28th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable 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 many citizens more, particularly single people and working wives.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalisation of health services which will lead to impersonalised and mediocre standards of medical care, the creation of a huge new bureaucracy, and will limit the citizen’s freedom of choice.
That the present health scheme can be amended to overcome existing deficiencies, and that the proposed scheme is totally unnecessary.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the basic principles of the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Corbett, Mr Drury, Dr Forbes, Mr McLeay, Mr Viner and Mr Wilson.
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 undersigned persons believe that some literature and films being published and shown throughout Australia are detrimental to the wellbeing of the Community.
Your petitioners thereby humbly pray that the Government will take steps to see that the publication and availability of pornographic and other material of that nature is restricted and that the people are made aware of the dangers to the Community from such literature and films.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Bennett.
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 Human Rights
Bill will deprive free Australian citizens of religious liberty and freedom of worship, and parents and guardians of the right to choose the moral and religious education of their children in that:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House not proceed with the Human Rights Bill.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Cohen.
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 whale is an endangered species and should be protected by international agreement.
That whalemeat and all other whale products should be excluded from all Australian manufactured goods.
That no whale products should be imported into Australia.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will form appropriate legislation to protect the whale from commercial exploitation.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr McLeay.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of 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 you petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Ruddock.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectively showeth:
That jet aircraft operations have a detrimental effect by way of air and noise pollution on the environment and therefore on the lives of citizens living in the general area. That in close proximity to the proposed Galston airport site are the Berowra Reserves, the Hallstrom Nature Reserve and the Muogamarra Sanctuary, and areas of Sydney’s Green Belt, which would be so affected and should be preserved for future generations.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that this House take appropriate steps to ensure that the Government does not proceed with the proposal to site the second International airport for Sydney in the Galston area or surrounding north-western suburbs of Sydney.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Ruddock.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. He will remember that on 23 May 1973, speaking about permanent building societies, he said that Labor ‘should guarantee their security - in return, they should pursue the public interest’. Will he assure the House that Cabinet will be given the opportunity to consider this promise with the intention of ensuring that the Financial Corporations Bill which covers permanent building societies is amended to provide a very proper and desirable safeguard of lender of last resort facilities by the Reserve Bank of Australia? Will he also ensure that careful consideration is given by Cabinet to the creation of a home mortgage corporation for the purpose of sale and purchase of mortgages, probably as part of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation as a desirable means of developing a market for home loan mortgages, assisting the mobility and effective use of funds, reducing interest rates and strengthening the housing industry? If the Treasury with its great but predictably persuasive powers resists these obviously desirable innovations, will the Prime Minister bear in mind that such action is not because of the lack of common sense behind the proposal but because Treasury just is not built that way?
– I believe that the Treasury, more than any other government institution in Australia - Australian government, State government, local government - is equipped to advise and where appropriate to draft proposals in all the respects the right honourable gentleman mentioned. The position of permanent building societies is covered in the legislation on the notice paper, the Financial Corporations Bill, which was first introduced on 11 December last. The Treasurer is responsible primarily for the preparation of legislation and Cabinet submissions on the exercise by the Australian Government of its constitutional powers with respect to banking and insurance and financial corporations. The Treasurer can amplify my answer in more detail on these aspects.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister has not touched the substance of my question about his promise made on 23 May 1973. I ask that he do so.
-Order! There is no point of order involved. The Prime Minister can answer questions relevant to them in any way he wishes.
MrOLDMEADOW - Is the Minister for
Immigration aware of the existence of privately run so-called migrant services? If so, is he also aware of the exorbitant rates being charged for the simplest services by these organisations, such as in the case of a migrant in my electorate who agreed to pay $30 to have a visitor’s visa extended? Has the Minister any plans to stop such practices and to ensure that migrants get a fair go?
– I am aware that over the years there has been a growth of what I might describe as shysterism in relation to migrants. I know that in certain instances charges of $25 have been made for minor interpreting services, for a mere telephone call or a mere inquiry to a government department. I am pleased to say that since the introduction in Sydney and Melbourne of the new emergency telephone interpreter services a lot of this has been eliminated. But there are still, of course, areas of concern such as that which the honourable member mentioned. I hope that very shortly the 48 multi-lingual welfare officers will complete their training and be in the field, bringing to the migrant settlers, particularly those with language problems, therange of help and guidance that is available. I agree that not enough is being done and the instance cited by the honourable member I undertake to follow up with him. But speaking generally, I hope that the extension of the emergency interpreter services, telephone services, the appointment of the 48 multi-lingual welfare officers who will shortly be in the field, and steps like these will put the shysters out of business and give the newcomers a better deal.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister, ls it a fact that the Government has announced plans to use the Department of the Media for a major public relations campaign to serve the propaganda purposes of this Labor Government? Does the staff establishment involved in public relations in all departments excluding the Department of the Media, exceed 425? Are the costs associated with public relations in all departments, excluding the Department of the Media, estimated at more than $10m this year? Is it a fact that the Department of the Media itself has more than 210 staff, including 50 journalists of grade Al level and that there are proposals for upgrading the role of the Department of the Media? Does the Government intend to proceed with this blatant misuse of taxpayers funds? Does it propose to cut back on the extent of public relations expenditure in the Department of the Media and in other departments?
– It may well be true that the Department of the Media finds it easier to get first grade journalists to work for it than the right honourable gentleman does. The appropriations for the Department were included in the Budget. There was a debate on them at that time.
– Will the Postmaster-General consider suspending any further downgrading of the 300 official post offices and the closure of 1,000 non official post offices until the recommendations of the royal commission into all ramifications of the Post Office are available? The royal commission was set up with commendable foresight by the present PostmasterGeneral, and out of it he hopes to get the green light for many major reforms.
– It is true that a royal commission will be looking at all aspects of Post Office administration, lt is true also that the commission will be reporting, I hope within the next four to six weeks. With respect to what is called the reclassification of post offices, there have been problems for years because post offices in various areas start to decline through population movements. As a result of looking at some of the more recent problems, particularly in Western Australia, I have taken the view that it would be more appropriate to suspend the scheme of reclassification and try to introduce into the Post Office a new type of officer - perhaps a postal officer of a senior grade - and to have a one-man official office. This proposal would require considerable co-operation and it would mean a new classification within the Public Service structure. It probably is not appropriate to talk about it now because the royal commission is about to bring in recommendations. At this stage there will be no further action with respect to reclassification and I am hopeful that in future we can retain all official offices.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the newly proposed wheat marketing and stabilisation plan a radical departure from the principles on which past plans have been based and, in practice, only an equalisation plan - equalisation of eastern Australian growers’ returns with Western Australian growers’ export earnings? Has there been a virtual abandonment of the cost index procedures for determining the home consumption price and export guaranteed price with provision for annual variations reflecting cost movements? Finally, will the Minister give an assurance that before this plan is placed on the statute book a ballot of growers will be held in each State to ensure that it is acceptable to the majority of growers?
– It would be correct to say that the proposed stabilisation scheme is a radical departure from the previous stabilisation scheme in that instead of having a guaranteed price related to, say, an export of 200 million bushels the actual price will be correlated with the world price based on the historic value over a preceding number of seasons. The argument is that this will give a true relationship with respect to world prices. As regards the cost index itself, unless something has happened in the last week of which I am unaware - I have been away a lot - to the best of my knowledge the domestic price will be related to an index of cost movements; that is, cash costs and freight charges. It is not correct that it will be related to costs of production. This is an index of cost movements and changes in the domestic price will be directly related to movements in this index. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics will be utilising its price relatives by collecting the various figures concerned with movements in costs of those materials and services that go into the production of wheat. Those price relatives will be applied to an index which will show the cost movements to be related to the domestic price.
– Does this include superphosphate?
– It includes all fertiliser costs, freight costs, service charges and so forth. It does not include depreciation or the owner-operator’s allowance. Regarding the question of a ballot, I shall draw this to the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry. The Minister has assured me that although the proposal represents a radical departure from the previous scheme, it is a scheme for the better.
– Did the Minister for Social Security publicly express an opinion that reserve funds of health insurance organisations should not be used for political purposes because they were collected for health purposes and may be subscribed by people who do not support the party being assisted? If he did make that statement, does he also subscribe to the view that moneys collected by unions should not be used for political purposes because they are, in effect, compulsory contributions and may be subscribed by people who do not support the political party being assisted?
– As my good friend, the Minister for Labour, points out, the unions elect the people who administer the affairs of unions. There is rank and file participation in the decision-making of unions. Looking at the private health insurance funds, I am not aware of any of the open funds which are consumer controlled. No efforts were made to achieve this end in the previous succession of conservative governments. I certainly have committed myself to have consumer participation in the administration of health insurance. I hope that we can do something towards the achievement of that objective in the near future.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. In view of the proposed petro-chemical complex to be established at Redcliffs in the northern Spencer Gulf area of South Australia and the strain that will be placed on the resources of local government bodies in the area to provide all the necessary facilities and services for the expected expansion in population, what consideration has been given by the Australian Government to assisting those local government bodies affected in providing those facilities and services?
– We have received a letter from the Premier of South Australia in regard to the development of the petro-chemical complex at Redcliffs. We are examining the question of the infrastructure to ensure that an overstraining of services does not develop in that area as had developed in the Gladstone area in the mid-1960s. We can assist the South Australian Government in 2 ways in what it calls the ‘iron triangle’. Firstly, the region can make an application to the Grants Commission for assistance. Secondly, we are examining the action which might be taken in what is known as an area improvement program, of a kind that this Government has initiated in respect of the western sector of Sydney and the western sector of Melbourne. After a thorough examination of the matter has been made by the officers of the Cities Commission and my Department a report will be presented to me.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Is the Government considering the formation of a joint parliamentary standing committee to consider Industries Assistance Commission reports? Will this committee be expected to consider these reports before or after the Government has announced its decisions thereon? Will the committee be able to call as witnesses the commissioners or associate commissioners who signed the reports? If not, will the committee be able to call members of the Commission’s staff as witnesses?
– Since the honourable gentleman last asked me a question on this general subject, he will know that, after inquiring of the Chairman of the Industries
Assistance Commission, the Government decided to ask the Commission to indicate in each report whether its release would be likely to cause speculation. Only in special cases, such as those involving negotiations with State governments, would action by the Australian Government in dealing with reports from the Commission be delayed. I made an announcement to that effect on 18 December last year. Since then several reports have been received from the Industries Assistance Commission. In each case the signatories have indicated that no damage would result from releasing the reports. As soon as the reports were printed, they were released.
The honourable gentleman asked also about the Government’s proposal to set up a joint select committee to consider such matters. The matter is still being considered, but the general lines that are being contemplated are that matters which are going to be debated in the Parliament, such as tariff proposals, should be considered by such a joint committee and that that committee should also consider any matters referred to it by resolution of either House or at the request of a relevant Minister. In this case there would be a sessional committee to deal with, say, matters of trade and industry.
The honourable gentleman asked specifically whether members of the IAC would be able to give evidence before it. I would not like to express a firm view on that. As the honourable gentleman knows, members of the Commission are given the same rights as High Court judges. There might be circumstances, therefore, where it would be inappropriate to require members of the Commission to give evidence before a parliamentary committee. I have no doubt, however, that any request to the Commission for information by the proposed committee would be fully and willingly met.
The honourable gentleman will realise that the proposal envisages the full participation by members of Parliament in the discussion of matters upon which the Parliament will later have to vote. I should expect that such a proposal would have his support because, as I have acknowledged before, no member of this Parliament has done more to enlighten the members of the public and to arouse their interest on matters of assistance to primary and secondary industry than the honourable gentleman. I acknowledge my own debt to him. I believe that we all should.
– Has the Minister for Urban and Regional Development seen the statement made by Mr R. S. Dodds, Acting Director of the New South Wales Department of Decentralisation, that the shortage of houses in the Bathurst-Orange growth centre is due to the Federal Government’s restrictions on the housing industry? Is the statement in accordance with the facts? Furthermore, to what extent has the Australian Government assisted in promoting this important growth region?
– It is regrettable that a nian of such standing as Mr Dodds should make such a public statement. I have read the statement this morning in which he said that the Housing Commission in his State - New South Wales - is working on a very limited budget because it cannot get funds from the Federal Government. That is, of course, a completely false statement. The Australian Government has increased the allocation for housing commission funds in all States this year from $167m to $2 18m. That represents an increase of 26 per cent in one year. The amount has been increased to such an extent that I predict that the funds that have been made available by the Australian Government to the New South Wales Government for housing commission purposes will not be spent this year.
Secondly, it is regrettable that the New South Wales Government has not taken more positive action to stabilise land prices in the Bathurst-Orange area. -When the New South Wales Government determined in October 1972 that Bathurst-Orange would be a growth centre, the Federal government of the day, particularly the Leader of the Australian Country Party, objected to and opposed the proposal. I was then the federal spokesman for the Opposition on decentralisation. I said that because Bathurst-Orange was a major transport corridor I saw no reason to oppose it. On 23 October 1973 in Albury-Wodonga the Prime Minister gave full support to the New South Wales Government’s proposal to develop Bathurst-Orange as a growth centre. In the last Budget we allocated $2m for acquiring land in Bathurst-Orange but with a stipulation. I might say that since 3 October 1972 when a decision was made to stabilise land prices in Bathurst-Orange, action was long delayed by the New South Wales Government to make this a fact of life. When that action is completed by the New South Wales Government we will make $2m available in order to acquire land in that area in this financial year.
There is one regrettable detail about growth areas. When either the Australian Government or the respective State government determines that an area will be a growth area, there is accelerated growth in the area - maybe because of private greed - and there always seems to be a housing shortage in the area in the short term. The same problem exists in Albury-Wodonga. So there are problems in the short-term. But we have made $2m available this year for Albury-Wodonga in order to try to upgrade sewerage services and to overcome the backlog in the provision of other services which occurred under the previous Federal Government. Once we get that land serviced we will be able to develop housing in AlburyWodonga. A similar pattern will be followed in Bathurst-Orange if positive action is taken by the New South Wales Government.
– Can the Treasurer indicate to the House when the report of the Asprey Committee in relation to the tax structure is likely to be available?
– The preparation of the report is in the hands of Mr Justice Asprey himself. We are hopeful that we will have a report at least of a preliminary kind that will be able to be used before the Budget is framed.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Tourism and Recreation. Did he recently announce a series of grants for single and multi-purpose sporting and recreational facilities? If so, how many grants were made to Western Australia, and what was the total amount granted? Finally, how does that amount compare with grants made by the previous Government for similar purposes?
– Yes, last Sunday I made an announcement about grants for single and multi-purpose sporting and recreational facilities throughout Australia. This is the second lot of grants that I have made on behalf of the Australian Government, making a total amount of grants of $3,999,487. I am pleased to say that in the grants which were-announced last Sunday the honourable member for Kalgoorlie received 2 grants for his electorate: One of $6,043 for an indoor sporting complex at Geraldton and one of $12,500 for the construction of grass tennis courts at Kalgoorlie. In the announcement that I made last Sunday 22 projects in Western Australia were assisted to the total extent of $78,275. In November last year I announced a grant of $463,850 for 10 projects in Western Australia.
This is the first time that grants have been made by any government for single and multipurpose sporting and recreational facilities. The people who have received this assistance have expressed gratitude at the fact that the Australian Government is aware of the need to provide sporting and recreational facilities throughout Australia. This scheme will continue in the next Budget, I hope with increased allocations to my Department, so that the millions of dollars worth of sporting and recreational facilities which are still required can be provided for the Australian people. I have a complete list of the grants to Western Australia. Rather than read them out I ask that they be incorporated in Hansard.
– Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister not this time about Aboriginal affairs but as a supplement to that asked of him earlier this morning by my colleague, the Leader of the Opposition. Is the advocacy of the Prime Minister for the democratic elections referendum based on a genuine belief in the desirability of equality of electoral opportunity, or is it rather a hope that any change might perpetuate a Labor government? If it is the former, does his philosophy extend into other fields? Is not the expenditure of $ 1.25m of taxpayers funds through the Department of the Media and under the creative direction of the foreign controlled advertising agency George Patterson Pty Ltd to propagate Labor’s program, contrary to this philosophy? If the Prime Minister is not prepared to reduce this expenditure through the Department of the Media, will he ensure equal opportunity for the Opposition to publicise what the Government is not doing and what it should be doing?
– The honourable gentleman is well known for his habit of intruding into questions without notice the names of persons and companies. I do not propose to answer questions in that form. The honourable gentleman can put such questions on the notice paper. I am not going to resort to criticising myself or take it upon myself to defend persons or companies that are named in this way. The honourable gentleman asks me about the Bill to ensure that there are democratic elections in the House of Representatives and in every State Parliament. The Government twice last year introduced legislation which would reduce the disparity of electors in divisions for the House of Representatives. The Government brought in a Bill which would implement the unanimous proposals of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review in 1958 and 1959. That Committee, composed of 6 Labor members of the Parliament, 4 Liberal members of the Parliament and 2 Country Party members of the Parliament - Mr Drummond and Mr Hamilton - unanimously recommended that there should be not more than a 10 per cent deviation from the average number of electors iti any divisions in this Parliament. In the other place the Liberals and the Country Party members defeated that legislation twice. In those circumstances the Government decided to let the people decide.
We propose the same provision with respect to the population of the several electorates within each State as the Constitution already makes for determining the number of electorates which each State has in the House of Representatives. The Constitution has always referred to the respective numbers of the people in the several States and we now propose the same words for the respective numbers of the people in the electorates within each State. The honourable gentleman should know - I have no doubt other honourable gentlemen are aware - that for the last 10 years the Supreme Court of the United States has insisted on this principle in not only the House of Representatives of the United States but also in every State legislature. It is a provision by which the Warren Court has transformed the democratic process in the United States.
After all, we are all elected to represent people and we have to represent people who do not have votes because they are not yet 18 years of age; we. do have to represent people who do not have votes because they are not yet naturalised; we do have to represent Aboriginals who have not chosen to enrol. These are all people and we are elected to represent people and to fulfil their needs as far as we can. This is the case in the United States and has been in the federal and all the State elected bodies there for the last 10 years.
It is not possible to ensure that in Australia by legislation of this Parliament because of thi attitude of people elected 3i or 6± years ago in the Senate. Accordingly the people will be given the opportunity to see that the Australian Constitution should be as democratic as the Supreme Court of the United States insists that the American Constitution should be. If there are any disputes as to the application of this constitutional provision the High Court will be able to determine such disputes because any elector or any person who claims to be an elector will have the right to approach the High Court.
– I rise to order. When this matter was before the House the guillotine was brought down, and the whole Opposition had less time to debate the issue than the Prime Minister is taking now to answer that question.
– No point of order is involved.
– Some honourable members will remember that at a distribution which was proposed in the early 1960s, Queensland and Western Australia would each have lost a seat because Aborigines at that time were not counted. Under the attitudes of the Liberal Party and the Country Party one disregards still Aborigines who do not choose to enrol.
– I rise on a point of order. This is a blatant misuse of question time. Mr Speaker, you have the responsibility to maintain parliamentary democracy here. It is being blatantly abandoned by the Government. Mr Speaker, we will give the Prime Minister leave to make a statement after question time and we will debate this issue. What we are complaining about-
-Order! No point of order is involved. The right honourable gentleman would know from his experience that I have no control over the length of an answer given by a Minister. I can make an appeal. But if the matter is relevant to the question the Prime Minister is in order in replying to it.
– Mr Speaker, the making of the appeal by you is achieving nothing. I want to make it clear to you that you owe a duty to members of the Opposition just as you do to the Government.
-I think I can say without fear of contradiction that I have treated members of the Opposition just as fairly as my predecessors treated members on the other side of the House when they were in opposition.
– The answer to this question is going on interminably. It gives no opportunity for the Opposition to put the other point of view.
– I remind the right honourable gentleman that I have already given the ruling that no point of order is involved in regard to the answer which is being given by the Prime Minister to a question asked by the Deputy Leader of the Country Party.
– Mr Speaker, you have the responsibility in your position-
-Order! I do not intend to debate this matter. I ask the right honourable gentleman to resume his seat.
– I take a point of order. I was asked a question which was said to be supplementary to a question which the right honourable gentleman had earlier asked me. Because in your view the names of persons and companies should not be put in questions without notice I asked that it be put on notice. But the question was preceded by references to the democratic elections referendum and in those circumstances I commented on that part of the question.
– I rise on a point of order. As I understand your ruling, Mr Speaker, the reference to the inclusion of the name of a person is distinct from a reference to the name of a company. In the event of your giving the same ruling in regard to the name of a company, may I ask whether that would then result in the placing of the question on the notice paper?
– My concern about people being mentioned in a question is as to whether the question is critical of them or their conduct.
– It was not critical.
-I did not say that it was. I did not find anything wrong with the insertion of the name but it was a matter for the Prime Minister to answer the question. I have informed the House time after time that any Minister may answer a question as he thinks befitting to the question. The way he answers it has nothing to do with the Chair as long as the answer is relevant to the question.
– Is the Minister for the Capital Territory aware of the extremely high cost to school groups visiting Canberra of the hiring of transport in Canberra and that charges of up to $100 a day for the hire of buses are made to school groups on visits to Canberra? In view of the educational importance of children visiting Canberra, will he consider providing school groups visiting Canberra with transport from the Commonwealth fleet for up to 2 days so that they may visit this area without extreme cost? Will he also consult his colleagues, the Minister for Education and the Minister for Transport, in an endeavour to rationalise the cost of fares for school groups coming to Canberra, especially those from distant States from which the fares are prohibitive for a short visit by a school group, so that the national capital will become accessible to Australian school children?
– Of course, it is true that under the present management Canberra has become very attractive to schools to visit. At the present moment the transport section of my Department charters buses at $5 an hour and 35c a mile. They cost about $50 for hire for a 6-hour day. I think that the private operators charge about $100 a day. I will discuss the matter with my colleague the Minister for Education to see whether we can make the buses available free. We have the power to do so under the Ordinance which, I think, was initiated by my colleague, the present Minister for Secondary Industry and Minister for Supply. As we supply free buses for the children of Canberra it may well be appropriate to do the same in this case.
As to air fares, I will discuss that matter with that well known benefactor of the travelling public, the Minister for Transport, to see whether it is possible for the airlines to do something about equalising fares throughout Australia. I imagine that it would be enormously difficult to do so, as the airlines have to operate on a commercial basis. I sympathise with the need to be able to supply the people of Western Australia with the same opportunity to visit this capital as the people from the eastern States have. If it is possible to make some sort of equitable arrangement I am sure that my colleague the Minister for Transport will help us to organise it.
– I ask the Prime Minister: In view of the Chief Minister foreshadowing an independence date for Papua New Guinea, what are the Prime Minister’s intentions for the non-self governing territory of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands? The Prime Minister will recall directing the Australian representatives at the United Nations to support a General Assembly resolution which called for the selfdetermination and independence for the Cocos Islands. He may also recall contradicting this intention when he said in this House last year - I agree with him - that nobody seriously believed that independence would be appropriate for the Cocos Islands. However, during his recent visit to the Philippines it was reported that he cast doubts on the strength of Australia’s claims to both Christmas and Cocos Islands. As the United Nations Special Committee of Twenty-four is soon to visit the Cocos Islands - the nature of that committee’s work is well known - what advice will be given to it by Australia about independence or not? How does the Prime Minister explain his contradictory statements and stances?
– The honourable gentleman apparently finds some contradiction on the basis of a report of something I said in the Philippines. I do not remember discussing this matter in the Philippines but I certainly did not make any statement about it. I will not embark upon the habit of commenting on speculative reports of this nature. Quite naturally, the Committee of Twenty-four - of which Australia is a member - is to visit Cocos Island. In general terms - apparently the honourable gentleman asks me to comment in general terms on this matter - the Cocos Islands would not be a viable state. At the same time the Cocos Islands, as the honourable gentleman knows, are very far from a democracy. Accordingly, it is perfectly proper that the United Nations through its agencies which we support should investigate the situation to see how the self-government or self-determination of such people as live in the Cocos Islands should be promoted.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. What is ignored in the Prime Minister’s answer to the question I asked of him is that he directed his representatives at the United Nations to support a resolution calling for the independence of the Cocos Islands. The Prime Minister cannot have a bob each way.
– Order! It is entirely a matter for the Prime Minister to answer the question as he sees fit.
– As the honourable gentleman knows, there are not even bobs circulating on Cocos Island. The particular form of feudal government there provides that the ruler himself issues his own coinage and it can be exchanged only in the shops which he himself conducts.
– That shows how little you know about it. What do you think your public servants deal with? Are you ignoring the public servants for whom you are responsible?
-Order! The honourable member for Kooyong has asked his question.
– Do you think that they deal with shell money?
– Order! The honourable member for Kooyong will remain silent.
– The honourable gentleman is destroying his image for urbanity and rationality. There are some Australian public servants on the Cocos Islands. They are like Australian public servants in many other countries and territories around the world. They are there for a year or so at the most, and in fact they live on a different island from the island upon which the Cocos Islanders and their ancestors have lived over the last three or four generations.
– It is a part of the Cocos Islands group and you know it.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Kooyong.
– The resolution to which the honourable gentleman refers was, at my suggestion and with the consent of the House, incorporated in Hansard. The honourable gentleman will know that the Cocos Islands are not the only non-self-governing territory referred to in that resolution. There would be at least two dozen others/ Some others are in our immediate neighbourhood. Some of them are under the jurisdiction of New Zealand, some under French jurisdiction, some under Australian jurisdiction, some under American jurisdiction and some under Anglo-French condominium. In these circumstances it would be quite absurd to say that the Cocos Islands alone should not be examined by the Committee of Twenty-four.
– Pursuant to section 82 of the Repatriation Act 1920-1973, I present the reports of War Pension Entitlement Appeal Tribunals Nos 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 for the year ended 30 June 1973.
– Pursuant to section 7 of the States Grants (Independent Schools) Act 1969- 1972, I present the statement of payments made to independent schools in each State for the year ended 31 December 1972.
– For the information of honourable members, I present a report on the conference of the Australian Education Council, 28 February- 1 March 1974.
– For the information of honourable members, I table the Australian Universities Commission’s report on the proposal of the Government of Victoria for a fourth university in Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo.
– by leave - I think it important that I reject without delay the utterly false allegations that have been made in Australia and in Fiji in relation to Australia’s migration policies. The first of these allegations was made by the proprietor of a travel agency in Fiji who also happens to be a member of Parliament. The owner of this travel agency, a Mr Tora, stated while a temporary guest in our country and again on his return to Fiji that the 12 Fijians recently returned to Fiji because of their association with a racket in introducing illegal workers here, would have been treated differently if they had been white. This gentleman, a guest in our country, said Australia was racist, that its politics were racist and that is why the 12 Fijians he was involved with personally were being required to leave.
He repeated these statements on his return to Fiji and it has been reported to me today that the return of these 12 people was described by him as ‘high handed’ and ‘unjustifiable’. It has been further stated that Australia has two sets of standards based on colour.
The first point I should like to make in relation to Fiji is that we have some 4,000 residents from Fiji and a good percentage of them have settled so successfully and so well they have joined the family of the nation as Australian citizens. We are proud to have them. Every year some 200 to 250 further settlers enter Australia’s front door from Fiji as settlers. We hope that this stream of successful settlement continues and expands. At the same time, it is a source of great and deep regret to me that unscrupulous people should use the back door to infiltrate people into Australia who will be for most of their lives in hostage to the exploiters who master minded their illegal entry. No country has a monopoly of racketeers. The allegations that Australian laws and policies are different for different people are untrue, and while my words may be questioned the figures which show the greatest number of deportations from Australia over the years have been from Europe and the United Kingdom, and those figures cannot be denied. The easy visa system has been a success in more than 60 countries around the world. It has been a success for the overwhelming majority of Fijians and I repeat the statement I made to the distinguished representative of Fiji in Australia, His Excellency the High Commissioner, Mr Raman Narayan Nair, that as soon as the racketeering has been ended we will then look to the restoration of the new facility I introduced on 1 September.
We are proud of the Fijian settlers who have come through our front door and become part of the family of the nation. We look forward to continued settlement from Fiji. We recognise that the racketeers and the exploiters are as anathema to Fiji and every other country in our region as they are to Australia. Australia rejects the exploiters from whichever country they may come. They establish a bridgehead, they introduce their dupes and they keep them in bondage for years to pay for return fares they never had in the first place, for accommodation - up to 17 to a room - they were never consulted about, and for services rendered in beating Australia’s laws designed above all to prevent exploitation and to preserve standards for all people in the Australian family.
Let me deal with the 12 Fijians who came in search of settlement but who entered through the back door. Let me assure this House that the men in question were deported solely because they had come to Australia under the guise of tourists but with the real intention of breaking Australia’s laws and taking employment. They admitted this on their arrival in Sydney by air. Their coming here was therefore in deliberate defiance of the conditions attached to visitor entry.
Mr Tora is a director of a travel agency in Fiji and the group admitted he arranged for them to have return tickets on the basis of repayment to Mr Tora later. Mr Tora had also arranged for the group to be met on arrival by another Fijian, Mr Patrick Anthony, who was to arrange accommodation. The deportation of the group was essential to protect the 12 dupes from years of exploitation and to protect the standards of living and employment of the Australian community. Australia has nothing to apologise for in its current immigration policy. The Government is firm in its intention to reject exploitation in any shape or form. I now table a more detailed account of the history of this specific matter relating to the 12 Fijians and their departure on 6 March 1974.
– by leave - I take this opportunity to make comment not only about the particular matter that the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) has mentioned but also about other aspects of his immigration administration for the simple reason that the Minister has resolutely, over a long period, not encouraged, not enabled and not taken any measures in this House to permit a proper debate of the alleged immigration changes he has made. In 2 areas, in particular, the Minister is highly culpable because he, against the advice of his own Department, has introduced procedures that inevitably would lead to deterioration in relationships between Australian and some other countries. We have the situation where the easy visa system in respect of Fiji has been suspended, if not abandoned.
– Whether that means abandoned depends upon the future and the Minister cannot give this House any assurance that it could be re-introduced in relation to Fiji without the abuses that have appeared recurring. It also has been suspended in relation to other areas. When a system such as this is introduced it arouses expectations, hopes and aspirations in the countries concerned. The Minister now has dashed those hopes and expectations and has made, by implication, serious allegations against a Fijian member of Parliament. Surely that is not a situation which will assist relationships between Australia and Fiji. The Minister repeated some of the statements of the Fijian member of Parliament and then, by implication, associated that member of Parliament with unscrupulous people interested in a modern form of blackbirding, hostage to the exploiters who masterminded the illegal entry. No country has a monopoly of racketeers. The Minister said that Australia rejects the exploiters who comprise the new blackbirders of our region. They establish a bridgehead, they introduce their dupes, they keep them in bondage for a lifetime to pay for return fares they never had. Only one person of substance is mentioned in the Minister’s statement - the Fijian member of Parliament. That being so, these allegations must be directed to that Fijian member of Parliament. At least that is the clear implication of what the Minister said. The Minister continued by saying that the men were deported solely because they had come to Australia under the guise of tourists but with the real intention of breaking Australia’s laws and taking employment. Again, these are serious allegations against a member of Parliament of another country. He said that the deportation of the group was essential to protect the 12 dupes from 20 years of exploitation and to protect the standards of living and employment of the Australian community. These fairly serious words carry with them, by implication, a criticism of a Fijian member of Parliament. In the statement which the Minister has tabled but not read he said that there is no doubt that a very substantial number of Fijians have come here under the guise of tourists with the actual intention of taking employment. The Minister uses the words ‘a very substantial number’. The Minister has not told us what is that very substantial number. He has not told us how his departmental officers could, for so long, ignore some of the conditions of his own easy visa system under which there needed to be evidence of a person having paid a return fare to Australia - an onward ticket - and the production of a declaration. But surely in addition to a declaration there would need to be evidence of sufficient funds to support a stay in Australia. Clearly the 12 people concerned did not have that evidence, that declaration, or a declaration that meant anything. How many people have abused this system from one country? How sure can the Minister be that it has not been abused from other countries? The Minister mentioned that a very substantial number of Fijians had come to Australia, expecting to stay here. The House deserves a much better explanation and a much fuller explanation than it has had. The inevitable result of the initiative taken by the Minister will be a situation in which hopes and aspirations in Fiji will have been raised and then dashed. Those hopes and aspirations ought not to have been raised in the first place.
But there is another area in which the Minister for Immigration and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in particular are culpable in relation to Australia’s immigration program in a way in which no similar charge can be laid against any other Minister for Immigration or any other Prime Minister since the days of Arthur Calwell, the first and possibly the greatest Minister for Immigration whom Australia has had. It is a pity that his tradition in helping to establish a bi-partisan approach to this matter could not have been continued because it was Arthur Calwell - it was probably only a member of the Labor Party who could do it - who gained trade union support for a large and continuing immigration program. Now, partly from grandstanding and partly from belief and a search for publicity that general trade union support for a continuing immigration program looks like being threatened. It is being threatened because the Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration are more concerned with publicity and are more concerned with immediate happenings than with the long term and solid development of Australia on a basis that does not arouse concern and passion.
We have not been told the number of people who have applied in the Philippines to come to Australia as a result of the Prime Minister’s visit to the Philippines. But we have certainly been told that thousands of people were applying to the Australian Embassy in the Philippines. It is not really a question of the 35 people who were going to work at the Leyland company’s plant as a trial. I believe the way this matter was handled and the suggestions that this trial of 35 people would be followed by a thousand people working in one place - specifically, in the Leyland company’s factory outside Sydney- coupled with the statements made by the Prime Minister in the Philippines, have obviously aroused enormous expectations. The Minister for Immigration will presumably be dashing those expectations in the same way as he has in relation to the Fijians.
The important point in this proposal is that it runs the risk, as has become most evident in the last few days, of jeopardising continuing trade union support for a substantial immigration program that Australia needs. Let us ask ourselves what the position would be if a thousand Filipinos, or a similar number of people from any other country for that matter, were brought here especially to work in one specific factory and then the industry conducted through that factory suffered a recession. If workers had to be laid off, who would be laid off at that factory? The people who have been brought especially to Australia from overseas might be laid off first if the general principle of last on, first off was applied. If that happens, the Government of the Philippines will claim that Australia has a special obligation to these one thousand Filipinos who were brought to Australia for a special purpose. It will say that the Australian Government and the Leyland company have a special obligation to them and if that obligation is not met the relationship between our 2 countries will be more difficult and tense than perhaps it has been or ought to be in any circumstance.
If the obvious pressure that would come in such circumstances were to be accepted by an Australian government or by the management of any particular concern, and they said that they did have a special obligation, they would probably put off people belonging to the Vehicle Builders Federation or other Australian unions. Quite clearly that is the circumstance about which people in the trade union movement are concerned. It is a situation that would seriously jeopardise the continuing support of the trade unions for an immigration program. Again, the Minister for Immigration and particularly the Prime Minister are culpable for having established the circumstances in which aspirations which will not be fulfilled have been aroused in the Philippines and in which fears have been aroused in the trade union movement for the first time since Arthur Calwell, to his continuing and lasting credit, sold an immigration program to the trade union movement of Australia.
In relation to Fiji, the Minister for Immigration has ignored the experience and the advice of officers of his Department. He introduced procedures which, on his own admission, have invited abuse and have been abused. I challenge the Minister to table the advice that has been given to him by his Department on this matter - unless he introduced these new procedures without his Department’s advice. Again, in the Philippines, it was the Prime Minister who made flamboyant statements and an allegation about Australia, in the first instance, which was not correct. He found it was necessary to make that allegation to be able to make his flamboyant statement stick. He said that the White Australia policy was dead but it had not been applied in the sense in which he meant for years and years. He led the Filipinos to believe that statement. By making that statement he aroused expectations that cannot and will not be fulfilled even by the present Minister for Immigration.
The Minister for Immigration is concerned with headlines and not with the substance of policy in relation to these matters. He is interested in the froth and not the responsibility of administering immigration matters. His objective, in large measure, has been to achieve publicity. It will be Australian development and Australia’s relationship with her neighbours which could well suffer as a result of that attitude. An example perhaps of the understandable but overdeveloped wish for publicity of the Minister for Immigration can be seen from a news release issued by the Minister - I understand it was written by him - when he described the welcome given to him in Calabria. It states:
Almost the entire population (4,000) of the town of Plati’ and another 2,000 people who had travelled from up to ISO miles away crowded into the streets to welcome Mr and Mrs Grassby . . .
He was given a gold key and he returned a silver boomerang. I suggest that the silver boomerang has turned back on the Minister himself. I understand statements similar to this were issued from the Minister when he visited other countries. This is only one example, I understand, of a number which came back during his recent visit indicating a triumphal march around Europe. This is just one example of many Press releases which were produced in the course of the Minister’s visit overseas to meet his wish for publicity.
The silver boomerang that he gave as a gift from the Australian Government on that occasion is one that will come back and tie itself around the Minister’s neck. He would do much better to look to his responsibilities to the Australian Parliament and people and to the administration of his Department rather than perpetually to seek flamboyance and headlines which will damage the immigration program in Australia. What this Parliament needs - I ask the Minister for Immigration to produce it - is a clear statement of the Government’s policy and of the changes of emphasis that have been introduced and of the new policy initiatives which he alleges he has introduced. That statement should be made to this House and properly debated by members in this Parliament, so that the Australian people can know where developments lie in these areas.
I indicate the importance of this matter because many of the policy initiatives which the Minister for Immigration claims to have introduced in relation to the welfare of migrants in Australia were policy initiatives formerly announced by my colleagues the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) or the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch). Such policy initiatives, which the Minister claims to have introduced, as the development of new and expanded welfare services, the schools program, the examination of the problems of over 60 inner city schools in Melbourne, the emergency telephone service, expanded facilities for teaching English, the policy of re-union of families - which was announced in 1968 - and expanded migrant counselling services were all announced before the Minister came to power. He re-announced the programs, certainly, in terms of a new initiative. But it was the planning of the previous Government that enabled the services to be established so quickly because the planning had gone forward in a sensible and sound manner. The Minister has taken to himself credit for initiatives which do not entirely lie within his own court.
There is one point I should like to put to the Minister. On 26 September last year I placed a question on notice directed to him. That question was again placed on notice this year. There is still no indication of any answer. I hope that the contempt with which he treats the Parliament in relation to major statements of immigration policy, of which there is none that I can recall in this Parliament, and the contempt which he has so far shown for the Notice Paper by failing to answer questions, will not be continued. I ask him to make a statement on immigration and to allow it to be properly debated - not by one or two speakers a side but properly debated - in this Parliament. I hope that the Leader of the House (Mr Daly), who so likes to cut short debates, will be persuaded to allow that to happen. I am sure that the powers of the Minister for Immigration are great enough for him to persuade the Leader of the House that this matter is worthy of debate. Indeed, the Leader of the House might like to participate in it himself.
- Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement on the same subject.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I do not want to cover the ground so ably covered by my colleague the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), but I do want to express the concern of the Australian Country Party at this moment about the total immigration policy. The proposition that has been put forward in this instance by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) is, I think, a further example of the confusion about Australia’s immigration policy that exists within the Department of Immigration and certainly within some countries associated with it. I believe that the easy visa policy is, as it were, coming home to roost. In the initial stages it look as though it was something that was to be accepted, that would be advantageous to both Australia and the countries concerned with Australia’s immigration policy. Unfortunately it has proved to be something that has raised the hopes of a large number of people over a number of years but has not fulfilled those hopes.
The Minister for Immigration has been going around saying one thing today and another thing tomorrow. People in this country and in other countries do not quite know what the total situation is. I believe that the statement which has been made today by the Minister for Immigration certainly will not help our relations with those countries, particularly with Fiji. I agree with the honourable member for Wannon that there is an urgent need for re-examination of the total immigration policy of the present Government. I and my colleagues in the Australian Country Party are only too eager to debate this matter so that the complete situation may be revealed. The Minister’s statement, I believe, really needs a great deal of study. It has only just been presented to us. I feel that it highlights the confusion and doubt about the immigration policy of the present Government under the administration of the present Minister.
– In reply to-
-Order! The Minister must seek leave to make a statement. There is no motion before the Chair.
– I seek leave to reply briefly to the points raised.
– Mr Speaker, I invited the Minister for Immigration to lay down a full and proper statement on immigration policy.
– I have already done that. The honourable member has not read it. He has not done his homework. In my opinion the honourable member has been found out, which is tragic, really.
-Order! When a Minister or honourable member seeks leave to make a statement absolutely no debate is allowed. The question is whether leave is granted.
– No. The Minister for Immigration can answer the points that have been raised by making a full statement in the proper manner.
– Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement for about 2 minutes in response to the requests by the honourable member for Wannon and the honourable member for Lyne for a debate on this subject.
-Is leave granted?
– The Leader of the House has not said whether there will be a debate or not.
-Is leave granted?
– The Minister is not saying what he wants to speak about. I refuse leave.
– In that case, I seek leave to make a personal explanation, Mr Speaker.
-Does the Leader of the House claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In the course of his speech a few moments ago the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said that I would not allow a debate on the subject of immigration. I point out to the honourable member that the debate on the AddressinReply to the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen is now proceeding and that the honourable members are entitled to open up any subject in that debate. I invite the honourable member for Wannon and the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) to participate in it and to go to the full limit of their time on any subject of the Government’s administration, including the subject that has been raised’. I have no power to curtail that. That is purely in the hands of the House. If the honourable member for Wannon wishes to discuss immigration, I invite him to get up and put up or shut up. He will have an opportunity to do so.
Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon)- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. The Leader of the House (Mr Daly) has said that there will be full opportunity for any member of this Parliament, especially myself and the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock), to speak about immigration in the debate on the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen. The Leader of the House knows full well that that does not meet our request. It is not the same as a specific debate on immigration policy. The Leader of the House also knows full well that it will be his intention to gag that debate. He has suggested that it is not within his power to stop it, but he will certainly be curtailing debate on the issue.
Mr GRASSBY (Riverina - Minister for Immigration) - Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a personal explanation. I have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in many ways, but there is one specific misrepresentation that I must correct because it will be in the records of the House. The honourable member for Wannon - a former Minister - suggested and stated during the course of his remarks that I had made no statement on immigration to this Parliament. I draw attention to the fact that on 11 October 1973 I sought leave to make a statement but was denied leave to do so by the Opposition, which now wants me to make a further statement. I made that statement by tabling it because that was the only way in which I was permitted to do so by the Opposition, which has now suggested that there should be a debate on the subject. I suggest that honourable members opposite are confused and ought to do their homework.
Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon)- I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr Speaker. Admittedly I am relying on my memory, but that action, as I understand it, was taken for the very same reason, that is, the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) would give no guarantee that there would be an opportunity for a full and proper debate on the issue. He is doing everything he can to prevent debate. The Opposition will cooperate with the Government if there is going to be an opportunity for a fair and reasonable debate, but not if there is going to be a use of the guillotine and of jackboot tactics by the Leader of the House.
Mr DALY (Grayndler - Leader of the House) - I have been again misrepresented, Mr Speaker. The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) makes a lot of unsubstantiated statements. I understand that he even makes them about the Australia Party. Today he has said that the Government would not allow a full and adequate debate on the Minister’s statement. What the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) has stated is correct. When he sought to make a statement in this House on immigration on a previous occasion leave was denied to him to do so and he had no alternative but to present a paper without comment. I suggest that the honourable member for Wannon, who voted for the guillotining of 17 Bills in 19 hours, should be the last one to mention the suppression of debate.
Mr MORRISON (St George- Minister for
Science and Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs in matters relating to Papua New Guinea) - I seek leave to make a short statement about Papua New Guinea.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Honourable members will be aware that the Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea, Mr Somare, announced in the House of Assembly on 12 March that it was the intention of his Government to move in the April sittings of the House for independence for Papua New Guinea on 1 December 1974. The Australian Government welcomes the initiative of the Papua New Guinea Government in seeking the endorsement of the House to this date and fully supports Mr Somare and his Government in this move. The role of the House of Assembly is significant. The United Nations in its resolution of 12 December 1973 noted that ‘the House of Assembly has affirmed its right as the duly elected Parliament of the People of Papua New Guinea to decide when independence is to come and that the administering power accepts that the House of Assembly represents the wishes of the people on the question of independence’.
In foreshadowing his intention to seek independence on 1 December 1974, Mr Somare stated that the step to independence was a small one. Transition to independence flows readily from self-government. Today Papua New Guinea is not only self governing but virtually independent. As Mr Somare said, the step will involve the assumption by this House - that is the House of Assembly - of control over a few additional powers. Mr Somare went on to say:
We must take control of our defence forces and already we are in fact deciding policy questions regarding those forces. We must take control of policy regarding our own foreign affairs and already we are largely doing this. We are developing our own relations with Australia and our other neighbours already as if we were a sovereign country.
As I have explained to honourable members on previous occasions, steps have already been taken before self-government to enable Papua New Guinea to assume an international identity. It has participated in international conferences. It has become a member of international organisations. It has taken part in the negotiation of border agreements with Indonesia. On the governmental level it has appointed a Minister of Foreign Relations supported by a department. The results have been impressive. The increasing recognition of Papua New Guinea’s international status is indicated by the number of foreign consulates that have already, ahead of independence, been established in Port Moresby.
Papua New Guinea has been, as honourable members are aware, increasingly involved in the field of defence and Australia has fully consulted it on all aspects of defence policy. A senior Minister in the Papua New Guinea Government, Mr Albert Maori-Kiki, is responsible for defence matters as well as for foreign relations. This has not happened by chance. Short of independence Australia must retain authority in these fields, but it has been the Australian Government’s policy to devolve steadily increasing responsibility to Papua New Guinea, with the concurrence of the Papua New Guinea Government and consistently with the retention of ultimate authority. We believe that the experience which Papua New Guinea has gained in the exercise of these responsibilities will stand the country in good stead in the years after independence.
Australia also endorses Mr Somare’s statement that Papua New Guinea has all the prerequisites of an independent country and has the manpower and economic resources to continue its development. There will be problems but I am confident that by goodwill and application these can be overcome. Australia is backing Papua New Guinea’s potential by giving positive manpower and financial support to underpin Papua New Guinea’s improvement program and to assist in the early years of independence. As long ago as 18 February 1973, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) announced that the Australian Government had given an assurance of continuing aid over the period of the program. The Australian Government has now quantified those assurances following upon top level discussions held recently at the Chief Minister’s request.
As honourable members will be aware, the Prime Minister has informed the Papua New Guinea Government that on the basis of present indications, a united Papua New Guinea could proceed on the assumption that the Australian Government will provide a total of at least $500m for its expenditure on economic and social development in one form or another over the 3-year period beginning 1974-1975. The purpose of the commitment is to underpin the Papua New Guinea Government’s new improvement program and to assist Papua New Guinea in the early years after independence. As a Government we accept this responsibility.
I turn to another matter, the question of a proposed constitution for Papua New Guinea. The Deputy Chairman of the Papua New Guinea Constitutional Planning Committee recently announced in the House of Assembly a revised timetable for the presentation of the Committee’s report. As the Chief Minister, Mr Somare, has stated, the earlier agreement on the two-stage self-government proposal cannot be implemented, and therefore no longer applies. Mr Somare in referring to the proposed independence date on 1 December has stated that it will give the House ample time to debate fully and to enact a Papua New Guinea home grown Constitution to guide it after independence. Australia agrees that ample time should be devoted to such an important measure. It would seem appropriate that a Papua New Guinea home grown Constitution should come into effect at independence.
When appropriate, Australia, as required by the United Nations, will commence discussions with the Papua New Guinea Government to determine a timetable for the transfer of the remaining powers and the necessary administrative and legislative action which will flow from that transfer. We will also need to have discussions with the Papua New Guinea Government about our approach to the United Nations in regard to the discharge of the trusteeship arrangements.
I can assure this House and the Australian people that the Australian Government will devote itself to ensuring that the final steps to independence will be achieved smoothly and in a spirit of goodwill.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement.
Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The Liberal Party concurs with the expression of good will mentioned by the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs in matters relating to Papua New Guinea (Mr Morrison) at the conclusion of his statement. Of course, on frequent occasions by deed and word I have indicated my own and my Party’s genuine concern that there should be a smooth and orderly transition to independence in Papua New Guinea. Now is not the appropriate occasion - a month before the matter is to be debated in the House of Assembly - to range over all the issues that we have discussed in past years. But I will reiterate 2 major important matters of concern to the Opposition parties.
Firstly, the final arbiters regarding the decision of a date for independence should be the members of the House of Assembly in Papua New Guinea. Throughout our period in Opposition I have consistently pointed to the consistent policy of the Liberal Party when in Government that the decision on the date for independence must not rest with this Parliament but with the Parliament in Papua New Guinea. The Chief Minister has indicated, by foreshadowing a motion, that during April or May the matter will be fully discussed and debated and the decision will be taken by the elected leaders of Papua New Guinea in the House of Assembly, and we welcome that.
Secondly, on ‘behalf of the Liberal Party since we have been in Opposition and following the viewpoints that I expressed when previously I was Minister for External Territories, I said that not only did we have a duty to ensure the smooth and orderly transition through self-government to independence in Papua New Guinea, but also we had a basic duty to ensure that both Papua New Guinea and Australia fully understood the nature of the relationship in a post-independence situation; that it would not be good enough to arrive at a date for independence and pass through it and then start discussions on the nature of the relationship between the then independent country of Papua New Guinea and Australia.
I am concerned that insufficient has been done regarding the post-independent relationship between Papua New Guinea and Australia. The motivation for discussion in this area would have to come from the Australian Government. Public servants who are serving the Papua New Guinea Government are hardpressed as it is. Those remaining from the former Department of External Territories in Australia are hard-pressed in handling the transfer of administrative and legislative functions during this period. In addition to those serving in the Papua New Guinea office within the present Department of Foreign Affairs, there should have been an additional cell which was operating specifically on postindependence relations. I just make that point.
I shall cite 2 specific areas in which Ministers clearly have been delinquent in their duty, and I exclude the Minister for External Territories who is sitting at the table. The first is the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) who is culpable to the Australian nation for not advising this Parliament and the Australian people of what steps have been taken to determine the size, structure and role of the Papua New Guinea defence forces during this period of self-government prior to independence when I would remind honourable members that we are still internationally responsible and answerable to the United Nations for matters of internal security but particularly of defence security. One short paragraph was all the Minister for Defence gave us in his oblique defence statement last year.
I do not need to dwell on the circumstances of the need for the Pacific Islands Regiment as an element within the Papua New Guinea Defence Forces. It could be called upon if the Chief Minister and his Ministers raters decided there was a need to use it in circumstances of internal security matters or as an aid to the civil power of the police. Australian servicemen are involved in the Pacific Islands Regiment and they will continue to be involved after independence. This Parliament has not been informed by the Minister for Defence at any time on what he views as the role of those officers in the Papua New Guinea defence forces. He had a duty to do it prior to selfgovernment. He has a duty to do it prior to independence and he has not executed that duty in any way. I would be failing in my duty if I did not draw the attention of the Australian Parliament to the circumstances of its Australian involvement in the Pacific Islands Regiment during this sensitive period of time.
I do not think I need justify my firm belief and confidence in the stability of Papua New Guinea. I warmly endorse and was a party to the motivation towards self-government and the move towards independence. I regard the Chief Minister, Mr Somare, as one of the most successful politicians on the international scene. He has a credibility in handling his Government that few other leaders of the world can produce, sustain and maintain. He is charged with the responsibility of putting his resolution through in the next month. I trust that those who disagree with him will regard him as the genuine leader that he is, calling forth the aspirations of his people, and that if they have differences of view they will express them in the House of Assembly, and only in the House of Assembly, so that there is a full and fruitful debate on the matter by the elected representatives of the people. That is where the decision must be taken.
By intruding these views regarding the role of the defence forces in Papua New Guinea during this period I in no way imply that they could be misused. The Minister for Defence is answerable to this Parliament. We have been ill-informed about their role. He has delayed decisions in consultation with Papua New Guinea as to what their role will be. As this is one of the last opportunities I will have in this Parliament to put forward views of this nature, it is my duty to signal them that he has not executed his duty in this regard. He ought to do it. He did not do it during last year when he had opportunities to do so. He should be seeking leave to enunciate their role now while this discussion is taking place, but his absence from the House is noted.
A second matter which could have grave international implications in a post-independent situation has to be raised. Again I reiterate that it in no way affects any decision that may be taken by the members of the House of Assembly in April one way or the other. They are charged with making that decision, not us. It is their country and their future. A growing proportion of Papua New Guineans believe that the boundary between Papua and Queensland ought to be changed. When I was Minister for External Territories we formed an interdepartmental committee and endeavoured to determine the way in which we could resolve this difficulty between the Queensland Parliament, the Commonwealth Parliament, the islanders within the Torres Strait and the Papua New Guineans themselves. There is genuine difference of view, and we sought to resolve this by discussion and negotiation. My personal view, as was known, was that the boundary ought to be moved, but moved in a way that would not disrupt the lives of the people of the Torres Strait Islands and would give them security in the future. There could be a solution and there is a solution to this problem.
The second Minister who ought to be nailed for delinquency in this area is the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) because immediately this Government took office he announced that the border would be moved. He ignored the aspirations, desires and insecurity of the Torres Strait Islanders. He ignored the constitutional right of the Government of Queensland and he seemed to pay little heed to the nature of the requests made by the politicians in Papua New Guinea. During the time of the 2-man government he was unilaterally going to move the border between Papua and Queensland. He was acting unconstitutionally. He has proceeded no further than the dogmatic statement that the matter would be resolved by moving the border. We will now have to wait until after independence for the matter to be resolved. Mark you, there could be few people who would disagree that one of the basic causes of international disputes in this century and many previous has been territorial boundaries, where they are denned and who has sovereignty over them.
If the Government feels that it can move through 1 December, if that date is agreed upon, and if the Government feels that the
Papua New Guineans will not insist on having this matter clarified, it is deluding itself. If the Government feels that it can act unilaterally and walk through the provisions of the Commonwealth Constitution by using, allegedly, the foreign affairs power, it will be acting against the spirit and the wording of the Constitution. Section 123 alone vests the right in State governments to determine the changes in their boundaries and no foreign affairs power can override the express mention of that section in the Constitution. It will not go away and the Government will not solve the problem by simply saying it will solve it and not taking action. Take note that there will be some in the independent country of Papua New Guinea - if they decide that 1 December is to be their date for independence - who will not tolerate dogmatic views that this Government with a stroke of a pen can change these boundaries. They will take it to the forum in which the Government has grandstanded so frequently over the last 16 months. While the Government is handling the international problem caused by its mishandling of Aboriginal affairs in this country, it will be seeking also to explain away why during 2 years of office, if it lasts that long, it did nothing to resolve this deep-seated problem. It is not a line on a map; it is an area about which people feel deeply. It can be resolved only by negotiation and I wish the Government would pull its head out of the sand and recognise what it will have to face after 1 December if it does not discuss these 2 specific areas plus others in the nature of post-independence relations. There will be no blame on the people of Papua New Guinea. It is clear where the blame and neglect has been.
It is not for me to indicate whether I think the vote should be successful or not. I think most people would not need to read much between the lines to know my view on Papua New Guinea. When Papua New Guinea’s independence does come, it will signify the last step in a long process. Changes have not occurred overnight. The Opposition believes that the actual movement towards independence will contribute greatly to the post-independence period, if there are discussions on matters such as I have mentioned and others. When we were in government we ensured, and this Government also has ensured - I compliment it in this area - that Papua New Guinea has been practised in governing and has been able to call on the resources, human and otherwise, that are a necessary part of an orderly and developing nation. This Government as well as the previous one - and again I compliment the present Government in this respect - has ensured that self government has not just been a legal facade. Responsibities have been properly exercised in areas for which this Government is internationally responsible. During the period of self government when the previous Government was still in control of certain areas, Ministers in Papua New Guinea were the prime motivators of change rather than the Australian Government and that is how it should have been.
I trust or assume that this Government is following the policy of its predecessor in all areas of residual powers in regard to foreign relations. I trust that the Government will continue to do so and will ensure, as I said, as far as possible that no decision affecting Papua New Guinea is taken without full consultation with the Government of that country. When we were in government we hoped to arrive at a situation prior to independence where, because of the progressive involvement of Papua New Guinea leaders in the whole range of government activities and responsibilities there would be no sphere in which the newly independent country would find itself unfamiliar or lacking experience. I doubt whether many people would question that Australia and an independent Papua New Guinea will have a mutual interest in maintaining what is a unique and special relationship.
The Australian Government, as the Minister pointed out, has announced Australia’s intention to continue aid to an independent Papua New Guinea for the foreseeable future, both financially and, of course, in the provision of experts and training if this is requested by Papua New Guinea. Factors of geography alone have dictated that our 2 countries are too important each to the other to ignore the historical links that have been forged in the course of our administration of Papua New Guinea. Should this resolution go through, Papua New Guinea will become our closest foreign neighbour. We will be her closest source of aid and expertise. Until the fairly recent past Papua New Guinea has been, except for coastal areas, free from outside contacts and influences in many ways. Ethnically, however, the country is related to and during more recent years has been historically oriented towards, the islanders in the adjoining areas of the Pacific. The people of New Guinea have, particularly over the last 18 months through their leadership group, been taking an increasing interest in developments in South East Asia - to an even greater extent than in Australia - in that to the west of Papua New Guinea and sharing a common land border is part of the largest of the countries of that region. For this, if for no other reason, relations with Indonesia will inevitably occupy a special place for Papua New Guinea.
I just mention briefly these foreign affairs factors because this is one of the last opportunities, apart from the debate on legislation which the Minister will introduce to obliterate!’ the Papua New Guinea Act that we will have to ensure that there is an orderly legislative movement towards independence. When independence does come it will come I trust with a great deal of goodwill on both sides, notwithstanding what I said before which had to be said. I am talking about both sides in Australia and Papua New Guinea. I understand that both the Liberal Party and the Country Party will do all in their power to ensure that the unique and special relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea continues irrespective of the manner in which the movement is taken towards independence.
– I seek leave to make a short statement on the same subject.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The timing of the transition from self government to independence is a matter for the House of Assembly and the people of Papua New Guinea. However, the consequence of this transition is one of interest and concern to us in Australia. Many over the years since Papua and New Guinea first became associated with our country - Papua first and then New Guinea, as a trust territory of the United Nations and before that as a trust territory of the League of Nations - have seen in this island a country which might well perhaps have been permanently attached to Australia. Governments, and parties on both sides of this House, however, have rightly seen the necessity for the transition of Papua New Guinea as soon as possible to independence, the date for which has been proclaimed.
It is hard for us sitting here perhaps to make a judgment about the capacity of the country to meet the traumas of independence. A great deal has been achieved in that country. As one who has been interested in and concerned with Papua New Guinea for many years I think I must express a fear that there is still so much to be done; a fear that in the short time left before Papua New Guinea takes the final step there are perhaps many areas which will not be adequately completed to enable Papua New Guinea as an independent country to have as easy a transition as we would wish. Unfortunately the unhappy circumstances of the movement into independence by other former colonial countries throughout the world has led many people to be apprehensive. Yet I think it should be said of both my colleague the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), who has just spoken, and the Minister Assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs in matters relating to Papua New Guinea (Mr Morrison), that each in his own way, as have successive Administrators of Papua New Guinea as well as the expatriate public servants who worked first for the Department of External Territories and now within its current role as a sub-department of the Prime Minister’s Department, have done their utmost to ensure that the deficiencies have been overcome and the educative processes have been effectively achieved.
There are several areas of this matter which concern me. I am delighted that my colleague, the honourable member for Kooyong referred to two of them. The first that worries me is the degree to which there have been between the Government of Australia and the now self governing body that controls Papua New Guinea discussions about the way in which relations in the areas remaining to be resolved could be concluded before independence is achieved. I repeat that my colleague has referred to 2 of these areas which are of very considerable significance. The first area is the role of the Regiment which operates in Papua New Guinea and which was initially entirely under Australian control and command but which has a progression through the ranks of indigenous Papuans and New Guineans and which until independence will still remain the responsibility of the Government of this country.
The second area relates to negotiations on territorial boundaries. I must say that I agree completely with the concern expressed by my colleague the honourable member for Kooyong about the failure of this Government to enter into meaningful discussions which might reasonably have been concluded by whatever date - be it 1 December or any other date - is finally accepted by the House of Assembly as the date for independence. It is true that there is no more emotive issue than the question of land rights. Here in Australia part of the failure of this Government’s policy on Aboriginals seems to lie in that area. I believe that it is most tragic that there has not been a meaningful discussion between the people of Papua New Guinea, the people of the Torres Strait Islands, the Government of Queensland and the Federal Government to ensure that there could be some progress towards resolving the territorial boundaries in the Torres Strait.
I believe, however, that there are other issues which must be of concern to this Parliament and which today and henceforth will be the responsibility of Papua New Guinea. As Papua New Guinea is our closest neighbour and a country for which we have exercised responsibility for so long, I ‘believe it behoves us to express our concern about these issues. I know that education in Papua New Guinea has advanced significantly in recent years. However, I am concerned and have been concerned that in Papua New Guinea, as in many other lesser developed countries, there has been a tendency to encourage education at a university level and a failure to build up the understanding that people with technical skills, with the semiskilled and skilled role that they can play in the infrastructure of the community will probably be more significant than those who have graduate or postgraduate degrees. Certainly in terms of the development of Papua New Guinea in the immediate future it is important that there be a proper balance of skilled personnel. It is not only through university training that this proper balance of skills can be achieved. Indeed, I believe that in Papua New Guinea, as in many other countries, undue weight has been given to university training and the balance of incentive provided for persons to acquire job training in the various trades and the other skilled and semiskilled roles in society has not been given sufficient weight. I hope that these deficiences will be recognised by the Government of Papua New Guinea and that there will be an insurance that, in the development of educational facilities in this about to be independent country, there will not be the ill consequences that seem to have befallen so many other countries moving into independence.
The other area that concerns me - it has not been touched on although my colleague the honourable member for Kooyong briefly adverted to it - is the geographic position of Papua New Guinea in relation to Indonesia, South East Asia and the islands of the Pacific. On a number of occasions I have attended South Pacific Forums and meetings of groups of countries of the South Pacific region. In those island countries there is concern as to the future position of Papua New Guinea. They see Papua New Guinea as being so much larger than and so different from themselves. Obviously, in the ethnic background of their people, those island states of the Pacific have much in common with the people of Papua New Guinea. One hopes that together they might be able to operate and function internationally on an increasingly close fraternal basis.
But for Papua New Guinea in its geographic lie it is important that it enjoys strong and fraternal relationships with Indonesia and all the surrounding countries of South East Asia. It is important that Papua New Guinea is able to play a role with those countries not just towards collectively developing an economic strength but towards collectively recognising the ability of each other to play an independent role - a role without intervention of neighbouring countries, a role which will enable each of these countries to give to their people the same opportunities for peace and prosperity as those who are residents of Australia enjoy. It is important in the future development of relations between an independent Papua New Guinea that relationships with each of the countries in this region be fostered and encouraged. In this I see the involvement of the Australian Government - both the Government of today and future governments - as being particularly important. One hopes that it is possible that there be maintained a very strong fraternal relationship in the evolution of foreign policy which, passing as it will from the date of independence to the Government of Papua New Guinea, can still involve a measure of consultation which will ensure that Australia can assist Papua New Guinea in the formulation of the new relationships which one hopes can lead to the achievement of the objectives about which I have just spoken.
The ethnic divisions that exist in Papua New Guinea, the problems of communication, the divisions that are unfortunately apparent between the people of Papua and those of New Guinea and the concern that many people in several areas of Papua New Guinea feel about the move into independence are problems that today will and henceforth be the responsibility of the Government of Papua New Guinea. Of course, they will have implications and consequences for our country. I would like to compliment Mr Michael Somare, the Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea, for the way in which and by which he has been able to unite these different factions and differing ethnic peoples in this transition today into self-government and tomorrow into independence. One hopes that his leadership can continue to be respected. One hopes that in the manner in which he has set a precedent others too can follow, taking account of the different needs and pressures of different peoples within the area and also the future relations with the countries that surround them. One hopes that the present Chief Minister and those who succeed him will still feel able to contact those who are Ministers in Australia and receive from them help and advice when they request it. I believe that this fraternal relationship at a personal level is imperative at a stage where, regrettably, there is still a weakness in the infrastructures of Papua New Guinea as it moves in this final step to independence.
One hopes, too, that it is not only through the members of this Parliament but also through the members of the Public Service in Australia that we can provide assistance to Papua New Guinea at this time of change. Obviously there are difficulties in providing adequately skilled personnel to maintain the very many tasks that are the responsibility of a civil service. One hopes that, through Australia’s civil service, through the professional and commercial spheres here and through the universities, persons can be seconded to that country when and if it requests them to provide assistance at a time of change. There is in Australia a strong, friendly involvement with Papua New Guinea. It is an involvement which in many ways is a personal one. Those who were in Papua New Guinea during the war perhaps feel it as strongly as today’s generation who know only of the changes that have taken place in the last 25 years. It is a relationship that we on this side of the House hope can be maintained.
I share the concern that my colleague expressed about the future defence policy and the role of the former Pacific Islands Regiment in an independent New Guinea. I share concern about the way in which there has been meaningful negotiation to resolve the as yet unresolved problems between an independent Papua New Guinea and Australia. But I believe that the announcement made by Mr Michael Somare is nonetheless one which should be welcomed and one which we from this side of the House and this Parliament hope will lead towards the growth of a prosperous country as our closest and nearest neighbour and one with whom we hope we can continue to enjoy close fraternal relations.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I listened with a great deal of interest to what was said on this subject by the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock). Unfortunately I was not able to be in the House when he began but I came as soon as it was possible to do so. I shall come to what the honourable member had to say in a few moments. What is important at this moment is for me to join with the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) in extending our congratulations and good wishes to Mr Michael Somare and his Government on the declaration of independence of his own country. At the same time I think it would be competent, and indeed relevant, for me to express congratulations to the Minister for Science for the part that he played as Minister for External Territories during a difficult period to assist in bringing these negotiations, and indeed the announcement made by Michael Somare a short time ago, to a successful conclusion.
At this stage I do not want to deal with the matters that have been raised by the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Sinclair) relating to education, improved and continuing good relations between the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Australian Government. Undoubtedly they will continue, as they should. Geographically, there is so much in common between the 2 countries and there has been such a long association that one could not envisage a situation in which those same circumstances would not continue to apply. But what con cerned me was the way in which the honourable member for Kooyong approached what one would acknowledge can be a difficult situation in a new country. I am now referring of course to the position of the defence forces of Papua New Guinea. What the honourable member for Kooyong should do of course is bring himself up to date. Both he and the Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Sinclair) consistently referred to the Pacific Island Regiment Forces in Papua New Guinea.
– I referred to them as the Papua New Guinea Defence Forces, an element of which is the Pacific Island Regiment.
– Yes, the PIR. The honourable member should know that one of my first administrative acts as the Minister for Defence was to rename the forces in Papua New Guinea as the Papua New Guinea Defence Forces. It seems remarkable to me that the honourable member for Kooyong and the Deputy Leader of the Country Party should continue to use the term ‘PIR Forces’ and that they have not brought themselves up to date on the correct title of the forces in that area.
The honourable member for Kooyong referred to the question of the defence forces in Papua New Guinea and what should be the attitude of the Australian servicemen serving in that country. As the honourable member knows, it is quite clear that since selfgovernment in Papua New Guinea there has been a need for consultation. It has not been the prerogative of this Government to determine what should be done with the Australian defence forces in Papua New Guinea and the extent to which they should be used or integrated into the Papua New Guinea Defence Forces. That is a matter for consultation between the Australian Government and the Government of Papua New Guinea. More particularly, it has been a matter for discussion between the Papua New Guinea Minister for Defence and Foreign Relations, Mr Kiki and myself. Indeed, I think that probably the first visit I made outside Australia as the Minister for Defence was to Papua New Guinea for the purpose of discussing with the then Executive Council, with Mr Maori-Kiki and with the Chief Minister, Mr Somare, the question of defence. We discussed questions concerning that country in terms of defence, what the Australian attitude should be in relation to the assistance that we would provide to Papua New Guinea and the extent to which members of the Australian defence forces would continue to operate and serve in that country. Naturally, the attitude that 1 adopted was that this should be the responsibility and the prerogative of the Government of Papua New Guinea to determine. Indeed, we have no jurisdiction in this matter, nor would we want to intrude in what obviously is their own concern. If the honourable member for Kooyong had carried out some research into what has been said on this subject, he would remember that when I made a statement to this House on 22 August 1973 concerning this region and the position of the Australian defence forces, I had this to say:
Honourable members will have noted the important statement of 20 August by the Minister for Defence and Foreign Relations in the Papua New Guinea Government, Mr Kiki. The Minister said that ‘Papua New Guinea was determined to look after its own security problems in the future’ and that ‘no country can lightly contemplate either the dispatch of their own forces or the acceptance of foreign forces to deal with an essentially domestic situation.’.
I went on to say:
I can say that Mr Kiki’s views are very much in accord with those of this Government and I am confident those of all members of the House. Papua New Guinea and Australian Ministers have constantly stated that primary responsibility for the maintenance of internal security in Papua New Guinea rests with the Papua New Guinea police force.
Again, to spell it out for the honourable member for Kooyong, the Australian Government’s view remains that it would be extremely reluctant to become involved in an internal security situation in Papua New Guinea. As I have said, the Papua New Guinea Government shares this view. In the words of Mr Kiki, the Papua New Guinea Minister for Defence and Foreign Relations, Papua New Guinea was determined to look after its own security problems in the future’. Surely in these circumstances what one should do as a responsible Minister for Defence in the Australian Government is to ensure that there are continued discussions and negotiations with officials of the Papua New Guinea Department of Defence.
As I indicated to the House a few moments ago, we agreed during discussions on my first visit to Papua New Guinea that there would be continued discussions between representatives of the Australian Department of Defence and the administration in Papua New Guinea. Those discussions have continued and did continue during 1973. They are still continuing. I have had the opportunity on a number of occasions to discuss these matters with the Chief Minister, Mr Somare, together with the Minister for Science in the Australian Government and, naturally, we have had discussions which concern the internal security of Papua New Guinea. On each occasion it has been made clear to us that the responsibility for internal security in Papua New Guinea after independence will be the responsibility of those authorities. A few weeks ago 1 continued those discussions in Sydney with Mr Albert Maori-Kiki. The discussions related to the question of defence and the matters we had raised on a number of occasions. However, in addition, we discussed the continuing aid to be provided by the Australian Department of Defence to Papua New Guinea after independence, particularly in terms of essential equipment that would be required by that country. On every occasion the proposition has been put to me as the Minister for Defence, I think responsibly and in the way that these things should be done, by the Minister for Defence of Papua New Guinea, Mr Albert Maori-Kiki. I am happy to assure the honourable member for Kooyong that those discussions were mutually advantageous and, as a result of our last discussions, Australia will take part in a continuing defence aid program for Papua New Guinea. As I said, it has been made clear by both the Chief Minister and the Minister for Defence of Papua New Guinea that the question of the internal security arrangements of that country will rest primarily with the Papua New Guinea police force. I said that this would be the view of the Australian Government and that we would want that situation to apply. So, in this respect, there have been meaningful discussions on the role of the police force in Papua New Guinea after independence and, again, assistance will be provided to that country.
In conclusion may I say that it is quite clear that the Australian Government has acted quite properly in meeting the wishes of the Papua New Guinea Minister for Defence and Foreign Relations and of the Chief Minister on all occasions when he has sought discussions with me on this question. The Chief Minister himself has expressed complete satisfaction with the arrangments that have been made and, indeed, with the arrangements that have been made for the discussions that will continue in the future. As a result of the last visit to this country of the Papua
New Guinea Minister for Defence and Foreign Relations, it was agreed that I should visit Papua New Guinea in the very near future - I hope to visit that country some time in April or early in May - in order that these matters might be further considered.
I conclude by pointing out to the honourable member for Kooyong that it would not be possible for one to make any statement in the House on what are very important matters for the Papua New Guinea Government, particularly in relation to defence and our aid program for defence to Papua New Guinea after independence which, as I have said, will continue, until these discussions with the responsible Ministers in Papua New Guinea have been concluded. I can assure the honourable member that when that has been done - when these discussions have been concluded - the statement will be made at the right time by the Government.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartinDoes the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do. I have been misrepresented on 4 counts by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard). This is the first time in this House that I have used words such as ‘inspired incoherence’, or that I have received as much information from the Minister’s speech as I have received from a blank file. He told me to bring myself up to date. I referred to the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. As I understand it, this is the terminology that is used for the 3 commands - if one can call them that, but there is no air command in Papua New Guinea - for the joint operations of the Force coming together. Bui within the Papua New Guinea Defence Force there is still a Pacific Islands Regiment as one element of that Force.
– What is this supposed to be?
– A personal explanation.
-Order! I think, so that we can get the matter in proper perspective-
– I am-
-Order! The honourable member should know that when the person in the Chair is on his feet the honourable member should resume his seat. I think it material to quote from the Standing Orders on this because I have noted over a period that personal explanations, whilst not being abused, I do not think are properly understood. The Standing Order provides that a member who has spoken to a question may again be heard to explain himself in regard to some material part of his speech which has been misquoted or misunderstood, but shall not introduce any new matter. I think that if the honourable member for Kooyong restricts himself to the part of his speech which has been misquoted or misunderstood, he is within the Standing Order.
– I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, because that assists my personal explanation. I referred to the Papua New Guinea Defence Force and the point of raising it now is that the Minister for Defence, not being here to listen to my speech, alleged that I did not refer to the Papua New Guinea Defence Force as such but that I was out of date and referred to it only as the Pacific Islands Regiment. I referred to both because both operate. There is the Papua New Guinea Defence Force and within it the element of the Pacific Islands Regiment. So I just want to nail the first error in the speech of the Minister for Defence. I was correct and he was wrong and that is the explanation of where I have been misquoted under the ruling that you gave, Mr Deputy Speaker, for requirements of personal explanations.
Secondly, the Minister indicated to me in his address that I was not aware of the discussions that had occurred between the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Foreign Affairs. He indicated that from my speech in the House I was not aware that he had gone to Papua New Guinea. Indeed, I think he said that the first country outside Australia which he visited was Papua New Guinea. What I said was that I Knew there had been discussions, and what I say now is that there have been nothing but discussions, discussions and dicussions, and no announcement of decisions. We are within months of the date of independence and the Minister still cannot tell us what has been determined for Australian servicemen in that area. That is that point.
On the personal explanation where the Minister misquoted me, he indicated to me that defence matters were now, in his viewpoint, the responsibility of the Government of Papua New Guinea. I said that we were internationally responsible and answerable under the terms of the trusteeship agreement not only for education and other matters, but also for defence matters. That is responsibility de jure and the Minister is the man responsible for executing it. So far as what the Minister said about the de facto situation, that I endorse of course. I recognise that we must respond primarily to the viewpoint of the Government of Papua New Guinea in these areas. It is a viewpoint I have maintained today and I have consistently maintained, that we should not impose our view.
– 1 am glad to have your assurance on that.
– Thank you, but the Minister should not forget his international responsibility. The Minister for Defence said fourthly-
– This is another speech.
– Oh no, honourable members have just had read to them what is the basis of a personal explanation. The next misquotation was the reference to the Minister’s speech of 22 August, which he read to us. Again if the Minister had heard me, he would have heard me say that the only reference he has made to the Papua New Guinea Defence Force in this Parliament by way of a speech was one or two paragraphs contained in an oblique defence statement. I am grateful that he has identified the date of that oblique statement - 22 August. So on those matters it will be seen that the Minister has in no way clarified the role of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, and has in no way answered what I believe to be very valid criticisms at this sensitive time. That is why I made this personal explanation - to indicate how I had been misquoted in the Minister’s statement.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) and by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly). Earlier today the Leader of the House and the Minister for Immigration claimed that the Government had been refused leave to make a statement on immigration. Pages 1979 and onwards of Hansard of October last year indicate that the Minister for Immigration sought leave to make a short statement, but to have incorporated in Hansard - a quite unusual procedure - the body of his statement. He did not seek to make the total statement. Secondly, when the Leader of the House was pressed on whether he would allow an appropriate debate on the documents or on the statement, short or long, he said quite plainly that he would not and that the Estimates debate would provide full and adequate time, and that is the only assurance he would give the House. But the Estimates debate, when divided up in the way in which the Government divided it, provided no adequate time, as the Leader of the House knows. This present
Leader of the House believes-
-Order! In what way does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the Opposition and myself were put in the position of having been refused leave to make a statement to the Government, and the Leader of the House gave quite incorrect reasons for that particular situation because the Leader of the House-
-Order! Has the Leader of the House misrepresented something that the honourable member has said? In what manner has the honourable member been misrepresented?
– Earlier this morning there was a debate on education matters and the same question arose again. We were asking the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) for a statement about education that could be properly debated in this House, and the Minister and the Leader of the House were unwilling to have such a statement made and a debate put upon it. The Leader of the House completely misrepresented the situation last October.
– Did he misrepresent the honourable member? The purpose of a personal explanation is to correct where an honourable member has been misrepresented.
– I think I have made the point that I wanted to, and that is that the Leader of the House and the Minister for Immigration had indicated that there was an opportunity for a debate in the last session of Parliament. There was not, and the words of the Leader of the House as reported in Hansard confirm that no opportunity was provided for a debate on immigration and on immigration alone.
– I gave you the opportunity during the debate on the Estimates and you ran away like a dingo.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, did you hear the words of the Leader of the House? I find them utterly offensive. They are unparliamentary-
– No, I did not hear them.
– The Leader of the House said that the Opposition, or more specifically myself, ran away and ran away like a dingo. I find it very hard to believe that everyone in this Parliament did not hear what the Leader of the House said. I ask that he be asked to withdraw, and withdraw those words. We did not run away from any debate on this subject-
– Does the honourable member object to the ‘ran away’ or the ‘dingo’?
– The Leader of the House is trying to make a farce of the Standing Orders and of your Speakership, Mr Deputy Speaker. He would know full well what is objected to and I ask that the term be withdrawn.
– Does the honourable member claim that the words are offensive?
– Yes, I do.
– I have no desire to offend the honourable A grade category school man. I withdraw that word.
– I repeat the challenge to the Government: Any time it wants to debate immigration it will be debated.
– All right; do it on the AddressinReply. Go ahead.
– We will.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to resume consideration of the following Bills:
Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill 1973.
National Investment Fund Bill 1973.
Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill 1973.
Bill presented by Dr Patterson, and read a first time.
(12.21 - I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. This Bill is designed primarily to amend the Wool Industry Act 1972-73, to provide for financing the projected cost of programs of wool research and promotion, and to finance the marketing administrative costs of the Australian Wool Corporation, during the 3 years commencing in July 1974. So far as research is concerned, the program represents only a part of the total research effort from which the wool industry derives benefit, but the provisions of the Bill will ensure the continuation of arrangements which have a long history in the wool industry.
When the Wool Industry Act was amended last year, to provide for the financing of the wool research and promotion activities and the marketing administrative expenses for 1973-74, it was stated that the Government would be examining the whole question of the financing of research and promotion together with the need for longer-term forward programs beyond 1973-74. Honourable members will recall that in introducing the amending legislation last year, I outlined the problems inherent in forwarding programming of research and promotion activities because of unpredictable and uncertain changes in wool income, and the effect of inescapable increases in salaries and other costs.
The Government has since reviewed the problems of co-ordinating, programming and financing wool research and promotion, and has decided on the arrangements for a 3-year forward program commencing on 1 July this year. The Government approached the overall question of research and promotion expenditure with a view to taking account of the following major factors: Adequacy of the coordination and planning of research and promotion; the desirability of forward programs of research and promotion for particular periods; and the overall philosophy that the beneficiaries of research and promotion programs should bear the greater proportion of total costs of those programs.
Budgets for appropriate programs of research and promotion for each of the 3 years commencing in 1974-75 have been developed in consultation with the Australian Wool Corporation and, through the Corporation, with the International Wool Secretariat, with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, and with the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. The views of wool growers on these programs are directed through the Corporation and achieve considerable force. The cost of these programs, together with the estimated costs associated with the administration of the marketing activities of the Corporation, and inclusive of an allowance for estimated wage and cost increases, amount to $44.2m in 1974-75. $49m in 1975-76 and $53.1m in 1976-77. The programs of research and promotion will be financed jointly by contributions from wool growers and the Government. The cost of marketing administration will be borne entirely by the industry. I will refer to major provisions of this Bill under the three main headings of research, promotion and marketing administrative costs of the AWC. I will then refer briefly to the wool tax which is levied on growers to provide for their financial contribution.
The extent of the Government’s involvement in the financing of the research program has been carefully examined, and it is considered that whilst rural producers benefit directly from many of the results of rural research, the Australian community, in general, also benefits in many ways from this research activity. Benefits accrue, for example, through more assured food and fibre supplies as a result of productivity increases in the rural sector. Further, research programs in agricultural and biological sciences often have broad implications for the quality of the environment generally, and for the maintenance of the productive capacity of renewable resources.
Recognising that the benefits of research are so widely distributed, the Government has decided that it would be appropriate for a greater share of the cost to be borne by a contribution from public funds than has been the case in the past. In other words, the Government has decided to increase its share of the cost of the research programs financed from the Wool Research Trust Fund. Accordingly, the Government has decided that it will contribute three quarters of the cost of ap proved programs of wool research, to be financed through the Wool Research Trust Fund, during the second and third years of the forthcoming triennium. Wool producers will be asked to finance the remaining one quarter. In order that there is adequate warning of these changed arrangements, the present cost sharing arrangement will be continued for
With regard to wool promotion, the Government has carefully studied the promotion activities of the International Wool Secretariat and the Australian Wool Corporation. It is agreed that there are strong economic arguments in favour of wool promotion expenditure and the benefits of promotion do spread to groups other than wool growers. In addition, the Government recognises the need for continual development and improvement of the technical processing properties of wool as a fibre and the promotion of these advantages at all stages in the marketing chain. In this way the demand for wool is influenced, both absolutely and in relation to competing fibres.
It is the Government’s judgment, however, that the balance of arguments concerning the distribution of benefits from promotion differs from that for research. The benefits from promotion activity accrue more directly to producers than to other members of the community, and accordingly it is considered that wool growers themselves should make the major financial commitment to promotion expenditure. On this basis the Government has decided to finance one quarter of the projected wool promotion budgets, leaving to wool growers the responsibility of financing the balance. Again, in order to ensure adequate advance notice of the changed arrangements for financing the promotion programs, the Government has agreed to defer implementation of the new funding basis until 1975- 76. Accordingly, for 1974-75, the Government will continue to contribute on an equal basis with wool growers towards the cost of both research and promotion.
Marketing Administrative Costs
The administrative cost of discharging the marketing functions of the Australian Wool Corporation is currently met in total from part of the proceeds of the wool tax. This arrangement is to continue. Prior to 1973-74, these expenses were met by a charge levied by the Australian Wool Corporation, and its predecessor organisation, on shorn wool sold at auction by brokers. In 1973-74, this charge was incorporated into the wool tax and applied over all shorn wool sold. The operative rate of tax therefore incorporates a component related to the financing of marketing administrative costs.
To summarise the effect of the decisions outlined above, programs of wool research and promotion, and the financing of the marketing administrative costs of the Australian Wool Corporation during the 3 years 1974-75 to 1976-77, have been established at the following levels:
The Government will contribute on the basis of maximum amounts of $22m in 1974-75; $20m in 1975-76 and $21m in 1976-77. These amounts have been rounded upwards so as to provide a small margin for administrative convenience in the detailed allocation of the funds. Any benefit of the rounding will accrue to the industry.
Woolgrowers’ contributions are raised by means of the wool tax. A question of importance, therefore, is the level of the tax for the next 3 years, and particularly for 1974-75. At present the wool tax is set at 2.4 per cent of the value of shorn wool. It can be calculated that, on the basis of a total seasonal return from shorn wool of about $ 1,000m, that is slightly below last year’s high level, there would be no need to increase the rate of tax in order to provide sufficient finance to meet the budget in 1974-75. However, should the return from shorn wool decline to the order of $850m, for instance, a levy of 2.75 per cent would be required. In view of the fluctuations often experienced in wool returns, the Government has decided that it would be prudent to raise the existing rate of wool tax to 2.75 per cent for 1974-75. The Treasurer is making arrangements for the necessary changes to the Wool Tax Regulations. It is possible that a tax of 2.75 per cent will result in some surplus above the amount required for funding purposes during 1974-75, but any surplus would be credited to the Wool Research Trust Fund where it would be carried forward to help finance expenditure in future years. I should make it clear that moneys placed in the Wool Research Trust Fund may be used only for expenditure on approved wool research, and thus there is full assurance for growers who contribute tax that money placed in the Fund will not be used for other purposes.
The Wool Tax Acts provide for a maximum rate of tax of 3 per cent. The present operative rate is 2.4 per cent. The increased rate which will apply as from 30 June next is thus still below the maximum rate already provided for. Depending on future movements in wool production and wool prices, it may be necessary to vary the rate of tax in subsequent years. The Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) has discussed with the Australian Wool Industry Conference the financing and programming arrangements for the triennium. The Conference, through its Chairman, has indicated agreement with the forward planning principles and accepted the advisability of the increased rate of wool tax which will be levied during the coming financial year.
I now turn to the specific amendments of the Wool Industry Act 1972-1973, which are required in terms of the Government’s decision, and to a number of amendments of a machinery nature which it is convenient to make at this time. The Bill provides for amendments to Part I of the Principal Act by the deletion of references to the Interim Chairman of the Australian Wool Corporation. The permanent Chairman having assumed office, the position of Interim Chairman cannot be filled again. The various references to the office of Interim Chairman in other parts of the Principal Act are also removed. Section 83 (2a) of the Principal Act is amended to provide for a continuation of the existing arrangements whereby the Minister, after consultation with the Australian Wool Industry Conference, determines the total amount of wool tax to be paid to the Corporation in each year. The balance of tax receipts is paid into the Wool
Research Trust Fund. Section 84a of the Principal Act is amended to provide for payment to the Corporation and to the Wool Research Trust Fund of the Government contributions for the triennium commencing in 1974-75. Clauses have been included in recognition of relevant provisions of the Remuneration Tribunal Act, 1973, which relate to the remuneration of statutory office holders.
The Government’s commitment to contribute to the 3 year program of wool research and promotion will provide an immediate and sure base on which forward programs can be developed. It is the intention of the Government that the question of Government assistance for rural research and promotion generally will be referred to the Industries Assistance Commission. The Government’s policy in relation to the continuation of assistance for wool research and promotion beyond June 1977 will be determined in the light, of the report of the Commission. The present funding arrangements for wool research and promotion will terminate on 30 June next. It is essential, therefore, in the interests of the wool industry, that this amending legislation to provide for the continuation of the funding arrangements be enacted prior to that date. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 7 March (vide page 207), on the following paper presented by Mr Whitlam:
Prime Minister’s Visit to South East Asia - Ministerial Statement, 7 March 1974 - and on motion by Mr Daly:
That the House take note of the paper.
Motion (by Mr Morrison) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition speaking for a period not exceeding 25 minutes.
– Last week, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) reported on his visit to South East Asia and stated his reasons for going there. He wanted to emphasise to leaders in South East Asia the continuing and undiminished importance of South East Asia to Australia. I would go further and stress, as I did during my own visit to that area, the increasing importance of South East Asia to Australia’s outlook on the world. The Prime Minister said that another reason for his visit was ‘to dispel any misunderstandings’ about his Government’s foreign policy. That he needed to explain misunderstandings so soon after coming into office is a testimony to his own poor performance as Minister for Foreign Affairs and the babble of ministerial tongues with which he has to compete.
In the past year the Labor Government’s foreign policy has Been incoherent, abrasive and inconsistent, lt has left Australians and the world confused. We have the Prime Minister’s own confession of this in relation to his visit to South East Asia. He said that he had to go to South East Asia to dispel misunderstandings. To cover the shortcomings and inconsistencies of his Government’s actions the Prime Minister has repeatedly stressed the continuity of his foreign policy with that of the previous Government. When it suits the Prime Minister he says that there has been great change. When he is in trouble he says that there has been no change. The Prime Minister, without modesty or justification, describes himself as Australia’s greatest Foreign Minister.
– Who said that?
– He said it himself about himself. Now, with the same immodesty, he says that in his 8 overseas visits in 15 months he has, and I quote his words, ‘done more’ in the Asian-Pacific region than any former Prime Minister. He has certainly travelled more and he has certainly been out of Australia more. Yet his most recent visit overseas was to dispel misunderstandings. Australians would be happier if the Prime Minister could say that in his visits abroad he had achieved more. But he has not. He has produced no enduring humanitarian program such as the Colombo Plan. Where is ‘his ANZUS pact? He may snarl at ANZUS but he has to live with it, unwilling though he may be. Where are his practical proposals and his realistic ideas for broader cooperation in the Asian and Pacific regions? He has not spelled them out. He knows that his forum proposal can continue to live - crippled though it is - only while it remains vague and cannot be examined in detail.
The Prime Minister laid great emphasis on trade and economic links with the countries of our region. Of course he should.
This is not a new attitude. Previous LiberalCountry Party Governments achieved much in these relations. They are essential elements in the relationship with our neighbours. The Prime Minister acknowledged our Government’s - that is, previous Government’s - contribution by saying: Australia has ‘long established and valued trading ties’ with all the countries that he visited. Who does he suppose created them?
– The Minister for Science and Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs says by way of interjection that the development of those trade ties has been the achievement of China. What an extraordinary thing for him to say. What an incredible thing for him to say. What a most extraordinary thing to say.
During my recent visit to Indonesia and Singapore I emphasised the scope that exists for Australia to expand its trade with both countries and others in South East Asia. Leaders I spoke with stressed the importance of these relationships to their countries. As an example, there could be special scope for increasing trade between Australia and Indonesia. I suggested while I was there - I will repeat the suggestion now; I know that it would be acceptable to the Indonesians - that it would certainly be an improvement if Australia were to have consulates throughout Indonesia. The number of tourists in Indonesia, particularly Bali, make it essential. We need to get out beyond Jakarta and have consulates in Sumatra and eastern Indonesia.
Do honourable members know that a piece of timber from eastern Indonesia goes right through the Indonesian Archipelago to Europe where it is trans-shipped to Fremantle before it ends up on a building project in Darwin. In other words, it has to travel 10,000 or 15,000 miles although its place of origin is only about 500 miles from where it is used. Such is the way in which we need to develop trading relations with Indonesia.
Special trade preferences for developing countries were initiated by the Liberal-Country Party Government which led the world in this respect. It gave an example to the rest of the world. It created a whole new concept which has been of immense benefit to the developing countries. They should continue to be developed to encourage greater trade with our neighbours. Where is the equivalent initiative of the Prime Minister - the greatest
Foreign Minister, the man who has said that he has given Australia a new standing in the world and that, in some mystical way, we walk taller? He has been reading too many novels or descriptive accounts of a cricket match.
– He has been looking in a mirror.
– And he has said: Mirror, mirror on the wall, tell me true: Who is the fairest in all the land?’
The Liberal Party would increase assistance for the economic development of the countries of the region, particularly technical training. In Jakarta and Singapore I made it clear that Australia should look at the possibility of sending teachers and instructors to the countries concerned to provide more extensive training on the spot. I believe that there has been too much emphasis in the past on tertiary - particularly university - training. Most of our neighbours now have excellent tertiary institutions themselves. Many countries in South East Asia now want and need to have the capacity to build up their technical and managerial skills. In this field we Australians have much to offer. We ought to be ready to do so and we should investigate ways of doing so. In government we would vigorously pursue this important co-operative assistance.
There is scope for co-operation in joint business and development ventures which will contribute to the development of countries in the region. Indonesia, for example, has special provisions for such investment co-operation. The Government should investigate means of encouraging Australian investment through such channels. This must always be done under the terms set by the recipient country itself, which would therefore suit the needs as it sees them. When we were in government we released Australian overseas investment. When we return to government we will encourage an increasing flow of overseas investment from Australia to those developing countries.
There are several related areas where Australia ought to be actively considering increased co-operation. The infrastructure in many countries has developed to the point where new forms of assistance might be more valuable - for example, assistance with business and industrial development, civil aviation, tourism, managerial skills, science and technology. We believe that such assistance should place particular emphasis on the process of job creation as a basic stimulus to development and the means by which the growth of social equity can occur in those countries through the payment of increased wages for the increasing skills of those engaged in jobs.
Australia must seek a new partnership for development with its neighbours. This is an obligation compelled by our own good fortune. Such co-operation and development would contribute to regional security and stability. We must co-ordinate our own official and private co-operative programs more effectively. 1 do not speak simply of aid but of the whole range of programs and policies which make up a co-operative relationship for development with our neighbours.
We must consult closely and frequently with the other countries involved. In consultation with others we believe Australia should encourage the formulation of a regional development strategy by donor and recipient countries in the Asian and Pacific region. As a first practical step I have suggested that consideration should be given to consultation at an official level between the Association of South East Asian Nations and the South Pacific Forum’s Bureau for Economic Co-operation. Those 2 organisations encompass the same types of inquiries in the one region as in the other and share very many common interests. For example, each of them is today reexamining its relationships with the Common Market. Each of them needs therefore to understand the way in which the other is tackling the matter and what benefits one can receive from the other.
Such consultations, which would depend upon the agreement of all the countries concerned, could lead to co-ordination of effort in several fields, especially to the exchange of technical knowledge and expertise relating to their common social and economic problems. This would not mean the duplication of existing organisations nor would it overlap existing regional arrangements. It has been proposed that there should be some form of quadripartite arrangement between Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea to get the 2 regions together. But what is the point of creating a new artificial regional organisation merely to have co-operation between the 2 quite finite and definite regional arrangements? Consultations between ASEAN and the South Pacific Forum’s Bureau of Economic Co-operation would be a practical and a positive means of achieving more effective regional co-operation and could make a significant contribution to growth and security in the Asian-Pacific region.
We would develop a program of assistance to ASEAN projects where it is agreed that Australia could provide special expertise or experience. At the same time we would continue our bilateral assistance to each country of ASEAN. We would want to establish formal contact directly with ASEAN through its permanent secretariat. We would make the Ambassador or the High Commissioner to that country the formal point of communications with ASEAN so that we could receive its proposals for regional development where we were to give direct aid to the region as distinct from aid to. the individual countries forming the region.
The Prime Minister has said that his Government is the most genuinely internationalist government Australia has ever had. He deludes himself. He has based this conclusion on his own assertion that isolationism is not a policy option that is available to Australia. Of course it is not an option that is open to Australia. It never has been an option that is open; it never will be an option that is open. Putting aside his own self assertion, what has the Prime Minister done, apart from his frequent and expensive trips overseas, to warrant the accolade he has given himself that his is the most internationalist government Australia has ever had? He has cited the recognition of China. In government we were moving to that. What we objected to was the precipitate way in which Australia prostrated itself to the Chinese and pleaded for recognition on any terms. That is what we objected to. We thought it proper to have a relationship on the basis of an equality of points of view and we would have negotiated it properly. But it has happened and we accept the present position.
The Prime Minister has also cited black Africa. In Government we established diplomatic missions in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania with the responsibilities of those missions covering the whole of black Africa. Where was his initiative? It was ours. He has cited relations with Eastern Europe. In government we had diplomatic missions in Moscow and Belgrade. The decision had already been taken to open an embassy in Warsaw. The Government claims that it did that; that is false. We had negotiated for an embassy in East Germany. The accords needed only to be signed. They were signed after the present Government came into office. Now the present Government claims that it was its initiative. That is not the fact.
What further initiatives has the Prime Minister taken to back up this assertion which has no foundation? He did not mention it last week, but earlier he made much of his fleeting visit to Mexico as a new initiative in South America. What new missions has he established in South America? It was we in government who established the South American missions. What new initiatives has he taken in that continent of well over 200 million people? Incidentally, what happened to his proposal about a natural resources cartel of the world - a restrictive trade practice which could only beget a reaction from the user countries? Fortunately the proposal has been abandoned. It should never have been mentioned.
Foreign policy is not simply a matter of public relations, nor can its progress or value be measured by the number of countries that a Prime Minister can tally up as having visited. The Liberal Party asserts the interdependence of nations. We accept the need for an international outlook, particularly for a country placed as Australia is. We do not accept mere vague or assertive internationalism as a basis for foreign policy decision making. We base our foreign policy on the development of strong direct relationships with other countries, with special emphasis on those of most immediate relevance to Australia.
The Prime Minister also has referred to his unprecedented’ contacts with student leaders. 1 trust that he found the exchanges as stimulating, informative and enjoyable as I did when I was in Jakarta and had some hours of discussion with the student leaders in Indonesia before he had got to whatever university it was that he visited. It gave a new dimension and perspective to my visit. I welcome the fact that the Prime Minister did this, but for goodness sake do not let him think that it was unprecedented and that in some mystical way he is the only person who even thinks of informing himself directly from talks with people in other countries.
As a self-proclaimed internationalist the Prime Minister has taken as the basis for his foreign policy formulation a number of matters which must be seen as long term aspirations. The length of the term nobody can know. I refer to such matters as the Indian Ocean zone of peace, the South East Asia neutrality proposals and the Prime Minister’s own battered Asian-Pacific forum. Would anybody be so base as to call them unreallisable? Who will not endorse them as aspirations?
But who would say that the conditions for their existence are present today? Nobody could dare say it at the risk of misleading himself and his country. The folly arises when the Prime Minister makes foreign policy decisions as if the conditions already exist which would give substance to these aspirations. This is unrealistic and naive.
The Government has fallen into this error in its condemnation of the American decision to upgrade Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. It opposes the proposal on the basis that it will prevent the achievement of a zone of peace. The Malaysians who put forward the proposal for a neutral zone in South East Asia are more realistic. This view makes sense only if the other conditions for the establishment of a zone of peace exist. They do not. The reality is that the Soviet Navy has built up its presence in the Indian Ocean in recent years, and will build it up further when the Suez Canal opens. It is in Australia’s security interests in present circumstances for the United States to maintain the balance of naval forces in the Indian Ocean. The Liberal Party therefore welcomes the decision of the United States Government because it is in Australia’s interests to do so. The Government, in a comedy, objected to this build-up of the forces in Diego Garcia. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) issued a statement saying that the Government objected to this build-up of forces in Diego Garcia. I sent a member of my staff around to get a copy of the statement but I was told that I could not have a copy, that it was only for the Press.
The Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) recently acknowledged that the United States North West Cape installation is an essential element in Australian security. Diego Garcia is complementary to the North West Cape installation in overall United States defence planning. The Government’s criticism of the United States decision on Diego Garcia is therefore totally inconsistent with the Defence Minister’s views on the North West Cape base. It may not be accepted by the Left, but it has been publicly accepted by the Minister for Defence.
Current realities must be the fundamental determinants of foreign policy. It cannot be based on uncertain concepts and aspirations no matter how worthy they may be as long term aims. It is this perverse approach to foreign policy that has contributed to the Labor Party’s off-handed treatment of Australian security and defence forces. It places heavy reliance on the detente assumption and the no threat assumption. These are static assumptions in an uncertain and complex international situation. Because one can see no threat to Australia in the future it does not mean that there will be no threat to Australia in the future. If we adopted that attitude we would be prepared to commit Australia to the position of being a hostage to international fortune. I would not lead a party which was prepared to accept that, and I know that it is the view of every one in my Party that we will not be held hostages to international fortune. That would be our attitude as a coalition government.
The Liberal Party and the Country Party believe that the decision to withdraw Australian troops from Singapore was wrong. Our commitment to the ANZUK force was a gesture symbolising our commitment to the security of the region. It emphasised our willingness to co-operate in a practical way with our neighbours in the interests of regional security. It also stressed our commitment to the spirit as well as the letter of the FivePower Arrangements. It is worth noting that in his statement last week the Prime Minister abandoned his pretence of honouring the spirit of the Five-Power Arrangements. He left that out not by accident but deliberately.
When returned to government we will discuss with the other partners the whole question of regional defence co-operation. We will ascertain what part we can play in cooperation, and we will play it.
The ANZUK decision is difficult to reconcile with the Prime Minister’s announcement during his recent overseas visit that a Mirage squadron would be retained in Malaysia. I endorse that decision, but it is contrary to the assumptions underlying the ANZUK decision on the withdrawal. It is precisely this inconsistency and confusion that has caused the misunderstanding that the Prime Minister now sees the need to dispel. In foreign policy decisions must be made on the basis of an understanding of the total international situation, which is in a constant process of change.
At present new great power relationships are emerging, new super power defence concepts are being discussed as SALT II gets under way, the international monetary and trade situation is increasingly complex, the oil crisis has raised new and uncertain problems, and the broader matter of resources and energy intrude more into foreign policy.
There is the prospect of the development of a new relationship between the Soviet Union and Japan particularly in the development of Siberia. Japan and China have established a new dialogue. The energy situation has posed a new challenge to all nations. In the long run it is likely to be the developing nations that will suffer most. Its impact upon Japan will raise real problems for that country which will have a secondary effect upon Australia. There is change in Western Europe symbolised in Britain’s crisis and the French decision to float the franc. The recent Middle East crisis raised a new element of uncertainty in relations between the Soviet Union and the United States.
These events have their impact on Australia and influence our outlook on the world. They emphasise the fluidity of the international situation and the risk of static assumptions in the making of foreign policy. Foreign policy decisions under the present Government are based on uncertain assumptions and distant aspirations rather than immediate realities in a complex and fluid international situation.
In government we would respond positively and constructively to the realities of the situation in the world and the regions around us. We would demonstrate our friendship, our responsibility and our willingness to assist and thereby attempt to influence the course of events which will affect Australia,, acknowledging that all other countries wish to do the same. We would be co-operative but firm in our own national interest.
We would develop relationships with our allies and with our neighbours to the point of enduring friendship. We would honour our treaty obligations and make it clear to all other countries that they can rely upon us to do so. We would expect from other countries the same honourable discharge of their obligations to us. We would put greater store in the quality of direct relationships than in a vague internationalism.
Recognising the immense potential this country has and knowing the idealism of the Australian people we would continue to expand our aid programs.
We wish to be seen and known as a nation responding to reality but hoping to influence the march of events towards the achievement of world peace by responsible and concerned action by the Australian people.
Sitting suspended from 1.1 to 2.15 p.m.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has just finished his comments on the highly successful visit abroad by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). For once the right honourable member was correct when he said that one of the purposes of the Prime Minister’s visit was to dispel misunderstandings. It was to dispel misunderstandings created by 23 years of Liberal-Country Party foreign policy. I draw the attention of honourable members to the exact statement made by the Prime Minister in presenting his report to this House. On page 203 of Hansard he is reported as saying:
I wanted to explain to them-
That is, the people, the contries and the governments of South-East Asia- that what had changed was not the degree of Australian involvement in the region but the nature and direction of that involvement. I wanted to make clear that our emphasis had shifted from an involvement based mainly on ideological considerations and military alliances to one based on more enduring ties such as trade, aid programs, regional co-operation, economic co-operation, and the development of a network of cultural contacts and agreements.
These were certainly not the policies, this was certainly not the emphasis, of the previous Government. The Prime Minister was successful in his visit. Let us not concern ourselves with the words of the Leader of the Opposition because he, like his predecessors, as head of the Liberal-Country Party coalition, did not enjoy any stature or status in the countries of South East Asia. Let us not quote the Leader of the Opposition. Let us look at what the leaders of the countries of South East Asia had to say about the Prime Minister’s visit. The Prime Minister fo Malaysia, Tun Abdul Razak, said this:
In the last year since you assumed that high office, you have been a fresh wind of change in this part of the world and you have brought courage, vigour and a new vision to the problems which have beset us for so long. We welcome you, therefore, Mr Prime Minister, not only as an old and valued friend of Malaysia but as a statesman who has made a vivid and constructive impact on the affairs of this region.
The Prime Minister of Singapore, speaking at a reception in honour of the Australian Prime Minister, said:
Despite considerable foreknowledge of both your thinking and the Australian Labor Party’s established policies, nevertheless I still found the first months of Labor Government in Australia stirring with the drama of fundamental changes carried out with great panache.
Later in his speech he said:
The impression your policies have given abroad is one of vigour.
The optimism and enthusiasm in your dynamic approach to both domestic and external events and forces are widely known.
The President of the Republic of the Philippines, President Marcos, said:
It is a distinct honour for Mrs Marcos and I to be able to tender this dinner in honour of one of the most distinguished leaders in our part of the world, the innovating leader of the Australian people, who has brought into the Government of Australia a fresh new wind of innovation and a creative energy, symbolic and representative of the character and the strength of Australia and its people.
These are the comments made by the heads of the countries of South East Asia. These remarks could never be related to a political party such as the Liberal Party or the Country Party in terms of its foreign policy because when the Liberal-Country Party coalition was in government, it deliberately misled and unconscionably deceived the Australian people. lt went into the 1966 election saying that Australia had been invited by the South Vietnamese Government to commit forces to South Vietnam. This is demonstrably a lie. Australia was never invited by any South Vietnamese government to enter the Vietnam conflict.
– I think I have heard you say this before.
– The reason I said it before and the reason I will say it again is that it is completely true and accurate. It was because the Liberal-Country Party coalition Government so misled the Australian people that it is necessary to keep on saying it so that the Australian people will not fall again into the trap of a foreign policy which is based on lies and deception. The history of that event is well known by now. Because the South Vietnam Government was under pressure applied by the Australian and United States Governments, the South Vietnam Government accepted an offer that had been pressed upon it. No country, and certainly not Australia, can afford to have a government which bases its entire policies on outdated myths and fabrications.
Let us look at ANZUS, which the Leader of the Opposition mentioned today. For so long the ANZUS Treaty was regarded not as a treaty between the people of the United States and the people of Australia; not even as a treaty between the United States Government and the Australian Government. It was regarded by the honourable gentlemen opposite as a treaty between the United States and the Liberal-Country Party Government. There is no wonder that there was confusion and embarrassment following the statement by the Deputy Secretary of the State Department, Mr Rush, when he was departing Australia after the ANZUS meeting. This is what the United States Deputy Secretary of State had to say:
It has been particularly worthwhile for me to have the opportunity to meet with your distinguished leaders, Prime Minister Whitlam and Deputy Prime Minister Barnard, and with other officials. These talks were conducted in a spirit of understanding, candour and friendship. My visit to Australia impresses me with the vitality of our alliance. There is no need for our views to be identical on all issues, though we must always bear in mind that the bonds are strong, permanent and important.
One of the things that the Opposition when in government did not know and did not understand is that alliances are not based on the subservience of one partner to another. I can recall a statement made by a retiring Charge d’affaire of the United States Embassy during the period when the Opposition was in government. He had this to say:
The United States does not want allies who just follow our lead, we want allies who come up with ideas of their own.
Quite obviously the Opposition when it was in government did not relate to the maxim which Mr Nixon, who was then not the President, used in 1964 in Bangkok. He said:
If domination by an aggressor can destroy the freedom of a nation, too much dependence on a protector can eventually erode its dignity.
The Opposition, when in government, eroded the dignity of Australia. We only have to look at the way in which the agreement. on a communications facility at North West Cape was negotiated. The honourable members opposite sold Australia down the river for one particular reason - to conjure up an electionwinning formula. The then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr N. H. Bowen, went to the United States and pleaded with the United States not to support the Australian Labor Party, which was then in Opposition, but to continue to support the Liberal Party as a government. He insinuated - and this was a statement that was made by a representative not just of a political party but of the whole Australian people - that any change in government in Australia would be entirely unacceptable to the United States and he invited the United States to consider for itself whether is really wished to contribute actively to a shift in power. This is an appalling sell-out of Australia which was made on foreign soil to prop up a government which had no pride in either itself or its people.
That same Minister for Foreign Affairs was in office when we in opposition said that ANZUS could no longer concentrate only on military alliances but had to look more widely to areas of economic and social co-operation. That same Minister for Foreign Affairs who represented the Liberal Party and Country Party coalition opposed the using of ANZUS for justice and peace and political, social and economic development in the Pacific area. How he must now look at the ANZUS communique issued this year and which after a thorough examination of the economic and social conditions in the Pacific area, said that consideration was given to the world economic situation and trade and to the possible effects of recent events upon the economic stability of the Asian-Pacific region. These are the changes in emphasis. These are the important things which we as a Government have brought to the conduct of foreign policy in Australia.
The Leader of the Opposition is maintaining that the Opposition when in government had taken a number of initiatives. He talked about aid. Let us look at the way in which the Opposition when in government looked at aid, because the Opposition’s concept of aid was very clearly spelt out by the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) when he was the Prime Minister. In assessing Australia’s aid to Cambodia he said:
The decision to increase our aid has been made in pursuance of our policy of aiding South East Asian nations to resist Communist aggression.
That was the only intent of the previous Government’s aid programs - not humanitarian programs for helping people because people needed help but help because of what they described as Communist aggression. The previous Government was mesmerised in its conduct not only of aid programs but also in its conduct of foreign policy by the technicolour election winning formula of the Red menace and the yellow hordes which regrettably had operated for far too long.
The Leader of the Opposition talked about the great initiatives that the Opposition when in government had taken in relation to aid for less developed countries. He instanced particularly the tariff preferences which were given to the less developed countries. He voiced his great concern over Indonesia. Bui all that the preferential tariff achieved foi Indonesia during the reign of his Government was to increase the value of the limited range of goods imported under the concessions from $2,500 in 1966-67 to a grand total of $12,600 in 1968-69. I would think that the peanut concession at the Sydney Cricket Ground would be worth far more than that. We as a government have taken initiatives. I can understand why the Leader of the Opposition was so embarrassed when I talked about China. What did the previous Government do about China? What did the Australian Country Party, as part of that Government, do for the wheat and sugar farmers in arranging contracts with China? What did they as a government do about the French testing of nuclear weapons? They sat quiet and did nothing. We have taken initiatives. We have taken the French Government to the International Court of Justice. We have a record in foreign policy of which not only we can be proud . but of which the whole of the Australian people can be proud. The former Government turned a lucky country into a lackey country. We are now getting back to where Australians can hold their heads up and be proud of a foreign policy that is not based on lies, that is not based on myths, but is based on the reality and the understanding of the Australian people.
– Unlike the assertion of my friend the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison), I believe that the record of the present Government is one of sound and fury signifying very little. Unfortunately there is in the present presentation of the foreign policy of this Government an attempt by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to strut the world scene and to fail to recognise the very necessary long term permanent relationships to which he has adverted in his speech and which have been the substance of foreign policies expressed by parties on this side of the House for the last quarter of a century.
It is unfortunate that in his perambulations the Prime Minister has not brought together what all of us see as the 3 necessary parts of Australia’s policy in Asia. The Labor Government in its presentation of foreign policy apparently sees Australia’s relations with China in one box, Australia’s relations with Japan in another box, and Australia’s relations with
South East Asia in another box. From what I have seen and heard I suspect that the Government sees Australia’s relations with the South Pacific countries in yet another box before going to South East Asia, the Prime Minister - this Prime Minister who is asserting his Australian identity and his internationalism - saw it necessary to visit both Washington and the United Kingdom. At the time of this, his first major visit, to South East Asia - and this is the tenth overseas trip that he has made since he assumed office some 13 months ago - certain parts of Australia were facing a very grave domestic crisis caused by flood inundations in Queensland and which was of tremendous importance to the Australian people. I have no doubt that the fact that the Prime Minister was out of Australia at such a time cast doubt in the minds of those whom he visited of the sincerity with which he journeyed.
I think it is worth recognising that all who saw and heard the Prime Minister did not view with equal equanimity the product of his journeys. An article written by Harvey Stockwin in the ‘Far Eastern Economic Review’ of 18 February 1974, I think, sets some of the product of the Prime Minister’s journeys in perspective. Perhaps it might be worth while for me to refer to some of the comments and then to come back to what were given by Mr Stockwin. as a representative of the Asian Press, as the 5 purposes for the Prime Minister’s trip. Although these purposes have to some degree been repeated they are not in the same form as they appear in the statement that we are debating today. Mr Stockwin comments: . . when Whitlam finally passed through Australia’s neighbourhood it was after visits to London and Washington, notwithstanding the promised degree of greater independence from the former imperialists.
Neither Manila nor Bangkok took kindly to being told they needed nudging into relations with China. Whitlam’s inability to see Five-Power Defence, the ANZUK task force and long-term hopes for neutralisation as being essentially three complementary cards in the same basic hand disappointed Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. His optimistic hopes of a new strifefree era in Asia was in basic dichotomy with the continuing fears of discord in a conflict-prone region.
ASEAN was gratuitously termed sub-regional and the suggestion of going back to Bandung-style togetherness seemed naive. In short, Whitlam moved Australia away from its past without hitching it to a future, thereby implying isolationism, in Southeast Asian eyes at least.
I believe that that is a natural conclusion that many of us must draw from the product of the journeys of the Prime Minister - that he is taking us away from what was an involvement in a region to an area which was a more complete commitment in Australia as far as our whole economic, social and defence policies are concerned. It is unfortunate that in his move away from Asia he has replaced it with nothing new.
The repetition of commitments in his statement shows no new endeavours and no new initiatives. Rather they are an extension of those commitments previously established by Liberal-Country Party administrations. It is unfortunate that, at a time when the development of a meaningful relationship has become increasingly important, he has divorced Australia’s relationships with Japan and China from the relationship of Australia with South East Asia. Surely it is essential that, if we are to move in a meaningful way with our relationships with our neighbours, we know and understand how each of them interacts with the other. Instead of that we see a move in a trilateral fashion, moving each independently from the other.
I think it is necessary to look at what were given as the objectives of the Prime Minister’s trip. Although my colleague the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has already referred to this, I think it is important that we recognise that, seen through the eyes of the Australian Prime Minister, the first of the 5 purposes for the trip given to the Press was:
To outline to government leaders in the region the positive aspects of Australian foreign policy and to dispel any misunderstandings which may exist about that policy.
In other words, he began from the negative attitude or the premise that, having already failed, it was necessary for him to go out and reassert what Australia was trying to do. Having already created misunderstandings, it was essential that he overcome those misunderstandings and create some comprehension of what the Australian Government was trying to do. The negative aspect was the one which was given pre-eminence. In that, unfortunately, his endeavours as an individual seem to me to have fallen down, because the role which he apparently seeks to play in world affairs still relates more to the assertion of his international involvement.
Indeed, in his statement he referred to the way in which he sees the Government which he leads as an international one and as hav ing a greater involvement in world affairs than any government before it. He said:
In fact, in both action and philosophy, I believe that my Government is the most genuinely internationalist government Australia has had.
In that assertion lies the core of part of the failure, as I see it, to have achieved as much as he should have achieved for Australia in this visit to South East Asia. Internationalism is one thing, but involvement in the region in which we live, work and must have our being is another. Involvement just does not mean sitting on the sidelines; involvement means a commitment. Unfortunately, the commitment which this Prime Minister has given is not to that region but to an international involvement which does not give the pre-eminence which previous governments gave to regional security, regional involvement and regional progress and development.
The second purpose of his trip was:
To establish or reinforce personal contacts with South East Asian leaders.
There too we see a history of strained relationships. There was the unfortunate circumstance of the Ottawa conflict with the Prime Minister of Singapore. There were earlier disputes with the leaders of the Government of Thailand. There were the problems with the ANZUK commitment with the leaders of Malaysia. With each of the countries which the Prime Minister visited it was necessary for him to establish these personal contacts in order to overcome a commitment which either he or his Ministers have given to forces whose policies were not aligned with those of the countries he visited.
The third of his objectives was:
To have a frank and detailed exchange of views with those leaders on the regional situation and to hear at first hand their assessment of regional trends
This is essential. In that aspect of the Prime Minister’s visit, no doubt a great deal was achieved, but it is something which should not be looked at as being out of the ordinary but rather as part and parcel of the regular commitment, not just of the Prime Minister, but surely of his Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee). The fact that this was the first time that he, having been Foreign Minister for so long, had found it possible to visit South East Asia is in itself a partial indictment of the report which he has presented to this place. Surely frank and detailed exchanges of views are the practice of a Foreign Minister. A Foreign Minister should be engaged in that type of interchange constantly, because after all he is the roving ambassador who is able, through his knowledge and personal contact with representatives of other governments, to keep in contact with their problems, to understand where they are heading, to provide from Australia a commitment to help where it can and to be in touch with them to promote an understanding of the Australian attitude and the position which we would seek to take in the resolution of the problems which face them and which face us with them.
The fourth objective was:
To emphasise the continuing and undiminished importance which the Australian Government attaches to its relations with the countries of South East Asia.
In that objective again we have a re-emphasis of the achievements of preceding administrations. The fact that previous governments had attached importance to their relations with the countries of South East Asia is obvious to anybody who listens to the news of the events of Asia. Australia had identified herself very significantly with South East Asia in the term of previous governments. The fact that this Government left it so long is to my mind somewhat of an indictment of the administration of its foreign policy. The fourth objective continued as follows: To explain that what has changed is not the degree of Australian interest or involvement but rather the nature of that interest and involvement. Here we have the lead-in to the assertion which the Minister for Science made, that in the past our commitment has been too much to ideological considerations and military alliances, to use the form of words of the Prime Minister in his statement.
The achievement of previous governments was that we were able to obtain from Asian countries and from Asian leaders a respect for our sincerity and a respect for our commitment to obligations internationally concluded. This Government has failed to maintain that respect in its failure to maintain its commitments to ANZUK - a failure which emerges from the statement of the Prime Minister; in its failure to maintain its previous commitments with SEATO, instanced by the cancellation of the naval exercise in the South Pacific for which the Royal Australian Navy was to be responsible; in its failure to maintain that close commitment, that contractual commitment, that status which is so essential in international affairs. This was part of the reason for the Prime Minister having to make this trip. There should have been no such necessity. Those things should have gone with out saying. This Government should have maintained its international obligations and it should have been prepared to continue to assert its role in the way of previous administrations.
But of course the Prime Minister and the Minister for Science have asserted that there is a different emphasis in the involvement, and the emphasis has meant a moving away from meeting those prior committed international obligations. This shift has meant that new ties are being seen - to use the words of the Prime Minister - through trade, aid programs, regional co-operation, economic co-operation and development of a network of cultural contacts and agreements. How fortunate the Government is that such a sound basis was laid in so many ways by earlier administrations. The tariff concesions scheme available for developing countries to which the Prime Minister referred was an initiative of earlier administrations. The initiative for investment opportunities for Australian business overseas was the initiative of earlier governments through the opportunities given by the Export Payments Insurance Corporation facilities covering all investment risks overseas.
It is true that this Government has extended those facilities. It has extended the tariff preference scheme. Indeed, the figures that the Minister for Science gave with respect to Indonesia may well be correct, but if one looks at the total development of trade by developing countries with Australia as a result of this initiative for tariff preferences for developing countries one finds that it has meant a new horizon for them. It has given them the opportunity to break through all the wrangles of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, to break through all the wrangles of the United Nations and other international organisations which are unable to provide access for manufactured goods. That initiative of Australia certainly needs to be extended, but no new initiative has come from this Government. It has been rather an extension of the old initiatives.
The fifth objective which the Prime Minister referred to the Press was:
The strengthening of co-operation in the fields of aid. trade, investment and culture.
We find that there is only an extension of the ground rules laid and the groundwork undertaken by administrations from this side of the House. Our concern with South East
Asia is not that the Prime Minister should occasionally be able to visit there but that our relationships with the people of that region should be strong, permanent and enduring. The degree to which this Government has failed to maintain past obligations prejudices that opportunity, lt is well that the Government now thinks of extending the program in the broader sense that we initiated but it is unfortunate that a trip of this nature should have been necessary so that the Prime Minister could re-establish something of that close fraternal relationship that previously existed.
– Until this debate came on I thought there was a little heat in the foreign affairs issue in Australia. But the debate today has been so waffly and there have been so many adjectives used that I feel convinced that anyone listening to the debate would feel that they were hearing a few old stories over again and that nothing very constructive had been put forward and that, indeed, the heat had gone right out of the foreign affairs debate in this country. We have heard quotes used and we can use counter-quotes. The only test of foreign affairs is the test of time. The Government knows darned well that the test of time in the 1950s and the 1960s showed just how erroneous were the policies of the past Government. However, we are not talking about the past; we are talking about the future. So, we are all here waffling on today on what we seem to think will happen. The Opposition does not seem to be agreed upon whether the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has done too much in South East Asia or not enough. Members opposite say that he went there last, and they gave some quotations. The first place that the Prime Minister visited as Minister for Foreign Affairs was South East Asia and now he has followed it up with a trip to South East Asia as Prime Minister. 1 think that the confusion that abounds is mainly due to the fact that the debate is based on the documents the Prime Minister has tabled and one simply cannot argue about what is in those documents.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) finished up talking about the energy crisis and quite a few other matters that are of great significance in foreign affairs but on which subject a lot of legitimate debate could take place. What we are really talking about today is the tour through South East Asia of the Prime Minister in February. I think it must be of some embarrassment to the Opposition that this debate on foreign affairs should take place on the Prime Minister’s visit when it is this trip that is the main reason for the debate. The documentation of the trip shows, for all members to see, just what a success the visit was. I refer honourable members to what the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) has said in the recent past about foreign affairs and South East Asia. I think he is the official Opposition spokesman on foreign affairs. 1 refer to his comments on the television program ‘Monday Conference’ of Monday, 1 October. He said that he was a bit sorry for what he had said previously about Vietnam when he first came into Parliament. He admitted that the previous Government did not press for a role in the diplomatic search for peace in Vietnam. He agreed with all that this Government was doing, but not the way in which we were doing it.
– Are you quoting me or just surmising?
– This is straight out of the text of the interview on ‘Monday Conference’.
– Well, you had better quote it.
– The nub of what the honourable member for Kooyong was saying on the program - I think that anyone who saw the program would agree with me - was that he roughly agreed with what we were doing but particularly disagreed with the way we were doing it. What the honourable member for Kooyong said was that perhaps we did not do these things in the most diplomatic way. Perhaps he did not like our accent or the colour of our ties or something like that. He also said that the Liberals would recognise China and he mentioned a few other matters. But I think this is about the only element of heat that is now left in the foreign affairs debate in this country, as the honourable member for Kooyong ‘himself has admitted. Members of the Opposition, largely do not disagree with what we are doing but simply with the way we are doing it.
The Government’s approach to foreign affairs has been positive and consistent since the first days of assuming office. The Australian electorate is no longer required by the Government to view the world in terms of goodies and baddies, in terms engineered to accord with a Government’s own distorted policy, in terms of seeking maximum political advantage and in terms of fear and apprehension. Rather, the Australian Government now seeks to present its policy in terms of the world as it is, in terms of an independent outlook, no longer the shadow image of a stronger power. I think we can elaborate on this independence when we look at our behaviour in the United Nations Organisation, which is a body in which the Australian Government passionately believes, where recently I believe the World Association of World Federalists put Australia, New Zealand and Cyprus highest on the scale they had set up in terms of the 20 most important issues discussed before the United Nations in 1973. The Australian Government is bent on presenting foreign affairs in terms of realistic criteria in trying to make evaluations of our dealings with other nations in the international community. We recognise China and Chile on more or less the same grounds and criteria that the government is in effective control of the nation. We are also presenting our policy in terms of initiating ideas and approaches and in terms of a more intelligent willingness to involve ourselves in a dignified way with our neighbours.
I am not disputing the fact that the previous Government did establish a lot of strong links in this area. As the Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Sinclair) said, this fact is not in dispute. However, a myth which grew up with the past Government was that one could not talk directly and bluntly with other governments in case one offended them. I simply do not believe this. The Prime Minister has shown that we can talk directly and bluntly and that such an approach is respected. Governments of the countries in South East Asia have responded in kind and rather than a lot of pleasantries being exchanged we have, as a result of the visit we are discussing, made great progress. The Prime Minister’s 4 aims were achieved with resounding success. The documents have been tabled.
I think that the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) took a little more of the steam out of this debate when he recorded in his speech during the Address-in-Reply debate the criticisms of Australia’s foreign policy by Opposition spokesmen over the last year and the statements by leaders of our neighbouring governments since that time. Those statements were a pretty fair catalogue of just what the nations in that area to which the Opposition was referring, and which we were supposed to have offended and criticised and put offside, think of Australia. I just do not think that the statements made by the governments of other countries are facts that the Opposition can squirm away from. The honourable member for Phillip mentioned Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. We have already established a special relationship with Indonesia.
The Opposition continually regards with some glee the fact that the Government’s proposal for a broad forum of Asian-Pacific nations has not been instantly accepted - something for the ‘never-never’, as the Leader of the Opposition is reported as saying in the ‘Age’ of 2 February 1974. The Opposition has not at any time attempted to assess the value of the proposal itself or the merits of the idea. All it is happy to do is reflect the early misgivings of others. Yet in less than a year since the idea was floated we now see signs of acceptance and discussion is being conducted because the idea is a good one and because the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) believe in its value and are not intimidated by negative arguments. For the Leader of the Opposition to argue that Australia has lost its reputation for reliability and working in harmony with its long-standing friends in South East Asia is garbage and has been conclusively shown to be so by the speeches I referred to earlier. The tour of the Leader of the. Opposition through South East Asia was scantily reported and was a mission set on trying not to establish relationships or to get any ideas but to find ammunition for the domestic party political fray; in other words, back to the past but dress it up differently.
The Prime Minister actually tries to play down what can be achieved by overseas visits. Foreign affairs is a long term business in gaining understanding. However, by and large in the newspapers throughout Australia - I will not select my favourite quotes - the consensus and the balance of opinion was that the Prime Minister’s visit had received overwhelming acceptance. Newspaper comment at the time of the visit that we are discussing was explicit in pointing out that the latest visit was one in which rabbits were pulled out of the hat and a lot was achieved. Mr Lee, supposedly a statesman who had doubts about Australia’s policies and a man who we all know enjoys a good debate, was quite definite in describing the Government’s policies in glowing terms.
The Opposition says it wants to revive the debate on foreign affairs and defence - harking back to the past again, 1 am sure. I suppose they will kick the communist can and confront us with the yellow hordes once more. The Opposition says that differences remain and honourable members opposite have isolated some of the areas where they believe they do. They have referred to the interpretation of the ANZUS Treaty. We are quite explicit on this matter. There does not seem to be much room for debate on this. We say it is crucial. What about the maintenance of the United States presence in South East Asia? Do honourable members opposite want the United States fighting on Asian soil again? Do they not read the Guam doctrine? I can. see that there is some sense in the United States naval presence and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics versus China conflict, or whatever it is, and the fact that the United States in many circumstances in the future can possibly be regarded as a proxy ally of China. I think there is a lot to be said for this point of view. The United States is aware of the changing patterns of power and strategies without Australian political parties thinking they can make this an internal political issue. One argument on the withdrawal of troops from Singapore is that of morale, that the Army likes being there. But I do not think that there is any military reason for the Army being in Singapore, particularly when we envisage a lot more emphasis on joint training programs in this area. There are economic reasons for having troops in Singapore. This is sure enough. But surely there are a lot more positive ways of giving economic aid to Singapore.
All I can say about Indonesia is that I believe, and think that most thinking people believe, that relations have never been better. We do not regard the South East Asian countries as buffer states any more, but as countries having virtually the same sort of defence problems as we do and a need for some sort of common defence interest. They are not buffer slates. We do not simply need the United States to be interested in the area so that it gives us protection if there are conflicts in the region. I think to get away from this buffer state mentality towards these nations to our north and to accept that they are independent nations with a common defence interest is making a lot of progress.
The Opposition tried to make something of the Prime Minister’s statements on United States bombers still flying out of Thailand. The Prime Minister has never made any secret of his attitude on bombing. He was asked a direct question in Bangkok on 1 February. We have only to go back to his speech on 28 February 1967 in which he first stated quite plainly the Party’s attitude to bombing. Incidentally, in that speech he quoted the United States Secretary of Defence at the time, Mr McNamara, who said:
I do not believe that the bombing up to the present has significantly reduced, nor any bombing that I could contemplate in the future would significantly reduce, the actual flow of men and materials to the south.
The statements made by the Prime Minister and the statements made by other members of the. Government have been consistent all along. So by and large I just do not see that there is a lot of heat, in the debate on foreign affairs. I emphasise again that. I think that the Prime Minister’s visit to South East Asia proved just how good our relations are. One feature of the Australian Government’s policy has been in respect to aid to the economic projects of the Association of South East Asian Nations - ASEAN. We are seeking to do more in this area. Another feature of the Prime Minister’s visit was the announcement of trade deals, negotiations and discussions being entered into. The programs were put forward to fit in with the development programs in existence in the countries themselves. Hopefully, more emphasis will be put on these sorts of programs. In Thailand the Prime Minister, Mr Sanya, welcomed Australian policy on investment and the preferential tariff scheme for developing countries. Official talks were held to speed up the conclusion of a trade agreement. The Prime Minister announced a new aid program including the provision of ambulances and radio transceivers. Lengthy discussions on trade and investment were held in Malaysia.
The Prime Minister was the first Australian Prime Minister to visit Burma, and again preliminary moves were made to facilitate trade. Burma will be importing 154,000 tons of Australian coal and Australia is making arrangements so that the Burmese Government will be provided with information on how to exploit the Australian market. Discussions on quotas and tariffs were held in Singapore. No one doubts the difficulties in these areas, but the nations visited by the Prime Minister were convinced that our intentions are honourable and that a more vigorous attempt is being made to enhance trade to the benefit of both Australia and the nations concerned and to overcome some of the imbalances that have been present for so long. I think that all Parties in this House are agreed on the need for more aid abroad and the need for more emphasis on trade rather than on aid purely and simply. The test of this will be time and the way in which other nations, and particularly the way in which Australia, react to the policies. But 1 think, as I said earlier, this debate has proved that much of the heat has been taken out of the foreign affairs debate. The Prime Minister’s tour through South East Asia was an unqualified success.
– I do not know about taking heat out of debates, but if I understand debates, they are the mutual exchange of ideas put somewhat forcibly. I do not come in here with predetermined ideas written out in front of me to be regurgitated, paying no heed to what has been put in the chamber. I am here to answer charges that have been made and to put some views on behalf of my Party. Regrettably, because of calls into Kings Hall, I did not hear what was termed by the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Kerin) as ‘rough quotations’ of things I was alleged to have said. But as I returned for the second time I heard him saying that I agreed with practically everything the Government had done. I will have an opportunity to look in Hansard at what he actually said, but I state firmly and unequivocally right at the outset that we do not accept the vague internationalism and the spirit of international brotherhood of socialists as espoused by this Government.
We do not accept detente per se. We aspire towards alleviation of political tension if that is what one means by detente but we look behind it as well. We do not accept that there is no threat to the region of South East Asia. We do not accept the sort of grandstanding and empty symbolism as displayed by this Government in its handling of foreign affairs. We do not accept the scuttling of the effectiveness of the Five-Power Arrangement by withdrawing from the ANZUK forces and smashing the effectiveness of that agreement. We do not accept the hypocrisy of saying that the Government believes in the Five-Power Arrangement but at the same time the Government being prepared to scuttle the only effective agreement. We do not accept per se the zone of peace as other than an aspiration to which we should be moving in the future, but it is not the premise of our foreign policy. Nor do we accept the concepts of neutrality that the Government espouses. We do not accept the viewpoint that it puts forward about Diego Garcia, and we do not accept the stance that it adopts over South Africa and Rhodesia that it will interfere with internal affairs to seek to bring a government down. That is just off the top of the head for starters and I shall develop other aspects at another stage. So let us not hear any more viewpoints expressed that I embrace the doctrines of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his handling of foreign affairs.
Our foreign policy is based on realities, not on uncertain concepts and the sort of aspirations to which I have alluded. Where are the Prime Minister’s achievements in foreign policy? We read so often of the initiatives and the achievements of this Government. Where are his so-called initiatives in the Pacific? The Australian Financial Review’ has on more than one occasion described his incursions as being close to disasters, such as in Africa, Eastern Europe and South America. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) referred this morning to the initiatives that we in fact took in those areas when in government, and was able to contrast the little that has been done by this Government since it took office. What has happened to the Prime Minister’s grand design for Asia and the Pacific? The extension of trade arrangements, cultural agreements and aid commitments can hardly be considered innovative. The initiative in all these matters was taken by the Liberal-Country Party Government. The Prime Minister’s anxiety to stress the development of these long-standing matters demonstrates in fact and in reality the limits of his own achievement.
I was intrigued to listen to the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) quoting leaders in South East Asia welcoming the Prime Minister in the warmest vein. One would almost need to be in a state of war, frankly, not to get that sort of greeting. I think as an ex-diplomat that the Minister would know that. I was also intrigued to hear him quote messages by Mr Kenneth Rush, the Under-Secretary of State of the United States, when he was here. I have here today’s Melbourne ‘Age’. I think we heard a quotation about ‘understanding, candour and friendship’ between Australia and the United States. Do not tell me that did not exist with the previous Government. We heard about how successful Mr Rush’s visit had been. It is interesting to note today’s edition of the Age’ - it is almost a daily occurrence of course - carries on the front page:
United States complains about leaks in Canberra The United States has complained to Australia about a lack of diplomatic security in Canberra.
The complaint followed publication in Australia last weeks of details of a private conversation in Washington between the United States Under-Secretary of State (Mr Rush) and Australia’s new Ambassador (Sir Patrick Shaw).
I seek leave to have the rest of the article incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
This breach of confidentiality worries us more than the original matter raised’, an Administration official told me.
Mr Rush had expressed United States concern at reported references by the Australian Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in Bangkok to the use of Thai bases for the ‘monstrous’ bombing of North Vietnam.
Mr Rush was perfectly frank’ and laid the cards on the table as he would with other friendly countries,’ the official said.
We expect his remarks to go to the Foreign Minister and Prime Minister, but not to be quoted in newspapers.’
The leaks could prevent a dialogue between the two countries, he said.
– I thank the House. I understand that there is even a rumour that the State Department now has a courier permanently employed to deliver protest notes to Australia about leaks. It is hardly a leak any more; it is now a rushing flood. It is all very well to mouth phrases about friendship, but when one has to contrast them with the record number of protest notes one can see how fragile the friendship is in fact underneath the surface of agreement that must be put in diplomatic language. I merely cite that because the Minister made such play of the statement of the Under Secretary of State when he was in Australia.
In the 9 minutes I have remaining to me I want to discuss the contrast between the Opposition and the Government in the understanding of the international concept today - an understanding which obviously the Government does not have but which was at the base of the Prime Minister’s statement regarding his visit to South East Asia. 1 have referred to our questioning of notions of detente. Members on this side of the House interpret detente as meaning the alleviation of political tension. If that is involved, we endorse detente with our heart and soul. To alleviate political tension around the world should be a prime purpose of any political party but it is not the only purpose and it is not the premise on which either the foreign policy or defence policy of the Opposition is based.
In this age of tremendous power being vested particularly in the super powers - the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the USA which have the capacity to bring about a nuclear holocaust - one cannot have detente unless there is some understanding and some alleviation of tension. That will succeed only if there is a balance of power between them both and if one force unilaterally is not allowed to gain strength over the other so that it can then use that strength against the rest of the world. In other words, what it means is that one does not accept detente per se. Detente or the alleviation of tension can occur only if there is a balance in the world power structure. That is why this Government should recognise what is transpiring in the United States today. That is why the Congress will pass, almost without question, Defence Secretary Schlesinger’s Budget. Congress recognises the propensity for falling behind the USSR. If the situation since the first of the strategic arms limitation talks were to continue where Russia consistently increased her defence expenditure and the United States reduced its expenditure, the world would be placed in a position of jeopardy and there would be little point or strength in the negotiating position of the United States under the broad umbrella of detente.
The Government’s position is made even worse - it is exacerbated further - because not only does it accept detente per se as a notion and as a premise but also by accepting a no threat theory in South East Asia it makes its stance even less credible and makes even more insecure the Government’s and the Australian position vis-a-vis the rest of our region. There is a clear distinction between the Government and the Opposition on questions of credibility in foreign policy and a credible defence stance. This has its effect also when one looks to other areas at a tangent from the areas visited by the Prime Minister. I mention the Indian Ocean, for instance, where, as part of this world balance that the United States seeks, the United States is intending to build up, not as an operational base but as a secondary base, Diego Garcia. The Government tells us that it is fundamentally opposed to this proposal because it breaches nations of a zone of peace. There would be no possibility of a balance in the Indian Ocean region if the United States were forbidden to develop Diego Garcia. How much more important will this become when the Suez Canal is open to shipping routes? I pose these questions not merely as distinctions but as fundamental to the Opposition’s attitude on foreign policy and defence policy. As I have said time and again, there is no credible foreign policy without a credible defence policy. The Government’s foreign policy, disastrous as it is on its own, is made even worse when it is linked with the structure which it is reducing in the defence forces.
Regarding the region dealt with in the Prime Minister’s statement concerning his overseas visit, the Government appears to have no clear philosophy regarding our relations with Asia. The Prime Minister ignores the problems of ideological and military conflict facing the region. The major struggle is still continuing in Indo China and this will have enormous consequences on the region. It cannot be wiped aside no matter what one’s personal desires may be. The Prime Minister considers only the advantages of a multi-polar system; not the complications it also brings to the region through competition for influence, whether by the USSR against the People’s Republic of China or whether it be through competition because of the growing Japanese economic influence in the region. Trade, aid and regional co-operation must be based on a clear attitude to the above matters that I have mentioned. Nothing flowing through the speeches of the Prime Minister and the few speeches of the new Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) indicate any realistic appraisal of the consequences of the struggle still going on in Indo China and the ramifications of the competition of interests between the USSR, the People’s Republic of China and, to some extent, Japan.
The ambivalence of the Government’s attitude, reflected in its stress on continuity with past policies and its continued adherence to alliances which it has rendered devoid of content, also needs to be mentioned. I refer to one statement by David Barnett which appeared in the Melbourne Sunday Press of 3 February. He said:
Two years ago Australia was a SEATO member, an ASPAC member, a Vietnam ally and a mainstay of the Five Power Arrangements. The onslaught of peace has left these brave bodies dead, dying or wearing a distinctly interim appearance, and Australia is without the formal place in Asia it seeks.
– Do you want to go back to that?
– Does the Minister ask me whether I want to go back to that?
– To ASPAC or to SEATO?
– The Minister spent the overwhelming part of his speech dealing with 1966 and Vietnam. Where was the so-called forward thinking foreign policy espoused by the Minister who assists the Foreign Minister in one area? He undoubtedly would like to handle foreign affairs in a greater area than merely Papua New Guinea.
I turn now to the Asia Pacific Forum which would appear to be the Government’s answer to the lack of meaningful role for Australia in Asia now that it finds itself without one. Even the Prime Minister is unable to define this nebulous concept he proposed first when he visited Indonesia early last year.’ He received no hearing for it on his last trip. He has not mentioned it. in his statement to the House. Does he recognise that the inclusion of the People’s Republic of China in this forum that he proposes is contrary to the aspirations of the Association of South East Asian Nations for a regional neutralisation? What of the Soviet Union? Does the Prime Minister mention it? No. By putting China into the region in this way in his proposed regional forum has he not given impetus to further competition between the Soviet and China? He suggests the inclusion of one nation and not the other. There has been no further explanation by the Prime Minister of his vague notion which was swept aside by Asian leaders many months ago.
The allegations that the Prime Minister is at last getting down to practicalities can be welcomed, but the impression is left that his only concept of our workable role in the region lies in the development of economic and cultural relations which were pursued under the last Government. It seems that the main objectives of his trip - as stated by him in the House - apart from the last one of seeking practical co-operation with Asia, are all different ways of stating the need to smooth over past misunderstandings and return our relations with Asia to those enjoyed under the previous Government. This has been a most expensive exercise in diplomatic relations and it ill behoves those on the Government side to proclaim that Australia has been well served by its former Foreign Minister, Mr Whitlam, and its present Foreign Minister, Senator Willesee.
Debate (on motion by Mr Reynolds) adjourned.
Request to Senate to Resume Consideration
– I move:
That a message be sent to the Senate requesting the Senate to resume consideration of the Bill intituled “A Bill for an Act relating to certain Trade Practices”, which was transmitted to the Senate for its concurrence during the last Session of Parliament, the proceedings on such Bill having been interrupted by the Prorogation of the Parliament.
This motion is merely procedural. Its purpose is to restore to the Notice Paper of the Senate the Trade Practices Bill which previously had passed this House and reached the Senate. The Government attaches great importance to the Trade Practices Bill, which will regulate restrictive trade practices and monopolisation and will protect the Australian consumer from unfair commercial practices. The Government is very concerned that there has been such a long delay in the enactment of any effective anti-trade practices legislation in Australia. The initial steps go back to 1959. The existing Restrictive Trade Practices Act enacted by the previous Government and which this Bill will replace, has proved to be one of the most ineffectual pieces of legislation ever passed by this Parliament. This was recognised by the Opposition when, as the Government of the day, it attempted to strengthen the law concerning restrictive trade practices. This Government has encountered delay with the Bill. The net result is that the people of Australia have had to endure for the last decade a wide range of restrictive, commercial and business practices which have been operating to the detriment of the community. Continued delay in the passing of effective legislation is only adding to the injustice and the injury being experienced by the community. It is not only the general public which is being injured but industry and commerce themselves as the practices lead to inefficiency in industry and artificially high prices and add to inflation. It is in the interests of industry itself, as well as of the general public, that the practices that are injurious be stopped as soon as possible.
This Bill has received considerable attention. The Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) has spelt out in detail the intentions of the Bill. Private individuals and industry associations have examined it and commented on it. Officers of the Attorney-General’s Department have been made available to discuss and explain its provisions. There can be no argument for any further delay in the consideration of the Bill. It is not surprising that some business and commercial interests that practice unfair and injurious actions as will be prohibited or controlled under the terms of this Bill should be so determined in their opposition. The Government appreciates that they are entitled to express their opinions and to argue their case. It has facilitated their doing so. Indeed, as a consequence, the Attorney-General has studied their submissions closely together with the comments from other interested parties. As a result the Attorney-General will introduce a number of amendments to the Bill when it is placed before the Senate. These amendments will go a long way towards meeting certain concern that has been expressed about certain sections of the Bill expressed in the informed and responsible submissions made to the Attorney-General. The Attorney-General will give details of these amendments when consideration of the Bill is resumed in the Senate. I ask that the motion be accepted’. We hope that the Bill will be given urgent consideration in the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 7 March (vide page 159), on motion by Mr Beazley:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Opposition supports this measure. The Government made a decision, on its. own initiative, that fees for tertiary institutions ought to be abolished. As a result of that decision the States, of course, suffered a loss of revenue. This legislation is designed to reimburse the States for any loss of revenue in those areas. I should like to raise one point with the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) who is handling this matter for the Government. It concerns Victoria in particular. I think some clarification of the intention of the Government might be required. The view is held by many people that in one particular area the legislation could discriminate against some people in Victoria, because in that State a divided secondary school system operates. There are academic high schools and technical high schools. I have been informed that there is a possibility that the legislation does not cover the technical schools which run technical courses in the evenings and out of school hours - perhaps providing precisely the same courses o as might be provided in technical colleges - and which charge fees for these courses undertaken by people who are not part of the normal school stream. That would seem to be a discrimination against the use of these facilities. If the report is correct, I also think that it is a discrimination against rural areas because in many senses technical colleges are not widely spread throughout rural communities as they are, for example, in Melbourne. Therefore, the resources of technical schools are used very widely in country towns where no technical colleges are established.
I achnowledge that the Minister for Education has just entered the chamber. I repeat that the Opposition supports the proposal. But it has been put to me - 1 ask the Minister whether it is true - that there could be some discrimination against courses conducted by the technical secondary schools in Victoria out of school hours, very often at night, and for which in the past fees have been charged. Very often these courses are the same as or similar to some of the courses conducted in technical colleges. As I understand the proposal before us technical colleges are covered by the legislation. No fees will be charged and the State of Victoria will be reimbursed for its loss of revenue. I have been told that, where similar courses are provided by the facilities available in the technical secondary schools, the same situation does not prevail. If this is so, in areas which have no technical colleges and areas which have no technical training facilities and secondary school facilities are used for this purpose, out of normal school hours, there might be a discrimination against people attending a technical course at a secondary school. They might have to continue to pay fees if that matter is not covered by the legislation. If it is not covered by the legislation, I ask the Minister whether he could consider perhaps having an amendment made to the legislation in the Senate, or something of that kind, because country people are being discriminated against. It would certainly not be the Minister’s intention to have any element of discrimination in this area.
– I will reply to your questions later.
– I am pleased to note that the Opposition is supporting this Bill. It is a Bill, of course, to reimburse the States for the abolition of fees. The Australian Government, in the first 6 months of this year, will pay $10,268,000 to the States for this purpose. As the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) quite rightly said in his second-reading speech, this is a further element in the Australian Government’s plan to make access to all post-secondary education available to people irrespective of their means. They will have access according to merit and not according to wealth, as was all too much the tendency under the administration of previous governments.
As the public at large, particularly the students and parents of students, will be well aware at present, students are enjoying tuitionfree access to universities and to colleges of advanced education. This concession does not apply only to those students who are entering those institutions at present but also to the students who are proceeding through their courses. I met such a student not long ago and he expressed to me his delight that the Government had introduced this measure because it would save him, as a fourth year medical student working part time at night, approximately S600 to $650 in enrolment fees at the university.
I referred earlier in my remarks to the reimbursement of $10,268,000. That amount has been allocated for the 6-month period until the end of this financial year. At present an inquiry is being conducted into technical and further education. The correct title of that inquiry is the Australian Committee on Technical and Further Education, sometimes referred to as the Kangan inquiry, named after the very important chairman of the Committee. My hope is that the Kangan Committee report and the Government’s consideration of it will do for technical education what the celebrated
Karmel Committee report, and the Government’s acceptance of it, did for primary and secondary education in Australia.
Technical education certainly needs a new deal. I will refer to a few figures a little later on to back up my statement. For far too long technical education has been the Cinderella of education in this country, although it is probably running neck and neck in that regard with pre-school education in some States of Australia, notably New South Wales, which is the State from which I come. I only hope that when the Kangan Committee does report it will make some reference in its report to teacher education in the field of technical education. A couple of years ago a Senate committee reported on teacher education. One of the recommendations it made was that there should be at least one technical teacher educational institution in every State of Australia. That has not happened. I think there is such an institution in Victoria. But there certainly is not one in New South Wales, which is where the more numerous numbers of teachers and students in technical education are to be found.
The training of teachers for technical education in New South Wales is carried out by lecturers from the Sydney Teachers College whose prime purpose it is to train teachers for primary and secondary schools. Technical education has had to take a back seat in this regard. There are probably nearly half a million students in technical education institutions throughout Australia. I think a lot of people overlook the fact that, of all the forms of post-secondary education, technical education has by far the greatest number of enrolments. There were 400,000 enrolments in about 1968. So I think it could be confidently estimated that the figure will be near the half million mark by now. Technical education is important not only because of the number of students involved in it but also because of the range of courses provided.
One of the things those honourable members opposite who have stood up in this House in the last week or two and talked about inflation and the causes of inflation have to remember is that technical education has not been allowed to play its part in the economy of this country. Ignoring the fact that it also plays an important part in the personal growth of the individual, technical education has not been allowed to play its part in the providing of the skills that are now in short supply. I think nobody needs to be reminded of the shortages at present of just about every kind of skill - of manual skills, of technical skills of various kinds, of commercial skills and so on - that is provided for in technical education. A lot of the shortage of housing and of the delays in building projects in this country at present is attributable to the shortage of all kinds of people who are skilled in the building trades. The same applies to the engineering trades. It is all very well for us to provide for the training of professional people at universities and colleges of advanced education. Technologists are very important. But their effectiveness is retarded insofar as they do not have the important backup of tradesmen and technicians. That is one of the great shortcomings of our economy today. It is one of the difficulties with which the Government is confronted.
The measure before us today, which seeks to provide SI Om for technical education, might seem to be fairly insignificant because of the amount involved; yet not so long ago - in the last few years of the term of office of the previous Government - the provision of $10m in a year to technical education was regarded as being something of an event. The expenditure of $10m on technical education ranks pretty lowly as far as expenditure by the Government in other areas is concerned. But it must be remembered that this is purely an interim measure. The Government is awaiting the bringing down of the Kangan Committee report in about a month or two before it takes any really decisive action a far as technical education is concerned.
The Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) is, of course, not solely responsible for the advances that have been made in this field. The Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) has also been very busy trying to catch up not only on the initial training of technical people but also on the providing of retraining for those people whose jobs have become obsolete or are updated from time to time. It is very good to know that 2 very able Ministers are interested in this subject. The Minister for Education and the Minister for Labour are both dedicated to the task of trying to catch up on the woeful backlog in trained technicians and tradesmen in our society.
Again I point out that I do not want to give the impression that I am only concerned about the importance of such people to the economy. Technical education, properly conducted, ought to provide just as fruitful a source of personal development and humanitarian development for the individual as do other forms of education. That is why people on both sides of this House have recognised the importance of humanitarian and liberal studies going side by side with technical education in manual skills and the other kinds of skills that are associated with the training of tradesmen and technicians. Other countries recognised long ago the importance of tradesmen and technicians. Notable among those countries are Great Britain, Germany and Japan. Despite whatever temporary difficulties there may be in Great Britain, all those countries have recognised the importance of this field of training.
I was encouraged to note the upsurge this year in the number of enrolments for apprenticeships in Australia. I understand that there has been quite a considerable growth in this respect in all States of Australia. Just as a sample, I made an inquiry at the weekend of a very large technical college that is located in my electorate - the St George Technical College - in Sydney. I understand that the total number of students enrolled at the St George Technical College has increased from 5,685 last year to 6,052 this year and that the number enrolled in trade courses has increased from 1,319 last year to 1,602 this year. That would represent a fairly large percentage increase. If that sort of percentage increase were spread throughout the country we would ultimately catch up on the technology backlog to which I have referred. I asked the St George Technical College to make an estimate of the financial benefit this measure would be to the students and the employers who, in many cases, pay the fees of their apprentices. To be more precise I asked the St George Technical College what this measure would mean in monetary terms to the people who live in the St George area, mindful of the fact that some students cannot be trained at the local college and have to go to another college. The estimate, which was a conservative one, was that it would be of the order of half a million dollars. This measure, temporary as it is and not being of tremendous significance in the mind of the Government, will represent a saving of half a million dollars to students or their employers in one area of Sydney alone, that is, the St George area.
There are, of course, other forms of encouragement provided by the Government, including the national apprenticeship assistance scheme. Due to the commendable drive of the Minister for Labour there has been considerable recognition of the importance of technical training and retraining to productivity - a word that 1 have heard mentioned many times in this House recently. The Government’s opponents say that if the Government wants to have a decent welfare state it will have to encourage increased productivity. We all recognise that. It is of no use using a printing press as that would only excite or promote inflation. But if we have increased productivity we will be able to afford to have more of the goods and services the community needs. It is also the job of this Government to ensure that the goods which are produced and the services which are provided are properly distributed within the community, and that is a very important hallmark of this Government as compared with its predecessors.
I understand it was recently reported that the scheme introduced by the Minister for Labour had made apprenticeships much more popular than they were previously, particularly in country areas but also in the cities. The Minister has provided encouragement to employers by way of subsidies to take on extra apprentices. The Minister also has provided subsidies for country apprentices who have to travel to the city or to some other urban area so that they can undertake their training. I understand that the employers of some 66 per cent of the total estimated first year country apprenticeship population are now claiming the subsidies to which I have just referred. In the previous year only 51 per cent of those employers claimed these subsidies. So employers in country areas are responding; they are taking on increased numbers of apprentices.
Likewise, there has been a very beneficial, if somewhat belated, response in the metropolitan areas to this offer of assistance by way of a subsidy. Employers in the metropolitan areas also are now getting the benefit of the assistance. Instead of the employers having to pay fees to send apprentices to technical colleges, the fees will now be paid for them by the Government. Although I indicated that this assistance would be provided only until June, I expect that after the Kangan Committee report is presented a vastly expanded program will be introduced, but there will still be a remission of these fees. No fees will be paid either by students or employers for approved courses at technical colleges.
For the first time in 9 years all States and Territories indicated for the year 1972-1973 increased apprenticeship intakes over the preceding year. Preliminary indications for the first 6 months of this satistical year, that is, from July 1973 to December 1973 are that it should be a record year for apprenticeship intakes. These are all very good things. If one needs to be reminded of the importance of apprentices, technicians and trade training one only has to look at an article in the ‘Australian’ of 5 October last year. It refers to the remarks of Mr F. X. Quinn, the President of the Victorian Buildings Societies Association. He warned of a possible increase in the number of incompetent builders because of the heavy demand for new houses and the short supply of labour. Of course, he was referring to skilled and semiskilled labour. According to the article he also claimed that the lack of apprentices was adding up to 3 months to the time it took to build a house. Then the article continues:
Eight years ago, it took three or four months to build a house. It now takes up to eight months and within two years the building time could be as long as twelve months’, Mr Quinn said.
I am sure that Mr Quinn would be one of those people who are now applauding the efforts of the Minister for Education who is sitting at the table and the Minister for Labour for recognising at last the tremendously important part that technical education plays in the supply of skilled labour in Australia. It is not only the time that it takes to build houses and other kinds of constructions that matters; it is also the quality of the work that is done. Much of the construction of shoddy houses and home units in respect of which I hear complaints and in respect of which complaints are reported to consumer affairs bureaus in the various States derives from the fact that technical education has been so badly neglected in the past.
If one wants any indication of how technical education was neglected in the past one recalls that very belatedly, at the beginning of the 1972-73 financial year, the previous Government started to stir itself ar-d it appropriated S2,370,000 for apprenticeship training. At the end of the financial year, S 1 , 1 60,000-odd of that amount was not spent, simply because there had not been the necessary preparation of teachers and the provision of suitable sites in which to train people. Similarly, at the beginning of the 1972-73 financial year an appropriation of $338,000 was made for training for industry and commerce, but at the end of the financial year $246,000-odd 0f that amount was unspent. This happened in a country that is starved of tradesmen and technicians. We, as a Government, have inherited that starvation state as far as tradesmen and technicians are concerned.
– What did you do about immigration?
– The honourable member relies on importing somebody else’s brains because he did not give an opportunity to the people in our own community. I suggest that that is a poor substitute. The previous Government did stir itself when an election was pending, but at the end of the 1972-73 financial year, 42 per cent of the money appropriated in the 2 categories that I have just mentioned was unspent because of inadequate preparation for the task that was so belatedly recognised.
This Bill, along with other Bills, will abolish fees in post-secondary education. It is a very laudable Bill, but it is only the precursor of something that I expect to be much more important, which the Minister will deal with in the later part of this year. I highly commend the Bill to the House.
– I support the Bill, and in so doing I should like to draw attention to one of the .most significant paragraphs in the second reading speech of the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley). He said:
Technical education is an investment in national efficiency. Not only that, the investment in technical skill is often an investment in an individual’s creative satisfaction and happiness.
In a number of speeches in this House over a period I have pleaded the case for the provision of additional assistance in the area of technical education and vocational education throughout Australia. I am pleased that the Minister has introduced this Bill, which is designed to abolish fees for students attending technical colleges or their equivalents throughout Australia. As the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds) has said today - and I know that he has said it previously - for too long have educationalists placed insufficient emphasis on the importance of technical college education and of vocational training in secondary schools. In my view there has been an over-emphasis on the need for children to achieve a university degree of some kind of another or to enter upon an academic career. A majority of parents and students alike are hopefully looking forward to the students reaching the university level, whereas there are tremendous openings for young people to enter technical colleges and take their place in a meaningful way in our society.
Unfortunately, I believe, the over-emphasis that is placed on university education develops an attitude that ignores the increasing need for technicians and other skilled tradesmen in our increasingly technological society. There is a need to reassess the needs of our society in the education opportunities of our young people if we are to provide a fulfilling future for the ever increasing number of schoolleavers. When talking about technical education, other parents will often say to you: ‘That is all right for your child, but I want my child to go to a university’. I think that largely this is because we have not given technical colleges their rightful status in our community. There has not been sufficient emphasis on or status given to technical colleges throughout Australia. I know that technical education falls within the constitutional or administrative responsibility of the States. But there is a need to upgrade the status of these colleges to ensure that an increasing stream of suitable students flows into the technical colleges which should have the widest curricula for students. However, this change in direction should begin in the high schools long before the Higher School Certificate level.
Although there is a growing degree of local decision-making with respect to curricula and general management at the local high school level, there is an even greater need for the teachers on the local scene, the parents and the local community generally to play a greater part in determining the subjects available to pupils in high schools. These subjects surely should have some relevance to local employment opportunities available to children once they leave school. I find in my own area that very often the curricula available to the children often have insufficient relevance to the opportunities awaiting them once they complete their Higher School Certificate.
One must assume that equal opportunity does not exist for all students, regardless of the abolition of fees and other measures that the Government has taken, if it is the prime intention of education authorities, parents and others to structure the conduct of schools and the curricula on the hope that most students strive to enter either a university, a college of advanced education or a teachers college. Obviously this just cannot happen because the majority of students have neither the aptitude nor the intellectual ability, nor perhaps the interest, to succeed in these institutions. Far too many students are dropping out at the School Certificate level, a great percentage of whom could succeed at technical colleges. The abolition of university, college of advanced education and technical college fees which this Government has introduced, will not in itself make much difference to the opportunities available to our young if we fail to recognise the aptitude of our students, their diverse abilities and the changes ‘brought about by this technological age. Until the status of technical colleges is improved by the provision of more finance for more balanced curricula and the introduction of a full range of preemployment classes, it is unlikely that there will be, in a real sense, equal opportunity for our young people. Let us face the fact that not everybody in the community has equal ability in any particular sphere. A great number of people are not suited to academic training at universities but who, nevertheless, are endowed with great technical ability and skills.
I believe that we could well study the Japanese Vocational Training Act (1958) and the consequences of that legislation. Extensive provision is made for close co-ordination between the programs of technical and vocational training organised by the Minister of Education and the Minister of Labour, and training organised in industry. In Japan, technical education and training for the purpose of developing skilled workers and technicians has been built upon 2 main pillars. Firstly, education at technical schools is under the control of the Minister of Education, and secondly, education at vocational training centres is under the supervision of the Minister of Labour. The trend of national socioeconomic development is changing rapidly from the industrial era to the technological era. Japan was really the first country in the industrial world to make a move to recognise this fact in its education system.
Increasing provision must be made for vocational training and technical education not only at the latter end of secondary education and after completion of the equivalent of the School Certificate, but also in the earlier years at secondary schools, lt is now becoming evident that many students pass through the fifth and sixth forms acquiring a reasonably good education, but unfortunately they are not trained for any specific vocation. It would appear therefore that from at least the fourth form upwards a greater proportion of vocational weighting should be introduced into the curricula.
I agree with the honourable member for Barton that special emphasis must be given to the needs of young people in country towns in particular if we are to stop the drift of young people to the cities and prevent further congestion in our already overcrowded major cities. It appears that although the educational system provides a good general education to the fourth form, it then becomes very restrictive in its disciplines to students who wish to remain in the educational environment, but who are not necessarily interested in seeking the sixth form standard or a university degree.
Aboriginal education has revealed itself in recent times as a very great problem. I mention this because it is apparent to me that in my electorate, where there is a great number of Aboriginal children in towns like Moree, there is not much incentive for many of the Aboriginal pupils to continue with their secondary education because the curriculum that they are following has little relevance to job opportunities in the local area. There is not sufficient weighting in the curriculum for vocational training. This of course is causing a further drift of young Aboriginal people from country areas and their environment to places like Redfern, where they try to find some sort of an existence in circumstances that are not really acceptable to them. I believe that the education system is one of the prime reasons they are in fact leaving country areas. After having completed their few years of schooling, they find they have not been trained for any skilled work and are unable to take skilled jobs that might have been available to them.
I do not want to delay the House any longer. I have spoken on this matter before. I hope that the inquiry into technical education in Australia, which is already under way, and to which I have made a submission on behalf of my Party, the Australian Country Party, will certainly come up with some of the answers that are necessary to ensure that tech nical education plays a more important part in the general education pattern throughout Australia. I also want to say that at a time when we are looking for increasing productivity, better industrial relations, better management of labour and resources, more emphasis should be given to special courses at technical colleges in these important areas. It is just as important for management to understand the needs of the work force as it is to mobilise resources for profit. It is just as important for the work force to know what its entitlements and responsibilities to management are as it is for the work force to understand the needs of management. Unfortunately, in New South Wales expenditure on technical education has declined relative to expenditure in other areas of education. We hope that in the future we will see an improvement in industrial relations and productivity because I believe that will be one way of overcoming the inflationary spiral with which we live. I believe that the technical education colleges of this country could play a greater part than they are at present in trying to turn out young men and women who will take their places in both management and the work force, each understanding the problems of the other, and making a worthwhile contribution to the economic development of our country.
I want to commend the Minister for this rather courageous effort in introducing a scheme which is in itself rather costly. But I think that it is an honest attempt to try to bring to the young people of Australia an equal opportunity to attend both universities and technical colleges without the payment of fees.
– I rise to speak to this Bill because I believe that it addresses itself to a very serious area of neglect in education in Australia. To illustrate my point I would like to develop a situational set of circumstances which exist in Goulburn. Recently I attended the declaration of the opening of the new 3M factory at Goulburn. This company operates in a technically based industry which is very much dependent on innovation for its products. Many of the products of this company have been developed in Australia by Australian brains. This company requires a great number of personnel who have been trained in technical colleges.
In looking to the future, and bearing in mind that the factory eventually will employ over 1,000 people in a city the size of Goulburn, we find 2 disturbing areas. One is the supply of housing for the growing population of Goulburn. The second is the provision of technical training facilities for the staff that will work in the factory. We are faced with the reality that there is a shortage of trained craftsmen in the building industry today. This is the first area of concern for the people who will work in the new factory at Goulburn. The fact that there is a shortage of skilled building tradesmen in the Goulburn area points up the need to encourage people to undertake building courses at technical colleges.
The second area of concern is the training of technical personnel for the rather specialised jobs within such a factory. It is here that we come to the structural problem which is associated with technical education throughout Australia. Goulburn is a city of 22,000 people. However, the city is not large enough to provide technical training facilities in some of the more specialised areas. It has been necessary to develop technical training which by its very nature has to be concentrated in the capital city of Sydney. For some young people who are leaving school the need to leave home to continue their education is something of an adventure. However, for some it is a frightening experience to have to leave home and go to a strange area to learn perhaps a trying discipline. After all, these young people are just commencing on their road so far as technical training is concerned. Therefore it is necessary to develop a flexibility in technical education which will cope with these specialised demands.
In the more remote areas we find, for example, a problem of training motor mechanics. Every town, of course, needs its motor mechanics. Motor mechanics from Batemans Bay and other coastal areas in my electorate have to go to Goulburn, Canberra, Sydney or Wollongong for their training. This is a special and unique problem associated with technical education in country areas. It is a problem which I am sure the Australian Commission for Technical and Further Education will consider. The honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) commented on the class consciousness that exists in education in Australia. In the past the right and proper thing to do has been to go to a university, and it has been considered inferior to go to a technical college. This has meant that not only have people who have gone to technical colleges felt themselves to be second class citizens but also they have had to put up with second class facilities. The technical college building at Goulburn was built in 1900. It is overcrowded and the internal spacing problems are such that the college does not have the scope to offer proper technical education in these technical fields. Another effect that this second class status has on the system is that people who come to technical colleges tend to come from poorer families which cannot afford the true costs of technical education.
I believe that the abolition of fees at technical colleges proposed by this legislation is a very significant first step towards upgrading technical education. The cost of this move is relatively small when one considers the cost of the other areas of education. We are faced with the difficulty of providing a new status for technical education. The honourable member for Gwydir elaborated on this problem and I do not wish to cover the same ground. I agree wholeheartedly with what the honourable member said on this point. This problem goes further than bringing to the community an awareness of the importance of technical education; it goes to the financial remuneration received by the people who are products of the system. It is quite unsatisfactory in the long term to offer to people who graduate from technical colleges wages and salaries which are lower than the salaries and wages offered to university graduates and graduates from colleges of advanced education. People need to be paid a wage and a return commensurate with the contribution they make to the welfare and the wellbeing of the community of which they are a part. I think the time is long overdue for us to work through the ramifications of technical education and to consider its attractiveness in terms of wages paid to a person who has graduated, in terms of the status which is applied to the institution which provides the education and in terms of the type of people who are attracted to technical education.
There are many other facets of technical education which provide an adventure. For example, retraining, which must become a more important feature in our technically orientated community, will affect every age group in the community: It should not be necessary for us to regard a technical college as the place to which one goes when one leaves school and which one does not see again when one’s course has been finished. We should see the technical college as a place to which people will return from time to time throughout their lives. I would like to give an example of the need for retraining in this very contemporary society of ours. The area of wool marketing with which I have been associated has undergone a major technical revolution in regard to the concepts and processes used in the preparation of wool for marketing. The wool classing courses conducted by the New South Wales Department of Technical Education are probably the best in Australia. However, once the revolution in wool marketing had started it was quickly realised that the concepts that were taught in the traditional wool classing courses were no longer relevant. As a result it has been necessary to bring back to the technical college wool classers who perhaps have not seen the inside of a school for 20 years. They have come back to relearn their occupation. It has been necessary to create special courses for these mature people who in many cases have already raised families but who wish to stay in their chosen occupation. This is not an isolated incident.
We can expect to see more and more retraining taking place in technical colleges. In this sense technical colleges should become a lively and exciting area for innovation in community living and community involvement. I feel that there is an exciting future for technical colleges. The action that the Government has taken to abolish fees and the action that the Government will take on the report of the Australian Commission for Technical and Further Education will create the basis for the change in status so greatly needed to attract into technical education the supply of tradesmen and craftsmen that we need to make sure that our lives are properly balanced and that our economy is maximised in terms of this use of resources.
There are other areas of technical education which do not bear, in the traditional way, on the economic functions of the community. Technical education plays a role in developing artists and a sense of drama. In colleges such as the East Sydney Technical College we see an environment and an attitude towards art and drama which accepts the fact that these are as much and as important a part of everyday living as are the more functional courses that the technical college has to teach. We see the transitional areas where these functional and basic requirements of technical education move into this field in such areas as cooking and other courses that the technical college presents. As we become more sensitive to the creative nature of men - and women - we can expect more support for these particular areas of instruction in the technical colleges.
I am very pleased to identify myself today with this Bill, which is an acknowledgment of the fundamental and important role that technical education plays in our community. Perhaps for the first time - at least for the first time in many years - we are seeing a new interest in this area and a recognition of its fundamental importance to our entire society.
– First of all I would like to remind the House that the $10,268,000 for fee abolition is not the only expenditure which is running on technical education at the present time. Between now and 30 June we are finishing a biennium in which the Commonwealth has granted to the States and is spending through the States $46m for capital for technical education. As I explained, I think, in my second reading speech, the reason why this Bill funds the fees for only half a year is that we expect the Australian Commission for Technical and Further Education to be making recommendations both for the capital grants and for the fees for the 18 months that begin on 1 July this year. Added to that, this makes a biennium of expenditure on technical education.
I want to thank the House for welcoming the legislation. The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) asked some questions. I am not sure whether I caught the purport of his questions correctly so I shall give a number of answers covering a number of situations that I might have understood from what he said. Firstly, what he was conveying may have meant that there are technical courses that have not come within the definitions or under the authorities we have specified in this legislation. I think I indicated in the course of my second reading speech that, if the number of persons enrolling in 1974 for the courses concerned greatly exceeded the number expected to enroll, additional money would be payable to the States to reimburse them for the loss of fees. Clause 3 of the Bill will enable additional moneys to be paid to the States if these additional moneys are appropriated for the purpose by a separate Act - for example, by a supplementary Appropriation Act. If we find that, as the honourable member for Wannon suggests, there are some courses that ought to have been covered we could handle that in exactly the same way as we could handle additional enrolments - with a supplementary appropriation. Clause 3 enables us to follow the States into their greater needs if it is shown that either enrolments were underestimated or new courses are accepted.
The second meaning of what he said may have been this: In Victoria some people are undertaking night matriculation courses at technical schools and their fees are abolished. However, in the country in many areas there are no technical schools so they are undertaking their night courses at ordinary secondary high schools, and these fees are not abolished. In South Australia, of course, all such courses were put under the authority for technical education.
– Even in high schools?
– Yes, if these part-time night courses could all be put under the technical education authority. There they call it - with that sweet disposition of mind that Mr Hudson has - the Department of Further Education. It was because of that that we had to call the Kangan Committee the Australian Commission for Technical and Further Education. Actually, that expression gets us out of some difficulties and enables us to bring in more people. All I can say about this is that in Victoria we have tried to deal with the problem of the country student. We tried to deal with him last year by extending to technical education the isolated children’s grants. We are now trying to deal with this problem by giving the full student allowances to people for technical education, which means that someone who comes in from the country may receive the living away from home allowance as well, depending on the means of his parents.
If the Department of Education in Victoria brought all those courses under the Victorian Government Technical Schools Division they would be funded. But we have problems about funding the high schools of a State again when over the next 2 years almost $500m will be granted to the States for their primary and secondary schools. Here we are trying to make a grant for technical schools. If some of these anomalous courses in Victoria can be put under the Technical Schools Division that problem will disappear.
My third answer to the honourable gentleman is this: We have tried to avoid in some ways the necessities for definition at all by specifying courses conducted by authorities.
Let me give examples. For instance, in New South Wales under this legislation the Department of Technical Education is receiving $5,775,118. The Department of Agriculture has courses which are receiving $19,746. The New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music is receiving $5,852. But by specifying these authorities, in some ways there has been an avoidance of definition of courses. In Victoria the Department of Education Technical Schools Division is a specified authority. Then there are the Department of Agriculture and the College of Nursing. In Queensland the Department of Education Technical Branch, the Board of Advanced Education and the College of Nursing are specified authorities. In South Australia there are the Department of Further Education, the Institute of Technology and Roseworthy Agricultural College. In Western Australia there are the Department of Education Technical Division, the College of Nursing and the Pre-school Education Board. In Tasmania the Department of Education is the specified authority.
Under some circumstances one has to try to signify what one is doing more by a definition approach. The types of fees included in the abolition, for instance, are: Course examination, qualifying or entrance examination, deferred and supplementary examination fees, enrolment, enrolment application, registration and admission fees, travel but not living-in accommodation costs for participation in compulsory field work or compulsory excursions, and fees for consumable materials where these are actually charged in approved courses. It has been specified that, in addition to the government technical colleges, these other training institutions administered or maintained by government authorities, which provide technical vocational courses not funded through either of the tertiary education commissions, would be included in this fee abolition scheme. Since adult education was specifically excluded from this fee abolition, all courses provided by eligible institutions were examined, in conjunction with State officials, in order to distinguish between adult education and technical vocational courses. The States had shortly before provided detailed information on all courses in technical colleges to the Australian Committee on Technical and Further Education. In these submissions, they were requested to identify individual courses by type of qualification to be gained, whether diploma, certificate, trade certificate; by duration, whether full time, part time and/ or correspondence; and whether falling in the category of hobby and general interest adult education courses.
With minor modifications, the courses in the category of hobby-general interest and adult education courses were excluded from the application of fee abolition. No distinction was made between full time, part time or correspondence courses of a vocationaltechnical nature, with one exception. Foreign students enrolling in correspondence courses from overseas but not from within Australia were excluded. This exclusion however is not applicable to enrolments by Australian residents enrolling in correspondence courses from overseas - for example, children of diplomatic personnel. Included also are bridging and remedial courses given within the technical education framework. Amongst others, these include matriculation and similar courses.
As much as possible the procedures adopted for fee abolition in universities and colleges of advanced education have been followed in respect of technical education. The only thing that requires comment is the fee for materials. While there is a precedent at the tertiary level with laboratory fees, it has been necessary to limit the application of fee abolition in respect of fees for consumable materials other than text books, clerical requirements, etc., to those instances where fees are actually charged by the institutions. The practices in this regard vary so greatly between States, and between courses within a State, that it was not feasible to adopt any other course of action without causing a great deal of confusion. It was decided therefore to base it on existing practices in each State, in line with the principle of reimbursing the States only for actual fee income lost.
The Bill makes provision for the possibility of increasing the amounts of payments to any State. This derives from a statement by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard) when he was Acting Prime Minister in a letter to the Premiers that consideration to an increase would be given only if actual enrolments in the first 6 months of 1974 proved to be substantially in excess of the expected enrolments. At this stage, there are no indications that enrolments are proving much higher than expected but it will be at least another month before definite information will become available. Only one exception has been made in the application of the 20 per cent increase. The agricultural colleges in Victoria had not increased their fees since 1966 and had already publicly announced fee levels for 1974 in the middle of last year. The new level therefore represented an increase generally in line with the actual increases applied in technical colleges in Victoria since 1966. For those reasons, it was decided to accept their estimates based on 1974 fee levels but not to apply the 20 per cent increase in this instance.
There remains another problem or anomaly which we have tried to correct, or another action where we have tried to deal with a situation where a young person might be sensitive. In various full time post-secondary courses there are people actually doing secondary courses and studying at the matriculation level. They have not had a chance to matriculate at school and because they were doing secondary courses they were not eligible for tertiary education grants. We have decided to extend assistance under the tertiary allowances scheme to students in day matriculation courses provided that they had firstly completed or discontinued secondary education at least 2 years before commencing the courses. We would not want to be giving tertiary allowances to people transferring from high schools, but to those who had broken off a secondary course 2 years previously and had come back later, we have extended the tertiary allowance - that is, the $1,400 plus living allowance as the maximum. The other requirement is that they will be at least 19 years of age on 1 January of the year the course is undertaken and that they are attempting the course on a one-year full time basis at institutions which are non-profit making and which do not have a religious entry test. These provisions will not assist all students undertaking day matriculation studies, nor will they remove the obvious anomaly of providing a different level of benefits under the secondary and tertiary allowances schemes for the one course. The provisions will however extend assistance to more than SOO students in these courses who otherwise would have to finance their own studies. That provision is an attempt to cope with the kind of anomalies indicated by the honourable member for Wannon. I am not sure that I have understood him correctly. I will probably need to look in Hansard at what he said and see whether there is some other problem that we need to chase.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Beazley) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 7 March (vide page 1S9), on motion by Dr Cass:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition is in accord with the Bill before the House and, having made that statement, I do not imagine there is a great deal more that needs to be said. The Bill before the House deals purely with the Australian civil service - that is, the federal commissioners on the River Murray Commission. As I understand it, the Bill has nothing to do with those superannuitants who are commissioners from the member States. 1 suppose the thing to say is that these commissioners and indeed other Federal Government civil servants involved in the work of the Commission have a great deal of responsibility to exercise, and on behalf of my Party I am pleased that the Government has taken this action to assure proper conditions of work of the commissioners who are currently involved in the work of the River Murray Commission and in order to ensure the future position of those people who might join the service in the future. In referring briefly to the responsibilities of the Commission and of the commissioners, we are particularly pleased that this action has been taken because I believe there is a great deal of rethinking that the Government probably already is undertaking and properly should undertake in relation to the function of the Commission. I am glad to see the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) at least nodding some agreement with the point of view I have put forward. There is an argument that the authority of the Commission should be spread to a greater degree than just to the area downstream from the Hume. Probably in time to come it should take in control of water resources from tributaries that feed into the main system. The Commission has a responsi bility of national importance to growers and irrigators and to new towns such as AlburyWodonga.
As I have said to the House on another occasion, the main supply for the increase- in industry and the increase in water usage as facilities become greater for the average citizen of Adelaide is at stake. I hope the Commissioners who are favoured by this Bill in due course will recommend a much more stringent series of control measures to safeguard the people of my own State generally. At this stage, as I think I said last night, there is no indenture written in by this Government or by the Dunstan Government in South Australia to define quantitatively the quality of water that may appear downstream, particularly with the advent of the regional growth centre of Albury-Wodonga.
The River Murray, as is well known to this House, has just completed a period of 18 months of near flood conditions. The water in these flood conditions enters into the billabongs and disperses salt, which has been the main source of worry to many honourable members representing growers areas in this House. While the river is running strongly and rising, the salt content is high and has the effect, of course, of flushing out the main stream and hiding what could otherwise be a dangerous condition that would affect the interests of all people, growers and others, downstream. So there is not the time that one might suppose by looking at the River Murray today for this Government and other governments to act to protect this position. I am pleased at the implication in the last paragraph of the Minister’s speech that the Government is rethinking various matters including, I hope, the proposition I have brought before the House today. We support as a proper comparable condition the superannuation rights affecting the federal civil servants by virtue of the Government’s introduction of this Bill.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (4.28)- I, like the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles), realise that to a large degree the River Murray Waters Bill 1974 provides for only machinery amendments to the River Murray Waters Act. However, I think they have far reaching implications. I should like to mention some of these problems in the same manner as the honourable member for Angas has done. Firstly, I feel that these proposed amendments will allow the River Murray Commission to recruit staff of high qualification and ability.
This would be less likely under the Act as it stands at present because some people, especially Commonwealth employees, would be disadvantaged if they obtained employment with the River Murray Commission. There have been problems in the application of the Officers Rights Declaration Act and the Superannuation Act to the staff of the River Murray Commission due to the River Murray Waters Act preceding those 2 Acts, and it is necessary to remove these anomalies under the Act by these proposed amendments.
There are some doubts about the entitlement of the staff of the River Murray Commission to the benefits of the Superannuation Act 1922-73, benefits which now apply to other Commonwealth employees. This appears to me to be a contradiction of the real purpose of the Superannuation Act. The stated purpose of the Superannuation Act is to provide superannuation benefits for persons employed by the Commonwealth and to make provision for the dependants of those persons. When the amendments to the Superannuation Act were introduced by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) in May 1973 it became quite obvious that they were intended to cover such people as the staff of the River Murray Commission. These amendments were introduced to give effect to the recommendations made by Professor A. H. Pollard who was asked to report to the Government on methods available for adjusting Commonwealth fund and similar type pensions. The professor’s report said that the scheme was to give not only protection but also peace of mind, and to free employees from the ever-present fear that a long retirement might bring severe financial problems in its latter years. Professor Pollard pointed out the necessary criteria for pension adjustments if superannuation schemes are to achieve their aim, namely, that adjustments should take place automatically and that the benefits should maintain their purchasing power.
To carry out the professor’s recommendations it was decided that the Commonwealth share of the pension being paid be adjusted automatically each year on the first pension payment day in July, and that the adjustments would be equal to 1.4 times the percentage by which the immediately preceding March quarter consumer price index exceeded that index for the March quarter of the previous year, providing such an increase did not exceed the percentage increase in the estimates of average weekly earnings. It is certainly a general superannuation scheme. No one would say that the River Murray Commission would be in a position to recruit qualified and capable staff, especially from government departments, if it were not in a position to cover its employees with the benefits of this great superannuation scheme introduced by the Labor Government for the benefit of Commonwealth employees, their wives and dependants.
I am proud to be a member of the Government which introduced these very praiseworthy amendments in May last year, and I am very grateful to be present today and speaking on this Bill by which these benefits are extended to the staff of the River Murray Commission. I say this because of some bitter experience I have had with superannuation schemes which have not made automatic adjustments and provision for maintaining the purchasing power of the benefits. I am thinking of the Broken Hill Mine Employees Pension Fund. Under this scheme miners are forced to retire at 62 years of age and the benefits merely save the Commonwealth paying social service benefits to people forced to retire, because of the heavy nature of the work. I only mention this in passing because I know that the Bill before the House is to amend the River Murray Waters Act, but every time a Bill comes before the. House to amend this Act there are plenty of things to attract our attention.
I can remember when amendments to the Act were introduced by Sir Reginald Swartz who was then, in 1970, the Minister for National Development. He told us that the amendments were necessary to provide for the construction of the Dartmouth Dam. Provision also was made for a suspension of work on the Chowilla Dam project. At that time we were told that the Chowilla project was estimated to cost $28m in 1966 but that the estimates had risen by 250 per cent to $68m in 1970. I hope there is more agreement on the amendments now before the House than there was on that occasion when there was much opposition to the then proposed amendments.
If one considers the history of the River Murray Waters Act one realises how important it is that the River Murray Commission should be in a position to employ persons of ability with high qualifications. The Chowilla project was extremely important for South Australians. Undoubtedly if it had proceeded and were present now it would be a great asset to the nation in damming all the flood waters at present moving in that direction.
When the last amending Bill was before the Parliament one provision which went almost unnoticed could have had far reaching effects on one of the cities I represent. I speak now of the agreement relating to the Menindee Lakes storage area. One small clause in that amending Bill said that the agreement would exist in perpetuity. It meant that all waters exceeding 300,000 acre feet could be used to flush the lower Murray should it be necessary to remove the high salinity in the river. If only 300,000 acre feet of water were left in the Menindee Lakes it would be but a duckpond. The provision meant that all the usable waters could be removed from that storage. Not much notice was taken of that proposal at that time and possibly people would be less inclined to take notice of it now that there is more water in the storage area, but I point out to the House that since the commencement of records in 1885 until the construction of the Menindee Lakes scheme the river has been known to cease flowing on 48 separate occasions.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! I do not want unduly to restrict the honourable member for Darling but the general scope of this Bill is much narrower than the area he is now attempting to cover.
– I am prepared to accept your decision, Mr Deputy Speaker. I point out that it is important that we should have on the River Murray Commission the right type of people to avoid the situation I mentioned. If you will bear with me a little longer, Mr Deputy Speaker, I want to make only one more point. The longest period during which the river was dry was 364 days. I am sure you will bear with me while I impart that information.
-I have done so already.
– The Minister has stressed that the Bill deals with amendments to the River Murray Waters Act. It refers only to the Australian Government and does not affect the River Murray Waters Agreement. I admit that that is so but it was nice to hear the Minister say that thought has been given to far more extensive amendments to the River Murray administration. I hope when these amendments come forward the
House will be able to debate some of the matters you have objected to my discussing on this occasion, Mr Deputy Speaker. I believe that the Government should be congratulated for taking steps to provide the staff of the River Murray Commission with the benefits suggested by Professor Pollard. These amendments will give protection and peace of mind to the staff of the River Murray Commission and will remove the ever-present fear that long retirement may bring severe financial problems. This indicates to the Australian people that this Government has long-ranging and far-reaching concern for the welfare of all sections of the community.
– The Country Party joins with the Government and the Liberal Party in supporting the proposed amendment of the River Murray Waters Act to safeguard the superannuation rights of present officeholders of the River Murray Commission and to encourage staff recruitment from other sources, including transfers from Commonwealth employment. In his second reading speech the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) referred to changes pending in the River Murray Waters Agreement and River Murray administration generally. It is obvious that with the growing population along the river, particularly in the Albury-Wodonga complex, and with tourist developments downstream the problem of pollution and salinity is increasing. This raises some important questions for the future of the River Murray Commission whose officeholders we are discussing today, including widening the powers of the Commission to include control over water quality as well as water quantity. This means the power to regulate discharges of any type of pollution from any source into the River Murray - pollution which will affect people further downstream in the Sunraysia area and in South Australia generally. Of course such pollution would affect the water supply of Adelaide itself. A national objective we should have is the safeguarding of Australia’s most important water lifeline.
One should seriously consider widening the powers of the Commission to allow it to have a greater say in future on the question of the discharge of water from the Snowy Mountains weirs and hydro-electric stations into the river system through the Hume Weir or the Murrumbidgee and downstream. This is another aspect that I hope the Government will bear in mind in any consideration of widening the Commission’s powers. The Gutteridge report on salinity in the River Murray recommends a number of high priority antisalinity measures to bring about a quick reduction of salinity in the river. I understand that some projects from the States involved - this is in addition to the River Murray Commission’s project at Lake Victoria - should be ready for presentation to the River Murray Commission and to the Commonwealth for funding. If, in his reply today, the Minister can make an announcement or give an assurance that funds will be available for any of these most important salinity projects it will give encouragement and confidence to the people living by the river and in Adelaide.
It will be remembered that the former Government had a national fund of which, I understand, approximately $80m remained when it lost office. The present Government has announced a national water policy but has not allocated any funds to it or given any indication of what funds will be available for it. A figure of $50m - the annual return for power generation from the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority - has been mentioned as a suitable sum by leading Labor Party spokesmen. An announcement or assurance by the Minister that funds will be available - if not this figure of $50m - for high priority anti-salinity measures will be received well by people who live beside the Murray River.
The people to whom we are referring today in our discussion of this Bill have before them a major decision. I understand that the tender date has closed for the contract for the major construction section of the Dartmouth Dam. The Minister for the Environment and Conservation will be conferring soon with the 3 States involved with the Commonwealth Government in the River Murray Commission on which tender to accept for the completion of the major part of the dam. I hope that the Minister will announce shortly in the House that the Dartmouth Dam will proceed with full speed and will be completed. The Minister will be aware of doubts and uncertainties in some of the States and in areas along the Murray that the Government will not proceed with the completion of the Dartmouth Dam. If the Minister in his reply can give an assurance that a tender will be accepted and work will proceed as quickly as possible for the completion of the dam this will be good news for all people living along the Murray and particularly for the people of Adelaide, especially as one realises that the River Murray is the lifeline of South Australia, the water for Adelaide coming from the River Murray.
The problem of water quality has been mentioned but there is also the problem of water quantity for Adelaide in the future. One should remember that if the Premier of South Australia, Mr Dunstan, had agreed earlier to the construction of the Dartmouth dam - he delayed agreement for 2 or 3 years - the dam would have almost been completed by now, and at a lower cost. This would have guaranteed the water supply of South Australia and, in addition, would have added considerably to the water quality of the river because of the flushing effect Dartmouth Dam will create through certain periods of the year right throughout the Murray system.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! I think I have now been as flexible with the honourable member for Murray as I was earlier with the honourable member for Darling, and for as long. I now ask the honourable member to relate his remarks more closely to the contents of the Bill.
– I accept your advice, Mr Deputy Speaker. In conclusion, I say that we support the Bill and I ask whether the Minister in his reply can give us 2 assurances, first on the funding of the anti-salinity works in the Murray, and secondly, on approval for work to proceed full speed ahead for the completion of Dartmouth Dam.
– in reply - I have no comment to make on the essence of the Bill. We all concede that it provides a necessary protection for would-be employees of the River Murray Commission. Perhaps I can be excused for making a couple of brief comments on points made in the debate which really do not relate to the Bill. I agree with the suggestions which have been made by honourable members on all sides of the House that the functions of the River Murray Commission need to be reviewed in terms of the area covered and the retail of its concern to cope with the areas that have been mentioned. Also encompassed in its functions should be concern for the quality of water, which is an increasing concern of many people along the waterway.
In reply to the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) I point out that the Government is well aware of the points he raised. In fact, one of the earliest conferences the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) called was held in March last year when a meeting took place with the Premiers of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. We agreed to established a working party to examine this problem which is why I mentioned that fact in passing at the end of my second reading speech. That working party has commenced to review the problem. We have faced some difficulties in its terms of reference because some of the States have felt reluctant to allow the working party to extend its interest too far, in their eyes. The Government has attempted to iron out these difficulties because the way it was going it looked as if we would not in fact have succeeded in coping with the issues raised by the honourable member for Murray. I only say that to the honourable member to suggest that, if we can exert any leverage at all on the views of his colleagues in other States, he should impress upon them the opinions which he has expressed here. I accept his attitude. It would be very helpful if his colleagues in other States accepted his views as well. The Government concedes the point that the River Murray Commission should extend its duties beyond the one it has now, which is mainly to look after the River Murray as a drain, if you like, and should consider also the total environmental consequencies in terms of the area of input into the river and the quality of the water resulting from the land use along the water’s edge. But these are very touchy subjects as the honourable member for Murray will find if he discusses this matter with his colleagues. I repeat that I am glad to receive the support of the honourable member. I respond to the request made by the honourable member for Murray by asking him, in turn, to impress upon his colleagues in other places that they too should take the same attitude and allow the working party to deal with all these problems.
The honourable member for Murray raised the further question of the salinity works and the Dartmouth Dam. Of course the Government has not said that it will stop funds for this project. We are simply seeking to allocate the funds in a different way. When the proposals dealing with the salinity problem in the River Murray are put to the Government we will consider them. If their adoption means that we will have to spend more money than might have been envisaged before, we will look at the matter seriously. We will not knock the proposals back simply because the work will cost more than was previously estimated. The Goverment wants to look at this matter not just in terms of cure but also in terms of prevention. That is the reason why we wish to tie this question up with the whole reassessment of the River Murray Commission and its responsibilities.
As the honourable member for Murray pointed out, tenders for the Dartmouth Dam have closed. When the information comes to us, we will examine it and make our decision on the merits. The point at issue, of course, is that the cost is crucial to all of us - not only to the Australian Government but also to the States. If the cost has escalated beyond a certain amount which is specified in the agreement, all the States will have to reassess their attitudes to it. I am not saying that therefore they will knock the project back. I am not implying that at all. But the fact is that any increase cannot be automatically accepted. The State governments and the Australian Government will have to review the matter carefully when the tenders have been examined. But I assure the honourable gentleman that there is no thought that the proposal will be abandoned out of hand or that we will proceed with Dartmouth Dam without giving it due consideration by weighing up all the other requirements of management of the water, the basin of the River Murray and so on.
– I take it that it is your intention to press ahead once agreement is reached?
– Once agreement is reached to go ahead we will do so. But the crucial thing is the assessment by all the States and the Australian Government of the latest tenders. We will then, of course, discuss the proposal in concrete terms. But until that time arises I can make no definite promises one way or the other.
– May I ask a question by way of interjection?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! Interjections are out of order. I think the Minister has completed his speech, and that concludes the debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Motion (by Dr Cass) - by leave - proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time. Mr LLOYD (Murray) (4.51)- A crucial figure is involved in this proposal and I seek the guidance of the Minister for Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) on it. Some confusion arises as to the amount above which further consultation with the States will be required before the project can proceed. I ask the Minister whether the figure is $64m or whether it is 10 per cent above $64m which makes it approximately $70m. Of those 2 figures, can the Minister inform me which is the correct figure beyond which virtually a new agreement will be required or the matter will need to be reconsidered by all parties involved?
– in reply - The figure involved is 10 per cent above the expected estimate when we entered into the initial agreement. In other words, if the escalation of costs is more than 10 per cent all parties involved have to examine it again and agree to it once again before the project can proceed. If the escalation of costs is below 10 per cent we will expect to proceed with the agreement. Further consultation will be required with the States if the escalation of costs is 10 per cent more than $64m.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 13 March (vide page 402), on motion by Mr Riordan:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen be agreed to:
We, Your Majesty’s loyal subjects, the Members of the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled, desire to thank you for the Gracious Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament
The presence in Australia of Your Majesty and of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip has once again brought the greatest pleasure to Your Australian people. We, their representatives in this House, are grateful for this opportunity to re-affirm our allegiance to you as our Queen.
Upon which Mr Snedden had moved by way of amendment:
That the following words by added to the proposed address-in-reply: but the House of Representatives is of the opinion and regrets that your Majesty was not informed by the Government of the true position in Australia in that it has:
created an intolerably high level of inflation and has taken no effective steps to stop it;
caused uncertainty and in its management of the economy is creating social inequalities;
attempted to change the Federal system of the Australian Constitution by diminishing the responsibility of the States;
injured rural industries and the communities they support;
pursued defenceand foreign policies which have seriously weakened our defence capacity; and
failed to fulfil the expectations of the Australian people because of its administrative incompetence:
– I wish to continue the remarks I was making in this debate last night concerning the Central Australian railway and the supplies to central and northern Australia by both road and rail, and the supplies to Central Australia from the north by road. I should like to make it known to honourable members that the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) is aware of the situation. Some time earlier this year he admitted that the Central Australian railway line is susceptible to occasional flooding. It has been out of action now for 8 or 9 weeks so he was probably fairly near the mark when he made that statement. I would hope that some action will be taken in relation to the Finke Crossing because it is really the only access by which heavy supplies can be brought to the Centre. I did suggest that 100,000 gallons of fuel could be brought in by road transport. But the roads are so rough that I do not think many heavy haulage companies would risk their vehicles with the road as it is at present.
Another matter I should like the Government to examine in the long term is that even when Lake Eyre is full, as it is now, water from the Warburton River and Coopers Creek, which flow from the north and the east respectively, still flows into Lake Eyre. In 1933, I think it was, the railway line was washed away by Stuarts Creek as it went from south of Lake Eyre to Lake Torrens. If the present build up of water in the Central Australian area continues it is quite possible that the railway line will be washed away in the area between Oodnadatta and Marree. That could happen at any time. I will certainly impress upon the Minister in representations I make to him after this speech that the Government should have a good look at this matter because that is a possibility. While urging the Commonwealth Government and South Australian Government to get on with the job of building that railway line, I wish to point out - as, no doubt, the Commissioner of the Commonwealth Railways, Mr Smith, knows only too well - that the cost of maintaining the line is considerable. Apart from the damage done by the washaways, the old concrete culverts, the permanent way, the ballast and so on are in very poor condition really. I hope that there are some plans in that regard.
With regard to the low fuel stocks in Central Australia, I urge the Government to consider the reinstating of the freight differential that was removed in the Budget. Tremendous stocks of fuel will have to be brought into the area in a great hurry to keep the transport industry and the mining industry afloat and for the people of not only the towns of Tennant Creek and Alice Springs but also the surrounding areas. Although some transport companies have not had any goods off the railway line since early January they are still holding on to their men but they cannot afford to do so forever. I think the Government will have to consider whether those companies should be given some assistance. If some of the road transport companies that operate from the rail heads or between the rail heads are not provided with assistance they will not be in existence if and when the railway line gets back into operation.
While I am on my feet I wish to offer the suggestion that the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) should examine whether there is any possibility of the inflatable gasoline tanks which were on the strip at Tindal during one of the exercises being used to float supplies across the overflow at Lake Woods and Newcastle Waters. The Lake is now 11 feet over the road and H miles wide and the situation is static. If the Minister for Defence cannot And the inflatable tanks that were used on that occasion he could probably deploy a number of engineers to erect a pump on either side and a plastic line underneath the water for the pumping of fuel from the north to the south. It is a matter of urgency with Tennant Creek - the same as with Mount Isa - in that if the smelter furnace goes out it will have to be rebuilt. It has only just been opened at a cost of millions of dollars.
We have heard about the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) and the wonderful job he has been doing. That has come only from the other side of the House. I have heard it said throughout Australia that he is strangling the mining industry and that if he continues in his actions we will no longer have such an industry. His policy of leaving minerals in the ground because they will be worth much more in 10 years is utterly ridiculous. If the Minister for Minerals and Energy had allowed the proposition concerning the refining of Mereenie crude gas at Alice Springs to go ahead the present crisis would not have arisen because that refinery would have been in operation now and could have produced all the fuel for power generation, motor spirit, aviation gas and liquid petroleum gas required by the Alice Springs and Tennant Creek area. If the fuel were produced in the area we would not have to rely on the rickety transport systems from the south or even the pressure on the road from the north. I have already mentioned the plight of the transport companies. This is something which requires urgent consideration. I will have to make a separate plea to the Ministers concerned. If the transport companies close down the railway will have no one there to take its freight the 700 miles between the rail heads. It is therefore most important not only that the railway line be put back into action but also that the transport companies be kept on their feet.
Before resuming my seat I would like to refer to the shocking record of the Government since its election to office, particularly its record in the part of the world from which I come. I draw attention to the Government’s disastrous mining policy, its attack on the farming and pastoral industries and its non-defence policy. The economy is being brought to its knees. Inflation is absolutely rife. The expenses of living in the north are. of course, a lot higher than those of living in the south. With the flood damage on top of all these other things the people of the north on fixed incomes, pensions and superannuation are being reduced to absolute penury. There is hardly a ship defending the coast. I think the only thing that we are relying on for our defence is the much maligned Fills. They are probably the only means of defence in the north at the moment. Those people who say that the Fills were a waste of $300m are talking complete and utter nonsense.
I have pleasure in supporting the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). The 6 points it embraces could not be more true. The high level of inflation, which is telling on the community, together with the losses incurred by the floods, rain damage and so on are going to make it almost impossible for the people in the northern areas of Australia, whether it be in north Queensland or the Northern Territory, to get back on their feet.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Some of the old hands around this place have told me that Address-in-Reply debates are a bit of a waste of time, but I think all honourable members, on the back benches in particular, of both sides of the House regard the Address-in-Reply debate as being an opportunity to speak on matters on which they do not normally get a chance to speak. The fact that this is the second Address-in-Reply debate we have had in the 28th Parliament has, I think, given honourable members a chance to do quite a few things, but basically it has given honourable members a chance to review a lot of what the Government set out to do on the first occasion. The Speech by Her Majesty the Queen of Australia on 28 February set out in precis form what I believe to be a continuation of the policies that were initiated by the Government in its first year of office, the new policies to be initiated in this and the next session and also an assurance that the ideals, hopes and aspirations of the Australian people will be effectively answered by the Government. Few governments in Western democracies have been elected to office after having been in opposition for so long. No government has gained office with such a full catalogue of policies awaiting implementation. That is due not only to the length of time the present Government was out of office but also, and more so, to the lethargy and failure of the previous Government to intitiate policies or even administer in any innovative way.
I can see little sense, as a politician, in lamenting the actions of past governments as, by and large, it has come through to me that the electorate has a very short memory and that it has forgotten the crisis ridden periods of 1969, 1970, 1971 and 1972. The old English axiom that it takes one’ year of a reforming government to undo 3 years of conservatism still holds in my opinion. But the Government simply does not have the time or the temperament to be concerned about its inheritence;. it is committed to action. The Speech of Her Majesty the Queen made that clear. There seem to be 2 theories in force in the Opposition at the present time. I reject both of them. I reject the theory that is being rather happily embraced by some honourable members opposite that we are doing too much too soon. That is a nice security blanket for them; the theory is that all they have to do is wait for the Government to finish tearing around and implementing a lot of policies and then come back in. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) brought up a new one. He said that the Government is running out of steam, that it was only a bit of wind to disguise the fact that the coal in the fire has gone out. I reject that, too, because it was clearly stated in the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen that there is going to be a continuation of the policies. A lot of these policies are long term ones.
Of the many programs put forward in the time leading up to the election in 1972 to my mind 2 stood above all others. These were education and urban affairs. The Government has largely won the main education battle with the forces of conservatism. Fortunately no power will ever be able to stop the forces that are now in train in education. Policies on cities, towns and decentralisation - those matters which are now the concern of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) - are matters that are well in hand, but a lot longer gestation period is required for these sorts of policies.
It will take some years before the Australian public will fully apprehend the benefits and the magnitude of what the Government has done. The Department of Urban and Regional Development took quite a time to get established. It has really been functioning only since June of last year. It is a rather fascinating experience to see the development of this Department; to see the quality and the calibre of the people whom the Department is recruiting and to see a lot of people with a lot of ideas come into the Department and face the practical problem of implementing the policy. By and large, as I will demonstrate later, those people are getting on with the job. But I still think that it is very interesting to look at how this Department is functioning at the present time.
What I would like to point out today is the way in which the focus and the mix of urban policies already are affecting a large portion of my electorate, and how appropriate this mix is. This is a good time - after the Government’s one year in office - to test the applicability of these policies. But before doing this I should like to mention in passing the reasons why I fail to agree with the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). Part of his rather rambling speech alluded to the problem of inflation By golly, I reckon that he is right, because we do have inflation running at an exceptionally high rate. But the answers that the honourable gentleman proposes and the promises and statements that he is now making add to and do not subtract from the problem itself.
The Leader of the Opposition says that our policies have had no effect on inflation, but if the compromise coalition that he seeks to lead to government again had still been in office it would not have been able to get away with 2 revaluations, the tariff cuts or the capital inflow restrictions. It would not have been able to get these matters into the Parliament. What would the rate of inflation have been without these three rather dramatic measures? In a way the Leader of the Opposition must thank his lucky stars that he “was in Opposition at that time. He refers to the projected deficit and bemoans its extent, but then in the next breath he says that taxes should but cut by $600m and that defence spending should be lifted. The Opposition is very diffident about saying what the level of expenditure should be. I can understand, quite sensibly, that nobody should pin himself to a percentage of the gross national product, but the Opposition has put very few dimensions on the increase in defence spending that it would like to see take place. The only thing I can find is that perhaps the Opposition would have opted for an expenditure of 3.3 per cent of the gross national product this year. THat would have increased spending by at least $200m.
The honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) is very cautious in all these areas, but he said that the previous Government was committed to the DDL destroyer program. But I believe that in this area at least the previous Government would have wrecked the future rolling programs; it would have limited too many other options for the Navy. But this is the problem that we face. The Opposition is generally cagey on defence. It thinks that we are better defended if we have more. It promises more - and ‘I agree that there should be more - but what of the spending? If the Opposition were to cut taxes by $600m and spend 5200m or $300m more on defence, that would add another $900m to the deficit. The other measures that would not have got through the Parliament - and I include some of those related to the rural sector - would possibly have added another $200m. If we add all these things together we find that we would have had really massive inflation.
What would the Opposition have done in the same circumstances where rural incomes had almost trebled? A sudden increase in rural incomes has an inflationary effect, and we are not denying this. Would the Opposition have imposed Sir Arthur Fadden’s supertax on the wool industry, as happened in the early 1950’s? Where would the money have come from to implement many of the policies that the Opposition is now promising? At the present time I am engaged in the process of trying to cost some of the Opposition’s promises. I suppose that we would have got back to a 50c a week increase in pensions, to per capita grants in education when the system was collapsing and to no increase in funds for Aboriginal affairs or in health or other areas. Perhaps the Opposition would have envisaged an unemployment rate of 2 per cent or 3 per cent. Perhaps it would like to have seen unlimited capital inflow. Perhaps the Opposition thinks that we would have been able to have our cake and to eat it, too. But I do not think that this can happen unless the Opposition specifies the areas in which it will cut government spending and the areas in which it will increase government spending. I think that all of this adds up to the fact that today we would have been facing an inflation rate of approximately 30 per cent.
The Opposition says that it wants more money for housing - don’t we all? But the latest figures show that private dwellings under construction are up by 32 per cent. The Opposition would like to see a cut in interest rates. The Government is very well aware of the impact that interest rates are having on people trying to get housing. Many of the areas that we represent are urban areas where people are being hit the hardest. I think that what the Opposition is really saying is that its priorities are different, and that is fair enough, but let us not have any humbug that if the Opposition had been in government it would have coped with the problem any better. I think that the Opposition in government would have faced more compromises than we have faced up to the present time.
The Leader of the Opposition also referred to the fact that people on fourth floors of buildings in Canberra cannot decide the policy for all Australia. I point out to him that he is on the first floor of a building in Canberra. I think that there are a lot of other areas in which the Opposition can thank its lucky stars that it is not in government. In many areas we have achieved more in one year than the persent Opposition achieved in 23 years. As an example of this I refer to the defence reorganisation. This was an exceptionally difficult achievement; it was something that the Opposition could not have achieved. I will now leave that matter.
In the time remaining to me I would like to devote my remarks to just what has happened in Campbelltown, Camden and Appin, which are named in the South West Sector in my electorate, and to what the Government is about in its priorities and planning. I concede that some ad hoc decisions have been made in the last year, but the overwhelming emphasis of the Government’s policy and administration has been placed on establishing consistent long term trends in those areas where we have implemented policies. Campbelltown, Camden and Appin - these tri-cities in the South West Sector in my electorate - will have a population of approximately 500,000 people by the end of the century. The population of the Campbelltown municipality at the present time is about 42,000 and it is increasing at an exceptionally rapid rate. There are regular sub-divisions for 250 houses. There is one sub-division of 1,400 houses, and another sub-division of 600 houses under way at the present time. Since I came into this Parliament the number of electors in my electorate has increased from 63,000 to 78,000 or 79,000.
I think that I can point to what has happened over the last few years in order to emphasise the story of co-operation that has been possible between 3 tiers of government and to show what can be done. I am not suggesting that there are no tensions between the levels of government, and I am not suggesting that we have been right on everything. But I am concerned that Sir Charles Cutler believes that Campbelltown is a Liberal Party trick. I am a little concerned that Sir John Fuller, the New South Wales Minister for Planning and Environment, does not believe in planning and does not mention the environment. I get concerned when people seem to think that Campbelltown has nothing to do with decentralisation and leave it at that. I think that the Government, quite happily, concedes that Campbelltown is not decentralisation, but it is a rationalisation of Sydney in terms of being part of a program which is designed to assist people living in areas where they are going to live in any case. If we are talking about decentralisation we are talking about AlburyWodonga, Bathurst-Orange and other areas - something that the previous Government did nothing about.
The State Planning Authority project planning team completed the broad outline plan for the South West Sector of my electorate by December 1972. But the Authority, at the behest of the Australian Government, did not release the plans because it wanted to see what the Australian Government was going to do about the Holsworthy-Menai area. “The Authority’s plans were put on public display in October of last year. At that time the Campbelltown City Council expanded its planning division and already it had a rather competent group of people. The Council has reached agreement with the State Planning Authority. The Council itself carried out all the interim development control planning for the Campbelltown area - for the whole of the city which will have a population of 200,000 to 250,000 people. The target date for the completion of this interim development control plan is September of this year. Plans will be released for public exhibition and, allowing time for objections and for gazettal, the total plan will be in. by the end of the year. I think that this has be?n an exceptional example of what local government can do if it is given the go-ahead. Campbelltown City Council is an exceptionally able council. But too many people, I think, at the Australian Government level, do not realise just how much local government can do. They have been a little worried about some of the academic problems, such as how will 40,000 people here plan for 250,000 people coming over the hill. Campbelltown City Council has shown that it can be done.
There are quite a few problems still with respect to land in the area. The New South Wales Government introduced measures that fixed the price of land in areas which it nominated at October 1972 values. When resumption is effected the land will be acquired at those values plus an allowance for inflation and improvement in value to some extent. Some people are debating whether this can still be made to work. The legislation has still to be put through the State Parliament. It will be introduced this session. Some of the land in the areas nominated has been sold three or four times and no one knows how it will be bought back. I think that is one problem, but the overwhelming majority of the land in the areas that have been nominated is still available at $2,000 to $2,500 an acre. So, the simple step of the State Governments nominating a patch of land and saying that it will be acquired at a set value at a certain time has had the effect of keeping land values down. Land values in the immediate area which has not been nominated run at between $10,000 to $20,000 an acre. I think this shows what can be done if the State Government is willing to go along and co-operate.
There has been a lot of talk about more community use of school facilities. Here again I think we can say that the Campbelltown City Council, in conjunction with the 2 levels of government, has effected some mighty plans indeed. The Macquarie Fields High School, which forms a central part of a shop development, a business development, a commercial development, a public service development and things such as fire stations and police stations, will be fully involved with community matters. The high school’s library will be used. The high school’s playing areas will be used. The high school is almost part of a central spine of that shopping centre itself. Similarly Minto High School is being built up in the same way and even better plans are envisaged. An interesting thing about one of the schools at Minto is that the Council is actually coming in to provide heated pools for handicapped children attending the Minto school.
Plans for a technical college are well under way. Plans for a teachers college are well under way. A college of advanced education has yet to be approved. A university is well under way in terms of planning. The Australian Government intends building an office block there within the next two or three years. Industry is starting to move to the area. Health centres are starting to come. All these things reflect that the 3 tiers of government have been working intensively in the period about which I am talking. Changes are starting to occur.
I am not saying that there are no problems. There are still massive problems concerning transport and telephones. The price of telephones in the town and the inadequacy of the service are matters to which the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Lionel Bowen) is giving special attention. Much of the backlog in telephone installations has been directly caused because there was not enough planning in the past. Industrial subdivisions have gone on in some areas and it has been found that there are no cables and none available. There are still some telephones to be connected where the cost is about $10,000 for each installation. By and large, in terms of planning for telephones in the area, the problems are starting to be overcome. The major problem is being on the margin of the metopolitan area and having to pay country rates for calls to Sydney. My own office has had delays of three or four hours in reaching Sydney which is only 35 miles away.
Transport is still exceptionally difficult. The New South Wales Government has built a magnificent road that goes as far as The Crossroads, but more roads will not really solve the problem of this area. Emphasis has to be put on public transport and emphasis has to be placed more and more on the railways. I have painted a picture where things are working. Problems still exist in getting some financial programs moving. I am still concerned that money allocated in the Budget on land acquisition will not be spent in time. I am concerned that there is still a lot of negotiations and discussions going on about the money allocated in the Budget for sewerage. I am particularly concerned that in relation to the money allocated for urban transport a lot of mucking around is still going on.
These concerns also come over to me in some of my general criticisms of Budget spending or administration. There seems to me to be a problem when the Australian Government is prepared to turn massive sums of money on and off, that it is always easier to turn them off than on. This factor can be seen in some of our policies, where we have seen that we can cut expenditure and we have attempted to expend some money in certain areas and we have not been able to achieve our aims immediately. By and large I am optimistic. I think the lesson that has been learned in Campbelltown is showing that the 3 levels of government can work together. I think the lesson that is being learned there is that thought, will and the intelligence of our people will be able to cope with the problems of urban living. I think that what is happening in Campbelltown is a justification for a very large area of Australian Government’s policies.
– I feel that perhaps people will get a wrong impression from what the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Kerin) has just said. He has slurred over all the difficulties, the growing shortages, inflation and a lot of things which are bringing disturbance to the Australian community and which perhaps will be visited on the head of this Government as soon as the people get a chance to show the Government what they think of ft. I am not intending to speak at first on that. I wish to talk about something which I think is even more important - our external relations and our external position. Whatever our difficulties Australia, looking at it over the last ten or fifteen years, has made more progress than practically any country and enjoys still a higher standard of living than practically any country. In spite of what this Government has done our standards are still very high. They would be the envy of most people and we could be envied. Our situation is, perhaps, in this area not as safe as people would like to think. If a government cuts down on our security, whether through disarming our defence forces or through undertaking an unwise foreign policy, the good things which we have and most of which we still have in spite of this Government can all be put at jeopardy.
I wish to start with a very simple instance and to remind the House of a few facts and what that implication comes up to. I think it was on 20 December last the Chinese communist government launched an attack on the islands in the China Sea which had been occupied by South Vietnam. It was a small affair. I think only a couple of hundred people were killed, but it was an attack - hostilities. Both countries, and indeed other countries, laid claim to these disputed islands.
I am not going to try to judge as to the
Tightness or the wrongness of those claims. My own view is that probably South Vietnam had the best claim but China did put forward a colourable claim and I think the Philippines also put through a colourable claim. In those circumstances when armed aggression had occurred there was only one thing to do and that was to refer it to the Security Council and to the United Nations for appropriate determination.
This Government has put a lot of faith on the United Nations. It has gone round saying: The United Nations will protect us. We need nothing more’. Yet, when this occurred the United Nations did not intervene. It was not because South Vietnam did not refer it to the Security Council. It did so, I believe, the day of the attack and again four or five days later. When it found that Communist China, which is on the Security Council with the power of veto, was going to exercise that power it wrote a pathetic note to the President of the Security Council. I believe the note is dated 24 January. I will read some of it. It states:
We made that request-
That is, for the Security Council to intervene - in the earnest hope that the Security Council would take a constructive approach to the problem and take adequate measures to remedy the situation.
However, the permanent delegate of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations Security Council had subsequently issued a thoroughly negative statement, presenting a distorted version of the facts and clinging to the false claims of Chinese sovereighty over the Hoang-Sa (Paracels) and Truong-Sa (Spratley) archipelagoes.
Since the People’s Republic of China is apermanent member of the Security Council and has veto power, this leaves little hope for any constructiva debate or positive action.
Therefore, I wish to inform you that all my communications to the Security Council are for the purpose of drawing the attention of the Council to the grave situation existing in the South-East Asia region as a result of China’s encroachment on the Republic of Vietnam’s territory.
It belongs to the Security Council and its members to fulfil their responsibilities and to decide on what is to be done to correct that situation.
That is an appeal for the Security Council to take action. I am not saying at this stage that I think the claim of South Vietnam is beyond question. I think it is stronger than the claim of Communist China to these islands but neither is beyond question. What is beyond question is that this was a proper matter for the United Nations to take a hand in to preserve the peace of the area. But what happened? It did nothing. The big bullies got away with it. The small country, South Vietnam, was victimised and pushed aside. It is a small country whose population is not very much greater than that of Australia. Apparently it does not count for much in the councils of the world. Australia has a representative on that Security Council but we did nothing. Why did we not refer the matter to the Security Council and make certain that it was discussed by the Security Council? If the bullies in Communist China want to use their veto on the Security Council to paralyse the Security Council, at least let them be exposed for what they are. But Australia did nothing. We acquiesced.
This means in effect that the whole of the foundations of the Government’s foreign policy are shown to be non-existent. The Government has been alienating all our friends in this area. It has positively encouraged isolationism in the United States. It has aligned itself with all the forces of isolationism in the United States. Even today with the Indian Ocean Diego Carcia proposal, it aligns itself with the isolationists. It says: ‘You must do nothing’. This would be a conceivable policy would it not, if we could rely on the United Nations? In the past the Government has sought to justify its policy by saying: ‘It’s all right, boys; the United Nations will look after us’. When, in this area, its power is first tested, the United Nations is paralysed by the fear of a Chinese veto. The bully gets away with it and the Australian Government simply crayfishes away from the whole situation. If the United Nations is powerless to resolve the dispute over the Paracels, do honourable members think it is in a position to offer security to Australia? This shows that the whole of the Government’s foreign policy is without foundation, and that is a terrible and ominous situation that Australia now has to face.
Let us not think that the matter stops at the Paracels. The Spratly Islands are next on the Communist Chinese agenda. They have said so themselves. I checked this with two or three sources. I looked at the old maps which were produced, I think, as long ago as 1964. I brought my knowledge up to date by contacting the Communist Chinese Embassy in Canberra to find out the extent of China’s claims. Its claims in the area go right down to the Spratly Islands and the Tseng-mu Reef, which is only a few miles from the Borneo coast. A few moments ago members on the Government side wanted to laugh off the thrust southwards by Communist China. It is already an acknowledged thrust halfway from Peking to Australia. I repeat that this thrust is already half way and Government supporters want to laugh it off and say it does not matter. This is the extent of the betrayal of Australia in which the Government is engaged. This is the extent of the danger to Australia by allowing this present Government to remain in office. It has invoked, for the protection of Australia, a system of relying on the United Nations which is proved to be worthless, and which the Government acknowledges to be worthless. The Government has an Australian representative on the Security Council in New York but he received in, instructions to act. He took no action. The Government knows in its heart that the whole of its foreign policy is phoney.
Making these things known is really more important than trying to take a rise out of the Government. That is not what we are thinking of. What we are thinking of at the present moment is that if this Government is allowed to remain in office and to persist in its present courses, the security of the Australian people is vastly endangered. This is an accusation which now stands on the record. People say that the matter of the Paracels is a little thing and ask what do a few islands matter. It is not a little thing because what is in question is the power and the willingness of the United Nations to act. This Government has put Australia on the Une, relying only on the United Nations. When it comes to action the United Nations is not only shown to be powerless but is acknowledged by this Government to be powerless.
When the Prime Minister on one of his peregrinations a few weeks ago was in the area a number of us sent to him a telegram asking him, while he was in the area, to raise this matter, to find out and to report to Australia what was to be done in regard to it to bring the matter before the United Nations. There was dead silence. There was no result, no reply. The Prime Minister wants to sweep Australia under the carpet. He is more concerned with the security of his own Government than he is concerned with the security of Australia. A man like this should not be allowed to remain in power and office.
I have spoken very briefly about the foreign situation. I want to say that in my view this more than anything else, is important for Australia. The Government has backed the forces of isolationism in Britain and in the United States. It has incited them to abandon us. This is what it has done. It has said: ‘It is all right, the United Nations will look after us. We put our trust in international law’. How much international law was applied in regard to the Paracel Islands? None at all. I do not for one moment say that international law would give the verdict to this side or that side. But what I do say is that this is a matter in which there is a case perhaps on both sides. Force was used and a few hundred men killed, but there is more to come because the next leg southward will be towards Borneo. The claim has been made. They are only waiting until things die down. There is more to come. But there is nothing from the United Nations and nothing from this Government.
Let me turn from those vital matters to a matter which I believe to be important - perhaps not so important as those matters but still very important indeed - that is, the degree of inflation which exists in the Australian community. There are many causes for this, but let me try to sort out what I think is the main cause, one which is not yet receiving sufficient attention. Inflation comes about basically through too much money chasing too few goods. We know that this is being exacerbated because of the shortages which are occuring throughout the community.
We cannot get nails; we cannot get wire netting, galvanised wire or a refrigerator. There are shortages everywhere. Maybe it is only for a week or two, but while they occur the efficiency of the whole productive process is held up. Because builders cannot get building supplies they sit idle on the site; they can do nothing else. As a result costs go up and fewer houses are produced. When there is a strike people cannot get to their place of work. The whole productive machinery is spragged. This means that fewer goods are produced in the equation. There is too much money chasing too few goods. If we could only get the productive process going again we could produce the goods, we could get rid of the shortages and we would be beating the inflation.
The inflation is feeding on the shortages which are caused mainly by industrial disrup tion which this Government supports. The Government is the creature of the trade union movement and it does not dare to stand up against the trade union movement even when it knows that the trade union movement is wrong. The disruptionists know that they have a great and powerful friend here in Canberra when it comes to a showdown and that the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron), the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnston) or the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) will get up and say: ‘You know, the strikers are really right and it is the people who are exploiting the workers who are wrong.’ Because of this, disruption is increased and shortages occur.
The role of industrial disruption and the role of shortages in the whole inflationary process have been very much underestimated. I know that this is not the whole of the story but I believe that in our present situation it is probably the greater part of the story. If only we could get the industrial machine going again. If only we could get rid of the senseless strikes which the men do not want. In many cases they are intimidated by their union officials into participating in a strike of which they do not approve. If only we could get rid of these strikes and this disruption the problem of inflation would become a manageable one again. It would not entirely disappear, sure, but a great deal of the pressures would come off and a great deal of the heat would be reduced.
I have developed 2 themes. Funnily enough, both are concerned with the movement of our communist enemies, whether they are overseas or in Australia and working against Australia, or in the unions working against their own members and betraying their own union members. They are not trying to look after the interests of their members. A communist official is there in order to cause disruption, and because he sometimes succeeds in causing disruption he adds to inflation, he adds to the pressures on the economy and perhaps, when that happens, he is not altogether displeased.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– The obsession which the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) has for certain aspects of foreign affairs and domestic activities is well known to honourable members in this House and we make allowances for it. We make allowances for his tedious contributions. The honourable member mentioned housing construction. He probably does not know that at present Australia is building more houses than ever in its history. But, as 1 said, we make allowances. He mentioned intimidation by union officials. I wonder whether the honourable member could tell us - he seems to be a man in the know - who intimidated Sir John Dunlop into resigning from the board of the Bank of New South Wales after his statement in support of the Australian Industry Development Corporation. He will probably tell us that somebody gave him some brotherly advice. I hope that on some later occasion he will have an opportunity to answer that question. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth of Australia in her Speech on 28 February said:
My Government believes the economy is basically strong and buoyant. Nevertheless, it regards inflation as a most urgent domestic problem and will continue its efforts to contain it.
It believes the many anti-inflationary measures it has already taken are having an important restraining effect.
This Government will not resort to creating unemployment, suffering and personal hardship as a means of trying to combat inflation. We will never do that. Yet that was the policy which was consistently followed by the previous Liberal-Country Party coalition Government - slug the worker, put people out of work, but do not touch the financial barons. We have revalued the national currency several times. In fact it is now one of the hardest currencies in the world. We have introduced tariff cuts. We have established the Prices Justification Tribunal which is performing a very useful and necessary function. We have established a variable deposits requirement scheme with the Reserve Bank on overseas borrowings and subsequently we increased the requirement from 25 per cent to 33i per cent on overseas borrowings. We have instituted expenditure cuts as recommended in the Coombs report. Other monetary control measures have been taken. All these actions are having an anti-inflationary effect. Yet all of these actions have been vigorously and steadfastly opposed by the Opposition parties, including the honourable member for Mackellar who cries about some sort of inflation.
The first Budget of the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) when he was the Treasurer in 1971 was very much con cerned to suppress the then existing inflation. In the event unemployment rose to unacceptable levels, but more significantly the foundation for 1973 increases in inflation was laid in the election year of 1972 when that government, whose members are now in opposition, sat back and did nothing effectively to curb the huge inflow of capital which created such difficult problems in 1973 on the liquidity side. Everyone knows the role that the Country Party played at that time in relation to the exchange rate when it literally stood over its weak partner, the Liberal Party, at a time when even the dogs were barking that the currency should be appreciated and overseas borrowings restricted. But as 1 said, the Country Party stood over the Liberal Party and the Government was paralysed.
Given rising world -price levels since December 1972, the injection of price increases in our economy through rising import prices has been almost totally eliminated by the policies that this Government has followed in regard to tariffs, overseas borrowing and currency exchange rates. In the period since this Government came to office we have seen increases in average weekly earnings, a strengthening of the economy, company after company reporting record profits and a large increase in employment opportunities. When this Government sought opportunities to control prices, again the Opposition opposed us. Everyone knows that price control is a vital tool in the fiscal management of the economy. On this occasion, as on every other occasion on which we have moved to combat inflation, we had outright opposition from the Liberal and Country parties because the people whom they represent - the wealthy, the overseas corporations, the industrialists and the absentee farmers - all benefit from inflation. They have no right whatsoever to come into this place and decry the anti-inflationary measures taken by this Government. They have forgone those rights by their absolute opposition to every financial measure that we have undertaken.
On 8 December 1973 the people rejected the prices question. But on 8 December the people said very strongly and clearly that price control is a province of the States. Be that as it may. But they also said even more strongly and clearly that it is the responsibility of the States to utilise their existing powers to control prices and the people expect the
States to carry out that responsibility. That is what the people said and it is of no use leaders of the Liberal and Country parties coming in here and bewailing increasing price levels when their colleagues who control the treasuries in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland refuse to use the price control powers that they already have. They have a responsibility to control inflation also.
Then this week, to surpass everything, we heard the Leader of the Opposition expound his anti-inflationary policy. What a sham it is. First the Opposition says: ‘Reduce public spending’. Every time we move to do this we do not get their support but their vehement and almost violent opposition to any suggested cuts. One does not have to go past the current hue and cry over the superphosphate bounty to see this. The pertinent question to be asked is: Where should public spending be reduced? The Opposition should specify where. That is the test of the sincerity of its proposition. It should specify what items it wants reduced. Maybe the Opposition wants expenditure on education reduced. I suppose this would be one, because this is one area where the Liberal Party was left by itself when the Country Party crossed the floor to vote with the Government on education grants legislation and the Schools Commission Bill. I think that we can fairly say that the Liberal Party could be expected to reduce spending on education. But on what other items? On pensions, social welfare or defence? Let the Opposition be specific and name the items which it wants deleted. But the Opposition will not because its proposition is only a front.
Next the Opposition says that the Public Service is too large. I do not know that members of the Opposition have refused the extra secretarial services that they have received in Canberra since the change in government or in their own electorates since we became the Government. Perhaps the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) can tell me whether the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) have refused the additional secretarial staff which they have been allocated.
– They have asked for more.
– The Leader of .the House has informed me that they have asked for more. What greater proof does one want than that? I recall seeing some statistics con tained in an answer to a question on notice which showed the overtime being paid to staff of members of the Opposition parties, and in particular to the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Would not this be the first place to set about reducing expenditure on the Public Service? Let them set an example on this matter. But again let them specify the other savings to be made. Let them specify which officers they want fired and how much this will mean as a proportion of the overall Budget. They cannot do this because they have not thought it through that far, and they do not believe it anyway.
Members of the Opposition then talk about reducing taxation by $600m. Would not that mean an injection of $600m into the economy, and was not their policy in government one of increasing taxes and not reducing them? Was not the present income tax schedule about which they now complain devised by their Government many many years ago and reaffirmed Budget after Budget? To reduce taxation in the mid-fiscal year would be to add to an already unsatisfied demand. Is that their anti-inflationary policy? Again I say it is a sham because they do not believe it themselves. They say we should reduce interest rates. Well, higher interest rates exist because a quarter of a century of Liberal-Country Party administrations never thought to clothe the Federal Government with proper powers to manage the financial affairs of this country and with powers to control the lending of financial institutions. If they had done this there would have been alternatives to increasing the bond rate. We could have had qualitative lending controls. It will be interesting to see what the Opposition does in another place when the Financial Corporation Bill is being debated. No doubt members of the Opposition in that place will oppose it and in this place they will continue in the sham of purporting to have an anti-inflationary policy.
In effect their so-called anti-inflationary policy is a no policy - a non-policy. Their position is this: ‘I’m all right Jack’ and ‘Get what you can while you can’. What greater proof of that could there be than the irresponsible harebrained proposition put forward by the Leader of the Country Party in the last few days? I am not sure whether I am correct in referring to him by that title, or whether it should be the Leader of the Alliance Party or the National Party. Anyway, his proposition that
Australia’s oil prices should be increased is irresponsible and hare-brained. He is reported in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of yesterday - and I understand that he has reiterated this since - in the following way:
He did not think the return Australian oil producers were getting was just in light of international prices.
This was the Leader of the Country Party or the Alliance Party or the National Country Party, whatever one chooses to call it. This is a man who uttered those dire predictions as to the effect on primary producers of the adjustment of 1.7c per gallon petrol subsidy just a few months ago. Now he and his Party, supported by the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) I think, are proposing an increase in fuel prices simply to overfill the coffers of oil producers still further.
– Oh, come on.
– What about the interests of primary producers now? At last the Country Party has come to life. A Senate election campaign is coming up. I read in the ‘Countryman’ in Victoria that the Country Party needs campaign funds and the attitude of the Country Party on the oil and mineral issue is wholly predictable. As I said, there is a Senate election campaign to be financed. But I will not be so uncharitable as to say that there is a direct relationship. But time will tell and the sooner the amendments to the Electoral Act are made the better, so that the Australian people may know who the donors to the political parties are.
I can think of no more irresponsible proposition than that of increasing fuel prices simply because the world market has changed. I would like to quote from the editorial which appeared in today’s ‘Australian Financial Review’. It states:
At best it is yet another example of the sloppy thinking and the dependence on slanted outside advice which has sometimes characterised the Opposition parties in the past year - and from which, the Liberal Party is at least making strenuous efforts to escape.
From a national standpoint, or, indeed, from any rational economic viewpoint at all, it is glaringly evident that there is no reason hurriedly to accept the oil companies’ case for a major rise in crude prices or for that matter Mr Anthony’s alliance with them on this issue.
Further on the article states:
It is really quite shocking that a political leader should, without any careful qualifications or statistical back-up, come out as Mr Anthony has in favour of a massive price increase.
Politically, it is even more difficult to understand in the context of a party presumably devoted to reducing costs in the rural sector how Mr Anthony can come out for unnecessarily higher petrol costs.
This article is entitled very aptly: ‘Country Party foolery’. The ‘Australian Financial Review’ is a journal well respected but not well known for its pro-Government views. Is this new Country Party manifesto on oil prices a warning to primary producers of the divided interests which are to be served by the Alliance Party, National Alliance, Country Party or whatever you like to call it? It has had to change its name. It is prepared to inflict unnecessary additional costs on primary producers in order to produce further inflated profits for the oil and mineral corporations. I remind honourable members of the recent support of the Leader of the Country Party for a further increase in the price of steel, with the impact that would have on manufacturers of agricultural machinery, steel products, fencing and steel posts and on builders. I repeat that notice has been given that the Country Party is prepared to sacrifice the incomes of people in the rural industries in order to serve its overseas masters and supporters. There is no getting away from that.
Let us look at the profits position of the Esso-BHP partnership. Australia has the cheapest crude oil in the world. Esso-BHP had the benefit of the expertise of Mr Lewis Weeks, the world’s most highly regarded petrogeologist, in its search for oil. He told EssoBHP exactly where to find oil and it Went there and got it. No other company has found oil so easily. This Government also has had the benefit of the advice of Mr Weeks in respect of the north-west shelf field. Esso-BHP has the cheapest oil supply in the world. When the excise duty is deducted, the net return is still one of the highest in the world. No oil company in the world has its market as close to its source of supply as Esso-BHP has - virtually piping from the well to the bowser. Bass Strait oil yields from 50 per cent to 55 per cent motor spirit as compared with the 20 per cent to 25 per cent gained from imported crude oil. Our crude oil is amongst the highest quality and richest in the world. I ask honourable members to remember that the price set for Esso-BHP oil in 1970 was a high price, given the market conditions of the time. The deal was made, and the Government expects it to be adhered to by Esso-BHP, just as the Government would be expected to do if the positions were reversed. Recently Mr McNeill of BHP said that oil was playing an increasing part in his company’s profit results and that the profits from oil were up 43 per cent in the last 12 months.
There are approximately 4 million motor cars, 750,000 trucks, tractors and commercial vehicles and 250,000 motor cycles in Australia. If oil prices are to be increased, the operators of all those units will suffer unnecessarily from increased costs and there will be a flow-on. If the price of Australian oil were increased to the level of imported oils, the added cost burden would be enormous. For every $1 a barrel increase in the price of Australian oil the added cost burden would be almost $80m. If the price of Australian oil is raised to the price of imported oil the increased cost to the Australian community will be in the region of $480m. The course that the Country Party would like to see followed has been made quite clear and reiterated by its Leader. The Country Party wants the oil price increased. It wants higher profits. And we all know that 62 per cent of the minerals industry in Australia is overseas owned or controlled. The Country Party’s proposition of increased oil prices should be exposed in all its irresponsibility and avarice. A warning has been given to primary producers.
In the few minutes remaining to me I wish to touch on the role that this Government has played in respect of local government and the efforts we have made to uplift the status of local government. Since coming into office we have enlarged the activities of the Australian Grants Commission and established regional bodies. Through those regional bodies various councils are now in the process of lodging their applications for assessment and submission to the Australian Grants Commission in expectation of a grant. The funds will be made available in the 1974-75 Budget. After listening to members of the Country Party cry about poorer quality municipal services, one would think that they would be to the forefront in seeing that municipal and shire councils were given every assistance.
This Government has fought to put to the Australian people the proposition that the Constitution, which was formulated 70 years ago, be amended to enable local government bodies to have access to the Australian Loan Council and to much longer loan terms - up to 53 years- and to borrow at the bond rate, a lower rate of interest than they are presently paying, and also to empower the Federal
Government to make financial assistance available directly to local government units. That great democrat, the Premier of Queensland, as I understand it, has told local government authorities that if they accept assistance from the Australian Government their State Government assistance will be reduced correspondingly. (Quorum formed.)
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar)- Mr Deputy Speaker, I have been misrepresented on 2 points by the honourable member for Shortland.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! Does the honourable member wish to make a personal explanation?
– Yes. Firstly, the honourable member for Shortland said that I was unaware of the record number of houses under construction. I am indeed aware of that number. Those houses are under construction because they cannot be finished owing to disruptions and shortages. Secondly, the honourable member asked me to tell him who intimidated Sir John Dunlop. He was not intimidated; he stuck to his guns.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– This afternoon we have had a most interesting debate about inflation, foreign affairs and other matters referred to in the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen on 28 February. This evening I speak in support of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) in the following terms:
That the following words be added to the proposed address-in-reply: but the House of Representatives is of the opinion and regrets that your Majesty was not informed by the Government of the true position in Australia in that it has:
created an intolerably high level of inflation and has taken no effective steps to stop it;
caused uncertainty and in its management of the economy is creating social inequalities;
attempted to change the Federal system of the Australian Constitution by diminishing the responsibility of the States;
injured rural industries and the communities they support;
pursued defence and foreign policies which have seriously weakened our defence capacity; and
failed to fulfil the expectations of the Australian people because of its administrative incompetence.
The honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) addressed himself to only a number of these important issues. He made it quite clear that he would oppose any attempt to increase the profits earned in the community. He seems to be ignorant of the way in which our present taxation system works. He does not seem to appreciate the fact that the Australian Government and the Federal Treasurer could be deemed to be the most significant and the biggest shareholders in every business in this country. There is no person or authority in this country that gets more out of the Australian community than does the Federal Treasurer. With all the savoir-faire and charm of a highway robber he waits for those who manage to succeed in making profits in this community. He takes 52c out of every dollar of the profit made by the oil companies. My friend from Shortland says that that is not enough; it really ought to be 72c or 82c and we should never expect these people to be entitled to what is referred to in the Australian vernacular as a fair go.
These issues have been dealt with and I do not propose at this time to go to great lengths in defining the effect of inflation. That has been covered by my friend the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) and other speakers on this side of the House. For example, reference has been made to the significant issues in history that arose in those countries that suffered from unbridled inflation. As people will remember, throughout the 1920s there was a classic illustration of inflation in Germany. We are all familiar with the terrible history that followed the unbrided inflation in that country.
I wish to turn now to one or two matters concerning foreign affairs in view of the fact that at the end of this year Papua New Guinea will become an independent country. Therefore I want to put to the House my views on what must be in effect the future relationships between Papua New Guinea and Australia. There is a tendency in this place for people to believe that by turning their back on a problem the problem will go away. I say here with great respect that this will not be the case with Papua New Guinea. As honourable members know, it is a very diverse country in which there are many diverse influences. There are some possibilities of fragmentation, referred to by the Press, by the allegedly learned correspondents and academics who look at what are called emerging nations and ponder the possibilities of those emerging nations growing into lusty, strong, law-abiding international groups. However, our problem is a problem that will be exacerbated to a degree by the enormous success that some of the free enterprise people, who do not enjoy the affection of honourable members on the other side of the House, have had in certain areas of the Territory. If it becomes very clear to people living in areas like Bougainville, for example, that they are sharing great wealth which would be their own if they were independent and theirs alone, if it becomes clear to people in New Britain and New Ireland that a similar set of circumstances would give them great values of their own, great wealth of their own, and if in Papua there were the same thing there would be a tremendous pressure that would probably result in fragmentation if Australia had no attitude on the matter. Australia has an attitude on this matter. It has a responsibility which no other country has and it ought to be admitted by people in this place that that responsibility will not change when Papua New Guinea is established as an independent country
If events confirm the suspicions of my friend from Mackellar and if governments in Peking, Moscow and other places begin to exert pressure on Papua New Guinea it is only to Australia that Port Moresby will be able to look for support - moral, financial and physical. There is a great necessity for us to define these matters now before this situation develops and we have the people from Port Moresby going to New York and being greeted and influenced by the remarkable group of people who gather in that even more remarkable organisation known as the United Nations Organisation. Therefore we should have a clear concept of what our relations with Papua New Guinea will be. It is important that we make it clear to the rest of the world that Papua New Guinea will be able to rely upon Australia to a degree and in a manner that in all probability it will not be able to rely upon any other country. If there is going to be a united country and if we are saying to the House of Assembly ‘We will back you as a united country’ that means quite positively that we are committed to preventing fragmentation taking place. It will be a tragedy for Australia if fragmentation takes place and we sit by, muttering words about inability to interfere in the internal affairs of a responsible independent nation. This is a whole lot of nonsense, convenient verbiage for lots of national and international leaders. People who want to avoid their responsibilities avoid them on the basis that they must not interfere in internal affairs. We must make our position clear, and honourably so, at this time.
I want to say something about the environment of the new country. Although my friend from Mackellar has dealt with the attitude, views and policies of the communists to such a degree and over such a long period of time that he has been the subject of witty remarks from honourable members on the other side, I want to bring to their attention - I know that some of them know what I am talking about - that our old friend Chin Peng is on the move again in Malaysia. Honourable members will remember that he received the O.B.E. at the end of World War II. He went to London and took part in the great victory parade with a whole series of gallant gentlemen from around the world who were celebrating at that time the defeat of Japan and the late and, we trust, final Reich that was led by Herr Hitler. Chin Peng was there. He went back to Malaysia. He established his forces and he proceeded to suborn, subvert and destroy Malaysia in order to prevent the British from carrying out their program of bringing that country to an appropriate independent status. Finally the British had to remain. 1 say to honourable members that if events of this nature were to develop in Papua New Guinea it would not be the people in London but it would be the people here in Canberra who would have to make decisions in relation to Papua New Guinea similar to those that were made by the honourable and gallant gentlemen in the House of Commons about Malaysia.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was referring to events in Malaysia and to the attempted subversion of that country by Ching Peng and his communist guerillas. Ching Peng, the legendary communist leader, was once ranked with Mao Tse-tung and Ho Chi Minh. He is on the move again in Malaysia, after 14 years of jungle exile. The immediate future will be very important because it is quite obvious that the British will be withdrawn from this region by the Wilson Government. It has no love for what is generally known in Labor Party circles as foreign entanglements. We will discover whether
Kuala Lumpur and the people in Kuala Lumpur are able to cope with the new problem. The earlier problem, during the period from 1948 to the early 1960s, was met and dealt with by men of the calibre of Field Marshal Templer and significant numbers of the British armed forces, at enormous cost to the home government as well as to Malaysia itself.
In the five or six minutes remaining to me, I wish to refer to another very important issue which was referred to in the Speech delivered by Her Majesty the Queen on behalf of the Government. I refer to the matter of energy and what is known as the energy crisis in the world today. This is what the Government had to say in Her Majesty’s Speech:
The importance of the creation of a new Ministry of Minerals and Energy has been confirmed by the events of 1973 associated with the developing world energy crisis.
Although Australia is in a more fortunate position than most comparable nations in this crisis, my Government will not be complacent in planning for the future energy needs of the Australian nation, lt stands ready to join with other nations in search of solutions.
Last year when the Government announced its plans for the Pipeline Authority I invited the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) to tell me whether he was concerned by the references to the constitutional validity of the Pipeline Authority Act of 1973. Honourable members may recall that at that time the Minister kindly said that he would give me information which would establish the validity of this Act. At the end of October 1973 he lived up to his words and gave me the information which I had sought several times in this House about the validity of the Act. I was sent a copy of a letter written by Senator Lionel Murphy, Q.C., the Attorney-General of Australia. It was addressed to the Minister for Minerals and Energy. It began:
My dear Minister,
I have considered the matters raised in the papers, relating to the Pipeline Authority Act 1973, which you sent to me with your letter of 11 October.
It then gave several interesting references which detailed the Act, and it concluded:
The best advice I can give to you is to proceed on the basis that the Act is valid.
If I were Minister for Minerals and Energy and if I had received that sort of letter from the Attorney-General, I would not be particularly impressed or confident that the Act was valid. In Her Majesty’s Speech reference was made to these solutions, to the importance of the ministry of Minerals and Energy and to the great significance of that Ministry to Australia.
Since this Government has been in power the most incredible series of decisions has been taken. These have led to Australian companies being virtually forced out of the oil exploration industry. The only people who have benefited from the Labor Government’s plans and policies have been the major oil explorers from overseas. The small Australian companies have suffered grievously under this policy. On the one hand one talks about a world energy crisis and the value to Australia of oil exploration, but there is no exploration of any significance in this country. The reason is to be found in the policies of the Minister for Minerals and Energy. With great respect to those who say that what he has indicated will be done has been done by the Australian Government and that this is very important to the future of Australia, I point out that the most vital thing to achieve in this country at this time is a great increase in the amount of oil exploration which is taking place. It will not take place whle the oil explorers and the investors in Australia believe they are confronted by a government which has all the savoir-faire and charm of Dick Turpin, Ned Kelly or some other highway robber who will move in and take over from them all the valuable results of the good work they have carried out.
In the light of these circumstances, it seems to me that the $50m, as announced, of taxpayers’ money to be used as risk capital investment is a pitifully small amount and that if Australia is to be assisted the most vital thing that the Labor Government can do is to encourage free enterprise to come into Australia and to the off-shore areas of Australia to explore, to find oil and to refine it in commercial quantities. This is an absolute vital issue for Australia, and it will become much more significant over the next two or three years than it has been over the last 2 years. (Quorum formed).
– The speech of Her Majesty the Queen of Australia outlined a further chapter of rapid progress and achievements for Australia in the next 12 months. We have advanced further in the last IS months in this Government’s administration in social, economic and cultural achievements, than in any term of government in the past quarter of a century. We are not quite at the half way mark of our period of Government. We have done more, we have left a more enduring mark, we have provided more substantial achievements in this country and for its people than has any other government in the last two and a half decades. If honourable members want specifics or a comprehensive detailed outline of our great achievements I would refer them to the publication, ‘The First Twelve Months’.
-Order! There is too much audible conversation. Order! Hansard finds it very difficult to get down the report if honourable members do not keep quiet.
– It is a published statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) made in the House of Representatives on 13 December last year. We set about our mandate with determination and we are fulfilling it. Last year our task was to clear away some of the worst accumulations of dead wood in public policy. We did this with programs emphasising the qualities which contemporary Australian society values, but programs which had been denied for too long.
Australia is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. We are a great trading nation. We have a well developed industrial base, abundant natural resources and a highly educated population. They in turn have expectations because they have confidence in themselves and this country’s capacity to fulfil those expectations. But the Liberals lived in the past for too long, shackled too closely to the musty conventions and limited wisdom on which they founded their party in the 1940s. Some 30 years later they were still clinging to the past. That is why they were turned out of office by the fretting public which could not tolerate any longer the paradox of such a materially wealthy country being so impoverished in its social development.
Let us look at the most important responsibility of any for a national government - economic management. The economic predictions of the Opposition are as erratic as the policies they applied in office. The Leader of of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has predicted a boom, he has guaranteed a slump and then for good measure has said that they will both happen together and all this will happen this year. He gets full marks for trying but a poor report card for knowledge, and he is a former
Treasurer. But he is the former Treasurer who was responsible for the disastrous economic decisions of 1971 that led to the major slump of 1972. He is the man who was the panic stricken Treasurer of 1972 who was responsible for liquidity increasing by more than 17 per cent for the first 6 months of the last financial year - the greatest increase in the post-war period. He is the man who grimly claims that quarterly wage adjustments will lead to inflation and yet he is the same man who last year went on public record in the ‘National Times’ as saying they would not.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch), who as Minister for Labour and National Service in the last government specialised in creating unrest and sowing suspicion and distrust by reporting strikers to the police, has been talking of the need for circuit breakers and increasing social security benefits to control the economy. No one knows what this means - literally no one; that is, there are no exceptions. Presumably the circuit breaker is an induced slump - the tired old recipe of the Liberals in the past. Equally presumably, the increased social security benefits are increased unemployment benefits for those unfortunate enough to be cast into unemployment by these sorts of policies.
All of these people in the Opposition are talking about cutting public expenditure on odd days, but none of them specify where. The closest the Leader of the Opposition got to specifying a case was when he referred to the Moomba-Sydney pipeline and said that as a public undertaking it would be inflationary, completely ignoring the fact that as a private undertaking it was to be funded by overseas loan money which means money pumped into this economy and, accordingly, inflationary. To the extent that as a public undertaking the project is to be financed by internally raised money, it would not be inflationary. Indeed, on alternate days the Opposition argues that there should be increases in public expenditure, for example, on defence, pensions or health services which it almost totally ignored when in office, and a range of other areas. There has never been such a confusing and confused Opposition in Parliament.
Let us look at the economic situation that we have today. To the extent that there are fairly firmly embedded inflationary forces involved in it, it would be true to say, without dwelling too much on the past, that this was a result of mismanagement of the economy in the 1972 Budget by the last Government. But attributing blame does not solve the problem. I believe the Treasurer (Mr Crean) is right when he says that the control of inflation is the most important economic task he has. We do not pretend to have developed the cure for inflation but then nor has any other country beaten this problem. In most of the advanced economies of the world inflation is in double figures and none of these countries have come up with a simple solution. We utterly reject the stagflation approach of 1972, used by the then Treasurer who is now the Leader of the Opposition. It did not work then and accordingly I cannot understand the enthusiasm within the ranks of the Opposition for such a tired, disproven and quite harmful policy. The Opposition was no doubt thunderstruck this morning to discover that in spite of its past efforts to distress and panic businessmen, Australian business generally, according to this morning’s papers, felt that the economy was in good shape.
According to a survey by J. B. Young and Associates about 70 percent of executives surveyed said that they were optimistic about prospects for 1974. The Opposition has a vested interest in ignoring the positive aspects of the economy. The fact is that although demand is strong we have not tried to deflate it in the painful ways the Opposition used, but rather through tariff and exchange rate adjustments we have sought to build up the supply side of the economy. The evidence is there in the latest round up of economic statistics released by the Treasury that what we aimed at has been achieved. We have put a damper on the growth of excessive internal liquidity induced from external forces and we did this with a variable deposit requirement on overseas loans. There is no point in having enormous inflows of foreign capital to this country if it is only paper money that is coming in, if it is not backed up by goods and services, and if our resources are being sold out cheaply because of false exchange rates for purchasers using paper money. That exacerbates the problem of inflation in the economy.
The statistical evidence is that the efforts we have made in this direction are having a helpful effect too. The build up of construction work in the pipeline of the housing industry was responsible for pressure that we were not happy about and which was unhealthy for the economy. But most of these pressures were set in train, I should point out firmly, before we came into office. They were mostly set in train by that massive increase in the volume of liquidity that took place in the first part of the financial year 1972-73. It is the measures we have taken since we have become a government, which any person with a fundamental economic knowledge would be able to interpret but which the Opposition misconstrued or does not understand, which are leading to a. reduction in those unhealthy pressures in the building industry.
We inherited a thoroughly unsatisfactory situation where the volume of money available for housing was increasing at a faster rate than the capacity of the industry to supply housing. Only land speculators, high interest credit institutions and some builders benefited by that. The increased volume of money was being absorbed in increased costs rather than expanded supply. These measures and others we have taken time to be fully effective but there is clear evidence that they are being effective. They were necessary and they became necessary largely because of the neglect which was a heritage of economic management before we came into office. As for the Opposition that was a government for 23 years, it is perplexing to note as implicit in its announcements on economic management a belief that running the economy is as simple as turning a tap on and off. It is bewildering to hear such an approach from its experts on economic affairs, its Deputy Leader. It is ghastly because of what it implies, to hear such views from the former Treasurer, who is now its leader.
All in all their record in many years in office was less than respectable. For them economic management took place in a climate where the world economy was stable and where fairly rigid monetary agreements operated. In such a situation the economy could almost run itself. Therefore the punctuation of economic performances in the last 23 years by regular induced recessions indicated just how they were prepared to let things drift along without taking any positive action until the situation had deteriorated to the point where they then took savage action, at a great social and economic cost to the nation.
Those years of international economic stability should have been years when the Australian economy was guided towards and was achieving impressive growth rates. For instance, in spite of the fact that we had during that period, as we have now, high in vestment rates per capita, we had one of the lowest per capita growth rates in the world. It is instructive to refer again to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Economic Surveys in Australia which were published in December 1972. I have selected a number of quotes from them. The economic surveys state:
On a per capita basis, Australia’s performance appears much less impressive.
They go on to state:
The high growth rate of total real GDP was thus more a reflection of relatively rapid growth of population rather than of output per head.
The economic surveys add:
That is fairly severe criticsm by the OECD of ineffective management of the economic affairs of the nation. The OECD is an organisation with which affiliation was much sought after by the previous Treasurer. Its first report on this country after our affiliation with it is a severely condemnatory one insofar as economic management up to the end of 1972 is concerned. I said earlier that we did not have, nor does any other country, the answer to inflation. I have just returned from a visit to several of the advanced economies in the northern hemisphere and they have all predicted more difficult inflation rates and difficulties in world trade management this year. With our dependency on trade this will create an even greater challenge in economic management. I would like to point out that, because of the steps taken by the Government, Australia is in a better position to handle this challenge than would have been the case under the economic management practices followed by the last Government. What we have done is to build into the economy a degree of flexibility that will ensure that economic shocks from outside the country will not strike at the Australian economy with their full devastating effect - that is, the full effect of the inflation, unemployment, recessions or whatever it is of the overseas economies is not going to be automatically transmitted into our economy as it has in the past because of the structural deficiencies which existed in our economy in the past. I do not want to suggest that there are no structural defects today. Clearly there are. After all, restructuring the economy is a big task and it takes time. We have made major changes which justify the views 1 have just expressed, but we have had only a short time in which to do so.
In the national interest the Government has shown that economic sacred cows are not necessary. It has shown that the exchange rate is not sacred, that tariffs are not sacrosanct, that cosy business practices are open to examination and change and that subsidies are not beyond review. Even wealthy industries can be brought into question and made to answer for their efficiency and usefulness to the community. In doing all of this the Government has been completely open. The report of the Coombs task force, the advice of the Priorities Review Committee, Professor Crawford’s proposals of an Industries Assistance Commission and even Tariff Board reports have all been promptly released for public inspection. All reports of the newly-appointed Industries Assistance Commission will be similarly treated.
Perhaps I ought to indicate some of the benefits that have been achieved already as a result of what we have done. The fact that we were not prepared to be inhibited by the musty practices and deferences of the past to fix exchange rates is a good illustration of this point. Dr Michael Porter, in November of last year when he was working for the Reserve Bank, in a paper he delivered to the Winter School of the Economic Society, at what I thought was a rather curious period for a winter school, said about the exchange rate:
If unchecked by restrictive measures this would have augmented bank reserves by 20 per cent and in turn this could have facilitated about $2,000m to $4, 000m of additional expansion in the broad money supply, the exact amount depending on the response of the authorities and the size of the money multiplier.
In relation to the dependency on the money multiplier he said that the effects of the monetary expansion, if we had not appreciated, would have been an increase in the monetary expansion of over 21 per cent over the 6 months period and 48 per cent at a per annum rate. He went on to suggest quite firmly that the rate of monetary expansion would have been substantially higher without revaluation and that in fact the problem of domestic inflation could have become unmanageable. We took positive steps in these areas. We were prepared to act positively and with the determination which is necessary but which has always been absent in the past.
Having shown that the practices of the past are not sacred, I want to stress that the changes we have made are not sacred either. They will not be allowed to petrify. They are also open to review. They are open to adjustment where adjustment is necessary in the public interest. If it is appropriate tariffs can be increased. We would devalue if that were required. We would take steps to increase or restore subsidies if that were necessary but only if it were necessary. What is clear is that we will not rely on back door monetary manipulation in a clumsy fashion and ‘broad axing’ the economy when, through clumsiness, its direction has to be changed. A wide range of controls will be used. Flexibility will be the mark of economic management.
We will not allow a rigid economic structure to reassert itself where patronage, privilege, access to government and back door political deals are influential determinants in the development and performance of the economy. We want open government. We proceed openly in these matters because we want to serve the best interests of the Australian public and not the vested interests of a powerful few. We want an economy whose development is not stulified by structural rigidities, which in turn expose Australia to the worst effects of world inflation and cyclical fluctuations in the world economy. That is what the Liberals would be imposing on Australia today if they were in office and the Country Party would be abusive of the wage and salary earners, blaming them for any ills and ignoring the contribution to inflation of record high farm incomes. They would have the gall to claim subsidies at a time when farm incomes are at an all time high and at the expense of wage and salary earners.
I acknowledge that there is an inflation problem in Australia today, just as there is in practically every advanced country in the world. But our record last year was considerably better than that of, for instance, Japan, whose rate of inflation was exceeding 19 per cent, or of several other advanced economies. This year the United States of America is expecting an inflation rate in excess of 10 per cent. That is probably understating the position somewhat. The United States of America is anticipating only one per cent real growth. Japan is apparently expecting as serious an inflationary program, or even a more serious one, with negative growth this year. That is the sort of international environment in which we operate. For a country as heavily involved as this country, insofar as its economy is concerned, in international trade movements and therefore the injection of outside inflationary forces and other forces into this economy it is very difficult for this country to avoid the enormous forces of inflation which have been released internationally.
It has been a significant achievement on the part of the Treasurer (Mr Crean), in comparative terms; to hold inflation at the levels at which he has. I am talking now in terms of international comparisons, which are the significant thing by which measurement ought to be made at this stage. Silly prattle on economic management aimed at grasping short term political advantages by creating confusion in the public mind is no help. I have indicated some of the things we have done and some of the difficulties under which we are labouring, which are largely contributed to from outside this country or which in other cases we have inherited. Now is the time for the Liberals to shirk off the deadening influence of the Country Party and enumerate precisely what its economic policy is. Slogans are no answer. Rhetoric is no solution. For a very difficult situation our record is not too bad by world standards. As I have pointed out already, by world standards the record of the Opposition as a government over the long term was very poor. I again draw the attention of honourable members to the rather devastating quotes I made from the report of the OECD to which I referred a little earlier.
– I know that the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) is having difficulties in implementing the health scheme that he has so broadly advocated around the country, but I wish that he would bring himself up to date on some of those international comparisons of which he spoke. I suggest that he should turn to one of the later reports of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and compare the statistics of inflation in Australia, which have been achieved to the discredit of the Government of which he is a member, with the very favourable record of the term of office of the previous Administration. But more of that later.
Before leaving the remarks of the Minister for Social Security, perhaps I should refer to just one of the other quotations that he made.
If he aspires to be Treasurer it would be as well if he read his papers accurately and perhaps quoted them accurately in this place. In his speech he adverted to the ‘Australian’ of 14 March, which is today’s issue. He referred to the disenchantment that those of us on this side of the House must have at the report of the support of the economy given by a survey of Australian businessmen. If he had a look at that newspaper report he would see that the heading is: ‘Bosses against Labor - but sure of profits’. The article reads:
More than half Australia’s businessmen disapprove of the Federal Government. . . .
To quote the article in more detail, it continues:
About 70 per cent-
That is, 70 per cent of those surveyed- said that they were optimistic about the economy and only half the remainder said they were pessimistic. The rest were undecided.
But by a great many of them, optimistic or not, inflation is seen as the biggest economic problem facing the country. Sixty-three per cent nominated it as the business problem of the year.
So much for the economic mismanagement of this Government.
I think, first of all, I should say that it is rather an unusual procedure for this chamber at this time of a parliamentary term to be debating an Address-in-Reply. It is, of course, a product of the political expediency of the Government in office. We on this side of the House believe in a monarchical system. We are always delighted to have Her Majesty the Queen and any member of her family in this country. We see no reason, however, for their presence to be exploited for purely political reasons. The fact that we are having an Address-in-Reply debate is the result of the Parliament being prorogued. It was prorogued because the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) found it necessary in some way to rebut the very real concern that Australians have at his pro-republic Australia pronouncements. He has on several occasions spoken of the inevitability of the transition of our society to a republican one. We on this side of the House do not agree; nor, I believe, do the Australian people. Indeed, the very fact that the Prime Minister found it necessary to prorogue the Parliament, found it necessary to have a speech delivered by Her Majesty the Queen to open a new session of Parliament, indicates that he too might well be having second thoughts.
The Speech itself, of course, is a recitation of things half achieved, things not completed and things which regrettably are changing the Australian society not for the better but for the worse. I second the amendment moved by my colleague the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). It is a significant amendment which identifies several areas in which the Address-in-Reply and the administration of Labor is so deficient. Labor has created an intolerably high level of inflation and has taken no effective steps to stop it. It has caused uncertainty and, in its management of the economy, is creating social inequities. It has attempted to change the federal system of the Australian Constitution by diminishing the responsibilities of the States. It has injured rural industries and the communities they support. It has pursued defence and foreign policies which have seriously weakened our defence capacity. It has failed to fulfil the expectations of the Australian people because of its administrative incompetence. There lies the record of this Government. There lies the recitation of non-success - of failure - that this Government has achieved in its 15 months in office.
The Address-in-Reply debate is an occasion for the Government to boast of its achievements and, of course, for the Opposition to query them. Throughout this debate Government supporters have been sullenly silent on their achievements because they have realised that generally there have not been many of them, and those there have been have resulted in acute inflation. When this Government was elected it said it would be an open government and a government which kept its promises. Of course, regrettably, neither assertion is true. This Government was going to be a new wave government. It’s time we were told. Time it certainly is - not for Labor, but for another change.
It is fair to ask: What did we get as a’ result of this change? We got a government that has betrayed the people and neglected its mandate. In particular we got a government that squabbles internally and externally over the spoils of office. It has been a government that even now is denying the democratic process through the assertion of a series of referenda, each of which is designed in total to deny an opportunity of electoral change in the near future.
Time and time again full and proper debate in this House has been stifled. It has been stifled largely because Labor is afraid to hear criticism of its policies. Is that democracy? Assisting in this negation of free and proper expression has been every member of the Labor Party. They have stood idly by allowing their Ministers to mislead this House and this country on the premise that it might affect their hold of power. They have been wrong. This Government’s days are numbered. If they do not believe that that is so, surely the answer lies simply in the hand of their Prime Minister. It’s time surely - time to go to the people; time to go to the polls; time to test the pulse of this nation. The Government has lost the confidence of the peoples of Australia. Indeed, it has lost the confidence of many people who supported it at the last election. Perhaps there are a few remaining supporters, but maybe they largely are sycophants who are waiting in the alcoves for a patronage deal or perhaps a job.
Of course, there are many aspects of the Government’s record which deserve quoting in this place. But if it wants an epitaph, 1 think neglect might well be it. It has neglected in so many ways the interests particularly of those Australians it was elected to assist. It has neglected the Aborigines, the poor, the pensioners and the weak. It came into office promising a new deal for Aborigines. It promised a percentage rise in the pensioners’ share of the national cake. Tragically these aspirations have not been achieved. Its own Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) asserts the disaster of its administration of Aboriginal policy. For the pensioners there is the constant consequence of the implications of the inflationary erosion of the opportunity for them to share a fair measure of this country’s prosperity. Indeed, beyond that there has been the maladministration in relation to which this Government has a regrettable and sorry record. The appalling revelation of the Commonwealth AuditorGeneral’s report on the Department of Aboriginal Affairs is a document of which no government, no Minister, can be proud. This, of course, was followed by the Prime Minister’s appalling lack of interest in affairs within the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. This is another incident of the disinterest and the high handed action which Labor has shown when in control of the affairs of this nation.
Labor in government has whittled away our international standing, abused our allies, destroyed the framework of our national security, taken steps to tamper with future elections, frustrated civil rights rather than protect them, and sought through massive funding of a propaganda machine to mislead the Australian electorate. This Labor Government has lost public confidence throughout Australia. When a government loses confidence, of course it has no right to govern. If it wants to cling to the last tatters of respectability, as I say and as the Leader of the Opposition has said, the choice, the opportunity, lies in its hands in an early poll of the people. Of course, one can easily understand why it is not anxious to do this. The management of the economy and its attendant tragedy are examples enough. This Government has set new records - record inflation, record interest rates, record lack of confidence in where the economy of the country is heading. Surely no one can be proud of that.
Industry is presently enjoying record profits but not through the actions of this Government, although the Minister for Social Security who preceded me in this debate and other honorable members from the Government side have asserted that the Government’s actions might be the reason. Industry is enjoying record profits largely because of shortages in the northern industrial world, but it has lost the initiative to expand production for the future. Industry is concerned about where it is heading. Strikes have scarred the industrial relations fabric of our society. Only this week we saw organised unionists intruding into the Australian industrial courts. Fortunately even the Government has deplored their action. But their action is a consequence of the enticement and the inducement towards control outside that normally exercised by the rule of law. Irrespective of the disowning of that action in this place, there is no doubt that the actions that have been taken by members of the Labor Party, both in government and outside government when they were in opposition, have induced this rejection of the rule of law. It is very much to their discredit that significant elements of our society today seek to rectify what they see as the ills which affect them through abuse of the normal legal processes. That is again an indictment of this Government. Policies of encouragement and aid to industry have been abandoned or turned around, thus achieving nothing except enhanced uncertainty.
Manufacturing industry, enjoying as it is good profits, should surely be at a stage where it has confidence in the future, but that is not so. For so long a great deal of effort has been put into enticing manufacturers to make a complete commitment in the export arena, but this Government is progressively eroding the manufacturing export incentive scheme which has induced manufacturers to move into exports and which has taken them into the cold, competitive environment of international trade. There they have learned to make their products competitive. They have learned to produce their goods competitively in quality and quantity. The price per unit has been reduced and the Australian consumer has benefited. This Government is removing that carrot, that incentive, so that regrettably manufacturing industry no longer will have that incentive to move into the export market. Tragically the result will penalise the whole Australian community. The Government does not even seem to care.
For rural Australia, of course, the lessons are even more disastrous. The Minister for Social Security a few moments ago suggested that we in the Australian Country Party, together with our Liberal colleagues, would disadvantage the wage earners of this community in order to benefit the rural sector. Unfortunately, as I tried to assert in this place in another debate yesterday, the priorities of this Government are not where they should be. It sees the divisions in society only in terms of the employers and employees. There are many other strata which are important. Significantly, the productive sector has to be encouraged if any government is to be able to implement its social educational welfare policies. This Government does not seem to realise that.
The rural sector in Australia today is certainly enjoying a wave of prosperity, but this has not been enhanced by this Government’s action. It has come about largely as a result of shortages. The wool industry has survived surely because of positive action the previous Government took through the establishment of the Australian Wool Commission to enable us to hold wool, through a time of depression. Policies of the past administration and world shortages are the genesis of present prosperity. It is no use the Labor Party saying: ‘We can withdraw all those now and leave the rural industry to look after itself, thinking that by so doing if things again fall into a state of decline it will be able to introduce welfare policies and thereby re-establish prosperity.
The rural sector does not operate on that basis. The rural sector is subject to seasonal fluctuations. The disastrous floods in northern New South Wales and Queensland even at this moment illustrate this. The rural sector is affected by the cycle of flood, the cycle of drought, the cycle of world demand and world non-demand. This is the pattern of the selling and the growing of agricultural produce, and it remains essential that there be an inducement for the Australian rural industries to operate profitably. This Government has denied that inducement.
Moreover, in its manipulations of the Australian currency, the Government has destroyed many of the prospects for reinvestment and many of the prospects that exist for any industry engaged in export. This is a time when the currency badly needs to be removed from its ties with the United States dollar, yet this Government declines to take action. Indeed, so many of the measures in the first Labor Budget, for example the removal of tax incentives, provide a complete disincentive for the maintenance of the whole of the rural sector.
Labor promised to put us in the big league. It has put in the big league all right in the economic field. Internationally - this is a measure of comparison which the Minister for Social Security, the apparent shadow to the present Treasurer, affects - our interest rates are rising at one of the fastest rates in the world. Presently the interest rates in Australia are the highest since federation 74 years ago. This scandalous situation is fuelling inflation. It is preventing people from buying their homes. It is preventing investment by Australians in Australian development. It is preventing the national economy from growing on a sound and rational basis. It is making it hard for all Australians, particularly those on superannuation or on fixed incomes to survive. It is forcing women to work at -the expense of their families.
The tragedy of the Labor Government’s high interest policy is that specifically it is a policy of discrimination against the small man and the average man. This policy, which is supposed to protect the small man, is denying his right to survival. It is more difficult today to buy a house for a family using finance from traditional sources because of the high interest charges. The family on the average income has no chance of getting finance. What chance does the lower income earner have? He has none. It is a disgrace. The
Government promised aid in the field of housing, aid in the form of taxation deductibility for housing repayments. Since those promises were made little has been done.
Inflation contributes to a deteriorating situation. It sucks life away from a viable system and then flaps away to feed on another victim. Australia has 13 million victims of inflation which can be cured. It is no use turning to the rest of the world and saying that because inflation exists everywhere else we cannot cure it here. Indeed, the record of the Heath administration, bad though it was in terms of international balances, in terms of inflation was a lot better than it is in Australia. The United States has a far better record in the last 12 months than this Government has achieved. Of course, the result achieved there has been a product of sensible economic management. That, of course, is in marked contrast to the management exercised by this Government.
Let us look at the policies of this Government. It has splurged generally in the public sector, pushed the Public Service salary bill to astronomical heights, encouraged unions to seek unrealistic wage rises, sponsored by inaction the climate for strikes and engaged in wasteful projects so that it can have a greater measure of intervention in the management of the national economy.
Its actions promote inflation. Indeed, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has published figures for inflation which demonstrates how the record of this Labor Government stands internationally. The figures show that for the 10 years from 1961 to 1971, when Australia had a Liberal-Country Party Government, inflation ran at 2.8 per cent per annum. That inflation level was the second lowest of the 24 member countries. Today the picture is radically different. The statistics of the OECD, that body which the Minister for Social Security has taken much pleasure in quoting tonight, demonstrate that in the 12 months to December 1973 inflation in Australia had risen to 13.2 per cent. Australia was No. 8 in the inflation stakes. The countries with an inflation rate above that bear recording. They were Greece, Iceland, Portugal, Turkey, Japan, Finland and Spain. In other words 12 months after Labor came to power our inflation rate had increased by almost 400 per cent compared with the 10-year average, and
Australia moved from being a very low inflation country to one of high inflation. Regrettably there is no indication that the rate is slowing down. Certainly there is no sign that this Government is prepared to take the steps that are necessary to curb inflation. The people on pensions, fixed incomes and low incomes should ponder that statement and ask where Labor is leading us. Inflation and the interest rates spiral are doing more to harm the quality of life of all Australians than any of the other so-called positive products of the Labor Government’s policy. By stealth it is impoverishing the nation and impoverishing in particular the young who are seeking to buy their homes and bring up their families.
It is fair to ask what the Opposition would do if it were in office. There are many things which we in government would do. There are many things that need to be done. The things include a critical review of Public Service expenditure with a view to reducing it, assessment of steps designed to reduce Government intervention in the economy such as in the pipeline scheme, realignment of the Australian dollar in line with other world parities and removal of its tie with the United States dollar and the introduction of meaningful monetary control measures aimed at improving the flow of funds to borrowers such as home buyers at reasonable interest rates, stimulating the productive sector of the economy to give it confidence in the future, confidence in employment prospects and confidence in getting this country moving for tomorrow instead of reducing incentive altogether as this Government tends to do.
Through the constitutional referendum moves which this Government advocates it is seeking to usurp the sovereignty of the States. It is seeking to change the rights of electors by gerrymandering the electoral system so as to perpetuate the role of a Labor Government. We have seen the persecution of minorities by this so-called Government concerned with the rights of the individual. We have seen police raids on migrant homes at night, the appalling record of the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) in the early days of the administration, and the summary court appearances of migrants arrested in those raids, most of whom had the charges against them quashed in court. We have seen Government ineptitude when Australian citizens have been summarily executed by a foreign country without trial or without Government action prior to their execution. The Labor Government has tried to buy friends, not make friends. With friends you can achieve anything, without them nothing. It is a pity that it cannot learn from its record internationally and domestically. The whole story of Aboriginal affairs is a bitter chapter in the story of this Government’s administration. It neatly sums up what I said before will be the epitaph of this Government when it is buried at the polls - ‘neglect’.
– As the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Sinclair) has said, this debate on the Address-in-Reply gives the opportunity to review the Government’s program and preview the coming year, and an opportunity for the Opposition to get stuck into the Government. But it has also been said that a government is only as good as its opposition. Therefore it might be more profitable for me to develop, during my contribution to this debate, a theme that appraises both the Government’s program and the quality of the Opposition and its contribution to the quality of government. It is just over 12 months since I delivered my maiden speech in this House. I said then:
The speech of the Governor-General captures the seriousness of the crisis - a threat to the quality of life that should be due to all Australians - and meets it head on with a 3-year program designed to achieve basic changes in the administration and structure of Australian society.
After the first 12 months I can review and assess the Government’s progress towards that worthy aim. It is hard to recall a more wide ranging and reforming program that has come before the Parliament. Some 223 Bills passed both Houses even though the Government lacked a majority in the Senate. Some of its important policies, given a strong mandate by the people, were frustrated by hostility in another place. Thirteen Bills have already been deferred or rejected by that body.
There are some who say that the Government has attempted too much too quickly. This feeling has no doubt arisen because the new Government is contrasted directly with the slow, do - as - little - to - change - thingsaspossible style of the previous Liberal Government. Its behaviour was to react to circumstances and to avoid decisions, and rarely did it initiate urgent reforms or ask the public to give it a mandate for certain actions. The people were never asked to consider the purchase of the Fill, our commitment in Vietnam or the very important trade agreement with Japan in the 1960s. On the other hand, the people knew and endorsed the Labor Party’s whole program in the 1972 election and they want results. This is why we have been forced to move as quickly as we can. Politicians have never been expected to deliver all their promises yet we are criticised by the the Opposition for not achieving everything in 12 months. The Opposition opposed the major and most urgent reforms.
To stick to the promises to the letter would rob the Government of flexibility. I believe that, given our limited power, we have honoured more of our promises than would normally have been expected. But the obstruction in another place that we are facing is not the only barrier to carrying out the people’s program. As well as facing a hostile Senate and 3 unco-operative State governments in the eastern States, this Government has received organised opposition from those who benefited from the situation under the conservative coalition. These people would like to see many injustices continue to their advantage and to the disadvantage of the average citizen. Massive campaigns have been waged by an ‘ organised minority of doctors, the health funds, industrial groups, education lobbies and others in such fields as tariffs, aid for wealthy schools, industrial relations and health.
– What about the chemists?
– While we are mentioning the chemists I might add that the industrial pharmaceutical companies, of which 97 per cent are overseas owned, have headed one of the organised lobbies against bringing in the most urgently needed health reforms in this country. Compared with the Government’s innovative and constructive program to date, and that which is to come during this session, let us consider what the Opposition promises. I can state it in 4 words: Opposition for opposition’s sake. Let us look at the notices given for matters to be discussed on General Business day. The first one is from the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). He gave notice that he would move:
That this House deplores the actions of the Government in pursuing policies which are undermining the economic stability of the Australian economy. . . .
A couple of weeks later he proposes to move to condemn the Government for allowing a run down in the defence services and defence capacity of Australia. These things have been rare in this House. Not once have we heard one constructive piece of criticism or one remedial suggestion for the alleged deficiencies in the program. The honourable member for Petrie (Mr Cooke)- -
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Deputy Leader of the Country Party was heard in complete silence. It is quite obvious that since the speaker from this side of the House rose to his feet there has been rumbling from the Country Party and from the few Liberal supporters in the House. I ask you to give him the same consideration as was given to the previous speaker.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! There is no point of order involved. I suggest that the House comes to order. I could reply to the honourable member but I suggest that the House comes to order and the honourable member for La Trobe be allowed to make his speech in silence.
– I was referring to the notice given. (Quorum formed.) There is only a handful of Liberals in the House. The coalition is supported by its lesser counterpart, the Country Party. I was referring to the notices given for matters to be discussed on General Business days by the honourable member for Petrie. He intends to condemn the Government for discouraging and impeding home ownership by young Australians, for misusing public moneys for party propaganda, and for proliferating statutory boards and commissions thereby diluting the principle of parliamentary responsibility. These things have been raised already, and once again constructive criticism and suggestions for remedial action have failed to come forth from the Opposition.
Let us consider the first attack put up by the honourable member for Petrie. What is the position in regard to prospective home ownership? The total Government provision for housing has gone up by 34 per cent this year - that is, one-third again - to nearly $500m. The first step in office taken by the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) was to give an extra $6.5m to the States to help overcome an acute housing shortage. A new Housing Agreement was negotiated with the States early last year to ensure that the size and distribution of housing funds would reflect national needs. There were no pork barrel politics in that. At least 70 per cent of public funds will be used to build homes for rent - the main area of social and economic need. A later analysis of the housing situation was outlined by the Minister for Housing and Construction when in answer to a question without notice a few days ago he said this:
The fact of the matter is that housing approvals in 1973 were of a very high order. It is interesting to note that even last January, although the approvals were 8 per cent below the December figures, when this is seasonally adjusted the approvals had actually increased by 2 per cent. So a considerable degree of housing construction is taking place in Australia.
He went on:
In the building industry we have a very serious liquidity demand problem which has been brought about–
Honourable members should listen to this by the recklessness of the previous Government.
The Minister went on to say:
Surely they were not unconscious of the fact that they were creating a very serious crisis in the housing industry, when in a 2-year period they allowed the money flowing from banks, building societiesand insurance companies to increase by 300 per cent without a comparable increase in the supply of materials or the size of the work force.
It seems to me that honourable members opposite never did realise that these fringe banking institutions would need to come under control if any responsible national government with national economic responsibilities and a recognition of them were to bring the full liquidity of the money supply under control. The Minister for Housing and Construction went on to say: . . it is essential to have a relationship between materials, manpower and money, we can understand the reasons they have brought the mess to this country which the present Government is trying to resolve … for the first time in Australia’s history we are now in the process of setting up an indicative planning authority-
Planning is a nasty word to the Opposition - which will determine the housing requirements of the people and seek to bring in its wake a proper supply-
And a proper balance - of money, manpower and materials.
For some time we have had the situation of too much money competing for the available materials and labour, forcing up building costs, in some cases by more than $130 a week. Shortages of both labour and materials are causing delays in the completion of homes under construction - another reason for rising costs. The Government has taken the pressure off demand but could do so only by making it more difficult in the short term to borrow money. My personal view is that if predictions of a slacker economy through a drop in demand here and overseas come true this year,
I would be correct in saying that we would see an easing of housing loan interest rates in this country and, as a result, cheaper housing.
We regret that higher interest rates and reductions in lending have led to some prospective home buyers being refused bank finance. The home savings grants scheme, which was supposed to help the young people by providing up to $750 towards the purchase of their first home but which used to end up in the builders’ pockets and did not ease the burden of paying off a home, is to be phased out over 3 years and replaced by a better scheme which allows interest payments on a house to be tax deductible according to a scale that favours low income earners. I said that the tactics or, more likely, the whole philosophy of the Opposition was opposition for opposition’s sake. Members opposite have opposed any proposal put forward by this Government regardless of its merits. However, we should have expected this. They set their standards last year. On several occasions the Opposition raised for discussion matters of public importance. In these debates on defence, foreign affairs and world oil supplies the Opposition showed its weakness of not having reviewed its outdated policies which were rejected overwhelmingly by the people at the last election.
In the debates on the Government’s monetary policies, industrial disputes, policies to curb inflation and the power strike in New South Wales, the Opposition showed how out of touch with events and responsibility it was when not backed by the expertise and the nursing of the Public Service. This was despite the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) making research facilities and departments availabled to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) as part of our policy of open government. Not once in the Liberal-Country Party coalition Government’s 23 years in office was this democratic offer extended to the Australian Labor Party. Furthermore, not once in debates, public or parliamentary, has the Opposition been able to offer reasonable, practicable alternatives to the policies they have criticised. Instead, they rely heavily on the practice of repeating a string of unsubstantial accusations so often that they hope they will be believed. They have relished the luxury of irresponsibility in Opposition. And this year they go on their merry way. Members opposite did not have one constructive thing to say when we debated such things as the Post Office or the referenda that will be put to the people.
In looking for an explanation of the lack of ideas and constructive criticism, perhaps we need go no further than to note that the Opposition is leaderless. The honourable member for Bruce, who ds Leader of the Opposition, said in this debate:
The Prime Minister has more than once put his job on the line.
I contend that the boot is on the other foot, but if the honourable member for Bruce were to put his job on the line, I am sure that the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) would be in like a shot to take it over. Let us examine the amendment moved by the Opposition in this debate. First of all, the Opposition says that the Government has:
Created an intolerably high level of inflation and has taken no effective steps to stop it.
What an irresponsible accusation and apportionment of blame regarding the cause of inflation in this country. What ignorance as to the economics of such a complex matter as inflation. The truth is that in the Government’s first year its overriding consideration has been to contain and reduce - as far as the national Government can with its powers under the Constitution and its lack of numbers in the other place - the inflationary pressures in the economy.
We have established a Prices Justification Tribunal and a Parliamentary Joint Committee on Prices. To the consternation of the Australian Country Party, we have twice revalued the Australian dollar. We have reduced tariffs by 25 per cent across the board to make imports cheaper for the farmer and to ease domestic demand pressures. We have mopped up liquidity and checked capital inflow through various fiscal and monetary policies. We have called a successful representative Industrial Peace Conference to consider ways of securing greater industrial peace and stability. We have introduced certain price controls in the Australian Capital Territory as an example to the States and to protect the community. There is evidence that these policies are beginning to work. These are the steps we have taken.
But we have no intention of rushing in with a heavy-handed approach and flattening out the economy with damaging recessionary policies which hit the family man hardest. Honourable members opposite talk about the family man.
But when it comes to offsetting inflation their only answer is the counter-balance or trade-off of unemployment. That hits the unskilled, the low income earner and the’ family man first. So, in spite of urging by the. Opposition to do so, we will not rush in , with the heavyhanded approach of unemployment. Just as there has been a time lag after the reckless, easy money policies of . trie Liberals in late 1972 - they are now having their major effect - so there will be a lag between our measures and their effect. I ask honourable members to give them time. I will admit that the inflation rate during 1973 was . a disappointing 13.2 per cent. But it would have been much higher if we had not acted as we did. We do not want imaginary figures, something off the tops of honourable members’ abacus minds. We want the facts. The inflation rate probably would have reached the record levels of 20 per cent and 23 per cent achieved by the previous coalition Government in its first years of office. But there are no solutions from honourable members opposite. They are silent on their secret weapon - widespread unemployment.
I would have liked to raise many things tonight to answer the charge from honourable members opposite that the Government is creating social inequities and lack of confidence. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) in this debate delivered the throwaway line ‘Australia has a Government which has alienated almost every significant group in the community’. We have a chance to test that statement. The people have a chance to test that statement and to show how wrong the honourable member is. They will have their chance at the Senate election later this year. The Leader of the Opposition wants an election. But when he talks to his coalition party members they say no. His friends on the other side, particularly in the Country Party do not want an election. But they have one on their plate. It is coming soon enough. The Senate election will not come fast enough for us, so that we can get on with the job which in 1972 we were asked to do. There are essential matters which the Opposition must not be allowed to obstruct, such as health, hospitals and so on. But the people can decide how they view the Government; the people can decide what they think of the performance of the Opposition. It’s time all right; it’s time to let the people decide.
– The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb), for all his brave words, must be quivering in his shoes at the thought that his Leader might creep out to the Governor-General, in his usual style, and advise the Governor-General to call a House of Representatives election without consulting the honourable member. Nothing would terrify the honourable member for La Trobe more than a House of Representatives election at the present time because if there ever was a classic ‘oncer’ in this House it is the honourable member for La Trobe. The Opposition has moved an amendment to the Address-in-Reply which I completely support. It is by way of censure of the Government that the Opposition has moved an amendment to the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen. The Opposition, by this means, censures the Government. We censure it because its style pf government is irresponsible, vindictive, erratic, doctrinaire and sectional. We censure it for substituting public relations exercises for solid decision making and sound administration. Good national housekeeping is what Australia needs, above all, at present; it is what Australia needs desperately and it is what Australia has not got and will not get under this Government. We censure the Government for its distorted sense of priorities. It puts paternity leave for male public servants before defence; it puts the painting ‘Blue Poles’ before country telephones. Above all, as the amendment to the AddressinReply makes clear, we censure the Government for its failure to control inflation in this country.
Inflation is running wild at an annual rate of, I was going to say, 14 per cent but I will accept the figure given by the honourable member for La Trobe of 13.2 per cent. There is not much difference between those figures. The rate of inflation will go higher this year. At this level inflation is tearing the guts out of the economic and moral fibre of the nation. The rewards are going to those with industrial muscle, while the little men, for whom honourable gentlemen opposite, the Labor Party, are supposed to stand, are being hit to leg. What has the Government contributed to this situation? It has presided over a 27 per cent increase in Government spending and a 7 per cent increase in the Public Service at a cost sufficient to provide a $2 a week increase to every pension recipient in Australia. The present Government has presided over a 14 per cent increase in wages, from which it has gathered in no less than SI 100m in increased income tax, which is a 25 per cent increase on 1972-73. This Government has presided over a 100 per cent increase in industrial disputes, in relation to the previous year. No single measure will cure inflation, but a government which is not prepared to exercise wage restaint or discipline its own spending is only trifling with the problem. The Government’s failure to do anything about these 2 matters has led to an excessive reliance on monetary policy, with interest rates at penal levels, credit short and housing loans impossible to obtain for many people.
In addition to the Government’s attitude to inflation we condemn it for its attitude to country people. Because the Government is so sensitive about the issue of the removal of the superphosphate bounty it broke a longstanding convention which gives the Opposition the right to use the 2 hours available to it each week to discuss an urgency motion in the way that it chooses. The Government gagged the urgency motion on superphosphate and I was not permitted to speak. That was the latest example of the anti-rural bias of the Government. What was the Government’s main defence? It said that the farmers had never had it so good and that in these circumstances they could afford to pay for the superphosphate themselves. According to the Prime Minister the bounty was economically indefensible. The Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) asked, in the debate: ‘Do farmers want to be on the receiving end in every way?’ The Treasurer (Mr Crean) described opposition by farmers to the abolition of the bounty as a rather selfish attitude.
That was a classic demonstration of the failure of the Government to realise just how deeply the rural recession had bitten and the mountain of debt it had left round the necks of farmers. That was an example of the failure of the Government to realise just how big a contribution the bounty had played in building up rural productivity. It was an example of the failure of the Government to be aware or take note of a report from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics which made it clear that the usage of superphosphate is extremely sensitive to price. It was an example of the failure of the Government to take note of trends which will substantially increase the price of superphosphate to farmers irrespective of the question of the bounty. Lastly, it was an example of the failure of the Government to recognise the just entitlement of the rural sector to compensation for the effect on costs of tariff and other Government policies. That is why we condemn the Government in the amendment to the Address-in-Reply in the terms that it has injured rural industries and the communities they support.
I want also to speak about that aspect of the amendment which relates to defence and which says that the Government has pursued defence and foreign policies which have seriously weakened our defence capacity. This indicates the deep distrust we feel about the Government’s actions in the defence field. It is not only the cuts which the Government has made and which have been well publicised that concern the Opposition. God knows cuts are bad enough. Expenditure on defence has been reduced to 2.9 per cent of the gross national product in money terms; probably 2.5 per cent in real terms. The Army has been reduced by one-third so that it is now barely capable of putting 2 battalions in the field; its officers are resigning in droves and its reserves have been decimated. Our maritime capacity has been jeopardised by the Government’s reluctance to make a decision about replacements for the Neptunes which are obsolete, uneconomic and kept flying only by tremendous technical efforts and spare parts that are dependent on cannibalisation. Our future maritime defence has been placed at risk by the scrapping of the DDL project with no substitute in sight. Our strategic mobility by sea is now nonexistent with not the slightest sign that the Government is concerned about it. I could go on with this sorry catalogue but it is well known to the House.
It is the Government’s style in defence matters which has nurtured and gained distrust. It has been a sorry catalogue of deceit, evasion and attempts to substitute debating points for rational argument. I suppose this is all right in the ordinary run of the mill activities of the Government but in no circumstances can it be justified when it concerns the security of the nation. Let me illustrate what I mean. A Government has an absolute right to establish its own priorities. If it gives a low priority to defence in relation to what it regards as other and more pressing needs for expenditure, I would be the last to dispute its right to do so. What I would dispute, however, is its right to say that these decisions flow from its defence advisers. This the Government has consistently done. The Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) did it in answer to a question from me the other”day. He knew then, the Government knows; that in almost every case when it has done, .this it has been untrue or partly untrue.
Let me take as an example the strategic basis or strategic assessment which the Government uses so often to justify, the low priority it gives to defence. It is true that this is produced by the Government’s . defence advisers. It may or may not be true that this document says that there is no discernible threat for the next 15 years, as the Minister for Defence has so often asserted. I say ‘may or may not be true’ advisedly because we have not seen the document. The Minister has quoted selectively from it. He has done it, but woe betide any public serevant who did it; he would be charged under the Crimes Act immediately. The Minister has done it; he has quoted selectively from it. But he has refused my request to peruse it on a confidential basis. That in itself inspires distrust, coming from a Minister who has so often trumpeted abroad his desire to brief Opposition spokesmen. But even if it is true that the conclusion in the document is that there is no discernible threat for 15 years, this does not mean that the Government’s Defence advisers draw the same deductions about the shape of our forces as has the Government. Indeed, those who have been able to speak out, like Admiral Peek and General Brogan, have made it perfectly clear that they draw very different deductions. They know, as any person of common sense who has absorbed the lessons of history knows, that the fact that you cannot discern a threat does not mean there will not be a threat. Yet the Government has clearly implied that its defence advisers concur in the deductions that it has drawn from the strategic basis. This is plain deceit. Let the Government take responsibility for its own disastrous decisions and not impugn the good name of people who cannot answer for themselves.
Let me give a specific illustration which confirms our suspicions that the Government has been using the strategic basis in a way it was never intended to be used. The Minister himself, at the Perth conference of the Returned Services League, and on other occasions, admitted that the document itself makes clear that the further you get away from the present, the less reliable were the forecasts that could be made. Yet on the basis that there is no threat the Government has cancelled, of all things, the DDL project. Had they been commenced on time - and because of this Government’s action they were not - the DDLs would not have started to become available, would not have been commissioned as ships, until the early 1980s. These were the ships intended to provide for the uncertainties towards the end of the 15 years and to replace the Daring class destroyers which by that time will have reached the end of their life. Is it any wonder that we distrust the Government on defence? Is it any wonder that we suspect its motives? Are we not justified in saying that the Government has selected the DDLs for the axe for no other reason than they will cost a large amount of money and that the strategic assessment has nothing to do with it whatsoever?
This ship was selected after the most vigorous examination of the requirement and the cost effectiveness of alternatives in Australian defence history. It is inconceivable that the requirement has changed or that a ship of some other design will meet the requirement. All that the Minister has told us is that the design is not ‘the most appropriate solution’. There has been no explanation of why. All he does is mutter vaguely about an alternative destroyer program, strategic bases and - as he mentioned in answer to a question from me recently - the Fill. Whatever may have been said about the Fill, we have the finest aircraft of its type in the world as a deterrent to an aggressor, and a Government which gives such a low priority to defence spending must be darned glad and very relieved to have the Fill.
Whatever may be said about the process by which the Fill was chosen, in no way can that be applied to the DDL which, I repeat, was submitted to the most vigorous examination of the requirement and the cost effectiveness of alternatives in Australian defence history. All the cheap smears about the Fill will not disguise the fact that by the time they are required in the early 1980s we will not have any ships at all. If we do, they will be manifestly unsatisfactory for the requirement and probably, in global terms, more costly as well. A ship of the DDL type is a major deterrent to threats to our maritime environment. What the Australian people need to understand is that as a result of the actions of this Government we will not have the DDL; we will not have that deterrent or anything like it, even if the Minister - as has been fed out in leaks to the
Press in the last few days, hurriedly with the Senate election on his doorstep - orders some of these United States patrol frigates. They will not meet the requirement.
We are talking of the early 1980s, but the position in which the Government has placed us is that our potential enemies know now what our situation will be in 7 or 8 years time. People have to understand that this is not a trivial matter, to be fobbed off by statements about its not being the appropriate solution, or cheap gibes about the Fill, or trusting in crystal ball gazing 15 years ahead. It is, or could be, a matter of life or death. We have put our potential enemies on notice that we will not have the capabilities that were to be provided by the DDL. I am advised that alternative ships cannot be provided in any other way in the time available. If the Minister believes otherwise, let him say so or have heaped upon him the censure of the Australian people which he and the Government undoubtedly deserve.
– On 8 March last year I delivered my maiden speech in this Parliament in the debate on the AddressinReply to the Governor-General’s speech. That was just over 12 months ago. In a way it seems like only yesterday. But so much has happened and so much has been done by this Government that I feel it must have been 10 years ago. Sometimes I feel that much older because it has been such a busy 15 months. Now I am speaking in support of the AddressinReply to the Speech delivered by Her Majesty the Queen in opening the second session of this Parliament. That Speech outlined the Government’s plans for this session, plans which continue the great program of reform outlined by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) before the election, so much of which has been implemented already. I am amazed at the way in which members of the Opposition carry on with their continual lies about broken promises. They do not specify them, but they continue with this series of lies.
– Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Denison that he might rephrase his comments.
– The Opposition refers to things that the Government has done, and describes as broken promises things that the Government may not yet have done. But their claims just do not stand up. The honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) has continued the smear tactics of the Opposition. Members of the Opposition think that if they say these things often enough the people will believe them. I do not think that they will. Perhaps in past years the electorate may have believed them, but one thing that the election of a new Government has done is to make the electorate more aware of the Government and more aware of what is going on in Canberra and throughout the country. They know what is being produced by this Government. They know that the reforms are good for the country. The Opposition’s smear tactics will not hold water. I wish to refer to an article in the Australian ‘Financial Review’ of last Friday, 8 March 1974, by Mr Maximilian Walsh. I think that members of the Opposition would respect him as a commentator on political affairs. This political commentator speaking about the Opposition said:
Politics in Australia has entered a new phase which not even the most professional of practitioners has yet fully appreciated.
This has been amply demonstrated this week.
That was last week.
On Wednesday the Parliamentary Liberal Party decided after a lengthy debate that it was not in favour of changing the Australian flag.
The decision was as surprising as it was relevant to Australian politics. Nobody has ever suggested changing the flag.
At the same meeting the Liberals decided to oppose any move to change the Australian national anthem from ‘God Save the Queen’ because the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden, explained to Pressmen after the meeting any move to change the anthem amounted to a move away from the ‘present constitutional structure’.
I do not really understand what that comment means.
– He does not, either.
– That is probably right. The article continues:
Again, at the same meeting the Party decided to revert to its old practice of having a non-elective ministry - if and when it returns to power.
It was a short lived reform for the Opposition. The article goes on:
In a way the meeting was a continuation of the one the previous week, when Mr Malcolm Fraser declared his warm support for Mr Snedden because the party leader had declared that he favoured the free enterprise system and was against communism.
Such is the stuff of Liberal parliamentary politics in 1974.
Mr Walsh goes on to say:
On the face of it, this dispiriting preoccupation with irrelevancies, trivia and empty, shop-worn cliches from another era would have as its inevitable end the committal of the non-Labor parties to the Opposition benches for the foreseeable future.
The performance of the party within the House on the first week did nothing to detract from this judgment.
He goes on to refer to the Liberal Party as irrelevant, as having lack-lustre leadership, as having an obsession with forms rather than with substance and as having a complete lack of policy. This is one thing the Opposition ought to stop and think about when it continues to call for a general election. On what policies will it stand? I do not know what policies it has. Perhaps it is developing them. Members of the Opposition keep saying that they will develop them. They are taking their time about it. But they do not have any policies now. Is it that the policies they have are those they espoused during 1971, 1972 and the years leading up to the change of government? The people do not want that to happen again. The electorate does not want to go back to that same old tired sort of government. So I suggest that before the Opposition starts calling for an election, it should think about the policies on which it will stand.
I said earlier that I was amazed at the sort of comments and smear tactics which the Opposition has been using. But on reflection I am not amazed; I am beginning to get used to it. I am rather sickened by it really. The honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) was carrying on again about defence. My impression is that the honourable member for Barker cannot wait for this country to get back into another, war. I am not sure that he would mind against whom the war was fought or in what country it was fought. He just likes to have a war in which this country is participating. This Government believes in peace and we are doing all we can to promote peace in this region and throughout the world. I suspect that the Opposition does not want peace.
– It has enough wars in its own ranks.
– Well, it does, but I think the Opposition likes to see other people fighting wars. The honourable member for Barker presided over a period in which 500 Australians were killed in Vietnam. I should like to think that he was sorry for it, but I am not so sure.
One other thing that members of the Opposition have been saying - it was referred to by the honourable member for Barker and the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Sinclair) - is that the Government has not been practising the open government which it promised. I should like to rebut that allegation entirely. I think the Opposition’s idea of open government is that it should make all the decisions, but it keeps forgetting that it is not in government anymore. The idea of open government is public involvement in the processes of government and public awareness of what the government is doing. This Government has acted on its promise. Let me mention just a handful of the inquiries that have been set in train to which members of the public have been invited to tell their story and to pass on their attitudes. The Australian Post Office Commission of Inquiry called for public reports. The Post Office has needed this inquiry for years. There are problems in the Post Office and they have to bc looked into. The previous Government allowed the Post Office just to continue on as it was and did nothing about it. We are having an inquiry which allows people to have their say. I certainly look forward to the result of that inquiry which will, of course, be published as are all the reports to which I refer.
Referring again to defence, there is an inquiry into the future shape and structure of the Citizen Military Forces. There is an inquiry into the National Estate asking the people to let the Government know the sorts of things in the country - buildings, parklands and so forth - that they want to see preserved for the benefit of the nation. That report is due soon and it will be published and acted upon. There is the National Population Inquiry which recently has been having its hearings in Hobart. There are dozens of these inquiries. A report of an inquiry into frequency modulation broadcasting was tabled in the House this week. There are so many reports and inquiries in addition to the continuing inquiries. The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices has allowed groups and individuals in the community to have their say in what goes on in this country. All over the country in the last 15 months - and this will continue - people and groups have been preparing submissions and having a say, which they have never had before, in what goes on in this country. They are being listened to.
Another example is the grants by the Department of the Environment and Conservation to local community groups to allow these groups to become their own environmental advocate. All sorts of local groups are now able to request grants to enable them to fight local councils, to fight legal battles and to prepare submissions on what should happen in their own area. Community involvement in what goes on in this country has been long delayed but is now occurring.
I propose to refer to just a handful of the things that have been done by this Government in my electorate of Denison. This sort of general survey can be related to other electorates throughout this country. I do not pretend that the list of items I will give represents a comprehensive survey. They are just some of the things that have benefited the people of the electorate of Denison, the people of Hobart and the people of Tasmania as a whole. Before I mention them I ask honourable members to stop and think for a moment about how many of these things would have happened if the previous Government had continued in office and how many of them would happen if honourable members opposite gained office again. I will not mention in detail the actions taken in respect of education. There has been a huge increase in the grants for education throughout this country and this has benefited my electorate. There have been additional grants for schools that really need money. Provision has been made for additional teacher centres and the upgrading of the status and conditions of employment of teachers to assist them to be better in their profession.
Provision has been made to erect 3 new child care centres in my electorate alone and possibly a fourth one in the Hobart area. These centres, of course, were long overdue. People in other areas are also demanding them. It is unfortunate that we cannot provide them as quickly as the need requires, but we are doing our best. These child care centres are of high quality, and I suppose that this is one of the problems. There are delays in providing more of them because we are insisting on high quality centres rather than just spreading them across the ground as quickly as possible without caring about the quality of the educational and care facilities in them.
One of the things that have come to my attention is the grant of $40,000 to the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education to set up a social work course. This is particularly important because there has been an insufficient output of social workers in this country and as a result of our welfare policies we will need more of them. This grant was one of the earlier ones which were made. A grant also was made to the College of Advanced Education in Hobart for the purpose of producing more trained pre-school teachers. I also refer to the Australian assistance plan. In this respect a regional council is being formed at the moment for the southern region of Tasmania. This is a far-sighted and novel concept. Again it involves community involvement in determining and planning welfare policies at the local level, with everybody, including the recipients of welfare services, being involved. I think this is an example which gives the lie to the rather boring complaints that the Opposition makes about centralism. This Government is giving local communities a much bigger say in what goes on.
Provision also has been made for extensions to the School of Dental Nursing in Hobart which will enable a greater output of dental nurses for employment in school services. The Australian Government is meeting the full capital cost of this project and 70 per cent of the running costs. Three community health centres and 3 mental health clinics are to be set up. There will be an assessment centre for mentally and physically handicapped children. At last the handicaped children in this country are beginning to get a better deal. They have been neglected for so long. The grant to the Housing Department in Tasmania has been increased by 86 per cent compared with the grant made by the previous Government. But there are problems in providing houses as quickly as I would like them to be provided. The problems have arisen because of the shortage of materials and labour. This is being tackled as quickly as possible. There is a $lm grant for Hobart’s bus services to upgrade urban public transport in the city. Also there is the provision of specific road safety grants for the purpose of upgrading and making safer poor intersections that are the cause of many accidents. The provision of these grants by the Government will mean that the State Government will not have to use so much of its funds set aside for general road grants which would otherwise be the case.
The Department of Science and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is surveying the unfortunate metal pollution in the Derwent River. Also $lm has been allocated to Launceston and Hobart to help correct the backlog in the provision of sewerage in those cities. The National Estate of course will benefit Hobart probably more than any other place in Australia because there is so much worth keeping and labelling as part of the national estate in this city. A grant of $40,000 has been allocated for the construction of an indoor sports centre in the suburb of Kingston in my electorate. Just last week an announcement was made that $60,000 would be allocated towards the building of an athletic centre in Hobart which will enable the Australian athletic championships to be held for the first time in Hobart. Previously Hobart did not have an international standard track.
The Department of Labour is providing a career reference service in Hobart. These are just some of the things which this Government is providing that would not have been provided by the previous Government had it regained office. I ask the House again: How many of those things would have been done if we had continued with the previous government?
– That is right. I must admit that there are some things which are happening too slowly for my liking. I referred in my maiden speech which I made 12 months ago to the shipping problems in Tasmania and to the freight rates which apply and which of course affect the economy of the State. But something is happening in these respects. I just wish that the bodies of inquiry which have been appointed would get on with the job and report as soon as possible. Perhaps I am being too impatient, but I hope that the reports will be made in the near future. Mr Nimmo, the former Secretary of the Department of Housing, has been appointed as a royal commissioner to undertake an inquiry into the impact of freight rates on the Tasmanian economy. Mr Summers, the former head of the Department of Shipping and Transport is inquiring into the long term development of the maritime industry. I am confident that both of these inquiries will end by benefiting Tasmania.
Both the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) and I saw the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) last week and this week about the upgrading of passenger facilities at Hobart airport. In 1969 Mr Swartz, the then Minister for Civil Aviation, said that the airport terminal at Hobart would be improved in 5 years. That period is up now. If the former Minister had done something more than just make that statement perhaps we would already have an improved airport terminal. I hope that the present Minister will be able to do something about it. I hope that he will respond quickly to the representations that have been made by the honourable member for Franklin and me.
I intended to refer to the transfer of the Antarctic Division of the Department of Science to Hobart which will be of such benefit to that city and Tasmania. But as my time has almost run out I will have to leave this subject for another occasion when I can concentrate solely on it. I just want to point out to the House the overwhelming response that this decision has received in Hobart. I mentioned in my maiden speech, and I refer to it again, the need for decentralisation of Commonwealth departments.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In speaking to the Address-in-Reply to the Speech delivered by Her Majesty the Queen at the opening of the Second Session of the Twenty-eighth Parliament I would like firstly to draw the attention of the House to the section on education. In particular I refer to the decision by the Government to locate the fourth university in Victoria at Geelong. Today a very full report was delivered to the various offices and a copy was placed on my desk. A close study of it shows that it goes to great lengths virtually to give every reason to support the proposal for a 3-campus university. It goes so far as to say there is nothing against a 3-campus university. Such institutions have proved to be very successful, but for various reasons the Government and the Australian Universities Commission decided against the establishment of one in Victoria.
The decision by the Government on a fourth university in Victoria is unfortunate and curious. It is a curious decision arrived at with regard to the Australian Universities Commission and unfortunate for the people of western and north-central Victoria, particularly those in Ballarat and Bendigo. Let us look at the progression of events in regard to the establishment of a fourth Victorian university. On 9 February 1973 an article appeared in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ which stated:
Bendigo university site says ALP. A special ALP parliamentary sub-committee has recommended Bendigo as the site of an administrative centre for a country university. Bendigo would be the base for a multicampus country university with community campuses at Morwell and Ballarat.
We progress to 13 February when a decision was made by the Victorian Government that the fourth university would be built on a 3-campus basis and established in the 3 cities of Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong. The Government stated that legislation to establish a new university was expected to be introduced in the autumn session of the Victorian Parliament. That was reported in the ‘Age’ of 13 February. The report went on:
It will cater especially for external students studying by correspondence. It will be called the University of Victoria and will be the first multi-campus university in Australia.
On 7 May 1973 a report which appeared in the ‘Age’ referred to the University of Dandenong. Reports were coming from all around the place. The ‘Age’ report stated:
At all events the Australian Universities Commission and the Australian Commission on Advanced Education have decided that Melbourne’s fourth university should be a single-campus institution and that it should be located in the Dandenong area.
They had their minds made up before any decision was made at government level. On 13 November 1973 yet another report appeared in the ‘Age’. I am sorry to quote so much from the same newspaper, but it carried the relevant reports. The article of 13 November stated:
Fourth university plan likely to be scrapped the AUC headed by Professor Peter Karmel recently joined the Australian Commission on Advanced Education in publicly criticising the Victorian proposal.
That refers to the 3-campus proposal -
The Commission will then inspect sites at Geelong. Ballarat and Bendigo where the university’s three campuses are planned.
What a ridiculous situation. What a waste of public funds when the decision had already been made. The Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) had made up his mind. The Australian Universities Commission had made up its mind that there was not to be a 3-campus university. But then it was decided that the Universities Commission would have to file this magnificent report which contradicts itself all the way through. Finally, in order to appease the Government, it decided that the fourth university was to be sited at Geelong. To herald that decision a report appeared in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ on 20 February 1974. It stated:
Geelong university plan irks Bendigo.
And it did-
Geelong seems certain to get Victoria’s fourth university. A report from the Australian Universities Commission has rejected the State Government’s proposal for a multi-campus university. The Federal Education Minister, Mr Beazley, has studied the report and written to the Prime Minister outlining its recommendations and his views.
Geelong appears to have got the nod over the other two cities. …
I might add that that report appeared a week before it was actually mentioned officially in Government circles. Then we come to 26 February, when the official announcement was made that Geelong would get the fourth university. Of course, I am very disappointed as also are the people in Bendigo, Ballarat and the surrounding areas at not getting the fourth university on the proposed 3-campus basis. But I am also disappointed that there had to be an unofficial leak of the news from the responsible Government department. It appears to be a tendency of this Labor Government that it cannot wait and do things in the normal, proper manner and make announcements through Parliament. The Government lets out leaks to the newspapers on reports that are to be presented and, therefore, Parliament is sidestepped.
– The honourable member is not accusing Karmel of dishonesty, is he?
– I said that it was a Government leak. I hope that the Minister is not suggesting that Karmel runs the Government. A further result of this decision which particularly affects Bendigo relates to the fact that early in 1973, $3.75m was approved to be spent at the college at Bendigo. The honourable member for Denison (Mr Coates), who has left the chamber, made great haste to say that an amount of $40,000 had been approved for expenditure in his electorate. I only hope that he gets it because, originally, $3. 75m was approved for expenditure at the State college of education, formerly the teachers’ college, in order to build a resources building and a library. However, the news then came through of the Karmel Committee’s report. We were waiting on this report - waiting on the decision that had already been made. The college was then told that this money was to be held up and that the buildings were not to be proceeded with.
As we are all aware, there has been rises in the costs of goods and in the costs of buildings and there has been an accelerating rise in the cost of putting up huge buildings. The delay in the provision of this money meant that there was almost a daily loss factor in the amount that the authorities could build for the money available. It was not until after Christmas - this report was supposed to be out before Christmas - that it was announced that the college could go ahead and build the resources building at a cost of $ 1.75m. However, it was not allowed to go ahead with the $2m proposal for the library and it has not yet got the nod on this. Why hold up this very vital, urgently needed building? This Government claims it is doing something for education. It claims it is looking after the urgent needs of the teachers and the students. Yet the building of a $ 1.75m resources building was held up for 6 months because, although a decision already had been made, this Government and its administration played around because* it was not prepared to go ahead and announce the decision as to where the fourth university was to go. With accelerating building costs, probably added money will need to be supplied by this Government when it finally gives the go-ahead on the library building, if and when that ever comes along.
I turn now to the Grants Commission. Let me look at what is really behind this proposal to supply money to local government. Firstly, we have the proposal to assist local governments on a regional basis. Areas were delineated by the Federal Government. Australia was broken up into various regions with the very good excuse that the Government would be able to supply money on a regional basis. This meant of course that each local government area had to amalgamate with various other local governments to formulate a joint policy and present a submission to the Government. However, after the local governments had gone to all that trouble and the joint policy had been worked out they were informed that for the next 12 months the grant would be made to the individual local governments and that grants would be made thereafter on the regional basis. I ask the Government: What is the real reason for creating regions? I warn the local governments that what is really behind this move is the obvious intention of the Government to do away not only with State governments, which is the plan of this socialist government, but also to do away with local government in its existing form and to establish regions which would be more easily controlled by a centralist and socialist government. At the moment the grants are to go to the States because of the legislation which we were able to add, and they will go to approved regions. But who approves the amount of the grant? It will be the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. How can he or his Department know the needs of a local area in Western Australia better than the Western Australian Government? The same applies to an area in South Australia, Queensland or Tasmania for that matter.
– Probably the Minister has noticed how much help the State governments give local government.
– I thank the honourable doctor. I was going to say the Minister for - I was going to say Canned Tomatoes, but that is not the place. I thank the honourable member for that interjection because that is the very point. If the Federal Government wants ‘ to save the Australian people and cut down on inflation let it cut out some of its bureaucracy and give the money it is paying into this great Department of Urban and Regional Development to the State governments as added funds. How much extra money would the State governments have if they had this money instead of it being spent on an extra bureaucracy as this Government is doing? The Parties on this side of the chamber are concerned for local government. It is the future of the regions which is worrying local government. They will see through the scheme to present this referendum. The people will not be fooled by this proposal which is dangling the carrot of immediate money. They know full well that one can spend a dollar only once. Even some of the honourable members opposite can rationalise that. If the Government gives money direct to local government how will it give sufficient money to State governments to support local government? Obviously this will balance out. They will get the same net amount of money. I warn State governments and local governments to be very careful in how they approach the receiving of this money from the Federal Government. I refer to a submission which I have been asked to present from the Shire of Strathfieldsaye which is a shire in the area of Bendigo. It forms part of the region but, at the moment, it refuses to join the region. The Shire council has asked me to direct this submission to the Minister. Unfortunately he is not here but he can have a copy. In the opinion of this council assistance should be:
These are the best people to assess the needs and not a centralist government. The submission continues:
That is a very good statement.
– Did the honourable member write it for them?
– No, I did not write it for them. They are very clever people in my electorate and they are able to think for themselves. Unfortunately people on the honourable member’s side of the House cannot think for themselves. Now I turn to pensions and superannuation. One of the problems which concerns me - I hope it concerns some of the honourable members on the Government side - is that many people on superannuation or on a pension who have gained by their frugal and prudent work over the years and who have been able to obtain their own homes find that they are completely disadvantaged when compared with the pensioner who is actually renting a home. The person renting a home has the benefit of applying for and receiving a $4 a week rental allowance. But the person owning his own home cannot obtain that $4 a week and he has the added burden of paying rates. I suggest that the Government should have a close look at this situation and I hope that the Government and Opposition will support it. Where the person on a basic level of income, irrespective of his asset backing, owns his own home, and a means test applies, he should be entitled to have some subsidy to assist in paying his rates. I look at a comment as reported in the ‘Sun’ of 12 April 1973. The headline is:
Canberra Cash to Peg Council rates.
It is by the Minister for DURD. Some people do not spell it DURD. This article states:
The Federal Government will start a multimilliondollar loan scheme to curb Council rate rises.
It is yet to start. The Victorian Government at least has put up a proposal to local government whereby it will subsidise, on a basis of either deferment or total payment up to $40 of pensioner rates. It has not received any assistance from the Federal Government in subsidising this fund and I doubt whether it is ever likely to get any assistance. It is a pity that the Federal Government did not put its money where its mouth is and come up with some funds not only for the pensioners but also for the other people who have to pay rates. If it did we would say that it really was doing something, as the honourable member for Denison tried to make out. The people would be very doubtful as to how much money the Federal Government would give to local government if they realised that it did not offer to assist in any way despite this great statement under the headline ‘Canberra Cash to Peg Council Rates’.
The next matter on which I wish to touch is tariff protection. It has been mentioned by various speakers but I want to draw attention to the concern felt by the small industries producing woven goods and shirts in the metropolitan areas but more particularly in country areas. Again, of course, these industries are of no concern to this Government. We will find that if the special tariff protection is deleted, as is proposed by this Government, there will be a flood of cheaper goods into this country. This will put a lot of factories almost out of business, if not out of business altogether. It is all very well to say, as the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) stated, that the Government will institute retraining schemes. He has done nothing to date about retraining the unemployed in country areas and has stopped the flow of money made available to local governments, through the State governments, to provide assistance in the form of unemployment relief whereby local councils could employ unfortunate people who are out of work.
The Minister will find that there is a flood of people out of work. The unemployed will be mainly women. The women in country areas and city areas who work in factories are the ones who will suffer and will be out of work. They can be retrained, certainly. The Commonwealth can waste money in retraining them, not in the sense that they will not learn something, but where are they going to apply the knowledge gained? It will not be applied in the same country areas because there are no facilities to engage them. Once they are out of work, that is it, and they will not be re-engaged. If this Government does not control tariff protection it will find that there will be a backlash that it will not forget for a long time.
Much has been said about the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and unfortunately I have to agree with all members of the Opposition about the move by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Lionel Bowen) to close post offices on Saturday mornings. He made great statements to the Press in which he said that he was opposed to it but let us face the facts. He has been talking in this House for about 6 months about closing post offices and down grading post offices because they are not profitable and are too costly. He sees quite clearly that he can save the Government money and to heck with the service to the public. He decided to close these post offices and he supported the unions when they turned down the postmen.
– It is time you woke up. Who instituted it? It was Sir Alan Hume.
– Listen to Heckle and leckie over there, Mr Deputy Speaker. You get tired of listening to them interject. Heckle nearly put me off my train of thought but he will not do that.
– Order! I suggest that the honourable member refer to honourable members by their proper titles.
– Is not that his right name? I am sorry.
-Order! If the honourable member does that again he will not remain in the House.
– I would like to support the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and in doing so draw a parallel between the 2 parties in this House. The socialist Labor Party plans to have our future economy and the shape of our society decided by centralist government control. It believes that Government must be given power to direct and control every activity of the individual. The policy of the Liberal and Country parties is to spread the power to make decisions. These ought to be spread as widely as possible. The Liberal and Country parties believe in the freedom of the individual and the preservation of the federation. That is part of our heritage which this socialist Government is doing everything it can to destroy. When it comes to a referendum, the choice is between a free society and a society in bondage. I am sure that at the next referenda the people in this country will react as they did at the last referendum and that we will have the same results. The referenda are designed not to provide freedom but to put the people under socialist bondage.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I have noted the bitter opposition of the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr ‘Bourchier) to the Government’s proposals to give direct access for local government to the national tax pool of the Loan Council. I have no doubt that in the fullness of time he will attempt to explain that to local government itself. It seemed to me that the only contribution he made that was original was to question the integrity of the Karmel Committee and the Australian Universities Commission. I have not heard that before. In that way he is unique. No doubt he will explain it to both those bodies in due time.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, 1 rise on a point of order. I did not at any stage-
– Order! That is not a point of order. The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– During he course of this debate we have had few and sparse passing references by the Opposition to immigration. The Opposition has given the impression. - I do not put it any more strongly than this - that it would prefer a return to the policies of the past when discrimination at all levels was epitomised by the fact that Australian citizenship was granted on the basis of one, three, or five years depending on where a person came from and what complexion he happened to have. That has been abolished and Australian citizenship today is one and indivisible. For the first time Australian citizens across the world are a matter of concern to the Australian Government. I was shocked when I took office to find that some Australian citizens were missing, some had been shot, some had been gaoled and nothing very much had been done about them. The Government has shown some concern because it regards Australian citizenship as important.
– The honourable member for Petrie is missing tonight.
– I did not think he was ever here, but the honourable member for Bowman is here and I am delighted also to see the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Doyle). The Government has made other notable ‘advances in the avoidance of discrimination on any grounds of race, colour of skin or of nationality. Selection of migrants throughout the world is based on criteria applied uniformly. The introduction of the structured assessment scheme ensures that migration officers around the globe achieve the necessary uniformity of approach and the necessary objectivity. This innovation, in company with expanded counselling for potential migrants, has greatly improved the capability of people who come here to remain with us. A community relations committee of the Immigration Advisory Council has been established to examine all aspects of discrimination against overseas born citizens and non citizens. Its wide-ranging terms of reference include investigation into all areas of prejudice, exploitation and discrimination, including legislative and administrative provision at all levels of government and with employment, housing and commercial practices.
Since the introduction on 1 December 1973 of the reforms in the acquisition of citizenship and a public campaign inviting settlers to become members of the national family by seeking Australian citizenship, applications are running at more than 20 per cent above the previous level. In the 3 months to February 1974 applications totalled 14,823. Persons who entered Australia or remained illegally and who have been in Australia for 3 years or more have been given the opportunity to come forward and regularise their status. On Australia Day 1974 I announced this measure aimed at giving special dispensation to people in this group who might be suffering from exploitation. So far 163 people have responded. Since the change of government and the implementation of improved selection and counselling procedures the number of settlers leaving Australia was first checked and is now declining. In the 4 months to October 1973 a total of 9,783 departed compared with 11,046 for the same period in 1972. Emergency interpreter services were inaugurated hi Melbourne and Sydney on 19 February 1973.
– That was our decision.
– I am happy to acknowledge the interjection by the honourable member. The Department of Immigration has been seeking to implement reforms for years and was never given the opportunity properly to do so. I am happy to say that it has been given the opportunity and has now implemented those reforms. The Emergency Interpreter Service was inaugurated on 19 February 1973. The Melbourne office has handled 22,556 inquiries and the Sydney office 19,204 inquiries. It is proposed to extend the Service to all major cities. The Perth Service is to commence from 24 March 1974 as a result of a task force recommendation. Our new initiatives have cut back the outflow of dissatisfied and discontented migrants, encouraged 20 per cent more people to come forward for Australian citizenship and cracked down on exploitation. We have found >$10m this year to improve and extend education and welf are services in a wide range of activities.
As the representative of perhaps the most important food and fibre producing province of the nation I feel that it is important that I deal with some of the urgent matters confronting the countryside. It was said by some of my friends opposite that for the first 3 years of my service in the national Parliament I came in every day and cried - the term they used, I think, was caterwauled’ - about the plight of the countryside. They were quite right. Indeed, the reason why I resigned a safe seat in the New South Wales Parliament to come to the uncertain seas of Canberra was associated with the rural depression which I said was unnecessary and could be ended in 3 months - and lo and behold that has happened, of course. As a matter of fact the rural recession lasted 7 years. I lived in’ a great community which saw incredible hardships. In some towns credit was ended; in one town every store, office and business gave notice: ‘No more credit’. In my own town, and in many others, the level of business activity was the lowest in a generation.
I had a good measure of what had happened in a generation of business because my late father-in-law started the first business in a community which now has 40,000 people. So we had a few records to go by. But the reason for the business slump was not hard to find. There was unemployment yet farms were going without men they needed and farm produce was being given away. Let me look back to the last years of the old Administration. Wheat growers were rationed in the middle of a season; they were told that Australia was over-produced and that they must cut back. They were forced on to the black market, and 14,000 wheat growers were forced off the land. A former Prime Minister, Mr McMahon - the right honourable gentleman - applauded the removal of people from the land and said that more should go.
In the wool industry there was a very interesting situation: Wool was selling at 29c per lb in some areas of my electorate. The right honourable member for Richmond (Mr Anthony) was telling us to burn the locks and bellies, to use wool to fill holes in the roads and to throw wool that was not needed into the creek to keep up the price. He was Deputy Prime Minister at the time. He said that we should have the same system for controlling the production of wool as he had introduced for wheat. I know all the excuses about the industry asking for wheat quotas; some of my own colleagues have fallen for them. But I accept the word of the right honourable member for Richmond who said at Griffith during the 1972 election campaign - he said it honestly, and I give him credit for it: ‘We had to get the industry to accept quotas’. He succeeded, and the result was rationing in the middle of a season, bankruptcies and hardship. But in the wool industry it was worse. He had wool growers reduced to shooting rabbits for Christmas; he had wool growers walking . off their properties. One sturdy Queenslander whom I know, a former wool grower, is running a tobacco kiosk at Kings Cross - seeing his old friends from the Opposition there regularly, I have no doubt. In national terms the sheep numbers were reduced by millions.
Rural credit which I was pledged to see available was non-existent. As a matter of fact, the Rural Reconstruction Board of New South Wales was itself bankrupt that year; it was without money for months on end and could not help anyone. Of course, the Federal Government of the time said: ‘We must be concerned about that’. But it did nothing. I made a strong plea for rural credit and pointed out at the time that $500m could be made available at 3 per cent and would cost the Treasurer only $15m a year. I used that as an example of what could be done. How far have we gone along that road? At the last time of checking there was $3 50m available at interest rates ranging from 4 per cent. That is not all the way that we would like to go, but certainly we can provide credit and a great range of facilities is available. All we have as a hangover from the past is the tribal rock musical group in the corner. There is now more rural credit available than there are takers. In the last 10 years we had trouble under the old Administration. Honourable members will remember the old Administration. In the last 10 years - between census takings, which is a 10-year period - we lost 100,000 people from the countryside. That was the product of very wise government! There was more rural poverty than city poverty. Large numbers of primary producers earned less than the basic wage. Men who worked on farms 7 days a week for most of the year turned up in my office with patches on their pants while others bludged - and I shall not mention anyone.
What has changed? Have I been wasting my time in Canberra? Should I have stayed in Sydney? Let the facts speak for themselves. In the new era of government I have not had one farm bankruptcy and I have not lost one farmer. I have seen unemployment reduced. In my own area I see projects worth $30m now being planned. I have seen the business index in my town rise by 100 per cent. Why has this happened? Why is it that Riverina, as an example, is now on the high road to progress and prosperity again? Why have I stopped caterwauling in the Parliament? Let us look at the figures. Exports of food and fibre have jumped by $700m, and the full value is coming to the countryside. We have encouraged wheat output to double. It was 6.6 million tons under the old Government. We virtually abolished restrictions and set the highest ever national quota, and production has jumped to 11.6 million tons. But it is no use producing wheat unless you will be paid for it. It is no use producing wheat if you receive a miserable first payment. It is no use producing wheat if the final payment takes years to come through, because your bank commitments catch up with you. So we increased the first payment. In fact, under this new program, this new agreement which we have reached with the industry, the first payment will mean that $705m will pour into the countryside.
Not only that, but we have sought stabilisation in writing contracts in the long term for an additional 4 million tons of wheat, so far. The whole thrust of our policy for primary industry has been to establish long term stability and to give assured returns to the producer who is forced to gamble on the seasons and the international markets. What have we been able to achieve in new markets and in long term stability? The figures provided by the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns), who was in the chamber a moment ago, indicate the achievements in that direction. But what does it mean in total? The whole new thrust in trade adds up to rural incomes, as estimated to June of this year, totalling $6,200m. This is the highest figure in the history of Australia. This is the reason why I have new projects worth $3 Om being planned in Riverina.
I think that a fair question to ask is: Where has the Government gone wrong? It has gone wrong, I freely admit, in the impression that it has made. Firstly, we have not done enough to reassure the farmer, after 7 lean years under the old Administration, that the current fat years will not be followed by another 7 lean years. The farmer is worried about building his equity. He is concerned, above all, for the future. He knows the bad past and he is aware of the better present; but he is doubtful about the future. Opposition voices tell him that he is to be discarded. Opposition voices say that the farmer is about to be cast into outer darkness by an anti-rural government. The farmer is told: ‘You have never had it so bad and, if your bank manager does not agree, remember that your friendly Opposition agent told you so’.
But how could it happen that there is this worry? Because the Government faced with taking $600m worth of protection away from the city based industries, decided to show some even handedness, it took $46. 8m away from farmers in various minor, though highly personal, concessions. But let us be clear about it. The total value of the rural concessions which have been removed on a personal basis has been $46. 8m. Rural incomes have risen to $6,200m. But the aggression has been created. The seeds of doubt have been sown. The superphosphate bounty, involving $58m, has been the biggest single item that we have considered. I believe that the industry should of course have this matter placed before the Industries Assistance
Commission. A former Prime Minister, Mr John Curtin, initiated the bounty. I hope that honourable members have not forgotten him Later the Minister in charge of primary industry, Mr John McEwen, removed the bounty. A then Minister, Mr Douglas Anthony, supported the removal of the bounty. Prime Minister Whitlam supports the removal of the bounty at the present time. All of these points of view to me are interesting history and are matters of current interest to some honourable members. I cannot quite hear them clearly, but I am sure that they are there somewhere.
-Order! Would the Country Party cheer squad please keep quiet.
– I believe that the policy of our Government to have these issues decided by an independent tribunal is a right policy. I support our policy. What is more, we created the instruments of this policy in a commission which, I might say, had the support of the Australian Farmers Federation, in the very teeth of my friends of the Country Party, supported by the Liberal Party. That was the moment when the Liberal Party rose to its greatest note of triumph and greatness. They sat with us. I was very touched by that support. All of these points, it seems to me, mean that I do not really have to go caterwauling in the Parliament. But I do this on a principle, not because my farmers are bankrupt, or shooting rabbits for Christmas or giving away their wool at 29c. per lb as they did at the time I came into the Parliament The truth is that that the Australian countryside is advancing strongly. But the challenge to the Government is not just to do good deeds in the long term and by long term agreements or by long term stability but to get the message to the ordinary producer that the job is being done, that we care about him and that we want him to continue producing because in him rests our future stability and prosperity as a nation.
Having said that, I would like to place on record some of the points that were made by the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) the other day. They bear repeating. He said that there were no sales of wheat to China last year. But so far this year we have sold $17m worth of wheat to China. There were no sales of sugar to China last year but so far mis year we have sold $6m worth of sugar to China. Last year we sold $6.9m worth of wool to China, this year we sold nearly $20m worth of wool to China. The value of wool exported to Czechoslovakia has increased from $5.3m to $12.7m. The value of those exports has nearly doubled. The value of wool exported to France has increased from $53m to $83m. The value of wool exported to Italy has increased from $45m to $75m, representing approximately a two-thirds increase. The value of meat exported to Japan has increased from $78m to $189m in less than a year. The value of wool exported to that country has increased from $22 lm to $50 lm in less than a year. These are record achievements and they speak well of the producers and a countryside that is now recovering from 7 lean years. I want to put on record in the Parliament that as far as I and the Government are concerned - I have said this before - the basic stability of the nation is associated with the food and fibre industries of our nation. I want to pledge that now and in the future there will be a continuation of the policies to bring about the long term stabilities that we have never had. Of course, it is all right to talk about what has been done. But when we look back less than 2 years ago the situation of the countryside was a disgrace to the then Government. And I hope that that will never occur again, and I say that under our administration it will never be thus again.
Floods in Northern New South Wales- Immigration - Road Safety - Butterworth Air Force Base - ‘Wheel Chairs - Hostel Accommodation for Spastics.
-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 7 March, I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I rise tonight to speak concerning the very serious and drastic flooding that has occurred in the northern rivers of New South Wales. I regret very much the disaster that has befallen that part of the countryside in the electorates of my colleague the honourable member for Richmond and Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony), my colleague the honourable member for Lyne. (Mr Lucock) and myself. I believe it is important to emphasise the excellent work Chat has been done by the State emergency services assisted by the Royal Australian! Air Force and the Army. In the face of the second worst flood in 80 years and in some localities the worst flood ever recorded, the service that has been rendered has, I believe, saved lives, helped to protect property and has been the kind of undertaking of which any Australian would be proud.
My purpose in rising tonight is to draw attention to some very serious problems which the flood victims now face. I refer to the very great problem of saving thousands of head of livestock which at the moment are marooned in flood refuge areas. In some instances up to 4,000 head of cattle have been stranded in a very small space - just standing room which has been churned into deep mud. There is no way in which these animals can be fed because of the conditions unless special help is arranged. Tonight I have received urgent calls from the lower Richmond and lower Clarence Rivers asking whether fodder drops could be arranged. I understand that the RAAF has already been requested by the State emergency services to provide appropriate aricraft, such as Caribou and helicopters, for this work. But the difficulty has arisen because of the arrangements between the Commonwealth and the State governments concerning the provision of funds for flood relief. In order that the many thousands of head of starving stock can be saved it is essential that fodder be provided as part of the relief provision - in other words, as part of the provision of finance from the Government.
It is quite impossible for individual farmers to make arrangements to order fodder and to have it accounted for as is now required. I appeal to the Government to take some urgent action within 24 hours to solve this problem. It has been the practice in past floods for fodder to be dropped during the emergency period and for that to continue until stock owners are able to identify their stock and evacuate them out of the flood area. Because of the enormity of this flood, this is a very difficult problem and because of the second cyclone which occurred, the flood is a very prolonged one. In , fact at Maclean on the lower Clarence the flood waters were still rising late this afternoon. In many other areas rivers have reached a record peak height and have remained at that peak height, falling only one or two inches in the past 2 days. It will be a long time, in terms of the period in which stock can remain alive, before the owners can effectively look after the problem. Even then I believe it will be most difficult for them.
I hope that the Government will see fit to make available Army personnel and Army equipment, perhaps in the form of suitable transport and the like, first of all to assist in getting access to areas when the water has fallen and secondly to assist in removing the stock to areas where they can be put on pasture and sustained in the recovery period. I do not think any similar problem of the magnitude of this flood has been encountered before on the northern rivers of New South Wales. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) announced at the beginning of this week that relief would be available and that everything possible would be done for the flood victims. I wish at this early stage to draw attention to the difficulty facing small farmers and small business men who, under the existing provisions of flood relief, are excluded from any grant assistance unless they are virtually bankrupt or insolvent. I believe this is a very harsh exclusion of these people, whose viability makes it quite impossible for them to be afforded even the low interest short term loans that are proposed because of the added financial burdens and extreme difficulty they would face in meeting these commitments.
Perhaps I should just make this comparison. The level of income of many of these people has now dropped beyond the level of unemployment benefits which is now provided by the Department of Social Security these days. In that circumstance I believe it is proper that a fresh look should be taken at the circumstances in which these people find themselves. Small farmers are obliged to stay on their farms. They must do that if they are to attempt rehabilitation which could take 6 to 9 months because of the serious damage that has been sustained. If they are excluded during that time from any grant assistance at all they will be facing extreme hardship. Likewise their families, if they are young, will, of course, face an impossible situation. But those people who do not own properties and who have perhaps worked in some job or another in the same area can tomorrow turn up, make an application for employment, and as employment is probably not immediately available they are at once entitled to unemployment benefit relief.
I believe that the comparison between these 2 considerations points up very clearly the urgency for a review of the conditions under which assistance is given for flood victims. In addition we find that local services are very severely affected on this occasion and there will be a need for some special steps to be taken to assist the local authorities to clear the roads, to restore communications and to get the community back to some semblance of order. I hope that the Government will in no way stint what it has promised to do in this regard. I hope that what I am saying will not be regarded as a criticism. I believe it is my duty to explain the position to this House.
Earlier this evening I forwarded to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) an urgent message referring to the matters that I have raised tonight. I believe that the Prime Minister will have the opportunity tomorrow of referring to the appropriate Ministers and departments the several matters that I have raised. I urge upon him the importance of this matter receiving top priority. We know that serious floods have beset many parts of Australia during the last 3 months. We know too that much has been done to meet this crisis. But what I am speaking about tonight refers to particular circumstances and to an extreme situation and I hope that my remarks will be regarded in that light. I will not attempt to make an assessment in terms of dollars of the loss that has been sustained but I can say that it will exceed by far any similar loss due to flood in New South Wales. The enormousness of this crisis has to be seen to be believed.
Yesterday afternoon I flew by light aircraft over about 300 miles of the badly affected < area. I was quite shocked to see the conditions and to see exactly what was happening along the river valley and in the flood-prone parts of northern New South Wales. Rood mitigation has helped tremendously. It did a tremendous job. But the fact of the matter is that this flood exceeded the heights for which the flood mitigation works were really designed and except for the city of Grafton which was saved by levee banks practically every floodprone part of the 3 river valleys on the North Coast and an additional 2 others which were partly affected were a tragic sight and one that I am sure everyone at the Federal level as well as the State level will be concerned about and will want to see assistance given to the maximum extent possible.
– On Tuesday night the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) mentioned the case of a nomination by parents at present resident in Australia of a son and his family remaining in an overseas country and a request they had made for assisted passage. The honourable member made 2 complaints in connection with this case. The first was that he had raised it with me in a personal letter on 22 October and despite a number of acknowledgments by me personally to a series of requests for finalisation of the case there was still no decision. The honourable member felt this was far too long to wait for such a decision and submitted that he should have received firm advice within the 6-month period.
His second complaint was that this case was straightforward and should not have taken this length of time to determine, that the parents were in ill-health and that they wanted the son and family to join them, that this should not be delayed and the assisted passage should be granted. I undertook last night to inquire urgently into this case and to report the results of that inquiry to the honourable member and to the House. I regarded this as urgent because I know the honourable member and the course of action he took was an unusual one. Therefore I felt the matter warranted priority attention. -
First I want to say to the honourable member and the House that the parents have been in touch with the Department of Immigration and have received a reply from the Department. They also received a reply from me personally when they wrote personally to me. But I convey an apology to the honourable member that despite my intention and instructions he should receive firm advice he did not do so. The family has had 2 firm replies. He has not. So he has done a service in raising it, as it would seem that there is a need to plug the gap in the system of advice so the member and the family are both advised and the member who initiates the matter is not overlooked. This is an omission which will be rectified and the honourable member, quite apart from my comments tonight, will receive a proper written determination.
In regard to the complaint about the intending migrant and the receipt by him of an assisted passage I must remind the House of my words the other night, that behind the bland reply to a family often lies a tale which is better left untold for their peace of mind. In this case the people are quite anonymous.
In fact the matter was not raised in relation to a resident of the honourable member’s electorate. So I am pleased that we can discuss it in an abstract and anonymous way.
The migrant family concerned lodged the nomination of their son and his family from a capital city. The parents wanted their son with them, particularly the mother, and this was very natural.
Called for interview in the country concerned the son was found to have 29 convictions over 10 years and 4 consecutive periods of imprisonment. He was described by one of his own country’s authorities as a compulsive thief. He told my officers overseas he wanted to join his mother in a certain capital city. In fact she lived in another capital city in another State 1,000 miles away. The son was found to have been employed in between his gaol sentences off and on for about 4 years in the whole of his life. He has a wife and 5 children and he maintains them on unemployment benefits, reporting to my officers that it was better than working.
The wife was found to be below average intelligence, the 5 children below standard physically. He claimed to write to his mother regularly but he did not know where she lived. She told the honourable member there was ill health in the family and of course this gave edge to his concern, and I acknowledge it, but the son said the parents were both in good health. He was not sure what he wanted to do in Australia. He said a house could be fixed up for him in Sydney with 4 bedrooms and he heard he might have to pay out as much as $14 per week.
– Good luck to him.
– Good luck to him, yes. He declined to attend any information meetings and he said his only recreation was a beer with the boys on Fridays. This was the applicant for whom an assisted passage was being sought at the expense of the Australian taxpayers to help build the nation - 29 convictions, 4 periods in gaol, unemployed for 4 years up until now, declined employment because the dole was better and was not even sure where his parents lived or what their state of health was. The answer was to decline an assisted passage.
I feel that within the very generous criteria laid down the decision was sound not only in the interests of Australia but also in the interests of the parents and I might say in the interests of the family concerned. It could be said that he will reform and be different. Where he lives in the world there is no lack of employment at present and if he makes an effort and works for a change, stays out of gaol and pays attention to his family and applies again I will always be happy and I am sure any of my successors will always he happy to reconsider the decision, but on the present basis I am sorry the answer has to be no. I would say that to burden ageing parents with such a family - a man, wife and 5 children would be too much, even if I had the authority to spend Australian taxpayers’ money on such a case.
I feel that there has been merit in raising this matter because it has shown up a defect in handling correspondence - and I acknowledge that - and above all I believe it has demonstrated that in the area of migration the human story too often has to be hidden behind the officialese of the Department. But for my part, better that the Minister and the Department be thought of as hard hearted villians than one mother be disillusioned.
I acknowledge that the honourable member has raised a valid point in relation to an anonymous person who is quite far from him and from me and can never be identified, from what we have said, amongst 13 million people in Australia. However, the case is not untypical of the sort of problems we face.
– The first of the matters I wish to bring to the attention of the Government tonight relates to the present completely unacceptable road toll. I left a message with the office of the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) that I would be raising this matter tonight. There is nothing critical of the Minister or his Department in what I have to say. The Oakleigh Lions Club, which is within my electorate, has for a year or more been conducting a road safety campaign. It has been particularly active in this area. I have made a number of attempts, through the Parliamentary Library, the National Library and the Victorian Department of Transport, to obtain 35 millimetre films and slides on road safety, but they are practically unprocurable. The Minister for Transport will be aware that young drivers are very much involved in road accidents. They are even more involved in fatal road accidents. It is a fact that there is a captive audience of young car drivers at drive-in theatres, and I believe that the showing of road safety films at those theatres could do no other than benefit young drivers. However, such films are just not available and I ask the Minister to consider instructing his Department to produce 35 millimetre films on road safety which could be shown at drive-in theatres throughout Australia. I am quite sure that nothing but good could come from such a move.
– Have you tried the National Library?
– Yes, I have tried every known source. One film is available but there is a limit to the number of times that it can be shown. As the honourable member for Robertson knows, many films are available in 16 millimetre size but they are just not available in the 35 millimetre size. If road safety films could be produced in the 35 millimetre size
I am sure that their showing would do a lot of good at drive-in theatres to which young people drive their cars. While they are waiting for the main films to be shown they watch advertising slides and I feel that if road safety films were shown at that time it would be the best way of getting to the people who are most concerned in fatal accidents.
The second matter to which I wish to refer concerns the Royal Australian Air Force base at Butterworth in Malaya. I advised the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) that I would be raising this matter and I am very glad to see that he is now in the chamber. I have heard 2 rumours and I would like the Minister’s advice on whether there is any truth in them. The first rumour is that the Australian Government is to hand over the Butterworth base to the Malayan Government. The second rumour, so I have been informed, is even more disturbing to RAAF personnel. Men who have served at Butterworth over a period of years have established a yacht club there. They have heard rumours that the club, which is theirs and does not belong to the RAAF, is also to be handed over. I understand that the RAAF has not contributed to the cost of the club. I had a call from a person who is very disturbed about the rumours and I would like to be able to assure him that there is no truth in the rumours. If there is some truth in them I would like the Minister to make a statement about them.
The third matter to which I want to tefer relates to something about which I wrote to the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), that is, wheel chairs. I believe that the Government provides artificial limbs free of charge to amputees. Wheel chairs are virtually artificial limbs to paraplegics, who include a great many sufferers from multiple sclerosis. I am raising this matter on behalf of a sufferer from multiple sclerosis who receives only an invalid pension. He has no other money and has suffered from multiple sclerosis for more than 20 years. I suppose that he is lucky to be alive. I have been trying to obtain a wheel chair for him through Lions Clubs and other charitable organisations in Victoria, but because he weighs about 16 stone or 17 stone he requires a particularly heavy wheel chair. So far it just has not been possible to obtain one for him. I should like to see the Government make wheel chairs available free of charge to paraplegics in the same way as it makes artificial limbs available free of charge to amputees.
The last matter I wish to raise is also a matter for the consideration of the Minister for Social Security. I have written to him about this. I have asked him to give special consideration to the provision of hostel accommodation for spastics. It is my belief that the elderly, the mentally retarded and the ill are all far better catered for than are the spastics. I believe that their cause is deserving and their need is urgent. I hope that the Government will be able to do something to provide greater assistance for spastic sufferers, particularly in the form of financial help towards the provision of hostel accommodation.
– The Honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) has raised a number of questions. One is a matter for the consideration of the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones), one is for myself and the third and fourth matters are for the attention of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden). Perhaps I might refer briefly to the question affecting the Minister for Social Security, although I have no doubt that the Minister will provide the honourable member for Henty with a suitable reply. The honourable membei for Henty referred to the fact that this Government has provided financial assistance to amputees. He acknowledged that fact and then raised the question of assistance to paraplegics. One might ask why the honourable member, who was a supporter of the previous Government for some years, did not in the first instance acknowledge representations which were made by honourable members on this side of the House when we were in opposition for assistance to be provided to amputees and the provision of assistance to paraplegics.
– I was not being critical.
– However, I am sure that the Minister for ‘Social Security will sympathetically consider the honourable member’s request. I acknowledge that the honourable member for Henty has always shown some interest in questions of social security; I would want to concede that. The question that he raised for the consideration of the Minister for Transport will no doubt also be considered by that Minister.
Let me turn to the other matter raised by the honourable member for Henty which related to the future of the Butterworth Air Base. I think the honourable member should understand that the air base at Butterworth and its future are matters for the Malaysians to determine. We have no jurisdiction at all in these matters. However, I am sure the honourable member will be aware that, during his speech only a few days ago, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), in speaking on foreign affairs, indicated to this Parliament and to the nation that we will retain the 2 Mirage squadrons which are based at Butterworth while their needs are relevant to our 2 nations and to our region. Prior to that statement I had indicated that, as a result of my discussions with the Malaysians, the 2 squadrons of Mirage aircraft would remain at Butterworth until at least 1975 when the position would be reviewed.
The fact remains that if in 1975 it is decided as a result of discussions between the 2 governments that there is a need for the Mirage aircraft to remain after that date, they will continue to remain in the area. Again, this is a matter for the Malaysians to determine. I think the honourable member for Henty should understand that if the Malaysians request that the Mirage aircraft should be removed from Butterworth, we would have no alternative but to return them to Australia. In answer to the matter raised by the honourable member, may I give him an assurance that, until the review in 1975, there will be no question about the Mirage aircraft remaining at Butterworth. As I have already indicated to the honourable member, there will be a review in that year. The honourable member began his speech by saying that he regarded this as a rumour. Well, it is a rumour and no more than a rumour. Only a few days ago it was made quite clear by the Prime Minister and by me that we have determined that the Mirage aircraft will remain in that area. Of course, the reasons for this are well known. We believe that through them we are making a very valuable contribution in this region.
But the honourable member should understand, as I have pointed out, that if the Malaysian Government requested the Australian Government to return the Mirage squadrons to Australia we would have no alternative but to accede to its request. It is not likely to do that. During my discussions with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence in Malaysia it was quite clear that they wanted the Mirage aircraft to remain there. That is the position. I am glad that the honourable member acknowledged that this could be a rumour. It is a rumour and no more than a rumour.
The other matter which the honourable member for Henty raised is in relation to a yacht club in the vicinity of the Butterworth air base. I have no knowledge of this, but I am sure that the honourable member will appreciate that, if there is any doubt or any problem in relation to a yacht club and if he asks me to investigate the problem, I will do so. As I pointed out in relation to the other matter, I would think that this is no more than a rumour. The honourable member ought to be able to assure those who have contacted him on this matter that they have no reason to be concerned about the future of the Mirage squadrons or the yacht club until at least 1975 when the matter is to be reviewed as a result of a decision of the Malaysian Government and the Australian Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Moose adjourned at 10.57 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Further to question No. 1553 of 6 December 1973 will he immediately seek the consent of State Premiers to the release of the report that was compiled by Commonwealth and State officials and which has been with the Government since June 1973.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
I will consider this matter after I have obtained detailed views from the Premiers on the substance of the report.
asked the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, upon notice: What is the salary and allowances for accommodation and travelling of Mr J. Mundey in his capacity as an executive on the Australian Conservation Foundation.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Australian Conservation Foundation is an independent organisation and is not responsible to me. I have been advised that Mr Mundey is not a member of the Foundation’s executive but has been co-opted as a councillor. I have been further advised that in that position he will not receive a salary and will be eligible for reimbursement of fares incurred whilst travelling to council meetings or when engaged on authorised council business.
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) Solar energy. The CSIRO carried out research mainly on solar water heating, air drying, desalination, and aspects of solar thermal power stations. A Director of Solar Energy Studies has recently taken up duties and will provide advice to the CSIRO Executive on relative priorities of the CSIRO work. Some tertiary education institutions carry out work on selective surfaces, silicon technology, photochemistry, photoelectricity and - organic photovoltaic substances.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 March 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1974/19740314_reps_28_hor88/>.