28th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. 3. F. Cope) took the chair at 1 1 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 citizensof 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, 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 the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the Human Rights Bill contravenes the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Australian Constitution in that the Bill provides that the time, place and manner of religious observance (which, as matters of individual conscience, should not be subject to Government or political control) could be limited by regulations, which are outside the direct control of Parliament.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House protect the individual’s basic rights defined by the Australian Constitution and oppose the second reading of the Human Rights Bill.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr James.
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 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 Muogamurra 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.
– I inform the House that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Willesee, will be absent from Australia from later today until next Saturday. He will be attending the meeting of the South Pacific Forum in the Cook Islands. In his absence I am the Acting Minister.
– Will the Prime Minister agree that the proposal to allow interest paid on home mortgages as a taxation deduction is highly discriminatory against tens of thousands of low and middle income earners? Is interest paid on a mortgage on a home exactly the same kind of liability as rent paid upon a home leased for personal occupation? Why the discrimination? Why does the Government intend to cancel the home savings grants scheme which enables low income earners to become home owners? What are the inflationary implications of the proposed scheme?
– The Government is replacing the former scheme by the new one because the new scheme is much more equitable. The old scheme involved a grant of the same amount to people whatever their incomes. Persons on very small incomes would get no more under that scheme than millionaires would get. The present scheme gives most assistance to those who need it most. It helps those who have a net actual income of between $4,000 and $14,000. In other words, the taxpayer will be helping those most who need help most. It will be a graduated amount of assistance cutting out at $14,000 net actual income.
– The Minister for Social Security will remember frequent submissions I have made to him recently about many proposals put forward in the interim report of the committee of inquiry into aged persons housing which was tabled in this Parliament last year. As the Minister has acknowledged to me the need to raise subsidy limits, is he yet in a position to make an announcement on this matter? If not, when will he be in a position to do so?
– I acknowledge the submissions which have been made to me by the honourable member for Hawker who asked this question. Indeed, I acknowledge the general interest of honourable members of this House in this subject. I am pleased to be able to advise that in fact the Government has decided to increase the subsidy limits under the Aged Persons Homes Act and also to increase the full capital grant under the Aged Persons Hostels Act. Honourable members would be aware that at the present time the maximum subsidy under the Aged Persons Homes Act is a flat amount that provides no differentiation between the cost of land and the actual cost of a unit. After this alteration takes effect, which will be on 1 April, there will be 2 components to the subsidy. There will be a maximum land subsidy as well as a maximum subsidy on units. The single unit subsidy will increase from $5,200 to $6,000. The double unit subsidy will increase from $6,000 to $7,000. The maximum land subsidy in any case will be $1,600 per unit. This means that the maximum subsidies become, for single units-
– Mr Speaker, excuse me, but I have a point of order, and a very valid point of order, too. This is a statement of policy and surely it should be made outside question time in the form of a statement.
-Order! The question was seeking an explanation of policy, which is quite in order.
– I am disappointed that the honourable member should resent the proposed improvements. The effects of these changes will be, therefore, that the maximum subsidies, including the land subsidy, will become: For a single unit, an increase from $5,200 to $7,600, and for a double unit, an increase from $6,000 to $8,600. The grant for the full capital cost for aged persons hostels is currently $7,800 per person and it will be increased to $9,000 per person. As I have mentioned, these changes will be effective from 1 April. The additional cost of this will be $10m for the rest of this financial year, $6m being attributed to the aged persons homes program and $4m to grants under the Aged Persons Hostels Act.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the interest of honourable members from both sides of the House in the newly formed branch of Amnesty International which seeks to assist the innocent victims of political repression in all countries? If so, will he discuss with the President of Tanzania the plight of the thousands of Asians, Arabs and other detainees held in Tanzania gaols without trial and with no hope of release except on the personal order of the President? Will the Prime Minister subsequently make to the House a statement on this discussion?
– I am delighted that my colleague the honourable member for La Trobe has taken a step which has been supported by members on both sides in both Houses to found a branch of Amnesty in Australia. Amnesty provides a bi-partisan, a multinational basis for vigilance in questions of civil rights. Its services are required in all continents. I notice that the honourable member for ‘Boothby has a question on Tanzania on the notice paper, which is the first, I think, that has been on the notice paper for 6 years. I must confess that the honourable gentleman’s interest in Tanzania and other African countries has never flagged since he was a guest of Ian Smith 3 years ago.
– Mr Speaker, a point of order.
– Personal explanations will be taken after question time.
– No, it is a point of order. Actually, there are 2 points of order. The first is that the Prime Minister did not answer the question, and we are used to that. The second is that I did not go to Rhodesia as a guest of Ian Smith. So that statement is untrue and I hope that the Prime Minister will withdraw it.
– You did not go?
– Mr Speaker, I continue the point of order. The Prime Minister asked me whether I did or did not go. I say I did not go as a guest. So will he withdraw that?
– You did not go to Rhodesia?
– As a guest of Mr Ian Smith, which is what you said.
– He has implied that someone paid my fare. I regard that as an insult and I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw it because it is untrue. I am sick of him telling untruths in this place.
-Order! I do not think it was a reflection on the honourable gentleman’s personality. Perhaps there might be some misunderstanding. I wish somebody would pay for a trip for me some time. I would take it. I call the honourable member for Kingston.
– I raise a point of order. It has been the practice of the Chair, when a withdrawal has been called for by an honourable member, to have the matter complained of withdrawn if that honourable member finds what was said offensive. The honourable member for Boothby has said that the remark made by the Prime Minister is offensive to him. An allegation was made which has no substance. If you, Mr Speaker, follow the practice of this House you will require the Prime Minister to withdraw that remark.
-Order! I do not think the reference to who paid his fare is a reflection on the honourable gentleman’s personality. I am quite unaware as to who paid the fare. I am not in a position to say whether the fare was or was not paid by someone other than the honourable member for Boothby. If the honourable gentleman is offended at all, I think that the Prime Minister might withdraw the remark.
– I cannot prove that he was the guest of the Smith regime. But many honourable members who are now on that side of the House went at that time to Rhodesia. It was an amazing coincidence. If the honourable gentleman said that he got no support from the Smith regime, I accept his assurance.
– Thank you.
– Can the Treasurer say how public spending could be reduced while simultaneously undertaking additional expenditure in excess of S 1,000m for defence and other activities, and reducing taxation by at least $600m, as promised by the Leader of the Opposition and other Opposition spokesmen? Can he say what would be the rate of inflation if these measures were taken in conjunction with the reduced interest rates and the floating of the Australian dollar, also promised by honourable members opposite?
– I rise to take a point of order. I draw your attention, Mr Speaker, to standing order 144 which refers to the fact that questions shall not contain hypothetical matter. This question asked of the Treasurer presumes that Government expenditure will be cut. The Treasurer has given no indication that that will be Government policy. I submit that the question is out of order as being hypothetical and asking for an opinion.
– This is not a hypothetical question. I am not asking whether it is to become Government policy. I am merely asking for statement of fact as to how public expenditure might be so reduced. I am asking for an arithmetical answer.
-Order! I think the question is quite in order.
– I can assure honourable gentlemen opposite that I will allay any doubts. Government expenditure will not be cut because I believe that there is still so much that has to be done in the public sphere to overcome years of neglect - and in no other field is that more evident than in the fields of education and health. In answer to the question that has been asked, I have repeatedly suggested to the Leader of the. Opposition that he might specify what Government spending ought to be cut. The only answer he gives is that he believes some Government expenditure ought to be increased. In relation to interest rates and taxation, the Leader of the Opposition now proposes a curiously different path from the one that he and his Government followed during the last 20 years.
– Does the Treasurer accept-
– To whom is this question directed?
– The question is to the Treasurer. It would be too hard for you even to attempt. Does the Treasurer accept that there are only 3 ways in which there can be a redirection of resources towards the public sector, that is by inflation, by higher taxes or by higher interest rates, each of which implies an even greater burden for the average Australian than he is at present bearing from crippling tax and incredible interest rates? In view of the statement that the Treasurer has just made, that there will be a continuation of public spending and an increased level of public spending - and, as he said yesterday, this would be done at the expense of the private sector; in other words, there would be a redirection from the private sector to the public sector - and given that there are only those. 3 ways of achieving it, will the Treasurer say which of the three, or if all three to what extent, each will be used to achieve this redirection?
– All three will be used in the most commonsense combination. I have the same choice as any other Treasurer ever had. I could rely mainly on taxes. Alternatively I could use borrowing, and that is conditioned by the interest rate. Or if we were in a period of economic contraction I could rely on the use of Reserve Bank credit or Budget financing. Previous governments - governments of which the right honourable gentleman was a member - in different circumstances followed all those courses. I hope I will follow them more prudently.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether it is a fact that a number of Australian citizens, of Czechoslovak origin are having difficulty in securing visas or visitor permits to return to Czechoslovakia to visit relatives. If this is the situation will the Minister initiate discussions with the appropriate Czechoslovakian authorities to remove any difficulty that prevents these people from visiting relatives in their former homeland?
– I am aware that there are a number of countries, I think including Czechoslovakia, where there has been some difficulty in securing permission for people to enter to visit members of their families. It is always regrettable when any constriction is placed upon family members wishing to come together for visits and reunions. I understand the honourable member’s concern. It will be realised of course that the Australian Government, and certainly the Department of Immigration, are not in a position, I suppose, to open barriers which are closed in a firm way. But what we have attempted to do has been to seek co-operation and to seek sympathy for our citizens, particularly those who have relatives in various countries across the world. I will undertake to discuss this matter with my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs to see specifically what can be done in the particular cases the honourable member has raised.
– I preface my question to the Treasurer by reminding him that in the Budget the provisions and benefits of sections 75 and 76 of the Income Tax Act were removed. Because of the disastrous losses by flood and cyclone in rural Queensland in particular, where hundreds of miles of fencing and other capital improvements have been completely destroyed - improvements of the type previously covered by these sections of the Act - will the Treasurer assist rural producers who have suffered such losses and face such huge costs of restoration by considering the restoration at least temporarily of the provisions of these sections of the Act? Is he aware that these people are not eligible for any grants or social security payments to help them in their losses? Therefore will he assist by considering the restoration of sections 75 and 76 of the Act to help them restore the properties which are so disastrously affected?
– I think the honourable gentleman is incorrect when he says that such people are not eligible for any assistance. I think that if he consults my colleague the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory, who is handling the relief provisions, he will find that is not correct. All I would suggest is that if the honourable gentleman believes there is such a case he should address it to me in writing and I will consider it.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Education, is in some ways supplementary to the question addressed to the Treasurer by the honourable member for Kingston. Has the Minister for Education seen reports of Opposition spokesmen promising to cut public expenditure and reduce taxation by at least $600m while simultaneously stepping up very greatly government outlays for defence and health insurance? In view of the record -
– Order! I remind the honourable gentleman that the Minister is not responsible for what an Opposition spokesman said in regard to this matter. I ask the honourable member to rephrase his question and not to refer to the statement of an Opposition spokesman.
– With respect, I have asked whether the Minister has seen those statements. Is it a fact that such cuts in public expenditure would inevitably be made at the expense of the greatly increased outlays for education introduced by the present Government, and that as a result the heaviest burdens would be imposed on government and Catholic systemic schools? Can he say what would be the effects of such a curtailment in the education program?
– This is a respect in which it appears to me the policy, at any rate of the State Liberal Party in Western Australia, is at variance with that of the Federal Liberal Party in this House and in this Parliament. The Federal Liberal Party in this House and in this Parliament was the only Party which voted, finally, against the $701 m funding that was associated with the States Grants (Schools) Bill 1973. Admittedly members of the Federal Liberal Party said that they would reframe the
Bill and put it up if they became the Government later. But the effect of their action had it been adopted by other parties in the Senate would have been to cripple education during this coming year. On the other hand, in Western Australia Sir Charles Court is making promises which would commit the Commonwealth Government to a greatly increased form of educational expenditure in that State. What is more, the State Liberal Party would be paying a very large part of it to developers in the form of rent for schools - a quite astonishing proposal. It looked to me like an attempt to take some of the $701 m which the Commonwealth is finding for education over the next 2 years and to transfer it to some of their well-to-do friends. I think that would be a disastrous course of action.
I believe that the funding that the Commonwealth is finding at present will put the maximum pressure on the building industry to carry through the construction of schools in conjunction with other programs of the Government. I do not believe this would mean much acceleration, acceleration depending really on the intelligence with which the States can handle the money and can mobilise labour and materials. This was pointed out by Professor Karmel in his report. I certainly believe that the record of the previous years, which showed an expenditure of about $32m a year on state schools by former governments, indicates that they did not have a very much interest in expanding expenditure in that sector. I would also point out that the total program of government expenditure in the field of education
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is it in order for the Minister to continue on a completely false basis to make an election campaign speech for Western Australia?
– Order! There is no point or order involved.
– I would also point out that we have not yet got the report of the Committee for Technical and Further Education which will be recommending further action for the Commonwealth Government. I believe that the actions that were taken last week in this field of technical education, which Opposition spokesmen said they welcomed, will involve additional Commonwealth expenditure. The situation seems to me to be inconsistent with cuts in expenditure that have been promised.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I refer to the Government’s refusal to waive the 33i per cent deposit rule for the Alwest project in Western Australia, a decision which the Western Australian Premier believes will kill the project. Will the Prime Minister explain to the House the reasons for the decision? Was it influenced by the 70 per cent degree of overseas equity in the project? If it was, I ask him what is the maximum degree of overseas equity that is regarded as permissible by his Government for similar development projects.
– The Government came to a decision that it would not waive the variable deposit requirement, the 33 J per cent deposit, on the advice of the Interdepartmental Committee on Foreign Takeovers. As the honourable gentleman will know, this Committee was set up by the previous Government and has been continued by the present Government. The Committee gave the strongest advice against exempting this project from the requirement. There has been no exemption granted up to this stage. The present project would be very far from the most persuasive project which has been put up for exemption.
The honourable gentleman mentions the percentage of foreign ownership at present proposed. There is in fact no guarantee at all that the foreign ownership would not become total. There is no commitment that the Australian partners, News Limited and the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd would retain their present percentage. The Government stated that, as regards the mining section of the project, there should be an Australian holding of at least 51 per cent. As regards the refinery aspect of the project, the Government said that Reynolds Metal Corporation, the overseas company, should make attempts to get more local participation and the Government offered the services of the Australian Industry Development Corporation in finding other sources of Australian participation. The Government’s decision was also made on environmental grounds, as well as the foreign takeovers aspects. My colleagues the Minister for Urban and Regional Development and the Minister for the Environment and Conservation have placed in the library for honourable members the report on regional development which T. S. Martin and Associates were engaged, as consultants, to prepare a year ago, and the report on the environmental aspects which the Department of the Environment and Conservation prepared this month on those aspects of the project. As honourable gentlemen will realise, there is the greatest doubt about the purity and quantity of Perth’s water supply if there is a further project such as Alwest following the Alcoa project in the same region.
– There have been no direct representations at the government level to me with relation to the operation of the easy visa system. But the Prime Minister of Fiji did state at a Press conference a few days ago that he hoped that the easy visa system which had been in operation would be restored to Fiji. Honourable members will remember that the system has ‘ been suspended pending certain investigations into abuses by a small number of people- Certainly, I would share the hope of the Prime Minister of Fiji that the easy visa system would be restored there. I would draw the honourable member’s attention to the fact that before this system was introduced it was discussed by me personally with the relevant ministers in Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia and more latterly in Thailand and also with the representative of Fiji here. In each and every case the system was welcomed. In each and every case it was regarded as an advance on and an improvement in our relations in our region of the world. I might say that it is still working particularly well in more than 50 countries and that I share the hope of the Prime Minister of Fiji that we will be able to restore it there when we have cleared up some of the transitory difficulties which have appeared.
– I ask: Does the Prime Minister recollect that in the policy speech on which his Party obtained Government he gave on unequivocal pledge to abolish the means test entirely in the lifetime of the present Parliament? To refresh his mind may I be permitted to quote his exact words? The Prime
Minister said: ‘The means test will be abolished within the life of the next Parliament’. That was said before the election. Has the Prime Minister’s attention .been drawn to evidently inspired leaks from semi-official sources to the effect that the means test should be retained - the type of leaks which we have grown accustomed to associating with the coming shift in Government policy? Does he intend to go back on his unequivocal promise to abolish the means test entirely within the life of the present Parliament? Will the Prime Minister give an unqualified assurance that this pledge will be honoured without any concurrent financial sleight of hand? Will he permit me to assure him that we on this side of the House will endeavour to keep him honest in this matter?
– I would require more than the honourable gentleman’s assurance that anything that he supported over the years would have the support of his colleagues. In the Parliament we have seen too many cases of his voice alone being raised for divisions or on motions. The honourable gentleman will recall that partly as a result of his own advocacy over the years the right honourable member for Lowe, his own leader at that time and my immediate predecessor as Prime Minister, went to the polls, as I also did, on the proposal, the undertaking, to abolish the means test in the life of the Parliament then being elected. The Government has not considered any change in that policy on which it sought the support of the electors. I apprehend that there is no division between both sides of the House on this aspect.
– Has the Minister for Overseas Trade seen reports of a letter by Sir Robert Norman, Chief General Manager of the Bank of New South Wales, to bank officials in which Sir Robert claims that the new legislation for the Australian Industry Development Corporation would mean that ‘the powers would be there for the Government through the AIDC to take over large segments of private industry without their consent’? Is that a correct and intelligent assessment of the legislation itself and of the Government’s intentions by this would-be distinguished ‘bunker’?
– I am aware of a letter written by Sir Robert Norman to the managers of the Bank of New South Wales. Sir Robert Norman is quite entitled to write letters to managers of his Bank.
– Do you not want me to say that? I am afraid that I will have to submit my answers to the honourable member for Moreton before I make them and get his approval. Sir Robert Norman is quite entitled to write to managers of the Bank and give to them the views of the Board itself. I emphasise that they are not other than of the Board itself. The few people who run the Bank of New South Wales - the Board is nothing more than that - are quite entitled to put that view, but it is not an accurate view of the AIDC. We all know that when the AIDC legislation was first introduced into this House by Sir John McEwen the same attitude towards it was revealed by the banks and the insurance companies that they now reveal. The recognition toy Sir John McEwan - as distinct from the Liberal Party- that the AIDC was needed was a recognition that came into existence because of the failures very largely of the life offices and the banks in this country.
Under the amending legislation the role of the AIDC would be primarily to act as a coordinator of large investment by private companies in important national projects, as it is doing in the Alwest case and as it did in the Redcliffs case. Its second purpose is to strengthen small investment in the areas I have recently mentioned, such as the cooperatives in the country and the establishment of industries in the country, so that we can have a viable situation in the country. Its final purpose is in national interest matters. The national interest character is investment by AIDC based on prospects, not on property. At present the AIDC makes less than 1 per cent of the investment of the massive private investment that is in the hands of 60 or 70 companies. It is impossible for AIDC to increase this to more than 3 per cent or 4 per cent in 5 years or more. I think the average Australians want to see an organisation like the AIDC grow even more rapidly than that. I do not think that they share the view of Sir Robert Norman and I doubt whether many people employed by the Bank of New South Wales share that view. He is quite entitled to express it but it is a very limited, very conservative and a very unrepresentative view.
– Will the Minister for Minerals and Energy confirm a recent report in the ‘West Australian’ that he has agreed that natural gas from the north-west shelf will not now be piped to the Palm Valley gas field in the Northern Territory but to the southwest and goldfields of Western Australia? Has he now agreed to leave Western Australia out of his proposed national grid? Is it true that he recently gave a commitment to accept a plan of the Western Australian Government to keep the gas within that State? If this is so, has he been overruled by someone and can he give an assurance to the House that the decision will not be reversed after the State election?
– The answer is a brief one: The report is incorrect.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to a resolution on the Middle East by the Australian Union of Students which calls for, amongst other things, a denial of Israel’s existence as a state and for support of Palestinian terrorist groups? Is the Prime Minister aware that debates are currently taking place on Australian campuses to determine whether these resolutions should be endorsed or rescinded, that some Australian Labor Party members have been campaigning in their support, and that questions have accordingly been raised as to whether this might indicate some alteration to previously declared Government policy? Will the Prime Minister confirm that his previous statements to the House in support of Israel’s sovereignty and right to existence, and condemning all terrorism whatever its source, remain unchanged so that, to the extent that individual Australian Labor Party members might be supporting the AUS resolutions, their opinions do not represent Labor or Government policies but are in fact inconsistent with both?
– I cannot say that I have followed in detail or closely the text of resolutions on this subject which have been passed by the Australian Union of Students or proposed at meetings of the AUS or at various campi around the country. All I can say is that I know discussion has been widespread. The honourable gentleman asks me to give an assurance about the Government’s policy. I am very happy to give him assuran ces in the terms he seeks. Members and supporters of the Australian Labor Party and of the Australian Government at universities around Australia should know and acknowledge that the Government’s attitude on this matter is unchanged. The form it takes was laid down at the last conference of the Party in July in Surfers Paradise. I will read the full resolution. It states:
The situation in the Middle East remains the greatest threat to the peace of the world. There can be no peace until the Arab States respect and recognise Israel’s sovereignty and right to exist. Equally, there can be no peace until Israeli forces have been withdrawn from occupied territories to secure and recognised boundaries and a just settlement of the refugee problem is achieved.
The Government has acted consistently and firmly in line with the Australian Labor Party policy proclaimed in those words. I am happy to say that since I was last asked a question on this matter in the House - that would be last year now - there have been hopeful signs, the most hopeful for a quarter of a century. At last we have the situation where the antagonists are negotiating in the one place at the one time. That has already happened, between Israel and Egypt. It may happen between Israel and Syria. We should be very grateful indeed that there has been this breakthrough. But there are 3 components in the Government’s attitude on this matter - sovereignty, occupied territories and refugees. It is impossible to settle this long standing problem - the biggest threat to the peace of the world - by dealing with some alone of those components. I would acknowledge that the Government’s attitude is a continuation of that of its predecessors. The Party policy, the Government’s policy, is a summary of United Nations Security Council resolution 242. Honourable members will remember that when the last conflict arose the Australian Ambassador to the United Nations was President of the Security Council. I believe that everybody in the Middle East can be grateful that a man of his experience was able to exercise his influence at that crucial period, and we Australians can be proud of his skills and his services.
– I wish to direct my question to the Minister for Labour. The Minister will be aware of the very serious flooding which has occurred on the north coast of New South Wales. Will he give urgent consideration to providing special unemployment relief funds to enable councils to undertake the very big job of cleaning up the mess left behind by the floods and of repairing the great amount of damage that has occurred? Unemployment in this area was serious even at the time of the ending of the unemployment relief scheme. What progress has he made in bringing forward an alternative scheme, if any, about which he spoke last year? In any case, will he give urgent consideration to the new problem that has been caused by the floods?
– I am at a loss to understand why such a question should be directed to me. I have no funds to provide what the honourable gentleman asks me to provide. I would think that the honourable member, having served in this House for as long as he has and having been a Minister, would know by now that it is the Treasurer, not I, to whom he should direct such a question.
– My question to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development is supplementary to those asked by the honourable members for Kingston and Scullin, and recalls to him the 23 years neglect of the problems of Australian cities. Is it inevitable that any cutback in public spending which would be undertaken following promises made by Opposition spokesmen would be made at the expense of urban projects such as those in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne? Can he say what are the projects which would be curtailed by such a cutback?
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I again direct your attention to standing order 144 which clearly states that questions should not ask Ministers for an expression of opinion. The question clearly asks the Minister to envisage certain circumstances which may eventuate and seeks from him an expression of opinion as to what present Government projects would be cut. This clearly is a question which the Minister should not answer.
-Order! I think that one part of the question did ask for an opinion. I ask the Minister not to offer any opinion. However the Minister is entitled to make an explanation of Government policy. He should not offer an opinion.
– I saw the statement made by the right honourable gentleman and was con cerned as to how he could curtail expenditure on the cities.
– Mr Speaker, with great respect, I submit that the question was out of order in that the Minister was asked to anticipate actions of members on this side of the House should we come to Government. The Minister cannot speak for the Liberal Party or for the Opposition. The question is obviously out of order.
-Order! I have asked the Minister not to express an opinion. It is in order for him to explain Government policy. I ask the Minister to confine his reply to that aspect.
– As I was saying, Mr Speaker, in examining the statement by the right honourable gentleman 1 was concerned with how expenditure could be curtailed. The 2 major cities of Sydney and Melbourne are involved because of chaotic conditions that have accrued in those cities over a period of 23 years. Allocation of funds to cities is a major priority to the present Government and the amount of money allocated to my Department was one of the largest allocations to any Australian Government department. An amount equal to at least 50 per cent of the money allocated for urban projects had never been allocated before. If there is to be a cutback on government expenditure I am concerned with where that cutback should occur. If the development of Sydney and Melbourne is to be rational the growth of those cities must be slowed and co-ordinated. If there is to be a curtailment of expenditure the question is should such curtailment apply to areas like Albury-Wodonga, Bathurst-Orange or Geelong? Was there to be a curtailment of expenditure on sewerage programs? Or was there to be a curtailment of expenditure on urban public transport programs?
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. Clearly, in response to the Dorothy Dix question which has been posed, the Minister is setting forth a series of different hypotheses as to how the situation might or might not be structured. I submit with respect that this is clearly a matter of opinion which should not be expressed in the House at this time.
– Order! I ask the Minister to refer to the Government’s intentions in this regard.
Mi UREN- At all times I have dealt with what would be the situation if our Government had to curtail expenditure. My Department has received a substantial increase in its allocation. I am trying to examine where, in fact, my Department could curtail expenditure. The Government has an enormous commitment in overcoming the service backlog in our cities.
– Mr Speaker, on a point of order: Standing order 144 clearly states the general rules for questions, and it provides that questions containing hypothetical matters are not appropriate for response by Ministers. The Minister consistently is using the word ‘if, and I put it to the Chair that he is using an hypothesis in order to seek to answer a Dorothy Dix question from the honourable member for Casey.
– Mr Speaker, speaking to the point of order, the subject matter of the question cannot be ruled to be hypothetical because cuts in Government expenditure have been proposed to this House by the Opposition both in formal motions in the previous session and in statements from official Opposition spokesmen. Therefore, it is not a hypothetical matter; it is a proposal by the Opposition to the Government.
-Order! As I see it, the Minister has not offered any comment or opinion. He is just giving an explanation of Government policy.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. In making an examination of the expenditure of moneys I am trying to point out how our Government can overcome the great chaos in the cities that was caused by the previous Government’s 23 years of maladministration. Should we curtail expenditure on the national estate which is designed to overcome the problems caused by the bulldozer mentality of the past which permitted historic buildings and areas of great natural beauty to be destroyed? Was I to curtail the increased expenditure?
– A point of order, Mr Speaker. I and many other honourable members in this chamber suffered for 3 years because of the fact that the present Minister for Urban and Regional Development got up and took points of order on Ministers reading prepared statements at question time in response to questions without notice. I ask you, Mr Speaker, to rule the Minister out of order
-Order! My predecessor always said that he did not know what a Dorothy Dix question was.
– Or were we to curtail expenditure by the National Capital Development Commission on the development of Canberra? We know that the previous Government, under its credit restrictions between 1970 and 1972, restricted the amount of money being made available for servicing land in Canberra, which caused a spiralling of land prices in Canberra. This year our Government has made additional money available in order to overcome the backlog in the development of land in the Australian Capital Territory in order to make land available at a reasonable price. We have made extra money available in order to try to catch up with the housing backlog. We also have made extra money available through the Commonwealth Housing Agreement. We have attempted to increase expenditure in all fields of urban development. In fact, as the Prime Minister said previously, $137m was made available for urban development this year. Such an amount has never before been made available for this purpose in a Federal Budget. Do any honourable members opposite say that those allocations of money should not be made? If they do they should check with their respective State governments, because although we have already made $30m available this year in order to catch up with the sewerage backlog, the Western Australian Government has sought another $3m, the Victorian Government is seeking another $3. 9m and the Queensland Government is seeking another $2m. I say that this expression from the Opposition ranks about cutting Government expenditure is complete humbug and hypocrisy.
– Pursuant to section 15 of the Tariff Board Act 1921-1966 I present the Tariff Board report on cigarette paper, which was forwarded to me, dated 25 October 1973.
– Following on what the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said during question time, for the information of honourable members I wish to advise that I have arranged for 2 copies of the report entitled Bunbury: Town and Regional Development Study: Review of Growth Potential’ to be placed in the Parliamentary Library.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, by the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley). The Minister for Education said at question time that I and other members of the Liberal Party had voted against the allocation of $700m to implement the Karmel Committee recommendations.
– I raise a point of order. The Minister for Education did not refer to the honourable member for Wannon in answering a question today.
- Mr Speaker, the Minister for Education said that members of the Liberal Party, who include myself, had voted against the Karmel funds.
– Order! That is not a personal explanation.
- Mr Speaker-
– Order! A personal explanation
– The Minister said that the Liberal Party had voted against the expenditure of those funds.
– Order! I ask the honourable member for Wannon to remain silent. I have mentioned this matter before. If honourable members are granted the privilege of making a personal explanation in instances where they have been personally misrepresented, that is quite in order. But no honourable member is in order in debating the question of how a party voted on a particular piece of legislation. Unless an honourable member was mentioned personally, no grounds on which to base a personal explanation are involved.
– With respect, Mr Speaker, does that mean to say - I am asking for your help and clarification because I do not understand the position - that a member of the Government, for example, may make allegations about the way in which we voted, which are entirely false-
– Order! The only-
-….. and nobody is entitled to call that -
– Order! There are several other forms of the House available to the honourable member. The honourable member might like to seek leave to make a statement on the matter. I am sure that he could take up the matter on the adjournment this evening in order to explain his position. He has ample opportunity to -
– Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement on this matter.
– Order! Is leave granted?
– No, leave is not granted.
– Order! Leave is not granted. 1 suggest that the only other avenue available to the honourable member would be for him to mention this if he can get the call on the adjournment of the House tonight. Unfortunately the honourable member is not in order in his -
– I raise a point of order. Surely, Mr Speaker, your ruling cannot be right. You are ruling, as I understand it, that if a member of the Government chooses to state a falsehood about all members of the Opposition there can be no explanation made to set out the true position.
– Order! I think the honourable gentleman would be aware that every time any member, including myself, wishes to make a personal explanation the Speaker asks him whether he has been misrepresented. That means that the member himself - not his party - has been misrepresented. So, the Leader of the Opposition can understand that the ruling is quite specific.
– I was misrepresented by the honourable member for Fremantle, the Minister for Education. The Minister for Education said that I voted against the Karmel Committee report. I did not. He well knows his statement to be false. Quite clearly a personal explanation ought to be made at the time when the falsehood is perpetrated rather than leave it until now when there will be no rebroadcast of it.
– Order! I think the honourable gentleman would be aware that permission to make a personal explanation is sought by a member when he has been misrepresented personally. He cannot take a point of order in regard to his own Party.
– I claim to have been misrepresented, Mr Speaker.
– I was taking a personal explanation in relation to myself, Mr Speaker.
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s name was not mentioned specifically. When I asked the honourable gentleman whether he had been personally misrepresented he said ‘yes’, but he had not been misrepresented at all because his name was not even mentioned.
– Mr Speaker, it had been alleged that I had voted in a certain way in which I did not vote.
-Order! I do not intend to debate this question. I ask the honourable member for Wannon to resume his seat. He has asked for leave to make a statement and it has been refused. I have given the honourable member for Wannon another lead. He can make his explanation on the motion for the adjournment of the House tonight, if he so desires.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented.
– Yes. I was named and I do claim to have been misrepresented. In the course of my statement about the Liberal Party having voted against the legislation that enacted substantially the Karmel Committee report I said that Opposition members said that they would reframe the legislation if they became the Government. I suggest that it is on the records of the House that what I have said was accurate. They also said they would reframe it if they became the Government. I confined myself to saying that had it been rejected in the Senate, as they voted, then the funds would not have been available this year. I do not know what their reframing would have involved. But I went as far as their own statements went. I did not name anybody in particular. But I myself was named and misrepresented.
Message received from the Senate acquainting the House that the Senate has agreed to resume consideration of the Trade Practices Bill 1973.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 3 p.m. tomorrow.
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for EdenMonaro (Mr Whan) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussing namely:
The serious consequences for rural industry of any increase in the price of crude oil.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places.)
– We have had proposals that the price of crude oil should be increased. I believe that this is a matter of public importance, as it will affect every motorist in Australia. It has many other significant aspects. The proposal has come in the form of an Australian Country Party policy statement in which there has been a call for an increase in Australian crude oil prices. The Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) is quoted as saying in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ and also said on the television program “This Day Tonight’ that crude oil prices would have to rise.
As I have indicated, this statement and the commitment of the Australian Country Party to this principle is a matter of public importance. It would mean more thant just each citizen of Australia having to pay higher prices for his petrol. It would mean more than all industry in Australia having to pay increased costs to enable it to function. It is a turning point in Australian politics.
The Country Party now at last has severed and forsaken its farming friends and has turned now to represent the mining lobby in this place. We see the transition beautifully in the discussions relating to the name change of that Party. The Australian Country Party which has stood so strongly as the friend of the farmer in this place is to be known as the National Country Party or the National Party. One can see where this name transition will end. Can we doubt that we will have the Multi-National Party in this House before long?
Let us consider the implications of this new proposal so far as the new-found friends of the Country Party are concerned. Australia produces 161 million barrels of oil a year. There is a gap of S6 a barrel between the Australian crude price and the overseas price. If we follow the Country Party recommendation to its logical conclusion, a $966m golden handshake will go to 2 companies. The overseas-owned Esso company will receive one-half of this golden handshake and the other half will go to Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. We can see now whom this Party represents. The Esso-BHP partnership invested money in oil and gas activities which in 1973 returned 20.9 per cent on its investment. No farmer enjoys that sort of return on investment. We can see now why the Country Party has made this move.
Let us now consider the effect that the Country Party’s policy will have on rural industry, which this Party has forsaken. Using the IAC-Monash input-output data we find, for example, that the proposal that Country Party has put to us means that the costs of production in the sheep industry would rise by $25. 5m in one year; for the wheat industry by $ 12.4m; and for the milk and pig industry by $11.9m. This would give a total increase for the rural industries of Australia of $82.25m as a result of the Country Party’s proposal to increase the price of crude oil. We have seen crocodile tears from members of the Country Party about a $60m loss which the industry will sustain as a result of the abolition of the superphosphate bounty. In one breath members of the Country Party have said that this will be a disaster for agriculture. But in the next breath they support a proposal which would impose on agriculture a cost 520m greater. The proposals advocated by the Country Party will cost primary producers $82.25m.
Petroleum products represent average direct farm costs of $580 per year for individual farmers. The cost to wheat farmers is $1,100. The Country Party intends to double these costs. The Leader of the Country Party has clearly confused the Australian and Middle East crude oil prices in his statement. He has confused these prices with producer returns. He has confessed that he did not know whether the producer returns he was quoting included or did not include taxes and royalties. The recent increase in the overseas prices were duc entirely to tax payable to producing countries. Production costs have not increased from 10c a barrel due entirely to increases in overseas costs. We see this element of confusion right throughout the statements of the Leader of the Country Party. It is contained also in the document prepared by that Party.
As for the comparison that is made in regard to the incentive for cil exploration in Aus.tralia, the real variable is what the producer receives, and of course we have to make that comparison after royalties and taxes have been subtracted. The evidence that we have at our disposal indicates strongly that already Australian producers are receiving more than their overseas counterparts. If the Country Party was so keen to provide some sort of exploration incentive why did it not follow the example of its friends in the United States of America? We have had this comparison he’d up ad nauseam. The United States is the leader of the world so far as the Opposition is concerned. Now we find that there ?s a situation where the Country Party, in order to represent faithfully its new-found friends, has turned its back on the precedent established in the United States where the control of prices exists at the established wells. In the United States a producing well has its price fixed at SA2.33 which would mean, of course, that the price of Bass Strait oil would be fixed at the current level. In the United States the price of oil from new wells is left uncontrolled in order to provide an incentive for exploration. I wonder whether the Country Party considered this formula?
It is interesting to recall the comments of the present Leader of the Country Party as recorded in Hansard of 19 November 1968 when he was high in his praise of the decision to guarantee import parity of crude oil prices. He said:
At that time he was a member of the Gorton Government. If we examine closely the report on mining and energy prepared by the Country Party - and this is the basis of its policy in this field - we find, for example, that the policy enunciates the principle that mining and energy should be founded on the basis of free enterprise with a minimum of government interference. But we then read on and discover that the Country Party believes the Government should provide the infrastructure for the development of the mining areas - price incentives. No doubt this would mean an increase in the price of crude oil. The Country Party also believes that the Bureau of Mineral Resources should provide technical services to the industry. Further, it believes that there should be other forms of direct government assistance to the mining industry to facilitate their activities and increase their level of profitability. So we have a situation sketched out in this report which is a tribute to free enterprise, provided that the Government, and the taxpayers through the Government, support these areas so far as they are unprofitable. The Country Party supports the mining industry in those areas where it might be expensive to carry out its investment program. Another very interesting statement in this document is in relation to the wages paid. On page 10 it states:
People working in these industries-
The mining and the energy industries - are entitled to adequate rewards for their effort.
We are told that they work in an inhospital environment and therefore need adequate returns for their effort. Once again we see the desertion of the previous friends of the Country Party. What are the pastoralists of the Northern Territory and Western Australia going to say when they see their former champions in government supporting increased awards in order to attract personnel into the mining industry? What are these pastoralists going to say when cheek by jowl we have the highly and well paid workers in the mining industry, and the people who have had to suffer the measly wage provided by the pastoral award over the years? What sort of comparison will this represent to the pastoral industry of Australia? Yet we see in this Country Party report an outright plea for increased returns to the workers in the mining industry. Of course, we on this side of the House commit ourselves completely to that one principle. But the contradiction between the Country Party’s newfound policy and its effect on its old friends needs to be underlined.
Also, we find another great and grave contradiction in this document. The very basis on which crude oil prices are to be raised, we are told, is the encouragement of new exploration. Exploration for what? Is it for domestic consumption in Australia or is it for export? We find that the report is preoccupied with export. We are told that we should encourage exports and that we should provide all sorts of facilities for Australia’s resources to be exported. We can see what could happen and what would have happened if the previous Government had been in power during the recent energy crisis. The wheat industry, the meat industry, the wool industry of Australia would have found their produce bottled up on the wharves of Australia because of the philosophy so beautifully outlined in this report, which would have led us to the situation in which we would have been exporting fuel in the face of shortages in Australia.
There can be no question that is where this report ends. It does it so wonderfully in itself that one need not refer anywhere else. For example, what would a person with elementary logic make of this statement:
Exports of North West gas were prohibited . . . before it was established whether an export volume could be sustained.
In other words, the Country Party is complaining because this Government stopped the export of gas before we determined whether we could afford to export it. This statement appears blatantly in this report. What a contradiction in terms. How easy it is for the woolly thinking involved in this report to become so confused that it ends up in a single paragraph contradicting itself in this way on this fundamental issue: Should we preserve our natural resources for the benefit of this nation, or should we sell them willy-nilly through companies owned by overseas interests to overseas countries? This is the implication that comes through this report. There can be no question where this Government stands.
In this Country Party policy statement we also find a constant referral to the present Government’s position. What could be more definite? What could be more obvious than the restriction of export of minerals and energy until such time as we knew that our own needs would be met? What could be more certain. Yet we find this reference throughout the policy statement which complains of vagueness in this Government’s attitude. The policy statements meanders over 14 pages from innuendo to innuendo. The report reflects something of the depth of thought given to the entire policy. A series of sub-titles and headings on the last 4 pages sets the stage. I shall read the sub-titles as they appear in the report: Unreal’, ‘Uncertainty’, ‘Capacity’, ‘Hampered’, Confused’, ‘Hopeless’, ‘Tragedy’, ‘Confusing’, Not Clear’ and naturally they end with the word ‘Bewildered’. Could anyone believe that this was a policy statement on minerals and energy with sub-headings like that? Where do they lead one? They lead one to the end of the document. It ends with the mark ‘Anthony’ and ‘Katter’. Can we say of this leader, as has been said of another of the same name: He is become the bellows and the fan to cool a gipsy’s lust’?
– After listening to the diatribe of political garbage from the honourable member for EdenMonaro (Mr Whan) there is hardly need to reply to many of his comments. But one would have thought, when this issue was being discussed in the public arena - Australia’s fuel prices and its future reserves - that more than a junior backbencher might have led in the discussion of this issue. Instead, we see the Government using this backbencher in a desperate bid to show some genuine interest in the rural producers. He is trying to salvage the disastrous record of the Government’s rural policy. He is throwing to the wind all sense of responsibility for the national interest to try to get an immediate political advantage.
But if he is so genuinely concerned about the rural producers where was he when the Government, in the last Budget, put up petrol prices by 5c a gallon and by 7c a gallon to rural producers? That increase of 7c a gallon is equivalent to increasing the price to oil producers by 140 per cent. Where was he when the Government talked about reducing the tax concessions to rural producers? We know where he was; he was supporting the abolition of the tax concessions. Where was he when it was stated that the superphosphate bounty would be removed? He has been hiding ever since. Where was he when the dairy subsidy was discussed? He has not been to the south coast since is was announced. Where was he when the tax on meat exports was discussed? He supported the imposition of that tax. Where was he when the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) did a deal with the Shell Company of Australia Limited to go before the Prices Justification Tribunal to increase the price of liquefied petroleum gas, fuel oil and bitumen - three vital ingredients for country communities - by 100 per cent? Where was he? What is the Government’s attitude? It is showing no concern or interest in country people whatsoever. If the Labor Party is so concerned about reviewing oil prices, why does it not go back to what it did when in Opposition? Why does it not go back to the words of one of the most senior Ministers in the Government, the Minister for the North ern Territory and Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson)?
On 19 April 1972 he moved for discussion as a matter of public importance the following issue:
The failure of the Government to implement positive policies to encourage and maintain the progressive exploration of Australian oil resources.
I quote a section from his speech which appears on page 1788 of Hansard of that date. He stated:
If the Federal Government does not drastically change its exploration subsidy and domestic pricing policies, and aim towards a goal of self-sufficiency in oil production, Australia will become progressively at the mercy of the overseas oil companies as our oil resources will progressively diminish. The domestic price of Australian crude oil should be increased immediately to a figure equivalent to the world parity price.
This is what his own Party - the Labor Party - said when in Opposition. It is far from anything we are suggesting to increase prices to world parity. All we are suggesting is that the matter ought to be reviewed in the long term and the short term interests of Australian consumers and to ensure that we have adequate supplies to meet Australian requirements.
On 7 November last year I raised for discussion as a matter of public importance:
The Government’s failure to take adequate steps to respond to the prospective future shortage of domestically produced petroleum products.
In that discussion I attacked the Government for its neglect of the long nurtured oil exploration industry - neglect which has resulted in a very serious run down in exploration at a time when exactly the opposite should be occurring. Since that debate, the situation has got worse. At a time of a world energy crisis, we see only pitiful mismanagement, incompetence and lack of foresight by the Minister for Minerals and Energy. We have seen a series of Government actions which have discouraged exploration and which are driving explorers away from Australia.
Income tax concessions on capital subscribed to oil and mining companies have been abolished. The petroleum search subsidy is to end in June this year. Overseas investors, whom we must have in our own interests, have been virtually driven away by the requirement that they make a one-third deposit with the Reserve Bank of Australia, free of interest. As if all this was not enough, we have a Minister who, apart from being incapable of making consistent statements or carrying out consistent administration, abuses people in industry and sponsors legislation that frightens the life out of anyone thinking of investing in oil exploration in Australia.
Let us have a look at the exploration picture. The Minister boasts that there will be 54 off-shore wells drilled this year. But there were 62 drilled in 1970. What a boom in oil drilling! Most of the 54 off-shore wells are as a result of lease obligations at present entered into and are mainly wildcats. No new companies are involved. This year there will be a total of 90 off-shore and on-shore wells drilled - one-third fewer than in 1972. And in the last 5 years there have been 758 wells drilled, or an average of 157 a year. This year 90 wells will be drilled, at a time of a world oil crisis and declining Australian reserves. This is the sorry state Australia’s oil exploration program has been reduced to by the incompetence of the Minister and the Government.
Fewer than half the oil companies are planning any geophysical surveys this year. Many of them are transferring their interests to overseas areas where there are governments that understand what the oil business is all about, and which want to serve their own national interests. I saw reports in Saturday’s Canberra Times’, and today’s ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, saying that this year’s 54 off-shore wells would compare with a total of only 40 wells over the last 10 years. There were 62 off-shore wells drilled in 1970 alone with fluctuations up and down since then. This shows the lengths to which this Minister will go to attack the oil industry, and to attack me and my Party. Anyone who will feed such deliberately wrong information to the Press must be pretty desperate for ammunition to support his arguments.
But let us return to the exploration scene. Why is there this slight upsurge in drilling off-shore this year - an upsurge that still leaves us way behind previous performances? One major reason is that explorers are going to forfeit half their leases next year, and they must, therefore, try to find the best ones to hang on to. They do not want to spend money on drilling under the shadow of the Government’s threats; they simply have to. But what are other explorers doing? They are leaving the country - walking out - because they just cannot operate under the kinds of policies this Government has brought in. That is something for the Minister to be really proud of.
We need to look very carefully at our position in a world becoming increasingly short of fuels. At present Australian oilfields provide about two-thirds of the feed stock for the 10 domestic refineries. The oil discoveries in Bass Strait have reduced our imports from 148 million barrels a year to 63 million. But, from industry reports, this large degree of selfsufficiency is expected to slump to only about 15 per cent in less than 10 years unless we find some major new oilfields. We should be going all out to find them. The industry says that there needs to be an expenditure of approximately $200m a year on exploration if we are to maintain our present reserves. Instead, because of the menacing, threatening attitudes of this Minister, we are spending half that amount, and there is no sign of any improvement. The actions of this Government, and the pricing arrangements for crude oil, all work together to act as a major disincentive to exploration. This is a tragic situation, and one for which the Minister must accept full responsibility.
Let us look at the Country Party’s approach to this question of crude oil pricing. I have never seen such a torrent of misrepresentation by a Minister, or anyone else, on such a forthright, direct and honest statement as that in which I set out my Party’s policy. We are very concerned, as everyone should be, about the future of Australia’s energy supplies. We see one of the important factors militating against the sensible, proper and urgent development of our resources as being the price which Australian oil producers currently receive. As a result explorers are leaving Australia and endangering our future. The only way we can safeguard our future is by finding large reserves of oil, and the only way we can provide fuel to the Australian people at reasonable prices is by doing the same thing - finding oil. The only way we can find oil is by offering a reasonable return to those who are prepared to look for it, find it and develop it.
But let us look at the way this matter has been distorted and misrepresented by the Minister. I have seen news reports to the effect that the Minister claims our approach would double the price of petrol to the consumer. This is a complete fabrication. What is our approach? We have suggested that the present pricing arrangements should be reviewed. That is all we have suggested. We have made no reference whatever to actual prices; we have mentioned no figures. Yet the Minister for
Minerals and Energy has done some remarkable mental arithmetic and come up with the answer that our approach would mean a doubling of the price of petrol and other fuels. This is a malicious and deliberate distortion, and can have been done for only one reason - to flay my Party and to make political capital. And why? Because we have had the political courage to say what had to be said about this matter. If the Minister and the Government lack the political courage to speak out about these things, we in the Country Party do not. We are quite prepared to put up with the abuse and the vilification of the honourable member for Eden-Monaro and everyone else, because we believe this matter is too important to the future of this nation to be buried under the prejudices and incompetence of the Australian Labor Party.
The Country Party has not suggested, despite the efforts of the Government to suggest we have, that the price paid to Australian producers should go up to world parity. We have not said anything like that. All we have suggested is that, in the interests of achieving the exploration we urgently need, there should be some review of the pricing structure to work out how best the interests of both the consumers - short and long term - can be met and also how we can ensure a continuing search for oil so that we are not left to the mercy of foreign oil supplies. I wonder how many people know that the price the oil producer receives is 5 cents a gallon? How many people know that the excise is 22.3c a gallon and that the increase of 5c that was brought in in the last Budget - the largest increase in excise that we have ever seen in one hit - is equivalent to what the oil producers in Australia receive today? If the oil producers received a 100 per cent increase in price, they would receive an increase of the same amount by which this Government raised the price of petrol for city dwellers in the last Budget and 2c less than the amount by which this Government raised the price of petrol to people in country areas. So let not this Government say that it is in favour of cheap oil policies because the Government’s excise policy does not show it. No one is suggesting for a moment that there should be an increase in the price of petrol of anything like 100 per cent. What we say is that if Australian producers are forced to continue to accept a price much less than the world price, is it any wonder that they are leaving Australia and going else where? Even Australian companies are leaving Australia and going elsewhere to look for oil.
Let us look at the real bugbear in the whole business about which the Labor Party is concerned. The Labor Party seems to be concerned about the profits that Esso-BHP is making. That is what has really upset the Labor Party. It just cannot stand the thought that it is making a profit. The oil reserve is only a temporary one. It will run out in 10 years. The profit has to be there to risk the capital involved. How are exploration companies going to be encouraged to spend money if they do not know that they can make a reasonable profit? What the Labor Party has forgotten is that there are 40 or 50 other companies in Australia which are not making any profit at all or very little profit. So to tailor the whole oil policy to the operations of one oil company is quite absurd.
Order! The right honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I congratulate the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) for initiating the discussion of this matter of public importance - the serious consequences for rural industry of any increase in the price of oil. Of course the honourable member for Eden-Monaro is concerned about the price of oil. Why would anybody who represents a rural electorate, as he so ably represents his, not be concerned about the price of oil? The great pity is that the people who purport to be representing country electorates and who for the time being go under the name of the Australian Country Party, which is soon to be called the Alliance Party or the National Alliance Party, have not so far shown the same deep concern for country people that has been shown repeatedly by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro.
The Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) read a speech to the Parliament that sounded as though it had been written only yesterday in the offices of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. He forecast that $200m a year would be needed to carry out an appropriate level of oil exploration. But he did not tell us that the proposed oil increases that he is now supporting would mean to the farming community alone a total cost effect of $295m a year plus an enormous amount to the people who do not belong to the farming community. The Leader of the Australian Country Party, like a thief - not a thief but like a thief - who is caught with his fingers in the till, is pretending that they are only there counting the day’s takings. Today he said: ‘I have not yet said by how much I would increase the price of petrol and the price of oil if the people were to elect me to government’. He forgot - but I did not - the statement that he made on the program ‘This Day Tonight’. I shall quote one extract from it. He said:
One is that when this has to be renegotiated next year it will probably go up to a tremendous level which will have a big impact on Australian industry and Australian motorists.
What the Leader of the Australian Country Party has said about oil and the proposed increase in the price of steel is well documented. So there is no need for me to quote his public demand for higher petrol prices. But I do want to quote a statement that was contained in one of his official Press releases. Among other outrageous things, he had this to say:
The argument will be raised that higher steel prices would be inflationary. No doubt they would be, but is the short term inflation factor the only one to be considered?
And should BHP be used by the Government as an anti-inflation weapon to the extent that far more serious long term problems are caused?
Of course that is a different story from the story that is told by the Country Party when the national wage case is in operation and it says that it is all right to use wage earners to control inflation.
– Read the whole statement. Table the statement.
– I seek leave to incorporate the whole of the statement in Hansard.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
BHP’s STEEL PROFITS CAUSE FOR CONCERN
Statement by the Leader of the Country Party, Rt Hon. J. D. Anthony
The low profitability of BHP’s steel operations should be a matter of public concern.
It is a serious thing when Australia’s greatest company cannot do better than achieve a return on its huge capital investment of 2 per cent.
There needs to be careful consideration pf the causes of this poor performance.
The Australian people should ask themselves whether the prices at which BHP is virtually forced to sell steel are really good for the nation in the long run.
They should ask themselves whether it is sensible to deny this company the financial sinews it must have if our steel industry is to keep expanding to meet the nation’s needs.
The argument will be raised that higher steel prices would be inflationary. No doubt they would be, but is the short-term inflation factor the only one to be considered?
And should BHP be used by the Government as an anti-inflation weapon to the extent that far more serious long-term problems are caused?
If BHP is to be denied the incentive and the ability to pursue a sound reinvestment program to build up its steelmaking capacity, the nation as a whole will suffer much more than it would from the immediate consequences of increased steel prices.
If BHP is not equipped to supply Australia’s steel needs, or if it is forced to export more of its products so that it can gain some compensation through dearer world prices, then the Australian people will suffer either through shortages of steel or through having to import much more highly priced steel to meet their needs
There are people in positions of leadership in Australia who are prepared to foster the idea that profit is an evil thing.
In doing so they are betraying the great mass of the people, whose incomes, amenities and general standard of living depend to a very large degree on the profitability of industry.
In fact, the whole ability of government to provide the services sought by the community depends, in the end, on the profitability of Australian industry.
The matter of the apparently substantial profits earned by BHP on its oil and gas operations also needs to be carefully considered.
These earnings are coming from wells with limited life, and after very heavy expenditure on search and development. The prices being paid for oil and gas produced in Australia are not by any means an inducement to further oil and gas search and development.
Compared with world prices, the prices received by the Australian producer are unrealistically low.
Continued acceptance of this situation might be popular in the short-term, but its long-term implications demand serious study.
– The members of the Country Party oppose the Government’s support to giving wage earners not an exorbitant profit in addition to something they are already getting but enough to live on. They say that that is inflationary.
They say that what one must do when one is dealing with wages, as distinct from oil prices and profits, is to depress those wages because you can control inflation by depressing the living standards of the working people. While farmers are being burdened alternatively by droughts, floods and rising costs the Country Party is busying itself in pushing policies that are designed to increase further the burden of meeting the increased cost of fuel, farm machinery and all the other purchases that would be affected by the
Leader of the Country Party’s proposal for an increase in the .price of steel. The direct cost to the farming community of his proposal would be $28m a year, compared with the cost of taking away the superphosphate bounty of S50m, less the tax deduction, which I have been led to understand by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) would produce a net cost of about S30m. So the Country Party does not mind imposing a cost of $290m. That would be the total effect cost upon the rural industry. That is all right. But it is a terrible thing when somebody suggests that a benefit that might have amounted to some $30m in net results per annum is taken away.
The Country Party is no longer the representative of the country people in general or of the farmers in particular. It is now the direct representative of the shipping combines, of the financial and commercial interests of the cities and of the magnates of secondary industry. BHP is but one of the interests that it represents in this Parliament in greater priority than it does the farming community, but it is a very significant interest. The Country Party now relies so heavily upon BHP for its campaign funds. From where do honourable members think McEwen House came? From where do honourable members think the Country Party got the money to buy Downer House? Why is it that members of the Country Party have been walking around with a smug smile on their faces since they found out that the Liberal Party of Australia got 5250,000 at its fund raising dinner? They can afford to be smug because they know that they will get infinitely more than that from the wealthly vested city interests that they now represent.
Let me quote now from an article in a very responsible newspaper, the Canberra Sunday Post’ of 10 March. It states:
The concern shown by Mr Anthony, Leader of the Country Party, for the profits of BHP must bring tears to the eyes of those country dwellers whose votes put him where he is. “The low profitability of BHP’s steel operations should be a matter of public concern’, he said.
The argument will be raised that higher steel prices would be inflationary’ he divined shrewdly. ‘No doubt they would be, but is the short term inflation factor the only one to be considered?’
A good question.
The same Mr Anthony commenting on the abolition of the superphosphate bounty made his concern over inflation quite clear.
Labor members from city areas’, he counselled, could well be honest enough to explain to their constituents that this savage anti-rural decision will cause higher food prices for the housewife’. It is well known that from the days of Sir John McEwen onwards, BHP has contributed very substantial amounts to Country Party election funds.
Why was the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) so savage about Mr McEwen? Because he was getting all the cream and the Liberal Party was missing out. It was because the Country Party had come to be recognised as the spokesman for the large wealthy financial and commercial city interests. No longer was it in fact the real spokesman of the farmers. The newspaper article continues:
We know that this circumstance would have in no way influenced Mr Anthony’s announcement-
Of course not! Oh no! Of course McEwen House and the fact that large wads of BHP money were getting into the Country Party campaign funds would not be the reason for his concern about its profits!– -I repeat:
We know that this circumstance would have in no way influenced Mr Anthony’s announcement and that his statement was made purely out of principle and in accordance with the high regard to principle which his Party always displays.
Unfortunately I do not have time to quote the statement by the honourable member for Kennedy, Mr Katter, the now Official spokesman for the Country Party, in support of the farm interests. But let me quote what this responsible newspaper - the Canberra ‘Sunday Post’ - had to say a week later in an article headed ‘Katter out of the Bag’. It states:
Last week we mentioned that Mr Anthony’s call for the Government to approve higher steel prices was in no way influenced by the fact that BHP gives large sums to Country Party election funds-
– Who said that?
– -I am quoting from the Canberra ‘Sunday Post’ newspaper. The article continues: but was solely motivated by principle.
This week Mr Anthony again fell victim to principle and culled for the Government to approve higher prices for Australian oil.
No prizes for guessing who is the major producer in Australia.
Actually this sort of principle seems to be endemic in the Country Parly.
The Country Party Mining Committee goes on an Australian wide bag carrying jaunt and comes back- with a ‘policy’ which might just as well have been written by the mining companies themselves.
Of course we know that. What I want to know is what they are going to do with -
Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– The Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) is the very last person who should rise in this chamber and complain, almost with tears in his eyes, about the effect that an increased price for crude oil will have on the farmers. After all, we all know that currently he is supporting the oil industry employees in their attempt to get a 35-hour week. If they get a 35:hour week the effect not only on the farmers but also on everyone else in Australia will be far greater than the effect of any increase in the price of crude oil - an increase which, of course, has not been advocated. The Minister said that the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) is concerned about the price of petrol and has a great concern for people of the country. Why did he remain so quiet when so many things were done which affected the country man? Why did he not bring up, before this matter of petrol prices, the matter of the superphosphate bounty which will have a greater effect than any increase in the price of petrol will have? Why did he remain quiet, if he has such a great concern for his constituents in Eden-Monaro, when the Government increased the duty on petrol by 5c and the duty on diesel by almost 5c?
The Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) was sitting in the House until a few moments ago. The great way he has looked after his constituents in Riverina is shown by the fact that, as a result of the actions of his Government in the last Budget, the price of petrol in Leeton went up by 6.7c a gallon. Not only did the Government increase the duty but it also reduced the equalisation of petroleum products and of course that increased the price too. It is ludicrous to say that the honourable member for Eden-Monaro is looking after the interests of his constituents. At last the Government has found some topic on which the honourable member can be allowed to speak. On every previous matter he could not speak because he would have had to attack the Government. He could have brought up such matters as the abolition of the tax concession on water and soil conservation, the increase in meat inspection charges, reduced brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication and increased tax on private companies. This list would probably add up to something like S200m in increased charges directly to the farmer. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro sits there and laughs because he knows quite well that he was not allowed to speak on these matters.
I do not know whether the honourable member had his tongue in his cheek, but he said that the Australian producer of crude oil is receiving more than the overseas producer. Of course this is just ludicrous. We know that in 1970 the Australian price was 14c less than overseas parity, and in September 1973 it was about $1. 62c less. I have been supplied with a list of prices by the Parliamentary Library Statistical Research Service. This shows that today Kuwait oil is $4.96 a barrel - of course, it is of a lower quality than Australian oil; in Saudi Arabia it is $5.18; in the United States of America it is $4.08; in another field in the United States of America it is $4.30; in Venezuela - I do not have the latest figures - in September it was $3.79. In Australia we are receiving $2.06 and yet the honourable member for Eden-Monaro says that the overseas producer is paid less than the Australian producer. That is absolute humbug.
What the Australian Labor Party has tried to do is to latch on to the statement of the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony). Let me read what was said, because I am afraid that a tremendous amount of misrepresentation has occurred, trying to put into his mouth things that he did not say at all. He said:
The industry receives an artificially-low market return for crude oil through domestic pricing arrangements. Exploration activity is also restricted by high interest rates, capital inflow restrictions and uncertainty over government policy. Confidence is low. In a world of intense competition for energy exploration resources, Australia is missing out. Exploration must be increased through a combination of price incentives through the market and some direct Government assistance where practical.
All that is completely factual. It is a fact that we are missing out and that exploration is decreasing. He advocated that there should be a review of the broad domestic pricing structure. He said:
At present Australian crude oil produced from domestic reserves is subject to a price agreement which limits returns to producers and subsidises consumers at price levels considerably below world parity.
All that is completely factual. A review could disclose many things but a review does not mean that, as the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) said, the Country Party’s policy would lead to a doubling of the price of petrol. Did honourable members ever hear such complete rot and nonsense in their lives? I think that we would have to reach $20 or
S25 a barrel instead of the $2 we are paying today to double the price. I have not worked it out, nor has anyone else, because that is such a stupid statement that no one but the Minister could make it.
No one has said that there would be an increase, but if there were an increase of SI a barrel I am told by the Library Research Service that this would mean an increase of 1.9c in the price of petrol. Other people have suggested that it would be a little higher, perhaps up to 2.5c. So it is quite ludicrous to say that increases in the price of petrol will double the price of petrol, because that is not happening. Where the increase in the price of petrol comes from is from governments such as the present Labor Government which have increased enormously the price just by putting on the 5c and by reducing the price support which kept the price of petrol in country areas to not more than 4c a gallon above city prices. The more remote a country dweller is, the more he has to pay. So a review could come up with alternatives. It could say that the present price of crude was inadequate and it could make recommendations. On the other hand, it could advocate a 2-tier system.
There is no doubt that under the present system some companies with large reserves and which have been extremely lucky in discovering those reserves are able to make adequate profits. Of course, the Minister for Labour had his usual shot at the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. Undoubtedly BHP is doing extremely well and would continue to do well under the present price but let us not forget - I do not guarantee this figure, but it was given to me by the research section of the Library - that BHP to date has made profits of S98m from oil. But it had an outlay of $598m in order to make that profit. This might be all right for BHP, but what happens to the small fields. Firstly, people are not inclined to search for oil and, secondly, there are some fields which have been found which are not commercial on today’s prices. This is where a review could well advocate a 2-tier pricing system. At present we know we have oil at Mereenie which is not regarded as commercial on today’s prices. We know we have oil at Tirrawarra which is not commercial on today’s prices. We know that Moonie will go out of production at today’s price very much sooner that it would if it could get anywhere near world parity. It has only a small amount of oil left. If it goes out of production quite a bit of oil will be left in the ground. I think we should look at the system. Some of the small Australian producers say: ‘Why should the Government pay the Arabs a lot more than it is prepared to pay good Australians? So Australians have 2 interests, firstly, to obtain the cheapest possible fuel, and secondly, to maintain an adequate search. The search for oil now is not adequate. Even the Minister admits it. Yesterday he replied to a question that I had on notice, and he admits that it is inadequate. He says that all he will do about it is establish the Petroleum and Minerals Authority. We know well that under the Government’s present set-up the Authority will not be established. In other words, the Minister will not do anything about it except to run down the search throughout Australia.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– There is no doubt that double-price Doug had to come in blustering to try to put the best front on a monumental political gaffe. Perhaps he had better ride herd on some of his own Party members. He suggested that I was incompetent, but perhaps he should have a word with the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), who sent a telegram to me on 14 January. He said this:
Delighted that you were able to negotiate what appeared to be satisfactory arrangements with the oil companies to ensure sufficient bunkering fuel to allow export Australian wheat. From unofficial reports it would appear that you deserve our congratulations.
– That has no relationship.
– It has a lot. At the present time, thanks to the policy and activities of this Government, the primary producers of Australia are certain of being able to ship away the whole of their produce. That is more than some other countries in the world can possibly say. More than that, the primary producer today can get his distillate and get it in full. He can drive up to a bowser in a rural area and be assured of getting it. We have even been able to help the farmers in New Zealand with their autumn ploughing. The suggestion that I entered into some arrangement with the Shell Company is untrue. At no time have I contacted the company or made any arrangements with the company. A young cub reporter published that in the ‘Australian Financial Review’. It was beneath contempt to answer it. It was untrue.
– What is your policy?
– The policy is that the Prices Justification Tribunal will decide. Beyond that, today Australia is the only country in the world with the exception of Canada where a person can drive up to a bowser and get his fill of motor spirit.
– Thanks to the previous Government.
– Thanks to this Government. Australia todays enjoys one of the cheapest crude oils in the world. The profits that are being made by the major oil companies which are refining that crude are also amongst the highest in the world. That again is thanks to whom? If one deducts excise duty from the retail prices of petrol that prevailed throughout the major countries of the world, one will find that in Australia top price was being paid. ‘If we have the cheapest crude in the world and our true retail price is comparable with the highest in the world, that is a measure of the profits that are being made. There will be no increase in the price of Australian indigenous crude, nor is there the. slightest justification for it. Unnecessary hardship would be imposed not only on a quarter of a million farmers but also on a little matter of about 4.25 million Australian motorists, over one million truck and van operators and a quarter of a million motor cyclists.
As was said by the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron), an increase in the price of Australian crude of SI per barrel would increase the profits of ‘Esso-BHP in a year by $81m. Let us look at profits. For the last 2 full years, 1972 and 1973, oil profits at these allegedly appallingly low prices represented one-half of the total profit of Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. This year a half yearly report shows that the same pattern holds good - exactly one-half. Is it to be suggested that BHP is entitled to something beyond that? At the present time it is getting a 20.9 per cent return on the capital it has invested. More than that, its profits are tax free at this stage, and honourable members of the Opposition are well aware of it. ‘It happens to have the largest percentage of profit in the world in any section of the oil industry - 20.9 per cent. I ask honourable members opposite to look at the March issue of the ‘Rydges Business Journal’. It recommends investment in BHP shares at the present prices, and also it agrees with the policy of this Government. Strange but true.
– What about the other companies that are losing money?
– There are no companies in Australia losing money today, because for the last 15 months business has never been better in Australia, and the Opposition well knows it. As a further attempt to cover up, the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) tried in some way to link oil prices with exploration - again a complete fallacy and furphy. The hard truth is that for some time certain of the oil explorers have been foxing and the 54 wells they will be drilling off-shore are wells they are bound to drill and ought to have drilled long ago but have not because certain overseas interests have wanted to buy the shares before they told the people of Australia the truth.
Let me come to the question of farming out. That is where BHP came into the picture. It actually farmed out to Esso, which put in the risk capital. The honourable member for Farrer of ali people would deny that right to the Australian Government. We said to the explorers on the North West Shelf: ‘If you cannot handle and adequately drill the whole of the 142,000 square miles you hold, hand it back to the people of Australia’. Instead of that, the Opposition wants the best of both worlds. It wants the odds to nothing. The Government says that they should hand it back to the Australian Government and let the Australian Government in turn farm it out so we can participate on that basis. Throughout the world today every major country with off-shore oil deposits is entitled to, and claims, at least 51 per cent of the total, and that is exactly what we will do. But any Government participation is anathema to the Opposition. It so happens that for the year ended 30 June 1972 oil exploration expenditure was exactly as it was for the previous year. WoodsideBurmah has drilled 41 wells, and 9 of its first 31 wells were successful. That is a success ratio of one in 3.5. The world ratio is one in fifteen.
– That is one company out of forty-five.
– Dry up, please. You, a gentleman!
-Order! The honourable member for Farrer was heard in comparative silence. I suggest that he extend the same courtesy to the Minister.
– I am getting under their skin and they know it. The ‘Petroleum Gazette’ of September - an authentic publication - stated clearly that the costs of drilling are coming down because of the increasing sophistication of the Australian explorers. If there is any genuineness or any sincerity on the part of the Opposition, it will see to it that in the Senate the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill is supported because that Bill provides for the first time for participation by the Australian people with competent overseas companies in the fruits of petroleum exploration. The Opposition, of course, will not do it. It is pie-eyed, foolish and destructive. Whatever the fate of the Bill may be, I remind the Opposition that in the long term the question of sovereignity will be determined finally by the High Court of Australia. The Opposition knows as well as we do who will win that case. We will use the sovereign powers of Australia to the limit. We have the right to do so. We intend to do so. More than that, we will give out even-handed justice to every section of the Australian people, including the farmers, and we will not be boodling with BHP.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– This morning from the Government side we have heard attempts to justify what is really a weak matter rather than one of public importance. It is as well to remind the House and the people of the nature of this matter introduced by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan). He suggested for discussion as a matter of public importance:
The serious consequences for rural industry of any increase in the price of crude oil.
The fact that this matter was raised by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro - EdenMonaro being a rural electorate - is not lost on this House nor will it be lost on his own constituents and on the people who live in cities. Obviously the honourable member who started tilting at the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) a couple of weeks ago when the Prime Minister announced the removal of the superphosphate bounty, had to redeem himself in the eyes of his own rural electors in order to try to ensure his re-election at the next
Federal elections. But we know the result of his tilting at Mr Whitlam, his attempt to rally the Australian Labor Party Caucus Rural Committee to overturn the Cabinet decision to remove the superphosphate bounty. The honourable member suffered the most ignominious defeat that any backbench member of the Government could suffer. He knows it and the Government knows it. His raising of this matter today has amounted to an unsuccessful attempt to redeem himself.
We have heard also from the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) during this debate. One can wonder why on earth he should buy into a debate on crude oil pricing. He tried to make something of the national wage case that is currently proceeding in an attempt to lambast the Opposition for lack of concern for the workers of Australia but his voice was a voice empty and devoid of any sensible argument.
– He is going for a 35-hour week.
– Indeed. Finally we had another example of the blustering and crude rudeness of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor). There was no attempt to answer the case put forward by the Opposition for a review of domestic crude oil pricing in Australia. If the Minister’s effort in this debate indicates anything, it simply reaffirms the views of the Opposition that he is incapable of holding the portfolio any longer. The longer he holds it the greater will be the disaster to the oil and gas industry in Australia and the greater will be the disaster that befalls the people of Australia over the next decade.
One might wonder where is the concern of the present Government for the city dweller upon whom Mr Whitlam sought to rely so much in the last election. There is no mention of them in this discussion as there is no mention of the cost to the farmer of the removal of the superphosphate bounty and no mention of the cost to the farmer of the removal of taxation concessions over the whole range of taxation policies of this Government. There is no mention of the cost to the people of Australia of these actions. It rings rather hollow when honourable members have to sit and listen to the kind of stuff we heard from the Government benches this morning after a little research back into Hansard has been done to find out what these same people said before and what fellow members of theirs said before. I refer, as did also the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony), to the Hansard debate on 19 April 1972 and to a speech by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) who presumably was the then Opposition spokesman on Australian oil resources. I quote a couple of passages from Hansard at page 1788. The honourable member was speaking of the role of price as an incentive for exploration. Does the Minister for Minerals and Energy today deny that price has a role as an incentive for exploration and development? The way he spoke this morning one would think he would deny that completely. Does he deny his own colleague? We must assume that he does, for his colleague said:
Thus despite severe inflation which has played havoc with exploration and development costs, the Government refuses to increase the price of Australian oil to at least equivalent to the non-dumped import parity price.
Inflation in April 1972 was running at about 3 to 4 per cent; today inflation is at 13 per cent. The validity of the argument put forward then is compounded by the present rate of inflation under this Government. The honourable member for Dawson continued:
The overall result of this negative and extraordinarily bad policy will be to drive all small Australian companies out of the oil exploration field and to hand our oil resources to the major international oil combines.
Far from the. Gorton Government’s pricing policy of 1969 doing that, the instability and uncertainty within the oil industry under the administration of the Minister for Minerals and Energy has done more than anything else to put at risk the very future of the smaller Australian oil companies. The honourable member for Dawson also said:
The domestic price of Australian crude oil should be increased immediately to a figure equivalent to the world parity price. This price should be regarded as a floor price.
No argument has been presented today to justify the stand the Minister has taken - to hide behind the crude oil pricing policy of the former Gorton Government to portray the present Government as a low price government. Finally the honourable member for Dawson said:
Under a Labor Government an increase in the price of a basic commodity like petrol would have to be considered by a prices tribunal in which the profits of oil companies would be closely scrutinised. Alternatively increased costs of the guaranteed price of indigenous crude oil could be treated as an investment subsidy in the same way as the exploration subsidy is borne by the nation as a whole.
Does the present Minister deny what his colleague said then about what would be the policy of a Labor government? Every action that the present Minister has taken denies the stand that was taken by the then Opposition in April 1972. I go further and turn to something that the Minister said on 27 May 1969 as reported at page 2282 of Hansard. He said:
Do not forget that in the world today there is over-production, there are price wars and there is every probability that between now and 1975 the world listed price of petroleum and crude oil will fall very heavily.
What prescience did the Minister have then when he uttered that statement? He has as much prescience then as he had early in 1973 when he said that there was nothing more certain than, death and that the value of the United States dollar would fall even further. What has happened to the United States dollar since those days? It has climbed in value and it will continue to climb. What has happened since May 1969 when the Minister, looking into his crystal ball, said that the world listed price of petroleum and crude oil would fall very heavily? We know that it has trebled, quadrupled and in some cases increased even further.
– When did he say that?
– In May 1969. What a remarkable man he is! I think when the people of Australia look back on the record of this Minister they will recognise that it is an empty drum that makes a loud noise and will see that what he is doing is hiding his head in the sand. The present pricing arrangements must come up for review in September 1975. September 1975 is not the time to embark upon an investigation of what the prices should be beyond that date. Now is the time when the Minister should be doing his homework. Now is the time when he should be telling the Australian people what they can expect. Now is the time when he should be opening up in this Parliament the debate on what the domestic crude oil pricing policies of the Government will be. But this Minister does not do any of that. He blusters, he mutters and he indulges in his crude rudeness and in hyperbole. If one goes back through his past speeches one sees but a continuing repetition of the same thing.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion has concluded.
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
– I move:
The principal purpose of this Bill is to implement the Government’s proposal to extend the charter of the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia to provide finance for tourist development projects, especially smaller projects in selected areas. This proposal was first announced by my colleague the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) on 22 August 1973, when he foreshadowed that the necessary amending legislation would be introduced this year.
Tourism is a nationally important industry involving a wide cross-section of component activities. It serves a common human desire - the desire to travel. My colleague the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, who will be addressing the House later today in connection with a Bill to amend the Australian Tourist Commission Act, will speak in more detail of the importance of this industry and of the need to encourage Australians to travel more widely to learn more of our country.
The tourist industry is an important contributor to the overall economic prosperity of this country. The key to the industry’s continual growth to satisfy the needs of both domestic and overseas tourists is its ability to obtain adequate investment funds on reasonable terms. Nearly all operators in the industry seeking finance for the development of new or expansion of existing projects are experiencing difficulty in obtaining new funds on satisfactory terms. This applies particularly to smaller undertakings in remote areas. The proposed legislation is designed to help alleviate these problems.
Under the current legislation, the Commonwealth Development Bank’s principal function is to provide finance to assist primary production or to establish or develop industrial undertakings, particularly small undertakings, in cases where in its opinion finance is desirable but would not otherwise be available on reasonable and suitable terms and conditions.
The proposed amendment to section 72 of the Commonwealth Bank Act will widen the Development Bank’s function to enable it to provide finance for the establishment or devel opment of undertakings, particularly small undertakings, providing accommodation or transportation for tourists or other facilities designed to attract tourists. The provision of such finance will be subject to the same statutory provisions as those applicable to the Bank’s existing lending operations, including the requirement that the Bank should be satisfied the finance would not otherwise be available on reasonable and suitable terms and conditions. The amendment to section 72 will also empower the Development Bank to provide advice and assistance to tourist enterprises.
In accordance with the Government’s wishes the Development Bank will consult as appropriate with the Departments of Tourism and Recreation, Urban and Regional Development, and Environment and Conservation in carrying out its financing role in the tourist industry. It has not been considered practicable or desirable to attempt to define selected areas in the legislation. The Development Bank will be particularly concerned with financing smaller enterprises involved in the development or improvement of tourist facilities away from main population centres.
The opportunity has also been taken in this Bill to bring into line with the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973 the provisions in the Commonwealth Banks Act relating to the determination of the remuneration payable to members of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation Board and the various statutory office-holders under the Act. The amendments effected by clause 4 and the Schedule to the Bill will thus formalise in the Commonwealth Banks Act the requirement that the remuneration payable to the statutory office-holders concerned be determined in future by the Remuneration Tribunal established under the Remuneration Tribunal Act.
In accordance with current practice, clause 4 also makes provision for allowances payable to the statutory office-holders specified to be prescribed by regulations. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Nixon) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Crean, and read a first time.
(2.32)- I move: That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the Government’s decision that there should be a distribution of the surplus of $70,015,000 as at 30 June 1972 disclosed by the tenth quinquennial investigation of the Superannuation Fund, into which are paid the contributions under the Superannuation Act made by Australian Government employees. Honourable members will recall that on 21 November 1973 I tabled the Superannuation Board’s report on the investigation, which was undertaken by the Australian Government Actuary. The Board’s report included the report of the Actuary. The surplus of $70,015,000 as at 30 June 1972 included the undistributed surplus as at 30 June 1967 of $14,779,000 which by 30 June 1972 had accumulated to $19,749,000. The Actuary stated that $52,525,000 of the total surplus was attributable to contributors and $17,490,000 to pensioners.
The surplus arose principally because the Fund had earned at a higher rate than the future long term average earning rate of 5 per cent assumed by the Actuary for the purpose of his previous investigation and by the Actuary’s assuming a higher future long term average earning rate, 5? per cent, for the purpose of the tenth quinquennial investigation. It follows from this that members’ contribution rates are now higher than necessary to finance their shares of the benefits provided under the existing scheme but no adjustment of contribution rates is contemplated pending a final decision by the Government of the new superannuation scheme that I have proposed. I should add that the Government does not pay contributions into the Fund concurrently with members. The Government meets its share of the cost of benefits when the benefits are paid.
The principles adopted in the Bill are similar to those followed in the 1965 legislation covering the distribution of the surplus in the Fund as at 30 June 1962. As on that occasion, the total amount distributed will include an addi-‘ tional amount in the nature of further surplus that has accrued in the Fund since 1 July 1972 in respect of the surplus of $70,015,000. Subject to passage of the legislation, the Superannuation Board expects that it will be able to make payments to pensioners during SeptemberOctober and to contributors before the end of this year. The payments will, of course, be made from the Superannuation Fund and will not be a charge against Consolidated Revenue or the Budget.
I commend the Bill to honourable members. Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.
-(Lang- Minister for Tourism and Recreation) - Mr Speaker, before I present the Australian Tourist Commission Bill 1974, may I, on behalf of the Government, say how pleasant it is to see the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) back in the House after his illness. I trust that he is fully recovered and that we will see him in excellent form for the rest of the session.
Bill presented by Mr Stewart, and read a first time.
– I move:
Honourable members will recall that, in her speech at the opening of this second session of the Twenty-eighth Parliament, Her Majesty the Queen foreshadowed the Government’s intention to introduce this Bill. Since its establishment in 1967 the Australian Tourist Commission has operated within its given charter of the encouragement of visits to Australia and travel in Australia by people from other countries.
In 1968, the year following the establishment of the Commission, some 237,000 short term visitors came to Australia from overseas. In the same period, short term departures from Australia totalled some 252,000. That is a difference of some 15,000 between arrivals and departures. During the same period our foreign exchange earnings from spendings of overseas visitors amounted to $98m, whereas on the debit side $150m was spent outside Australia by people departing this country on a short term basis. This left a travel gap of $52m. Between 1968 and 1971 the travel gap maintained a steady upward pattern. For instance by the end of 1971 it had increased to $74m. In 1972, however, it increased dramatically to $176m. While in that year the number of short term visitors increased by 9.7 per cent over the previous year, a significant decline on the visitor growth rates of 14.9 per cent and 22.7 per cent respectively was experienced in 1970 and 1971.
While this situation can, in general terms, be explained by currency adjustments, the cessation of the United States R and R program to Australia which terminated on 31 December 1971 and in some cases by an uncompetitive fare situation from our major markets, there are no indications that the position is improving, nor can one be optimistic that it will improve of its own accord. For instance, based on current estimates for the year ended 31 December 1973, about 319,000 short term visitors came to Australia and short term departures amounted to about 460,000. In money terms in the same period, receipts amounted to $139m and spendings by Australians travelling overseas as short term visitors were $359m, a staggering gap of S220m, which shows an increase of 25 per cent over the previous year. This I believe is a serious situation and while, at this moment, Australia does not have a balance of payments problem the travel gap of $220m represents a serious imbalance. Clearly then, there is an urgent need to correct this situation.
The Australian Tourist Commission is doing an excellent job in promoting Australia overseas but given the many problems it faces in selling Australia as a tourist destination it is unrealistic to expect that the Commission would be able to increase Australia’s foreign exchange earnings from tourism to such an extent that it would balance the spendings of Australians abroad. How can we solve, or at least minimise, this problem? Certainly the Government has no intention of taking action to limits the numbers of Australians travelling overseas. We consider that Australians travelling overseas and people from other countries visiting Australia have more than an economic impact. The interaction of people leads to a better understanding between nations and thus barriers should not be placed on overseas travel. To my mind, and to the minds of many associated with the tourist industry, the Australian Tourist Commission could do much to help overcome this economic problem if it were given authority to encourage more Australians to ‘have their holidays at home - a noble objective, and I may add, in accordance with the philosophy of my Government to encourage more Australians to see and learn more of their own country.
This leads me to the main purpose of the Bill which is to amend the existing Act to enable the Commission to enter into the domestic tourism promotion field. The role of promoting travel within Australia has in the past been left to the State governments and Territory administrations, through their tourist bureaux, to the Australian National Travel Association and to other private or Government bodies such as airlines, shipping lines, railways, coach companies, etc. But more can be done. Here I might add that I have discussed this matter with my colleagues on the Tourist Ministers’ Council which includes Ministers from all States, and they have endorsed these proposals.
While my Department, the Department of Tourism and Recreation, has the authority to promote domestic tourism in Australia it desires to take advantage of the expertise within the Australian Tourist Commission. The Commission has over the years built up the experience to engage in this type of activity and indeed has done a tremendous job of making . Australia better known overseas. It thus has the ability to make Australia better known to Australians. The type of promotions which the Commission will be asked to undertake will be ‘umbrella’ nationwide promotions, in co-operation with the States and the travel industry aimed at complementing and supporting existing promotional and policy activities and encouraging wider travel in Australia. To give effect to the Government’s decision to widen the powers of the Australian Tourist Commission to enable it to enter into the domestic tourism promotion field section 15 of the Principal Act is to be repealed. This section at present reads:
The Commission is established for the purpose of the encouragement of visits to Australia, and travel in Australia by people from other countries.
Under the proposed amendment section 15 will read:
The Commission is established for the purpose of the encouragement:
of visits to Australia, by people from other countries, and
of travel in Australia, including travel by people from other countries.
Similarly, the Bill provides that section 16, paragraph (b) of sub-section (2), be amended to read:
To induce and assist travel agents, transport operators and other appropriate bodies or persons to encourage people in other countries to visit Australia and to encourage travel in Australia including travel by people from other countries.
I turn now to the constitution of the Commission as stated in clause 5. The Australian
Tourist Commission Act 1967-1973 provides that the Commission shall consist of 5 voting and 2 non-voting members, the 2 non-voting representatives being persons nominated by the goverment of the States and who serve on the Commission on a rotating basis. The Bill provides that all members of the Commission be entitled to vote. This to me is a basic principle. It is important that the Australian and State governments and industry interests work in close harmony to achieve our aims and accordingly, all members of the Commission should be equal and have full voting rights. The Bill also provides that the number of members should be increased from 7 to 9 members. It is my belief that the importance of tourism in the economy requires an expansion of the Commission to make it more representative of the various interests which might be expected to have a voice on such a body. At a later date I will be announcing the 2 new members of the Tourist Commission.
The Bill, of course, makes other provisions. However, these are secondary to the factors I have already outlined to you and are made either because of the passage of other Bills enacted by the Parliament in recent months, or because the main amendments proposed in this Bill require other provisions to be made as a matter of administrative procedure. The Government is of the view that the measures which I have outlined will represent a further step forward in the development of our tourist industry. I believe that honourable members on both sides of this House will recognise it to be an important step which will complement other measures which have already been adopted to assist the tourist industry and which I will be striving to obtain for the industry in the years ahead. I have spoken on previous occasions of the excellence and professionalism which the Australian Tourist Commission brings to its work. This Bill will enable this skill to be used in what one might call ‘closer to home tourism’. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 12 March (vide page 281), on motion by Mr Charles Jones:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Airlines Equipment Act 1958-1973 by substituting metric terms where appropriate. The Opposi tion is treating this merely as a metric conversion measure. Whilst the legislation does refer to the respective aircraft capacities required by Trans- Australia Airlines and Ansett Transport Industries Ltd on their competitive and non-competitiveroutes, and therefore concerns the very basis of Australia’s 2-airline system, the Opposition does not regard this as an appropriate occasion to debate these issues. Accordingly we do hot oppose the passage of the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Charles Jones) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 14 March (vide page 514), on motion by Mr Riordan:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen be agreed to: MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN:
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 Phillip 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 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 inequities;
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.
– It was a great pleasure and a great privilege for those of us who sit in this Parliament to have had an opportunity of witnessing the opening of this the second session of the twenty-eighth Parliament by Her Majesty the Queen. On behalf of the citizens of the Division of Gwydir I extend to her their loyalty and affection. Before proceeding further, I wish to deal with the remarkable contribution to this debate that was made by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby). His speech was an extraordinary display of clever footwork by one who desperately needs to explain his deplorable part in the anti-rural policies of his Government. One could be excused for thinking that should he lose his seat he could well take a part in a vaudeville show or in a side show as a sleight of hand trickster or a political acrobat. In any event it is of no wonder he is at pains as a member representing a country seat, the seat of Riverina, to confuse and to cleverly misrepresent his Government’s infamous rural policy. I wonder how many people realise how well he twists the facts? How many people fall for his amazing stories? His misleading account of the prosperity of his ‘rich’ farmers in the Riverina have obviously convinced his impressionable Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), who only a month ago in Victoria said to a great multitude of farmers: ‘You’ve never had it so good’. This nonsense does not please the farmers in my electorate who share the gross indebtedness of well over $2,000m.
I simply pose these questions to the Minister: What has happened to the superphosphate bounty which he so loudly supported? What has happened to the old principles of the wheat stabilisation scheme? Where have the income taxation allowances and incentives gone? Where is his $500m rural bank scheme to lend farmers long term loans at 3i per cent interest? Is he aware that farmers are now paying the highest interest rates in this country for 100 years? It would appear that the Minister is just as mixed up in the immigration problem. Indeed, we have seen the amiable colourful Minister when on his overseas tours successfully confuse the Australian people, our Asian friends, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and Mr Hawke, the President of the ACTU, as well as his own Prime Minister and Government on immigration policy. The cancellation of the easy visa system as it applied to Fiji has caused much anguish to the Fijian people; hence the Dorothy Dix question which was asked in Parliament this morning. Then, of course, we have seen the Philippines debacle where the Prime Minister with the blessing of his Minister arranged for 35 Filipinos to come to Australia to work for the Leyland Motor Corporation. Since then the ACTU has blown the lid and a curious compromise has now emerged. Special committees are now off to the Philippines and to South America to study the situation and to find suitable migrants. So much for Labor’s ambivalent immigration policy.
I now turn to some of the issues that arise from the Speech of Her Majesty. Perhaps the most significant paragraph of the Speech, which was prepared for her by the Government, was this:
In this session my Government will continue with its policies of reform and innovation.
One could be forgiven for finding more apt terms or words to describe Labor’s policies, terms or words such as policies of dislocation, of confusion, of undermining private enterprise to the advantage of socialism. What an incredible performance. From day to day neither the public nor the Public Service nor the Ministers collectively know what is going to happen next or who is going to say what. This seat of the pants administration is an innovation in executive government, in executive administration. One sees Cabinet reach its decisions after a plethora of personal ministerial advisers have had their say, with Caucus sub-committees screening those decisions and Caucus having its say publicly. In the wings we see the organisations of the Australian Labor Party, the State executives, the Federal Executive, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and of course the irrepressible Mr Hawke, all having a slap at Government policy.
– You do not get a vote at your Party meetings. That is what you are upset about.
– That is nonsense. Of course we have a vote at our Party meetings, but we do not have such a collection of people, groups and committees trying to determine where we go when we are in government. One feels sympathy for the fat cats of the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) who have the unenviable task of ultimately putting the distorted policies into administrative action. It would appear that this is the open government that we have all heard so much about, split open not just down the middle but in many directions.
After 15 months of these policies let us assess the performance of the Government in terms of reform and innovation. What has happened to the promised tolerant, more humane, more open Whitlam Government? What has happened to the promised spirit of national co-operation? What has happened to the appealing pre-election Utopian economic and social welfare policies of this Government? We have seen one intolerant action after another taken, one confrontation after another with the State governments, with the doctors, with farmers, with people living in areas outside Sydney and Melbourne, with the mining industries, with the ACTU and Mr Hawke, with insurance companies, with building societies and with most sections of the private sector.
– You name it, they have had a go at it.
– That is exactly true. The former Liberal-Country Party Government’s objective of economic growth and improving living standards lies in the dim distance almost obscured by spiralling inflation and speculative activity. The rural industries are bewildered by a range of economic measures and discriminatory actions that have stripped the farmers of over $140m of incentives and benefits that were designed to encourage production and to increase productivity.
– That is a conservative estimate too.
– That is so true. One could add $60m to that, making a total of $200m. The farmers have now lost a good many hard won incentives and tariff off-setting compensating measures. Do not say that the 25 per cent across the board tariff reduction has had the effects on the rural sector that have been claimed by the Government. Where have the prices for engines and tractors decreased? Of course they have not decreased; in fact they have increased in most instances. The farmers have had to agree to quite unacceptable stabilisation and marketing schemes or else. This attitude will of course reduce capital reinvestment, destroying the incentive to produce more food and fibres.
The mining and oil industries are facing uncertainty with exploration in a state of stagnation. In spite of what the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) might say, the rate of exploration in Australia is running at 10 per cent of what it was 3 years ago.
Some sections of the manufacturing industry are in a state of disarray. The textile industries, many important sections of which are in country locations, are looking to overseas destinations in order to survive.
– There are 120,000 employed in that industry in the country.
– In Singleton, that is true. On the industrial front we have seen industrial unrest increasing. In 1973 there was a substantial increase in the duration and dimensions of strikes. Violence was a feature of several strikes. In the 10 months to October 1973, compared with the same period in 1972, the number of disputes showed an increase of 10.4 per cent and the number of working days lost increased by 31 per cent. Worse still, wages lost in these disputes increased by more than 40 per cent. But this is not the whole story. One cannot estimate the number of people who were stood down by these strikes. One cannot easily ascertain the percentage of increase that strikes have added to our inflation and cost of living, but it is considerable. The shortage of goods on the market is largely due to industrial disorder. Strikes, go slow tactics, working to regulations, militant trade union intervention and, to a degree, business uncertainty are causing the shortages that we are experiencing in so many sectors of our economy.
It was the Prime Minister as the leader of his Party, who boasted to the nation prior to the election that a Labor Government would restore industrial order and ensure good industrial relations. So much for that promise. The worst area of the Whitlam Government’s administration has been in the area of economic management. When it assumed office unemployment was moderating and inflation had moderated to a rate of 4.5 per cent a year. Within 12 months inflation has spiralled to 13 per cent a year so that today we have one of the highest inflation rates in the Western world.
– We do not. Japan has.
– One of the highest, I said. In the period 1961 to 1971 Australia enjoyed the second lowest inflation rate among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. But today we have among the highest inflation rates of countries in the OECD. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a table relating to the inflation rates of the OECD countries.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Worldwide inflation has hit developed and developing countries. These tables compare the experience of the 24 member countries of the OECD. They show how the relatively modest rate of inflation in the 1960s had almost trebled on average by 1973. The 1973 figures for Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and Iceland are for the 12 months to the latest available period.
– I thank the House. I am sure honourable members will be keen to read that information in Hansard tomorrow and they will see what I mean. A whole range of measures has been thrown at the economy in an ad hoc fashion in the desperate hope that they may work. At the same time the Government introduced a highly inflationary Budget, increasing public expenditure and considerably increasing the Public Service. It was an inflationary Budget. Today not only do the export earning industries labour under the load of the highest interest rates for 100 years and spiralling inflation, but they are also at a serious disadvantage in terms of our currency. Due to the equivalent of 3 revaluations upward of the Australian dollar, Australia now has one of the most overvalued currencies in the world. We have even revalued against the Japanese yen by 14 per cent. When the world’s supply of products of rural origin comes closer to demand, Australian farmers and exporters will be at a serious disadvantage with their competitors in the United States of America and Canada selling wheat, coarse grains and choice cuts of meat.
Probably the most serious factor contributing to our inflationary problem is the lack of productivity gains in all levels of industry. An incentive to work is not being provided to the average wage earner and salaried worker or to producers and employers. The present tax scale, not having been adjusted to current inflationary levels, is hitting the lower and middle income groups. It is a sleight of hand method of raising extra Government revenue. It creates dishonesty among people, with persons seeking 2 jobs working under assumed names doing anything to keep something in their pockets from extra efforts expended. Where are the incentives to the industrious to work harder to earn more? Where is the incentive for the producer to produce more. There is a need for a massive incentive program to be evolved by the Government after consultation with unions and employer and producer groups. If a program involves profit sharing, productivity bonuses, union representation on boards of management and lowering the income tax scale, let us have it and let us have it quickly for the sake of this country. All the other fiscal, monetary and other traditional methods are failing to counter inflation because they fail to take into account the fundamentally important human resources of incentive and initiative. This simple human approach would no doubt be alien to the concepts of the socialist advisers of this Government.
As serious as these and other specific policy issues may be, there is an even greater issue facing the Australian people. It is a philosophical question of far-reaching proportions. The Whitlam Government is clearly a socialist government. The Prime Minister is a selfconfessed socialist. Indeed he is a centralist, believing in unitary government. In Australia, approximately 40 per cent of the electors are keen or traditional supporters of Labor, while 40 per cent of the electors are staunch supporters of the non-Labor parties. There are 20 per cent of voters who are probably indifferent, undecided or uncommitted. It is to those 20 per cent of the Australian people that I make my appeal today. In these circumstances, they cannot afford the luxury of being undecided and uncommitted, now that the Whitlam Government makes no secret of its socialist intentions. The Australian people must decide whether they want a socialist society with one centralist government or a free enterprise society where the freedom and enterprise of the individual is of paramount importance. I am sure the majority of Australians desire the opportunity of being selfemployed, to run their own businesses, to own their own farms and to exploit their own resources for their own reward, rather than a system under which State control is supreme. So long as incentives are made available to such people, it will be these people who collectively will generate the wealth of the nation in an efficient manner.
The actions of the Whitlam Government in its 15 months in office should lead to no doubt as to where it is leading us politically. Are we to fall to the socialist state, with its subordination of the individual to the officialdom of centralist government, or are we to clamour to ensure that governments are the servants of the people? This profoundly democratic principle has given the British people inspiration, individualism and direction for over 600 years. In 1972 people could have voted Labor in the belief that the Australian Labor Party was a reformed, revitalised and new party and in the belief that it was a party of reform rather than the same old Labor machine with its drab and dreary socialist doctrine. In 1974 let those who support this Government openly admit that they adhere to the socialist philosophy. Let no one who votes for the referenda and the Whitlam Government at the Senate election be heard to complain after the event that they did not know the gun was loaded. Socialism is not creative of human endeavour or initiative or of real wealth. It creates the illusion of wealth by increasing public expenditure and intensifying inflation. Every extension of government power and control means less freedom of choice for the people. Government control is monopolist. Monopolies deny choice. There is no choice for the producer, the customer or the employee. With no choice, there is no freedom. The centralist government, a unitary system of government, means one employer, one planner and one controller, all the ingredients of a monstrous totalitarian system of government, examples of which have blotted the modern history of man.
– Do you really believe that rubbish?
– I sincerely believe it and if you are fair dinkum that you do not believe it, you watch your own Party. By remaining indifferent to the wealth producing industries and by discriminating against the private sector of the economy, the socialists turn the illusion of wealth into a fraud, with money being worth less and purchasing power less, lt is this illusion of prosperity that reduces the incentive to work and to produce goods. Thus the production rates fall, shortages occur and black market begins and our material and spiritual standards decline.
In this country, socialism will come in by the back door, through such Bills as the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill, unless we are vigilant. We cannot have socialism without reducing our freedom and we cannot have a controlled economy without government intervention and without controlling the daily lives of humans, who are still the greatest and most important element in the economy. Policies can be turned on and off like a tap but once the collective philosophical direction of our people takes another direction, the whole attitude and character of our people for generations to come will go with it.
– In rising to support the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen, I refer to the Speech in which the Queen mentioned a few things that were included in the Government’s program for the future. She mentioned the steps taken by this Government to improve the percentage of Australian ownership of its own resources. She mentioned the legislation that was to be introduced relating to the provision of a limited tax deduction on mortgages. Of course, this matter has received quite an amount of publicity in today’s newspapers. The Queen also mentioned the plans of the Government to set up a pipeline authority which will ensure that Australia’s natural resources, including natural gas, will be utilised to the best of Australia’s ability. The Speech also mentioned the intention of the Government to reintroduce the industrial legislation which has been rejected by the Senate - legislation that we feel we must have on the statute book’s of this country to bring about industrial peace in Australia and to allow the process of conciliation to become a prime factor in solving our industrial disputes.
Her Majesty also mentioned what the Government intends to do in some areas of social services. Of course, this again has been the subject of newspaper publicity. The speech also mentioned the setting up of the social welfare commission which will develop the Australian assistance plan. Of course, in various areas of Australia, we have seen the Australian assistance plan start to take shape in the setting up of various committees and so forth, which will work with local bodies, which have already been established, to bring into being the Australian assistance plan. The Queen also mentioned the Government’s plans in regard to Aboriginals, an area which certainly has been neglected in the past. I am sure that we all hope that with the increased allocation of finance and the greater Commonwealth involvement in this field, the Australian Aboriginals will move to take their correct place in Australian society. They are a few matters mentioned by the Queen in her Speech.
Perhaps we can look back at what this Government has done in its period of office. The field of education is probably the one in which the Government can take the greatest amount of credit for what it has been able to do. The acceptance by the Commonwealth of a far greater share of the financial responsibility for education and the doubling of the amount that was previously allocated for this field certainly has given the educationalists of Australia the means by which they can bring about what they see as the essential educational qualities of the Australian people.
In regard to the field of social services, I saw in a local newspaper yesterday an article in which a South Australian Liberal senator said that this Government had shown a complete disregard for the age pensioners in our society. How far wrong could he be, because the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his 1972 policy speech promised that he would raise pensions by $1.50 twice a year until such time as the single rate pension reached 25 per cent of average weekly male earnings. This policy was carried out last year with two $1.50 increases, the first of which was made retrospective to the first pay after the election. In addition to that, the Government has announced that it will increase the married rate pension by $5 a week - that is, $2.50 for each couple - and the single rate pension by $3 a week. Also, of course, there have been similar improvements in unemploy- ment benefits and other benefits in areas where the less fortunate in our society must rely on the Government to assist them. The Government has taken new initiatives in introducing new areas where social service benefits are payable. Possibly, I could mention the supporting mothers’ benefit and the introduction of the orphans’ benefit, both of which are completely new concepts. Another decision the Government has taken which will be of help to the older people in our society is the decision to alter the manner of adjusting the superannuation payments paid to former Commonwealth employees. Previously these superannuation pensions were adjusted only every 5 years. With the introduction of legislation in this respect last year the Government accepted responsibility for making adjustments every 12 months, from 1 July each year, in accordance with movements in the consumer price index. That will help the former Commonwealth public servants who are living on such pensions.
It is well known that the introduction of the proposed health scheme by the Government has been rejected by the Senate. But that has not meant that the Government has not improved the whole question of health care in Australia. We have seen the introduction of a community health scheme. In this regard I wish to refer to grants made to community health centres. I know that my own electorate of Grey has received quite substantial support from the grants given in this area. Altogether an amount of approximately $400,000 has been granted to the electorate of Grey for the various health projects that have been submitted to the Government. There has been a grant of $125,000 for the extension of the existing community medical centre at Port Lincoln. That extension work will enable better services to be provided to the people of the area. One grant which was of great importance was the allocation of $126,000 to the medical centre at Ceduna. Ceduna is possibly the last settlement that one strikes in South Australia when going westward before reaching the Western Australian border. West of that area there is no township other than the small township of Penong, which relies on Ceduna for its health services. In this area there are also 2 Aboriginal reserves - the Yalata Lutheran Mission and the Cooniba Aboriginal Reserve - both of which rely on the township of Ceduna for the supplying of medical care. The grant of $126,000 will enable the setting up of a mobile clinic at Ceduna to service this area and to provide health care to the people of the area.
Another area which has benefited from the community health centres grant is Coober Pedy, which is an isolated opal mining centre approximately 400 miles by road from Port Augusta. It relies on a flying doctor service and a hospital run by dedicated nursing sisters for its health care. It is a township which has a varying population. In the summer months j the population drops away, but in the cooler months of winter the population has been estimated by some to be between 3,500 and 4,000. It is serviced only by a flying doctor service and nursing sisters. The granting of an extra $125,000 to this area will enable a better health care service to be provided. In addition ( to those large amounts there has also been a grant of $17,000 to 2 smaller areas to enable them to extend their existing medical services. Altogether the amount that has been granted for community health services in the electorate of Grey is in excess of $400,000.
Another innovation by the Government was the introduction of legislation to enable grants to be made to local government bodies for the setting up of senior citizens clubs. The electorate of Grey has gained from this legislation. The sum of $94,000 was granted to the local council in Port Pirie for the setting up of a senior citizens club. Work is well under way in that respect. I wish to refer also to the grants given by the Department of Tourism and Recreation. Once again the electorate has been the recipient of a large grant, mainly because of the situation in the city of Whyalla. The city of Whyalla has grown from about 12,000 people in 1958 to 35,000 today. Due to the rapid expansion that has gone on the local authorities and so forth have been pretty hard pressed to provide the increased facilities that are required. The Department of Tourism and Recreation, in conjunction with the South Australian Government and various other local bodies, including the YMCA and the South Australian Housing Trust, has contributed $375,000 towards the setting up of a cultural and recreation centre to serve the needs of this area. The Commonwealth contribution in this respect represents approximately 50 per cent of the cost of the project. I know that there are other areas in the electorate of Grey that have made submissions to the Department of Tourism and Recreation for assistance along these lines. No doubt it will be forthcoming.
Perhaps I should refer also to the subject of transport in the area. It is known that there has been talk about the Alice Springs-Tarcoola railway line and that money has ‘been allocated for survey work in this regard. I am sure that a decision to go ahead with the construction of this railway line is not too far away. I notice that the responsible South Australian minister made a statement the other day to the effect that he expects an agreement to be signed in the near future in this regard. I have mentioned quite a number of times in this Parliament the Eyre Highway and the Stuart Highway. The Eyre Highway links South Australia with the west and the Stuart Highway links South Australia with the north. As honourable members know, a report has been brought down by the Bureau of Roads on this subject. I have noticed that the Stuart Highway is regarded in the report as being one of the roads that oan be classed as a national highway. If the Commonwealth Government presses on with its policies in this regard, as I am sure it will, I believe that we will see that road, instead of being a responsibility of the South Australian Government as it has in the past, come under the financial responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. A certain amount of money has ‘been allocated to South Australia by the Commonwealth Government for its roads. The former Commonwealth Government has said to South Australia that it has to set the priorities as to how it is going to spend its road moneys. Because there are a number of unmade roads in the western part of the State the South Australian Government has had to split the money it has spent on improving roads. That has meant that the sealing of these roads has been a slow job because only so much can be done at a given time. I hope that, with the acceptance by the Commonwealth of a responsibility for road works, the maintenance of these roads will no longer be the responsibility of the State but that the financial responsibility for their construction will be fully accepted by the Commonwealth Government. The roads to which I have referred are very important. They serve not only the Northern Territory but also other areas along the way. Included in those areas is the area I mentioned earlier, Coober Pedy, and the Woomera rocket range. All those areas are surely deserving of bitumen roads.
A lot has , been said recently about the referendums on electoral matters and so forth. Much has been said about the position in
Queensland. I think that Tom Playford would not be able to hold a candle to the present Country Party Government in Queensland in this regard. South Australia has had a gerrymandered electoral system for quite some time. The gerrymander in the time of the Playford Government was such that some electorates with only 4,000 people in them were returning one member and other electorates with up to 40,000 people in them also were returning one member. Even under this system the Liberals lost badly to the early Walsh Government and the Dunstan Government. When the Labor Party was defeated in 1970 the Hall Government realised that while the Liberals held power by this unfair and undemocratic system they could not hold up their heads in South Australia. So the Hall Government introduced a system which, although it was not perfect, did move a bit towards being a fairer system in that the average city electorate finished up with 14,000 voters and the average country electorate with about 9,000 voters. Since then things have changed out of all proportion. We should see a redistribution being brought about in South Australia shortly because at present there are around 27,000 voters in some of the city electorates in South Australia and 9,000 in some of the country electorates. Although most people applauded Steele Hall for his progressive thoughts in trying to give some balance to South Australian electorates, I do not think he was forgiven for doing so by the conservative element in his Party because it was not very long before he was no longer the leader of it. I would say that there are some people in it who will never forgive him. For many years in the Legislative Council elections we had a very restricted franchise. After much agitation the franchise was extended but it still was not a full franchise. For many years it appeared that the Labor Party, although polling 52 per cent to 54 per cent of the popular vote in South Australia, could hold only 20 per cent of the seats, in the Legislative Council. At the last State election, due to .a large number of enrolments - enrolment for the Legislative Council was voluntary - we were able to wrest 2 of these seats from the Liberal Party. It was quite obvious that if we kept working along those lines we could even beat them at their own rotten system. Not so long ago they accepted an alteration to the Legislative Council which should give us a fairer democratic system in South Australia and which should reflect the wishes of the South Australian people.
A lot has been said about rural industries. One could be forgiven for thinking that there had been five or six years of prosperity for farmers and that, since Labor came to office, they had fallen into a trough of poverty. That is not the case. Anyone who knows anything about it knows the problems that the farmer has been through in the last four or five years. Not many years ago a pretty harsh across the board wheat quota was forced upon them. In some areas they still have wheat quotas. This hit the smaller man a lot harder than it hit the bigger man. People had produce, but could not sell it; they did not have any markets. A previous Australian Prime Minister said that to get ahead Australia needed men, machines and markets. Over the last few years of Liberal-Country Party government we had the machines, we had the men but we did not have the markets. Since the Australian Labor Government came to power people cannot say that we do not have the markets. The Government has gone out and has been able to get markets for the farmers to sell their produce in.
The previous Government promoted the concept of ‘get big or get out’. From moving around farms at that time I know how confused the farmers were. They did not know what the future held for them. They had plenty of grain tout they had nowhere to store it and no markets. Whatever people say the Labor Party has done, at least the farmers can look to the future knowing that there will be a ready market for their produce. I feel that the matters to which I have referred indicate that the Labor Government will push ahead with a program that should give the Australian people a much better life in future. I am sure that they will indicate their support for this program at the Senate election which will be held very shortly.
– This debate on the Address-in-Reply has in many ways been an extraordinary one. It is customary for this debate to be wideranging. But even allowing for this, it is noteworthy how unwilling Government supporters have been to discuss the amendment which is before the House. The honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) who has just spoken is an excellent example of this. So I would like to lead honourable members opposite gently back to a little relevance. The first charge in the indictment is that the Government has ‘created an intolerably high level of inflation and has taken no effective steps to stop it’. From the behaviour of honourable members opposite it is clear that they cannot dispute this charge. But we should not allow a ‘guilty’ plea- or a plea of ‘mea culpa’, as the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) might say in his legal dog Latin. We cannot allow the Government, like the Watergate burglars, to attempt in this way to escape full examination of the offence.
Let us look at the rate of inflation. It is often claimed by the Government that our inflation is an imported complaint. It is true that world inflation rates have risen sharply in recent years. But inflation has been around throughout our existence as a nation. Under Liberal Party financial management it was effectively contained. In the period 1960-1971 we had an average annual inflation rate of 2.8 per cent. We were very low down on the list of comparable countries - lower than the United States of America, lower than Britain and lower than nearly all the European countries from Spain to the United Kingdom. An authoritative survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development had this to say in 1973 on the period of Liberal rule:
Australia entered the 1970s with an economy stronger and more dynamic in many respects than a decade earlier . . . Through most of the 1960s full employment and price stability were well maintained, and the rate of economic growth accelerated. … So immense are the continent’s natural resources, and so well geared to their development appear to be the skills and energies of the people, that the next 2 decades could well be a period of expansion more vigorous than the two that have passed.
That was what it was like when we left office. When the present Labor Government assumed office at the end of 1972 inflation was running at an annual rate of 4.5 per cent. In its first year of this Government’s rule - 1973 - it shot up to 13.2 per cent, and it has shown no signs of slackening. Under the mismanagement of this Government we no longer have one of the best controlled economies in the world. Instead, we have one of the worst - worse than the United States of America, worse than Britain. Only four of the OECD countries are doing worse than we are. Our inflation is of South American proportions. In fact it is exactly the same as Brazil’s. If the rate to which this Government has allowed inflation to rise is allowed to continue, a dollar at the time of birth of a child born this year would be worth ic by the end of his life, and at the time of his death average annual earnings would be $27m. This is what has happened after only 16 months of this Labor Government.
The Government has contributed to this situation by its creation of an artificial labour shortage, its failure to control demand, its encouragement of excessive wage demands and less work, its discouragement of investment which would improve productivity, and its use of the Commonwealth Public Service as a pace setter in wages and conditions - and inflation. To be fair, the Government has taken some sensible actions, but it has either muddled the execution of them or acted for the wrong reasons. Let us take the 25 per cent tariff cut, for instance. This could be justified as improving the allocation of resources. But to think that, as the Prime Minister claimed, it would have an immediate effect on inflation at a time of world supply shortages is to suggest that the author was so far up an ivory tower as to be bone-headed.
The 2 revaluations of the Australian dollar were necessary and courageous, but it has been extremely foolish to leave our dollar tied to the US dollar, which has been steadily appreciating in value under influences which are quite unrelated to the Australian dollar. It seems that the Government is frightened of the political effect of devaluation. Of course, adjustment of the value of our dollar should be made whenever the economic situation dictates. Probably the only way in which this will be achieved in practice is to float the Australian dollar. I should like to see the Government taking active steps to encourage the necessary foreign exchange market.
But despite the 2 minor credit items on the Government’s record, it is clear that it has created an intolerably high level of inflation and has taken no effective steps to stop it. The verdict must be ‘guilty as charged’. The truth is that the Government rather likes inflation, and this bears on the second charge, that ‘its management of the economy is creating social inequities’. Why does the Government like inflation? You will remember, Mr Deputy Speaker, the Treasurer (Mr Crean) speaking with calm acceptance of inflation rates of 200 per cent. The reason is that, as Keynes said, inflation is a mighty tax gatherer. The Treasurer’s tax revenue is up 25 per cent this year. This enables him to meet the rash promises that have been made by the Labor Party in the hope that the public does not notice that they are being paid for in depreciated money.
There seems to be a feeling in government ranks that if people such as pensioners are insulated against price rises, inflation does not matter very much. The truth is that it matters a great deal. In inflationary times the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The reason for this is quite simple. The rich have more disposable assets and have the knowledge to put their assets into inflation-proof investments. The poor have no such opportunity. Further, inflation violently distorts the pattern of investment, brings windfall profits to some undeserving people, discourages the thrifty and harms the growth on which our future prosperity depends. If inflation becomes accepted by the community it is almost impossible to eradicate it.
What one needs is a united attack on the problem by government and governed, by employer and employee, by intrepreneur and investor. This can be done. Such unity is far more important than any constitutional powers. As Britain has recently found out, the possession of constitutional powers over prices and incomes is pointless without national consensus. It should be our prime purpose to mobilise the community to face the problem of inflation and to bring it within bounds. This is why the attempt by the Government to introduce automatic quarterly adjustments to wages is so dangerous. If such a powerful section of the community is insulated against the immediate effects of inflation, the prospects of a united attack on the problem are seriously reduced. It is not so much that it is inflationary itself, although it may well be. Its main danger is that it erodes the will to fight inflation. By its attitude to inflation, the attitude of benign or perhaps not so benign neglect, the Government is harming the weaker section of the community, the very people it claims to protect. It is therefore clear that the verdict on the second charge that in its management of the economy it is creating social inequities the verdict clearly must be guilty as charged.
The third charge I would like to deal with is that the Government has pursued defence and foreign policies which have seriously weakened our defence capacity. It is indisputable that the Government has broken a clear election promise, which fooled many people, over defence expenditure. It was explicitly stated in its election material on defence that defence spending would be maintained at 3.5 per cent of gross domestic product. No ifs or buts; no mention that this was subject to a new strategic assessment; no let outs. This was an explicit promise - an explicit promise that the Government has flagrantly broken. Defence expenditure was this year assessed as 2.9 per cent of gross domestic product, but with the enormous inflation which this Government has generated it seems likely to be as little as 2.5 per cent of gross domestic product. Our defence forces which, when we left office, were of a strength and morale unparalleled in peace time, are now run down and depressed.
The Prime Minister talks of independence as if he had just invented it or we had just achieved it, and his colleague the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) busily destroys one of the fundamental requirements of effective independence. In his conduct of foreign policy the trouble with the Prime Minister is not so much what he does as the way he does it. He has introduced a larrikin strain into our conduct of foreign policy, with gratuitous attacks, often ill-informed, on friendly powers. The Prime Minister is constantly reporting to this House that he has restored relations with certain countries, but who damaged the relations so that they needed restoring? It is the Prime Minister, by indiscreet statements, and his selfappointed assistant Foreign Ministers, by even more indiscreet statements. Our conduct of foreign policy has been a chaotic muddle.
If one tries to see a pattern in the present Government’s conduct of foreign policy, one is struck irresistibly by the marked similarity to the British Labor Party in the 1930s. It is extraordinary how the Labor Party, in both its social and foreign policies, is always harking back to the days of the depression. There are strong similarities between the foreign policy style and attitudes of the Prime Minister and that of Mr Ramsay MacDonald, the British Prime Minister in the early 1930s - a man described as the boneless wonder by Winston Churchill. They are both known for the same attitude of fuzzy benevolence, the same lip service to regional organisations to which they have no intention of contributing when the strain comes on, the same abuse of potential friends and praise for potential enemies. They both seem to believe that this constitutes a viable foreign policy. I am sure the shade of Ramsay MacDonald would approve our Prime Minister’s torpid acceptance of the build up of Russian strength in the Indian ocean, and his Government’s strident criticism of American moves in the same region. Ramsay MacDonald seemed to believe that a reduction in his country’s ability to defend itself and to help its friends somehow assisted peace, a policy which our Prime Minister seems to he following also. The direct result of the inanities of Ramsay MacDonald and others was the Second World War in which 20 million people lost their lives. I hope our Prime Minister’s will be less expensive. He described himself publicly, in what I hope was meant to be a joke, but I do not think it was, as the greatest Australian Foreign Minister. I do not think any of us would agree with him, although we would certainly agree that he has been the most talkative and the most old-fashioned. Quite clearly the charge that the Government has pursued defence and foreign policies which have seriously weakened our defence capacities is proved beyond all reasonable doubt.
The final charge I would like to deal with is that the Government has ‘failed to fulfil the expectations of the Australian people because of its administrative incompetence’. This is a very easy charge to prove. The Prime Minister, of course, had no administrative experience of any sort before becoming Prime Minister and the effects of his inexperience are apparent everywhere. Of course he had a team of Ministers which would have taken an administrative genius, which the Prime Minister certainly is not, to get to perform effectively. The administrative contradictions can be seen everywhere. The social welfare program has some desirable aims, but it will clearly take a sharp rise in national output to make these objectives feasible. One would expect a sane Government to be making every effort to raise our national productivity and product. Instead, what do we have? We have the elimination of the investment incentive to instal new plant and equipment upon which new productivity depends. We have a general air of uncertainty caused by contradictory statements by Ministers, an uncertainty which inhibits forward planning. We have a campaign for the reduction of the working week to 35 hours, a 121 per cent cut in the normal working week. This last example of a campaign for a 35 hour week is a fascinating example of the muddled way in which this Government’s mind works. The first target for the 35 hour week was the oil industry, which the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) claimed could afford to pay the extra labour costs. The interesting point is that the oil companies have had price con trol for their major products for many years. If the Minister for Labour is right and the oil companies profits are excessive, surely the right answer is to reduce the price of petrol so that the whole community can share in the benefits rather than to give all the benefits to a small group of militant trade unionists.
Even when the Government makes a sound decision it does not follow it through. I agree with the setting up of an ‘Industries Assistance Commission to bring assistance to all industry, primary and secondary, under comparable scrutiny. But when the Government wishes to remove the superphosphate bounty does it refer it to the Industries Assistance Commission which it created? It did not - a clear case of muddled administration.
One could spend a great deal of time talking about the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) who is a very tempting target. It would take a man of extraordinary administrative incompetence to achieve a situation where there is a sharp reduction in oil exploration at a time of world oil crisis and when Australia’s proven reserves have only a few years to run. Yet this is what that Minister has achieved. Some time ago he predicted in this House that nothing was more certain than the continued and even more frequent devaluation of the American dollar. Since that time, although not as a result of that statement, the United States dollar has steadily risen. The degree of economic ignorance of the Minister for Minerals and Energy is frightening when one considers that he is responsible for the approval of mineral export policy. One could go on and on with these examples of gross ministerial incompetence.
Two Ministers have been frank. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) has said that the implementation of Labor policy on Aborigines has been a disaster. The Minister for the ‘Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) has said that La’bor policy in his field has been a series of failures. These 2 are the only frank Ministers. If the remaining Ministers had a similarly honest evaluation of their policies, they would have to come to similar conclusions. Cabinet solidarity, better expressed as collective responsibility, is a joke. Ministers are openly saying that they will go to Caucus to get Cabinet decisions reversed. In fact we have government by a 93-man Caucus. The Federal President of the Labor Party has described this Labor Government as ‘insane’ and ‘imbecile’. I suppose he should know, but I think that as usual he is exaggerating. I do not think the Government is either insane or imbecile. I think it is merely foolish and grossly incompetent. The sooner we can get rid of this whole ramshackle regime the better for the country which can then be set back on a straight course for its great destiny.
– It is with pleasure that I rise to support the Government’s program for the future, particularly as it applies to Western Australia, for it is indeed an exciting and prosperous future for that great State, as has been the trend under the existing State Tonkin Labor Government, working with the benefits of the national Labor Government to assist it in its aspirations for the future of Western Australians. Never before has there been such cooperation between State and Federal authorities, with the State Government standing up for the rights of its Western Australian citizens in no uncertain manner.
What have been the results for the nation - for Western Australia? For my constituents it has resulted in increasing prosperity in 1972 and 1973, as instanced by an average weekly male earning of $99 per week for 1972-73. It has resulted in Western Australia having the second lowest unemployment figure for an Australian State for 1973, with savings banks deposits in excess over withdrawals of $76,961,000 - an amazing recovery after the tragic national Liberal Government’s Australia-wide recession of 1972, in which Western Australia suffered most. In fact, the recovery has been so great that exports from Western Australia for 1972-73 exceeded by $303. 8m imports into that State, with total exports for the year of $l,317.5m and retail sales of $925m. Admittedly, there was instalment credit of $225. 4m advanced for retail sales, but this indeed reflects the confidence not only of the retailer but also of the customer in the future of Western Australia and the nation.
But despite all this, there will be knockers, both amateur and professional. The amateur is not aware of the facts and criticises in all honesty. But it is pleasing to note the Government’s continuance of its program, to put the facts before the public for their own assessment for it is useless to try to correct the errors of past governments without informing the public what the Government is about to do and the subsequent results of those actions. No government should attempt to hide its actions, although one must admit that this has been the past practice. I do not doubt this is the major reason why Opposition parties want the practice of the Government distributing information stopped, so they can hide their actions in the future as in the past and so prevent comparison with present and past government practices. The public should be fully informed at all times. The professional knocker is in a different category. He is, of course, doing what he is paid for and one would be disappointed if he failed to earn the money he is so paid - paid in many cases to hide the facts of the previous Government’s policies, to hide the fact that the last Liberal Government sadly neglected the State’s rights of Western Australian citizens and that past Western Australian Liberal Governments failed to stand up to their Federal counterparts to gain just recognition of the rights of Western Australian citizens.
The State’s rights groups which have been formed in Western Australia have produced, and continue to produce, masses of statistics which prove this neglect. Their figures, which encompass 23 years of Liberal administration, prove this neglect. No wonder their disenchantment. No wonder they talk secession, in view of the lack of recognition by succeeding Liberal governments, both State and Federal, of the rights of Western Australians to a fair and equitable treatment in the distribution of national revenue. No one could be more sympathetic to the facts which they have produced than I am, but I appeal to those so involved to disregard the past harsh treatment under old governments and to give the new Government time to make its policies work. I urge them Jo wait and see if, in fact, they do work. I firmly believe those policies are already working.
For the first time we in Western Australia at all levels - from local government, State government, and Federal government and from public bodies and public commissions - are being heard effectively and action is being taken on our pleas. I say again to the State righters, disregard the statistics of past hostile Liberal Eastern States orientated governments and let us reap the full benefits of what has been started for our benefit and for the nation’s benefit. Do not be distracted by people who will use facts and figures - the statistics of past neglect of Western Australia by antiLabor national governments. Remember that these will be used by industry sectional interests to protect and promote their own particular viewpoint.
We, as the majority of people, can look only at what is good for the majority - which comprises ourselves and our families as citizens of Western Australia - and df we look at the facts and statistics of what has occurred for the good of the general population since the inception of the Labor Government, we will indeed be loath to see any diminution of this progress. In my particular area this has been brought home to me by the numerous people who have commented on various aspects. People who for years have campaigned for the abolition of the means test have found it hard to believe that the Government took such prompt action in its first Budget to abolish the means test for all those over 75 years of age. The Government has the firm intention of further reducing this to age 70 in its coming Budget and finally to abolish the means test for all in the 1975 Budget. They were amazed to find it actually happening after having been promised and disappointed for so long by the Parties now in opposition.
Pensioners have been amazed to find that they are now receiving regular guaranteed pension increases and will continue to do so until a firm amount of 25 per cent of the national wage is achieved. At last the politics - the petty handouts - will be taken out of pensions, and dignity and justice will be given to our senior citizens.
The abolition of fees for tertiary institutes was brought home to me by the number of people who commented that when enrolling for this year’s study no fees were payable. This is highlighted in the States Grants (Technical Training Fees Reimbursement) Bill 1974 by which Western Australia received $974,388 for training fees reimbursement - the Department of Education Technical Division receiving $951,648, the College of Nursing receiving $13,740 and the Pre-School Education Board receiving $9,000. Thus can be seen the benetfis to people who do not have the financial background. They now do not have to bear the burden of fees to better their education and thus serve the community with their greater skills.
In my own electorate, we have had grants for projects ranging from youth centres and athletic fields facilities to traffic lights and pedestrian facilities. This shows the national
Government’s direct and intimate concern for the well-being of the public at what is primarily a local government level - an area which previously has been starved of funds. It is hoped that the success of the forthcoming referendum will enable even more to be done for the public generally by the national Government through local government. Money has been provided for the provision of a dental therapy training school at Manning. In January 1974 it was announced that the Federal Government would contribute $160,000 a year towards the cost of free dental services for school children up to the age of 15 years. The State Labor Government, with its usual prompt action, already has implemented this scheme. Its implementation will employ 350 school dental therapists. Construction is already well under way on the $490,000 dental training therapy school at Mount Henry, and the first 16 students begun their course of instruction in February of this year.
There is a complete capital program in this area of some $5m to be funded jointly by the State and Federal governments. The Federal Government provides a total capital grant for the training programs and other recurrent costs and for the establishment of school clinics. In addition, 75 per cent of the recurrent early service costs are to be met by the Australian Government. Of course, we in the electorate of Swan are pleased to see the initial establishment of the first school in our area, as we have been pleased to see the extensive additions to and expansion of the Western Australian Institute of Technology at Bentley since the inception of the national Labor Government. In fact, everywhere that one goes one sees expansion and expenditure by the national Government. In fact, one sees a similar situation with the State Labor Government.
This is indeed a far cry from the situation in Western Australia where previous administrations were so bankrupt that most premises which they used were rented, and public moneys were constantly being demanded to meet the increasing values of the day for rent, without the administrations ever hoping to own the premises. The facts of the matter were that taxes were being taken to pay for expanding government needs on a rental basis. Indeed, it is regrettable that this is still the policy of the Opposition parties in Western Australia and that in fact they have expanded these policies. As every Australian sees the sense in owning his own home wherever possible, we expect the same commonsense and leadership to be shown by the people who are elected to govern. We do not expect them to dissipate and mismanage our funds; we do not expect them to spend funds on rental accommodation and to finish up with no assets whatsoever owned on behalf of the people whom they represent, and to find that the profits have gone to a few of their chosen friends. It may be that it is not always possible for governments to buy premises, but it is clearly our duty to endeavour to do so. It is a pity to see such a policy still being followed by the Opposition parties in Western Australia. I can imagine the reaction of ratepayers if a local government authority were to attempt to do the same with its administration blocks. But what pleases me is that much favourable comment has come from my constituents on the amount of expansion and prosperity which they can visibly see and from which they are benefiting.
For those who decry this policy, let us look at why it is possible to do what I have suggested. Payments to Western Australia from the national Labor Government, from its first Budget, for all purposes and including the State’s Loan Council program are estimated to total about $465m in 1973-74, which is an increase of about $64m or 16 per cent over 1972- 73. This represents more than $430 per head of population in Western Australia compared with average payments of about $337 a head to all other States. It is estimated that Western Australia will receive financial assistance grants totalling $213. 8m in 1973-74, of which $6. 5m represents grants agreed to at the June 1973 Premiers Conference additional to those which the State would have received under the then existing legislation. At the same Premiers Conference the Australian Government agreed to provide $25m in special revenue assistance in 1973-74. Western Australia’s estimated share is $2. 8m.
In total Western Australia is estimated to receive general revenue grants of $21 6.6m in 1973- 74, which represents $201 per capita. This compares with an estimated $143 per capita for the 6 States combined. Thus, Western Australia receives considerably higher general revenue grants than the average, and this is in recognition of its special needs. Under decisions taken by the Loan Council in June 1973, Western Australia has been allocated $80.4m for State Government works in 1973-74. This includes an interest-free capital grant of $25.8m from the Australian Government. The remainder takes the form of loan allocations which the Australian Government has undertaken to support, if necessary, from its own revenue resources. Again, in per capita terms Western Australia is receiving a higher than average allocation - $74.6 per capita compared with $66.9 per capita for the 6 States combined.
The Australian Government is making greatly increased sums available to Western Australia for education, health and welfare, the cities and other areas in line with its national policies in these fields. I will give examples of areas in which Western Australia is receiving greater than average increases. In regard to the sewerage program, in order to eliminate the backlog of unsewered premises, the Budget provided for a first contribution of $3. 8m to Western Australia in 1973-74. 1 must say how pleased my constituents, particularly in the Canning, Belmont and surrounding areas, were to hear of this contribution because they thought it was a pity to see development for development sake without attention being paid to the provision of local services. However, since then the Australian Government has agreed to provide an additional amount of up to $3m this year to Western Australia to assist the State in maintaining its accelerated program of overcoming the backlog in sewerage works in the Perth metropolitan area. This makes total assistance of up to $6.8m in 1973-74.
It was pleasing to hear Her Majesty mention in Her Speech the new road program, including interstate highways and roads used for carrying goods for export. This emphasises the national responsibility and the priority given to this matter. It is estimated that in 1973-74 Western Australia will receive grants of at least $48m under the Commonwealth aid roads arrangement. In 1973-74 Western Australia’s grant will be a minimum of $45 per capita compared with the all-States average of $24 per capita. This excludes assistance given for beef cattle roads. It is pleasing to note that this is the first occasion on which local government authorities have been given a copy of a report to use and to study prior to an actual decision being made so that their protests or suggestions or whatever it might be can be taken into account before a final decision is made. It is a far cry from what has happened in the past when local government -was told to accept what was put to it as a fait accompli.
– Has this got anything to do with the election?
– I think that in the future something should be done to ensure that local government closely participates in these matters, and perhaps those people who have a sincere interest in local government will lend their support to the forthcoming referendum in order to ensure that local government participates in this way.
It was also pleasing to hear that attention will be given to the question of land acquisition. On 21 August last the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) wrote to the Western Australian Premier informing him that some $30m had been provided in the Budget for land acquisition for urban development over and above the sums provided for growth centres. Again the Western Australian State Government has not proceeded with the legislation. Why is this? The State Government wants to stabilise land prices and it has done ‘a particularly effective job in this area. However, in order to pave the way for land acquisition it has to overcome the opposition which it has had to face in the Liberal Party controlled Upper House in Western Australia, and this is the only reason why the State Government has not proceeded with the legislation. It is in keeping with the attitude of honourable members opposite and of members in the Upper House in Western Australia. They have a complete disregard for the smaller man who is represented at local government and State government level. It was pleasing to hear reference made to this matter in the plans for the future.
The importance of the creation of the Ministry for Minerals and Energy has been confirmed by the events of 1973 which were associated with the world energy crisis. Indeed, it could have been a crisis for Western Australia where the previous State Liberal governments, with the agreement of the Federal Liberal governments, had ‘abandoned the policy of using local resources in the manufacture of power, with the introduction of oil fired burners. It is pleasing to see that the Western Australian State Government has been able to avert any crisis which could have arisen from that situation. Again, the Government of Western Australia has been successful in renegotiating the agreements with respect to iron ore exports. It has been able to gain in some cases an increase in royalty of 3i per cent which will represent approximately $ 15.5m for the State annually. This agreement could not have been achieved without the co-operation of the present Federal Labor Government.
I do commend the planning that the Labor Government has for the future. It is to be hoped that those professional knockers who criticise will accept their responsibility not only as Australians but also as Western Australians and will at least give some time for these policies to go forward. As I said earlier, any statistics which are available and which demonstrate ill-treatment of Western Australia predominantly relate to times when that State was governed by anti-Labor administrations. It is interesting to note that there is no answer statistically to that claim. I defy anyone at all to prove other than that the governments of Western Australia at such times were anti-Labor and anti-Western Australia in their thinking.
– It is interesting to hear the honourable member for Swan (Mr Bennett) pleading for more time. It is quite understandable that he would. be pleading for more time. I think that we would be doing the same if we were in his shoes. I propose to analyse this theme of time because we were looking at the whole program of the Labor Government, elected by the people in 1972, in this Address-in-Reply debate. The Its Time’ theme which was the bandwagon upon which Labor came to power in 1972 was a wonderful theme for that day. It carried all before it. Many Liberals, I think, could see the ‘Its Time’ bandwagon as a sort of steam train which was coming inexorably to crush them. In view of the tremendous build up of the theme <at that time, it is something of a wonder that the Labor Party had such a narrow win when there were those pundits who were saying that the Liberals were going to be thrashed by vast margins.
– It just shows that the people are not as gullible as they are made out to be.
– Yes, it does indeed, and in particular the people whom the honourable member for Petrie represents. This win in 1972, I think, was not begrudged Labor by many Australians. Certainly, most Liberals of my acquaintance did not begrudge Labor its win. Few Australians with any sense of fair play would wish to deny the Labor Party its chance. It would be ungenerous to say that there was no advantage to Australia in the change of government in 1972. I can say this, I think, for a number of reasons. It is good for governments and oppositions to play musical chairs, once in a while at least. I am not advocating the game of musical chairs as a constant preoccupation of the parliamentary process, but it is absolutely crucial that the people’s music should be listened to by the parliamentary system.
It is important for oppositions, even highly experienced oppositions like the previous Labor Opposition, to get some occasional experience of government. It is hard to take oppositions seriously if they have never governed, if they have never lived, as it were, in the kitchen when the fires are hot. The Australian Labor Party Opposition of course asked for opposition in so many ways for so many years. But clearly in this country it desperately needed some experience of government if it was to be taken seriously. Likewise, I think, we in the Liberal Party did have much to gain through being put out to grass for a period. It is undeniable that we had tended to lose that sense of conviction which elevates politics from a mean and a narrow activity into something noble. I think that all of us in the parliamentary system gain something from there being a change in government.
Throughout the 1960s, a sense of despair existed among young people in particular. This despair developed about ever changing the government in this country. It led to the view that if you had a problem or a belief, no matter how desperately and keenly that belief was held, you just could not get Change, and that politics and the parliamentary system could not help you. That belief was never entirely accurate but it became more and more worrying, in particular because it led to the view that you had to break laws in order to change laws. This is a frightening doctrine. The point that I wish to make is that today nobody can run around saying in this country that one must break the law to change the law. The parliamentary system does still work. It can produce the goods. It is of great importance that the Westminster system should continue and should evolve because so many other systems of government are failing to produce the goods. The presidential system which had interested many Australians has been shown to have very grave defects. I think we are in for a resurgence of the idea of the Westminster system as properly and sensibly reformed.
To return to the question of the ‘It’s Time’ theme, the people said it was time for a change. The campaign was a clever one; it was a slick and rather flash campaign; but it was a limited campaign. The Labor Party talked of ‘a change’, not even ‘the change’. It was hardly frightening stuff to all those people in the suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney who, as my friend from Queensland said, did not have the sense of Queenslanders, but this was what they voted on. They voted for a change - but to what, why and in what direction the change was to be were questions which were rarely uppermost in people’s minds when they voted for a change. When the Government got going, certain things became clear to countless people who voted for a change.
Again, it would be unfair and foolish to deny that many Australians experienced a sense of excitement in the early days of the Labor Government. Things did change. The people had looked for change and they were getting it. But, especially with a little hindsight, it became clear that even in those early days there was a lack of wisdom in some quarters. Wisdom* is a word which we do not hear much about in these days, but it is a word which I think should be reintroduced into the vocabulary of politics. It all began with the 2-man dictatorship established by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), for which he reaped a very early reward in the ‘Murphy Affair’. If the Prime Minister had had the wisdom to include ‘his friend’, Senator Murphy, in a 3-man or a 4-man dictatorship, I venture to suggest that we would never have heard of any event called the Murphy Affair, and the Prime Minister would not have faced his first major crisis relating to his credibility in this country.
What the Prime Minister and his Government then showed was that they were a body which was already showing signs of being hopeless at the management of men and hopeless at the real work of government. They were good, yes, but good at strutting and good at fretting, and hopeless at the hard work of government, that is, at getting people together to get decisions out of them and at drawing together people who did not necessarily like one another to fulfil some greater purpose than any one individually could stand for.
– Responsible management.
– Responsible management, man management, the government of men - call it what you will. They showed even in those early days that they were short in that area of skill. Australia’s neighbours detected this pretty early in the piece. Anyone who went through South East Asia last year had to remark on a number of things. Incidentally, one of the things that is remarkable is that those regular trips which members of the Labor Party used to take through South East Asia suddenly dried up in 1973. Perhaps those members had too much to look after at home. But the back ‘bench stream through South East Asia suddenly dried up. This was remarked upon in a number of parts of South East Asia. But our neighbours, our allies and our friends, particularly those in South East Asia, tended to feel that this new Government was treating them as sort of stepping stones for its strutting on a wider world stage.
I believe that the Prime Minister also showed a great lack of wisdom in those early days in governing without restraint and in governing without Caucus. That is to say, the 2-man dictatorship was governing in a quite unnatural way without the constant surveillance of the Caucus which in the ‘Labor tradition demands a full say in every decision of government. That is fundamental to the history of the Labor Party.
No government, especially a Labor government, can govern without restraint. What happens when a government attempts to govern without restraint and when a Prime Minister in a democracy acts as a dictator in a 2-man dictatorship is that the Prime Minister builds expectations - great expectations - which he cannot subsequently live up to. As I have already remarked, we had change. Sometimes one wondered whether the change was for the sake of change or was in accordance with a real philosophy of life and government as it applies to this country.
My friend the honourable member for Warringah (Mr Mackellar) has used the forms of this House to point out that in one area at least that of the new national anthem, the flash ideas of the new Labor Government have proved to be wanting of wisdom - as though we can create a new national anthem by competition. This is an absurd proposition. Whoever heard of creating through a competition something which embodies the whole spirit of a nation? Anyway, for my part, anthems are really largely things of the past. There are occasions for anthems. Let us have ‘God Save the Queen’ on appropriate occasions. Let us have ‘Advance Australia Fair’. Let us have anything you like on an appropriate occasion.
But there are very few occasions today when anthems are appropriate. As has been pointed out, we do not have a statutory anthem anyway. The Prime Minister can arrange to have played anything he likes at any function he likes. He can have ‘Knees up Mother Brown’ if he so wishes, he can have ‘God Save the Queen’, or he can have ‘Waltzing Matilda’. Let him have them and we will judge and the people will judge his wisdom.
I do not know how many millions of dollars this Government is spending, but it is spending dollars and dollars and dollars of your money and mine on a survey to discover attitudes to Australia’s national anthem without even giving us the choice as to whether we would like to persist in what some regard as that funny old anthem ‘God Save the Queen’. There is no space in the questionnaire for people to express any preference for God Save the Queen’ or anything else. One suspects that in this area, as in many other areas - and I would like to have a day to go through them - that the philosophy was change for the sake of change, or on the other hand, change in this exciting socialist direction!
When the people voted us out and put this Government into office people could have been forgiven for thinking that perhaps the Liberal Party and its country cousins, the Australian Country Party, were the old fashioned ones and were the parties which were formed on old fashioned philosophies and run by tried old men and so on. One could have been forgiven for thinking that if one looked at the general themes of political debate in those days. But in field after field it has become clear that the bids which this Government has put in in the field of old fashionedness have far outbid anything which the previous Liberal governments could offer. This must come as a surprise to many Australians. The Labor Government has indulged in a quaintly old fashioned belief in its version of socialism for this country. This has been evident in so many fields.
It has been evident in a nasty little bit of policy in the area of education where a whole lot of possibly good work flowing out of the Karmel report was destroyed by a nasty little bit of old fashioned socialist and class warfare ideology. The Government has taken a nasty little blow at the wealthy schools. There has been no talk about justice for the poor parents, or the relatively poor parents, who happen to send, or struggle to send their children, to certain schools. Now we know that the Government’s whole education case is fraudulent anyway, because the Government has tried to have the Australian people believe that all grants should be on the basis of relative need. But where the Government stands in the shoes of a State government and makes payments to independent schools in a territory, in addition to giving money on the basis of needs as set out in the Karmel report the Government also is giving a per capita across the board equal grant to every independent school in its area of responsibility.
This is also the case in the field of health where there was a tremendous opportunity for good work to be done by the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) and the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden). We have had some interesting developments in this field. One has been the idea of evolving various sorts of health centres. This is a splendid idea and it meets today’s needs. But why should it destroy all of that with some revolutionary scheme fathered from other countries in the area of health insurance in a national health program? 1 would now like to move into another field - the more general field of the style and method of government. This is the system of open government about which we have heard so much. I see that the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who is at the table, is smiling. He is a past master in the field of style of governments. As a matter of fact, I heard him described by one of my colleagues in a delegation overseas as of a wonderful new Australian style in his own right - a sort of new breed of Texan Australian. We have this Government preaching about open government. But what does ‘open government’ mean as it is practised by the Labor Government in this country? I believe that all it means is that you open up all the secrets of the old Liberal Government and tell none of your own. I cannot see anything much more than that in the Government’s approach. Also there is the question of leaks. I thought that the previous Government was troubled by leaks. One of my colleagues even had occasion to talk about how the Cabinet in our day leaked like a ruddy sieve. Today the present Government leaks like a ruddy cloud; it comes down in thunderstorms. We are completely enveloped day after day and week after week by this Government which governs by leaks. We only had to put up with the odd leak; they govern by leaks.
– They do not tell Parliament their policies. They always leak it to the papers.
– That is another important point. The Government does not tell the people its policies. It does not take the people into its confidence and discuss reasonably as rational people what Government ought to be doing. It suddenly announces to the people what it will do. The Government has done this in countless fields. For example, this has been the experience in the field of arts. The Government has done it again and again to the States in almost every field that one can think of. This is all right, I suppose; this is the flash new way of governing. But in certain areas it has had tragic consequences because this Government has alienated person after person and group after group in the Australian community. So many of the people it has alienated had the highest hopes for this Government, and for the country in the hands of this Government. That makes it all the more tragic. It has alienated doctors deliberately and has sought to destroy the name of doctors in our community. It is now searching out and destroying health funds. It latest ploys in that field could be aimed only at destroying the workings of the present health scheme and the health funds into the bargain.
The Government has had its shots at business men. One understands that. I hope that when we get back into government shortly we will resist the temptation to trade blow for blow against unions. It is odd to go into a Minister’s office in this place and find the cheap party political slogans about those people in the community whom that Minister happens to dislike or even hate. One expects the Government to have a crack at the Americans, the Brits and so on, but who would have thought that it would have alienated Aborigines, and who would have thought that it would have alienated those refugees who sought refuge after the last World War in Australia where they could find a home safe from the knock on the door in the night, the secret police and the footsteps in the corridor? Who would have thought that we would have had to wait until 1974 and a Labor Government for Aborigines to be given twice as much money as ever and to be half as happy with their lot? That is the sort of alienation we have seen.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keogh) adjourned.
– I present a report from the Standing Orders Committee.
– I move:
I explain to the House that this motion is purely formal. If the House agrees to it I shall immediately move that the consideration of the report be made an order of the day for a future day, which will give all honourable members an opportunity to study the report.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That consideration of the report be made an order of the day for the next sitting.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from 12 March (vide page 281), on motion by Mr Crean:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1973-74 now before the House seeks parliamentary approval for an appropriation of $168,575,000 for the payment of salaries and other related charges. The amount contained in the Bill is additional to that previously approved in Appropriation Bill (No. 1). The Opposition does not formally oppose the passage of the Bill but will seek to amend it in terms which I will outline at a later stage. However, we take this opportunity to place on record our rejection of the totally excessive and highly inflationary increases which have occurred in the Commonwealth Public Service under this Government’s administration.
This Bill provides a clear and unequivocal illustration of the increases in public sector employment during the current financial year. In 1972-73 the actual expenditure on salaries and allowances by the various departments of the Government was approximately $1,1 97.2m. During 1973-74, the allocation for salaries and related income expenditure, given the additional increase of $1 68.5m in the present appropriation, is equal to approximately $ 1,544m. In percentage terms this represents an increase in expenditure of 29 per cent on salaries and allowances paid to Government employees. Excluding expenditure on defence services, civilian Public Service salary and related income charges in the full 1973-74 year will rise to $802.3m compared with $569.9m in 1972-73. This is equal to an astronomical growth in Public Service income expenditure of some 41 per cent in the current year.
Increased expenditure on the Public Service has arisen from the application of the pacesetter principle to wages and conditions of employment and from the absolute increase in numbers of employees. Since this Government came to office there has been a net increase in the number of Government departments from 27 to 31 and the creation of 95 boards, commissions of inquiry and task forces. In the first 10 months of 1973 there was an increase of 205 Second Division officers. Each of these officers is in a salary range of from $17,000 to $27,000 per annum. In the same period, that is in the first 10 months of 1973, the Government created 157 new divisions and branches of the Commonwealth Public Service. This represents empire building on a grand scale. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has forecast an annual average growth in the Public Service of 5 per cent. Even if this estimate is accepted, it should be made clear that it implies the employment of around 240 new public servants every week.
These figures illustrate the extent of the current build-up. If any further evidence is required it was provided yesterday by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) in an address to the Australian Society of Accountants. During the course of his remarks he stated:
In the period immediately ahead I believe there will be an expansion in the role of the public sector relative to that of the private sector.
The Treasurer then outlined the Government’s plans for accelerated spending. That statement is irrefutable evidene of the Government’s misconceived objective of centralising Australia’s public administration in Canberra. It also demonstrates, we believe, the Treasurer’s failure to understand the seriousness of this country’s inflationary difficulties. At a time when cuts in Government expenditure are vital for the restoration of economic stability, the Government has chosen to announce its plans for an acceleration in public spending. This is nothing short of total irresponsibility.
Notwithstanding the immense problems being created by the absolute expansion in the Public Service, the Government has chosen to continue its pacesetter policy for public sector wages and conditions. But of course growth in the Public Service wage structure does not occur in a vacuum. It has an immediate and direct impact upon the structure of wages and salaries throughout the economy. An increase in Public Service wage scales will inevitably set off a chain reaction of wage claims throughout the economy, as employees in local and State governments, government instrumentalities and private industry seek to restore lost relativities. The Public Service has become more than a pacesetter of wages and salaries in the economy - it has become the pace-accelerator of the inflationary income spiral.
There has rarely been a more inappropriate time for such a rapid boost in Public Service salaries. Cost-push inflation is clearly accelerating throughout all sectors of the economy, and the effect of wages, the most important component of the general cost structure, will be dramatic. For the Government to set itself up as the pace-setter of growth in the national wage structure, and for it to set a pace that is around twice the national average, is not merely to exacerbate cost-push inflation but, in fact, is actually to promote it. A Government that adopts such a precipitous policy must undoubtedly assume prime responsibility for the continued growth of inflation in this country.
This Government, as an employer, appears to be totally divorced from the competitive pressures of the commercial marketplace. It is in no way limited by the strictures of competition and profitability in the determination of wage scales. We recognise, of course, that the whole process of cost accounting in the public sector is quite different from that which applies in private industry. In the same way, the concepts of productivity and profitability, which are the real determinants of the capacity of private industry to meet rapidly increasing wages bills, cannot be readily applied to the public sector. However, the concept of productivity must be adapted to public sector administration in order to achieve efficiency. In view of this, it is wholly inappropriate for a government operating through its own instrumentalities and unconstrained by the forces of competition, to out-pace the rate of growth of private sector incomes.
Productivity must ultimately determine the level of incomes. This fact must be recognised. Increases in income, in excess of real growth in productivity, are in essence inflationary. Income levels in the public sector must therefore reflect productivity in the private sector. Public sector income levels must relate to the ruling wage and salary levels of the private sector, as private sector rates are determined by the capacity of industry to pay. The Opposition parties believe that the Government must immediately abandon the pacesetter principle. If the Government seriously alleges that it is taking effective measures to curb inflation then it cannot continue this policy. Its continuance would worsen the considerable damage which has already occurred.
The Public Service, under this Government’s administration, is increasing in size at a rate which substantially exceeds the 3 per cent to 3i per cent growth in the total work force. This represents a diversion of productive resources from the private to the public sector. Such a diversion can be achieved only at the expense of actual productive capacity. It must be emphasised that whatever the Government provides it must first take away. That is, it is the private sector that generates wealth; the public sector merely distributes it. The diversion of resources from the private to the public sector occurs when the rate of growth of the public sector outstrips that of the private sector. This places increasing pressure upon available resources. In times of high inflation when demand for productive inputs is already at a premium, and supply scarce, to increase the size of the public sector relative to that of the private sector is, of course, to contribute directly to the spiralling forces of inflation.
It is obviously immaterial to the Government that the inordinate growth of the Public Service is inflationary. The development of a large, centralist bureaucracy is apparently a concern of a far higher order than the preservation in this country of any sense or semblance of social equity. The social and economic aims of the Labor Government are avowedly socialist. They seek the expansion of the public sector of the economy as a matter of philosophical and policy commitment.
The Opposition supports the inquiry into the Public Service which has been foreshadowed by the Government. We believe that Government employees are entitled to equitable conditions and that Australian taxpayers are, in turn, entitled to the efficient provision of public service. In view of the current expansion of the Public Service, it is clearly desirable that the inquiry proceeds without undue delay. However, the Opposition is not satisfied with the terms of reference which have been published. I seek from the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) leave to incorporate in Hansard the terms of reference published in the ‘Canberra Times’.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– At this stage these terms do not direct the attention of the proposed inquiry to specific problems that require examination and resolution. The overriding aim of the inquiry should be to ensure that the personnel procedures and the management systems of the Commonwealth Public Service are adequate to allow modern, efficient administration in times of rapid change. The terms of reference as published are over-generalised and in many cases do no more than ask the inquiry to describe an existing system.
The inquiry should examine the question of the growth in the Commonwealth Public Service in terms of both its size and function and the most efficient method of monitoring it. The question of rationalisation of functions undertaken by the Commonwealth Public Service vis a vis State Public Service is also significant. There may be a need for the establishment of continuing Commonwealth-State machinery to balance function priorities. No mention is made in the published terms of reference to the desirability of establishing within the Public Service a permanent bureau to examine the machinery of Government available to advise on the most suitable system of function distribution between departments and to advise on the need to abolish areas of the Service undertaking outmoded functions.
We also believe that any inquiry should examine the need for increased mobility at all levels within the service, between private industry, academic institutions and the Service itself. A central question in relation to the Public Service Board which the inquiry should consider is the need for a separation of the personnel and management efficiency functions. The inquiry should examine whether the Board’s statutory obligation in relation to its administrative tasks - pay and conditions, personnel - have prevented it from fully satisfying its obligations under section 17 of the Public Service Act to ensure that the Service is efficient. In addition to these matters, we believe the proposed inquiry should be directed to examine the existing barriers to female employment, the role of the Government in the employment of physically and mentally handicapped persons, the employment of Aborigines, and the relationship between public employment and decentralisation.
The creation of such a commission will be historic. Its success at the outset therefore should not be marred by giving it terms of reference which are too narrow or too vague or by having represented on it too narrow a cross-section of people. In this respect, we would view the appointment of a woman as most important.
I have already adverted to the need for efficient public administration and the Opposition’s concern that this concept appears to have been neglected in the terms of reference for the proposed inquiry. In this respect the Government should consider the terms of reference given to the Royal Commission on Government Organisation, appointed on 16 September 1960, to inquire into and report on the organisation and methods of the departments and agencies of the Canadian Government. That Commission was asked to report on steps which could be taken for the purposes of eliminating duplication and the overlapping of services; eliminating unnecessary or uneconomic operations; achieving efficiency or economy through further decentralisation of operations and administration; achieving improved management of departments and agencies, or portions thereof, with consideration to organisation, methods of work, defined authorities and responsibilities, and provision of training; making more effective use of budgeting, accounting and other financial measures as means of achieving more efficient and economical management of departments and agencies; improving efficiency and economy by alterations in the relations between government departments and agencies, on the one hand, and the Treasury Board and other central control or service agencies of the government on the other; and achieving efficiency or economy through reallocation or regrouping of units of the public service. If one looks in detail at the manner in which those terms of reference have been laid down one will clearly see that very heavy emphasis indeed has been laid upon the whole question of the efficient operation of that service. The same emphasis, however, seems sadly lacking from the terms of reference which have been announced to date by the Federal Government for the inquiry into the Commonwealth Public Service in this country.
Finally, there are some aspects of the Bill before the House which call for detailed comment. Firstly, expenditure on overtime payments this year will amount to around $20m. That represents an increase of approximately 60 per cent over the previous financial year. Clearly this is an inordinate increase in the level of overtime payments for which the Government has yet to provide a satisfactory explanation. A further area of concern arises from increases in the salaries and allowances authorised for particular departments. An instance of this can be found in the apropriations for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. This Bill seeks to provide that Department with an additional $798,000 over and above the amount provided by the Appropriation Act (No. 1) 1973-74. Consequently, the total expenditure by the Department during this financial year on salaries, allowances and overtime will be $4,769,670 - almost 200 per cent more than in the previous financial year.
The Opposition is, of course, aware that overall expenditure on Aboriginal advancement will double this financial year. When the Budget was announced we welcomed this move. However, we view with very great concern the fact that the Department has been required to quadruple its salary payments to administer the increased expenditure. This is clear evidence of Parkinson’s law in acute operation. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) has described the administration of Government policy by his Department as a disaster. That is no doubt a description of compelling accuracy. The provisions of the Bill before the House add substance to the Minister’s judgment. However, this particular instance of increased expenditure on Public Service salaries is symptomatic of a far wider malaise which has become apparent under the Labor Administration. It is to be hoped that the proposed inquiry into the Commonwealth Public Service will lead to a far greater degree of administrative efficiency and a more effective utilisation of the nation’s resources. On behalf of the Opposition parties, I now formally move the amendment circulated in my name, which reads:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: whilst not denying this Bill a second reading, this House is of the opinion that (a) the high rate of inflation requires restraint in both incomes and prices in the public and private sectors, (b) wage and salary movements in public and private sector employment should not exceed Australia’s economic capacity, (c) there must be an even balance between public and private sector conditions of employment and (d) the provisions of the Bill represent an unwarranted and economically unjustifiable increase in public sector employment expenditure.’
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve the right to speak to it.
– One of the great fetishes of the Opposition is the growth of the Public Service under the Labor administration. We have heard this continually from Opposition spokesmen since the Parliament resumed this session and particularly from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and his Deputy. We have heard it again from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch), but we have had a new factor thrown into it today: That the growth of the Public Service is affecting the rate of Australia’s productivity increase. I think it it is instructive to do a little analysis of what is involved in the growth of the Public Service and to challenge one statement in particular made by the Leader of the Opposition a little while ago. The Leader of the Opposition claimed last week that under this Government there had been an extraordinary growth of the Public Service and that the extra wages of additional public servants appointed under this Government amounted to more than $150m a year - enough, he said, to raise pensions by $2 a week. In fact, this is a gross distortion of the factual position, as indeed are most of the Opposition’s statements on this matter of the Public Service.
If we look at the growth rate of the Public Service in the last 12 months of the previous Government we find that it grew by 3.3 per cent which represented 7,864 additional public servants. In the first 12 months of the Labor Government the rate of increase was higher than 3.3 per cent; it was 4.7 per cent, which represented an additional 11,500 public servants. If the rate of increase under the Labor Government had been only 3.3 per cent - the rate which had applied in the previous year - the additional number of public servants would have been only 8,150. So the extra number appointed under Labor can be seen to be 3,350; that is, 11,500 less 8,150. If we assume that the average wage of these additional public servants was a fairly high $12,000 per annum, the extra cost would be $40m, not $150m as claimed by the Leader of the Opposition. Clearly, to get a figure anywhere near $150m one would have to take the whole increase in the number of public servants. It is deliberately misleading for the Leader of the Opposition to do such a sum and then claim that the result represents wasteful expenditure that could have been used to raise pensions. Under the previous Government the Public Service grew continually and if we allow for that the additional cost can be seen to be only a fraction of the amount referred to by the Leader of the Opposition last week.
Of course, the Opposition makes no allowance for the fact that these additional public servants are producing additional services such as those in the Department of Urban and Regional Development and in the other departments that have been created. Surely the Opposition will not say that these services are useless and should not be provided. But I think the whole question of the growth of the Public Service is put into focus, so to speak, if we see that we are really talking about little more than 3,000 public servants who have been appointed by the Government to produce services in a new area. It is utterly absurd for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to say that this represents some drag on the productivity growth of the nation. How unfair it is of the Opposition to add up the whole increase in the Public Service and suggest that this represents $150m of wasted expenditure.
Let me broaden my remarks. This constant attack by the Opposition on the growth of the Public Service’ is only one of a number of various aspects of the economy which have been the focus of Opposition attention in recent weeks. With inflation at 13 per cent for the first year of the Labor Government I suppose it is understandable that honourable members opposite have been hammering at that. They have castigated the Government for its monetary policy and have also criticised and made great play of the fact that taxpayers have been moving into higher income tax brackets. No one on this side of the House will be heard to say, in regard to increased inflation, higher tax burdens for lower and middle income earners and higher interest rates, that they are desirable or that they constitute an economic picture that we can view with equanimity. However, we reject completely the gross overstatements, the glib assertions, the smug strictures and the sheer misstatements of fact that have been the trademark of Opposition spokesmen in recent speeches on the economy. Such tactics debase the very concept of debate and reduce the proceedings of this House to mere charge and countercharge.
For instance, in relation to inflation, one would expect that Opposition speakers would be prepared to acknowledge that since meat prices rose by 34 per cent last year due, we are told, to increased prices on world markets, this necessarily means that inflation in 1973 would have to be above that of 1972. But they make not one skerrick of concession to that or similar factors. Labor is all bad in their eyes whilst they remain utterly pure and the repositories of vast economic wisdom. In these circumstances one is moved to examine their record to see whether they are the cleanskins they pretend to be. In this regard it is instructive to go back to the first years of Liberal-Country Party government when the anti-Labor parties came into power at the end of 1949. Let us look at inflation. In the last year of the Labor Government in 1949 the rate was 8.1 per cent, which was relatively high. Then the Menzies Government came in and pledged to put value back into the £1. The increase in prices in 1950 was 11.1 per cent. The Government improved on that the next year. It was 25 per cent - 25 per cent in one year. The way that Opposition members carry on in this Parliament about 13 per cent, one would think that they had never been guilty of being in government while such inflation raged. But in fact it was virtually double the rate of inflation which occurred in 1973. The one which they provided for was in 1951.
To be somewhat magnanimous, the Government in 1950 had various problems. It would have been difficult for any government to have restrained inflation to any great extent at that .time. This came about through the growth in world commodity prices, particularly wool, at that time and the extraordinary boom in farm incomes. The same factors are operating now. We have a commodity price boom in the world and substantial increases in farm incomes. I do not think there is enough talk about the increases in farm incomes in the last couple of years. In 1972-73 farm incomes increased by 65 per cent. In 1973-74 - the current financial year - it is estimated that they will increase by a further $ 1,000m, which is another 53 per cent. Over the 2 years they will have increased by 152 per cent. Both in the late 1940s and in the early 1950s and now in 1973-74 the dual problems of the direct effects of rising commodity prices on world markets pushing up the price of those products on the Australian market, and the secondary effect of greatly enhanced incomes for farmers have both been in operation.
In both periods there has also been the problem of general world inflation, making it very difficult for any government to keep inflation down when import prices are continually rising and domestic price setters are freed from the restricting pressure of competitive import prices. This Government has done its best to offset these factors by revaluation and tariff cuts. In so doing it has received no support whatever from the Opposition.
While we are considering the performance of the previous Government in its first few years of office, we should look also at what happened in regard to taxation since this is another focus which the Opposition has had in recent days in regard to the economy. The Leader of the Opposition has claimed recently that in this financial year the Australian Government will collect 36 per cent more in income tax than it collected last year. This figure is quite incorrect as I will demonstrate shortly. But even if it were so, it still would not match the performance of the Liberal-Country Party governments in the early 1950s. In 1951-52 income tax revenue increased not by 36 per cent, not by double that amount, but by 118 per cent. In one year income tax revenue rose by 118 per cent. Yet now the Opposition makes a great song and dance about a supposed 36 per cent increase.
In fact the 36 per cent is quite erroneous. If we do the sum properly it will be seen that in fact the increase becomes 32 per cent. Unfortunately time is against me in this debate and I have not time to go right through the exercise. But, basically, the Leader of the Opposition has assumed a 20 per cent increase in average weekly earnings in 1973-74 whereas on -the calculations which he has given to the Parliament he is talking really about June to June and not the average figure for the whole of the financial year. On the basis of his calculations average weekly earnings should be increasing by 17 per cent, if one accepts his guestimates for the March and June quarters of 1974. This would mean that income tax revenue would increase by 32 per cent and not 36 per cent.
One does not suggest that this is something about which we need not worry. The whole movement of taxpayers into higher income tax brackets is a problem. But it is not something which has just started to happen under this Government. It is something which has occurred almost continuously for 23 years.
The cynicism of Opposition spokesmen on this matter is shown by the fact that they harp upon it although it had occurred for the 23- year period that they were in opposition. In 1949-50, a year in which taxation revenue was determined by a Labor budget, the income paid in tax by a worker receiving average weekly earnings and having a wife and 2 children dependent upon him was 2.9 per cent. He paid 2.9 per cent of his wages in tax. This became 5 per cent by 1951-52. In another decade it “was 7.3 per cent. It was 10.3 per cent by 1965-66, 13.9 per cent by 1970-71 and 15.8 per cent by 1971-72. There is an almost continuous process of this percentage increasing. This Opposition when in Government cut taxes in 1972-73 and the percentage fell back in that year to 14.1 per cent. It was virtually the first year in which there had been any noticeable decrease in the percentage since 1949-50.
It ill behoves the Opposition to berate this Government- for not correcting in one year something which it allowed to happen more or less continuously for 23 years. The Opposition is in no position to attack this Government because in one year it has not reduced the tax burden that grew enormously for the period it was in office. We will reduce the tax burden on lower income earners. All that has happened in this year is that the percentage that is going in income tax has been restored to about the level that obtained in 1970-71.
In regard to inflation, I think we should take notice of the fact that inflation has been occurring to a marked degree in other countries. There has been much mention in recent debates of comparisons with price increases in overseas countries. But I think we have not really been looking at the right figures - at least I certainly have not been looking at the same figures as have some members of the Opposition because when I look at the figures I get a rather different picture from that which they have tried to paint. I would like to refer to an article in the ‘Daily Mirror’ of 5 March 1974 headed ‘Costs hit nations in world survey’. I will quote some parts of the article. It reads:
Consumer prices rose sharply in most of the 128 nations which released economic details for 1973, according to the International Labour Organisation.
Figures released by the ILO headquarters in Geneva this week said the rapid rises of 1972 had been exceeded during 1973.
Prices rose by an average of more than 10 per cent in 74 countries last year, 48 more than in 1972.
Despite economic measures taken by each Government, the rate of price rises trebled in 22 countries in 1973 and doubled in 18 others.
Prices rose by more than 20 per cent in 27 countries.
Australia was among the 47 countries to experience a price-rise average of between 10 and 20 per cent.
Other nations in this group included the UK, New Zealand, Denmark, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Ireland, and Finland.
If we look at those figures we can quickly see that inflation is not something which is occurring here in isolation; in fact it is occurring all round the world in a lot of countries which are comparable to us, and the rate of inflation in those countries is comparable.
The Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Sinclair) claimed recently that the United Kingdom, under the Conservative Government, and the United States both had a much better record on inflation than did Australia. This is typical of the misleading comments that come from honourable members opposite. In fact the United Kingdom’s inflation last year was 12 per cent, which was only slightly better than ours, and to achieve that the United Kingdom Government resorted to statutory price and wage controls. The United States did rather better, but it imposed price and incomes controls. The United States froze meat prices for quite a time last year. Does the Opposition recommend that this be done in Australia? Of course it does not. The Opposition fights it tooth and nail, just as it fought the attempts of this Government to obtain the powers to control prices and incomes, powers which other countries have been able to use in the fight against inflation. How utterly cynical to fight against this Government having those powers and then to attempt to ridicule this Government by comparing its inflation rate with that of countries that have been able to use, and in fact have used, precisely those powers to keep the rate of inflation down.
We have been attacked by members opposite for the monetary policy which this Government has been forced to adopt in the last year or so, particularly in regard to interest rates. However, no one is more vulnerable to attack in this area than the previous Government, which allowed the money supply to rise by an incredible 17 per cent in the last 6 months of 1972. This remarkable explosion in the money supply has created substantial problems for this Government but it has acted in various ways to overcome it. One of those ways was to raise interest rates. Dr Porter, a Reserve Bank economist, has shown that if the previous Government had revalued the Australian dollar in 1971, it would not have been necessary to raise interest rates in 1973. Because the previous Government was utterly irresponsible in its monetary policy, this Government has had little alternative but to take the action it has taken.
In this regard it is interesting to note that rising interest rates are not confined to Australia. Throughout the Western developed world, countries have faced higher inflation and concurrent higher interest rates in recent years. Of course higher rates of inflation place great pressure on governments for higher interest rates because people will not lend their money to banks, building societies and other institutions if the rate of interest is well below the rate of inflation because to do so would be to reduce the real value of their money in that situation. Some increases in overseas interest rates have been startling indeed. For instance, in the United Kingdom last year, Mr Heath’s Conservative Government presided over an incredible increase in interest rates. The Bank of England minimum lending rate went from 7± per cent to 13i per cent in the course of that year. By comparison, our increase in the long term bond rate from 61 per cent to 8i per cent seems mild indeed. If we went to other countries we would see that the same situation applies. There has been a general picture of substantially increased interest rates throughout the world, and it is difficult for any country in that situation to keep its level of interest rates down.
That is not to say that it is not a problem for Australian men and women but at least it puts it in the perspective which the Opposition does not provide. Of course as has been announced this morning, the Government will also be providing a tax concession with regard to interest rates on mortgages. This will be of great assistance to Australian homebuyers. The comments made on the economy by Opposition members during the last couple of weeks can be seen to have been grossly unfair. Opposition members make no concessions whatever to the realities of the world around us. They are not the clean skins that they pretend to be. When they were in the government, they had a much worse rate of inflation. They have had a much worse tax record than that which applies to this Government. The people of Australia should recognise this fact.
– As the seconder of the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch), my approach in this debate will be a positive one. So there is absolutely no need for me to reply to the points of view and the repetition of socialist cliches that have been uttered by the previous speaker, the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis). His words would indicate that he is in bad need of a trip back to the training tracks because his gallop indicated that he is completely unaware of the financial situation in Australia. His words were inappropriate and not directed to the very great problem that is facing us as a nation. Once again, I draw the attention of the House to the statement of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition wherein he pointed out that this year an expenditure of $802. 3m on Public Service activities will result in an increase in expenditure of 41 per cent during one year above the $569.9m spent on Public Service activities during the year 1972-73. We want to bring some sanity into the rate of inflation which is permeating all structures of Australian society and which is falling most heavily on the poor, the middle income earners, and also on the pensioners.
Since the Labor Government came into power the consumer price index has risen by 13.2 per cent between the December quarters of 1972 and 1973. That represents the highest rate of inflation since 1952. I ask honourable members to compare that rate of increase in the consumer price index to a rate of increase of 7.2 per cent in 1971 and 4.5 per cent in 1972, the last year of that magnificent McMahon-Anthony coalition Government. The current inflation rate is the complete legacy of this Government’s total irresponsibility and there seems to be little that this Government is willing to do. It is totally incapable of any positive thought in making a contribution towards controlling the problem. We await with some interest - certainly, with very great apprehension - the next Budget to be presented in August. It appears that the Labor Government is completely incapable of financial sanity.
The appropriate monetary policy for controlling inflation is to restrain the growth of money supply and to contain costs. It can be quite successfully argued that the 1973-74 Budget was not sufficiently anti-inflationary since it allowed for a domestic deficit of expenditure over receipts of $162m rather than a domestic surplus as had been the case in the 2 previous years. The Government presumably - I say that advisedly and quite rightly - was not going to stand up and be counted on this matter of great importance. Rather, it bowed, weak kneed, to its preelection commitments for various expenditures and it was not game to increase income tax to reduce the deficit. The. Government, by not putting more emphasis on deflationary budgetary policies has put more strain on the money supply. The volume of money increased by 19.7 per cent during 1972 and by 22 per cent during 1973, whereas the normal increase in the volume of money, given the responsible government which we had the privilege of enjoying in this country for 23 years, reaches double figures. It is also quite pertinent to point out that real output increased by only 4 per cent to 6 per cent last year. This is the real kernel of the problem. The Government hides behind a cloak of concern for the employment of Australian workers. Incidentally, in case the Government really means what it says and does not want to be accused of the meaningless repetition of platitudes, I point out that the present unemployment situation may not be as bad as it appears because there is reason to believe that tens of thousands of people register falsely for unemployment benefits when they already have jobs. Can they be blamed when we have a Government composed of Ministers who actively encourage people to shirk their responsibility of making a meaningful contribution to the furtherance of Australian society by giving a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay?
I suggest, in a sincere contribution from the Country Party, that the Federal Government take a leaf out of the book of responsible government, have a conference with people such as the Honourable Joh Bjelke-Petersen, the greatest Premier of the greatest State, and seek co-operation in bringing about some type of restraint over prices and incomes. We are worried about the situation because last year Australia’s overseas reserves fell from $4,800m at December 1972 to $4,095m at December 1973. These things concern us. The Labor Government, by its actions in a short period of 12 months, stands condemned forever for not showing any concern for Australia’s balance of payment problems. Incidentally, the Prices Justification Tribunal, which was set up by the Labor Government with a great welter and skelter of publicity, appears to me to be not very effective because of the simple fact of life that it lacks teeth in the areas that matter.
The Government could and should forcefully argue before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for moderation in wage increases, but it seems that the workers have to be convinced that there is some restraint on prices before they will accept wage restraints. As an alternative I offer the suggestion that unions and employers should be brought together to make them face the explicit and irreconcilable principles that lie behind the present situation of self-defeating wage and price increases. Hopefully, this may result in some voluntary compromise and agreement. One source of inflation, due to conflicting principles, is that workers in industry of high productivity growth receive large wage increases based on the capacity of their employers to pay, but workers in less fortunate industries expect the same wage increases on the basis of preserving wage relativity. The result is that prices must rise in the latter industries which do not have as great a capacity to pay. Unless union leaders - we know that they are a den of communists - can agree to follow more consistent principles, this must continue as a source of inflation.
Another basic problem is that workers view their new wage demands as being necessary to offset the effect of cost of living changes in the past year which eroded their first real wage, whereas employers viewed those same price changes as being necessary to restore a reasonable profit rate because the earlier wage increase had exceeded their capacity to pay. Unless some compromise is reached the same conflict, and hence inflation, must continue. Although attempts at centralised agreements in overseas countries have never been entirely successful in holding down inflation, it might be a worthwhile experiment in Australia whose arbitration system has tended to inhibit the 2 parties from seeking closer agreement. These are matters with which the Country Party is concerned because, as has been proved and pointed out in previous debates in this chamber, unless something is done the hard won savings of the people of the present generation will be eroded to nought within their own lifetime.
In all matters dealing with the expenditure of public funds which, after all, are the property of the people, the Country Party never endeavours to be sensational. It does not mind being controversial in an honest endeavour to make absolutely certain that the wealth of the nation is spent wisely and is not usurped for the purpose of featherbedding irresponsible trade unionists who, spurred on by their infamous leaders, seek to destroy the economic life blood of this country. Those who sit opposite on the Treasury bench - and all Australia knows that they are there for only a few short months - are the very people to whom the old Persian poet referred when he wrote: ‘Ah, take the Cash, and let the Credit grow, Nor heed the rumble of a distant Drum’. The rock on which the ship “of this Government will founder is its complete incapacity to control the unions. I demand from the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) an explanation of how his Department is spending the money appropriated under divisions 310 and 312. Last year the publication ‘Reference 6.27 - Industrial Disputes December 1973’, authorised by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician, estimated the loss in wages in 1973 - the first year of the Labor Government - through strikes and stoppages at the astronomical and staggering figure of $45,206,000, compared with $32,074,000 for the previous year, an increase of 41.3 per cent in a single year.
Of even greater significance is the undeniable fact that the stoppages are of longer duration and for meaningless trifles. It is time a strong arm was used to stamp out illegal strikes by the imposition and collection of heavy penalties when unions withdraw labour for any reason other than strict union business. We want a return to the strong-arm tactics of the Premier of Queensland who declared a state of emergency when the unions used the strike mechanism against a visiting South African football team. That is not legitimate union business.
The Labor Government stands indicted in the minds of all thinking and responsible Australians for the shortages of the necessities of life. No longer can a housewife go down to the corner store and buy her favourite brands. School uniforms for her children are unprocurable. Unfinished homes everywhere give stark proof of the inability of business, through the lack of productivity of labour, to produce bricks, iron, nails and fittings for even the framework of shelter. Rural industries face a long wait for fencing materials and spare parts. I know from personal experience that tractor tyres are virtually unobtainable. The reason is that wage earners will not work extra shifts to make the maximum use of available resources. Workers are flouting with complete impunity pressures to improve productivity, secure in the knowledge that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) no matter how arrogant he is and how often he proclaims himself the greatest - will simply dance and jump to the political strings which are pulled by Carmichael, Halfpenny and Mundey when they tell him to introduce a 35-hour week. We of the Country Party believe that a 35-hour week would be the greatest possible impetus to inflation in this coutnry
Probably one of the most sickening and senseless stoppages has been the strike in Queensland against the Australian Mutual Provident Society. Union leaders, using instincts not far removed from the animal and savage era, have sought to use the poverty, hardship and inconvenience of the Queensland flood victims to implement a well-defined policy of industrial anarchy. I deplore the politics of those who sit opposite who have used this national forum for a cheap and nasty trick designed to denigrate the Premier of Queensland, Joh Bjelke-Petersen. Let us get the record straight. No man has ever been more generous in expressing appreciation to the Federal Government for its understanding of the havoc caused to Queensland by the cyclones Wanda and Zoe than he has been. No one - I repeat no one - in any State at any time and in any circumstances has played such a notable part in assessing damage, reassuring people savagely hit and getting the massive job of restoration moving than the Premier of Queensland. From one end of the State to the other, in the middle of the floods and in the mud and slush the Premier went to lend a helping hand. The orders went out and they were implemented. Help was extended where needed. I ask honourable members to consider the opinion of the Queensland newspapers of the Premier of Queensland and of the Prime Minister. They said: ‘Gough came but he stayed hardly long enough to cough’.
There is a lesson to be learned from every disaster, and I make an appeal to all to co-ordinate civil defence arrangements. I note that reference is made under Division 647 of the Bill to expenditure on civil defence personnel. We need uniform methods and procedures, and it seems to me to be appropriate to charge the members of the Citizen Military Forces with the responsibility of being the authority in national disaster emergencies. They are a highly disciplined service, used to reacting in highly sensitive and dangerous areas. They know how to be regimented and to work in a united approach with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of effort. What is more, they are readily assembled and they have available some useful equipment. By the nature of their volunteering, they possess a citizenship of the highest ideal. Surely it would be a relatively simple matter to give these forces the necessary statutory authority to be the responsible and co-ordinating body in these cases. They could have complete authority .to marshal all the resources necessary to safeguard and protect life, limb and property. We must never be accused of doing too little too late.
Since the House assembled for the autumn session, previous speakers have passed disparaging remarks - and quite rightly so - about the morale of our defence forces. Shorn almost completely of any encouragement by the Labor Government to be the most vital component of Australian life in its widest concept, it is about time that the Government treated the members of the defence forces as first-class citizens. Housing is of the utmost importance to defence personnel who lead a rather migratory existence and are always the victims of rising costs and shortages. On behalf of all the defence personnel within the electorate of Darling Downs, (I request the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr’ Les Johnson) to increase the present maximum defence service housing loan of $12,000 to a figure which will be consistent with modern costs and modern standards of housing.
It is also appropriate in this debate on the distribution of public finance to refer to those many elderly people who do not share the affluence of some of the other members of our society and who, on account of sickness, are necessarily confined as inmates of nursing homes. The quality of life of a nation surely is measured by its concern for the elderly and the unfortunate. Whilst I pay due regard to the efforts of the Labor administration in the field of social security, I am disappointed to note that because of increases in costs many people are forced to eat into their rather meagre savings in order to maintain their existence in nursing homes, and I charge honourable members opposite with having the complete responsibility to do something for these people. Previously under Liberal-
Country Party coalition governments people in nursing homes had some $3 to $5 a week to spare out of their weekly pensions with which to buy those little joys of life. Now, because of increasing costs and the fact that the Government has not lived up to its preelection promise to make social security benefits equal to 25 per cent of average weekly male earnings, these people find it impossible to make ends meet. I appeal to the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) to increase, in a meaningful way, the Commonwealth Government’s contribution on behalf of people who live in nursing homes and people who require intensive nursing care so that these people will have some security and will be able to live out their remaining days in some dignity.
Earlier today we had probably the most childish experience in the life of the twenty-eighth Parliament. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) had the temerity to move a vote of censure against the Australian Country Party - the Party of great responsibility. I thank him for giving my leader, the Right Honourable J. D. Anthony, who is an outstanding Australian among all Australians, the opportunity to use this Parliament as a national forum to expose the cheap and nasty trick which honourable members opposite are perpetrating on Australian society. 1 congratulate my leader. He completely annihilated the honourable member for Eden-Monaro - and all he had to do was to use a little bit of a cream puff blow. Last week my colleague and friend, the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann), really K.O’d him - the honourable member for Eden-Monaro - and he said to me: ‘Tom, I did not even have to get warmed up’.
It is crystal clear that we must encourage the search for oil in this country by giving encouragement of financial reward to businesses to invest the mammoth sums of finance necessary for successful exploration. We of the Country Party believe a big strike of oil would give Australia the greatest benefit she has received since the merino sheep came here. It would revitalise our trade. Heaven forbid - I gave the figures before - the Government clipped savagely thousands of millions of dollars off our overseas balances in a couple of months saying it would encourage overseas investment.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The appropriation Bill is especially directed at provisions for salaries and payments in the nature of salaries. At the same time, in common with all appropriation Bills, it opens up the possibility of reviewing all government operations. Especially in view of the huge Federal funds now being chananelled through the States it seems appropriate to use the occasion for a review of Commonwealth-State relationships. I propose accordingly to discuss one aspect of the current debate on that relationship and I shall approach the topic by way of a brief comment on the current Western Australian State election campaign. The Western Australian election is only 11 days away and there has been an amazing change in public expectation as to its result. Frankly eight or nine months ago it was hard to find a Western Australian who expected the State Labor Government to be returned. Today the position is exactly the reverse. While a redistribution of boundaries leaves particular electorates in doubt, the overall result is not. On all sides now we hear the prediction that Labor will win again.
– I will take 5-bob each way with you.
– I will have it. I leave a detailed analysis of the reasons for this change to others. For the moment I restrict myself to acknowledging the contribution to this remarkable resurgence in Labor fortunes by 2 individuals - Mr John Tonkin and Sir Charles Court. Mr Tonkin, as the Premier, goes into this election with a background of honest effort and solid achievement in the interests of his State. Every one of his 1971 election commitments has been honoured, excepting only those proposals, particularly price restraints, which were frustrated by the Liberal-Country Party majority in the State Upper House.
Sir Charles Court, on the other hand, as the election comes closer increasingly gives the impression that his well known compulsion for knocking is now being rivalled by his sense of desperation. Yesterday, having been caught short on his sums for a school construction program, he offered as a solution the prospect of State schools being built and paid for by private enterprise, and used by the State on a rental basis. I am told that the collective shudder of Sir Charles’ own supporters registered on the Perth seismograph and one can only sympathise with them in the dismay they must have experienced. It is schools on hire purchase yesterday and no doubt it will be teachers on piece work tomorrow. It is all very novel and entertaining but not really helpful except in terms of assisting Labor’s re-election.
Mr Speaker, I am sure you would appreciate, as would all politicians, how tempting it is particularly at election time to concentrate on the more obvious absurdities in Opposition proposals. I wish to turn, however, to an absurdity which is not so blatant and is perhaps all the more insidious because of it. It is advanced continually at both Federal and State levels and needs to be tackled at both. I refer to the dread if synthetic and transparent ogre - centralism. Sir Charles’ policy speech last week, when it got to the subject of centralism, was an interesting mix of the lyrical and the hysterical. He said that the Liberal State Government would join in a 4-State alliance against the Labor Federal Government. He said that Western Australia would join the non-Labor governments of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland in a united campaign against what he described as a Federal invasion of the States. He said:
All States realise that while Labor remains in power at the Federal level this will be a fight to the death as far as. State rights are concerned.
It was a clarion call to every able-bodied Western Australian to man the rabbit-proof fence against the marauding hordes from the east, and that was just for openers. Sir Charles Court would then, he says, create a special section in the Premier’s Department to handle Commonwealth-State relations with the aim of extending relations from their present ‘coldly financial’ framework to a ‘warmly personal’ level. Considering the 2 propositions together, we would then presumably have Sir Charles Court fighting Gough Whitlam to the death in the friendliest possible spirit.
What is all that nonsense supposed to mean? The truth, as it seems to me, is that Sir Charles, like Opposition members in this House, has been caught in his own rhetoric, for he wrote that the Liberal and Country Parties decided long ago that they would attack the Labor Party for something called centralism’ and offer as their own alternative something called ‘co-operative federalism’. That is very good, but again I ask: What does it mean? As phrases, slogans, labels, or terms of abuse or endearment these are as good as any. The trouble is that, flourished on their own, they add nothing to the possibility of rational discussion and they are always flourished on their own without the slightest attempt to ascribe any meaningful content to them. Of course, I think I know what is meant to be conveyed by this constant reference to the evils of centralism. The suggestion is that the Australian Government is constantly trying to grasp power to itself at the expense of the States.
– Do you not agree with that?
Mir BERINSON- Where is the evidence for it? What evidence there is points precisely in the opposite direction. I give education as the first of any number of examples that are available.
– -Tell us about the pipeline authority.
– ‘Let us discuss education first. In the area of education Commonwealth expenditure in the next 2 years alone will increase by a sum exceeding $ 1,000m. If ever there was the chance to use financial clout to demand power and authority, this was surely it. But it has not happened that way. On the contrary, at the tertiary level, for example, we have seen an expansion of the autonomy normally associated with universities to other tertiary institutions. Again, the enormously increased funds for State primary and secondary schools have been left to State initiatives and priorities for disbursement. I, for one, am still in doubt as to how effective the accountability provisions will be in allowing us to measure progress against cost.
If anything, as that last comment might suggest, I would suspect that the Commonwealth has reserved too little influence in this respect so that we face the classic dangers of any arrangement where expenditure of funds is separated from the responsibility for raising them. The incentives for efficiency, economy and a reasonable rein on spending proposals are almost bound to slacken in these circumstances and one can already see signs of that tendency developing. It is in the interests of the whole community that that should not become the general pattern.
Let me give another example at an altogether different level. I refer now to proposals to expand Perth’s Forrest Place into a major city square. In respect of planning detail, the proposal is now the subject of a quite heated debate. I will refer to that on another occasion. In principle, however, surely no one will dispute that it is an exciting concept not only because of the facility it will provide but because of the rare degree of Commonwealth, State and local government co-operation which it represents. The Perth City Council will provide the present Forrest Place and the Commonwealth will contribute the very valuable and strategic Padbury Building site. The State will develop and maintain the proposed plaza. The whole concept hinges on Federal cooperation, on a Federal Government which is generous rather than grasping, as the centralism tag is meant to imply. It is not just coincidental that this generosity and co-operation have been forthcoming from the present Government now, although the general idea of a city square in Forrest Place has been mooted for at least a quarter of a century if not longer. Examples can be multiplied. Very large funds are being made available by the Australian Government for such varied projects as health centres, through the Department of Health, and community recreation centres, through the Department of Tourism and Recreation. In each case the priorities and administration are not exercised from the centre but at the State, local government and even individual sporting club level.
Certainly the central Government is providing the impetus, the initiative and above all the funds for the vast expansion of these programs. But one has yet to hear of a State finding conditions so onerous as to lead it to reject a grant. This applies equally to the 3 anti-Labor State governments with whom Sir Charles Court is so keen to establish a four-State alliance as well as to the others. Dealt with on a case by case basis the argument of what one might call the ‘centrophobics’ tends to be less than overwhelming. But, to be fair to them, I have not yet referred to our minerals policy which they obviously regard as their trump card. They keep suggesting that it is an intrusion of State rights for the Commonwealth to enter this field at all. That argument is not only wrong but also ignorant. To take a topical problem by the horns, let us consider the case of Alwest. As a Western Australian I want to see that project implemented. I share the disappointment expressed by the Premier at its postponement. I hope that the guidelines drawn by Federal Cabinet yesterday can and will be met. I am only too conscious of how economically vulnerable Western Australia is left by the narrowness of its present industrial base. In any economic downturn we in Western Australia are almost invariably hit first and worst. We are naturally anxious to develop our resources in such a way as to move out of that position.
But it is very far from saying that, to the suggestion that the Australian Government has no role at all in the Alwest decision - that their guidelines are an unwarranted intrusion into an area which is properly one for State action alone - in other words, greedy, grasping centralism at its very worst. When a national government puts limits on foreign takeovers and attaches conditions to the entry of foreign loan funds into Australia it is not improperly ousting State authority. It is doing nothing more than properly exercising its own right. Its authority to act in these fields is provided by the Constitution itself. It is probably impossible now to estimate the cost to Australia of the abdication from this responsibility by previous governments. The centralism bogy with its anachronistic calls to the worst and most divisive features of the old States’ rights argument is something which we can well do without. Taken to its logical conclusion it ends up demanding: ‘Declare yourself. Are you an Australian or a Western Australian?’ That is an impossible and objectionable demand. My answer to it is that I am both, that I find not the slightest degree of tension between the two and that people who attempt to create that tension artificially between State and nation are doing a service to neither.
– Parts of this debate seem to have developed into putting the pros and cons before the people of Western Australia of their election which is to take place on Saturday week.
– That is not terribly surprising.
– As my colleague the honourable member for North Sydney has said, that is not terribly surprising. I suppose it is also incumbent upon me as a member from Western Australia to make one or two comments on the speech that was just delivered by the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson). I believe that in his remarks about the election campaign in Western Australia and his comments on Sir Charles Court the honourable member did really less than credit to Sir Charles Court who is Leader of the Opposition in the Western Australian Parliament.
Sir Charles Court is surely a man who by any standards has achieved a great deal in terms of what he set out to achieve. I think that his record as one interested in pursuing industrial development for his State can be compared favourably with that of anyone in the world. Sir Charles was the Minister for Railways. I suppose that this is one area which one would not associate to any great extent with this record. As Minister for Railways Sir Charles Court improved the efficiency of that organisation tremendously. I think that he will be remembered by many unionists, who perhaps would not want to say so publicly, as a man who modernised the railway system and increased the morale of railway employees. In my view Sir Charles Court deserves a medal for that achievement alone. However much one might disagree with his objectives and methods - in our political system many people do disagree on these matters - it is certainly true that he is a man of tremendous capacity and vigour.
I want to make one or two comments about what has been said in regard to the vexed question of Federal-State relations. One would not imagine for a moment that this question can be resolved easily one way or the other. The federal system in which the government in Canberra and the governments in the States each play a part is being changed in favour of the government in Canberra. The States consider - and I believe that this is the case - that they now have fewer rights, less power and less room to manoeuvre. This is what the whole question is about. One can point to a phrase in an electoral advertisement and say: T do not agree with that; that is an oversimplification’. But that is part of a price that one pays for trying to simplify a matter which could appear in an advertisement during any election.
I want to make some brief points about Federal-State relations. Liberal Party leaders - Premiers of the States in which the Liberal Party or the Liberal and Country Party are in office and leaders of the opposition in the other States - have agreed that the contest which they had in the years when the LiberalCountry Party was in government in Canberra, particularly in respect of financial matters, will be resolved in a way that will leave the States with much more room for decision making than they had previously. My opponent from Perth says: ‘Well, that is not very well defined*. I agree with him - it is not very well defined.
The point I want to make to the House is that this question is in the process of being defined. We are determined to define it; we have committed ourselves to finding a definition. It is pretty obvious that the answer, as put forward by the supporters of the Federal system, cannot be that everything should be centralised in the national interest. Alternatively the answer cannot be that everything should be decided in the State capitals. Either solution would not be in the best public interest. The real answer is that this matter requires a balance.
Let me just illustrate some points. Clearly, matters related to the Treasury and foreign affairs must be centralised in Canberra. But why should regional planning, transport and education - I am afraid I cannot chase that hare any further - be decided in Canberra, even to the extent that they are being centralised at present? I do not think that this is a problem for Australia only. It is a world wide problem. I do not think that this is a problem for governments only. It is a problem for any large organisation, and certainly anyone who knows anything about the internal organisation of large companies, international companies, knows that they have exactly the same problem. If they wish to be successful organisations they attempt to achieve a proper balance between the things which are better run from the centre and the things which are better run in a decentralised way. There can never be a complete, convincing answer as to how that balance should be arrived at. Even if it were arrived at one moment, circumstances will change. Australia has seen a development in which more and more power is going to the centre, to the detriment, I believe, in many cases of good decision making. Mr Deputy Speaker, you come from Tasmania. I am sure that you will appreciate that point as keenly as does any man in this House. I have made that point.
The honourable member for Perth, further, made some remarks about Sir Charles Court. Sir Charles has certain attributes to which I referred earlier. I point out to honourable members that a reading of the policy speech of Sir Charles shows him to be a man who is taking a much wider view today of affairs in the State, going beyond industrial development and so on, in which he was actively engaged previously. He is a positive man, and as leader of a Western Australian government, as I fully expect him to be after the election on 30 March, he will not be, as we have had for the last 3 years, a leader of a do-nothing government but he will be a leader of a vigorous government which is earnestly attempting to find - practical solutions which will increase standards of living in the widest sense.
This Bill permits a wide debate. It seeks approval for the appropriation of nearly $1 70,000m,. It is one of several Bills which must necessarily be passed through Parliament each year, and that is normal in the sense that funds are required and are authorised by Parliament in a series of Bills for the payment of government services such as welfare, grants to the States, administration, defence and so on. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) said, the Opposition supports the Bill. It provides us, however, with an opportunity to discuss any matter covered by the Bill, which is practically anything. I think that most members will want to talk about the economy in general. I certainly do. Because this Bill is one of a number which vastly increases the expenditure by the Australian Government this year compared with last year and previous years it provides, as all the Bills do, for a great increase in the number of Public Service positions which I think is an increase out of all sense, out of all proportion, with what this country and its productive elements should be asked to support. It is part of the measures which are creating in this country inflation at a rate which is much greater than it should be.
I wish to speak a little about inflation, and about what I suggest that the Government might consider because certainly there has been a lot of talk about it and certainly it is a condition with which many people can live, and certainly it creates in the whole community a situation of instability and of wondering whether savings will be eroded to an impossible extent. Taken to extremes, though we are certainly not at that stage yet, it can undermine the whole constitution and the stability of the nation. We have read examples in history. The Government and the Treasurer (Mr Crean) profess considerable concern about it. The concern is usually expressed in terms of those who suffer hardship. Those who suffer hardship are those who cannot, live easily with inflation because they are, in one sense or another, underprivileged. They may be pensioners; they may be people trying to live on fixed incomes which are the result of their savings or which come from other sources; they may be unionists who do not like to go out on strike because for them that is not the right way to go about things; or they may be unionists who belong to a union which is not in a position to act in a militant way or at any rate does not think that is the proper behaviour. So I say that inflation affects adversely the people who are least able to help themselves. So it is that when pensioners receive an increase of S3 a week, as was announced last week, that S3 at the rate of inflation of 13 per cent a year or so can be worth far less to them than was the 50c or $1 given some years ago at the prices which were then current.
Frequently the Treasurer comes into this House and when challenged on this matter - I emphasise ‘challenged’ because he never raises it - is inclined to read out a little speech. I think he knows it off by heart by now. He says: ‘Yes, the Government is concerned’. But he does not say it in a way that sounds very convincing. He also says: “The Government has done many things. It has reduced interest rates, upvalued the currency and reduced tariffs generally by 25 per cent, and it will bring in restrictive trade practices legislation’. Let us examine those actions very briefly. The interest rate monetary measure was correct. But it was only one measure. By the way, reliance on monetary policy can be shunted off, in the main, to the Reserve Bank. But, of course, the Caucus of the Australian Labor Party sabotaged that measure. As a monetary measure, it has been largely ineffective for that reason.
The Government certainly made 2 upvaluations of the currency - in fact three in a sense. It certainly reduced tariffs by 25 per cent. But they are long term measures. As the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) well knows, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Prices is examining whether they have had much effect at all. Some of the evidence that has been given to us - I believe I am right in attributing this to a Treasury witness - is that we cannot be sure whether upvaluations and tariff reductions will have any effect on prices for another 2 years. So, to cite those actions as measures that the Government has taken to dampen the inflation rate is really to cite something on which no reliance at all can be placed. It is doubtful whether those actions will have an effect; and, if they do, it will be small and long term.
As for talking about legislation that is to be introduced - I think the trade practices legislation was introduced only the other day - when the Government has already introduced about 250 pieces of legislation, I can only say that it has not given the legislation much priority. Of course, when the legislation is introduced its effect will be very small. The Government never talks about cost increases which come from wage rises, from conditions improvements, from increases in Government expenditure and from the increases in the Public Service. I am talking not about the First and Second Division officers who I believe in the great majority of cases are hard working and thoroughly worth their money, but about the thousands of public servants in the lower levels. I remind the House that the number of Commonwealth public Servants exceeds 250,000 at this moment.
Those are the areas, of course, that are having the greatest impact, although not the only impact. I emphasise this to the Government because of the number of times we are misquoted. They are the major issues. Certainly prices are an aspect. Certainly imported goods prices are an issue. Certainly in this climate some manufacturers unfairly take the opportunity to raise prices. But, of course, their rationale is expressed: ‘If we do not take the opportunity, what will become of our enterprises when costs are rising as they are and there is so much uncertainty?’ So in Australia we have a considerable ‘inflation psychology’ which this Government is not taking adequate means to combat.
This was referred to in passing by the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) the other day, but since he is not in the House I will not chase him on that point at this time.
But the excessive reliance that the Government has placed on monetary policy has really got to be pointed out as being an abdication of its responsibilities, because there are a number of fiscal measures which it could take. It has failed not only to take them but even to mention them. In answering a question in this House last week about the causes of inflation, the Treasurer started off in a very desultory fashion and said: ‘Well, there are meat prices, and of course the rural products - ‘. He then tailed off and started to abuse the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, without once mentioning wage rises, the Public Service and government expenditure as being the costpush part of the equation. The Government has not adopted any real, urgent antiinflationary policy. As I said last week - it must be repeated - the Treasurer’s attitude to this matter is one of complacency. He pays lip service to the problem but he will not do anything about it.
– .Benign interest.
– Benign interest, as my colleague from Wakefield says. If one looks at the Speech made by the Queen in the Senate 2 weeks ago - the Speech was written by the staff of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) - one sees the comment that ‘the Government believes the many anti-inflationary measures it has already taken are having an important restraining effect’.
If the measures it has taken have had an important restraining effect and results in 13 per cent, my God, what would the inflation rate have been if it had not taken those measures? Obviously they have had very little effect.
In the few minutes still available to me I want to suggest to the House a demand management and prices-incomes policy that could be adopted by the Government. The Treasurer has not suggested any such policy and I have heard challenges from the other side that perhaps something should be suggested. I am going to suggest a package but at the same time add the qualification that no research resources were granted to me. I recognise that inflation is a difficult problem. I do not suggest for a moment that we are completely isolated from international influences. The weighing up of the problem that is necessary is, in part, a technical study, but further large increases in the inflation rate and in prices, which will affect every member of this community, will be quite inevitable if we go along as before. So what I suggest’ is, firstly, that the Reserve Bank of Australia should tighten liquidity to a greater extent than it has done. Secondly, I suggest that the Government cut its expenditure,, particularly as I have said, in the lower levels of the Public Service, and that there should be a cessation of the creation of new positions in the Public Service. There are, of course, many items that could be cut out of the Budget. I have heard the gentlemen on the other side of the House say: ‘What would you cut out?’ I say this to those people: If I am given adequate staff and the right of entry into the departments I will make the recommendations all right - no trouble at all. But do not ask me to look at the summary statements, with no assistance whatever, and invite me to do that.
I make the suggestion that the allowance made for the national pipeline, or pipe dream or whatever it is, should be cut out. That represents an amount of $50m just for a start. My third suggestion is that the Prime Minister should endeavour to get the States together on some sort of temporary and voluntary freeze on prices and wages. That method of breaking the spiral has not been tried. But I agree that such a freeze should not be left on for too long. Fourthly, the Government should actively discourage, instead of encouraging, wage rises which are above the national average productivity rate. The Government has even gone to the extent of encouraging these rises in the arbitration courts. Finally, it should discourage the great increases in the salaries and conditions of public servants below the Second Division level. A responsible government would implement demand management and a pricesincomes policy if it faced up to the injustices of many of the most vulnerable in the present situation and the insecurity of the nation as a whole.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Duthie)Order! Before I call the honourable member for Shortland, I want to point out to honourable members that they have a duty when leaving or entering this chamber to pay respect to the Chair. I have been here nearly an hour and half of the members who have left this place did not pay respect to the Chair. I hope this message gets through to the other Deputy Speakers in this place and that they will similarly direct the attention of honourable members to this matter.
– I cannot help but feel amazed at the contribution of the previous speaker, the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland), particularly when he said that he could not understand why education, transport or regional planning should not be matters of national interest. This statement came from a man who was a Minister in the former Government. It illustrates his complete lack of understanding of matters of. national interest. As I said, he was a Minister in the former Government. It is easy to understand why he is no longer a Minister in a government. The honourable member for Curtin said that if we were to give him the research facilities, he could pick out areas of expenditure which could be deleted. I should like to ask a question of the honourable member: Why did he not do that when he was a Minister and when he had the facilities and the power? They are just words. As far as the Opposition is concerned, nothing is new. In this third week of the second session of the twenty-eighth Parliament, I am sorry to say that we have heard from the Opposition a continuation of the same old hackneyed, repetitive regurgitation of half truths, untruths and cliches as we heard throughout the first session of this Parliament last year. Whatever the Opposition has to say is old hat; there is nothing new.
In the Appropriation Bill (No. 3) which is now under debate there are 31 headings totalling a proposed expenditure of $168,575,000. At the beginning, I should like to say something about the Opposition’s continued attack on the officers of the Australian Public Service. Everyone who has participated in any level of Government activity, be it local government, State government or Federal government, knows that no government service could function without the dedication and responsibility of its officers. Everyone knows that at each of those levels of government there are many dedicated, hard working men and women who give a lifetime of service to the respective levels of responsibility. But the Opposition cannot have it both ways. Honourable members opposite have set out on a course to berate and abuse the Australian Public Service. After all, in the main, it is a child of their own creation. It has been almost onequarter of a century since we have had the responsibility of appointing fresh officers to the Service. However, as I said earlier and as I keep repeating, this argument is not new. In 1949, the catchcry of their former leader was a reduction in the number of public servants. I can recall the figure. He was going to reduce the Public Service across the board by 10,000 officers. The Public Service in June 1949 numbered 141,716 officers. I should like to quote from the ‘Joint Opposition Policy - 1949’ in which the Leader of the Opposition parties at that time said:
We believe that the rapid growth of Socialist ideas and practices in Australia is transferring far too many people from productive to administrative activities, and that this represents a grave danger to our future.
These are the same words as we have been hearing over the last several months. He went on to say:
At the same time, we recognise that there must be an adequate force of government servants. That is why we continue to believe in a sufficient, wellorganised, highly-trained, competent, and well-paid Civil Service.
What we propose to do is to reorganise the departments, some of which have grown up rather like Topsy; to rationalise their work; to cut out overlapping; to reduce red tape; to simplify procedures.
He went on to say:
There are many thousands of true Civil Servants who would welcome such a move. . . .
That is what he said he was going to do, but when his followers went out of office almost a quarter of a century later they had succeded in increasing the Public Service from 141,716 officers to 246,876 officers, an increase of 74.2 per cent or 105,160 officers. So, in the course of reducing the numbers in the Public Service by 10,000, they managed to increase it by 105,000 officers. Heaven knows what might happen now if honourable members opposite set about decreasing the Service. If they said they were going to decrease it by 20,000 officers now, we could probably expect over the next 3 years an increase of 200,000 officers.
Really, what has been happening is that the Opposition parties have been indulging in a plagiarism of Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, their former leader. If honourable members opposite want to be in a position to criticise the officers of the Public Service, let us have a look at their own backyards first. What have honourable member’s opposite done since we came into office? They have not refused to accept the additional staff that they sought. That assistance was granted. In fact the Leader of the House, the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), said recently in this place that, to the contrary, the Opposition had asked for still more assistance. I am speaking from memory but I think that the figure for the personal staff of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) is probably the highest in the building yet he is leading the attack on the Public Service.
The Opposition has asked for more floor space for its officers and is seeking still more floor space, better furnishings and better equipment in the electorates. The Opposition is not complaining about those things, or refusing ‘them or rejecting them. We all remember very well what happened soon after the 1972 election. I refer to the terrible duel, the epic which went on day after day, about who was going to occupy that room across the corridor from the Opposition’s entrance to this chamber. Was it to be the official Deputy
Leader of the Opposition or the other deputy leader of the opposition, the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony)? Who was entitled to that room? These were the kinds of things in which the Opposition was interested. Now members of the Opposition have the effrontery to come into this place and talk about reducing the Australian Public Service. If they are genuine and sincere they should start in their own backyard. They should set about reducing their own staffs and giving back some of the equipment that they so willingly accepted.
Let us consider the period when the Opposition was in office and the Australian Public Service was under its jurisdiction. I refer the House to the 146th report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. Referring to the Department of Air, I quote from paragraph 11 on page 9 of that report:
During the 1960s the accounting workload increased progressively, outstripping the staff capacity.
Further down in that paragraph the report states:
We were informed that .the experiment had not been very successful, owing to the inexperience of the staff who were unfamiliar with the complicated nature of the Master Provisioning Document and the source documents, and with stores accounting procedures. The witnesses representing the Department added that training of the extra staff had been very difficult during overtime.
The Committee, in its conclusion, summed up by saying:
From the evidence it seems that it took 2 years for the Department to have additional positions created and filled in the Billings cell. This appears to the Committee to be quite an excessive period, having regard to the evidence that during those 2 years inexperienced staff from other sections worked overtime and the Department did not consider this overtime scheme to be successful.
The then Ministers who are now in Opposition, including the previous speaker, the honourable member for Curtin, are responsible for what is contained in this report because the Public Service was under their control. These are some of the shortcomings. I refer now to page 27 of this report which deals with the Department of Civil Aviation. Paragraph 68 states:
The evidence shows that the frauds were perpetrated during the period from July 1970 to February 1971 by a number of officers within the salaries section in collusion with other participants. It appears that a significant factor in the frauds was the failure of departmental officers to observe internal controls and checks specified in Treasury Regulations, Treasury Directions and Departmental Instructions 69. The Department pointed out that the irregularities were facilitated by the increased volume of work, and the general inexperience of the staff within the salary section. The Committee believes that the Department has been at fault in failing to ensure that the section was adequately staffed, that effective internal control procedures were in existence and that existing control procedures were being observed.
Referring to the Department of Air, at page 46 the report states:
The witness said that the Department was not sure how it would tackle the task, but that it would have to be done on an ad hoc basis.
Paragraph 121 of the report states:
We were informed that an increase in staff establishment would be required at Central Office to conduct the checking of billings considered necessary.
Since I became a member of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts in the middle of last year, running throughout most of the inquiries of the Committee has been the recurrent theme of a shortage of staff, undertrained staff and inexperienced staff. Now the Opposition is saying that we should reduce the staff. The Opposition parties, during their term of office, could not supply departments with the quality of staff required. Massive defalcations, overcharges, undercharges and non-collection of accounts are dealt with in this report. All this occurred during the administration of the Opposition parties. Now they say that the Public Service should be reduced further but they could not provide the quality of staff required when they were responsible.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was remarking about the professional political pessimists on the other side of the chamber - the members of the Opposition. The one thing that they just cannot accommodate themselves to is the increasing prosperity of this nation following the change of government in 1972. (Quorum formed). I thank the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) for his care and attention to me in creating an audience. It is unfortunate that there was only one member of the Liberal Party of Australia in the chamber at the time he called for a quorum. I am grateful to him for calling his colleagues into the chamber to listen to what I have to say this evening.
– He was asleep.
– I disagree with the statement that the honourable member for Barker was asleep. I cannot say that. As I said earlier this evening, there is nothing new as far as the Opposition is concerned. The calling for quorums is something that happens on every occasion on which I speak. I move on now to what the Government has done for local government. Despite the bitter opposition of the Liberal and Country parties, the Government is determined to restore local .government to its proper status as a full and true partner in the federal system. The Australian Grants Commission gives councils the opportunity, through regional bodies, to present a case for financial assistance to the (Federal Treasurer. Is it not strange that the Australian Country Party - .the Party that has so much to say about the poor quality of public services in rural towns - has been the most vocal in opposition to local government receiving assistance direct from the Government. That great democrat - the Premier of Queensland, Mr Bjelke-Petersen - has told local government that it has to make up its mind whether it is going to accept finance from the Australian Government or the Queensland Government. In this respect I quote from no less a distinguished journal than the ‘South Burnett Times’, which incorporates the ‘Kingaroy Herald’ - right from the heart of Bjelke-Petersen territory.
– This will be good stuff.
– It is .good stuff. The article points out that the Premier of Queensland had asked the 17 local authority delegates at a local government association conference on just what side of the fence they were standing in relation to the proposed Commonwealth Grants Commission. The article states:
He said Councils had to decide whether they wanted to deal direct with Canberra under the proposed Grants Commission, or through the traditional channels of State Government.
The article points out that Mr Bjelke-Petersen went on to say:
I have asked the State president of the Queensland Local Government Association to have discussions with me in relation to where Local Authorities stand.
That came from a person who has so much to say about intimidation. Following that came statements from 2 very important members of local government in Queensland - Max Armstrong, the Secretary of the Local Government Association, and no less a personage than the Mayor of Bundaberg. The Mayor of Bundaberg said that the Premier was inclined to have handed out a threat. Mr Armstrong said that for the Premier to introduce politics at the conference was quite out of place. Those are the actions of a gentleman who talks about centralism. We have centralism in Australia - State centralism - and it is based in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. The attitude of the State Liberal and Country parties, as well as their Federal bodies, is simply to keep local government in the States as complete vassals of the State governments. What we ought to be looking at really is the bureaucracies that exist in the States of Queensland under the great gerrymander, of New South Wales under the Liberal-Country Party - even the Minister for Local Government is the leader of the Country Party in that State - and of Victoria.
What the forthcoming referendum will do will be to ask the people whether they agree to the Constitution being amended so that local government will have the right of access to the Australian Loan Council and will have the right to receive direct from the Federal Treasury the .grants of assistance that may be determined or may be made available by the Federal Treasury. That is all the referendum will ask for. But the great democrats in the Country Party again want to deny to the people the right to express an opinion on that question. That is all they want to do. Our frightened friends in the Country Party want to deny to the people the right to express an opinion on whether or not local government ought to have access to the Australian Loan Council. I do not know what they are afraid of.
In recent times the Country Party has been making so many changes in line with its history that I suppose in a way that attitude can be understood. I have a cartoon in front of me - I am sorry that I am not able to have it reproduced in Hansard - .the caption of which I want to read. It has a man milking a cow and on the bucket is printed ‘nationalist interests’. Behind him is another farmer with another bucket and on that bucket is printed ‘farmers’ interests’. Behind him is another farmer with another bucket that has labour interests’ printed on it. Last of all is a teeny weeny farmer with another bucket that has ‘Australia’s interests’ printed on it. That is where Australia’s interests rank today as far as the Opposition parties are concerned. The cartoon caption reads ‘Australia’s Place in the Procession’. The cartoon is from no less a publication than the ‘Bulletin’. Underneath the cartoon is the following comment:
Party Politics have produced a new Federal Country Party, devoted like the others, to purely sectional interests.
The date of this publication is 5 February 1920. So just 54 years ago the Country Party was in the process of devoting itself to new sectional interests and to rearranging itself and, as has been said, it produced a new Federal Country Party. Where do Australia’s interests come in? Australia’s interests are last, as they are now. That is the only way in which the Country Party has not changed. I cannot tell the people of Australia what its name is going to be next week, but 1 wish I knew so that I could make some sort of comment about it.
The catch cry of the Country Party has always been: ‘We socialise the losses and capitalise the profits’. If a man is unfortunate enough to be a failure in a city or urban area - if he does not make a go of his business - that is bad luck as far as the Country Party is concerned. But if a man does not make a go of it in a country area the Country Party thinks the taxpayer should foot the bill. The great calamity howlers from the Country Party - the prophets of doom - know no other catch cry than to talk about pessimism. The thing is they cannot accommodate themselves to the increasing prosperity that has come to this country under the Labor Government. The other day in the middle of question time the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) saw fit to interject: They have never had it so good’. He made that interjection; we on this side of the House did not make it.
– That is right. So he did.
– I am pleased the Minister agrees, and 1 am pleased that members of the Country Party agree with what I have had to say. As I have said, they see -
– I rise to a point of order. Is this man an MP or do we have a stranger in the House.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! If the honourable member for Kennedy raises another frivolous point of order I will name him.
– As I have said, the greatest difficulty that the political pessimists opposite have today is in trying to accommodate themselves to the increasing prosperity in Australia. They are continually going back to their electorates and trying to tell the people how bad things are, but the people know that things are really improving. Other action that has been taken by this Government in relation to local government is the provision of $30m for sewerage extension services inside Australia. The $30m provided by this Government is the commencement of a program that will mean, we hope, in 7 years time the total elimination of non-sewered areas in the major cities and the major provincial towns. I am pleased to say that in my electorate $1.2m (has been made available to the Hunter District Water Board to enable the Water Board to carry out works at Blacksmiths and Fennell Bay. lt has taken a change in government - to an Australian Labor Party Government - to bring recognition of the need to provide funds for local government and to provide these kinds of funds for sewerage construction authorities for what is a basic, essential health service. I want the people of Australia to know that after 23 years - almost a quarter of a century - of the Opposition’s administration they are now suddenly finding out the deficiencies -
– Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
seemed to think that his time would be best served by making an attack on the Australian Country Party - a Party which is at its greatest strength ever. I predict that it will grow and increase in strength. It is rather interesting to note the attacks on the Country Party that come so consistently from the other side of the House. Apparently honourable members opposite realise the importance and the value of this Party to Australia and its danger to the Labor Party. That is what they are afraid of, otherwise they would not waste their time. They are political creatures and they want to save their seats. We have seen plenty of examples of self preservation being the strongest instinct coming from that side of the House and indeed from other sides of the House too, but at the same time we have never seen a greater example of the fear for the Country Party than that exhibited by the honourable member for Shortland. He showed good judgment in recognising the impact of the Australian Country Party. If it changes its name to the National Country Party of Australia it will have an even greater impact on the national scene.
I do not want to waste any more time trying to refute some of the nonsense that has been talked tonight, but before leaving the speech made by the honourable member for Shortland I want to mention one thing - the deception that was practised when he said that the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) claimed that the rural industries had never had it better. As everybody knows, the honourable member for Gippsland was simply repeating a statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). Honourable members opposite are so short of arguments and so short of sound reasons for attacking the Country Party that they must try by deception - while the proceedings are being broadcast - to convince the Australian people that this thinking was instigated by the Country Party. It was a well deserved satire on the Prime Minister of this country, who knows little about the problems of the rural industry. The people who sit behind him know even less.
Perhaps the greatest concern of the Australian people in all occupations and at all levels of income is the completely unacceptable rate of inflation. Because members of the Country Party have a broad national outlook it is on this subject that I wish to speak first. The Government condones the extremely high rate of inflation by stating simply that inflation is a world wide problem. That is the Government’s only answer: It is a world wide problem so we cannot do anything about it and we are not going to try. The fact that it is a world wide problem - I do not deny that - only emphasises the necessity for all countries to face up to the problem, and this is just what the Australian Government has not done. A country with the great natural resources that Australia has should be able to give a lead to the world in how to control inflation, at least insofar as domestic policy is concerned. But what do we find coming from this Government which had the advantage of taking over an economy as sound as any economy in the world, which it ruined in its short term of a little over 12 months?
– What about the 120,000 unemployed?
– I hear noises like that on the farm when they are killing pigs. It is a very similar noise. The Government continues to encourage the expansion of the Public Service. I am prepared to concede that there are very many dedicated people in the Public Service. The noise is still coming from over there, lt does not take that long to die out on the farm. In many fields the activities of the Public Service are essential for the opera tion of the government. We realise that. The majority of public servants are dedicated people. But that is no excuse for the rapid expansion of the Public Service which has taken place under this Government. What the Government does not seem to be able to accept is that unless inflation is controlled much more efficiently than this Government shows any indication of being able to do, all the increases in wages that have been brought about in the last 12 months and the increases in pensions will be engulfed by this inflation almost before they are in operation. Try to deny that if you can. Tell that to the people who are on wages. Tell the pensioners that you are going to increase pensions by about half of what is needed when you said you planned to bring pensions up to about a quarter of the average weekly earnings. Where have you got to? You have had to double your pension increases and even that will not be enough. Unless there is some evidence that this Government has the capacity to control inflation you will never catch up with that 25 per cent.
– What did you do about it?
– We did a lot better than you did.
– I suggest that the honourable member for Maranoa makes his own speech and does not ask other people to assist him. I suggest that other people do not try to assist him.
– I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for your confidence in my ability to make that speech. The Government has made some small effort to cut expenditure, but only in the rural sector. It has made cuts in expenditure in the rural areas alone, thereby compounding the problems of people living in rural areas of coping with the ever increasing burden of inflation. Measures to control inflation must be taken across the board if they are to be effective. They must include all sections of the community. Any measures that are taken to control inflation must not be sectionalised. They must be across the board, but the Government has not endeavoured to do that. What is has done is to sectionalise the reduction in expenditure entirely in the rural community. The measures must be taken across the board because all sections of the community will benefit from a lower rate of inflation.
It is no good hiding behind the fact that this is’ a world wide problem. That does not make it any easier. The opportunity is there for this Government, if it so desires, to follow the activities of the previous Government over those famous 23 years that honourable members opposite are always talking about. They are always telling us what happened over the last 23 years. In the last 23 years we did not see inflation galloping at the rate at which it has been galloping since this Government came into office.
– That is not true and you know it.
– The honourable member talked some nonsense about that. The Government has not been able to cope with inflation since it came into office and, if it is in office much longer, what the honourable member is talking about now will fade into insignificance compared with the rate that we will see operating in this country. Employers and employees alike will suffer when the economy breaks down, as it surely will do unless the present rate of inflation is controlled. Surely the Government must recognise that fundamental factor. It cannot go on. We see examples throughout the world of what has happened when there has been no attempt to control inflation. The longer it goes on, the more drastic the measures will have to be and the more suffering there will be to bring this economy back to an even keel.
– What are you going to do about it?
– I know that we will hear the cry: ‘What are you going to do about it? Where are you going to cut expenditure? That is the parrot cry we hear. Honourable members over there are nodding their heads in agreement with that. They are asking the Opposition - which has been wrongly criticised by the Government all the time - for a remedy because they have none of their own. That is what they are asking for. They are not capable of finding one, so they are asking us to provide them with a blueprint to do it. It would not be of any use if we gave the Government all the details of it, because the union dominated Government would not accept the necessity for the measures that have to be taken to control inflation, even if that operated to its advantage. It is the working people, the people on the lower level of income, who will suffer most as a result of inflation.
I have already said that I have no brief for any particular section of the community. I do not believe that there should be excessive profit making, but I do believe that it is essential that there must be profits for any industry to survive. We want reasonable profits, but at the same time we do not want and we cannot afford to have undue demands made on the economy by any section of the community, and this is what is taking place. The Government backs down every time it makes a stand. Every time it tries to do something to control inflation, and it does not do that often, it backs down because it is not game to face up to the union leaders, who often do not represent the opinion of the people in the unions they are supposed to represent.
The continued expansion of Government expenditure adds correspondingly to demand inflation, and where goods are already in short supply this only accentuates the problem. I will cite something in the way of an example, because this is what honourable members opposite have been screaming for during the last 5 minutes. I believe that one thing that could be undertaken is an examination by the Government of its proposals in the building industry. Some projects need to be completed. There is need for Government expenditure in some areas where there is overcrowding. I accept that, but surely its program could be examined and where buildings are not urgently necessary the program should be delayed until some time in the future to lessen to some extent the extremely high demand for building materials which are needed in so many areas. They are needed for the reconstruction of flood damaged homes in many areas of Queensland and northern New South Wales and in other places.
– Tell us what buildings you are talking about.
– I am talking about homes. There are buildings in the Government’s program. Does the honourable member not know anything about them? Apparently he does not know that the Government has a building program. If he looks at the references that come before the Public Works Committee he will see a list of the Government’s building projects. If he looks at the Government’s program for building he will find some of the things about which he is asking me. It is amazing to me that people on the other side who are criticising the Opposition and particularly the Country Party as constantly as they are, should look to us so consistently for advice. I appreciate the compliment that is being paid to me tonight by the members of the Australian Labor Party in asking me so many questions. Perhaps if they come to me when I have a little more time than I have now I will be prepared to give them the advice they so sorely need.
Let me deal now with food prices. They have been blamed by the Government as a major factor in the increased cost of living, which of course is also having its effect in increasing inflation. From almost time immemorial the pressure of demand has forced up prices, so surely the Government should have taken measures to increase supply and so lessen demand. Surely that is an elementary factor. But what has the Government done? It has done just the opposite. It has removed the incentives for the production of food as if food was not wanted, never would be wanted and is out of date. Any amount of land has been brought into production as a result of the taxation concession whereas it would not have been an economic proposition to have dealt with that densely timbered country in any other way. Fencing, subdivision, and the provision of water could have been done without. In many areas the farmers could have carried on without it - I know this from experience - but they have done this because they have had some incentive to do it. But those incentives have been taken away. This Government has no idea of how to cope with this inflation. It does the opposite to what is required. Seldom has it been more necessary to encourage the production of food not only to ease demand but to fulfil the need of hungry and underfed people in many parts of the world. The Government, on top of removing the incentives to production by the reduction of the assistance given under the petroleum products price stabilisation scheme - do not forget that one - the removal of the bounty on superphosphate and the removal of taxation concessions for work done to improve production, has revalued the Australian currency until it is now a so over valued currency that it has acted to the great disadvantage of the exporting industries of this country, particularly primary industry.
– What has happened to farm income?
– It is time that some honourable members knew what has happened to farm income. Honourable members opposite are basing the increase that has taken place in farm income on a time when it was at poverty level, when it was uneconomic, but people stayed on the land producing food because they hoped that times would change and they would be able to make some sort of profit from their properties. Using as a base this time when farm incomes were so low, uninformed people say that there has been a worth while increase in farm incomes, forgetting all the time that people on the land are still struggling with reconstruction debts. What is the debt owed to the Government by farmers under the rural reconstruction scheme? Until that is paid off and farmers get themselves on a sound basis, let honourable members opposite not cite a percentage of increase based on a completely uneconomic low level after years of difficulty and struggling along. Just to make it even harder for the rural producer to recover from droughts and low, world prices about which I have just spoken, the Federal and State governments, of necessity, introduced the rural reconstruction scheme, which the present Government carried on against its general ideas.
The Government, by a change in country telephone lines policy, has made it financially impossible for many people to provide themselves with a telephone service. The Postmaster-General’s Department now charges approximately $510 a mile to instal a telephone more than 5 miles radially from an exchange, so that a person living 15 miles from the exchange is faced with a cost of over $5,000 to instal a telephone, which is beyond the financial capacity of people living in rural areas in the circumstances in which they have had to live over recent years. No wonder we see a serious drift of population from our rural areas, particularly our developing rural areas where these telephone charges are most severely felt. Indeed, the bible of the Labor Party, the Coombs report, suggested that the radius, within which the Post Office would meet the cost of constructing a telephone line be reduced to 3 miles from the exchange. This would lift the cost of installation to a person living 15 miles from the exchange to $6,000.
So it can be seen that the Government has no sympathy for or understanding of the problems of rural areas. It has no understanding of the measures needed to control the inflationary spiral which is such a serious matter for every resident of this nation. There is no intention on the part of this Government to do anything to try to control it. That has been said. All the Government says is that inflation exists in other parts of the world. All the Government says is that we will not have unemployment to reduce inflation. The Government can reduce inflation. The Country Party does not want to have unemployment to reduce inflation. We do not ask for that. What we ask for is sound, reasonable measures. We ask for some limitation of Government expenditure. It is not reasonable to expect people to go on producing food in outlying areas, let alone expand production to meet demand, unless they get some sort of reasonable treatment from the Government which has forgotten and neglected them. Let us look at the treatment of our outback rural producers in the Channel and Gulf country where a lot of food comes from. The cost of development and of subsidies for essential rural air services in 1972-73 was $2.8m, yet the estimated total budget outlay for 1973-74 was not less than $12, 168m. Out of that budget we could not afford to keep the essential and developmental rural air services working in the Channel and Guly country, which provides so much of the necessary food for this nation and for nations across the sea. That illustrates the thinking of this Government. In a letter I received only this week from the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones), the Minister states:
This Government, upon reviewing the situation, decided that developmental service subsidies should be phased out over the period to 30 June 1977. It was also decided to take immediate action to reduce its commitment in this direction by 31 December 1973-
So the letter goes on. I could have used more time because there are a few other subjects on which I would have liked to have touched, for example, the downgrading of our country postal services and country post offices. The Government, under pressure partly from the Australian Postmasters Association, reversed its decision on the Windorah Post Office. The Australian Postmasters Association put up the best case I have heard for the retention of the Windorah Post Office as an official post office. I accept their case, and I have quoted it in this House. I note that the status of Windorah is not to be changed, so the Government has stood down not because we put up a case so much as it was afraid of union action in relation to the proposal. This was a case that deserved the decision now arrived at. So I could go on about the shortcomings of this Government. My main theme tonight has been concerned with inflation. I hope I have convinced the people who are listening, even if I have not convinced those listening from the Government benches, that there are measures which could be taken across the board to control inflation. The Opposition, when in government for 23 years, controlled inflation. This Government has ruined the sound economy in about 12 months. Furthermore, the threat of what is yet to come is even worse.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) who preceded me spoke about how the Government had ruined the economy in the last 12 months. I hope to say a few words about that later. This debate on the Appropriation Bill is an appropriate occasion to say something about government and business in Australia as it exists under a Labor government because it is sometimes claimed that as many Australian businesses have close associations with conservative parties and the Australian Labor Party has strong associations and affiliations with trade unions an Australian Labor government would be bad for business. It is also claimed that the Australian Labor Government’s plans, its intentions, much of its thinking and its history require it to redistribute resources away from areas of lesser importance towards areas of great national need - areas that include social welfare, the relief of poverty, education, health and the solution of quality of life problems in the cities - and that this will have an adverse effect on business in Australia. It is true that the people who put forward these complaints are often businessmen. Mostly, however, they are the views of a very few big businessmen, some of whom have had their names in the newspapers recently, but they are gentlemen who would regard a Labor government as anathema to them no matter what it did. The mere existence of a Labor government is an assault to their conscience. To some others who hold similar but not quite so conservative views the very success of a Labor government’s economic management policies is an embarrassment that can be overcome by them only in outbursts of resentment. Both claims are false.
The development of vigorous and efficient Australian industries is a basic policy aim of the Australian Labor Government. A strong and growing business sector is one of the keys to achievement of Labor’s social welfare program. In the short time available I shall try to trace how successful we have been in the short period we have been in office. The first year of the Labor Government saw a restoration of full employment. It was a year of great and growing prosperity in the business sector. During the year 1973 the gross profits of Australian companies increased by a billion dollars - a 20 per cent increase compared with the last year of the previous LiberalCountry Party coalition Government. In response to the strong demand for their products and with their confidence restored businessmen have increased their investment in new plant and buildings to new record levels. By the December quarter 1973 private fixed capital expenditure was 23 per cent, or almost one-quarter, above its level a year earlier under the previous Government - the so-called government of big business - and further increases are planned by businessmen. The annual reports of company after company show record profits. On the rural front we have seen, in the same first year - we have been listening, of course, to some so-called alleged rural spokesmen although one would doubt their bona fides-
– We only represent rural electorates.
– We represent more rural areas than you would ever represent. (Quorum formed.) On the rural front we have seen in the first year of the Labor Government one of the greatest advances in farm prosperity in Australia’s history. In the December quarter 1973 the gross farm product was no less than 47 per cent above its level in 1972 - almost half as much again - and farm incomes rose by an estimated 60 per cent. Utilised industrial capacity in Australia is at an all time high. While doing all this, the Government managed to increase imports to Australia by about 53 per cent on the 1972 figures. Compare these facts with the last years of the Liberal-Country Party Government. They were years of growing unemployment, little prosperity, little demand for products, lower capital expenditure, lower rates of investment in new plant and buildings, lower profits and great amounts of unused productivity capacity. How better to rebut and give the lie that we are anti-business than to recite these simple and recent facts?
How often have we also heard the claim by supporters of the former administration that under a Labor government ever-increasing bureaucracies will starve private business of the manpower it needs. This claim also is completely refuted by the facts. In 1972 - the last year of the previous coalition government - private employment in Australia grew by only 53,000. Government employment increased by 35,000 of which 7,300 represented growth in the Australian Public Service. That was a ratio of private to government of less than 5 to 3. In 1973, in complete contrast, private employment grew by 187,000 and, despite the increase in the Australian Public Service necessary to carry out our policies, total government employment increased by only 28,000, which was less than in 1972, notwithstanding 4 Labor Party governments throughout Australia. Not only did we restore the growth in employment shattered by our predecessors but it was restored in a ratio of 7 to 1 in favour of the private sector.
Of course Australia has not been able to escape the effects of the present world wide inflation. A series of breakdowns in the world monetary system in recent years threw currency markets into turmoil. We all know that; it is a notorious fact. World food prices have soared to unimagined levels as a result of severe shortages cause by drought and crop failures in the world’s major food producing countries. Shortages of many basic industrial commodities, including oil, chemicals, paper, iron and steel and non-ferrous metals have also exerted strong pressure on prices. As a major trading nation Australia could not escape the effects of these world forces which have been particularly strong on export commodities such as food, wool and non-ferrous metals. Food alone accounts for 47 per cent of the increase in consumer prices in Australia in the past year - nearly half of the increase that has taken place.
No Australian Government could have avoided the inflationary influence of these world changes. The previous Government however, was particularly guilty of culpable neglect in leaving us exposed and defenceless against those world changes, and what they meant to us. The Country Party in particular must carry much of the blame for this because of its usual predictable irresponsible attitude to revaluation, and the Liberal Party also for being so weak and ineffectual as to not being able to stand up to the Country Party when it wrangled about revaluation back in 1970. Together they made the situation worse by failing to maintain the proper value of the Australian dollar and their failure to control the inflow of unwanted and inflationary funds from abroad.
Let me give the figures. They have been well given but they bear repeating. In consequence, in the last 6 months of 1972 the money supply in Australia increased at an annual rate of 34 per cent - about 4 times the annual rate of increase for the past few years. This has been referred to by many authoritative speakers in recent times. There was no defence against this money inflow - the previous Government left us defenceless. In 1972 Australia’s foreign exchange reserves almost doubled in one year, rising by more than 2 billion dollars. In the last half of the year capital inflow into Australia amounted to almost a billion dollars. This flood of foreign money financed a speculative property boom which pushed home prices beyond the reach of many people.
The previous Government compounded the problem by refusing to regulate the amount of finance flowing into housing. During the period 1970-71 to 1972-73 the volume of money made available as credit by the various lending institutions in Australia for housing construction - they were permitted to do it, there was nothing to control or regulate the position - is estimated to have quadrupled, placing intolerable strains on the available supplies of manpower and materials and further increasing home prices. The previous Government had done nothing to increase the capacity of that industry to enable it to cope with the great, increase in demand.
The inevitable increases that took place in the prices of staple items in the budgets of Australian families then generated claims for wage and salary increases which could not in equity be denied by our wage fixing authorities. They have, it must be stated, also generated industrial unrest. When we took office, the seeds of inflation had been sown and in many respects its immediate growth was beyond our immediate control.
It is well known that in framing policies to deal with this situation we completely and will always reject the policy used by previous governments of attempting to cure inflation by creating unemployment - putting people out of work. That road leads to the stagnation which we were elected to eliminate and which we did eliminate. It leads to great hardships. It leads also to the destruction of the business prosperity that we have worked to re-establish and which we have re-established.
Let me list a number of the basic and important steps which we have taken to date. We have restored the Australian dollar to its true value - an approximate revaluation of 30 per cent. We have stopped the excessive inflow of foreign funds by instituting the variable deposit requirement scheme. We have made general and specific tariff reductions that will improve industrial efficiency as well as help contain the rate of inflation.
We have established machinery to restrain prices in Australia. The operations of the Prices Justification Tribunal have worked against price increases over a wide range of items. Public inquiries and private hearings into the prices of iron and steel, motor vehicles, paper and beer have resulted in the companies concerned accepting price increases lower than they had proposed. People who read the newspapers will appreciate the truth of what I am putting forward. We have urged wage fixing authorities to give preference to minimum wage earners whose need is greatest rather than awarding equal percentage increases to all wage and salary earners.
Legislation with real substance has been introduced to protect consumers and businessmen from unfair methods of dealing and restrictive trade practices. They could have been operating now were it not for the LiberalCountry Party Opposition in the Senate. Without the measures we have taken we would now face an inflation of disastrous proportions and the prospect of a serious business recession.
The Government is of course aware that some of these policies may and probably will also result in structural changes in our Australian economy. Changes that although nationally beneficial and desirable for that reason, could appear to hurt a minority of Australian firms and workers if measures were not taken to avoid this. For this reason, we provided, on the occasion of the 25 per cent tariff cut, for special forms of adjustment assistance which, we are happy to say, we have not had to use on any significant scale. Nevertheless the measures stand ready for use should the need arise. We are involved in the preparation of a much more comprehensive system of adjustment assistance to industry. In continuing the tariff review initiated by the previous Government and in taking the actions to stimulate the imports that I have described, the
Government has given and is giving to Australian industry, the opportunity to develop efficient lines of production which can stand securely on their own feet without wasteful and discriminatory support.
On the question of wasteful and discriminatory support, we should not forget that, while the tariff has fostered the growth of important sections of Australian industry, it has not been without cost to business and the community generally; cost that is inevitably borne by the consumers, that is, by all of us. It was estimated several years ago that the cost of the tariff protection available in Australia - broadly in terms of an equivalent subsidy - would, if it were all used, be in the vicinity of 2 billion to 3 billion dollars per annum. Whatever the actual measurement and cost of that protection, we have reduced it during our short term in office by more than a quarter.
In saying that I am not here suggesting that the Australian consumer unnecessarily paid this amount of extra money. I am putting the facts forward to indicate the extremely high and largely unknown - because it is unseen - cost of protection that is carried by the community. I am also saying that the benefits to the Australian consumer by our actions like the 25 per cent tariff cut and our revaluation are enormous. They are in the process also of becoming obvious.
Firm in our belief that there are great benefits to be obtained from international trade and that if we are to pay for our imports we must export, we have announced plans to establish an export bank to facilitate the provision of export finance for medium and long term credit sales of machinery and capital equipment. We support the expansion of international trade because international trade allows us to make the most of our natural advantages in the areas of mining and rural products as well as in secondary industry and primary industry. By concentrating on what we are good at and by giving Australians access to overseas produced goods in terms of goods and services we stand to maximise the return by doing this for every day’s work done by average Australians. We will be ensuring a high and increasing standard of living for all Australians, because we seek to benefit from international trade.
We appreciate that the import side of the international trade coin can create competition for Australian firms but we have every confidence in .the ability of Australian industry to withstand and match such competition given the opportunity and provided resources are not wastefully diverted into inefficient and cost increasing avenues of production.
I have been discussing the relationship between government and business. I have given facts to prove that under this Whitlam Labor Government, Australian business is doing extremely well. No-one really disputes it. Circumstances and situations will change in this ever-changing world, but the Government takes pleasure in the prosperity and plans for it to continue. I strongly believe that Australian business will always do better under a Labor government than under non-Labor governments for no other reason that the blunt truth of the matter is that Labor governments administer the economy and take action where it is necessary in the interests of all Australians. We do not simply preside over it, as our predecessors did. I might say that the greatest enemy to business confidence in this country today is the covert and snide campaign that the Opposition parties are waging by dangling false bogies in front of businessmen. As I go around the country and speak to businessmen- (Quorum formed.)
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– The Minister for Secondary Industry (Mr Enderby), who has just been sat down, was never the most convincing of speakers. But I do not think we can blame him tonight because even Demosthenes would have found it difficult to add plausibility to the theme that the Minister has given us. He wanted to tell us that the socialist government was the friend of free enterprise. You can put a lot of things over the electors but I do not think anybody will believe that statement. It may be that the Governnent can offer baits but it offers baits always with the worst purposes and with the destruction of free enterprise in mind. Members of this Government are socialists.
I do not want to labour what the Minister for Secondary Industry has said. I point out, however, that the Labor Government received a great inheritance from its predecessors. It has squandered that inheritance. It claims that it inherited the seeds of inflation. How is it that during the whole term of the Labor Government so far the pace of inflation has been accelerated? I believe that when we look back on this period we will worry about the way in which our surplus of foreign trade of current account, the really vital figure, has been dissipated. This will be an economic crime, one of the many crimes, which will be laid at the door of the Labor Government. I will not waste much time on the speech of the Minister for Secondary Industry. After all, he is rather small potatoes and I would rather speak of something which is of more consequence.
I was a little disappointed and dismayed today when I asked the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) a question about the abolition of the means test that he did not answer less equivocally. What he said sounded all right but he just stopped short of full commitment. I do not think this is good enough. I think that we do require something more from him because he is known to be a tricky and untrustworthy person. He is known to say things deceptively. It is very difficult sometimes to hold him to his word. I do hope that in this question of the means test we will be able to hold him to his word and to see that the means test is abolished in the life of mis Parliament. I am sure that honourable members on this side of the House will, as I said this morning, try to keep him honest in that regard even if he has some doubts himself.
What I wanted to speak about tonight was another comment made by the Prime Minister which seemed artless enough at the time but which may have a hidden sting, a hidden meaning and a hidden motive behind it. I quote - I will use the official text, the Prime Minister’s own text - what the Prime Minister said in the course of his Press conference on 12 March, that is, last Tuesday. I will quote exactly what the Prime Minister said: He stated:
The Senate election doesn’t have to be held until the end of June because the senators who will be elected will take office on 1 July. Ordinarily Senate elections, like ‘House of Representatives elections, are held on Saturdays. So, accordingly, it would be possible to have the Senate election on the last Saturday in June.
That is, on 29 June. The Prime Minister said those words which I have quoted. They were meant, I think, to seem artless and to be of no real significance. But I ask the House and the country to consider the possible consequences of these words because the Constitu tional consequences are somewhat extraordinary. Everybody knows that the Government wants to get control of the Senate, even if it is only for a few weeks. If the Government can control the Senate for a few weeks it can pass electoral legislation involving redistribution schemes which will make it impossible for the Opposition to get the Labor Party out of the House of Representatives, even though - and I am sure there is no doubt about it - the people reject the Labor Party by a large majority.
What the Labor Party needs for its gerrymander, what it needs for its schemes, is to gain control of the Senate even if it is only for a couple of weeks. If it should control the Senate for a couple of weeks the country would have no protection. The vital nature of the Senate election is, of course, apparent. Everybody who is against socialism wants to stop the Government, and only the Senate stands between us and socialism. But let us consider what would happen if the election for the Senate were held on 29 June. Everybody is aware that it takes three or four weeks to finalise the counting of votes in a Senate election. So, for three or four weeks we would have a Senate comprising 30 senators.
– Too many.
– Ah ! My honourable friend from Robertson says ‘Too many’. Of course, from his point of view he is entirely right because he, like every other member of the Government, is pledged to the abolition of the Senate as soon as they can find a way of stabbing it in the back - and this may be the way. The Senate is a House with continuing existence. It would be operative even if there were only 30 senators in place of the present 60 senators. Under section 22 of the Constitution, which can be altered, as I think it has been by Senate Standing Orders, onethird of the. total number of senators shall be necessary to constitute a meeting of the Senate. But that is something which may not be as much of a protection as honourable members may think. The Senate would be constituted with 30 members. Now, what happens with those 30 members? Of the continuing senators fourteen belong to the Labor Party; there are 2 independent senators - Senator Negus and Senator Townley - and in examining the results of the division in the Senate in the past year I see that Senator Negus almost always votes with the Labor Party. So, the Government would have its 15 senators and it would be very near to having a majority. There would be 15 Labor Party senators and only one more needed to swing the vote.
– Where does he come from?
– Well , the Labor Party might gain a majority of one through the illness of one of the Opposition senators. He might come about through some chance. But to have a country turning on the help of one person is not too happy a state of affairs. On construing sections 135 and 141 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act it would appear to me that new senators will be elected one by one with the declaration of the poll. So this perhaps is where that extra senator is going to come from.
– Only you would think of a scheme like that.
– Well, I have been complimented by my friend from the Government side of the House who said that only I would think of it. I am afraid it may be that that artful dodger, the Prime Minister, has thought of it already. He is, as you know, an untrustworthy person, a person whose word cannot be relied on and a man who gets up to every kind of trick. The Labor Party does get up to every kind of constitutional trick. What I am saying is that we should not give the Labor Party a chance to do this.
– We have watched you for 20 years. That is why we have learnt so quickly.
– Ah, you did not need teaching, I can assure you, judging from the sliding ballot box panels and the whole jiggery pokery with which the whole Labor machinery is infected. Honourable members opposite know what political trickery is. When one looks at this Act, and when one puts it in parallel with the Constitution, one can see that this is where those extra senators could come from.
I suppose that the question of who is going to be elected first and in which State is really a matter which is very much under the control of the electoral machinery. But it is a matter of chance a little bit, if the electoral machinery is honest. That being so, we do not want to put the future of Australia to the mercy of chance. I do not think the Prime Minister has much chance of getting a working majority among the 60 senators after the election. I think that the Senate election will go against him significantly. But if he can just get this half Senate operative with a few senators coming in by chance from outside he may just for a little while be able to achieve the majority he wants in the Senate. But once he gets that majority, even if it is only for a day or a week, he will be able to bung through the Bills that he wants to bung through and in particular he will be able to gerrymander the electorates and to see that no government other than a Labor Government ever sits in this House, whatever the people might think.
I have quoted the Prime Minister’s words. I have not gone beyond them. I have just tried to show to the House what the rather queer unforseen constitutional consequences of this could be. I am by no means certain that they were not foreseen by the Prime Minister. When he comes in in this artless way of his and tries to get something through on the run, as it were, giving some good kind of excuse for it, finding some pretext for it, one always suspects what his real motive could be. In this case the artful dodger may have a point.
-Order! I remind the honourable gentleman that if he is referring to any member of the House he must refer to him in his ministerial capacity or as the member for a particular electorate. I am warning the honourable member that I will take action if he does not conform.
– Well, Sir, I refer to the Prime Minister in his prime ministerial capacity. If I could describe him as an artful dodger - I am referring to him as the Prime Minister.
– Order! I am warning the honourable member. If he wants to flout the rulings of the Chair I will deal with him.
– Well, Sir, that would be the last thing I would want. I think that I am entitled to say that most of the country distrusts the Prime Minister. He is too slick altogether. He is too smooth altogether. Sometimes when he is putting forward in this artless way the possibility that for some other motive he might have the elections postponed until 29 June - this is what he said himself - one looks to the possible constitutional consequences.
Sections 7 to 23 of the Constitution deal with the Senate and give that body continuing life and make a Senate of 30 or 40 members an operable house. Looking at section 135 (5) (c) and section 141 (1) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, it seems to me that senators can be declared elected one by one.
This would give, as my honourable friend from the Government said, the extra senator or senators to allow the process to work. It will be on the fifth seat in each State that the Senate election will really be determined and it is on those fifth seats that we will be making up our leeway on the continuing 30 senators who will not be retiring this year. Those seats will be the last ones declared. So the Prime Minister, if he gets his way, might have those three or four weeks in which to put his schemes through. It would be imprudent to allow him to do so. How is he to be stopped? I think that this can be done in 2 ways. The first is the way of public opinion. Now that I have put this on the line it may be that even the Prime Minister will not be brazen enough to act in this way. Never before has an election of the Senate been concluded before the retiring senators have left their places in the Senate. Such a move would be unprecedented. Now that I have exposed the constitutional possibilities which are inherent in this situation it may be that even the Prime Minister would not be brazen enough to take this course.
There is another possibility, and on this I have some constitutional doubts. Section 9 of the Constitution states:
The Parliament of a State may make laws for determining the times and places of elections of senators for the State.
Section 12 of the Constitution states:
The Governor of any State may cause writs to be issued for elections of senators for the State.
I am not absolutely certain of the constitutional position here. I know that there are some doubts but it seems to me that it is probable that if the Prime Minister does the unthinkable and, as he has threatened in his Press conference, if he delays the Senate election until 29 June I think it will be possible for a State to step in and see that an election is held at an earlier date so that the senators for that State will be ready to take their places in the Senate on 1 July when the other senators go out.
I return to the main theme. The main theme is the importance of seeing that the Government never gets, even for a few weeks, a majority in the Senate. Only the Senate stands between Australian and socialisation. In this House we have seen important Bills - this has never happened before - guillotined through without Committee debate.
I repeat that nothing like this has ever happened in Australia’s history. This House has not been allowed by die Government to discuss the details of important vital legislation. That has had to be done in the Senate. I say: Thank God for the Senate, because if it were not for the Senate the jackboots of this Government would be treading all over the face of Australia.
– I do not know what the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) was rabbiting on about. I honestly think that he thinks he is paid by the word, in which case, judging by the number of times he speaks in this House, he ought to be on his second million. He seems to attribute to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) some sinister plot that has been cooked up. I assume he attributes to the Prime Minister the same devious, scheming, intriguing, cunning little mind as his own. I can assure him that he will get the surprise of his life and will realise that he has wasted 20 minutes of the time of this House when the Senate election date is announced. I remind him of his last comment about gagging. He talks about democracy being trodden on by jackboots. Many of us were here on that fateful night when we sat in this House and 17 Bills went through, in one night. The previous Government still holds the world record for this.
– At 5 o’clock in the morning.
– While we sat here until 5 o’clock in the morning.
– And he was asleep as usual.
– As the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) points out, the honourable member for Mackellar was asleep as usual, so it did not worry him particularly. Let us not hear any more talk about jackboots treading on democracy until we get anything remotely near the previous Government’s appalling performance of passing 17 Bills in one night.
This Opposition, what little of it is here tonight, has had a very simple philosophy since it came to occupy the Opposition benches - attack, smear, denigrate, distort, and speak dishonestly about what the Labor Government is doing. Accuracy and facts have gone out the window. The Opposition has used the old Goebbels tactic of telling the big lie and hoping that people will believe it. Everything that was given by this Government was ignored or taken for granted. It was not enough, the Opposition said. Everything that was taken away brought about hysterical abuse. Every deficiency that existed in Australia was blamed upon the Labor Government. After 23 years the situation was supposed to have been fixed after 12 months in office. But the honourable members opposite kept it up. I must admire them. There was no worry about honesty or fair debate or fair discussion; they just kept on saying it and kept on telling the people that this was what was happening, hoping that after a while the people would believe it. Maybe it has worked; I do not know. It was a good tactic but I am afraid that the chickens are coming home to roost.
I cite one example that we heard tonight from the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh). ‘I have heard it repeated over and over again in this House that the Labor Government promised to increase pensions to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. It did promise that. But the Prime Minister made, it very clear in his speech at Blacktown that that was a promise to be met over 3 years - over the life of one parliament. Is there any member in this House tonight who denies that this was not the promise?
– They are not keeping pace, that is the trouble.
– Let us debate that at another time. The promise was clear and concise - pensions would be raised to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings in the life of one parliament.
– We are only half way through the term.
– I shall come to that in a moment. Yet I have heard repeatedly the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch), and the honourable member for Darling Downs tonight, state that this was the promise and that we have broken our promise. The promise was for the goal to be achieved in 3 years. We have now reached not quite the half way mark, as my good friend the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) has said, and the pension now stands at 22.6 per cent of average weekly earnings. When we came to office it was 20 per cent. We are fractionally ahead of half way at the half way point. I point out that most of the time I was in this House in opposition the pension languished at 18 per cent to 19 per cent of average weekly earnings. Only just prior to the last election it got a big lift to 20 per cent when the previous Government saw what was happening in the electorate.
This is a typical example of what I call the big lie. The Opposition believes that if it keeps on with it enough people in the electorate will finally believe that we did promise to achieve the goal on the day we got into office. My friend the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) today made some very good points about the Public Service. The Opposition is constantly saying that it will cut public expenditure. When we ask where, of course, it will not pinpoint anything. It says only that we should cut down Public Service spending. Of course that always has popular appeal. The most denigrated person in our community is the public servant. I do not know why it is. I should not say that he is the most denigrated; the most denigrated is the politician, but the second is the public servant. The poor old public servant cannot answer back so he is always a good target - ‘They are all bludgers; they are all leaning on their shovels’. That is the concept people have of public servants. It is not the concept I have because I work with a lot of them, and generally speaking I find them most dedicated men who do a fair day’s work. But the story the Opposition puts up is that it will cut Public Service spending.
The honourable member for Gellibrand today made the very good point that the growth rate of the Public Service has increased - I did not copy down the exact figure - from about 3.3 per cent a year to about 4.6 per cent a year, a difference of a little over 1.25 per cent. In actual numbers, it has increased by about 11,000. It would have increased, as it had done under the Liberals, by about 8,000. The extra increase is about 3,500 public servants. So when the Opposition talks about controlling inflation it means that it will sack 3,500 people, and it says that will solve all our problems. Brilliant. That would save $40m, and we are talking of a Budget in terms of $10 billion.
– More than that.
– The figures are there. To save $150m we would have to sack every public servant who has been put on since we came to office, and we would have to cut back to a zero growth rate in the Public Service. Under the previous Government there was a Public Service growth rate of approximately 3 per cent a year. I assume that it would not suddenly stop growing after 23 years of office of the previous Government. I make this point too: We have opened new areas in which we are dealing with new problems, such as with the Department of Urban and Regional Development. I believe, and I would have thought that some of our country cousins would have accepted the fact, that decentralisation, urban development and growth centres are important and that those things cannot be achieved by mystery people, by Eskimos. They have to be done by human beings, by public servants who have to be paid a salary. We are opening new areas in the social security field which require people to work in them. If anything, most of the people in my area complain that there is not enough service in the government departments and that they cannot get served in the Department of Social Security offices because there is not enough staff and there are too many queues.
– That is largely because they do not work at providing service.
– The honourable member for Petrie (Mr Cooke) is leaning back in his green seat. I have never met a person who does not feel that he is the hardest worked person in Australia and that everybody else is sitting back taking an easy seat.
– You are saying they do not give a service.
– That is your view. I am sure that there are some public servants who are lazy. I am sure there are some private enterprise people who are lazy. I recall playing golf one day at the golf club with some lawyers and accountants who were having their second game of golf for the week. They were sitting down having chicken sandwiches and champagne while they complained about the lazy workers who were on strike. That is the sort of philosophy that emanates from people like the honourable member for Petrie.
– Does he say that all public servants are lazy?
– He said they did not give an honest day’s work. Is that correct?
– No. You were saying that they did not give a proper service.
– Order! I remind the honourable member for Robertson and the honourable member for Petrie that this is not a private argument. Will you please address the Chair?
– I apologise most humbly, Mr Speaker. You are quite right. The fact of the matter is that since Labor came to office there have been whole new areas of commitment. I instance the field of education. Does anyone deny that the extra $460m that will be spent on education will create a tremendous new area of growth that will be most important and something that every Australian would agree with? In the field of health there are new plans, new health centres. There is a big program in the areas of urban development and urban transport and, as I mentioned earlier, in social security and in the field of recreation.
If as our opponents say, they intend to cut Public Service expenditure, the question must then be asked: Where? I think that is the question that is going to be increasingly asked in this House and outside this House and in the media and throughout Australia. Where are they going to make the cuts? We have heard honourable members opposite clearly outline some of the programs that they intend to introduce should they be returned to office. For instance, they intend to increase expenditure on their private schools - the category A schools that have been cut out of Government assistance. Honourable members opposite are going to increase expenditure on all those categories of schools on which Government expenditure has been reduced. We could put a price on that at a rough $10Om. Members of the Opposition are very critical of the fact that we allowed expenditure on defence to diminish slightly and, in their terms, they will bring it back to what it was. I think they are talking in terms of $400m to $500m. They intend to increase expenditure in health because they have no intention whatsoever of controlling the fees of doctors on the health funds. We could guarantee that in the first year of a new Liberal government, that policy would cost another $10Om. Then, they intend to restore all the subsidies and taxation dodges that we have eliminated. They are going to provide more money for oil exploration for their Esso-BHP friends about whom we heard so much from our friend, the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony). The superphosphate bounty will be restored. That will cost another $65m. I could go on and on. I have only just started, and the total is already over $ 1,000m. How are the honourable members opposite going to raise this extra Si, 000m that they are going to give back?
– And they are going to cut taxes.
– Yes, they are going to cut taxes by $600m, so the total is now $l,600m.
One does not have to be a Rhodes scholar or an economist to work out the sort of mathematics that are coming from our friends on the other side. Where is the money coming from?
– They are going to lower the interest rates.
– That is right; they are going to lower interest rates.
– And taxation.
– You are going to do all this in this brilliant economic plan and yet you talk about responsible economic management. The total is now $ 1600m.
– We did it for 23 years.
– Yes, I think you must have printed your own money.
– Order! I suggest that the honourable member speak through the Chair
– How are they going to do this, Mr Deputy Speaker? The plans of honourable members opposite will cost $ 1,600m and all they have said they will do is to cut back Public Service expenditure by $40m. That still leaves us, at a rough estimate, with a requirement of about $ 1,550m. The only way it can be done - this is the point that the Australian people should note - is by dismantling what the Labor Party has done. There is no other way. There is no simple economic truth or solution, short of printing one’s own money. It must be done by dismantling the Labor Party’s new initiatives. We know that already our urban development schemes are blueprinted for dismantling. We know what is happening over on the other side because the rumours around the lobbies are that if honourable members opposite get back into office, this scheme will be slowly phased out until we get back to the old days of chaos. Urban transport? That will be forgotten. That will have to go because it was never a consideration previously. We can be sure that the Catholic schools that have been reaping the benefits of this new Government’s policies are going to lose out. It will be done in the usual Liberal way. They will not actually cut out the expenditure. They will leave it at that point and let it diminish in value as inflation takes over. This will be done over three, four or five years until the amount spent on these schools is valueless. Then they will say: ‘We did not do anything to the allocation. We left it as it was’. The allocation will still be the same as it was but, of course, its value will diminish year by year. The same thing will happen to the state schools that for years languished and starved for funds.
What will happen to the health centres? We do not have to be terribly imaginative to know what will happen to our program to bring free health centres to the people of Australia. I think that honourable members opposite will probably openly cut expenditure in this area because they have never really liked free health centres in the first place. We can forget about recreation complexes and things like that. It is clear what they intend to do because there is no other way of financing their proposals. If there is a way, honourable members opposite should spell it out. We were always asked: ‘Where is the money going to come from?’ and we spelt it out. We spelt it out for 6 years before we came to government and now we are implementing that very program. We spelt it out in our policy speech and now honourable members opposite should be doing the same thing. They have a responsibility. They are - God forbid - the alternative government of this country.
The final point that I want to make is simply that I am surprised at some of the people in this country who are supposedly businessmen. There was a most interesting article on Friday or Saturday on the front page of the ‘Australian’ newspaper. A firm of business consultants called, I think, John P. Young and Associates, had carried out a survey of Australian businessmen and found that 70 per cent of them thought that this year was going to be a record year and that economic conditions were going to be first class, but that they did not like the Labor Government. They have had their best year in years. Profits have been astronomical, but they do not like the Labor Government. The firm of consultants was asked to explain this phenomenon of record profits and dislike of the Government and its answer was one word and one word only: ‘Prejudice’. The firm said that it would not have mattered what we did; members of the business community are so strongly engrained in their prejudice against a democratic socialist party that even if they were quadrupling their profits they would not have liked us. Frankly, it does not worry me a hoot in hell whether they like us or not. I am not particularly concerned with popularity, as long as I know they are doing well - and they are doing well - and that the people of Australia are doing well. It is not popularity that we seek. Was the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland), who is now interjecting, ever popular?
– That is a change of course. That is not what you said a minute ago.
– One likes to be popular in government, of course. But if we are not popular, there is nothing more we can do about it. We have given them the best year that they have had in years and they expect an even better year. So, what do we have to do to be popular with the business world - give them 4 times the profits they made last year? What do we have to do to be popular with our friends from the Country Party on the other side? Rural incomes have trebled and gross farm product is up by 47 per cent.
– From what? Three times nothing?
– Well, it must have been 3 times what you were giving them, which was even less. I will conclude with these final few words: I think the people of this country must ask again what purports to be Her Majesty’s Opposition where they intend to make cuts to implement the program about which they are talking. I think that the people are entitled to know and I believe it is a question that is going to be asked over and over again. I am going to ask it and I hope that honourable members opposite are going to start to get some answers together because the people of Australia are going to want to know what those answers are.
Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar)- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented.
– Yes, the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) misquoted me as referring to the use of the political jackboot to ride over Australia. I did not say that. What I said was: ‘Use the political jackboot of numbers in this House to stamp on the face of Australia’.
– I rise to speak on a Bill for an Act to appropriate a sum out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund additional to the sum appropriated by the
Appropriation Act (No. 1) 1973-74 for the service of the year ended 30 June 1974. Listening to the Minister for Secondary Industry (Mr Enderby) speaking in this House a few minutes ago, one would get the impression that the present Government has been responsible for all the rain that has fallen to give primary producers a good season and for our primary products receiving excellent prices both on the export market and on our domestic market. That is absolute rubbish. It is only natural that the primary production situation will be better when good rains fall, but that has nothing to do with the actions of the Government.
The Minister for Secondary Industry mentioned that the production of secondary industry is down. Of course it is down. Why is it down? It is because we have had an unprecedented number of strikes in this country. One has only to pick up a newspaper on any day of the week to find that one industry or another is out on strike. That has resulted in Australia having the greatest shortage of consumer goods ever. If there is a shortage of consumer goods on the domestic market there is a corresponding shortage of the goods produced by secondary industries for overseas. An examination of Australia’s export figures as at 30 June last will reveal that but for our primary industries we would be in a very sorry plight indeed as far as our foreign exchange balances are concerned. Our exports of motor cars are down. Our exports of earth moving equipment are down. Our exports of fencing wire and barbed wire and of many other goods manufactured in this country for export are down. They are down because of the failure of the Government to get some production out of the trade unions and to get some production out of industry.
It was very interesting to read about and see photographs in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of approximately three or four weeks ago of 3 Russian trade union delegates to this country. They were amazed to learn that the trade union movement in Australia does not go for increased production. They said that the trade union movement in Russia went for the full production of all types of consumer and other goods. They were amazed to learn that the trade union movement in Australia is dead against the production of goods that are so important to our way of life and to our overseas trade.
The honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) adjoins me in the electoral sphere in
New South Wales. During his speech in this chamber tonight he was able to mix up grant money and loan money. He talked about how good it was that the Government was allowing local government to have a voice in the Australian Loan Council on the provision of loan funds to local government and said that the Hunter District Water Board had received Si. 5m. I do not think it received that amount as grant money, as the honourable member for Shortland said; I think it was loan money. Local government is not short of loan money. It has plenty of loan money. It is grant money that local government wants.
– I do not know how some of them are ever going to pay the interest.
– That is right. The local government authorities go in for all sorts of projects. They have to pay back the money they borrow for those projects as well as the interest. If more money is available for loan and if they are not prudent they could have problems. The local government legislation which has been introduced in this House by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) is at this stage still airy-fairy. When are we going to see some of the grant money being channelled by the Australian Government to local government bodies? I have had 30 years experience in local government. I have been one of those who have advocated assistance by the Australian Government to local government, but through the State departments of local government, which have the best knowledge of how these funds should be distributed. Because the legislation which has been introduced by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development is airy-fairy nobody seems to know who is going to get what or when. As I have travelled through my electorate and in other parts of New South Wales and interstate local government people have asked me when they are going to get some grants from the Australian Government, as promised in the legislation which has been introduced. Regional committees have been set up in various parts of Australia for the allocation of this money when it becomes available. There was no mention of it in the last Budget. I doubt whether we will see any reference to it in the next Budget. As I said before, it is not loan money that local government wants but grant money. Millions of dollars flow from the local government areas in Australia into the Treasury but they do not flow back to the local government areas in a corresponding manner.
The Government has plundered the great primary industries of this country. We have heard supporters of the Government say that the primary producers of this country have never had it so good. Those people have conveniently forgotten that primary production is a risk industry and that if primary industry does not get good rain and does not experience good conditions it cannot produce crops or fatten stock. As we assembled in this House tonight the primary producers of this country were indebted to financial institutions to the tune of $3,000m. What do we find when the primary producers have an opportunity to clear some of their indebtedness to financial institutions and to get back on an even footing? We find that the Government wants to sock them at every opportunity. There is no need for me to tell any member on this side of the House just what the Government has done to the primary producers. As at 30 June - only 3 months away - we will find that the primary producers in Australia have been socked to the extent of approximately $3 00m.
– That is right. The superphosphate bounty of $60m is going to be wiped. The sum of $240m should cover the loss of all other items. That brings it to S3 00m. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has said that this is a good time to do away with the superphosphate bounty. He has forgotten that there are millions of acres in this country that would not be worth a crumpet as far as the production of cattle, lambs and crops is concerned if they were not fed with superphosphate. If the tops of the Great Dividing Range in my electorate are not spread with superphosphate there is a great loss of production. I think it is a near-sighted policy on the part of the Prime Minister not to look al the matter in this light.
A lot has been said in this debate about tariffs. As far as I can ascertain the tariffs have not been of benefit to the primary producers. It is thought in many circles that tariffs benefit tractor manufacturers, but tractors come into this country tariff free. There is a bounty on tractors that are manufactured in Australia. An interesting little document was put on my desk the other day concerning the agricultural tractors bounty legislation which the Liberal-Country Party brought into being and which the present Government - I must give it credit for this - has continued. We can manufacture tractors in Australia and employ our work force on their production. But what do we find when we look at the tractor bounty? We find that Chamberlain John Deere Pty Ltd of Welshpool in Western Australia received as at 30 June last year a bounty of $1,641,741 - that is a fair amount - for 2,552 tractors and that the International Harvester Co., which is the other company that manufactures tractors in this country, was paid a bounty of $255,403 for 772 tractors. The total bounty paid by the Government is $1,897,145. That offests any tariff that might have been available.
The tariff has not benefited primary industries one iota but what will it. do to our secondary industries, particularly our textile mills? I have at Maitland in my electorate the big Bradmill Industries Ltd textile mill employing 1,350 men and women. They are very worried indeed at the 25 per cent tariff cut and the recent lifting of quotas to allow cheap textile consumer goods to come in here from China and other eastern countries where the labour cost is about 75c to 80c an hour. This will have a serious effect on our textile industries - not now, because it will take eight or ten months to flow through and affect the employment situation in these textile mills. Courtaulds (Australia) Ltd at Raymond Terrace in the electorate of Lyne, Bonds Industries Ltd at Cessnock and another Bradmill Industries Ltd mill at Kotara in New South Wales are some of the great number of textile mills all around this area. Together with mills throughout Australia they employ 120,000 men and women. This is our finest decentralised industry. The Minister for Overseas Trade said here tonight that the Government was geared up to take care of any unemployment that might occur in this industry. I hope it is ready, because in eight or ten months time we are certainly going to see some people unemployed.
Now let me talk about the meat industry. This is another industry with which I have been associated for a long time. I am chairman of one of the biggest abattoirs in New South Wales at the moment and I know just what is happening in this industry. We have priced ourselves right out of the American beef market. This has occurred because we have had 3 revaluations of the Australian dollar and we put lc per pound on export beef going overseas. The Opposition told the Government that this would happen, and it has jolly well happened now. We woke up and found that Australia had lost its American export beef market. In the last 3 months $90m has been lost to this country because of this action. I think that the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) might have the answer to getting back into this market - by floating the Australian dollar. That might allow us to regain some of this very valuable export trade which we have lost in this industry. It is important not only to the producers but also to thousands of meat workers throughout the country who have lost their jobs. Industry spokesmen - these are not my words - estimate 25 per cent unemployed in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, and I understand that in Queensland it could be as high as 40 per cent. I know that the prices on our domestic market are high but these will come down when the current stocks are used and when we cannot fill our export markets overseas.
Let me refer to our postal services. We have gone back 75 years in our postal services. Today a person who lives in a country town in New South Wales or Queensland is lucky if he receives a letter within five or six days of its being posted. This is an absolutely ridiculous state of affairs. I have every regard for our Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen). I think he is doing his best and I think that he has tried hard, but the socialist controlled postal unions have gained control of the postal services in this country.
– And the Government.
– And the Government. There are no postal services on Saturdays. In my electorate and in the honourable member’s electorate of Angas exactly the same thing happens. Country people do not receive a mail delivery from Friday lunch time until Tuesday the following week. This is absolutely ridiculous. Surely something can be done about it. Previous speakers have dealt with inflation. I intend to touch on it only briefly. When the Liberal and Country Parties were in government in this country inflation was running at the rate of 3 per cent. It is now running at the rate of 14 per cent, and no effort has been made by the Government to control this rate, which must cause every sane, thinking Australian great concern. I have mentioned that the trade unions are communist controlled. They are stopping production. The Government is not cutting down on Government spending. It is increasing it, thereby adding to the inflationary pressures which are very evident in Australia at the present time.
– Inflation has gone up since this morning.
– Yes, it is going up while we are talking. Nothing has been done by the present Government to set up an Australian pollution control and investigation station. In 1971 when I was in London as a member of a parliamentary delegation I attended the London pollution control station about 25 miles outside London. We saw the results achieved by investigation and pollution control. They were absolutely amazing. New methods have been devised for breaking up oil slick. We have a lot of problems with oil slick on our coasts here. In London they have overcome the sewage problem. When we fly here from Sydney or Melbourne we see our lovely Bondi Beach, Maroubra beach and our beaches in the southern States polluted with raw sewage which is running out into the sea. This should never be allowed to happen. Every effort should be made to control it. Industrial wastes, smoke and exhaust fumes are all items of pollution. Every effort should be made to control them. In London we saw little boys on London Bridge catching fish right up near the city of London. This was unheard of until the pollution had been controlled.
I refer now to water conservation. Australia is the driest country in the world. The present Federal Government has no policy in regard to the provision of water dams in this country. Indeed, it repudiated an agreement made with the Queensland and New South Wales Governments for the establishment of the Pike Creek Dam. Now the Queensland Government is faced with the job of building that dam with its own limited resources. Naturally, without any Federal money coming through for this water conservation project Pike Creek Dam will take longer to build. It will be a much longer process. But if the Queensland Government does not go on with it, all the valuable preliminary work which had been done, running into millions of dollars, would be completely wasted.
Recently it was my pleasure again to go overseas with an Australian parliamentary delegation. We went to Burma, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. After members of our delegation had interrogated the ministers of those countries, we were quite satisfied that
Australia’s foreign aid was being distributed in the right manner. We checked up in Bangladesh where we send a lot of wheat and flour. There had been rumours that our products were not reaching the right quarters, but we were able to make investigations there, to talk with the ministers and to see how the commodities were being distributed. We were quite satisfied that they were going out in the best manner possible. By the way, we have sold to Bangladesh some 300,000 tons of wheat, on 18-month terms and we hope that they will pay for it at the end of that period.
Mr MORRIS (Shortland) - I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The previous speaker, the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe), stated that I had said earlier this evening that the Hunter District Water Supply and Sewerage Board had been given a grant of $1.2m. I did not say that. I said that $30m had been made available for sewerage extension and that the Hunter District Water Supply and Sewerage Board had received $1.2m. If he had read the Budget he would know it was from the long term loan money. Secondly, the honourable member said that my electorate adjoins his electorate. I would like to point out to him that his electorate does not adjoin my electorate. I am sorry that he does not know where his electorate is and I suggest that he have a look at the map.
Mr O’KEEFE (Paterson) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. My electorate is very close to the electorate of Shortland. The honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) has taken a very fine point. I do not think he need worry about it because I am not likely to go into his electorate at any time.
– I am constantly surprised by the lack of faith and trust which Australian Country Party members of this House show in the people who send them here. The honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) said - 1 hope I quote him correctly - that millions of acres of which he is aware would not be worth a crumpet if it were not for superphosphate.
– Well, that is true.
– I agree with the honourable member for Darling Downs that it is true but Country Party members constantly imply that if it were not for the Government’s superphosphate bounty, superphosphate would not be applied. I am confident that simple economic interest in the farming community will see that the application of superphosphate is maintained in these times of unprecedented rural prosperity. Although the honourable member for Paterson claimed that more man $300m had been withdrawn from the rural community in subsidies, he did not set this figure, tendentious as it is, in its proper economic context of rising rural incomes. In the 3 years ended 1969-70 farm income averaged about $ 1,050m a year. The onset of drought and the declining prices caused farm incomes to drop to $885m a year in 1970-71 and many producers faced serious financial difficulties. Last year saw a complete reversal of this situation and until recently the estimate for farm income in 1973-74 was $2,885m - more than 3 times as great as in 1970-71 and well over double the average income for the 3 years before then.
I make the simple point to the honourable member for Paterson, and to our other Country Party colleagues in the Parliament, that this Government is not opposed to helping rural industries which are really in need, but it is opposed to helping those industries in times when they can help themselves. Let those industries go to the Industries Assistance Commission when times are hard and they will find this Government open handed in whatever assistance the Commission recommends. What we members on this side of the House query is whether rural subsidies should be built perpetually into the financial structure of this country, enduring long after the crisis adduced by Country Party Ministers for Primary Industry as grounds for their introduction.
Again, I was surprised to hear the honourable member for Paterson refer in critical terms to the condition of the beaches at Maroubra and Bondi. It might have been supposed he had only just discovered this problem. He spoke as if the sewerage authorities in New South Wales had previously been treating the sewage by which these beaches are now being polluted and had suddenly closed down. The fact is that New South Wales, like other States throughout this country, has never been able to afford to provide proper sewerage reticulation and treatment plants because of the financial stringency practised in this field by a LiberalCountry Party Coalition Government over 23 years. Repeatedly applications for assistance with sewerage projects were made and as repeatedly they were rejected by our predecessors. Honourable members opposite are critical of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) because they say he has not allocated sufficient funds to this year’s sewerage program. I hope they will not deny that this is the first Government since ‘Federation which has taken the sewerage problem seriously, which in fact, has made money available and committed itself to make more money available in the years ahead. Finally, I was also surprised to hear the honourable member for Paterson express confusion about the circumstances under which this Government will be making money available to local government through the Grants Commission, because the Grants Commission system has been in operation in this country now for over 40 years. I do not remember the honourable member previously expressing the same doubts about whether money would be forthcoming in all the years the Grants Commission - the Commonwealth Grants Commission, as it then was - carried out regular inquiries into the needs of the claimant States. It was recognised and accepted at the time that the Grants Commission was an independent body carrying out an objective inquiry into the needs of the claimant States and that, while having no funds of its own to allocate, it would make recommendations to the Government each year which the Government would accept. I do not recall at any time the recommendations of the Grants Commission being knocked back by any government. Yet the honourable member for Paterson, who as a member of this House has received annual reports of the Grants Commission over a period of years, now all of a sudden finds that there is something baffling about the formula. The new aspect is that this Government realised that discrepancies in the services capacities of smaller States such as Tasmania and Western Australia and the larger States such as New South Wales and Victoria are now much exceeded by discrepancies between regions within the States. This Government has given to local government bodies for the first time the right to approach the Grants Commission, to state a case to the Commission and to have the commission make a recommendation on their needs to the Government.
– When will they get the money?
– The honourable member for Paterson asks when they are to get the money. The system has always been that, following the recommendation of the Grants Commission, an appropriation was made in the next Budget and the money was subsequently disbursed. The honourable member for Paterson has no reason to suppose that the Government will be departing from these long established arrangements. I can say to the honourable member that the municipalities in my own electorate, making up as they do region 16 in the State of Victoria, were the first to have an opportunity to put their case to the Grants Commission. I can say too that the people who put the case to the Grants Commission for region 16 were delighted not only with the courtesy of the reception they received from the commissioners, but also with the deep knowledge of local government finance which those commissioners revealed. The doubts which the honourable member for Paterson has expressed tonight about the approach adopted by the Australian Government in this matter of local government finance are certainly not shared by those councils which have had experience of a Grants Commission hearing.
Suggestions are constantly being made, and have been made most recently by the Victorian Premier, Mr Hamer, and the Victorian Minister for Local Government, Mr Hunt, that in agreeing to give local government access for the first time to national revenues through the Grants Commission and in endeavouring to give local government a voice for the first time on the Loan Council the Australian Government has engaged, in some way, in a conspiracy to rob local government of its autonomy. The honourable member for Paterson made the point that State departments for local government had been the benevolent guardians of local government in the past and were currently best placed to understand the needs of local gov ernment and disburse funds for local government. 1 would not be so bold as to comment on the local government department of New South Wales under which the honourable member for Paterson worked when he was a councillor, but I would say categorically that that is not the experience or the impression of local councillors in Victoria.
Local government throughout Australia has been kept in a state of artifical dependence. The Act the Government passed last year giving local government access to national revenues through the Grants Commission was an important step forward, but it merely reduces the degree of dependence. If local government is to have a status equal to the status of the Australian Government and the State governments it must have a place on the Loan Council, not merely because of the prestige associated with that place but also for the very practical reason that this would give local government for the first time an effective lever in bargaining both with the States and with the Australian Government. In the past local government has always been in the unhappy position of a supplicant having nothing with which to bargain. In proposing that local government should take its place on the Loan Council with all the attendant opportunities for bargaining and leverage the Australian Government makes abundantly clear its determination that local government should be an equal, independent, autonomous part of the Australian federal system.
– It also strengthens the central Government’s control.
– The honourable member for Petrie interjects that this also strengthens the power of the central Government. This merely reveals that the honourable member for Petrie is unaware of the mode of operation of the Loan Council and of the proposals for the composition of the Loan Council should local government take its place there. At present the Loan Council consists of the 6 States Premiers, the Treasurer and the Prime Minister. Under the arrangements proposed by the Australian Government there would still be the 6 Premiers, 6 representatives elected by and from local councillors in each State through a process of free election by a method to bc determined by the councillor; themselves, and 4 representatives of the Australian Government. How the honourable member for Petrie sees this as a means of strengthening the influence of the Australian
Government in the Loan Council defies analysis.
This morning, following question time, we again had the spectacle of honourable members opposite endeavouring to make personal explanations on the grounds that they had been misrepresented collectively by the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) who asserted that members of the Liberal Party had opposed the States Grants (Schools) Bill 1973. The attempt to make a personal explanation was pressed most energetically by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser). Lady Macbeth crying ‘Out damned spot’ may be a tragic figure, but the honourable member for Wannon denying that he ever intended to scuttle the recommendations of the Karmel Committee is simply ridiculous. Australians who have the interest of government and Catholic schools at heart are not going to forget easily or soon how the honourable member for Wannon held up the States Grants (Schools) Bill late last year in a last ditch effort to exact $114m overwhelmingly for the benefit of children who already enjoy an education of very high quality. They have not forgotten how the honourable member for Wannon did his utmost to amend legislation establishing the Schools Commission along lines which would have made the Commission unworkable.
The States Grants (Schools) Bill 1973 made provision, in clause 66, for raising $114m towards the $700m cost of the Karmel recommendations by repealing the States Grants (Schools) Act 1972 and reapportioning funds allocated under that Act. Despite the fact that the Karmel recommendations could not have been put into effect without clause 66 having first been passed and that additional money having been made available the honourable member for Wannon in his second reading speech on 27 November 1973 said:
The Opposition Parties will be opposing the repeal of that earlier legislation … It is our conviction that it should not be repealed.
There was no suggestion of a deal or a compromise for some smaller figure as has subsequently been suggested, notably by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). The honourable member for Wannon was determined to block the legislation or exact $114m as the price of giving it passage, and he stated his intention in the clearest terms when he said:
The Opposition Parties will be opposing the repeal of that earlier legislation … -It is our conviction that it should not be repealed.
It was only over lunch that the Opposition became aware of the enormity of the position to which it had committed itself and in the Committee stages of the debate the honourable member for Wannon began to drop hints that a deal might be arranged on the basis of some smaller amount than $114m. However in a Press statement the same evening he was still insisting:
What the Opposition has done is to refuse to vote to repeal our 1972 legislation establishing per capita grants. If that view is taken by a majority in the Senate, that Act will stay on the Statute Books in full force. That action is only continuing an obligation which now rests upon the Government and the Government should not have assumed that there would be a majority for the limitation of that obligation to 1973 alone. If the Senate supports our view the Government would have a full obligation under its own legislation and a full obligation under our continuing legislation to make payments to schools. We have power to do this because we are not imposing an additional obligation upon the Government. We are merely refusing to repeal a present obligation on the Government.
The honourable member for Wannon made it crystal clear in this Press statement that there were no lengths to which he would not go in imposing a narrow and sectional demand on the Government. He made it clear that if the Government denied his demand honourable members opposite were fully prepared and determined to deprive the Government of the funds it needed to give effect to the Karmel recommendations. There is no reason why this House should be surprised at this attitude on the part of the honourable member for Wannon and other honourable members opposite.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti).Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– There is only one point I wish to make in response to the speech of the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews). It refers to the first part of his speech in which he went to some length in discussing the sewerage situation in New South Wales. Seeing that I come from one of the smaller States I think that it is not inappropriate for me to make this point: He must remember that the State of New South Wales which has 44 per cent of the Australian population and which contributes a majority of the revenue from taxation is really subsidising, quite significantly, the smaller States. If he works out the figures and compares them with his colleague who is presently sitting on his left he will find that as Tasmania has only 3 per cent of the Australian population, the average taxpayer in New South Wales is subsidising the Tasmanian taxpayer on a two to one basis. If the New South Wales Government could gather all its tax revenue and spend it as it desired it would have the best sewerage system in the world. South Australia has 9 per cent of the Australian population and’ we still have some work to be done within our sewerage system. The point is that New South Wales and Victoria are subsidising the smaller States, and this is the whole purpose of the Federal system. I do not know whether the honourable member for Casey is nodding agreement with me or not. The point I wish to make is that I do not think it is fair to knock successive governments in New South Wales - whether they be Liberal, Country Party or Labor - because revenue is taken away from them and spent in smaller states.
– I did not. I conceded their difficulties.
– So it looks as though the honourable gentleman and I are in total agreement. I look forward to meeting him in some other place. Unfortunately it will be impossible for me to retain this spirit of fellowship for the rest of the evening because I wish to place on the record what I believe to be a series of quite improper practices which have been adopted by the Labor Government since it came into office. I do this reluctantly, but I do it now because of the sorts of things about which I am concerned are happening so fast that very soon we will forget them and there will not be any record of them. I would place them under the general title of jobs for the boys’ - what we might describe as the spoils of office. We saw what happened in the United Kingdom under Mr Harold Wilson. He got into office and spread the largess around.
– Ever hear of Sir Paul Hasluck?
– I will deal with that, too. I hope that the House will bear with me if I mention some of the spoils of office which have been distributed by the Labor Government in the first few months of its term of office. One hardly bears to think what the future will hold if this rate continues. I will take the members of the Ministry one by one. I shall refer first to the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns). I must regretfully point out to the House and to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that the Minister for
Overseas Trade now has on his staff 2 officers over and above the establishment. I do not know how this sort of thing is made legal, but there it is.
Shortly after getting into office - and by shortly’ I mean one day - the Minister for Overseas Trade appointed his son as his private secretary. I have nothing against appointing sons as private secretaries. I would sooner have one of my sons as private secretary than have some others around this place. But it is part of a pattern, and I do not dispute that greatly. But I think that the thing about which I express my concern more than anything else is the appointment by the Minister for Overseas Trade of the former member for Bendigo, Mr David Kennedy as his Press secretary. I am not criticising Mr Kennedy, because he and I were reasonably good friends in this place, but the Minister for Overseas Trade has appointed Mr Kennedy as his Press secretary on a salary of approximately $10,500 a year. Mr Kennedy was formerly a primary school teacher, and it is anybody’s guess what he would know about being a Press secretary. But the point to which I want to draw the attention of the House is that Mr Kennedy has been reendorsed as the Labor Party candidate for Bendigo at the next Federal election. This simply means that Mr Kennedy is campaigning - and no one would deny that - for the next election and his salary is being paid by the taxpayers. I think that is quite improper.
Mrs Child, who was the defeated candidate in the electorate of Henty, has been appointed by the Minister for Overseas Trade as his trade union liaison officer. I am not quite sure what that means, but I guess that her salary would be between $10,000 and $12,000 a year. Mrs Child has been reendorsed as the Labor Party candidate for Henty. I think it is improper that an endorsed Labor Party candidate can campaign and have his or her salary paid by the taxpayers. I have a few more examples. Although this is slightly different, the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) has appointed Mrs Margaret Whitlam to the board of Commonwealth Hostels Ltd.
– A good appointment too.
– The Minister says that it is a good appointment. I do not know whether we can dispute that or not. I guess that there are people with better qualifications. But it seems to be improper for the wife of the
Prime Minister to be appointed to a paid job on some Government board. If I were a social worker with qualifications I do not think that I would be voting Labor at the next election.
– This is the era of the working wife.
– I suppose that with taxation and inflation the way they are, the only way in which some of us can survive is by having our wives work, and I think we all recognise that.
The -Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) has appointed to his staff Mr Kirwan, whom I remember well in this place. He is the defeated member for the electorate of Forrest. Mr Kirwan used to sit over near the attendants’ booth. I know that I discovered this about 3 years after he got into the Parliament. For the first two or three years I thought that he was one of the attendants. That shows how much activity he engaged in in this place. It was not until on one occasion he attacked the previous Government’s policy in Vietnam and described national servicemen as murderers that I realised that this man was a member of this House. In the poll he was defeated soundly in the electorate of Forrest in Western Australia. The Minister for Education appointed him as his private secretary on a salary of about $10,000 a year plus perks. The interesting part about this is that I have it on pretty good authority that Mr Beazley did not want to have Mr Kirwan as his private secretary but he was overruled by the Prime Minister, who sought to ensure that one of the boys got a job. Knowing the reputation of the Minister for Education, I would be inclined to believe that suggestion.
It is also interesting to note that Mr Kirwan resigned from Mr Beazley’s staff for 3 weeks in order to contest a seat in the Western Australian State elections- I think it was die seat of Bunbury.
– Did he fail?
– He has got into the very good habit of being thoroughly defeated at elections. I do not think that we will see the former member for Forrest in this place or in any other similar place during our lifetime. The Minister for the Media, a senator in another place, appointed to his staff Mr Bill Rigby who is an old friend of the Minister and a former organiser of the Miscellaneous
Workers Union in New South Wales. I suppose you could say that that is a bit of a job for the boys. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs who was formerly Minister for Works, Senator Cavanagh, appointed his son as private secretary on a salary, I guess, of about $10,000 a year.
I think we should also note that the Prime Minister has 5 more people on his staff than his predecessor had. In addition to these people on his staff, for whom the taxpayers are paying, the Prime Minister has appointed Mr Mick Young as his trade union liaison officer. I suggest to honourable members that Mr Mick Young is employed in the Prime Minister’s Department at the taxpayers’ expense in order to campaign for the next Federal election.
– They are still in debt from the last election.
– They will not be in debt so much this time because last time the Labor Party paid their salaries. This time the poor unfortunate taxpayer has to pay their salaries. This is the point that I think we should bring to the notice of the taxpayer. During the election campaign Mr Young travelled with the then Leader of the Opposition in VIP aircraft. Mr Young has accompanied the Prime Minister to London and Rome on a flight costing, I believe, in excess of $90,000. I think that this is an appointment that the general public should really deplore.
Before I leave the staff of the Prime Minister’s office, I point out that he also appointed to his staff a Mr Colin Bednall, who was the defeated Labor candidate for Flinders at the last House of Representatives election. I do not know whether Mr Bednall has been reendorsed as the candidate for Flinders at the next House of Representatives election. Is he?
– I do not know.
– But I will bet he is. I bet he is spending his time campaigning at our expense.
Some of the most interesting appointments were made by the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron). The Minister for Labour appointed a former defeated member of this House-
– What about Bill Arthur?
-. . . Mr Norman Foster. If honourable members opposite grant me an extension of time, I will deal with Mr Arthur also. Mr Foster was the honourable member for Sturt in the last Parliament and he was quite well known in this place. He was not known for anything really but stirring up trouble. The Minister for Labour has appointed him as a trouble shooter to settle trouble in the trade unions. I have been unable to ascertain his salary and I suppose that is Mr Foster’s business. Equally, I have not been able to find out what he has done. I think it is worth placing on record in this place that Mr Norman Foster, the defeated Labor member for Sturt, is now the endorsed Labor candidate, holding No. 1 position on the ticket, for the Legislative Council in South Australia. He is the Labor Party leader on that ticket.
I do no want to bring politics into this debate but here we have the No. 1 candidate on the Labor ticket employed by the Department of Labour. No one knows where he is or what he is doing except that we suspect that he is spending his time campaigning. I should like to read to the House what the duties of Mr Foster were supposed to be. Mr Cameron stated in Adelaide the night after the last House of Representatives election-
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for an honourable member to character-assassinate and to cast aspersions upon former members of this House who cannot reply to him and also to refer to the role they played here? He did that to the former honourable member for Forrest by saying that he was indistinguishable from one of the attendants. That is not true. He was a very vocal member of this House. Is it in order for a character like the honourable member for Boothby to come into this place and to character-assassinate people in this fashion at will ad infinitum?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! Whilst the remarks might be very distasteful and perhaps, from the honourable member’s point of view, lacking in good taste I find nothing in the Standing Orders to prevent the honourable member for Boothby from completing his remarks.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I detect a faint note of disapproval in your ruling, but I thank you for it. I quote what Mr Clyde Cameron said in Adelaide the night after the last House of Representatives election. He said: . . that Mr Foster had got the job because of his extraordinary experience in the trade union movement and industry.
He had the kind of personality needed for the work.
He will visit trouble spots in initial stages or when unrest is simmering . . .
Unfortunately I have not time to read the entire contents of this quite interesting Press statement. I am sure that honourable members opposite would not allow me to incorporate it in Hansard. The Minister for Labour went on to say:
He will be able to walk into my office -
That is, Mr Cameron’s office:
I want to know where Mr Foster is today. In South Australia today - unfortunately I have lost my Press cutting - approximately 3,000 people are unemployed in the metal trades industry because of strikes. A 1,000-word article in the Adelaide ‘Advertiser’ today mentions the various union leaders but not a single mention was made of Mr Foster, the trouble shooter.
I shall give honourable members an example of what Mr Foster said he would do when he was appointed to this position. He said:
The first thing I plan to do is put a big calendar on the wall and mark on it the date every major trade union award or agreement falls due.
And then as the time draws near I’ll talk to the trade unions and employers involved to see what problems or disputes are likely to arise.
And so he goes on. I put it to the House that Mr Foster has not, so far as I am aware, solved a single trade union dispute. All he has done is campaign for the Legislative Council-
– At the taxpayers’ expense.
– Yes, at the taxpayers’ expense, and I object to that. It is interesting to note, according to the Adelaide ‘Advertiser’ of October 1973, that one of the 5 persons endorsed by the Labor Party for the Legislative Council in South Australia - they include Mr Foster - is Mr C. J. Sumner, who is fourth on the ticket. I have only stumbled across this matter in the last few days. But it is curious to find that a Mr C. J. Sumner is on the payroll of the Minister for Repatriation, Senator Bishop. According to the details supplied on the nomination forms, Mr C. J. Sumner, who has been endorsed by the Labor Party, is a solicitor. I suggest to the House that the two C. J. Sumners, are one and the same person. I suggest this, reinforced with the memory that just 2 elections ago a Mr C. J. Sumner was the endorsed Labor candidate against me. He was, unfortunately, defeated at that election! However. he will stand for the Legislative Council poll in South Australia as one of the endorsed Labor candidates, and he has a job with Senator Bishop. One would need a long extension of time in order to be able to put all this material into the Hansard record.
On 15 February 1966, the present Prime Minister took part in a television series produced by Channel 7 in which he discussed the witless men’ of the Australian Labor Party Federal Executive. It always irritates me to find one of my colleagues in this place rubbished by his own Leader. This is what the Prime Minister did about the honourable member for Bonython, Mr Martin Nicholls. I have great respect and affection for the honourable member for Bonython. But the Prime Minister said:
This is the classic Whitlam way of destroying somebody. He went on to say in relation to the Executive of the ALP: . . four are members of Parliament, and only one of them, Harry Webb, has ever made the grade or will ever make the grade in the Federal Parliament, the only one who’d ever be a minister.
I think that on that occasion the Prime Minister’s crystal ball let him down because Mr Martin Nicholls is now the Deputy Government Whip. I am sure he is doing a good job. He is elected by honourable members opposite to do that job. Mr Harry Webb was defeated at the last election.
– And has been appointed Administrator of Christmas Island.
– This is the whole point. This is where the jobs for the boys come in. I have great respect for Mr Harry Webb. I think he will do a first-class job. But it is interesting to note that the Prime Minister has appointed him as Administrator of Christmas Island. I do not know what that spoil of office means in terms of money but I do know that it does not mean much in terms of work. According to the annual report of Christmas Island in 1972, only 2,700 live there. The population is decreasing at the rate of 10 per cent a year. So by the time Mr Harry Webb leaves office, there will only be his wife and two or three Chinese for him to represent on Christmas Island. I think that Mr Webb will do very well at that job. As we go back through some of the other jobs for the boys we will find that Mr Bruce Grant was appointed as Australia’s High Commissioner to India. Mr Bruce Grant has no diplomatic experience whatsoever. His qualification was that he wrote favourable articles for the Labor Party in a Victorian newspaper. Yet, the Labor Government made him the Australian High Commissioner for India, one of the highest jobs in the diplomatic corps. Heaven knows what his’ salary would be.
Mr Noel Beaton, who was a former member of this House and for whom I have great respect, has been appointed to the Cities Commission as an employee. When . any of you chaps are defeated - and some of you will be defeated at the next election - you will all have jobs if the Labor Government is lucky enough to stay in office.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I require that the question be put forthwith.
Question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed. Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Lynch’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. J. F. Cope)
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Original question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Daly) read a third time.
Pre-school Kindergartens - Education Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed: That the House do now adjourn.
– Tonight I wish to raise a matter concerning pre-school kindergartens in New South Wales and the problems which they are experiencing. I am very pleased that the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) is in the chamber. I have several pre-school kindergartens in my electorate. Because of increasing costs they are experiencing considerable difficulty in carrying on. I refer particularly to the kindergartens at Muswellbrook and Singleton. Kindergartens will have to be closed shortly, and the properties sold. This is the opinion of the Kindergarten Union of New South Wales (Incorporated). The Kindergarten Union of New South Wales is laying the blame at the door of the Federal Government for not fulfilling its promise of assistance for pre-school education. The Kindergarten Union is a non-profit making organisation which conducts 70 kindergartens in Sydney and Newcastle. It is faced with bankruptcy because of spiralling costs which now exceed income by more than $15,000 per month. The teachers’ salaries, for instance, have risen by more than 250 per cent since 1970 and a further increase of 13 per cent is due next month.
Unless immediate financial assistance is received one can imagine that there will be great problems. The kindergarten union will have to close some kindergartens and possibly sell them to keep the organisation from total failure. This would leave hundreds of children with no kindergartens and would lead to retrenchment of teachers and other staff. This is the position in country centres in New South Wales. They face the same problem. I think that we all attach great importance to pre-school kindergartens because these institutions condition the children for primary school life in the immediate future.
It is an appalling situation that despite promises by the Government not a cent has been received by the New South Wales preschool kindergarten movement, either for maintenance of existing centres or for new kindergartens. It is obvious that differences exist between the Minister for Education and the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), and also differences between the Federal Government and the New South Wales Government on how federal funds should be spent. I have every regard for the Minister for Education in this House and no doubt we will hear from him shortly with regard to this statement.
There was agreement on the relative benefits of full day care and pre-school education. Lack of both pre-school kindergartens and child care facilities in New South Wales is very serious and both areas require substantial help immediately. The disturbing feature of delay is that it has caused former sources of assistance in New South Wales to dry up, and that is assistance which was being given to kindergartens by the State Government and also by local government. The State Government has refused to increase its grants and it passes the buck back here on to the Federal Government. Kindergartens are in a dilemma and I appeal to our Federal Minister for Education to see what can be done to overcome this impasse. As I have mentioned, it appears to have bogged down in State and Federal relations, and I would be very interested to hear the Minister’s reply.
– The honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) will rest assured that I am not going to waste my time passing blame back and forth; I am going to make a statement about the facts. New South Wales for many years has had the worst record in pre-school and kindergarten education of any State of the Commonwealth. I hope that the honourable gentleman will recognise that this is the third matter on which the complaints are unique to New South Wales. When the House was debating the States Grants (Schools) Bill 1973 last year the major complaints were coming from schools in New South Wales - the private schools - about how they would be affected by the changed Karmel funding. There was a good reason why the complaints were concentrated in New South Wales. In spite of people like Senator Carrick having the effrontery to come here and talk about this Government’s record on grants to private schools, the New South Wales Government gives nothing to private secondary schools - nothing at all. One of the complaints 1 had to make about Father Jordan in the days when he was the headmaster of Riverview College was that he complained about our granting $110 a head to his school and made no complaint whatever about the New South Wales Government granting nothing. Of course the position of schools in New South Wales was worse.
The only State that is making complaints on this pre-school matter is New South
Wales. Everybody is out of step, except New South Wales! The reason for this is that, whereas the Government of Victoria has financed something like 900 kindergartens, the New South Wales Government has had no pre-school program of any kind at all. There are no complaints from New South Wales in relation to the child care Act because the Liberal Government - I will say this in its favour - had the wisdom to dump section 96 of the Constitution altogether and, under its child care Act, to make grants directly to the organisations without using any State governments as a pipeline for those grants. I personally think that this is the most sensible arrangement that can be made, rather than using State governments as a post box as we do with all our State Grants (Schools) legislation. So, $3. 25m has gone into New South Wales for child care centres and we are dealing directly with local governments. But this pre-school aid is given under section 96 of the Constitution.
The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) wrote to all the State Premiers on 21 January, asking them for their plans in pre-school education. What went up from New South Wales and from no other State was a whinge: ‘You are not giving us any guidelines’. If we give them guidelines they tell us that we are trying to control their policy; if we do not give them guidelines they complain. The Prime Minister was not making statements to give them guidelines; he was asking them for their plans. Of course, when the plans came forward, if they met the criteria that the Federal Government had they were approved. The criteria laid down by the Federal Government were that the States were not to reduce their grants because we were giving additional ones. If it is said that the sources of New South Wales grants dried up because Commonwealth grants were in prospect, what on earth is the use of the Commonwealth grants at all if they are not additional but only substitutionary?
The pre-school grants are made under section 96 of the Constitution, and they go as a grant to the State of New South Wales. Because Cabinet did not get back from the New South Wales Government any clear plans but got only this complaint about guidelines, it had nothing from New South Wales to approve. But it approved instantly the plans that came from other States. Most of them were rational plans. They had their criteria of need clearly set out, they were defensible. The States were told that the money would begin to flow. They know they will be receiving $10m for the remaining part of this financial year. Another $2m will be going into the training of teachers, but that is another matter altogether.
Sir Robert Askin was notified on 3 March that up to $3.67m is available for expenditure in New South Wales; that contributions to the cost of advisory services will be approved on a case basis - I say to the New South Wales Government ‘Submit your cases’; that costs of approved capital projects, land, equipment and furniture will be met on a basis of priorities of need; that any capital projects that are started in the remaining part of this financial year will continue to be financed in the next financial year; and that an ongoing commitment to capital projects and operational costs will be accepted in the 1974-75 Budget for projects started under the 1973-74 Budget. There could be arrangements for operational support of existing pre-schools designated as contributing particularly to opportunity and need. Then there are existing pre-schools - the ones about which the honourable member for Paterson is worried. They sent a deputation to me. For existing pre-schools, Australian Government assistance would contribute to staff salary costs and be available to avoid the need for parent contributions in respect of pre-schools catering especially for children in need. In other words, they could be used to pay fees that parents could not pay. I might comment also that recurrent assistance is subject to the continuation of the existing levels of State recurrent assistance for pre-schools.
The New South Wales Government knows that this money will start to flow in April. The legislation will be put through. Everybody else can start proceeding with their plans, but New South Wales cannot. Honestly, this State of New South Wales in these sorts of matters make me tired. When we came in with our isolated children’s grants, they were additional in the case of most States but - heaven knows how it has gotten away with it - New South Wales never had an isolated children’s grant at all. I am quite amazed, considering that the Australian Country Party was a coalition Party in the State Government of New South Wales for so long, that it had not got that concession from its Liberal colleagues. However, they never did receive that concession and the State of New South Wales did not have such a grant. I am just a little tired of these sorts of complaints from the State Government of New South Wales and I told my distinguished colleague, the Minister for Education from New South Wales, that he had a very simple formula and he lives on this very simple formula. He takes Federal money and does things with it and claims the credit for it. That is very clever politics; I do not blame him for that. Anything in which the New South Wales Government fails is the fault of the Federal Government. He is the Minister of the permanent, perpetual and perfect alibi and this is another case of it in the case of pre-schools.
– I was most fascinated tonight to hear the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) assert that funds provided for education on the recommendation of the Karmel Committee were in addition to funds which were already being expended on education in this country. I was fascinated because this was precisely the point that we in Opposition made again and again at the end of last year when the Government came up with proposals which made it clear at that stage that it no longer accepted the proposition that money provided on the Karmel recommendations should be in addition to the money that was presently being paid. The point is that, prior to the 1972 election, the now Minister for Education and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) had solemnly promised to the people of Australia on platform after platform in words spoken and in words written that assistance in this area, in particular state aid, would be in addition to current commitments and expenditure which was already Commonwealth expenditure. Tonight and, indeed, this year, we have heard the Minister for Education revert to this principle which he avowed before the election but which he deserted or was possibly forced by this Party to desert last year. We did everything we could to hold the Government to its promise that Karmel recommended funds would be in addition to those funds which were presently being expended on education in this country. It has become clear only in recent days that this Labor Government, where it has a primary responsibility for education, is in fact pursuing in an almost literal and perfect sense what we would regard as a proper policy for education. That is to say, there is a basic across the board grant to every pupil in every independent school in its areas of basic responsiblity. Where the Commonwealth stands in the shoes of a State Government in respect of territory schools, it is paying a territory grant on an equal per capita across the board basis.
– That is a Karmel recommendation.
– We applaud this. Karmel recommendation or not, the point is that it is precisely what we had avowed was proper policy and which your party, Mr Minister, was not prepared to pursue. It let you down, as we would see it, on the question of aid to every pupil in every independent school in the country.
– No. They are getting that in the final form of the legislation.
– Now they are getting it but only because of action we took in this House last year to keep the Government to its promises which it had made solemnly again and again before the election. It is fascinating to find the Minister for Education now going back to his principles. Good luck to him, and may he stand by them in a way that he was not able to stand by them last year. Last year the Government deserted that principle. It deserted the principle that Karmel funds were to be in addition to all expenditures currently being undertaken. It is some embarrassment, obviously, to some hoourable members opposite, that the Government is prepared to pursue sound policies, which the Liberal Party and Country Party would support completely, where it has a basic responsibility for education.
We would not for a moment wish to see one cent taken away from the schools in the ACT or the Northern” Territory where there is this across the board grant to every pupil, and more to those who need more. Not for a moment would we suggest that this is an improper policy. What we do suggest is that it runs entirely counter to the general proposition which the Government has sought to make about its policy on the one hand and our policy on the other hand. The Government would have us believe, as the Prime Minister admitted at question time the other day in this House, that in all circumstances recurrent grants to independent schools should be on the basis of relative need. That led the Government to the proposition that some pupils in some schools should ultimately be cut out of all aid. Now the Government is involving itself in double talk or, to put it more precisely, it has a principle in practice which it denies in the statement of the principle. We believe that we must take exception to the statement of the principle. The principle in practice, whereby the Government has a primary responsibility, is one we could only support and applaud.
– Your State Attorney-General in Victoria is challenging to eliminate the lot, State and Federal grants.
– When did he do that?
– You will see the High Court case of the Attorney-General of Victoria, in relation to Black v the Commonwealth of Australia, Crean and Beazley.
– Are you suggesting that the Victorian Government does not want any Commonwealth money for education in Victoria?
– If their challenge is won they will eliminate all grants to all private schools.
– Order! I suggest that this private argument cease and that the honourable member address the Chair.
– There is no question but that Victoria has pursued a proper policy in this area.
– -Rot. There has been a lag of 2 to 3 years.
– The point is that the Minister’s policy is almost on all fours with the Victorian policy which gives a basic grant for all schools.
-Order! It being 11 p.m., the House stands adjourned until 3 p.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Will he name each member of his staff and say when each of them learnt of the raid on the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The raid occurred in the offices of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs while Her Majesty the Queen was delivering her speech opening the new session of the Parliament. Pursuant to the honourable member’s question I have secured the following reports from my staff.
Dr Peter Wilenski, my Principal Private Secretary, was informed at his office at 3.57 p.m. by telephone by Mr R. Strahan of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. He and Sir John Bunting, the Secretary of the ‘Department, immediately conferred and arranged that Sir John Bunting would get in touch with me in the suite of the Senate President, who was giving a reception to the Queen. Also, Dr Wilenski gave appropriate instructions to members of my staff.
Ms Rita Ferguson, Dr Wilenski’s Secretary, was informed by him approximately two minutes after Mr Strahan’s call.
Ms Carol Summerhayes, my Personal Secretary, was watching the crowd from the front steps of Parliament House when she overheard a small group of Commonwealth Policemen talking to visitors about the incident.
Mr Jim Spigelman, my Senior Adviser, was informed by telephone at his office at 5.06 p.m. while he was reading the first instalment of Mr Charles Perkins’ autobiography.
Mr Michael Delaney, my Private Secretary, was informed at his office at 4.10 p.m. by telephone by his wife, who had been informed by a junior and unidentified officer of the registry in the Department of Social Security, who in turn was reputed to have heard it in the cafeteria in the building in which the Departments of Aboriginal Affairs and Social Security are housed. Subsequently, Dr Wilenski instructed Mr Delaney to stand by his telephone to receive any messages concerning the incident.
Mr Graham Freudenberg, my Special Adviser, learned two days later in Tokyo at approximately 2.45 p.m. (local time), while still lunching with a member of the Australian Embassy.
Ms Elizabeth Reid, my Adviser on Women’s Affairs, was informed on the day itself in Washington at approximately 3.45 p.m. (local time) by the Australian Ambassador-designate at a meeting with Mrs Nixon at the White House.
Mr Evan Williams, my Press Secretary, was so absorbed in collating speeches by Sir John McEwen and Mr Anthony in favour of abolishing the superphosphate bounty that he did not hear of the incident until far into the night.
Ms Lorraine Dwyer, the Assistant to the Press Secretary, was informed by a group of Country Party members at the garden party which the presiding officers gave after the opening of the new session. She cannot remember who these members were, for it was the first time she had met them or even heard of them.
Mr David White, my Media Secretary, was informed by press callers in his office while preparing notes for my tour of Melbourne electorates the following weekend.
Ms Cynthia Robinson, the Switchboard Operator in my office, was informed by a caller conveying a message of congratulations on the Queen’s speech. She received so many congratulatory messages that afternoon that she cannot remember which caller gave her the information.
Ms Kate Bowtell, a member of my press office staff, learned at a private party in Canberra that evening when she inadvertently switched on the radio instead of the record player.
Ms Cathie Jones, another member of my press office staff, believes she was probably closest to Mr Robert McLeod, who appeared in court on the day after the incident and in connection with it. She was with friends at the Deakin Inn where Mr ‘McLeod is engaged to sing each week. On this evening, however, he did not keep the engagement.
Mr Mick Young, one of my senior advisers, was in Adelaide at the time. He learned of the incident on the radio.
Mr Eric Walsh, my Public Relations Officer, was told by a pressman in confidence in his office at about 4.30 p.m. before going to the garden party. He vividly remembers the incident because it obliged him to forgo an evening at home with his wife and family.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
Will the Minister provide the information on which he based his recent media statement that film making in Australia is experiencing a boom period.
– The Minister for the Media has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
My prediction of increased film production activity in Australia this year is based upon public statements of plans announced either by the Australian Film Development Corporation or the individual producers concerned.
It is my understanding that more than twenty feature films are being prepared for filming in Australia this year.
Last year twelve features were made here.
In 1972 seven feature films were produced in Australia.
I am also expecting further development of plans for filming in Australia by a number of overseas owned film distribution and exhibition companies operating here.
Present demand for key personnel in feature film and television program production including directors, writers, craftsmen, technicians and actors is greater than at any time in the recent history of the Australian film industry.
In addition, the introduction of colour television next year should stimulate the production of television commercials in colour.
Australian Government Departments and Authorities: Increase in Positions (Question No. 32)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
What are the names of the trade union appointees to the boards of Government organisations who have accepted positions since 2 December 1972. member’s question is as follows:
See my answer to a question upon notice on 23 August 1973. Hansard, page 398).
asked the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
What action has been taken pursuant to the recommendations of the report by the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation on Ayers Rock-Mount Olga National Park.
– In reply to the honourable member’s question I am pleased to inform him on 6 March the Australian Government approved:
At present, management and control will remain with the Northern Territory Reserves Board, however a committee consisting of representatives of the Departments of the Northern Territory, Environment and Conservation, Tourism and Recreation, Housing and Construction and Aboriginal Affairs and Aboriginal representatives selected by Aboriginal communities, would advise and assist the Northern Territory Reserves Board in the implementation of the action approved by the Government.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 March 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1974/19740319_reps_28_hor88/>.