since the commencement of the scheme in May 1971. At the first review of the scheme on 5 April 1972, it was decided that the whole of the original $10Om originally appropriated to cover the 4-year period should be appropriated for 1972-73. The total amount which the States would approve for rural construction to 30 June 1973 :vas f’21m plus $9.5m available from pre-war reconstruction schemes. It is worthy to pause and record the $3m matching provision mad-j in Queens land by the top-class Bjelke-Petersen administration following an additional grant of 83m allocated to Queensland by the Commonwealth as a result of drought conditions. I point out that one of the significant factors in the rural reconstruction scheme has been the tremendous drain on funds allocated by the Government because interest rates for the rural debt have been increased by the present Labor administration. Because of the increase in interest rates people have turned to this scheme rather than to their ordinary channels of finance because this offers a cheaper interest rate.
There has been a significant change in emphasis as between debt reconstruction and farm build-up during the existence of the scheme. Funds approved for debt adjustments have been 66 per cent of total approvals between September 1971 and October 1973, average appropriation per farmer for debt readjustment has been $26,064 and farm build-up has been $29,201. Applications for debt readjustment totalled 9,929 and for farm build-up, 3,654. It is interesting to observe that demand for debt readjustment assistance declined sharply after November 1972. From December 1972 to October 1973 the total number of applications for debt reconstruction was 478, whilst in the one month of September 1971 the number of applications for debt reconstruction was 503. In order to keep its finger on the pulse of hardship in the areas of responsibility of this legislation, the Government has decided that funds be determined annually after consultation with the States rather than the previous decisions to grant a lump sum for a full period of 3 years. There are sound arguments for this approach as we find that the initial sum was expended long before the period of time had elapsed and there were changes of pressures within the concept of rehabilitation.
It is interesting and enlightening to recall that farm income in 1967-68 following a drought was reduced to $827m. Following a sharp decline in wool prices and the introduction of wheat quotas farm income for for 1970-71 had declined from $ 1,270m in 1968-69 to $892m. To hammer home the point that interest paid on borrowings or interest allowed on capital necessary to carry out primary production can and does have a marked effect on costs, the gross farm indebtness as at 30 June 1971 was the astronomical figure of $2,973m. One can appreciate the interest burden on this amount - and, of course, interest is an element in assessing costs of production. With the background knowledge now that overseas prices have increased and the outlook for returns to the rural sector in the market places of the world are reasonably bright, it is timely to recall that at the beginning of the scheme there were few economic industries which suggested any significant increases in export prices for the major agricultural commodities.
The current situation is one of buoyant markets for almost all agricultural products. The major cause of the upsurge in commodity prices was the coincidence of extensive shortfalls in the output of a number of interrelated commodities such as wheat, feed grains and rice which resulted in a sharp rise in import demand. If national farm income remains at its present level, it is likely that the major thrust of farm policy should be designed to making farmers better farmers. When national farm income is declining the major emphasis on farm policy is likely to be adjusted programs designed to increase the rate of outmigration of farm policies. I submit that this should not be so. We must have as a deliberate instrument of national policy the retention of our rural community. The question which is being asked is: To what extent will the present buoyant conditions continue into the future? Obviously an unequivocal response to this question is impossible. Yet it is of importance to stress that the structural adjustment policies adopted as a result of low aggregate farm income in 1970-71 should be maintained for the following two reasons - (a) in the wide spectrum of reasonable farm income there are areas and pockets of great need and these require assistance; and <b) programs have to be developed and be available immediately there is a need. The framework is necessary.
Let me deal with point (a). Rising aggregate statistics conceal as much as they reveal. Rising aggregate farm income levels caused by high prices in only one or two major commodities may conceal low income problems in, for example, the dairying, berry fruit, banana, and apple and pear industries. The dairy industry in Queensland has very special and particular problems. I refer, with great emphasis, to the plight of the cream suppliers in that State. With rising feed grain prices and no increase in the price of butter and the associated pig and poultry industries, these producers are rapidly being squeezed out. I make a plea that those butter producers who can change to milk be given assistance to allow them to change to bulk delivery and its associated savings. We have to do something about retaining these people on their own farms thus maintaining the economic and social viability of the rural towns and provincial cities. This is of real significance and to emphasise the point I seek leave of the House to have incorporated in Hansard the following table indicating how the number of owners, lessees and share farmers declined from 219,955 in 1964 to 191,180 in 1971 and the relative declines in relatives, employees and total employment.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– Two of the reasons for this have been the normal ageing process and the limited entry of young people into farming enterprises. I seek leave of the House to have incorporated into Hansard the following tables which detail (a) the changing pattern of the numbers making up the various age groups compiled from the various censuses from 1947 to 1971 and (b) the various proportions.
– Is leave granted? There being no objections, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows) -
– These tables give irrefutable evidence that the farming population is becoming older and we are not attracting the younger people, who are more amenable to change and modern techniques. These are areas in the principles of reconstruction that need to be attended to. The present scheme is not broad enough, in that it does not cover the 2 following categories thus disqualifying some of the people who would make the best producers because of their training, background and experience based on practical application. The first category is the son of a farmer who buys out the family farm, thus allowing the father to retire, rather than continuing the present propositions of the youngster leaving because the father can not settle him and the father has not the training to participate in another occupation. The advantages of this proposal are manifest. Firstly, it lowers the age of the farming community and, secondly, it retains the professional expertise on the traditional family enterprise.
The second area is where a farm is on the small non-viable side and the owner seeks to expand for family and personal reasons. He is not covered under the principles of the scheme if he sells his property and buys a bigger property. To be eligible under the scheme he must retain his original property. This appears to me to be perpetuating inefficiency and discouraging initiative and ambition. He should be covered. He is probably the best operator of all. He has made the grade through determination and unrelenting application to efficiency and self sacrifice. These are the characteristics which ensure success. We want this type of settler in rural areas; he is the backbone of the nation and the defender of our liberties because he values what he has got.
I have long marvelled that in our sophisticated society justice has not been extended to the area of unemployment benefits being paid to rural producers in drought or natural disaster areas. Once someone in industry is redundant or is out of a job, he automatically qualifies for unemployment benefits. This is a sound basis and we would all agree that it is a most laudable and humane approach. But this principle should be extended also to farmers to enable them to sustain themselves and their families when the area in which their properties are located is declared a drought area. There does seem to be a tendency by this Government to treat the farmers as apart from the rest of the community. I submit that they are entitled to the same consideration as far as social security benefits are concerned. The farmer is left to suffer through no fault of his own, debts are built up just through buying the necessities of life and when the season finally breaks, he has to apply for debt reconstruction. This should not be so. This is a civilised community but the rural worker and farmer in the circumstances outlined above, is not treated fairly. If he sells his farm he is entitled to unemployment benefit. We do not want him to dispose of his farm, we want to keep him there and arrest the drift to the city. Social service unemployment benefits should be paid when the farmer has no income through natural catastrophe.
The final point I wish to make in the matter of rural reconstruction is that help should be extended to storekeepers, business and professional people who are bearing the brunt or rural industries’ inability to pay in the aforementioned exigencies. These people have to be protected as they do run a risk by extending credit. They should not be asked to carry the burden alone when society as a whole depends for its survival basically on the export income from rural industries. The Country Party rejects the concept of ‘Get bigger or get out’. It maintains a policy of viable farms, a maximum rural workforce and adequate reward for one’s labour. True it is that in some cases there can be some economies of scale in a bigger enterprise but the Australian farming philosophy will only continue to be worthwhile if it is based on the saying of Confucius: “The best fertiliser on any farm is the footsteps of the owner’.
Criticisms of rural reconstruction retraining schemes apply equally to most other retraining schemes. All reflect the same basic characteristics and deficiencies. With the exception of the retraining scheme for married women wishing to re-enter the work force, eligibility is restricted to those who have failed in their present occupations. The loss of employment to many persons would be difficult enough without being labelled by participation in a retraining scheme for persons unable to obtain suitable alternative employment. There would be merit in making available retraining provisions to any person wishing to change or having to change employment. With this end in view the trainee living allowance must neither be too low nor too inflexible. There must be room to manoeuvre. However, I understand that a national retraining scheme to supersede five existing schemes has been proposed and its introduction is awaited with great interest. It is unfortunate that schemes for rural reconstruction are necessary but I conclude with the words of Rachel Carson: The control of nature is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and philosophy, when it was supposed that nature exists for the convenience of man’.
– The Bill before the House makes provision for further moneys to be made available for rural reconstruction, whether it be assistance for debts, the building up of farms or rehabilitation. I do not intend to cover the ground that honourable members who have spoken in the debate have covered. I wish merely to comment on a few of the points that they have made. First I wish to comment on the plea of the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) for eligibility of primary producers for social service benefits. To the best of my knowledge under the terms of the Act they are eligible for social services. To prove my point I refer the honourable member to 1966 or 1967 - or perhaps both years - when many, many producers in my electorate received social service payments, or unemployment benefits. I am aware of this as I made representations on their behalf. The Government at that time took a considerable amount of convincing that the primary producers were entitled to it, and they received the assistance. I refer specifically to the Gin Gin, Wallaville, Brightly, Mia Mia and Septimus areas which were stricken by drought. Those cane farmers received social service payments at that time.
– They were broke.
– No, they were not broke. They had farms and assets, but they were affected by drought and they had no income. They had no crops and were unable to obtain a job. In other words they were available for work in terms of the Act. I might suggest to the honourable member for Darling Downs that he follow up those examples that I have given and he will find that what I have said is correct. In times of national disaster when primary producers are seriously affected by drought the precedent is there. I can refer him to my electorate and to the sugar producers of whom a large number received social service payments and I can furnish him with the details if he wishes.
A further point I wish to make relates to the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Sinclair). I believe that he made 2 principal points. One was the philosophical point regarding reconstruction and whether in effect funds which amount to something like $137m have been advanced up to the present time and whether they have been used as constructively and wisely as possible in terms of the problems facing the adjustment of primary production. I agree with a lot that the Deputy Leader of the Country Party said and I believe that simply making provision for funds within the 3 categories provided may not be placing sufficient emphasis on the problems of rehabilitation and re-adjustment.
However, one must remember that when the reconstruction scheme was introduced the primary producer was in a much different economic position from his situation today. The debt structure was extremely serious. In fact, if wool prices had remained at their low level goodness knows what would have happened to the economy of the country generally, let alone to the financial position of those in the rural sector. I believe that I am correct in saying that the Department of Primary Industry is looking very carefully at this situation and if additional funds are to be made available virtually as a continuing provision, more serious thought will need to be given to the direction in which these funds are made in terms of achieving continual re-adjustment in the rural sector and particularly to take more account of market forces, as has been emphasised by the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt).
The Deputy Leader of the Country Party referred to the plight of war service land settlers. I do not disagree with anything that he said. When I was in Opposition I used to say virtually the same things as he said tonight. This scheme is a major problem. When it was first proposed after the War certain criteria were established for soldier settlement blocks. Unfortunately, because of a number of factors, many soldier settlers will never really make a viable living on those blocks. This situation must be faced. My colleague, the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies), has raised this issue from time to time also.
We must give more serious thought to the philosophy behind rural reconstruction. Where are we heading? I do not think that every year handouts should be provided for farm build-up, rehabilitation and reconstruction purposes. Perhaps, more thought should be given to rehabilitation. Are we to perpetuate the operations of small dairy farmers in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland? Are we to keep their farms operating or are we to make a conscientious attempt to rehabilitate them? The honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) quoted figures which show that the average age of people on farms is increasing. The drift of country people to the cities is becoming a problem. All those factors must be examined. But I have no doubt that the Minister for Primary Industry, the Department of Primary Industry and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics are well aware of the current position, particularly in a time >)f relative prosperity. These are the times when, I believe, it is much easier to introduce these types of proposals.
The second point that I wish to make is with respect to the criticism by the Deputy Leader of the Country Party regarding the availability of money. The inference he drew was that insufficient money is being put into this scheme. He questioned whether the proposed allocation of $24m was additional to the $18m already provided. He indicated that it was not. I inform the House that the $24m that is to be made available through this legislation will be additional to the $18m already granted. In fact, funds provided for rural reconstruction in the 1973-74 Budget total $47.2m. Of that amount $5. 2m was committed by the States in 1972-73 but was not paid to them before the end of that financial year. The Commonwealth has undertaken to provide $18m in 1973- 74 to fund approvals given by the States during the closing months of 1972-73. The amount of $24m is being made available to meet new approvals. It is, in fact, additional to the $18m. There will be an allocation of $12m during the closing months of 1973-74 and those funds will be made available in 1974- 75. It is not true to say that sufficient money is not available. 1 am advised that n fact the funds provided for 1973-74 are of the same order as those provided for 1971-72 and 1972-73, although some adjustments were made. So, the criticism by the Deputy Leader of the Country Party is not valid. Principally, the $24m is additional to the $18m.
Those are the main points that I wish to make. I assure honourable members that the Government fully supports the principles of reconstruction or whatever they might like to call it - readjustment, farm build-up, rehabilitation, alleviation of debt structure, or anything else. Basically they are the principles of adjustment and reconstruction. The present Government fully supports this scheme and intends to continue it. I am quite certain, as I said initially, that there will be a lot of discussion between State and Australian Government authorities with respect to getting the best and maximum benefits from the amount of money expended as time goes on. The allocation of funds for purposes such as the provision of long term loans, rehabilitation finance and assistance to primary producers is fundamental to achieving continuous readjustment.
Nothing in primary industry is static. One cannot foretell what will happen on the export market. More than 90 per cent of our wool production is sold on the export market; so it is highly vulnerable. Let us say that Australia’s annual wheat production is approximately SOO million bushels. A proportion of that wheat crop - say, 70 million bushels - is used for home consumption. It is sold on the domestic market. The balance of the wheat we produce is sold on the export market. More than half of our beef production is sold on the export market. Eighty per cent of our sugar production is sold on the export market. After the end of next year, 95 per cent of our sugar exports will be sold on the world free market. When our main primary industries must rely, for a large measure of their returns, on sales on the export market, a degree of vulnerability exists. An effective reconstruction program is needed in such circumstances to meet the problems of adjustment that occur. This is a good Bill. I assure the House that the Government is conscious of. the need for progressive and continuous reconstruction.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr Patterson) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 21 November (vide page 3602), on motion by Dr Patterson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate is resumed on this Bill, I suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, the Honey Export Charge Collection Bill and the Honey Industry Bill as they are related measures. Separate questions may, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of the 3 Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 3 measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– The Honey Export Charge Bill 1973 provides for a small export levy to be made on honey exports to help finance the operations of the Australian Honey Board. Honourable members who are interested in this subject will be aware that until now the operations of the Australian Honey Board have been financed by a levy on sales of domestic honey only. The Australian Honey Board how finds that it is unable to finance its obligations to the industry on the amount of money made available from the domestic levy. To enable it to fulfil its obligations properly the choice that the industry had was either to increase the levy on domestic sales or to introduce a small levy on exported honey.
The reason why up until now the levy has been imposed on domestic sales only has been the very depressed state of the export market. Prices for honey on world markets have been very low. It was felt - I think rightly - that it would be an unjustifiable impost to put a levy on those very low prices. But, as is the case with the products of so many primary industries, in recent months the position has changed dramatically with respect to the export prices obtained for honey. They are now running at record levels - at quite extraordinarily high levels. I do not know how long we can expect those price levels to be maintained. But Australia is certainly now reaping some of the benefits of its promoting a very high quality product on the world markets. In those circumstances it seems reasonable to help finance the operations of the Australian Honey Board by the imposition of a small export levy. I understand that this proposal received the unanimous support of the Australian Agricultural Council. My inquiries have convinced me that it has the overwhelming support of the industry itself. So the Opposition will not oppose this legislation.
I would like to draw one factor to the attention of the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson). It is perhaps not directly related to the legislation itself but it is certainly of vital importance to the future of the industry. I refer to the subject of export incentives. The present Government does not have a very good track record when it comes to export incentives. The honey industry is somewhat concerned that a very small export incentive it enjoys could be in danger. I refer to the export incentive that applies at present to retail packs. It is not a large concession but it is very important to the industry. My information is that its possible cost to the Government might be about $75,000 to $100,000 a yearnot a very large sum as money goes these days. It has been important to the industry because it has enabled the industry to build up export markets in certain areas in which it would have been very difficult if not impossible to do so without this concession. Those markets are in the Middle East, Malaysia, Mauritius and various African countries. There may be some others that I have missed, but it certainly applies to those countries. In the 2 major markets for Australian honey - the United Kingdom and Japan - the product is exported in bulk and the packaging is done in the importing country. So the concession does not apply to the major markets. It applies only to those smaller countries. But they are important in that they have enabled this Australian product to get to a far wider range of consumers than otherwise would have been possible.
I draw the Minister’s attention to the importance to the industry of the markets which have been developed. Perhaps they are not so immediately important because of the very buoyant prices applying in the major markets, but should there be a substantial downturn in world markets the relative importance of the smaller markets which we have been able to develop will become greater. Therefore the disadvantage which the industry would suffer should the export incentives be withdrawn would be correspondingly greater. Having voiced that concern, I hope that the Minister will be able in his summing up to give the industry some encouragement in that regard. The legislation before the House has the support of the Opposition.
– I wish to take part in this debate. On looking through the second reading speech of the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) I find that the Bill seeks to impose a levy on honey exports at the rate of a maximum of lc per kilogram - that is approximately lc on every 21b - and at an operative charge. of 0.3c per kilogram. As the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) said, the Australian Honey Board has been financed up to now by a levy on the local sales of honey, which represent about 60 per cent of the honey produced. The other 40 per cent is exported. On looking at the income and expenditure statement of the Australian Honey Board one can readily see the need for financial assistance to this Board. As at 30 June 1972 it had a slight excess of income over expenditure of $16,212. As at 30 June 1973 the excess of expenditure over income amounted to $18,940. So it is quite evident that this Board, which is responsible for the marketing of our honey crop, requires additional finance. I think it is fair that a levy should be placed on the quantity of honey exported in order to provide this additional finance. I also notice that the Minister said in his second reading speech that the trade in general and the honey producers have not raised any great objection to this levy being imposed on honey exports. There have been some objections, but in the main the industry apparently has accepted the proposal.
Unfortunately the position with regard to honey exports has deteriorated considerably in the past few weeks. In my travels and associations I have met quite a few very large apiarists who are concerned about the trend in the export market. I sound a warning to the Minister and to those in the industry that the market has continued to weaken, so much so that it is difficult to make export sales in traditional markets at the present time. The export market is in a state of reassessment and for the first time in 3 years supply has outstripped demand. What has caused this sudden slow-down? Several important factors have caused it. The United Kingdom has been buying more heavily than it normally does to beat the 10.8 per cent duty which will be effective on all honey imported into the United Kingdom after 1 January 1974, which is not very far away. That duty will rise to 27i per cent by January 1977. So it can be readily seen that a problem exists here in relation to the sale of honey to the United Kingdom market. This should mean that the United Kingdom market will drop out of the buying until the extraordinary stock has been absorbed. It is the opinion of top honey exporters that the United Kingdom market will buy very little honey between now and the end of February.
That is not the end of the problem. Japan has over bought by some thousands of tonnes and, surprisingly, has a bumper honey crop itself this season. The Japanese financial situation is much tighter and buyers are not prepared to buy stocks as heavily as previously. Let us have a look at another honey producer. The Argentine has held its honey to obtain higher prices for it. It has now found that these prices will not be available. It has a surplus which will probably be marketed for at least 10 per cent less than the present going price. Roumania and Hungary have held back their acacia honey for ridiculously high prices. It is regarded by the world markets as being a delicious honey. It is one which has been much sought after. But they have been asking a very high price for it. Consequently, they have been unable to sell it. The market rejected that price months ago. Obviously there is a build up of this honey which will have to be cleared somewhere along the line. Of course, this will have an effect on our exports. Some 14 days ago a financial credit squeeze was imposed in the United Kingdom and this also will be a deterrent to future honey purchases. The interest rate paid on money borrowed in the United Kingdom at present is as high as 17 per cent. The 3 revaluations of the Australian dollar have also had an effect, as supply has caught up with demand and, of course, this has affected all our primary exports, as the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson), who is at the table, would know. Bee keepers in northern New South Wales and Queensland have come out of the winter with good bees and favourable seasonal conditions have assured th:m a very high production of honey. We have had a very mild winter in northern New South Wales and apparently the same situation obtains in Queensland. This has been good for bees and it means that our honey production will be up on previous seasons. We will have a lot of honey to sell on 31 January 1974.
During the last 2 years it has been easy to sell honey immediately it is produced, particularly on the export market. Now the market situation is such that stocks will have to be held for a while and this will cause problems. Certainly, this situation will have its advantages in that the local market will be well supplied. The local market has been somewhat neglected over the last 3 years by some packers so that they might gain the high export prices which have been offering. I feel sure that the local market will respond to the fact that there will be increased honey available for home consumption. Those engaged in this industry are concerned at the situation and would like to see the position level out and satisfactory prices maintained in the long term.
Those of us who represent primary producing electorates and who are connected with primary producers know that a good even price for primary products right along the line is better than a boom and bust situation. So we hope that the supply and demand situation will even itself out and will not cause any undue hardship in the industry, which has just got on its feet and which has been a very valuable export earner for Australia.
The honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) referred to the removal of export incentives and, of course, this gives honey exporters cause for great concern, particularly those producers who export in packages. The> have been very upset to think that the export incentives have been removed. This does not affect the honey exported in bulk but rather the export packers. So, we support the Bill but would like to draw the attention of the Minister to these problems which confront the industry today and will test to the utmost our marketers in the present world market situation.
– The honey industry is another primary industry which owes its success to the fact that it is grower controlled, supported by representatives of industries who owe allegiance to it through being dependent on it for their livelihood. The Honey Board is composed of growers elected by a poll and a Government appointed chairman who, incidentally, is Mr Keith Mitchell of Warwick whom 1 am very proud to number among my constituents in the electorate of Darling Downs.
– What position does he hold on the Board?
– He is the Chairman. The Board also contains representatives of honey packers from each State except Queensland. The Board has been in operation for 10 years and I must compliment it for distributing to all honourable members and senators with the 1972-73 annual Honey Board report a factual history of the operations and achievements of the Board since its inception. This is an example which other boards could well follow.
This history records the contribution that has been made to the industry and to the nation by these dedicated personnel.
The value of honey production this year is estimated to be $12m, 60 per cent of which is derived from local sales and the remaining 40 per cent from exports to some 60 countries scattered all over the world. There are 5,800 beekeepers, of whom 780 are full time producers with a varying number of hives between 200 and 2,000 and they supply 75 per cent of all markets. The Board has adopted an aggressive marketing approach firstly by appointing joint agents in the United Kingdom and West Germany and, secondly, by setting strict minimum grade standards based on colour varying from extra white to dark amber. This industry receives no subsidy from the government and it is to be hoped that export incentives as outlined by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) and my friend, the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) will not be eliminated. The Board has developed markets in Japan for the white honey based on clover, lucerne and Salvation Jane. It has developed trade, but 10 per cent of exports in retail jars could be lost if no encouragement is given to the Board to face the fierce foreign competitors. There is a bonus to be gained in increasing sales in retail jars rather than the bulk containers of either 660 lb or 60 lb because this provides employment in the glass bottle manufacturing industry and in the labour involved in packaging; and the honey does go on display in overseas countries with the Australian’ label on it. Bulk honey does tend to lose its individuality because it gets mixed with the produce of other countries. The Country Party submits that we have a responsibility to create employment in our own country and every help must be given to create new market opportunities.
Australian honey, due to the operations of the Australian Honey Board, has gained a very high reputation on world markets and at home because of its purity and keeping quality. Every drum exported is a new container which is sealed and stamped and for which a certificate is issued. The Board, as well as working in the interests of the producer, protects the consumer and it has worked to the consumer’s advantage as honey is cheaper here than anywhere else. It is essentia] that the producer obtain a worthwhile return for his labours. We want the industry retained, not only for the contribution it makes in terms of supplying a good food and an export income but also for the side benefits of pollination of our crops.
Most of us recall Sir Charles Adermann as a man of outstanding integrity and deep personal integrity. I thank the honourable member for Calare (Mr England) for his recognition of the great attributes of Sir Charles Adermann and I might remind him that we have his son in this House who has proved on many occasions that he is not frightened to take on a fight. He is a chip off the old block.
– We also have his nephew.
– The honourable member would do well to follow his example. Sir Charles Adermann when establishing the Honey Board, estimated the free pollination of lucerne, fruit and sunflowers, which are not self-pollinating, to be worth $60m annually. This now is estimated to be worth $90m annually. This is recognised by those who sit on this side of the House and who know what practical experience is all about.
– Hear, hear!
– I thank the honourable member for Corangamite for his interjection. Like members of the Country Party, he also shares a deep knowledge of the practical application rather than the theoretical application. The Board at present obtains about $120,000 from the levy on domestic consumption, this levy being collected at the point of first sale, and from the measures contained in this Bill the Board will obtain an additional $18,000, thus allowing it to continue to play its role of watchdog for the industry. The Board controls the export sale of honey by publishing weekly minimum grade prices after consultation with the agents, below which no exporter can sell. I understand that the industry has accepted the proposals outlined in this Bill and we on this side of the House fully support the aims and obectives of the legislation.
– in reply- The purpose of the Bill is to enable the export sector of the honey industry to contribute its share towards expenses associated with honey production and honey marketing. Previously this contribution came principally from levies on domestic sales. Now, of course, under this legislation it will come also from the export sector. I am pleased that all honourable members on both sides agree with this legislation and agree with the Australian Honey Board and the Australian Agricultural Council. I agree that it is difficult to assess the market situation. World prices for honey are very high at the present time. The points made by the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keeffe) are noted. Of course, it will be principally the export buyers in the future who will determine the level of world prices.
The points made by the various members regarding the export incentives are noted. All I can say is that I am aware that the Australian Honey Board has expressed its concern that it may lose export incentives. This is under consideration by the Government at the present time. I am amazed by the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh). I do not think there is any industry that is not in the electorate of Darling Downs. I was not aware that the honourable member had such a viable honey industry in his electorate. Even one of the chief executives of the Australian Honey Board lives there. Of course, as the honourable member says, he is a member of the Australian Country Party. There seems to be everything in Darling Downs including the member, of course. I am even told that the Country Party is experimenting with the crossing of bees with fireflies to produce some type of a breed that will work at night as the honourable member for Darling Downs does. Darling Downs is a peculiar electorate. As a matter of fact it must be unique among electorates in Australia. It has everything.
– Including a good member.
– That is a matter of opinion, of course. Certainly it is in the premier State of Australia and I suppose we must say something on its behalf.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr Patterson) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 21 November (vide page 3602), on motion by Dr Patterson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr Patterson) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 21 November (vide page 3602), on motion by Dr Patterson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Br Patterson) read a third time.
1973 (No. 2)
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
Motion (by Mr Connor) agreed to:
That the amendment be taken into consideration in Committee of the whole forthwith.
Consideration of Senate’s amendment.
Senate’s amendment -
Leave out Part III.
– I move:
As the matter stands, Part III of the Bill has been rejected by the Senate, but we are mainly interested in the declaration of sovereignty.
– Whilst welcoming the move by the Government I must, after all this time and the arguments which occurred in this place, and of course because of the plausible case that was put by my Party in the Senate which induced others to support the amendment that was moved, say that whilst being pleased that the Government has done this, there are some points that bear noting at this moment. I refer to the statement made by the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) on 10 May in his second reading speech on the Bill. He said:
The Bill now before the House differs in one important aspect from the Bill introduced during the previous session of Parliament. This is the inclusion in Part III of the Bill of provisions relating to offshore mining, which together with the associated Royalty Bill will enable the Commonwealth to exercise control over exploration and mining activities for all minerals other than petroleum on the seabed and in the subsoil of the whole area to which the authority of the Commonwealth extends.
He described in his speech Part III of the Bill as being an important provision. The Opposition took a contrary view. The Opposition sought to explain to this place and then successfully in the Senate that, given the claim by the Commonwealth to assert its right over off-shore oil and the provisions in the earlier Parts of the Bill, it recognised that the States had a different viewpoint and as the Opposition has maintained during this year, resolution of that dispute was desirable. It seemed not only offensive but also quite improper to impose on States at the same time a part of a Bill which was to claim jurisdiction unilaterally on the basis of laws applying in the Australian Capital Territory and with provisions which my colleague, Senator Greenwood, so persuasively put in the Senate seemed to be drawn from the scheme of the Mining Code which was contained in the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act and which was yet included in this category here. This was done despite the trenchant criticism of the Senate Select Committee which drew attention to the enormous powers which would be vested in a Minister in circumstances such as this and which were the antithesis of the way in which both the Senate Committee and the Opposition felt legislation should be put, implemented and carried out later by regulation.
In the Senate Senator Greenwood referred to extensive chapters in the report of the Senate Select Committee. He put it as succinctly as possible but, as I say, persuasively. I would have to say now, whilst we accept and we are pleased with the Government’s decision to accept the Senate recom mendation, it is a contrast to the viewpoints which were expressed, not so much in the Minister’s second reading speech which I do not challenge other than the points relating to Part III, but which expressed elsewhere publicly and otherwise as a great challenge to the Liberal and Country Parties with their opposition in this Parliament, yet have now succumbed to the persuasive arguments which were put in another place. What it demonstrates is that there were fallacies in this Bill to which the Opposition rightfully drew attention when it was introduced earlier this year. What it demonstrates for those who sit in another place is that the most persuasive argument can carry the day and that those who would seek to destroy the bicameral system may take some heed from the fact that the Government is accepting this recommendation. The Government therefore recognises that legislation can usefully be amended by the Opposition as is the case now by its acceptance of this measure.
I could be less than gracious by dwelling on the viewpoints that were expressed both here by certain members of this place- on Part III - as I recall, exclusive of the Minister and by others outside this place as well and the threats that were made to the Opposition parties if they were determined to delay the legislation. What the Opposition parties have succeeded in doing is not bringing about a mere delay but, by their persuasive arguments and of course by the numbers that they could mount in the other place, bring pressure to bear in the most democratic way possible to have legislation properly amended. We therefore welcome the change in attitude by the Government. But it would be less than fair if the Government did not expect us to draw attention to the present divergent attitude compared with what was put earlier in the year.
I think it is a healthy day for the role of the Opposition, for the Parliament and for those who have been keen to see that the different viewpoints expressed in the Federal Parliament to those expressed in the State Parliament can now be resolved by way of this legislation should the States wish to take the matter to the High Court. This pleases us. It calls into question the desirability of including Part III in the legislation in the first place. It underlines the attitude quite properly taken by the Opposition Parties earlier this year and their attitude in the Senate, based not merely on the unilateral application of Commonwealth laws to States - for example, Western Austraia - but on the enormity of the power that was to be vested in the Minister by Part III of the Bill. The Liberal Party has always favoured some restraint on extensive discretionary powers. This was almost the epitomy of widespread discretionary powers being vested in a minister. So I say that because the Government recognised our arguments, because we exposed the fallacies at the time and because the Senate put those fallacies very persuasively we congratulate the Government for accepting our arguments. But surely the Government will allow us some degree of congratulation for the manner in which the case was put. I add to it as a simple rider a gentle plaudit for the Government’s acceptance of the amendment moved in the other place.
– I should like to support the remarks which have been made in this debate by the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock). I think it is probably more indicative of the importance of another place in debates in this Parliament that the Government should have returned this legislation in its present form to this place rather than any other piece of legislation that has been before the Parliament. It is rather paradoxical that it should have come on a day when the headlines in so many Australian newspapers have been playing up the reasons why the Labor Party in government is apparently unable to accept some changes introduced in another piece of legislation. Indeed it is true that the Labor Party in government is not prepared to listen to reason. I suspect that the only thing to which it is prepared to pay attention is the actual balance of numbers in circumstances in which it thinks it might be able to get a political advantage. I think the fact that it has been prepared to accept this amendment indicates that it is not moving according to the weight of the argument. I would that my colleague the honourable member for Kooyong wereright. Rather I believe it is a matter of the Government listening to the numbers game and seeing the balance of community attitude on legislation of this sort.
The Country Party is, of course, not only opposed to that part of the legislation which the Government has now accepted but it is also concerned at the implications of the other parts of this legislation. I think it is important for us to recognise that in this legislation the Senate has looked quite closely, not only at the apparent conflict, but also at the real conflict that the Government was seeking to introduce in the administration of responsibilities between the Commonwealth and the States. It is important that those of us who are concerned about the future of administration should ensure, when a case is presented as it has been in respect of this legislation and when people are looking at how it affects the normal day by day operations, that the Government is prepared to accept that the States still have a role to play. That is really what this legislation is all about. It is a matter of whether or not the Commonwealth is going to take over completely a field of administration or whether the States are still going to be able to operate in that area.
The particular part of this legislation which the Government has now said that it is prepared to have deleted in fact refers specifically to the administration of an area which has traditionally been a State responsibility. From our side we believe quite strongly that there was no reason for the Government to have introduced it in the first place and that it is as well that the Government belatedly has recognised the strength of community resistence to the passage of legislation which denied the States the right to maintain their administrative responsibility in this field. It is regrettable that the Government has not been prepared, not only to acknowledge the lack of reason behind the support for that part of the legislation but also has failed to realise that there is an equally strong body of opinion in the community opposed to the other parts of this Bill.
From our point of view, we are concerned that the Government, particularly the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) who has set out on his philosophical way, is not prepared to listen to reason and is not prepared to listen to alternative points of view. This perhaps is the first sign of a chink in the armour. I would that it were a chink in the armour based on reason; perhaps this might be so. I believe there is in our community at the moment a very real concern at the degree to which the Commonwealth and the States might be able to operate and co-ordinate their future policies together. All of us know that there have been significant changes in the area of Commonwealth responsibility but by the arbitrary exclusion of the rights of the States to operate in a field such as this there is not only a denial of equity but there is also a denial of a pattern of tradition and of effective administrative operation which is not justified. Indeed, as far as off-shore mineral rights are concerned, it is only the States which have been intimately involved in the past. The States have been intimately involved only because when we on this side were in government we believed that it was their responsibility. For the Government to seek now to change the position arbitrarily and to set up its own administrative body to take control of applications for licences, prospecting licences and exploitation licences in due course, is to provide a function for the Government which is neither needed nor justified. So from the Country Party point of view, we are delighted that the Government has recognised that the Senate has a valid basis on which it can change legislation. It seems to me to be unfortunate that people in the community are not able to see, in respect of other areas of legislation, the way by which the Senate quite validly has been able to place some constraints on a government whose general excesses are a basis for concern and uncertainty in so many areas of our community. It is in that fact that I see the lesson which comes out of the Government’s acceptance of this amendment
The amendment is not irrational. It is based on sound common sense and on past administrative practice. The Government’s assertion today, through the mass media, to the effect that there should be a general election because the Senate is frustrating its will, has been completely negated by the Government’s acceptance of this amendment. I believe it is more important than ever, at a time when the Government obviously is unable to make up its own mind, that there is a body such as the Senate which is able and prepared to look at legislation critically, to assess public attitudes and to come down with a firm decision and amend legislation according to the public will.
Another aspect of this legislation concerns me at a personal level, namely, the Government’s vascillation as to whether it would deal with this legislation tonight. About half an hour ago I was told that there was no prospect whatsoever of this legislation being dealt with in this chamber tonight. There was a suggestion that there were drafting difficulties about the form in which it might be presented. Obviously that is not so. A printed form of words is available for honourable members. It seems to me to be most unfortunate that the Government cannot make up its mind early enough to ensure that honourable members who are interested in a debate on a piece of legislation are able to have some forewarning of its presentation. This is a most important piece of legislation. It is intended to deprive the Federal States of Australia of rights which have been theirs since the days when they were first colonised. Perhaps they have not exercised those rights in the past in the way in which they may exercise them in the future. But this Bill, in its amended form, will preserve some of those rights.
If the Senate has never before justified itself as a States House, it certainly has done so now. The Government, by its acceptance of the Senate’s amendment, has demonstrated that it is only too willing ot accept the strong body of community concern that the Australian States should be able to continue to exercise a measure of administrative and policy responsibility. If the States were to fail to do so, I believe that the rights of every individual in Australia would be seriously prejudiced. It is on that premise that I see the real lesson in this Bill. The Australian Country Party is disappointed that Parts I and II of this Bill have been returned for passage by this chamber. We do not support them. We believe that the sovereignty in this area should remain with the States. But we are gratified that at least reason has prevailed in that area which was Part III of the original legislation and the rejection of which now, albeit belatedly, has been accepted by the Labor Government.
– As one who was involved in the debates in this chamber on the 2 occasions on which the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill was brought before us, I am pleased to see now the result that the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), who is at the table, has seen fit to accept the amendment made by the Senate. It must be gratifying to those who opposed the legislation in this chamber and those who carried that opposition into the Senate. As has been said by the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) and the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Sinclair), the Senate must be well satisfied with the role that it has played in dealing with the same Bill on the 2 occasions on which it was brought before it. It has justified before the people of Australia the reviewing role which the Senate can play on important pieces of legislation.
It has to be remembered that when the Minister introduced this Bill the first time he justified it on the basis that it was referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech as a major plank in the Government’s platform and as a major piece of legislation to be introduced by the Government as quickly as possible. This Bill was introduced early as a key piece in the jigsaw puzzle of the Government’s policy of seeking to obtain Commonwealth control of the natural resources of Australia. This Government saw in the off-shore areas of Australia, not only in minerals but also in hydrocarbons, an area in which in terms of its ideology it had to take control from the States. As the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party has said, the Senate, as a states House, has been able to exert its influence upon the Government in a proper, reasonable, rational and intelligent way. The Senate has shown the Government that it cannot simply ride roughshod over not only the States in terms of State rights but also the people of those States who are affected by this legislation.
With the Parts of the Bill that are left, I venture to suggest that it is no worth any more than the paper upon which it is printed. It is not a vehicle for establishing sovereignty in the Commonwealth, as the Minister has put forward before. It is not a vehicle for establishing exclusive control over the off-shore areas of Australia, as the Government sought to do when it set out to introduce this legislation. It is not a vehicle for extending the laws of the Australian Capital Territory to the areas off-shore from Australia beyond the 3-mile limit. It will not do any of those things for the Government. I suggest that it will be a piece of legislation which will lie dormant on the statute book until something else is done in this area.
It adds the third tier in the trilogy of legislation which was introduced by this Government with a great fanfare of trumpeting as being legislation which, if not passed by the Senate, could bring about a double dissolution very quickly. The first Bill in the trilogy was the Electoral Bill, which was dealt with in this chamber, where it was opposed by the Opposition, taken to the Senate where it was rejected, returned to this chamber, sent back to the Senate and rejected again by the Senate. That was the first piece of legislation over which the Government threatened to have a double dissolution. We have not seen the Government take any step in that regard. The second major Bill that was dealt with by the Senate was the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. We saw very recently that all the Senate amendments were accepted by the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) when the Bill came back to this chamber.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock) - Order! I appreciate the point that the honourable member for Stirling is making in relation to the amendment being sent back from the Senate to this chamber. But I should not like this debate, in Committee, to develop into a debate on the authenticity of the action of the Senate in relation to other legislation.
– I think I have said enough on that point. I shall not take the matter any further, but it is obvious to the Committee and to the Senate. It is pertinent to this piece of legislation. This Bill was presented to this Parliament by the Minister as a fundamental plank in the Government’s platform and in its policy to control the natural resources of Australia. It is pertinent to observe again the role that the Senate has played. It has upheld the stand that was taken by the Opposition - a stand which is now accepted by the Minister.
To those in the various States of Australia who at all times have sought co-operation with the Commonwealth Government in the exploitation and development of the off-shore areas of Australia in the minerals field as distinct from the exploration for and development of petroleum resources, it must be satisfying to see that the mining code has been rejected by the Senate and that the rejection has now been accepted by the Minister. We shall be interested to see what the Minister does with the legislation as it stands and whether he seeks to erect upon it some other kind of regime in the off-shore areas of Australia or whether he will, accepting the good faith of the Opposition and the good faith of the Senate, approach the States of Australia to see whether some mutual and beneficial regime for the exploration and exploitation of mineral resources of off-shore areas of Australia cannot be negotiated and brought into effect, if not precisely in the same terms as the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act, then in some similar terms.
This takes me back to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech when so much was said by him on behalf of the Government of the desire of the Government for co-operative federalism.
One would have thought that co-operative federalism in action in this area would have caused the Minister at the table to approach the States to see whether a regime of mutual benefit could not have been negotiated and put into effect through legislation which he knew would be accepted by this House, ‘the Senate and the parliaments of the various States. I am sure that is what the States will be looking forward to - to see where the good faith of the Minister lies in this area and whether, with merely a declaration of sovereignty being worth what it might be, and nobody knows that, he will leave the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act as it is and work in co-operation with the appropriate ministerial authority under that Act for the mutual benefit of the States and the Commonwealth.
It must be satisfying to those in this House and in the Senate who opposed the Bill in its present form to see that the Minister has now accepted the amendments steadfastly pursued by the Senate. As was said by the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), the Senate acted in a spirit of review of the legislation. One can see that quite clearly from the debates in the Senate. In that spirit we ought to assume that the Minister has accepted the amendments to the Bill so as to remove Part III from the Act. I commend the Minister for the stand he has taken tonight. I hope that same spirit pervades the approach that he brings to bear in his dealings with the States in this critical area of mineral and petroleum exploration and development throughout Australia.
– I do not know whether I have been listening to a debate or a morality play. A lot of people are patting themselves on the back and drawing very peculiar inferences from a political manoeuvre. Apparently the Opposition seeks to obtain some exiguous advantage from having rejected a mining code which it had drafted and which was available for introduction. In point of fact the Opposition is merely, as usual, 4 years behind the times. It has accepted in toto, reluctantly and in a laggardly fashion, the Gorton Bill which it was not prepared to put through in 1 970. If the Opposition can see any political advantage in that or if it can get any political kudos from it I miss my guess and the Opposition misses its objective.
Clause 12 of the Bill as returned by the Senate is the key. In that clause is a declara tion that the sovereign rights of Australia as a coastal State in respect of the continental shelf for the purpose of exploring it and exploiting its natural resources are vested in and exercisable by the crown in the right of the Commonwealth. We will be doing precisely that. As for logic in the Senate, there was not any. The only logic there was the logic of numbers, for what they were worth. If the Senate is to continue its path of flouting the will of the duly elected Government, the Constitutional government, it has only got -
– Do you not realise that the Senate is duly elected also and that it is part of the constitutional structure?
– It is miles behind the times. You were heard in silence and with courtesy. The Senate is merely playing a partisan role. We are happy for it to do so, to put the noose right around its neck and we will hang it in due course, and it deserves it.
– He espouses the cause of the hangman.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member for Kooyong was heard in silence during his contribution and the Minister should be given the same courtesy.
– Extreme courtesy but that would be beyond the Opposition. There will be no courtesy in the future activities of the Government in relation to asserting the sovereign rights of the Australian people.
– No courtesy?
– There will be no courtesy needed nor is it deserved on the part of people who can seek to glorify themselves for having thwarted the will of the electors as expressed 12 months ago. The battle will go on and you all know it will go on. You can flap your wings and blow your bags and if your halo is a little tight, enjoy tonight because there will be another battle to come.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 25 October (vide page 2702), on motion by Mr Daly:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– At first glance this seems to be a minor Bill not carrying any implications at all. However, when one looks at it closely one realises that it is a most significant Bill carrying some high constitutional implications. Under section 51 (xxxi) of the Constitution the Commonwealth is entrusted with the following power:
The acquisition of property on just terms from any State or person for any purpose in respect of which the Parliament has the power to make laws.
The Lands Acquisition Act 1955-1966 is the legislative means by which this power is exercised. The intended purpose of this Bill is to remove some anomalies in the existing legislation and to a considerable extent it achieves that purpose, but in doing so it does create some further anomalies. Clause 4 of the Bill seeks to empower the Minister instead of the Governor-General to authorise the acquisition of land by the Commonwealth for a public purpose by agreement. The Minister in his second reading speech stated that over 90 per cent of acquisitions of land and interest in land by the Commonwealth are completed by agreement between vendor and purchaser.
Under the existing Act the Minister is only given discretion to authorise these acquisitions by agreement where the price does not exceed $1,000 or the annual rental does not exceed $1,000. By deleting sub-clauses (2) and (3) of clause 7 of the principal Act, there would now be the simple position where the Minister would be able to authorise the acquisition of land by the Commonwealth irrespective of the value of the asset to be acquired. The Governor-General’s consent is not required. A similar discretion is proposed for the disposal of land.
Section 64 of the Act gives the Minister power to delegate any of his powers or functions under the Act, presumably in this case to officers of the relevant department. Under this Bill there will be no limitation on the power of the Minister to delegate his authority to departmental officers in dealing with compulsory acquisition cases and compensation amounts. The net result of these aspects of the Bill is that the discretion afforded the Minister and his departmental officers is greatly broadened. The question is whether it is broadened to an unreasonable extent.
It is unreasonable that there is proposed in the Bill a power of complete delegation by the Minister to public servants who may on their own authority enter into an agreement with the owner of the land as to the compensation payable in cases of compulsory acquisition. These considerations may seem trivial when the Minister tells us that there are only about 100 acquisitions of land by compulsory process a year under this legislation. However, we are now entering an era where this 100 per annum rate is likely to be considerably quickened. For example, the Pipeline Authority may have to acquire land compulsorily for its 6,000-mile grid. If the Alaskan pipeline is any precedent, the width of the land involved may well be 50 feet either side of the pipeline.
In this case alone, very considerable amounts of money will change hands. It would seem to me to be sensible that there should be an upper limit - albeit a greatly increased one to that in the Act - to which public servants are given delegation to negotiate such matters. It is an interesting thought that with the Pipeline Authority and, at a later stage, the National Petroleum and Energy Authority, there will probably be very considerable areas of land acquired for ‘Commonwealth purposes’. I would like to ask the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) whether the Department of Services and Property will be handling these transactions through the Lands Acquisition Act or whether the statutory authorities will be their own negotiating vehicles. If the Minister will show a bit of courtesy to the House for one moment and listen I will repeat the question.
– What did you ask me?
– I would like to ask the Minister whether the Department of Services and Property will be handling the transactions for the Pipeline Authority and the National Petroleum and Energy Authority or whether the statutory authorities will be their own negotiating vehicles.
– In due course I hope to be able to give you a reasonable reply.
– From the Minister who has less to do than any other Minister in this Parliament, that is the answer one would expect. It is a typical buffoon’s answer from a Minister who ought to know his own business but does not. I do not think that the Minister honestly knows whether ‘Strangler’ Connor is going to sit on top of him or prop him up.
I am pleased that the Government has decided that there should not be any change in the requirement that the acquisition of land by compulsory process should be authorised by the Governor-General in Council. If the theory that power corrupts is correct, I would hate to see such unfettered constitutional power corrupt the worthy Minister. Another point I wish to make is one which is perhaps the most significant and which deals with clause 7 of the Bill. Under the principal Act, when land compulsorily acquired by the Commonwealth and the amount of compensation are, for example, the subject of litigation a court determines an amount to be payable by the Commonwealth for the original transaction, which may have been some years ago. Under such circumstances interest would be payable to the owner for that period of litigation at very low and unrealistic rates. The Bill seeks to remove that anomaly by raising the relevant interest rates to the rate payable on short term securities and the long term bond rate. I should point out that both rates are considerably below the rate at which the purchasing power of money is diminishing. On that basis they do not represent true compensation in the economic sense.
It would be doubtless more equitable if the Bill contained a provision similar to that in legislation such as the Lands Control Bill of Western Australia. Under those arrangements compensation, though pinned to a valuation date, can be adjusted to provide for monetary inflation between the valuation date and the date of acquisition. This is quite an important principle, and it is most unfortunate that this type of injustice is proposed in this legislation. The general intent of the Bill cannot be disputed, and one must agree with the Minister that the Act itself has warranted significant updating. However, I would like him to consider these points carefully as great care is required in the exercise of what is an awesome constitutional authority. We propose as an Opposition, because of the awesome constitutional authority contained in the Bill and because I am concerned that the Minister’s integrity should be, and should be seen to be–
– Order! Before I propose the question ‘That the House do now adjourn’ I would like to remind the honourable gentleman that under no circumstances may he refer to any person in this House by a nickname, such as ‘Strangler Connor’.
– Did I do that?
– I am serious about this. An honourable member must refer to a member or a Minister by his electorate or portfolio.
– I apologise to the Chair for my weakness in that regard. But you will understand, Mr Speaker, that as usual our colleague the Minister for Services and Property in his inimitable way was being provocative.
-Order! It being IS minutes past 10 o’clock p.m. and in accordance with the order of the House of 1 March I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
I call the honourable member for Wentworth.
– Not again!
– I begin by referring to the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). I do not know of any appropriate nickname but what he does in this place is to wield a rollicking steamroller over all matters brought up for discussion in the House, particularly matters of defence. Somehow he contrives in conjunction with the Ministers concerned to pretty well blot out discussion. Tonight I want to refer to the neglect by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) of our maritime reconnaissance forces. Maritime reconnaissance is one of the most important elements of our defence. To start with, it is a very versatile weapon and it can be applied to very many different uses. Hitherto, in the defence sense, we have thought of it primarily as a matter of anti-submarine defence. But long distance patrols and long distance reconnaissance also play a very vital part for Australia so that we have eyes and ears over the oceans, knowing what ships and aircraft are abroad anywhere near Australia. Also, from a near use point of view, we need efficient search and rescue facilities. The departments concerned with Defence and also customs and fisheries and a number of other government departments have a close interest in the general subject.
In the defence estimates there is no real provision for continuing the re-equipment of our air squadrons for this purpose. In the Royal Australian Air Force we have the old P-2D5s, we have some later P-2D7s and we have some later Orions. All of these aircraft, although they have been modified over the years, depend very largely on the radar and apparatus which they deploy in their search and destroy missions. At the moment the Orion is still being modified and is still being used in the United States of America. There is another aircraft which at the moment is probably the best long distance anti-submarine aircraft; that is the Nimrod. Until a fairly short time ago it was generally put about that the Air Force had an appraisement team looking at the Nimrod and other possible maritime reconnaissance aircraft, but now it seems to have disappeared from view. There appears to have been no continuation.
Once again I would like to emphasise the importance of continual exercise in this direction, the training of personnel concerned and keeping continuity in these matters. When a problem arises the Minister continually appoints a committee and says that he will give an answer in a year’s time. This is really not good enough for Australia’s defence. This afternoon mention was made of the referral of the Williamstown dockyard works to the Joint Standing Committee on Public Works. The basis was that the program of modernising and bringing up to date the Williamstown facilities has slipped back 2 years. This afternoon, when we heard from the Minister for Defence, he said that he was appointing another committee to advise him on a number of destroyers. However, all the time the decision is postponed. It is the decision that really matters in these cases. Governments can always appoint committees, and I have no doubt that for many governments that is a method of pigeonholing something, putting it off to the never never, doing nothing about it and just providing some sort of material to enable a Minister to answer questions when he becomes embarrassed because the Parliament wishes to know much more about the particular subject.
Maritime reconnaisance aircraft really need broad study. Australia needs very versatile aircraft that can perform a number of functions. We have one type of miserable antisubmarine aircraft. Those aircraft are equipped with the best possible apparatus for finding submarines, which are one of our biggest potential dangers at the moment. They can be used also for carrying fuel to refuel other aircraft, as well as for short coastal work in searching for lost vessels. One is apt to think of vessels lost around the Australian coast. I appreciate that a particular section that is under the con trol of the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) has the responsibility for searches for lost vessels. We should not be too niggardly in the use of public funds to provide essential facilities not only for assisting ships that are wrecked or to search for missing vessels but also for generally keeping a watch on what is happening.
We have had continual trouble with foreign fishing vessels entering Australian waters. We have not adequate facilities to cope with this problem. The Navy has some slow patrol vessels which move at about half the speed of the fishing vessels and would take weeks to catch up with them. We are not properly and systematically equipped to carry out this function. To gain early knowledge of what is approaching our shores, whether aircraft or ships, we need a satisfactory patrol system. We need to work continually on this and on the technique of using this apparatus and developing it for various uses. We cannot afford to have a change of Minister or a change of government after which someone comes in and pretends that he is making a brand new decision. Ministers, whether of the present Government, the next government or the one after that, will still be dependent fundamentally on the advice of the Service experts, who keep the whole show going year in and year out and whose decisions and recommendations should be assessed.
We should not continually have a Minister coming on to the scene and postponing everything that has gone before or scrapping it by saying ‘I want to re-think all this. We will have a new committee to decide it*. The same people, imbued with the same mental apparatus, come up with successive recommendations which clearly will not differ very much from those given to the Minister’s immediate predecessor. So I should like to emphasise, which I could not do on the defence estimates or in a defence debate - such a debate never takes place - that we need to devote greater attention to what is happening in maritime recon.naisance. I urge the Minister to be more forthcoming on this subject than he has been so far.
I should like to point out that we have an aircraft industry and it is important to keep it going. The Nimrod aircraft does carry a potential for a good deal of work; about 11 million man-hours inside the Australian aircraft industry. It involves the employment of quite a lot of people and it would be a means of keeping our aircraft manufacturing industry going and expanding continuously. Today the industry is working on the Nomad; but apart from that it is almost running down. As well as this civilian aircraft, the Minister should be considering, as an urgent matter, ways and means of using this industry to keep our own urgent maritime reconnaisance requirements going.
– In the Federal Division of Burke advice is being given against the Australian Government’s proposal to encourage municipalities to join together and work with a common purpose towards the solution of the multitude of problems that exist in them. The recent report on regions, which was made to this Parliament by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) and for which he deserves our compliments, has been unjustly described by the State Liberal member for Gisborne as a political hoax. It is surprising to hear this gentleman, who describes himself as a small T Liberal, engage in this sort of fantasy and hallucination when he surely must be aware that the problems which beset municipalities are a direct result of the inadequacies of a series of Liberal governments in Victoria - governments for which he has declared publicly his support. He obviously is completely unaware of what is going on around him. Of course, in this respect he behaves in a manner that is expected of any member of the Liberal Party. If he is expressing the opinion of his Party, then he should be advised that this is the year of grace 1973, not 1873, and that if he seeks he will find.
I should like to outline the municipalities that are sufficiently concerned with the welfare of their citizens to combine voluntarily with their neighbours to form regions. Werribee, Melton and Keilor, which all fall within the boundaries of the State electorate of Gisborne, have joined with others to form the Western Region. The Shire of Bulla, although a member of the Western Region group, is now looking to the North-western Region, which comprises the shires of Gisborne and Bulla and the cities of Broadmeadows, Coburg and Brunswick. There is no coercion or threat of coercion, and rather than destroy the identity of municipalities the whole scheme will enhance their status.
It is a pity that the member for Gisborne did not take the time to read the report and the related Grants Commission Act 1973. Had he bothered to do his homework, he would know that a number of things he has made public with the force of his own uninformed opinion are so much balderash. For instance, he would know that at no time is the State Government bypassed; rather is it an integral part of the whole scheme. He has chosen to say how ridiculous but significant it is that the region the Federal Government has helped to set up as its guinea pig refuses its State parliamentarians any representation on the Western Region Commission. The only ridiculous attitude here is that exhibited by the gentleman himself.
In one very large and badly drawn breath he puts the State government forward as big brother and as being the best equipped to deal with the problems of local government. At the same time he accuses the Federal Government of denying State parliamentarians representation on regional councils. As if those gratuitous insults to local government by the ill-informed gentleman were not enough, he compounds his ignorance by saying that every so-called region in this State or nation could consider itself underprivileged by its own yardstick. I ask: What does this gentleman think the Grants Commission is all about? Indeed, what does he think his colleague, the State Minister for Local Government, is all about, if not to assess submissions by regions? Does he think that he can so easily write off local government by saying, in effect, that it does not know what the needs of the areas are, that it is not equipped with God-given intelligence to assess needs, that only the State Government can do that and that local government will subsist on the morsels that are handed out to it?
Let me remind this House that the lack of public transport in Victoria is due to the couldnotcareless attitude of successive Liberal governments in that State. In the proposed North-western Region the public transport system is a farce. The main north-east line to Sydney passes through Broadmeadows, which is only 10 miles from Melbourne. However, electrification of the line ends there, as was the position when electrification was introduced. Housing development extends for more than 2 miles further along this railway line. Numerous deputations and fiery speeches by the honourable member for Broadmeadows, Mr John Wilton, have only elicited a promise that 2 new railway stations will be built and electrification extended. Like all Liberal promises, it is the same as a pie crust - made to be broken.
Five miles beyond Broadmeadows on the same railway line lies the township of Craigieburn. Four hundred families live there; yet there is no electrified rail service to Melbourne. Craigieburn lies within the State electorate of Gisborne, but the gentleman who represents the area has not joined with the deputations or even crooned a protest at the lack of an adequate and modern rail service to either Craigieburn or Sunbury. The Regional Council could push this matter further. Sunbury township is unsewered and can develop no further until it is sewered. How much money is required? It requires only $1.4m over 2 years. Oan the Sewerage Trust get that money? No. I have introduced a deputation to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development who correctly said that he cannot override the State Treasurer. The Minister said that $9m is available to Victoria for sewerage and Sunbury should receive a share of that money. It was the Liberal State Government of Victoria that refused the $9m. Therefore, Sunbury goes unsewered. At least Nero had the decency to play his violin while Rome burned. I wonder if the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Gisborne is strumming his base fiddle while Sunbury goes unsewered Why does he fear councils talking to one another about common problems? Is he not aware that in an area of 400,000 people there is no public hospital of any size? Does he not know that a site exists in Broadmeadows for a public hospital? Can he be ignorant of the fact that the Liberal Government of Victoria has consistently refused to build a hospital in Broadmeadows? How can he sneeringly disparage local government as he has done, endeavour to downgrade the Federal Government’s efforts to assist, and smugly say that his Government has all the answers?
The report issued by the Department of Urban and Regional Development insists that regional councils should consist of one elected representative of each council? How else can local government retain its identity if it is to be mixed up in a homegenous brew of State parliamentarians and local councillors? His preference for State parliamentarians being representatives is understandable because I think just as deviously as he does: Put enough State parliamentarians on a regional council and control it so that it will in no way provide an embarrassment to an inept State gov ernment. The moral, intellectual and financial bankruptcy of that government is well known. Yet, ever the victim of his own propaganda, this gentleman from Gisborne describes the Liberal Government of Victoria as a socially aware government. Rather should it be described as a plagiarist government which appears socially aware during an election campaign and, after success, hibernates until the next election. Contrary to the advice given by the backward member of the Liberal Party, I have advised the municipalities in the Northwestern Region that the wise course to follow is contained in the report ‘Regions’. The councils in my area are wise and far-seeing. They recognise wisdom when it is espoused and refuse to be counselled by fools. They intend to form a regional council.
– I rise this evening to refer to the export of merino rams and to the decision that was announced in respect of this matter in the Press this morning. This announcement was headlined in the Press this morning: ‘Merino exports will be banned’. I raise this question for a very simple reason. First and foremost, I do not dispute at all the decision of those wool growers who cast a vote against the export of a limited number of merino rams. I rise to draw attention to the reaction of some people to that decision although it was announced only in the last 24 hours. Some people have the idea that a certain amount of apathy existed among wool growers to this question as fewer than 50 per cent of those eligible to vote cast a vote. To my mind, that is not the position at all. A number of those people who, according to the rules, regulations or conditions laid down by the present Government, were eligible to vote, in actual fact had no interest in this matter at all. What happened was tantamount to saying that, if the wheat growers were to participate in a ballot on an issue specific to their industry, oat growers, rice growers and growers of other cereals should also be invited to vote in making that decision.
I believe that wool growers should be classified in 3 categories. The first category is the stud merino breeder. He breeds rams for sale. In other words he breeds rams for possible sale on the export market. The next category is the merino breeder who is not interested in selling his rams but who, to maintain the quality of his stud, may purchase rams. The third category is the grazier who runs sheep other than merinos. He is not the slightest bit interested in whether merino rams are exported. The man in the second classification, who is a merino breeder and who is interested in purchasing rams, is opposed to the export of merino rams for the simple reason that it is best for him to be able to obtain his sheep at a time when there is a surplus of stock.
I raise this matter tonight because a number of people have spoken to me not in the last 24 hours but since the announcement was made that a poll was to be held on this matter. As I said earlier, a number of people eligible to vote were not the slightest bit interested in casting a vote. I want the Australian people to know that whatever percentage of those eligible to vote did not vote - I have heard the figure 53 per cent mentioned - a number of those people literally had no interest in voting on this issue.
This matter has been very definitely a political issue. It has continued for quite some time. I was most concerned to hear the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) suggest that the Australian Country Party and the Australian Wool Industry Conference did not have their ears to the ground and that they did not know what they were talking about. In actual fact, I believe that the Country Party and the AWIC do know what they are talking about and that their remarks were directed to the stud merino breeder. If honourable members reflect on the history of the discussions of and decisions made by the AWIC, I am sure that they will agree with me that that body has been representing the interests of stud merino breeders.
I say that the decision of the Government made some months ago to have a vote on this issue by all wool growers was completely wrong. I do not know of one other industry - I may be corrected if I am wrong - whose members, because of the decision of a political party, are not permitted to sell their goods on the export market. The exception is merino rams. This position is farcical. I have always believed that to be the case because stud merino breeders who wish to export their rams can export them through the New Zealand market. It is true that Australia has an arrangement with New Zealand by which New Zealand breeders cannot export Australian rams from that country, but they can export the progeny. There is very little difference between the two.
It was my wish to mention one or two other matters this evening. But I do know that the list of speakers listed to participate in this adjournment debate is rather long. I thank the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) who stood down to allow me to speak on this subject. I do know that if I continue much longer he will not be able to complete his remarks this evening. But I do reserve the right to make reference to a statement made by the honourable member for EdenMonaro (Mr Whan). I am glad that the honourable member is present in the House. I will not go into any details of this matter at this stage because I appreciate that to do so I would require more than the 3 minutes now available to me. I am concerned at some of the statements which have been circulated by the honourable member and which have appeared in the Press in which on the one hand the honourable member for Eden-Monaro has said that he is opposed to any tax on the export of meat when on the other hand, as we find on picking up newspapers, the views of the honourable member are reported in such headlines as: ‘MP calls for export tax on meat’.
– He signed a report recommending such a tax.
– That is correct. Anyone who queries that statement can see for themselves in the report. I have a copy of the report in front of me. I do not want to read from it. I do not have sufficient time in which to do so, anyway.
– Order! The honourable member for Gippsland is out of order in interjecting, particularly from out of his place.
– But what the honourable member for Gippsland said is perfectly true, Mr Speaker. I reserve the right to have a slight difference of opinion with the honourable member for Eden-Monaro on this very subject at some future date.
- Mr Speaker, some of my constituents have expressed concern to me because their dogs have ceased to eat blood and bone. I have been able to determine to the best of my ability that the probable reason why this has happened is because the price of meatmeal has increased and there is therefore less meat in blood and bone these days than there used to be. The constituents who have complained to me are avid readers of Hansard and they are not on the telephone. So I have now got my message through to them.
Last night in the adjournment debate I was tackled on the very point that has just been raised by the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King). I am once again indebted to him for raising it. I will never know why it is that the honourable member for Wimmera and I seem to follow each other in a debate. On this occasion I am grateful to him for his introduction. Last night the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) went to great pains to say that the Department of Primary Industry had in some way abused its privilege in printing what was a very accurate representation of certain events that took place. I presume that the paragraph which offended the honourable member for Paterson was the one which reads:
This, however, did not prevent Country Party Leader, Mr Anthony, from issuing a Press release on 31 August predicting that a tax as high as 12c per lb will be applied initially to exports. He went on to say that when this did not work, the Government would keep on increasing the tax.
The document from which I am quoting goes on to say:
Other members of the Country Party and Liberal Opposition did their best to stir the pot, knowing full well that the imposition of an export tax was not being proposed by the Government.
I refer to page 1349 of Hansard of 20 September 1973 in which the Leader of the Australian Country Party, Mr Anthony, is reported as having said: let it be known that on 17 March this year at the opening of the Boorowa Show I said that this was the Government’s attitude and that the Government would be trying to find a means of bringing down a tax on meat to reduce the domestic price. I have made a series of statements during the year.
The Leader of the Country Party is reported in Hansard as having stated the very thing that was objected to by the honourable member for Paterson last night. We should look at the rationale of the situation. What right has the Leader of the Country Party to speak for the Government on a matter on which it had not made a decision and on which it was not in a position to make a decision? The Leader of the Country Party, with his as usual inaccurate powers of perception - I am indebted to the Country Party for this pearl of wisdom - completely misread and misinterpreted the attitude of the Government on this matter. He had no authority to make such a statement. He is not a member of the Government. The only motivation for his saying that the Government has already reached a decision was to create mischief in the meat industry.
I turn now to the quite accurate statement by the honourable member for Paterson about what I said during an interview on the Federal File’ program. I quote from the honourable member for Paterson’s quotation. The quotation begins: on the evidence available. . . .
Later it states: and the evidence that has been given to the meat prices committee which is, of course, public information . . .
The entire interview was restricted to the evidence available to the inquiry by the Joint Committee on Prices into meat prices. On that evidence certain conclusions could be drawn. It was not a statement of my position in the policy making area of government. It was a statement of my position as a conscientious member of a committee which had been charged with the responsibility of advising the Government on what it could do to restrain meat price increases.
The members of the Joint Committee who submitted a minority report avoided carrying out the responsibility they were given. They came up with the answer that there were no ways in which meat prices could be restrained. That answer was a complete negation of the terms of reference of the Committee. Those who submitted the minority report were not prepared to work within the terms of reference of the Committee. They were not prepared to draw conclusions from the evidence. But they were prepared to use the Committee as a political vehicle to perpetuate the trouble that the Leader of the Country Party was already stirring up in the meat industry. It does not surprise me that the Country Party confuses the functions of a fact finding committee with the policy functions of government because throughout the period in which it was making decisions it failed to make this distinction.
I am once again indebted to the Country Party for the information that has come from it tonight that the referendum on the export of merino rams should not have been held among all sheep breeders but instead should have been restricted to those who have a vested interest in the embargo on the export of merino rams being lifted. We have heard those vested interests stated by a member of the Country Party tonight. According to the Country Party the stud merino breeders are the only ones who should have been consulted on whether the merino ram embargo was lifted. We know, of course, the answer that they would have come up with. Their own financial interests would dictate that answer. It is also interesting to note that the Australian Wool Industry Conference - so we have just been told - represented those vested interests. That simply confirms what honourable, members on this side of the House have said for years and years, that is, that the Australian Wool Industry Conference is not representative of the whole wool industry. One does not have to go any further tonight for confirmation of those observations than to examine what has just been said by a member of the Country Party on this subject. I am very grateful to the Country Party for continually providing me with a forum. It provided me. with such a forum in relation to Yennora. It has now provided me with such a forum in relation to the imposition of a meat tax. It looks as though the next saga will be the embargo on the export of merino lambs. I am greatly indebted to the Country Party for a lifetime of service to my electorate of Eden-Monaro.
– I must say that it is quite amusing to honourable members on this side of the House to listen to the attempts of the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) to justify his point of view in a situation that is rapidly becoming a mess for him. Mr Speaker, I wonder whether you would allow me to ask the honourable member for Eden-Monaro whether, for instance, he signed a report recommending the imposition of an export tax on meat?
– Yes, I did.
– With that on top of the indictment made out last night by my colleague, the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe), I would have thought in any logic that that would prove to be exactly the impossible situation into which the honourable member for Eden-Monaro is getting himself. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro said that he signed the report. He now doubts the veracity of the terms of reference and seems to try to argue that they were not the sort of terms of reference that should be held against him in relation to his signing of the report. He referred to the use of this medium by other parties as being a political vehicle. I cannot imagine a political vehicle that is going on so few cylinders as is the honourable member for Eden-Monaro at this time. It Ls a wonder that it is succeeding in making any noise at all.
However, I did not stand tonight to box on with my colleague on the opposite side, the honourable member for Eden-Monaro. I stood to ask the House whether or not it believed a most peculiar thing happened this morning. I refer to a question posed by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) to, from memory, the Treasurer (Mr Crean) or, perhaps, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). We do not get answers from either of them, so the difference is not great. The honourable member for Adelaide asked whether or not the action of the Senate in holding up the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill might reflect on the capacity of the wine industry, some of its wineries and some of its firms to remain viable.
– That is really scraping the bottom of the keg.
– I must agree with the honourable member for Gwydir that it is really scraping the bottom of the keg. Let us think back to the very first week of this session. Do honourable members recall the Treasurer’s saying in reply to a question I had asked during the adjournment debate on a night similar to this that if the wine or the brandy industry were in anything like the trouble that 1 had suggested it was in and if the industry reached the stage of bankruptcy or takeover, its representatives should go along and see him because he would then listen to the views they put forward. I remember very well my friend, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), standing and asking: ‘Is this an example of socialistic thinking, to tax some industry out of existence and then be prepared to listen to its views and to try to resuscitate it again?’ I ask you, Mr Speaker: Is this or is this not what the honourable member for Adelaide was referring to this morning? The honourable member for Adelaide seems to think that, in spite of the fact that it was his own Government which imposed the onus of this tax, the wine industry has been put in such a situation that it will need the Australian Government to come forward with help from the AIDC which will purchase equity in Australian wineries. What other implication could there be in that question?
Is the Treasurer right? Is the honourable member for Adelaide right? Does this Government see its role as being one of taxing industries out of existence one by one and then. with the generosity of its socialist thinking, offering some help from AIDC or from anybody else? What a prospect this is for the industries which have made this nation great.
– It is curtains to good wine.
– That is another topic on which one could spend a long time. These wineries are faced with a liquidity problem. What do they do? Do they quit their stocks which have long maturation periods and from which they make their quality wines? Do they try to hang on to their valuable stock and perhaps say that the AIDC or a beneficent government will come to their rescue and that after all, it does not matter very much whether the Government takes up half of the equity of their companies?
– It is no wonder that they have legalised home brewing.
– I thought you were going to say ‘abortion’ for a moment. There is another matter which is of very grave concern to me and I am surprised that it has not been raised in the House up to this time. Many honourable members must have read in the Sunday Press, particularly in New South Wales, the incredible comments by the honourable member for Evans (Mr Mulder) that politicians - I presume he meant himself - were not capable of explaining government policy to his electors. He furthermore said that he had so much distrust in the capacity of politicians to explain government policy that, with the backing of the Prime Minister he had thought up the idea of bringing 5 senior civil servants into the electorate of Evans to explain government policy. He proposed that people be invited from all over Sydney - even perhaps from your own electorate, Mr Speaker - to have the benefit of listening to 5 senior civil servants dragged into the political arena, trying to explain to the people of Sydney what the Government’s policies are.
– He does not understand them either.
– We will leave aside for a minute the fact that the honourable member for Evans does not understand the Government’s policies. What an outrageous concept it is that the honourable member for Evans, evidently backed by the Prime Minister, should seriously consider putting what I gather from the description in the Press are top civil servants into a political arena where they are to be set up like Aunt Sallys and fired at by vicious members of the community who evidently do not understand what the Government is trying to do. This is past belief. I always though that such civil servants in a country like Australia had the role of impartially advising governments, one after another, and that they were immune to the political bun fights that occur from time to time.
Speaking of political bun fights, might I return to where I started and refer again to the wine industry because not long ago - about 3 years ago - there was a first class political bun fight in my electorate. Frankly, if I might be permitted to say so, it was held to try to get at the honourable member for Angas with whom they were not awfully pleased at that time. At that meeting were the then Minister for Primary Industry, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) and the then honourable member for Sturt, Mr Foster.
– Perhaps the then honourable member for Sturt is more accurately identified by the honourable member’s interjection. That entire meeting was composed of people putting their point of view on the clear presumption was that if wine excise were removed there would b,e no sales tax or alternative imposition placed on the industry. The honourable member for Riverina clearly said that. The then honourable member for Sturt also said it although, as was his wont, he did not say it quite as clearly. Everybody at that meeting debated that question. The other day, the alternative of that meeting was held. The honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher)-
-Order! The honourable member for Angas will address the Chair. There is only one person making this speech, not the Australian Country Party.
– I am sorry, Mr Speaker. No Government supporters saw fit to turn up at the latter meeting. This surely was the other side of the coin. The Premier of South Australia has said that this Government has put a much greater onus upon the wine industry than did the previous Government by way of wine excise. I wonder if I might inform honourable members what my temporary friend, the Premier of South Australia, said. Mr Dunstan when referring to the refusal of the
Prime Minister to keep his word about tax exemptions on wine and brandy said:
It is not a thing I would have done to anyone under any circumstances.
He went on to say:
I don’t believe a politician should ever go to the public and cynically make a promise he knows can. not be kept.
– Who said that?
– The Premier of South Australia said that in relation to the Prime Minister’s comment that was denied by this Government.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In the 60 seconds left to me, I wish to bring to the attention of the House what I consider to be a most urgent matter which was brought to my attention just half an hour ago. I refer to Australian citizens who are stranded in Papua New
Guinea in areas where only Trans-Australia Airlines has the franchise to operate.
– I hope it is not in the cannibal areas.
– As a matter of fact, I appreciate the interjection. They could well be in the cannibal area. One of my constituents telephoned me tonight. Her daughter is in Rabaul and she cannot leave Rabaul simply because there are no TAA nights in or out. As I recall, there is what is described as a milk run which travels from Rabaul to Manus Island and various other places in Papua New Guinea but there are no other flights in or out of the Territory. I am concerned about this matter and I hoped to speak to the Minister tonight.
-Order! It being 11 o’clock, the House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 jp.ni.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
Department of the Northern Territory:
Interdepartmental Committees (Question No. 1088)
– The answer to the 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.
Aviation: In-Flight Films (Question No. 1219)
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) On a world-wide basis no. On routes to and from Australia, apart from the Tasman, all international airlines operating services with Boeing 747 or DC.10 aircraft provide in-flight film entertainment. Certain Boeing 707 services of some airlines also offer this facility.
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minis ter, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) The only matter I wish to add to the answer I gave the honourable member on 22 October 1973 (Hansard, pages 2402 and 2403) is that I had no written communication with Professor Karmel in relation to the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission between the letter of commission and receipt of the Report.
Sydney Airport: Curfew (Question No. 1287)
asked the Minister for Civil
Aviation the following question, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
Can the Commonwealth Statistician give figures of expenditure by State governments on pre-school education in 1972-73.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Commonwealth Statistician has provided details of expenditure by State Governments from their own resources on pre-school education during 1972-73 in Table 1. Figures for 1971-72 incorporating minor revisions to figures previously supplied (Hansard, 31 May 1973, page 3069) are also given in the table.
In addition to the amounts spent by State Governments from their own resources on pre-school education, State Governments spend grants made available by the Australian Government under the States Grants (Preschool Teachers Colleges) Act 1968. Details of these amounts for the same years are set-out in Table 2.
The right honourable member’s attention is drawn to the comments about differences between States which accompanied similar figures given in the answer to Mr Whitlam on this subject by the then Treasurer (Hansard, 12 June 1970, page 3682).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 November 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19731128_reps_28_hor87/>.