28th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon.J. F. Cope) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
Political Prisoners in Indonesia
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 many Australians believe that thousands of political prisoners have been detained for long periods in Indonesia, without trial, legal advice or cultural and educational activity, have been subjected to forced labour and often suffer from malnutrition.
That any such prisoners would face great difficulty in re-integrating into society on release.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Prime Minister to make known publicly to the Indonesian authorities when he visits Indonesia in April the concern of Australians about the plight of Indonesian political prisoners.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Or Cass, Mr Coates, Mr Garrick,Dr Gun, Mr Lamb and Mr Mathews.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘free’ national health scheme is not free at all and will cost many citizens more, particularly single people and working wives.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalisation of health services which will lead to impersonalised and mediocre standards of medical care, the creation of a huge new bureaucracy, and will limit the citizen’s freedom of choice.
That the present health scheme can be amended to overcome existing deficiencies, and that the proposed scheme is totally unnecessary.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the basic principles of the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Drury, Dr Gun and 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:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will move to immediately, revoke all whaling licenses issued by the Australian Government and to reimpose a total ban on the importation of all whale produce.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Barnard and Mr Beazley.
To the Honourable Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That inflation which now besets so many countries today and in Australia is now at the rate of 14.4 per cent per annum is most seriously affecting and making life intolerable for those least able to’ take corrective action to maintain their position, namely, pensioners and those now retired living on fixed incomes.
Whilst the Australian Government is giving effect to its election policy of making$1.50 a week pension increases each Autumn and Spring such actions have been completely nullified by the stated rate of inflation.
This fact of life impels your petitioners to call on the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
Make a cash loading of $5 a week to those pensioners who have little means other than the present inadequate pension eroded by inflation.
That each autumn and spring the increase in social security pension payments be not less than $3 a week to ensure that within a reasonable period the Government’s policy pledge to affix all pensions at 25 per cent of the average weekly earnings be achieved.
In order that money, may go to areas of greater need the tapered means test ceilings of income and assets be frozen.
To allay the concern of social security recipients as to their future when in 1975 the means test has been abolished and replaced by a National Superannuation Act that there be an assurance by the Australian Government that the said Act will provide a guaranteed minimum income to social security recipients based on the policy of the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners’ Federation and that of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, namely, the payment of 30 per cent of average weekly earnings adjusted from time to time in accordance with figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician and published quarterly.
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson and Mr Garrick.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of electors of the State of Victoria respectfully showeth:
That ex-servicewomen who enlisted during World War II have been discriminated against in the interpretation and administration of the War Service Homes Act 1918-1971 and Defence Service Homes Act 1918-1973.
Whilst on enlistment they were prepared to serve in any area, ex-servicewoman who did not actually serve outside Australia are at present debarred from War Service Homes rights.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that immediate action be taken to grant War Service Homes rights to all wartime ex-servicewomen, whether married or single and without restriction as to dependant’s, and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by MrJarman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of electors of the Division of Deakin, Victoria, respectfully showeth:
That at the moment the Government is providing fifty times larger funds for research into atomic energy than for research into solar energy; that, on the other hand, latest scientific research indicates that energy production from the atom has become obsolete and undesirable. This is because of its threat to the environment, both during operation and during removal of its radioactive wastes.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government urgently sets aside sufficient funds for research into the production of industrial solar energy which could be ideally established in the arid lands of Australia. We suggest that the ratio of Government funding be reversed - away from atomic in favour of solar energy. We feel strongly that since nuclear energy is a possible threat to the genetic balance of future generations, you - our Government- can only find favour with all Australians should you promote an energy programme which is not only infinite in supply but also totally ‘clean’.
By doing this, Australia would have a chance of becoming the centre of the New World, because current research at Australian Universities clearly states that an industrial solar energy source in Australia could supply not only local needs, but also those of South-East Asia and the western States of America.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by MrJarman.
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 existing National Health Scheme involves avast amount of public money distributed by private benefit societies and that it is necessary to join one of these to qualify, for the full Government health subsidy.
That it is far too expensive and discriminates against lower income groups a lot of whom cannot afford the cost of membership or private medical treatment.
That it is inequitable, inefficient and does not satisfy the needs of the community.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that you will urgently legislate for a comprehensive national health insurance scheme, financed from taxation, and covering everybody instead of only those who can now afford it.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Jarman.
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 humbly pray, therefore, that the Government will form 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:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will oppose the increase of pornography and the liberalisation of censorship and not broaden censorship laws to allow ‘hard-core’ pornography into Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Sinclair.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development by saying that I must be important in the mind of the Minister. Last Saturday week a Commonwealth car driver from Melbourne hand-delivered to me at my Ballarat address, a distance of 70 miles from Melbourne, a letter from the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. The letter contained information that the Minister’s Department had allocated the sum of $20,000 to the Bacchus Marsh Shire Council for the purpose of acquiring land in the Bacchus Marsh Shire for ‘open space and community facilities’. I ask the Minister: Did he instruct that the letter be hand-delivered, and is this usual practice within the Minister’s administrative responsibilities?
– It was not my instruction that the letter be delivered by hand. I will make inquiries as to who gave the instruction. I think it was a waste of taxpayers’ money. In regard to the allocation of the amount of money to the Bacchus Marsh Shire Council, a broader public statement will be made on that matter at a later date.
– Has the Minister for Immigration fulfilled his undertaking given to the Parliament on 4 April formallyto ask the Prime Minister to raise with the Premier of Queensland the 7 specific complaints which were made against Queensland police and gaol service personnel by some of the 14 Fijians recently deported from Brisbane? If he has not done so, will he also point out in the letter that the Queensland Minister for Justice, Mr Knox, put forward a figure of 30,000 illegal entrants in the past 7 months under the easy visa system and that he was 30 times wrong as the figure is 1,000 or less?
– I can understand the honourable member’s concern for the good name of Queensland, just as I have concern for the good name of Australia in such matters. I have not as yet completed the draft of the letter to the Prime Minister which I undertook to formulate to request a formal investigation in the same way as I am carrying out an investigation into the 3 complaints that were made in relation to Australian Government personnel. I think it is important that these matters be cleared up quickly.
– Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I have on notice question No. 729 which relates to Fijians and which puts the question asked by the honourable member for Leichhardt out of order. It is a repeat of the one from the honourable member for Brisbane the other day which you, Sir, ruled out of order.
– Mr Speaker, speaking to the point of order, perhaps I can help the honourable member. He has asked me on notice whether in fact the complaints were correct.
– I am speaking to the point of order.
– Order! The Minister will resume his seat.
– It is question No. 729 on page 872 of the Notice Paper.
– Order! I ask the Minister in answering the question asked by the honourable member for Leichhardt to avoid referring to what is asked in question No. 729.
– Until the inquiries to which I have referred are completed I am unable to answer the question placed on notice by the honourable member for Griffith.
As soon as I have information from the inquiries made by the Queensland authorities and my own authorities there will be an answer, either to him or to Alderman Clem Jones - I am not sure who. To finalise the reply to the honourable member for Leichhardt, let me say that he referred also to the fact that there had been a rather serious flight of fancy by the Queensland Minister for Justice, Mr Knox, in referring to 30,000 illegal entrants in the last 7 months under the easy visa system. Of course the figure is probably closer to 980 to 1,000 as indicated by the computers in the Department. I will certainly consider including a little correction in the letter so that he may be brought from his flight down to reality.
– I ask the Minister for Labour why the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill does not appear on the blue business sheet? Is the Minister running away from a debate and a discussion and vote on this issue, having in mind the fact that the Minister knows that union leadership right throughout Australia is opposed to the provisions in this particular legislation?
– We have all heard the sage saying: ‘Never try to teach your grandmother how to suck eggs’. The honourable member should not try to teach me how to handle legislation dealing with the trade union movement. The day that the honourable gentleman can tell me anything about the trade union movement and what trade union secretaries are thinking will be the day that I am prepared to do anything at all that will make me look as silly as he is. It is quite ridiculous for the honourable gentleman to say that all over Australia trade union officials are in opposition to what I have proposed in the legislation. I think the honourable gentleman ought to be told that this legislation contains the planks of the Labor Party industrial relations platform which was unanimously recommended to the Labor Party’s federal conference in 1973 by the Party’s Federal Executive Policy Committee which consisted of Mr Bob Hawke, Mr Ray Gietzelt, Mr Jack Egerton, Mr John Ducker and, as he then was, Mr Barney Williams of the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations.
– It is contrary to ACTU policy.
– I do not know whether it is contrary to ACTU policy. I suspect that it is not, but whether it is or not I tell the honourable gentlemen that where there is a conflict between ACTU policy and Labor Party policy, Labor Party policy always prevails under a Labor government. I tell the honourable gentleman also that I do not believe he knows what all the trade union officials all over Australia - to use his own words - think about this matter because I doubt whether he has spoken to all the trade union officials all over Australia and therefore he is only guessing. I assure the honourable gentleman .that industrial peace rests fairly and squarely upon what the rank and file members of the trade union movement think. My legislation was designed to ensure that when agreements which sought to bind the rank and file of the trade union movement were reached-
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I suggest that the Minister is debating the Bill. The substance of my question was merely why would the Minister not bring in the Bill. Now he seeks to debate the Bill, so with respect, if I may copy a phrase from the Minister, I ask you to rule him out of order.
– On the same point of order, Mr Speaker; when the question was asked the honourable member for Wannon stated the opposition of the trade union movement to the Bill. I maintain that that was part of the question and that the Minister for Labour is in order in answering it.
– Order! No point of order is involved. The Minister is entitled to answer the question in a way he thinks befitting the question addressed to him.
– What is important in the observance of industrial agreements is that the people whose labour is being sold by these agreements are willing to sell that labour for the price fixed by the agreements. Therefore if agreements are to be observed and honoured it is vital and crucial to their observance that the people whose labour is being sold, namely, the rank and file, are consulted before the agreements are certified. The legislation provides for this. This is what the rank and file members of the trade union movement believe in and it comes as rather odd to hear the honourable member for Wannon standing up as an expert on trade union mystique. I do not think he understands it at all.
– Has the Minister for Education seen a professional report commissioned by the Boronia High School Advisory Council that shows that in the first 2 forms of 12 selected high schools in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne more than one-quarter of the children are urgently in need of remedial attention? Realising that literacy is a prerequisite for success at secondary level, can the Minister indicate what action has been taken or will be taken by the Australian Government to assist the Victorian Education Department in overcoming the extreme shortage of remedial specialists so that this incidence of illiteracy and general low level of comprehension, which leads to failures in school and thwarts the hopes held by parents and their children, can be overcome?
– I think it true that all teachers in a sense are teachers of reading. It seems to me that illiteracy is in 3 forms. There is the illiteracy of handicap of which dyslexia is one aspect; the illiteracy of ethnic origin - the disadvantage the migrant child might experience in trying to - handle the English language, or an Aboriginal child might experience in trying to handle the English language; and the illiteracy of omission either by dropping out, not having a chance or poor or faulty teaching. I suppose the most stubborn of the illiteracies of handicap proceeds from dyslexia since dyslexia means distortion of words. We have found that it is not caused by mental retardation. It is found in children of all levels of intelligence, including the genius level. Nor is it caused by poor teaching, frequent absences from school, the absence of books from a home, the poor eyesight or hearing of children or emotional maladjustment.
The Commonwealth Government has granted $43.5m to the States for the education of the handicapped and $ 11.08m for the teaching of the handicapped. That includes the provision of $1.5m under the report of the Special Committee on Teacher Education - the Cohen Committee. The State College of Victoria, Melbourne, will receive $172,500 this year for the training of teachers of the handicapped and $207,000 next year. The
State College of Victoria, Rusden, will receive $16,000 this year and $16,000 next year for the investigation and teaching of the handicapped. I am afraid that certain disabilities, like dyslexia, must be identified at the preschool level. The sum of $395,000 is being spent on pre-school child research - some of it in the area of the handicapped. The commitment of ‘the Commonwealth Government to the provision of a sum approaching $60m this year and next year for the education of the handicapped will include, of course, an attack on the illiteracy that originates in the handicapped.
As to the illiteracy of ethnic origin, the honourable member will recall that $5.25m was envisaged by the Commonwealth Government as being necessary for the capital works for migrant education so that classrooms could be built into which the children could withdraw for teaching in English. That is an attack on illiteracy in that respect. The sum of $2m was appropriated in the last Budget for that purpose. That was largely inspired by the situation in Victoria. As to the illiteracy of Aboriginal children, the honourable member will know that we have tried in the Northern Territory to establish literacy in Aboriginal languages where the parents have selected that course and it has been found over many years that that lends itself most effectively to transference to literacy in English. If a child does his fundamental primary education in the language of the heart the transference to English is made easier.
The last point I want to speak about is the illiteracy of omission. We are convinced - a statement I will be making tomorrow will deal with this aspect - that there are many examples of adult illiteracy which ought to be dealt with in technical and further education and that it should be a function-
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. I realise that this is a very powerful and compelling question and one of great substance, but the Minister for Education has been unduly tedious in coming to the point. I draw your attention, in making the point of order, to your ruling of last week in which you required, asked or instructed - whatever might be the phrase that you used - Ministers to be more diligent in providing a summary and not a detailed answer of the type that we seem to be getting today.
– I am afraid that I can only repeat my constant appeal to Ministers - I have no jurisdiction to order them to do so - to make their answers to questions brief.
– I try to give courteous answers to the questions of honourable members from both sides of the House. The persistent technique of interrupting an answer to a question from this side of the House is something for which the honourable gentleman is distinguished. I was coming to mylast sentence, as it happened. I was simply saying that tomorrow I will be making a statement which deals in part with the effort to make up by technical and further education for the illiteracy in young adults by providing in the breadth of that education, where necessary, elementary and primary education to make good for some people the years that the locust has eaten.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour. He will recall telling me last September that he intended to put to Cabinet a new scheme to help reduce unemployment in rural areas, but that he was having some difficulties. In view of the fact that unemployment in nonmetropolitan areas remains high, can the Minister indicate when this scheme is likely to begin and why it has taken him so long to get action in this matter?
– It is true that I put to Cabinet fairly early last year, I think, a proposition for the establishment of a local initiative employment program. Quite a lot of opposition to the proposal came from some members of the Australian Country Party. They said that the provision of employment to unemployed people in certain country towns would make it more difficult for employers to meet their labour needs. The Country Party members said they felt that the Government ought not to make employment available in country areas where employers were already having difficulty in meeting their labour needs. So, according to the Country Party’s philosophy, what should be done is to keep everybody out of work in the country areas so that the employers in those areas can get their labour under any conditions that they like.
– Remember the cotton pickers at Wee Waa.
– My honourable friend from Robertson mentions the case of the cotton pickers at Wee Waa, and one could mention many other similar examples. I went to the Cabinet - disregarding, as I thought I ought to, the employment needs of employers in country areas - and recommended a scheme for giving quite substantial assistance in some 31 named areas in country regions. The Cabinet expressed the view that the unemployment situation in Australia was improving at such a rapid rate that it would be premature for the Cabinet to rush in and to establish local initiative employment schemes in those 31 centres. The Cabinet prediction turned out to be correct. Shortly after that time, the 31 distressed areas were reduced to fewer than 20 areas. Today the number of distressed areas has fallen to fewer than ten and is improving all the time, to the point where I am convinced that it will not be necessary perhaps to introduce the special employment programs in any more than four or five, or at the most seven, regions in the whole of the Commonwealth. This is a direct result of the Government’s full employment policy and, therefore, represents one of the greatest triumphs of which this Government can boast. The Government has converted a country that was suffering from massive unemployment into a country that now has available 5,000 more jobs than there are unemployed persons to fill them.
– Can the Minister for Transport indicate what stage has been reached in investigating a new road system linking Goulburn, Yass, Canberra, Tumut and Albury?
– In the recent report by the Australian Bureau of Roads on Australian road system, which I tabled in the House, the Bureau recommended to the Government the setting up of a national highway system in which the Australian Government should accept greater responsibility. One of its recommendations was that a study be conducted as to where the highway between Goulburn and Albury should actually go - whether it should follow the existing wide loop which passes through Yass and then goes on to Albury, or whether a new road should be constructed from Collector, to come in close to Canberra, to pass through Wee Jasper. Tumut and Batlow, and then to pick up the highway somewhere near Tarcutta. This is the alternative proposition that we have been asked to have a look at.
A preliminary study has been conducted, from which a recommendation has been made that a full scale study be conducted to determine which is the most desirable route, lt would cost something like $50m to upgrade the existing road to a 4-lane divided carriageway standard. If the short cut coming close to Canberra is approved of, that will reduce the distance between Sydney and Albury by about 70 miles, provide a road close to Canberra and at the same time, when the new city of Albury-Wodonga - the responsibility of my friend the Minister for Urban and Regional Development - is fully developed and operational as it will be shortly, there will be a need for a shorter route connecting Canberra through Tumut. I personally lean towards the shorter route coming in close to Canberra involving a 4-lane divided carriageway road and connecting with the existing Hume Highway. Whether it be called the Hume Highway is immaterial but the existing road would be retained for the convenience of people who want to travel from Goulburn to Yass and further south towards Melbourne.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral: Will he give an undertaking that before any final decision is made regarding the regrading of any post office the member in whose electorate that post office is situated will be consulted?
– As I said in answer to a question on 14 March, proposals to downgrade any post office—
– That was the day Senator Gair was appointed as the ambassador to Ireland, was it not?
– You are a very witty man with this ambassador. I just want to alert honourable members to the fact that the question of post office reclassification was raised in this House on 14 March and I answered then that no further reclassifications would be made because the Post Office is to get a new structure arising out of the recommendations of the royal commision, which should present its report within about a week. On that basis, assuming we are still here, we can introduce legislation which can’ create a new format for the Post Office. In the meantime no further action will be taken on reclassifications. The right procedure is to have one man official offices. I indicated that in answer to the question on 14 March. If that had been the system under the previous Gov ernment we would not have had all the trouble we have had. Let us make it clear that the 300 post offices proposed for reclassification were proposed in 1970 by the previous Government and it reclassified and in fact closed quite a number. We had to have a royal commission because I inherited this brokendown arrangement that the previous Government had going for years.
It is quite clear that we could retain all offices as official offices if we had a one-man classification within the Public Service structure. Within the structure which the previous Government ran along with for many years it has always been necessary for more than one officer to staff an official office but if an office is nonofficial it may be staffed by one officer. So the way the previous Government ran the Post Office has meant that 5,000 post offices have been non-official and only 1,000 have been left as official offices. If that process had continued, within about 5 years there would have been no official offices at all; they would all have been non-official offices. This is the position we had to inherit. In answer to the specific question, there is no need to advise any honourable member what will happen in regard to the reclassification of post offices in his electorate because there will be no more reclassifications.
– Will the Minister for Transport ascertain whether a prominent New South Wales Queen’s Counsel who was a close associate of Alexander Barton, obtained a series of Department of Civil Aviation permits to fly a plane outside Australia and whether he was acting as a courier for Alexander Barton in transporting Barton’s illgotten gains from the companies he had defrauded?
– Yes, I am aware that a very prominent figure in general aviation today has been most critical of everything that the Australian Government has attempted to do with aviation. According to him, irrespective of what the Government did it was wrong. For example, it was alleged that the Government did not know how to conduct a search for the ‘Blythe Star’. I think I know who the honourable member is talking about but I do not want to name the person.
– You are not trying to shut him up, are you?
– The honourable member knows who it is as well as I do.
– I do not; I do not have a clue.
– Of course you do.
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Minister has said in answer to this question that the honourable member for Gwydir knows as well as he does the name of the person implicated in the question. I submit that under standing order 153 the question is therefore out of order.
-Order! The Minister for Transport may continue.
- Mr Speaker, I have not named anyone and I do not intend to name the individual. I know, as the honourable member for Hunter said, that this person closely associated with general aviation has been also closely associated with Alexander Barton. I believe that he was responsible for obtaining all the information and drawing up all the legal documents that were necessary in setting up those bogus companies. I will be delighted to make inquiries as to whether there has been any connection between the two persons in getting out of Australia the proceeds, the ill gotten gains, that have been taken off people in this country.
– Did the Prime Minister offer advice to the Governor-General that he should advise the Governor of Queensland of a request to issue writs for the election of 5 senators for Queensland? Has the Prime Minister said that he has been under the impression since 14 March that under the Constitution Senator Gair’s seat had been vacated on 14 March? Did he at any time after 14 March advise the Governor-General to request the Governor of Queensland to issue a writ in terms of 6 Senate vacancies or for a sixth Senate position in addition to the writ for 5 senators? If he has not given that advice to the Governor-General and if the request has not been made by the Governor-General to the Governor of Queensland, why not?
– The Governor-General, on my advice, wrote to all the State Governors suggesting a timetable for the Senate elections and the Governor of Queensland on 1 April agreed to that timetable. As I understand the facts, the Governor of Queensland later had to telephone the Governor-General informing him that his letter was to be disregarded. As far as I know, no subsequent letter has been received by the GovernorGeneral from the Governor of Queensland. However, I have not checked on that matter in the last day. On 1 April the Governor of Queensland, on the advice of his Premier, accepted the timetable that the GovernorGeneral on my advice had proposed and all other Governors have accepted the timetable which the Governor-General proposed.
– The number of senators?
– The matter becomes very largely academic. Now, the people of Queensland will be able to elect all 10 senators from that State and it will be beyond the wit of the Premier of Queensland to interpose between the people of his State and the Australian Parliament.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security: Did he mislead the House on 2 occasions last Thursday evening? Was the first when he said that his second reading speech on the hastily reintroduced health Bills was written and typed ‘a fortnight ago’? Secondly, did the senior civil servant approach the representatives of private hospitals last week ‘on his own initiative’ - to quote the Minister - or did that civil servant act as the Minister’s request and with the Minister’s authority?
– I think that we can wait a few more minutes, until the debate on this subject takes place.
– Will the Minister for Labour inform the House what action, if any, he has taken to avert the threatened close-down of all domestic airlines arising from a demarcation dispute between the Federal Transport Workers Union and the Transport Workers Union of New South Wales?
– Reports have been published in the Press and were broadcast over the radio this morning that there is a threatened stoppage of work involving members of the Federal Transport Workers Union in all of the ports servicing the domestic airlines - Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia. The dispute has its origin in a demarcation argument between the Federal Transport Workers Union and the Transport Workers Union of New South Wales, which flows directly from the decision of the Commonwealth Industrial Court, now called the Australian Industrial Court, in the well known case of Moore v. Doyle. In that case the Court held that the Transport Workers Union of New South Wales was no longer or never had been a State branch of the Federal Transport Workers Union but by virtue of its registration in the New South Wales Industrial Commission had a legal personality all of its own and a corporate status which was distinct from that of what had been thought to be its parent body. Employees of Qantas Airways Ltd who are members of the State union and insist upon remaining in that union are refusing to belong to the Federal union.
There are reports that the Federal union is planning to retaliate by stopping its members servicing the domestic nights in all the capital cities other than Sydney. I have talked with the Federal Secretary of the Transport Workers Union. I have informed him of the steps which 1 have taken to overcome the problems arising from the Moore v. Doyle case. I told him, for example, that I have set up a special committee of inquiry headed by Mr Justice Sweeney, assisted by Mr McGarvie Q.C., to advise the Government on what is needed.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. I draw attention to the length of the Minister’s reply. He is deliberately cutting down the time for Opposition members to ask questions.
– I ask the Minister, as I have asked other Ministers, to be a brief as possible in answering questions.
-It is very difficult to he brief on a matter that started in 1969 with a decision which called upon the then Government to take action as a matter of extreme urgency to amend the law to overcome the problem created by the Moore v. Doyle decision. When I became Minister for Labour I discovered that nothing had been done to overcome the problem or to reach a solution to it - 4 years after the event. It did not take me very long to realise that the best way to achieve a solution is to call together the 2 mam legal adversaries - ‘that is, Mr Justice Sweeney, as he now is, and Mr McGarvie - who represented the respective sides in the dispute. Very shortly - at any rate by the end of next month - the Government will receive from Mr Justice Sweeney a report recommending the action that is needed to bring the Conciliation and Arbitration Act into line with the decision and recommending to the 4 State parliaments affected the complementary State legislation needed.
– I take a point of order. Mr Speaker, is it in order for the Minister to go on in this way and so deny the Opposition parties the opportunity to use question time as it should he used - to question Ministers?
-I think I have explained this position on numerous occasions. I have no power to do that. I ask the Minister to make his answer brief.
– 1 have sent a telegram to Mr Harris asking him to call off any proposal to shut down all the domestic airports in Australia until the union has an opportunity to study the tentative proposals which the Sweeney Committee will soon be able to put to them. I am pleased to say that, in the telephone talks I have had with the Transport Workers Union, the union has promised that it will co-operate with the Government. I believe that my timely intervention will prevent the stoppage from occurring.
– As the Prime Minister appointed Senator Gair as Ambassador designate on 14 March, can he say whether the senator is now drawing 2 salaries? When did salary as Ambassador designate start and when did salary and emoluments as senator finish?
– I did not appoint Mr Gair as Ambassador to Ireland; the GovernorGeneral did. (Opposition members interjecting) -
-Order! The House will come to order. Yesterday in a motion of no confidence it was suggested that there is too much mirth in the House at times. I intend to suppress it.
– Honourable gentlemen should know that under section 2 of the Constitution the Governor-General makes appointments such as those of ambassador.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to rule that the Prime Minister is under an obligation to reflect the facts accurately.
-Order! There is no point of order involved.
– I repeat that the Queen or, if she delegates the power to him, the Governor-General-
– Order! I warn the Leader of the Australian Country Party.
– Mr Speaker, I rise to order. Would you inform us why you have warned the Leader of the Australian Country Party?
-Order! It is nothing to do with you at all. Resume your seat.
– The Queen or, if she delegates the power to the Governor-General, the Governor-General, appoints ambassadors. Under previous governments-
– Mr Speaker, I rise to order. To make it easier for the Prime Minister, I add to my question ‘on his recommendation’. Is the name picked by a pin?
-Order! The honourable member for Gippsland will resume his seat. I forecast another motion of no confidence shortly, the way the House is going on.
– Under previous governments the nomination of ambassadors was approved by the Queen on the nomination of the Foreign Minister. Under arrangements which the Queen proclaimed about a year ago, the Governor-General now approves nominations of ambassadors on the nomination of the Foreign Minister. Accordingly, when Mr Gair was nominated by me, as Acting Foreign Minister, on 14 March, the GovernorGeneral approved the nomination. I have already informed the House of that fact. The documents have been tabled in the Senate. I am quite happy to table them in this House. Also, thereafter, the Executive Council determines, or makes other arrangements such as arranging for a Minister to determine, the terms and conditions of employment. That applies to ambassadors or to any other persons holding office of that character. It depends upon the terms and conditions so determined as to when the salary or, to use the constitutional term the fees and honoraria, start. T do not know whether or not they have started. (Opposition members interjecting)-
– This is clear. Honourable gentlemen opposite who kick up this caterwauling should know the procedure in this matter because they appointed 6 of their colleagues as ambassadors - 6 of their colleagues as high commissioners. They know that in every case, the Queen had to approve the nomination of the ambassador. They also know that later the Executive Council authorised the Foreign Minister to set out the terms and conditions. In each case, of course, the ambassador designate receives salary and allowances before he arrives at his post and presents the letters of recall for his predecessor and the letters of credence for himself. I was also asked about the vacancy created by the appointment of Mr Gair as Ambassador to Ireland. The Constitution makes it plain that whenever a vacancy happens in the Senate, the President of the Senate shall notify the same to the Governor of the State in the representation of which the vacancy has happened. Quite clearly, the President of the Senate should have notified the Governor of Queensland of the vacancy caused by the appointment of Mr Gair as Ambassador. I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper.
– Mr Speaker, I rise to order. My point of order is that you as the custodian of the procedures of this House should observe that the Prime Minister has just misled the House and in so doing he has reflected on the President in another place. Undoubtedly, this is a very serious breach of the responsibilities of the Prime Minister.
– Order! There is no point of order involved. That is a point of view.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I refer to page 1073 of Hansard of 4 April 1974. At the top of that page in the right hand column the House will see the words:
- Mr Speaker, are you going to permit that hypocrite from . . . I refrain from mentioning the seat which appears in the Hansard record. The Hansard record continues:
- Mr Speaker-
– Order! There was provocation on both sides. I think it is best for the Chair to forget the incident.
More subdued -
I do not care. He ought to be damned.
He’ referring to the honourable member for
He called an honourable member a hypocrite.
Mr Speaker, 1 did not say that he ought to be damned and I would not say it about anybody whom I know. What I said was that he ought to be named. I did not say: ‘He ought to be damned’. I ask that that be noted and I ask the honourable member for Hotham to take note of the correction I have made.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– I call the honourable member for Lyne on a personal explanation.
– My reason for asking the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) a question today was that I felt that his answer on 14 March was not a definitive answer and left the matter open.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the right honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I do. An article in the ‘National Times’ of 8-13 April 1974 by Andrew Clark carried this statement: . . Mr Gair was being subjected to strong pressure by politicians from the Liberal and Country Parties. Among them were . . . former Liberal Prime Minister Mr Bill McMahon.
The article then states a reply which was alleged to have been made. I did not know that Senator Gair had been appointed to the Ambassadorship to Ireland until I heard a statement made in this House. I have not had any contacts with the former Senator Gair about this matter, either before or since. The article is totally false. It could easily have been corrected by an approach to me by Andrew Clark.
A second misrepresentation is of a similar type. It appears in an article in the ‘National Times’. I do not know the date but it is certainly in April. I believe it was the week before the previous article to which I referred. It is headed: ‘Farmers don’t like Labor - but Bill McMahon does’. The writer of that article goes on to make certain statements which are completely inaccurate, although others are accurate. I read in the ‘Australian’ an article - to which I replied on 28 March 1974 - to which Don Aitkin refers in the ‘National Times’. In a letter to the ‘Australian’ I said:
I have read with interest your article . . .
I am sorry to say that a wrong impression has been created
In reply to an interjection, I said that my last comment about Mr Whitlam was on television when I said ‘:hat I felt that at the end of the last session he was in need of mild psychiatric attention.
I went on to deny that I had referred to the Permanent Heads of the departments of state. I said:
I pointed out, and I quote: ‘Under the British system of cabinet government they have a Cabinet secretariat as well as a staff and a politically disposed and committed staff that is attached to the Prime Minister. With us we have normally had only a Prime Minister’s Department and the Prime Minister has not had a politically committed staff.’
I went on to say: ‘Mr Whitlam has adopted the British system. He has chosen men of outstanding ability,, men who are committed politically to the philosophy, the cause and the policies of the Labor Party.
I went on to say:
The implcation of this was that without Mr Whitlam’s own self-appointed and politically committed staff he would by now be in a much worse predicament than he is.
I have also corrected misinformation relating to a question I was asked about aid to independent schools. 1 said I thought that the Report of the Karmel Committee was correct and I believed that all children attending independent schools should be entitled to per capita grants. That was the substance of what I said.
– Mr Speaker, 1 wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the right honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Yesterday I was misrepresented in the House by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). Whilst I did not think his remark would be published in the newspapers today - I thought the papers would have treated it as nothing more than rubbish - it was published. This was an accusation made about me and my Party that oil companies and multi-national companies had paid for an advertisement promoting the name of the new party in Queensland. The fact is that that advertisement was paid for by the Queensland Country Party which is a viable financial organisation with one of the biggest memberships of any political party in Australia. Furthermore, 2 functions held last weekend demonstrate the financial support the Party receives. At a luncheon in Brisbane for which tickets were issued to 400 people-
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
-Order! The Leader of the Country Party is debating the matter.
– I was explaining the situation and accounting for how the advertisement was paid. As I was saying, 400 tickets were issued at a cost of $25 each. In Toowoomba another function was held at $20 a ticket.
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
– There can be no point of order on a point of order.
– Yours is a personal explanation. The only way the right honourable gentleman can make a personal explanation under the Standing Orders is for him to satisfy the House that the advertisement was not paid for with money donated by oil companies like the Broken Hill Pty Co Ltd and by people on whose behalf the Country Party is obligated to increase the price of petrol.
-Order! Too much abuse is being made of the procedure of taking points of order. I. do not want honourable members to express points of view or to debate the subject matter. A personal explanation relates to misrepresentation of a member himself. I think that the Leader of the Country Party’ made his point in the first part of his personal explanation.
– I have completely answered the Minister’s accusation. I have another point of explanation to make. Today I was misrepresented by the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) who said that I and other Country Party members were not interested in the unemployment relief scheme and wanted it abolished. If he has any accusations like that to make let him table die names of those he accuses. The fact of the matter is that unemployment in country areas today is worse than it was 12 months ago. According to official figures, in February 1973 the number unemployed was 51,000.
-Order! The right honourablegentleman is debating the question. Per sonal explanations are a privilege granted by the House under the Standing Orders. I ask the right honourable gentleman to confine his personal explanation to where he claims to have been personally misrepresented and not to debate the question of unemployment figures.
– I was doing that, Mr Speaker. If the Minister makes such charges let him table in this House the names of Country Party members and let him disprove that unemployment in country districts is worse today than it was a year ago.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. During the adjournment debate last evening the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Cooke) in speaking about the Brisbane Airport about me: . . said his performance on the Brisbane Airport issue is such that one might well say that the best he could do would be to put up a few signs, because he certainly has not created much of a record when it comes to the Brisbane Airport.
That statement was completely untrue. It indicates a lack of knowledge.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order is that the honourable member for Petrie has not misrepresented the honourable member for Lilley. That is his interpretation of what has been said.
-Order! There is no point of order involved. I have not heard the personal explanation yet.
– I know what the honourable member for Lilley is going to say.
– The honourable member for Griffith might be able to anticipate what the honourable member for Lilley is going to say but I have to listen to it.
– That indicates a lack of knowledge about the Brisbane Airport and about the progress which has been made towards the Government’s objective of providing Queensland’s capital with a modern airport. The honourable member for Petrie is either ignorant of what is occurring or careless with the truth. I have consistently and successfully made representations on behalf of the people I represent for the provision of modern airport facilities for Brisbane. I would point out that in addition to endeavouring to have an improved airport provided I have also endeavoured to protect the rights of the people whose homes will be acquired and are being acquired because of the action which will take place.
– The honourable member is debating the issue.
-Order! I ask the honourable member for Lilley to confine himself to where he has been personally misrepresented and not to debate the effect on his electorate.
– The statement was made that my performance on the airport question left something to be desired. The facts of the matter are that in the last 16 months something has been achieved on behalf of Brisbane that was not achieved during the 23 years prior to that when the Liberal-Country Party coalition was in government and a member of the Liberal Party represented the electorate of Lilley. If knowledge of the airport area is thought to be lacking-
– With great respect, Mr Speaker, I submit that the honourable member for Lilley is out of order.
-Order! The honourable member for Lilley must confine himself to where he has been personally misrepresented.
– I was misrepresented last evening by the honourable member for Petrie in the statement he made about my interest. I am pointing out that during the 16 months that I have been the honourable member for Lilley considerable amounts of money have been allocated to and expended on the Brisbane Airport development and I have played my part in this regard in representing the people who elected me to this chamber.
– In pursuance of paragraph (c), sub-section 6, section 18 of the Prices Justification Tribunal Act, I present the notice in writing given to me by the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and Australian Iron and Steel Pty Ltd specifying the prices at which the companies propose to supply goods and services which are the subject of the recent inquiry by the Prices Justification Tribunal, whose report I presented on 2 April 1974.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the report to the Department of Urban and Regional Development on the Church of England lands in Glebe, New South Wales. The Australian Government has decided to purchase these lands. Because only a limited number of copies of the report are available a copy has been placed in the Parliamentary Library for use by honourable members.
– For the information of honourable members I table 2 statements. The first covers the Government’s interim program for pre-school and child care services. The second covers progress under the Child Care Act.
Discussion off Matter of Public Importance
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The actions of the Minister for Social Security in attempting to cover up secret negotiations aimed at amending the Government’s proposed health scheme.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– The Government came into office on a promise of open government. Open government connotes honesty, integrity and responsibility. The purpose of my raising this matter of public importance today is to declare that by its actions the Government is not for open government. That is precisely why it now finds itself facing the situation of a double dissolution. I say that it is a Government which is closed, secretive, deceitful, irresponsible, dishonest and dishonourable. Those are harsh adjectives which responsible people should not use lightly. I suggest that their use is justified. I am speaking now in particular about the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden).
I have been given to understand that last week the Minister for Social Security authorised two of his senior civil servants to negotiate with the National Standing Committee on Private Hospitals and the private health funds about amendments to his so-called health plan. I have also been given to understand that those negotiations failed - that they were rejected by the Committee, which met in Melbourne. I have already detailed to the House the extraordinary behaviour that took place at that meeting and the allegations that the civil servants declared that it was a secret meeting, that if anybody suggested that the meeting had been held it would be denied that a meeting had been held and that all documents which had been circulated and which committed the Minister to a certain course of action were asked to be returned. In fact, I have also been informed that one document was literally snatched from a member of the Committee who was reluctant to give it up. These are facts, Mr Speaker. Such a meeting did occur. There are documents to indicate that it did occur with the Minister’s authority and approval.
A disclaimer came from the Minister’s office or from the Minister that the officer involved exceeded his brief and that he did not act with the authority of the Minister. Even that disclaimer or denial was not made in the manly, responsible way in which a Minister is expected to behave. The denial appeared in the ‘Canberra Times’ of 4 April. It reads:
A spokesman for the Minister for Social Security, Mr Hayden, criticised Dr Deeble today for having exceeded his brief.
The spokesman said that Dr Deeble, a special adviser to the Department of Social Security, had no authority to commit the Minister - as he had done in the document - to proposed amendments to the scheme.
The proposals in the document were Dr Deeble’s and not Mr Hayden’s he-
That is the spokesman - said.
Dr Deeble had presented the document to a meeting of 3 people -
Did the spokesman deliberately mislead the Canberra Times’, because I have been given to understand that there were not 3 people at the meeting but at least 12 people representing the private hospitals - including a representative of private nursing homes, with the object of canvassing their opinion of his proposed amendments to the scheme.
It is extraordinary that when I challenged the Minister in this House that evening he said, as reported at page 1085 of Hansard, ‘It was made clear in the newspapers this morning’, which means that he attaches himself to the remarks of the spokesman, which I believe are contemptible in that they disown a member of the Minister’s Department and secondly give inaccurate information. That kind of conduct is not open government. It is deceitful and it is dishonest. It is dishonourable for a Minister publicly to disown one of his senior civil servants.
Let us look at the history of the so-called Hayden or Labor health scheme. In the middle of last year there was a Green Paper which put forward certain proposals. Discussion was held on it. Later in the year a White Paper appeared containing the Labor Party’s health proposals. Still later in the year - in November - 2 Bills were finally brought into this House with further changes. So there were 3 changes to the so-called Hayden health scheme in the one year. I do not blame the Minister for that. That shows receptivity to public opinion. The Bills that finally came into this Parliament were rejected by the parties on this side of the House and in the Senate. Before they were put to a vote the Minister made a threat to the Opposition that the rejection of these Bills would cause a double dissolution.
– Is that not happening?
– Not because of the Bills. It is happening because of the Government’s conduct - its arrogance and use of jackboot tactics. That is why a double dissolution will occur and not because of the rejection of the health Bills. The Labor Party chickened out on its threat to cause a double dissolution. In this House last December I challenged the Government to have a double dissolution on this legislation. But the Government resiled from that threat. Statements were made by the Minister for Social Security and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to this effect: ‘It is obvious that the Opposition will not allow the health Bills to be passed. We will think up a new health plan’.
The Minister travelled overseas to try to obtain some more information and new ideas. Following his return, the next thing we heard about was this secret meeting held in Melbourne - a meeting that never was, apparently, as it was supposed never to have occurred and its occurrence was to be denied.
Certain proposals were put to private hospitals and subsequently to health funds to the effect that the Hayden Bills, which were introduced into this House in December, would be amended massively. Statements to that effect have been published in the newspapers. I do not have time to go into that aspect. But these proposals would mean a fundamental change to the Minister’s health scheme. These massive amendments would change the whole character of the so-called Hayden health scheme. These are the proposals which, as late as last week, the Government was trying to sell to the private hospitals and health funds.
The extraordinary events of last Thursday night then occurred. This House was in the middle of a debate on the Appropriation Bills, which is a terribly important debate as the defeat of those Bills could cause - a double dissolution of the 2 Houses of Parliament. At 8 p.m. last Thursday, without any warning being given to anyone, including the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) and myself, the health Bills were reintroduced - dated, I might say, 1973. This action was obviously something thought up by the Labor Party that day. The Government reintroduced those health Bills as a panic measure and as a political measure, because of the changed political situation.
I was prompted to ask the Minister a question before I spoke on the Bills. I quote from page 1079 of last Thursday’s Hansard. I said:
Mr Speaker, may I have your indulgence to do something unusual? May I ask the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) when his second reading speech on this Bill was prepared and typed?
The Minister for Social Security replied: About a fortnight ago . . . .’ He then went on to say that because of the condensation of his second reading speech it was not ready until earlier that day. I doubt whether that is a true statement. I believe that the Minister acted on impulse to try to give the impression that the introduction of the health Bills was something that had been in the traps for a long time. He was in a dilemma that evening. As I said, he obliged the Government, in its panic, by bringing the health Bills on again quickly to get the Government out of a jam. The dilemma the Minister was in was that, if he had answered my question When did you have this second reading speech prepared and typed?’ by saying ‘Today’, he would have exposed the panic stricken way in which his Government had brought the health Bills on for debate. But, if the Minister answered that he had the second reading speech prepared and typed 2 days before last Thursday or 2 weeks before, as he did - he said it had been prepared a fortnight before - I would ask him, as I do now, these questions: why he did not obey the conventions and the courtesies that have prevailed in this House since it was created, of giving the Opposition spokesman a copy of his second reading speech?
– He did not have one.
– Because he did not have one. I thank my friend the honourable member for Kooyong for that interjection. Why did the Minister not update the Bills? The Bills were still dated 1973. If the second reading speech was prepared 2 weeks earlier, and the intention was to introduce the Bills 2 weeks earlier, why did the Government not change the date on the Bills? If the Minister had intended 2 weeks previously to reintroduce those Bills last Thursday, why did he permit his officers to be in Melbourne negotiating with the private hospitals to change his scheme? If the Minister had intended to introduce the Bills last Thursday, it was pointless to try to have massive amendments made to the Bills and for his officers to go to Melbourne to try to persuade the private hospitals and the health funds to accept those proposed amendments.
I will speak a little more on this question of the meeting of officers of the Department of Social Security and the private hospitals and health funds. It is obvious that the meeting took place. I ask the Minister - I give him a fair chance to answer the charges that I put to him now when he replies - these questions: Was the second reading speech prepared and typed 2 weeks ago? If so, why was I not given a copy of that second reading speech? Why was the Opposition not given notice that the Minister was to introduce these Bills? Why did the Government have to suspend Standing Orders quickly to introduce these Bills? Why were the Minister’s officers negotiating for changes with the private hospitals and health funds in Melbourne?
I am given to understand that at least 12 people attended the meeting in Melbourne and that they were addressed by 2 senior and highly respected civil servants of the Minister’s Department - Dr Deeble and Mr Dennis Corrigan, 2 men whose integrity is unchallenged and who have utter respect from everyone who knows them. A report I have of that meeting, which has been confirmed by several people, is that Dr Deeble indicated that the Minister had asked that the group be called together to discuss the proposed amendments. I ask the Minister for Social Security: Is that true or false? Secondly, Dr Deeble said that he had spoken to the Minister, who had not quite decided on the question whether the air fares of the delegates would be paid. Is that true or false? Next, Dr Deeble replied that the Minister had indicated that he would be free and willing to meet the committee on the following day and at any time the committee nominated; the Minister would fly anywhere. If the Minister was prepared to fly anywhere to discuss the very amendments that were put to that meeting, how could he the next day in the ‘Canberra Times’ deny that the spokesmen had any authority from him to act?
Mr Corrigan went on to say that he had instructions from the Minister, with whom he had been in contact, that this meeting had never taken place and that he must ask all those attending to return the documents that they had been handed that morning. I ask the Minister: Is that true or false? I ask the Minister: Was a bribe offered to the private hospitals, that if they accepted the recommendations of the Minister’s officers the fourth table would be approved by the Government immediately? Is that true, or is it false? Last Thursday culminated with the introduction of the Bills. I am sorry to have to do this to the Minister for Social Security - I genuinely am - but when a Minister makes those kinds of statements to the national Parliament I believe that the Parliament and the people are entitled to an explanation.
I conclude as I began: This incident has left a nasty taste in the mouths of people who observed it. The Opposition want to know whether the meeting was held. If so, are the allegations that are coming out of the meeting correct? I ask the Minister to state categorically whether those officers had his authority to go to Melbourne, to address the meeting and to put the amendments in his name. Was he prepared to meet the people attending that meeting? Was he prepared to fly anywhere in order to meet them? Was his second reading speech on the health Bills prepared and typed 2 weeks before the introduction of those Bills? These are the questions to which I think a responsible Opposition demands, and has a right to demand, answers from a Government that calls itself an open Government.
– This debate is a grand demonstration of anti-climax. I must confess that I experienced some slight tension before the debate commenced. I thought that this debate was to be the unveiling of the new health insurance program of the Liberal Party - the program which, for the past 16 months, the Liberal Party has been saying repeatedly is in the final stages of being tidied up and is about to be presented to the public. It has not been unveiled to the public today.
– Answer the charges.
– I will do that a little later, but at this stage-
– Yes, I will do that a little later. But at this stage I will reply to some of the comments which have been made by the honourable member for Hotham (Mf Chipp). By and large, there is not one reliable statement in what he said. First of all, there has never been any suggestion on my part that meetings did not take place. If the honourable member for Hotham or any other honourable member who is interested cares to examine page 1085 of the Hansard record of last Thursday night’s debate on the health Bills, he will see that I said - I will condense the quotation because-
– No, read it all.
– Well, if the honourable member has difficulty in reading anything longer than 3 sentences, I suppose I will have to read it. I am sure that the honourable member will be able to follow this. I was talking about my adviser and good personal friend, Dr Deeble. I said:
Having had one meeting he was encouraged to go and meet other groups.
Of course meetings were held. As I said last Thursday evening, Dr Deeble approached me and said that he believed that there was an area for communication and negotiation with people concerned about the health insurance program, specifically certain people who are concerned with private hospitals. Dr Deeble believed that, if a fairly modified approach could be taken as an initial point for discussion, there might be a possibility of some convergence of the groups towards a common point. I frankly expressed extreme scepticism and as events transpired I was justified. But let us quickly look at some of these events. It is true, as I understand it, that Dr Deeble asked people at the meeting in Melbourne of representatives of the private hospitals that they should treat the meeting as confidential. When he returned and told me of some of the people who were present I expressed scepticism again about how much confidentiality would be retained. For instance, one of the people present who accepted the principle of confidentiality was Dr Hughes, the Liberal candidate for the Australian Capital Territory. He was not the only Liberal representative present at that meeting. It is not hard to find who were the dishonourable men, I am sure, if one wants to search through the rest of the names.
But, as I say, what anticlimax, what pathos, to waste the time of this Parliament on such a trivial matter. I will talk with people at any stage, as I said last Thursday night, as I have continually said, if it is necessary and if we can get mutual agreement. If, after this election, we are introducing a universal health insurance scheme and people wish to approach us and put a point of view, accepting the changed situation where we no longer have a Senate which is impeding every major piece of legislation which we are bringing before this Parliament, I will talk to those people. One thing I arn proud of and no one can take away from me is that I have shown, continually, receptivity to other people’s points of view.
The White Paper on health insurance was a marked modification of the Green Paper from the advisers. The White Paper was my final work. Look at the things that we have altered. Premium bulk billing we forwent. Private insurance organisations were to be allowed to act as agencies for us. The freedom of operation of private insurance, in areas where it was suggested in the Green Paper it should be restricted, was to be allowed. We would cost-share hospital services on a generous basis with the States. We proposed a 30 per cent increase in the bedday subsidy of private hospitals to $16 a day. That is my record. I shall continue to approach the subject in this way. But the fact is, and it cannot be refuted, that Dr Deeble went and spoke to these people largely on his own initiative expecting that some progress would be made, because he too has small ‘1’ liberal views and is tolerant and receptive to other people’s points of view in this community. But he did not go off cold on this. He went off because he was approached by representatives of private hospitals through the Prime Minister’s office. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) received a letter dated 4 February - while I was absent overseas with Dr Scotton and senior members of my Department - which said, inter alia:
I believe that a situation could be reached where religious private hospitals would be prepared to withdraw their objections to the legislation.
That was the cause of this initiative being proposed by Dr Deeble. On my experience, I repeat, I expressed scepticism.
– No, I will not because it would be identifying people to their embarrassment.
– You do not mind me asking?
– I am prepared to show members of the Opposition these documents in privacy if they question the authenticity of them.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Is the Minister claiming that the document is confidential?
– I thought that would have been obvious. Yes, he is.
– The response from Dr Deeble to the person who wrote this letter was dated 20 March. I was not responsible for the wording of that letter which included this statement:
You mention some amendments concerned with machinery provisions for access to records, etc. The Minister has indicated he is happy to consider amendments to these sections or accept amendments to them in the Senate.
That is a highly qualified statement. If an amendment was acceptable to me and to the Government of which I am a member - only one member in that Government where we have democratic decision making processes - of course I would accept it. But there had to be negotiation. There had to be convergence to a mutually acceptable point. That of course was never achieved. But Dr Deeble, in optimism and in enthusiasm, put that point in the letter in a way which allows narrow, shallow minds in all their nastiness to misrepresent his position and to embarrass him greatly. He is not a rough-necked politician who understands the way in which politicians will exploit a situation, such as is happening today. I point out the date of the letter, 20 March 1974.
It seems that the honourable member for Hotham is trying to mount some sort of case - of what worth I cannot judge given the rather dramatic and crucial stage of Parliament at the moment - about my integrity and veracity. That letter sent in reply by Dr Deeble, I pointed out, was dated 20 March. If the honourable member for Hotham cares to look at the Health Insurance Bill 1973 which I brought into this House last Thursday night he will note the Printer’s date is 19 March, 1974. It is correct to say that I was continually sceptical about the sort of receptivity we would get from outside interests because they know that they have the Senate Opposition majority imprisoned. They knew they could manipulate them. They knew that they could stand in the way of worthwhile social reform, a major issue on which we were elected and for which we have a mandate. There will be no doubting my position. I have consistently argued that we do not want to be a lame duck government. We do not want to operate as though we are gelded. I would sooner create a situation to fight a double dissolution with honour than to have major issues of legislation rebuffed. That is why the health insurance legislation was prepared before 19 March, which is the date the Bill was printed. The decision was made well beforehand and that is why my speech was prepared well beforehand. There is nothing ulterior involved in this except the nasty mind of the honourable member for Hotham trying to create a story out of nothing.
I shall quickly dispatch some other questions. Did we offer air fares to these people? No. They sought air fares, I am advised, and they were advised that that was not acceptable and it certainly is not acceptable to me. Did we offer a bribe that the fourth table on hospital insurance was being held in abeyance in the expectation that they would be pressured into acceptance of these proposals? Not at all. I have continually restrained myself in accepting the fourth table on hospital insurance because we are already paying $50m a year on special account to subsidise private health insurance companies. Private health insurance is a myth. It could not operate without special account which subsidises the longer term cases. The worst feature is that certain big funds in Australia have a proportion of the total demand on special account which is way out of balance with the proportion of total membership of hospital funds in Australia. Did I agree to meet these people? I indicated that if there were any possibility of reaching mutually acceptable ground on which we could communicate, of course I would talk to them. I have consistently said that. But there was no chance of that ever happening.
I said that I would detail the Liberal Party health insurance program. With the 5 minutes of my time left I obviously cannot. I seek leave to table a document headed:
– Is leave granted?
– It will be circulated to the Press today anyway. But let us have a look at some of the fine qualities of the Liberals, the people who are opposed to compulsion, except where it involves sending a young 18, 19 or 20- year-old to Vietnam, the people who said that they could not accept this sort of thing. They are now talking about universal health insurance, as recommended in paragraph 5 of the document. They are now talking about using the taxation system to compel people to join health insurance funds. But one of the worst features of the Liberal policy is, if I can quickly outline it–
– You treat confidential documents differently from the way I do, and you know what I am talking about.
– Yes, I will not embarrass you. But the sincerity of the Liberal policy is highly questionable when a photocopy turns up and the original does not turn up. The Liberal Party is indicted in those documents. Let us have a look at some of the facts. The proposals are a blatant intrusion on privacy. For example, paragraph 34 of this document states:
It is envisaged the system might work as follows. Each doctor or hospital has a standardised form made out in triplicate. That form lists the following particulars:
Patient’s name, address, etc.
Name of private health insurance fund to which the patient belongs.
The reason for seeking treatment.
The fee charged for such treatment.
The difference (if any) between the fee charged and the scheduled fee.
The amount claimed on the fund by the doctor.
The signature of the patient affirming he has received such treatment.
What blatant intrusion on the privacy of an individual. Honourable members opposite are the so-called defenders of the individual’s rights. An individual is entitled to confidentiality. Honourable members opposite tolerated for so long the widespread abuse of and intrusion into the personal records of people in the Department of Social Security. It is nothing more than crude, hypocritical dishonesty for them to proceed in that way. Let us go to paragraph 25 on page 27 for an even worse form of intrusion. It states:
The overwhelming chances are that that person would be entitled to a fully subsidised health insurance premium benefit.
It is talking about someone discovered with-, out health cover. It goes on:
If he is not, he would need to have some explanation as to why he does not submit an income tax return.
That refers to a person in hospital who will be subjected to duress.
– I rise on a point of order. I wrote the Speaker a letter asking that a matter of public importance be discussed, namely, the actions of the Minister for Social Security in attempting to cover up secret negotiations aimed at amending the Government’s proposed health scheme. In my opening speech I made certain allegations against the Minister about whether the officers acted with his knowledge and consent. He has not answered those allegations, and I believe that what he is doing now is absolutely irrelevant.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! I take the honourable member’s point. I suggest that the Minister may return to the subject matter. I do not think party policy is under debate.
– It is all involved. The suggestion is that modification of the health insurance program is a sin. Honourable members opposite once spoke of the best health insurance scheme in the world. Where is it? It is in tatters. The document from which I am quoting proves it. It went on to say - the point I am making is that this person-
– I rise to order. Mr Deputy Speaker, I suggest that the Minister is deliberately flouting your ruling and is not speaking to the subject before the Chair.
-I cannot judge that when the Minister is half way through a sentence. I have asked the Minister to stick to the matter of public importance.
– I have pointed out that there has been no attempt on my part to cover up secret negotiations. I have been quite open, but what about the secret document from which I have quoted? It is a sellout to the private funds. Paragraph 27 states:
It is recommended the majority of members of Boards of Directors of all funds should be democratically elected by the contributors and that full public disclosure of accounts is made. This of course would require consultation with State Governments-
So it goes on. This paragraph was deleted through the pressure of private funds. Mr Deputy Speaker, I understand that as a Minister I have authority to table a document without approval of the House, and accordingly I table the document to which I have been referring.
-Order! I point out to the Minister that he cannot table a document during a speech. He can table it at another time.
– We have just heard from the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) a tissue of fabrication and some of the most remarkable misrepresentations that I have ever heard from a person involved in public debate anywhere, let alone in this House. This urgency matter arose in the most innocent and natural way last week when people who had been involved in meetings with the Minister’s advisers in recent days were listening over the air to the proceedings of this House and happened to hear the Minister say certain things. Basically what the Minister said in this House is that his advisers went on their own to conduct negotiations with representatives of private hospitals and that in effect what they did was not the work of the Government, had no relationship to the aims and desires of the Minister and was their own work. On hearing the Minister speak in the House, at least one of the gentlemen who had been present at negotiations with the Minister’s advisers told me that he turned to the person who was in the room with him and said: “The Minister just lied’. People who have subsequently read the Hansard record of proceedings in this House last Thursday and who were also present at meetings with the Minister’s advisers have also said: ‘The Minister lied’.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It is not in accordance with Standing Orders that a term which is unparliamentary should be introduced into debate by ascribing it to a third person. The term which the honourable member for Chisholm attributed to someone else would be out of order if he used it himself. It cannot be introduced in the way in which he is seeking to introduce it.
-I suggest to the honourable member for Chisholm that he might use some other terminology.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, as you are aware I did not say that the Minister lied. I said only that those who listened to him speak and those who have read reports of Hansard said that he had lied. I am quite content-
-Order! I ask the honourable member not to use that term. As he will realise, it is not difficult in a debate to attribute things to someone else. I would suggest that he not use that term.
– This is a highly important question, but I will not disobey your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am content to say that the Minister has been involved in the most elaborate and fantastic tissue of misrepresentation that I have heard coming from anyone in this House, with the exception of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in recent weeks. The real question which we face is whether, when the Minister’s advisers went out and held various negotiations and discussions on various days with representatives of private hospitals, they did so with the approval of the Minister and whether they were putting the Minister’s points and the Government’s points and proposed amendments to the Government’s scheme on behalf of the Government, or whether they were doing it on their own behalf. It is of extraordinary importance that a document entitled ‘Amendments to Universal Health Insurance Program’ which was presented to various people with whom the Minister’s advisers had discussions makes certain statements. Interestingly enough, in views of the dates we have heard cited by the Minister, it is dated 20 March. Paragraph 1 of this document states:
The Government intends to re-introduce the Health Insurance Bill within the next few weeks.
It then mentions the objective of the Bill. Paragraph 2 of the documents begins:
The Minister is prepared to amend the present program to allow those who prefer private treatment to ‘opt-out’ of the Government fund and to offset payments to private insurance funds against their liability for the health insurance levy.
The paragraph then goes on to itemise what this would mean in practice. This document states as clear as the burning daylight that the Minister is prepared to amend the present program. Everything that we have heard from the Minister today on this point makes the Minister misrepresent the position as we have it here in black and white in the document from which I have quoted and which was prepared by the Minister’s Department. The document states that the Minister is prepared to amend the present program to allow people to opt out of the Government’s proposed health scheme.
– The day after he said that the Bill was reprinted.
– Yes, the day after. There cannot be an accident there. One wonders whether the Minister has not been involved in misrepresentation on yet another point, and that in fact the second reading speech which was prepared a fortnight before incorporated the amendments which the Minister’s advisers were putting to representatives of the private hospitals throughout this country. I say throughout this country’ because let no one say that we are dealing with a few odd sods and bods here. The Minister and his representatives were dealing with the top representatives of the great private hospitals of this country. There is another point on which I believe the Minister is, in fact, misleading this House. He constantly talks of ‘my adviser, Dr Deeble’. But in fact it was not only Dr Deeble, who is in a sense a personal adviser though he is clearly now a public servant, who was involved in discussions; a most senior member of the Minister’s Department was also involved in discussions when the proposed amendments were to be put to the private hospitals by the Minister’s representatives for the Minister, on behalf of the Government.
I have little time left to me but let me deal with a couple of other denials, which the Minister has made today. He said, on the question whether the Government offered an air fare, that the representatives of the hospitals sought the air fare. Of course they sought the air fare. Do you know why, Mr Deputy Speaker? It was because they had been called to the meeting by the Government, not the other way round. That establishes beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were called to the meeting by the Government and not, as the Government would have it as in the Minister’s speech in this House last Thursday, that proposals were made to the Government which led to this meeting. It was the other way round. The Government made proposals to these people.
What about the question whether a bribe was offered by this Government - this Government which is steeped in the most sordid behaviour that 1 have ever witnessed in Australian politics? What about the question of the bribe which is supposed to have been offered? Today the Minister was asked in the House: ‘Was a bribe offered that you would introduce a fourth table of benefits if your amendments were agreed to by the private Hospitals?’ ‘Not at all’, said the Minister. I have been told that that too is a lie-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order!
– I am sorry.
-Order! If the honourable member makes an allegation such as he appears to be about to make - I would not normally cut him off - he will have to do so by a substantive motion.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. This is, in point of fact, a substantive motion of that character. We are discussing the attempt to cover up secret negotiations.
– Order! A matter of public importance is not a substantive motion.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, it was a most natural slip, and I apologise. I am prepared to use the terminology ‘misrepresentation’. But the point is that the Minister’s personal adviser said to one of the senior representatives of the private hospitals of this country: ‘If you agree to these amendments, then you will get the fourth table’. That has been stated by a representative.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I am not greatly concerned about what the representatives said-
-Order! What is your point of order? Mr Hayden - That is a misrepresentation.
-Order! There are procedures for dealing with misrepresentations which cannot be dealt with by a point of order. I ask the Minister to deal with this later.
– I just point out that these sorts of things can be turned back.
– I find it most interesting that the Minister felt that he had to rise on that point. I see that my time is almost up. Therefore, in conclusion, let me say that this whole sordid affair involves a desperate attempt by this Government to save a failed health scheme. The Government has become involved in deception and deceit and disloyalty to its advisers in the process of trying to rescue itself from the failed scheme.
– The honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp), in his capacity as the shadow Minister for Social Security, has listed the following matter of public importance for debate:
The actions of the Minister for Social Security in attempting to cover-up secret negotiations aimed at amending the Government’s proposed health scheme.
Normally I would not quote the terms of a matter of public importance raised by the Opposition, but I think the terms of this one ought to be repeated and quoted back to the Opposition because it appears to me to be difficult to conceive of a matter more ludicrous, irrelevant or puny, especially given the circumstances in which we find ourselves this week. It seems that we are within a few hours of an historic double dissolution based on an historic abuse of powers by the Senate. Yet here today the Opposition can find nothing more important to raise as a matter of public importance than whether a Minister did or did not participate in a meeting some weeks ago.
This matter of public importance is irrelevant and puny on a number of scores. In the first place, it attempts to construct a conspiracy theory with loaded terms such as ‘cover-up’ and ‘secret negotiations’ to describe discussions which, if they had in fact taken place, would have been no more or less confidential than would be normal for any preliminary government discussion on this or any other subject at all. That the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) was not directly a party to any such discussions, secret or otherwise, is just a bonus for those who see the raising of this matter as a desperate clutching at straws. There is a second reason for looking at this matter as one of absurdity and total unreality. This matter of public importance is directed against a Minister who could not have been more open in his dealings with the public, the profession and the health funds. If anything, as the Minister responsible for this very delicate question of an alternative health scheme, he has been too open for his own good. The Minister has had to deal with a subject matter, the broad outlines of which were laid down as long ago as 1968 and have been publicly refined and reaffirmed ever since.
For the first time, certainly in my experience in the Parliament and I believe in the experience of honourable members who have been here much longer than I, more than 6 months in advance of the legislation being introduced the Minister introduced a Green Paper for the very purpose of opening the way to even fuller discussion and attempts at co-operation. He followed that up, as we are well aware, with a White Paper and then with the Bill. Whatever criticisms can be levelled at the Minister, criticism cannot be levelled at his frankness or at his accessibility to interested groups. But there is yet a third reason which makes the matter of public importance inappropriate. After all, who are members of the Opposition to talk? Members of the Opposition seemed to become terribly upset, irate and indignant when a document containing the policy recommendations of the Liberal Party’s Committee on Social Security, Health and Welfare, which they regard as confidential, was produced in the House today. They were not upset at all about the honourable member for Chisholm producing another document which was supposed to be, in their own terms, highly confidential and to be destroyed before reading.
It appears to me that members of the Opposition have 2 alternatives in respect of this draft document of their alternative health scheme. It is a long, complicated and comprehensive document. They can say that they compiled the document on their own initiative, without consultation with interested groups; or they will be in the position of saying, as I would expect and hope them to say, that of course they would not go ahead with such a scheme without consultation with those who are most affected. I would hope that members of the Opposition would say that they did engage in consultations. If that is the case, why have those consultations been on the basis of cover-up and secrecy? Perhaps we can reverse the subject matter of this debate and, instead of talking about cover-ups and secret negotiations in relation to possible Government amendments, talk about cover-ups and secret negotiations between the Opposition and interested parties leading to the Opposition’s draft health scheme.
I will not pursue that line. I would regard it as being as absurd as the Opposition attempt to pursue the line contained in the matter of public importance which it has brought on today and its construction of a conspiracy theory on a matter which is not at all out of the ordinary. Mr Deputy Speaker, I regret the raising of this matter of public importance for all the reasons of irrelevance that I have put to you. But, even more than that, I regret the raising of this matter because, in the limited time available to us not only today but perhaps in this Parliament if we are to discuss anything about health schemes, why should we not concentrate on the substance of the subject rather than peripheral and irrevelant matters such as possible further amendments? Why, in any event, should there not have been discussions on such possibilities over recent months, given the rejection of the earlier Bill and the continued intransigence of the Senate? More than that, why should there be any surprise if the Minister does consider further changes, in the light of his past flexibility and his efforts for agreement and compromise in this scheme?
The trouble with honourable members opposite is that they have never been able to make up their minds in relation to health schemes whether to attack the Government for what they regard as its dogmatic and inflexible adherence to its alternative health scheme or, as now, to attack it for not being dogmatic and for being willing to accept alternatives to its original scheme. One thing is sure: Honourable members opposite cannot have the objections both ways. In fact, flexibility by the Minister even at this stage would be no more than consistent with his own record and attitude. If any illustration of that is needed it is surely to be found in the difference in content between the proposals of the original Green Paper and those of the White Paper and subsequent legislation. The Minister mentioned some of those differences, indicating his flexibility. One could list many others.
For instance, the identity card system was first of Ml to be made compulsory but was then made optional, thus ensuring absolute confidentiality in the doctor-patient relationship. Bed-day subsidies were markedly increased. Originally, they were said to be too low for private hospital survival. The increase would certainly ensure the position of those hospitals- The independence of private hospitals in any possible conflict of religious and medical practice was absolutely guaranteed in the final form of the scheme. Private fund medical insurance, originally to be abolished, was allowed to continue. Private supplementary hospital insurance, formerly presumed to be based on actuarial principles which could have priced many people out of the market, was to be based on a community rating system. These changes were all achieved in only 6 months as a result of public comment and discussion. Yet the Opposition consistently calls the Government dogmatic.
The only thing that may give rise to confusion among people who are not aware of parliamentary procedures is that the Minister is said to have indicated directly or indirectly that he was prepared to amend the Bill as re-presented this week - I have already said that there is nothing wrong in principle or practice with that - yet the Bill came in its original form. For what it is worth, I think we should at least clarify the position for people who may be confused by that set of circumstances. The reason the Bill came in in the original form and not in any amended form relates to procedures connected with double dissolutions. It was required to come in in an identical form if it was to be used for the purpose of advising the Governor-General to allow a double dissolution on this Bill as well as on other Bills.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr HAYDEN (Oxley- Minister for Social Security) - I would like to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I claim to have misrepresented unintentionally. I made an unfair imputation against-
-The honourable member is really asking for leave to make an explanation.
– Yes. I ask for leave.
– Leave is granted.
– In the course of some crossfire when the honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley) was speaking he was using third party attribution to my behaviour and I made comments which suggested to one of my colleagues that I was aware of some scandal concerning the honourable member for Chisholm. I am not so aware. To my knowledge he is a man of complete probity and I would hate to imply that otherwise might be the case.
– The House is debating today a very serious matter, a matter which is central to the forthcoming election - that is, that the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) and the Government have misled the House and the people of Australia over the Government’s health proposals which are supposedly to be one of the major features of the Government’s election program. While the Government was supposedly standing firm on its previous but discredited national health scheme it was secretly negotiating with private hospitals and health funds for a significantly different scheme. Those negotiations culminated in a meeting in Melbourne on 27 March which was attended by 12 people, and not by the 3 people as the Minister has suggested from time to time.
This raises several very serious questions. What are we expected to believe in Parliament - what the Minister tells us one day or what he is forced to admit to the following day? What is the Australian public supposed to believe - what is being trotted up again as the Government’s national health scheme, its perfect answer to the health problems of this country, while at the same time the Government is attempting to amend it significantly? What has happened to ministerial responsibility? What will happen to future relations with all sections of the health care industry in Australia when the relations between the Government and the industry are being poisoned and increasingly confused by secret negotiations, rebuttals, promises or assurances supposedly made on behalf of the Minister?
We have a scapegoat Minister, a man who obviously instructed one of his officials to arrange a meeting with the National Standing Committee on Private Hospitals. Those people would not have attended the meeting, because of their previous experience with the Minister, unless they were completely assured that the meeting and any instructions given or discussions taking place at that meeting were being carried out on behalf of the Minister involved. The honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley) has already quoted from one of the documents that was circulated to these people. I will refer to it again. It said that the Minister is prepared to amend the present program. Surely no Government official would have put that in writing unless it was the Minister’s assurance and unless he was working completely on an understanding with the Minister. The people at the meeting were told that the Minister would see them the following day if any agreement could be reached. Nobody promises that a Minister of this Government or any government will meet another group of people without the Minister’s categorical assurance that this will take place.
To add further to the official nature of the person acting for the Minister, one of the motions passed by the people at the meeting in Melbourne of the Standing Committee on Private Hospitals said in effect: ‘We do not see any purpose in the Minister’s coming’. In other words, once again there was the implied assurance that anything being said that day was said with the complete approval of the Minister. After the secret negotiations, which were taking place the day after the socalled be all and end all of the health problems of this country had been re-printed for presentation to Parliament on 19 March, a letter dated 20 March was sent, setting up this meeting. So we had the subterfuge by the Minister misleading Parliament and misleading the people of Australia on this very important issue, showing the cynical attitude of this Government to the health of the 13 million people of Australian ever since it came to office. The Government has not attempted to deal constructively with the health care problems facing this nation but it is trying to force the people of Australia into a corner so that private hospitals, freedom of choice and the things that we have come to expect as being essential to a democratic society will end in domination by Canberra.
As soon as these secret negotiations became public the Minister denied them. This scapegoat Minister will not stand up to ministerial responsibility. He obviously instructed an official to negotiate on his behalf. The moment this was found out he denied that it was on his instruction. What can the people of this country expect of a Government when one of its senior ministers - the man who is considered by some to be the next leader of the Australian Labor Party - when faced with a tight situation resorts to desperate measures? How can the people of Australia trust or vote for such a Government when such a senior minister adopts this attitude to Parliament and to the people generally? He added to these desperation measures in the debate today. He quoted to his advantage from a private letter. When it was suggested that the letter be tabled he refused to do so because it was a confidential document. Then in his turn he quoted extensively from a confidential document belonging to the Liberal Party and he wanted to table it. He was not prepared to accept that what is confidential for one is confidential for the other. He wants to have it both ways.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting, we were debating the actions of the Minister for Social Security in attempting to cover up secret negotiations aimed at amending the Government’s proposed health scheme. This is a most serious charge and one- which, on our side, I believe is substantiated. The Minister has misled the House and the people of Australia. He has denied the rule of ministerial responsibility. These are all serious matters and matters that must be considered as we approach an election. We have a situation where, at the same time as the Minister was presenting a supposedly genuine reintroduction of the discredited Health Insurance Bill which was defeated last year - we were told that the Bill was reprinted on 19 March - on 20 March, at the Minister’s urging, a letter was sent from an official of the Department of Social Security to the National Standing Committee on Private Hospitals asking for a meeting for the purpose of making considerable alterations to this scheme. So, we have this confusion and this cynicism where on the one hand the Government is saying: ‘Here is the scheme that will solve our health problems’, while at the same time secretly trying to amend that scheme because it realises that it is not acceptable.
What is the Australian public to believe? This is one of the important election issues. What does the Government intend to produce as its health program - the scheme that has been rejected once and which will be rejected again or a scheme containing the considerable amendments which the Minister’s advisers have been trotting around to various people connected with the field of health care? When it became public that these officials of the Department were doing this at the urging of the Minister, the Minister denied responsibility for the discussions that took place. What an example of political cynicism we have seen from a senior Minister of this Government. What a deliberate hoodwinking of the Australian public as to what this Government really intends to do with its health care proposals. It is perfectly obvious why the Government is deliberately trying to alter its unacceptable health scheme. It is simply because the scheme is unacceptable to the broad categories of the Australian public - to the different groups of people that make up the Australian public, not just a narrow group of conservative general practitioners or some other section of the health care industry.
The Government repeatedly says that these are the people who are trying to prevent change but it also says in the same breath on other arguments: ‘You may not like the people involved in union discussions but you have to deal with them because they are part of the industry’. Yet the Government forgets that principle when it comes to health care. These people are part of the industry. They know what goes on. The Government also forgets that the people who rejected the Government’s proposed amendments to the. system of health care in this country are the people who run the religious and charitable hospitals in Australia and nobody should be able to accuse them of having anything but the highest motives for the health care of this country. These are the people more than anybody else who have rejected this scheme and the proposed amendments.
We have an election at hand and we have in front of us a serious example of a senior Minister misleading the Parliament and the Australian public and resorting to desperate tactics when cornered. The next question that must be asked is: How many other Ministers at present are presenting one face to the Australian public while they are engaged in secret negotiations and private double dealing behind the scenes? This is what the people of Australia must face up to on election day, 18 May.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I had already intended to begin my remarks by pointing out that this is the most trivial matter that this Parliament has discussed for a long time, but what greater testimony could there be to the fact that this is such a puny matter than the fact that the honourable member who proposed the discussion of this matter of great public importance, the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp), is not present in the House and, I understand, will not be present in the House for the remainder of the debate on this subject? We are shortly to have a general election. The people of Australia want to know the policies and the programs of the Government and the Opposition. They want to know about the important things that affect their daily lives. They want to know whether they will continue to have security of employment and whether their sons are going to be conscripted if by any mischance the Opposition were re-elected into government. But instead of these important subjects coming forward, we are discussing these quite trivial matters.
It is quite obvious that the Opposition does not want to discuss the real issues of employment and, for that matter, the real issues involving health care. Yesterday, the Parliament had a lot of its time taken up by an utterly trivial matter concerning you, Mr Speaker, when we heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) devoting a considerable amount of time to criticising the fact that you were given to witticisms from the chair. What a weighty matter! But for sheer irrelevance and triviality, this matter of public importance we are discussing today is certainly unparalleled in my experience in this Parliament. We have heard discussions about a meeting that is supposed to have taken place a couple of weeks ago between Dr Deeble, an adviser to the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), and certain representatives of health care connected, I think, with the private hospitals. What are the matters we are asked to look at? We are asked to consider whether Dr Deeble advised these people that the Minister would meet with them later in the week. Did the Minister state that he was prepared to meet with these people for these discussions, or did he not? My word, is not this really a tremendously important matter! What about the question of air fares? Did the delegates to this meeting have their air fares paid? Was this offered to them or did they ask for it? What matters of tremendous moment these are.
As I said, we have an election imminent in Australia. We have a health insurance scheme which has evolved after many years of Liberal government which, by the Liberal’s own report, they now admit to be a momentous failure. The people of Australia want to know the alternative propositions that are being put up by the 2 major Parties. Are they to be given that information today? No. The people are to be asked to consider whether or not the Minister for Social Security was prepared to meet representatives of a private hospital at a meeting in Melbourne. Cannot honourable members imagine the working people of Australia and the farmers taking to the streets about this matter and saying: ‘Never mind about matters of employment, wages, prices or anything like that. What we want to know is whether or not Mr Hayden said he would meet some people in Melbourne*. I cannot blame the honourable member for Hotham, who moved this so-called matter of public importance, for beating a prudent retreat from the House for the remainder of this debate.
On the matter of the so-called secrecy regarding the meeting in Melbourne which has been raised by a number of Opposition speakers in this debate, I think it is interesting to compare the secrecy surrounding the health policies of this Government with that surrounding the health policies of the Opposition. We know that the present health insurance proposals of the Government were first outlined in specific detail by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) when he was Leader of the Opposition in a lengthy address which was printed in the Australian Medical Association’s Journal in July 1968. That proposal has been repeatedly explained and described since. We had the Green Paper printed last year and subsequently, the White Paper has been printed. The Minister for Social Security on many occasions has been to public forums and explained his policy. In contrast, have a look at the sort of open government in which the Liberal Party believes. Even to the present time, members of the Liberal Party maintain that their health policy is a completely confidential one. I am sure that many honourable members will have seen the program ‘This Day Tonight’ last week on which the honourable member for Hotham was asked what his health policy was. Even then he was not prepared to disclose it to the public. For the same reason, I suspect, the Leader of the Opposition this week declined to conduct lengthy interviews because he does not want to have to explain his policies. He does not trust people. He is not prepared to take, them into his confidence to explain what his health policies are. In spite of all these protestations about open government, we do not find very much sympathy for it from the Opposition Parties.
It is very interesting to hear discussion, particularly by the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd), about the Government’s health insurance proposals. I think it would be very good if the people of Australia could have an explanation of the Liberal Party’s health insurance proposals because they make extremely interesting reading. There are many features of its proposals which I find very disturbing and which I believe the Australian people also will find very disturbing. Not the least of these is the proposed complete subservience that a Liberal Government would have towards private health insurance funds. The Opposition proposes that everybody will be conscripted into belonging to a private health insurance fund. Since we have had the Earle Page scheme, which has been in existence with modifications since 1951, every person, whether he wanted to or not, has been virtually required to subscribe to a private health insurance fund under pain of not having Commonwealth benefits given to him if he did not join. Now the Opposition proposes to go even further. The Liberal Party admits that according to its own figures there are one million people who are not covered by health insurance under this so-called best scheme in the world. What does the Opposition intend to do? It proposes to garnishee wages and incomes of the 8 per cent of people whom it says are not covered by health insurance. But the money is not to go into any public fund that is answerable to the Parliament; the money is to be given to these private monopolies.
– On tender.
– The money is to be given to these private funds on tender. Honourable members opposite talk about people having a choice between different private health insurance funds. In the case of these people who could have their wages garnisheed, what choice would there be about going into a private health insurance organisation? Would they have any choice as to which fund they could join? Of course they would not. The Government’s proposal is that there should be a fund which is answerable to the Australian Parliament and, through it, to the Australian people. To whom would the health funds be answerable under the Opposition’s proposal? They would be answerable to nobody but the little clique of people who form the directorships of these private health funds. It is interesting to look at paragraph 27 of draft No. 2 of the Opposition parties health scheme which originally proposed that there should be democratic elections for the directors of these funds. It is highly significant that this paragraph has been completely deleted. So the Liberal Party favours the present situation in which the directors of funds are not democratically elected by the contributors but continue to be nominated by people who represent basically not consumer groups but hospital organisations and the Australian Medical Association and so on.
It is interesting to see the crocodile tears shed by members of the Opposition in respect of privacy under our proposal. It is interesting to see that the Liberal Party also has adopted a proposal for bulk billing. The Liberal Party proposes that the patient should put on the form that he sends to the fund the reason why he sought treatment. The patient would not be able to show only the number of the item. There could be none of this. Under the Opposition’s proposed scheme the patient would have to put down the illness for which he was treated. This would not go onto coded computered cards. Presumably it would go into the open files of the health insurance funds and any employee of those funds would have access to the details which could be used and which have been used in the past. There has been a quite serious form of abuse in certain cases where private funds have had access to patients’ records. I believe that this is a most serious situation. It is certainly extraordinary that there should be criticism of the Government’s proposal in which there would be complete guaranteed security under the highly scrupulous methods which have been advocated for maintaining confidentiality of patients’ records.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The time for the discussion has concluded.
– I present a paper which is entitled Liberal Party of Australia - Committee on Social Security, Health and Welfare, Policy Recommendations.’ It is also marked ‘Highly confidential’ and ‘Second draft’.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. On page 2 of today’s ‘Financial Review’ there is an article headed ‘Question time reflects likely election issues’. The third paragraph of that article reads:
Perhaps the only member to betray any nervousness was Mr Don Cameron, the young Liberal member for Griffith, Queensland, who learned during the lunch-break that the ALP was trying to draft Brisbane’s Lord Mayor, Alderman Clem Jones as its candidate for the seat.
The article goes on to say that this fellow has consistently defied logic by leading the Australian Labor Party to victory and so on. I have also defied logic by continuing to win the seat of Griffith. The point is that I did not learn of of this at lunch time yesterday - it was early yesterday morning. The first I heard of it was when the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) said to me: ‘Good morning, my lord mayor.’ He showed me a copy of the Brisbane ‘Courier-Mail’. I read the article which said that there were attempts to draft some person called Jones. I then read the editorial in the ‘Courier-Mair. This will prove, contrary to the suggestion that I was nervous
-Order! The honourable gentleman has shown me the article. I think the point is whether he is nervous or not.
– I will stick to the point. The editorial appears on page 4 of yesterday’s issue of the *Courier-Mail’. I will read it because it will show why this article in the ‘Financial Review’ is completely false and without foundation. It reads:
Even the Lord Mayor of Brisbane is being brought into the act. He is likely to stand for Griffith in the hope of picking up this marginal seat for the Government. In such a contest even Alderman Jones’ popularity surely will not save the Government from the heavy condemnation of Griffith voters.
– Order! I think you are getting political now.
– I am only reading the editorial in the ‘Courier-Mail’. Having read that I felt confident once again. My lunch, as suggested by the article in the Financial Review’, was not spoilt by a fit of nervousness. I will take on anyone that the ALP wants to put up.
-Order! Such challenges are out of order. You know that.
– by leave - I wish this afternoon to say something about the strategic prospects and the conceptual thinking which underlie this Government’s approach to defence; to announce some particular equipment decisions which have been taken by the Government; and to touch on a number of other areas of defence activity and of developments in our defence relations with our neighbours and allies.
I shall begin by restating some of the fundamental factors which govern the allocation of national resources to defence and among various defence objectives. The start point is the current strategic forecast, and the implications we may draw from this for the kind of defence capability required in our Services and production facilities. Then we must take account of the rate of obsolescence of existing equipments and the time needed to bring new equipments and capabilities into being. The development of new technology and of Australia’s defence industry will have a bearing. In present circumstances, it is central to our thinking that we decide upon a size for the force and level of skills and equipment which give an assured basis for expansion if and when the threat situation deteriorates. Overall decisions must be taken within realistic resource limits which pay heed to other national objectives and government policies-
Flowing from these considerations the Secretary of Defence, Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff and the Chiefs of Staff of the 3 Services collectively prepare a draft 5-year defence plan for my consideration. This, sets out, by years of expenditure, the levels for defence manpower works, stores, maintenance, industrial support, research and development effort and new equipment acquisition which in their judgment should have first claim on the finance over the succeeding 5 years. On this basis I determine what specific projects I shall recommend to Cabinet for approval. Such a program has been drafted and presented to me for 1974-1979.
When I spoke to the Parliament last August about the strategic prospect, I said that our situation (was) favourable and that various important factors and trends in the international situation (supported) Australian security into the longer term’. I said: ‘We can, at this stage, responsibly look to the future in reasonable confidence that no significant requirement is likely to arise for the operational commitment of our forces. We believe that any change (in our strategic situation) would take time and would allow us to develop the response necessary’.
These statements were firmly based on the advice of the Defence Committee, which had recently reviewed long-term prospects and policy. The Committee consists, I remind the House, of the Secretary of the Defence Department, the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, the three Chiefs of Staff and the Secretaries of the Departments of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Foreign Affairs and the Treasury. The Director of the Joint Intelligence Organisation was also present at the Defence Committee’s considerations. The Defence Committee also emphasised that uncertainty increases over long-term assessment, and that continuous monitoring and regular review of strategic developments and prospects are essential if the Government is to be apprised of any unfavourable developments in time for it to make any necessary adjustments to our defence posture. The House will recall that in August I said there were bound to be uncertainties about the future, particularly about the latter part of such a long 15-year period.
Our defence policy is not geared simply to some specific threat or pressure against Australia’s national security or immediate strategic interests. Obviously we could not accept such a risk of unpreparedness. However, threat does not arise readily or without warning. It is the product of a complex combination of capability, motivation and opportunity. Our approach is therefore one of response to developing circumstances from which we assess pressures or an actual threat could later emerge and mature. By such response we would aim progressively to influence the circumstances which might lead to ultimate threat, to deter such threat should it nevertheless take shape, and to be ready in time to deal with it should our policy fail to avert it. Clearly, with this approach Australia needs to maintain reliable strategic associations with a number of countries, so as both to enlarge our influence over strategic developments and to provide for co-operation in any future contingency. In this connection the defence force in being should be adequate to indicate our resolution and our ability to defend Australian interests and to support others, should the need arise. In times of low-threat probability, as at present, the basic concept is that of a viable core force capable of timely expansion.
As to the nature of this core force, our geographical position as an island continent, with- a vast oceanic and archipelagic environment, suggests some fundamental defence requirements and skills to be developed and preserved in all 3 Services. Developing military technology and Australian technological strength also give guidance. The force will not be manpower-intensive, and should continue to contain a core of sophisticated military components and skills. It should contain some offensive capability. Our continuing study of the concepts and problems of a continental defence, although an attack upon Australian territory is a remote contingency, will also provide useful guidance for the type of defence force we should hold in readiness against a later requirement for expansion.
I mentioned the increasing uncertainty in our strategic assessments the further ahead we try to look. Our defence policy and force structure must have regard to this. However I do not share the attitude, apparent in some public comment on our defence posture, that change in our strategic environment means that we shall necessarily be less secure, and that we must now act on the assumption that, when uncertainties resolve, things will be worse. We have external developments under continuous review, and I see no reasons at this time to modify the strategic prospect that I presented last year. I shall not be pushed into much larger demands on the taxpayer to satisfy those who are either unwilling or unable to state a case for defence expenditure that we may all examine and debate, but rely instead on vague assertions about future possibilities of threat and shaky analogies from the past.
The view of this Government and its advisers is clear, and is based on conclusions reached after close consideration of a wide range of complex factors. Let me state our perspective again in very summary form. Because of various factors, but above all the compelling restraints of the nuclear balance, the long term prospect for global stability and avoidance of general war and for the limitation of local conflicts remains favourable. In this situation, but also because of other factors, such as our relative remoteness and noninvolvement, the prospect of direct strategic pressure against Australian interests by a major power, as distinct from possible political pressures, remains remote. No regional power has or is likely to acquire for many years the capability and motive that might require an Australian defence response. The possibility of low-level situations on relatively short notice, for example in our maritime resources zone, continues; insofar as these were not susceptible to political handling, they must be met by our defence force in being.
All these situations could change. But there are substantial factors sustaining them that strongly suggest that radical change is unlikely, and that it would be unlikely to happen suddenly. Of course the strategic situation’ is not static. We can expect global and regional competition and tension to continue, arid regional conflicts to break out. But new developments, and the degree to which they are likely to involve Australia, must be assessed. They are not sufficient reasons in themselves for us to place the Services on a higher level of armament, as some critics would have us do. A major feature of last October’s conflict in the Middle East from our strategic point of view was the manner in which the United States of America and the Soviet Union successfully managed the crisis in their relations and used their influence to limit the conflict.
This outlook does not mean that we can simply sit back and rely on the ANZUS Treaty. This Government would not want to take that attitude. Our alliance and working defence relationship with the United States continue important of course - in terms of the global balance, of our regional standing, of the long-term contingency of serious deterioration in our strategic situation, and of defence force in several important practical respects. But we are now required by strategic and international political developments - and we ourselves wish - to deal on our own with any local situations that may arise, to assert an independent strategic influence, and to pursue political- policies more independently of United States views and interests. Therefore, we must keep in being a viable national defence force with manifest capability for expansion, and maintain its development at the modest rate now required by the assumption of larger national responsibility, by the current strategic guidance, and by longer term uncertainties. It is against this background that the 5-year defence plan is prepared and specific proposals are brought forward each year for approval. This planning process readily permits adjustments if any change in circumstances is indicated by our regular strategic reviews.
As I have previously stated in this House, the low threat probability at present requires some restructuring of the defence force and economies in some areas of defence. This I have been vigorously pursuing, as I have made clear in the Parliament and elsewhere. It was essential that reductions be achieved in manpower, with all the savings which follow in pay and allowances and general running and administration costs. But even after the manpower economies I announced in August, defence Service manpower will still be 39 per cent above the 1963 level. Again I am pruning back on the accumulation of excess stocks. We simply cannot go on wasting resources first of all in new production and then in the storage of over-large stocks for which there is no prospective use in present circumstances. All this is being achieved without impairing in any significant way our real defence capability. The aim is by efficient and economical management to reduce expenditure on maintenance and current consumption so that resources may be freed for capital purposes, particularly for the acquisition of necessary new equipments which are the basis of our defence capability in the decades ahead.
The 5-year forward defence plan which has been prepared by the Secretary of the Department of Defence, the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Chiefs of Staff - the Defence Force Development Committee - accords with the principles I have been outlining. The plan contemplates the allocation of very substantial resources to defence to ensure an adequate defence capability - approximately $8,000 in 1974 prices over the 5- year period 1974-79. The plan provides for a shift of resources from consumption and maintenance spending to spending on investment and durable capital items, namely new equipment and infrastructure of bases, training and educational facilities, more efficient storeholding, and living and working accommodation that accords with community standards. Some 25 new major works proposals are included with costs ranging from $lm to $20m as well as very many lesser proposals with a substantial total cost.
The determination of a proper equipment program, with items that satisfy the strategic needs of the present and form a basis for projected future needs is a complex matter. We need to identify the force capabilities relevant to Australia’s future strategic circumstances; to conduct analytical studies of the kinds of weapons and equipments which would best provide those capabilities; and to put these into a total equipment program which takes account of the long lead times and the long life times of major equipments and brings forward projects for decision at the right time. The House knows that the Government has already reached a decision on 3 major items of procurement. There has been no attempt, of course, to deal with the actual items of procurement themselves. There has been some discussion about the timing of the announcement of the procurement of the items to which I have referred. I want to say something on that.
As the Opposition knows, its threat to withhold Supply in the Senate was made only last week; yet 3 weeks ago I told the House of Representatives that these decisions would be announced in April. Three weeks ago I announced in this House that I would be making a decision on. major items of procurement and would inform the Parliament of it. Previous Ministers for Defence who are now members of the Opposition should know that destroyer and long range maritime patrol aircraft submissions had long been in preparation for last year’s Budget. In both cases I suggested that the proposals should be revised. That was done and recommendations were made to me by the Defence Force Development Committee on 28 March. I accepted the recommendations. They were approved by Cabinet on 7 April.
The attempts of Opposition spokesmen to dismiss those decisions as electioneering displays either a woeful ignorance of the processes of defence decision-making or a contemptuous view of the gullibility of the Australian public.
Honourable members will recall that in August last year the Government endorsed a new destroyer program for the Navy with a decision to be made after further investigation of suitable ships. Officers of my Department started these further investigations in September 1973. After much hard work the group reported in early March. The work of this group was reviewed by the Defence Force Development Committee, which, on 28 March, submitted its final recommendations for the 1974-79 defence program, including the decision to purchase the ships at this stage.
Since coming to office I have repeatedly criticised my predecessors for failing to replace the Army’s tanks. That would save millions of dollars each year in maintenance costs as well as give the Army more modern equipment. The Army has been evaluating tanks since 1970. However, the previous Government received no recommendation from its Minister for Defence on tank replacements. It simply was not interested in efficiency. 1 received a recommendation from the Defence Force Development Committee on 28 March confirming the ability to include the replacement of tanks in the 5-year defence program. In the case of all the equipment decisions reached by the Government the Defence Force Development Committee recommendation preceded the Opposition’s decision to deny Supply. In the case of all these decisions the Defence Force Development Committee was able to draw on the results of extremely detailed studies that were conducted and carried out by Service personnel and officers of the Department of Defence. The Opposition pays those people a gratuitous insult by stating that those defence decisions were made simply as a last minute electoral expediency.
In some cases where equipment can be purchased from various manufacturers on competitive terms I have declined to name a particular brand so as to maximise the Government’s purchasing position. The decisions that have been announced are not the be-all of the Government’s determination to redevelop the Services. However, our decisions will be made only after rigorous analysis and announcements will be made only after proper consideration of the work of my advisers. I compliment all those involved in enabling the series of decisions to be reached for the very hard work that they have done.
Honourable members will recall that last year I suspended action for the purchase of a number of major equipment items, particularly the new destroyers for the Royal Australian Navy. I was not satisfied that studies had been made in sufficient depth or that all the possible alternatives had been looked at. Following further detailed investigation of this and other projects, the Government has taken decisions in respect of three major equipment proposals recommended to me by the Defence Force Development Committee. The decisions are to acquire destroyers for the Royal Australian Navy, long range maritime patrol aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force, and armour for the Australian Army.
The Government did not agree last year to go ahead with the previous Government’s destroyer program - the so-called DDL - because it was too uncertain in risk and too high in cost. But the Government did endorse the need for a new destroyer program for the Royal Australian Navy and the investigation of alternatives. These investigations have now been completed. The capabilities of some 50 or 60 representative ships in all, ranging in size from about 500 tonnes to 5,000 tonnes, have been studied.
The Government has accepted the recommendation of the Defence Force Development Committee that we should, as the first step, acquire 2 destroyers of United States design, known as the patrol frigate, and the Government has agreed that negotiations should be opened with the United States Government for this purpose. Further proposals will later be necessary for the acquisition of additional destroyers of a type to be determined at the time.
The patrol frigate ship design has resulted . from an extremely well researched development program. Assuming congressional authorisations, a production run of 50 ships in the United States is expected by the Administration. The main armament consists of a missile system which can launch either surface to air or surface to surface missiles. Each ship can also carry 2 helicopters for surveillance and attack roles. These capabilities are at present somewhat deficient in other units of the Australian fleet. The ship will also have a 76mm gun and anti-submarine torpedo tubes and provision for fitting at a later stage a close-in weapon system for point defence against aircraft or missiles. The selection of the patrol frigate will result in earlier introduction of new destroyers into service with the Royal Australian Navy than would have been the case with the DDL project.
It is proposed that the 2 patrol frigates be procured in the United States with a considerable cost saving. This would also ease the problem of overload of work on Williamstown dockyard which would otherwise occur. Indeed, the present program for the 3 dockyards doing naval work - Williamstown, Garden Island and Cockatoo - is by about 1976 expected to be very heavy. This is because of the normal program of ship and submarine refits, the modernisation of 4 River class destroyers recently approved, the construction of guided missile destroyers, the construction of the oceanographic ship also recently approved, the planned extended refit to HMAS ‘Melbourne’, and other possible work. If the- construction of 2 destroyers were added, the resources of the 3 dockyards would be overtaxed. Without destroyer construction for Williamstown, and with re-scheduled work between the dockyards, a reasonably steady workload is achieved at Williamstown and Garden Island dockyards by early 1975 through to at least 1980. This workload would be equal to or more than the productive capability of the present work force, and at Williamstown in particular would require a build-up in production labour of about 25 per cent.
I turn now to our maritime aircraft needs. Given Australia’s ocean-archipelago environment, long range maritime patrol aircraft are a necessary part of Australia’s force structure at all times for both military and civil purposes. We at present have one squadron of 10 modern Lockheed Orion aircraft and one squadron of 12 obsolescent Neptune aircraft. The latter will reach the end of their life in 1977. On the basis of advice from the Defence Force Development Committee, the Government has decided that the Neptune aircraft will be replaced by 8 modern long range maritime aircraft of a type to be decided. The competitors are the United States P3 type and the British Nimrod. Negotiations will commence immediately. The new aircraft will have a very substantial advantage in speed, endurance and other performance characteristics over the Neptunes, and one-for-one replacement is not justified. It is planned that the Australian BARRA sonobuoy system for detecting sub marines and ships be fitted to the selected aircraft.
The utility of these aircraft for military purposes is well understood. Honourable members may also be aware of the substantial contribution that long range maritime patrol aircraft make in the support of civil needs. I have recently instructed that no less than 800 hours per annum of maritime aircraft flying shall be available in support of civil surveillance needs. In addition, over 500 hours are usually flown each year on civil search and rescue missions, and maritime aircraft assist in scientific research. Detailed studies have shown that the maritime aircraft force decided on will be adequate for these purposes as well as for the military purposes of the aircraft.
Modern armour is essential for the Australian Army as part of an adequate ground force capability. The Army’s present Centurion tanks are almost at the end of their useful life. The Army’s fire support vehicles, of which it has only 15 of an interim type, likewise have operational and training deficiencies, and the numbers are inadequate. The desirable characteristics of various types of armoured vehicles have been the subject of detailed study in Army and in the Defence Department. It has been decided that there is a continuing need for both medium tanks and fire support vehicles, which would be complemented by armoured personnel carriers already in Army inventory in sufficient numbers. The Government has accordingly approved as a first step the acquisition of 53 modern medium tanks of a type yet to be decided. The competitors are the German Leopard’ and the American M60 tanks, both of which have been evaluated in Australia. Contractual negotiations will be entered into immediately. It is contemplated that further tanks may be acquired at a later stage. The Government has also accepted a proposal for the acquisition of 45 modern fire support vehicles by mating the United Kingdom manufactured Scorpion turret to the armoured personnel carriers already in Army inventory: the Army has adequate armoured personnel carriers for this purpose.
This round of equipment decisions - and of course more will follow under the 1974-79 program that provides for some 40 equipment decisions spread over 5 years - accords with the total Defence Plan, the strategic prospect, the capabilities needed, the equipment going out of service, military doctrines and technology, and the resources available. The Defence
Plan will call for later definite decisions on further equipments. These include, for example, a fast combat support ship for the Navy. It will be recalled that I directed study of a less complex and less costly ship, and the Navy is developing a proposal. There is low level anti-aircraft capability on which I expect the Government to take a decision in the coming year after analysis is complete. The replacement of the Mirage aircraft which make up our tactical fighter force will probably require decisions within 2 or 3 years - but not now. The future of naval aviation has been intensively studied. No decisions should be taken now, but a better estimate is needed of the possible life of HMAS ‘Melbourne’ and advantage will be taken of a forthcoming major refit to estimate how far the life of ‘Melbourne’ could be extended, and to weigh other relevant factors.
The decisions which I have announced in respect of destroyers, long range martitime patrol aircraft and armour, will commit the Government to new capital expenditure, presently estimated to be about $330m, which will be spent mainly oyer the next 8 years. There is of course substantial continuing expenditure on equipment projects previously approved and shortly coming into service, such as Oberon submarines, medium lift helicopters for the Royal Australian Air Force and Sea King helicopters for the Royal Australian Navy. Except for the new Royal Australian Navy destroyers, final selection of the new equipments has not been made. It is my intention to seek proposals in open competition from the 2 contending suppliers of the long range maritime patrol aircraft, and the 2 contending suppliers of the medium tanks. The Government’s bargaining position will be carefully preserved during the further development of the contractual aspects of these projects.
My aim is to see that the equipment finally selected provides the best possible overall result in terms of operational performance, cost, delivery time-scale, product support, and Australian industry involvement. It will also be ensured that the contractual and financial terms and conditions are satisfactory, with adequate break clauses ensuring minimum cost penalty to Australia should contractual conditions not be met. In the case of new destroyers, which have the United States Navy as the source, negotiations will be commenced with both the United States foreign military sales organisation and United States equipment suppliers.
Final commitment would only be made when we have achieved satisfactory investment costs, acceptable performance capability, satisfactory industrial offset programs, and agreed financial and contractual terms and conditions.
Central to our consideration of the industrial aspects is the need to be selective in what we do. We must ensure that there are developed locally sufficient technological skills and resource capabilities to support the equipments throughout their service life. This must be done with due allowance for those support capabilities which for operational reasons must remain integral with the Services themselves. It is this policy of selectivity which will bring industry into contact with the advanced technology which is a feature of modern defence equipment.
Our defence industry is presently going through a period of major readjustment. As I said in August 1973 much of this readjustment is necessary because change was avoided for so long by our predecessors. Capacities in our factories and in industry have been based on concepts of production more in keeping with World War II philosophies than present day strategic assessments. To cope with present problems of adjustment, my colleague, the Minister for Secondary Industry and Supply (Mr Enderby) has been most active in efforts to obtain alternative commercial work loads of a suitable type for defence factories. Longer term solutions more in line with the current strategic situation are being pursued with vigour.
The studies into rationalisation of the aircraft industry to which I referred last August are nearly completed. Action is also being taken to refer the question of the future of the aircraft industry to the Industries Assistance Commission. In the meantime the Government has continued to support the industry. The Nomad project approval was extended to 70 aircraft and sales are now in prospect in a number of areas. We have also continued to apply pressure to overseas suppliers of equipment in the further development of offset contracts for Australian industry. The total achievement to date in this field is some $4Sm, of which some $20m has been won by our aircraft industry.
In the area of defence research and development, Australian defence scientists and engineers have a deservedly high reputation and it is our intention that the capability built up over many years should be retained and fostered. Our standing amongst our allies is such that we pool a great deal of research and development information with them to our common benefit. We cannot give complete coverage to all fields of scientific and technological endeavour but we must concentrate our own efforts on areas of particular significance to us. Surveillance is one such area of importance to Australia. I have recently announced the Government’s intention to complete at a cost of some $14m the development in Australia of the BARRA sonobuoy for detecting submarines and ships. This program, the largest research and development project ever undertaken in Australian defence establishments and industry, promises to provide our maritime forces with a sonobuoy without equal. Radar surveillance is also of considerable importance to us and we have been watching overseas developments closely. I expect to announce shortly a program of very advanced research on the application of new techniques in this field. Another project being carried out for use in the modernisation of the River Class Destroyers which I announced last year is the development of a much improved active sonar system known as Mulloka.
I turn now to the area of defence manpower in which the Government has done so much in the comparatively short time since it came to office. One of the very first things this Government did was to honour its promise to abolish conscription. Liability for the call-up ended on 5 December 1972. The National Service Act was subsequently amended to abolish the obligation to render national service. This Government is maintaining an adequate sized Army by voluntary means. The size of the all volunteer Army is now about 31,000. This compares with an Army of only 23,500 in 1965, in the face of the various commitments which our predecessors then saw. Much of the success in maintaining an all volunteer Army is due directly to the improvements made by this Government to pay and conditions for servicemen.
Let me go . through some of the main improvements made in the last year for personnel of the Navy, Army and Air Force. Most importantly there have been substantial pay increases that were long overdue. These were recommended by the Committee of Inquiry into Services’ Pay (the Kerr-Woodward Committee), which worked out a new and simplified pay structure for the Services. We now have concepts and principles for the fixation of Service pay that are comparable with those applying for the community at large, and which ensure that servicemen will not be disadvantaged with their pay. We have set up a Committee of Reference for Defence Forces Pay. It has a judge of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission as Chairman and a commissioner of that body and a senior retired serviceman as members.
This Government also adopted the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee of Inquiry into the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation (the Jess Committee). Australian servicemen now have a retirement benefits scheme that has few, if any, equals in Australia Or anywhere else. Benefits under the Defence Service Homes Act were extended to all permanent members of the defence forces, and the amount of the loan has been increased from $9,000 to $12,000. This Government has increased the range of re-settlement benefits available to serving members. It has also provided repatriation benefits for all members for disabilities arising from their service, not necessarily war service. This Government has provided a re-engagement bounty of $1,000 payable to eligible members who are prepared to undertake a further 3-year period of service. It has been decided to appoint a defence forces ombudsman. It has authorised progressive upgrading of Service housing, to ensure that the standards of domestic living are compatible with the quality of life in the Australian community at large. Standards for new barracks accommodation have also been greatly improved.
On 2 April 1974, this Government tabled in the Parliament a report and draft Bill on the Defence Force Disciplinary Code. This Bill eliminates obsolete offences, reduces general levels of punishment, and modernises such matters as sentencing, trial and review. It will ensure effective discipline in the defence force, but at the same time it will ensure that the rights of individual servicemen are preserved. Re-engagement rates of servicemen finishing their contracts and signing on again have seldom been higher. Recruiting into the Services overall has been satisfactory, particularly in view of the abundance of jobs in the civilian community. The main shortfall - and this is not such a large one - is that we need 300 or 400 more fit young men for the Army’s Field Force. Much is being done to improve the training and the professional education of servicemen.
The Government has recently approved - what our predecessors failed to do - the establishment of an Australian Defence Academy. lt will provide, in the one establishment, education at a tertiary level for officer cadets of all 3 Services, for some cadets from overseas, and for selected serving officers. The Government has also approved proposals under which the orientation and initial military training of Army officers will be centralised, in the early 1980s, in one training establishment.
Turning to matters of Service organisation, I am pleased to be able to say that the Government’s decisions that 1 announced in May 1973 on the future size and shape of the Australian Regular Army, are progressing smoothly. Essentially, the Government decided to maintain the divisional structure but reorganise the Regular Army Field Force on the basis of 6 battalions, each with appropriate combat and logistic support forces. Battalions are being manned to an effective operational training strength. In reorganising the Army, priority is being given to increasing the Army Field Force; that is where bur front-line soldiers are. In 1973-74 the Field Force will increase by some 2,000. There will be offsetting reductions in the Army’s support area, by making better use of the nearly 20,000 personnel it employs. The new Army structure will provide an adequate deployable capacity in present circumstances. Last week I tabled the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Citizen Military Forces. I said then that there must be no doubt that this Government is determined to improve the CMF, that it will give this country an Army Reserve which is attractive to the young men and women who wish to serve in it, and which, with the Regular Army, will also provide a viable base for expansion should this be necessary in the future.
In previous statements I have referred to an inquiry in hand concerning the future disposition of bases and facilities within Australia for our defence forces. The first stage of that review has been completed and is under examination in the Defence Department. As to particular projects, we are continuing with the construction of the naval support facility at Cockburn Sound. This year also the modernisation of dockyard facilities at Williamstown has commenced. There are many other major and minor projects in hand. It is expected that expenditure on housing in 1973-74 will almost double that in 1972-73.
In addition, and as a complementary measure to the housing construction program, dwellings are being purchased on the open market and consideration is being given to the development of a hirings scheme under which the Services will obtain houses and fiats on medium term leases. Consideration is being given to acquiring a large training area in the northwest of Australia for joint service training, including combined exercises with forces of other countries.
To effect the integration of the staffs of the former departments of Navy, Army and Air into a new defence organisation under a Chief of Defence Force Staff and Secretary to the Department, establishment proposals have been made to the Public Service Board. Legislation and regulations to redistribute powers now resident in the separate boards of administration of the Services are in preparation. The organisational arrangements and establishment for defence procurement will be finally decided when the Government has received the report of a committee headed by Sir Walter Scott. In the meantime the Service boards are functioning with a representative of the Secretary replacing the former permanent heads. The fabric of ministerial directives and the system of control and communication to apply when the new organisation comes into existence are in preparation. They will be discussed in detail with the 3 Services. Already the interim steps taken by the Government towards the new defence organisation for the country have greatly increased consultation and a sense of common purpose among all the Service and civilian advisers and administrators assisting the Minister in the control and support of the Navy, Army and Air Force.
Before I conclude I wish to say a few words about Australia’s relations with neighbours and allies. Last week we received in Canberra distinguished guests from both New Zealand and Papua New Guinea - the New Zealand Minister for Defence and the Papua New Guinea Minister for Defence, Foreign Relations and Trade. Defence co-operation with both these countries is basic to our long term perspective. With New Zealand these relations are long standing, but the talks with Mr Faulkner and his team enabled us to consider what new directions may be desirable in the light of changing circumstances and to review a number of important questions of common interest. With Papua New Guinea, the talks last week with Mr Kiki provided valuable guidance for the defence relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea after Papua New Guinea becomes independent, and what contributions will be welcome and useful from us.
We are maintaining full support to the Five Power Arrangements, and the 2 Royal Australian Air Force Mirage squadrons in Malaysia comprise the largest single contribution of the 3 external powers, Australia, Britain and New Zealand, and they help Malaysia and Singapore in developing their air defence capability. We are to review the position next April, but I would expect the Mirages to stay on so long as they are welcome and relevant to the needs of our countries and the region. Our defence aid and co-operation programs with these 2 countries and with Indonesia, an associate of the greatest importance to Australia, continue. Progress is being made in developing a worthwhile joint exercising program over the years. We received a good deal of support in our efforts last year to prune the South East Asia Treaty Organisation. It is now a more realistic organisation, which we believe is capable of worthwhile work.
I mentioned earlier Australia’s relationship with the United States. When I was in the United States early last January, I was able to re-affirm publicly in New York and privately in Washington, to the Secretaries of State and Defence, Drs Kissinger and Schlesinger, and to other senior members of the United States Administration and the United States Armed Services, the importance I and my colleagues in the Government continued to attach to Australia’s alliance and practical working defence relationship with the United States. I re-affirm this again to this House. The relationship with the United States requires management, of course- Our interests are not identical. Our views will sometimes differ. We entertain on our territory United States installations whose presence and functions required the Government to satisfy itself that adequate regard was paid to Australian sovereignty. The agreements under which the facilities are maintained are not necessarily agreements that, in present day circumstances, this Government would wish to conclude in present form. However, we have been able to effect adjustments that in our view serve to make the continued operation of these important facilities compatible with our sovereign status and consistent with our interests. We now see no grounds that would move us to depart from our firmly held policy not to renounce international treaties into which Australia has entered.
The record I have reported to the House this afternoon represents solid achievement by this Government and by the Department of Defence and the 3 defence Services. Compared with a decade ago, our state of defence preparedness is relatively high and we are making prudent provision to allow timely expansion should this become necessary in the future. I believe this policy is right. With the greater responsibilities we now face, Australia cannot simply run down its defence effort because the present period is one of relative tranquility. However, the present strategic prospect does allow us to control the defence burden on the nation, to favour capital investment over current consumption, to institute more efficient and economical management and to give the taxpayer more value for his dollar. I have been determined that this opportunity should not be neglected.
What I am submitting to the House, therefore, is a record of achievement in regard to the nation’s defence capability; major improvements in conditions of service of our servicemen and women; greater efficiency and economy in defence organisation and spending; and a prudent and responsible defence posture for present circumstances and the future strategic prospect. I submit, Mr Speaker, that my report is worthy of the full support of this House, as I am confident it will win the endorsement of the nation. I present the following paper:
Australian Defence - Ministerial Statement, 9 April 1974. and move:
That the House take note of the paper.
– Ever since the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) took up his portfolio he has been defending the country with words and very little else. He added formidably to that record this afternoon with 28 more pages of words in his swan song as Minister; for Defence. When this Government took office the S-year rolling program for equipment provision set in motion by the previous Government ceased to roll. It got stuck. Decisions made by the Government last Sunday have not been announced in this House until today. ‘ The Minister rushed out ‘ of a Cabinet meeting and announced the Government’s decisions to the Press on Sunday night, and it has taken until today for the Department of Defence officers to write the statement that he made today.
– That is a lie and you know it. It is a deliberate lie, a malicious lie.
-Order! The Minister for Defence will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, Mr Speaker.
– To the extent that the decisions announced by the Government will set the rolling program rolling again, those of us interested in the security of Australia should be profoundly grateful, albeit in the process we have lost 20 precious months. It is worth reminding the House that all these items - if one calls the patrol frigate a destroyer replacement - were announced as part of a 5- year rolling program in September 1972 by the previous Minister, the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn). That is why I say that we have lost 20 precious months, even if the program creaks into action again tomorrow, which it will not.
The Minister said at his Press conference on Sunday that these decisions will defuse defence as an issue at the coming election. Apart from providing an interesting insight into the Government’s motives for making the decisions - I will have more to say about that in a moment - I wonder whether the Minister is right and whether it will defuse defence as an issue. The Australian people are not fools. Does the Minister really think that they will think that the leopard has changed its spots just because he has chosen to announce the spending of a miserable $350m on defence equipment on the eve of an election? I say a miserable $350m’ advisedly, because, although it sounds a good substantial sum and was meant to sound a good substantial sum, it is to be spread over 8 years. This amount of money probably will have no impact at all on next year’s Budget. It will represent no more than a fraction of one-tenth of a percentage point of the proportion of the gross national product spent on defence. I would be surprised if it added 2 per cent to the proportion of the defence vote spent on equipment, a proportion that under this Government has dropped to a disastrous all-time low of 8 per cent.
Does the Minister really believe that the Australian people, as a result of this announcement, will forget everything that had gone before? Will they forget the shameful dishonouring of an election promise to spend 3.S per cent of the GNP on defence? In its first Budget the Government budgeted for 2.9 per cent of the GNP. Will they forget the scuttle from Singapore? Will they forget actions, which, whatever the Minister might have said today, have reduced the Army to a state where it has variously been described as a corporal’s guard and equivalent to the New York City Police Force, even though it is now to receive some unspecified tanks in quite inadequate numbers? Will the Australian people forget the effect the Government’s actions have had on the morale of the Services, so that officers are resigning in droves and despite the payment of a very expensive re-engagement bonus the Army gained only 11 men last year and the target strength of 34,000 by 1976 announced by the Minister has now become quite unattainable? Will the public forget the cuts in flying time, steaming time and training expenditure that ultimately must have a devastating effect on the morale and efficiency of the defence forces? Will they forget the scrapping of HMAS ‘Sydney’, so that Australia now has no strategic mobility by sea at all? Will they forget the decision to defer acquisition of a fast combat support ship, making it so much more difficult to sustain a 2-ocean Navy and, indeed, for the patrol frigates, when acquired, to operate far from their base?
I could go on with this catalogue almost indefinitely, but it does most graphically make the point that the Government has only itself to blame if the Australian people treat with profound scepticism the sudden conversion of the Government to an interest in defence. The Government should not be surprised if the Australian people asked themselves what new threat emerged on Sunday and came to the conclusion that a group of frightened men on that day felt themselves threatened by a loss of power. They would be justified in their scepticism, and for a number of reasons. For nearly 2 years now the Minister has been preaching to us that there was no discernible threat for 15 years. For nearly 2 years he has been using this absence of a threat to justify the Government’s monstrous decimation of our defence capability. For nearly 2 years he has attributed this to the strategic basis produced by the Government’s advisers, when the interpretation of that document was the Government’s and the Government’s alone. The document, as is becoming well known, of course was written in haste, at the Minister’s direction, by 2 officers with no defence experience. The Chiefs of Staff had 3 or 4 days, I am reliably informed, to put their imprimatur on it.
What sort of confidence, what sort of faith, can the people have in a Government which distorts the normal process of producing a document, so vital to our security, to serve its own purposes? The Millar Committee has stated publicly that it disagrees with the Government’s assessment of the threat situation. And now, so we are led to believe, the Government is backing away from its own assessment. That is what the words used by the Minister today mean. He has had a change of heart; or has the imminence of an election concentrated his mind wonderfully? Sir, the whole rotten edifice is beginning to crack.
The public would be justified in being highly sceptical when they consider the whole sorry story of the Government’s handling of a destroyer replacement - a story that has culminated in the announcement that we are to buy 2 United States patrol frigates. I call the patrol frigate a destroyer replacement, but to the previous Government the DDL, for which it is a substitution, was something more than a replacement for the Daring class destroyers when they went out of service in the early 1980s. It was to put into effect that Government’s view that in the 1980s and beyond there must be a strengthening of our total maritime capacity, both in ships and in aircraft. It was to put into effect our view that we must have a self-reliant maritime capacity - a capacity to operate independently over the vast distances that comprise our maritime environment. It was “ to put into effect our view that we must have the capacity to deter a potential threat. It was to put into effect our view that we needed to update our dockyards, to nurture and to enhance our naval design capacity, and to foster the range of skills involved in naval construction. It was to put into effect our view that any ship we acquired should be . capable of effective modernisation during the life of that ship.
The DDL was designed to achieve all these great objectives. The patrol frigate although an excellent ship for its role, achieves none of them. Because it is designed for a specialist purpose - mid-ocean escort - it is not capable of operating independently of other ships. It does not provide a self-reliant capacity without extensive support from other ships. It has, indeed, only one screw and is not as fast as the DDL. In these circumstances it has nothing like the deterrent value of the DDL. It is not being built in Australia, and thus makes no contribution to our dockyard cap acity and naval shipbuilding and design skills. It has a very small hull and, as a result, a limited capacity for modernisation later in its life. In short it is little more than a destroyer replacement designed to fill the gaps when the Darings are paid off. It will do nothing to enhance our maritime capacity - a capacity which will be so urgently needed in the 1980s. That is the situation to which this Government has brought us. By this decision it has signalled to other countries - some of them perhaps potential enemies - now in 1974 that we will not have that capacity in the 1980s.
It is no good the Minister saying that this decision has the support of the Defence Force Development Committee and that the Navy thinks the patrol frigate is a good ship. The fact is that the Government’s failure to make a decision on the DDL - the most carefully examined project in Australian defence history - its prevarication, its delays, its overseas missions and task forces have created a situation in which the patrol frigate bought overseas is the only means of providing ships when the Darings go out of commission. The Defence Force Development Committee was faced with a fait accompli of the Government’s making. It is little wonder that the Committee agreed. Neither is it any good the Minister talking about the cost of the DDL project and making snide references to the Fill. The fact is that the patrol frigate has not yet been built nor will it be for some time to come. On the other hand the DDL was very carefully costed at 1972 prices. The price then of $360m for 3 ships - not two - included a very considerable amount for infrastructure including the upgrading of Williamstown dockyard, which would have been a permanent legacy. When that is taken into account, the cost of the ships themselves from the figures that have been given, taking into account that they have been deliberately designed to mislead, would not appear to be very different.
There is one further factor which is extremely relevant to cost - not to the initial cost but to the cost of the life of the ship. There is not room in the hull of the patrol frigate to carry out the modernisation that will be necessary if its life is to be extended as a modern fighting ship. Because this capacity was built into the DDL, my guess is that the patrol frigate will end up being a very much more expensive buy. This is what we have been led to by the Government’s failure to make decisions essential to the security of the country at the right time and with proper foresight. It is inconceivable that the people of Australia will regard these decisions as anything more than the panic reactions of a group of men frightened by the electoral consequences of failing to do anything - decisions likely to be reviewed and reversed in the unlikely event that honourable members opposite get back into Government.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– We have just heard the usual breast beating, the usual sort of emotion and the usual exaggerated claims of the Opposition based on leaks and newspaper stories. We have heard no policies put forward. The honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) referred to the Millar Committee as having a differing strategic assessment of the defence situation facing Australia. Dr Millar has made his position clear on many occasions. He has stated quite recently that he cannot see a threat to this country in the foreseeable future and he does not think it likely for many years to come that we will be sending a major expeditionary force overseas. This is the situation as the Australian Government sees it. The assessment of no threat to Australia for IS years is an assessment of no threat to the continent of Australia. The Committee did not say that there is no threat. This point should be hammered home. We all know that 3 years is probably the outside assessment we can make in regional terms, not in terms of major attacks on the continent of Australia.
At the outset I would like to refute the squeals from the spoilt babies in the Opposition who say that this announcement is an election gimmick and that it is too little too late. As the secretary of the Government member’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee I can vouch for the fact that this, matter has been talked about constantly since we came into Government. The program roughly as put up has been talked about for the last 6 months. Basically we reached the decisions 2 months ago in all but a few items of cost. If Opposition members had listened carefully in August last year they would have heard then that the Government had made up its mind about destroyer replacements. It was stated clearly at that time. The 2 patrol frigates mentioned in . the present announcement are the major components of that program.
The Opposition does not understand what is meant by a rolling program. When the Australian Labor Party came to office it found a list of ill conceived and over expensive programs. The Government was given a shopping list. That is the best way to describe it. It was a desirable shopping list. Everything was included on it, but what it meant was that to pay off the capital we would need to have a gross national product figure for defence of at least 7 per cent by 1980 and 1981. Not enough consideration was given to the level of sophistication. The Government’s decision announced today reflects the view that the new direction is for more of less sophisticated weapons rather than fewer of more sophisticated weapons. We must accept that Australia is on its own. This has been made quite clear by the United States of America and Great Britain.
Comments were also made about modesty. As I said, what the Opposition fails to understand is the nature of a rolling program. Decisions this week are only this year’s decisions. They are not even the only decisions with respect to the patrol frigates. Others will or will not be ordered in the future to be built here or overseas, depending on that year’s evaluation. The program simply rolls every year. In that way no options are closed. Inherent in the concept of a rolling program is the fact that both other orders and increases in sophistication can be slotted into the program and budgeted for. A rolling program allows for advance in our orders, evaluation of the effectiveness of equipment, and increasing sophistication of equipment. The question of whether the program is imaginative simply is not relevant. What has been announced has been heavily researched in terms of the right types of equipment and the right cost. In terms of the equipment mix the Government has put forward, this does not indicate imagination in the total mix but it does indicate that we are setting off in new directions in programming. This is the major breakthrough. Next year’s program is not pre-empted by this announcement.
Let us have a look at the DDL program. It certainly pre-empted all the Government’s naval procurement decisions for a long time ahead. These are the 12 ships which, under the Liberal procrastination and so-called planning, became three. These 3 ships, instead of becoming hunters, became hunted ships. The patrol frigate has quite a few advantages over the DDL. The 2 most obvious advantages are the low cost and early delivery schedules. As detailed by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard), the savings on an equal buy for the patrol frigate manufactured in the United States amount to some $73m, assuming that the DDL program had proceeded without any difficulties. The patrol frigate has been the subject of one of the most rigorous development programs ever undertaken by the United States Navy. All major sub-systems are being developed by the United States Navy before they are incorporated in the final design. Once congressional approval has been given, however, production of the first batch of ships will proceed rapidly. We will receive them in 1979 or early 1980.
There are a few disadvantages. Mention has been made of the gunnery. But here again there are sound technical reasons for the gunnery that is on the ship. The option of a five inch gun is not lost. There are advantages also in terms of range and sea keeping in which the patrol frigate slightly shades the DDL. All the electronics are virtually the same. The patrol frigate is well ahead in terms of the new maintenance philosophy. So in quite a few areas the patrol frigate is well ahead of the DDL. This program does not limit options in the way the DDL project did.
There has been criticism of the dockyard labour force. It is said that not enough work wil be provided for the dockyards. The simple fact is that Garden Island dockyard has the DDG refit which will take from 1 976 onwards. It has enough work until then. I refer to the automated fire command installation on the ship. Williamstown dockyard is being upgraded. It will be working on the destroyer escorts from 1977 onwards and on the ‘Cook’, the oceanographic ship, from late this year. Cockatoo Island will carry out 2 submarine refits in 1976 and also will work on the DE electronics. All these things indicate that there is a full workload in the dockyards and that, in fact, from 1976 onwards, we will need to recruit a lot more people.
In the few minutes available to me, I should like to express my delight at the Government’s decision in respect of HMAS ‘Melbourne’. I am not aware of the naval air power study in full, but I do hear some rather sombre rumblings from the Department of Defence and I should like to congratulate the Minister for Defence for taking the wider view of his advisers’ and his own personal attitudes on this matter as well as the advice of the Government’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee. What will now happen is that the ‘Melbourne’ will go into dock for 2 months for a refit, when a thorough, careful examination of the full extent of its operational life will be made. Here, I am referring mainly to the hull. The results of this survey which I am sure will be favourable will enable a massive refit to take place that -will allow the Government to plan on the availability of the ‘Melbourne’ until 1985 or 1986. The situation has changed with respect to technology in the last month or so in regard to naval air power. It is only in the last 2 months that the Harrier concept has been seen to be a real goer. The United States is now thinking of the advanced version of the Harrier called the AVI 6 which the Hawker-Siddeley and McDonnell-Douglas companies are developing. This development will give a longer lease of life to all aircraft carriers throughout the world. The AV16 is. 50 per cent more effective in terms of strike power than the A4s which we have.
The final point I should like to make is that if the fleet air arm is going to carry through until 1985 or 1986 with this massive refit of the ‘Melbourne’ it is essential that in the meantime the A4s have either Harpoon or Bullpup missiles. I think the Minister for Defence is to be congratulated on the thoroughness of the statement and the fact that it is well researched and gives all the reasons why we have opted for this mix. The statement represents only this year’s decisions made now. It does not pre-empt future decisions in terms of the rolling program. What is unique about the statement is that the Minister said that inherently this is part of the rolling program of defence procurement which will continue for ever in Australia.
– It is unfortunate that the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Kerin) whose technical advice as an officer of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics I always found economically sound should have resorted to a field of politics where so obviously his judgment is not so. Indeed, there is no area of this Government’s responsibility which is more defective than that of defence. It is rather tragic that today an assessment of a rolling program should have been brought forward only because of the imminence of the new threat that apparently emerged at the weekend - the threat of an election. Without doubt, if there had not been that threat we would still be awaiting the decisions of the Government and when they did emerge, no doubt they would be no more sound than they are today. I believe it is tragic, firstly because there has been an 18-month delay in the commitment of the Government to a significant new re-equipment program in major capital items. Certainly, there have been a number of new commitments in not necessarily minor areas but in areas not as significant as those that are embraced in this statement.
It is interesting that, in the presentation of this statement, the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) found it necessary and fit to make a revision of his former assessment of a forward defence need and of a former strategic position for Australia’s defence forces. Of course, he does this on a premise which I find very difficult to support. It is interesting that on page 4 of his statement he states what I think we are all beginning to recognise he sees as a necessary conclusion of his own administrative record. That is to say, he seeks to maintain only a corp force which he hopes might be capable of timely expansion should the heed arise. Tragically, that is the product of this statement and of his administration - that there has been over 18 months a progressive reduction of the size and the ability of Australia’s defence forces down to a corp force whose present ability and structure one must seriously question. As to the forward defence strategic assessment, the Government has tried to make a great deal of its assessment of Australia as a growing nation which, even in this statement is said to be independent of other countries. Yet the very product of the Australian defence effort is to lessen that ability and tragically the result even of this defence re-equipment program is that in the 1980s, our defence forces are to be less efficient and less competent to assert that independence than they have ever been before.
Let me just pick up 2 points in relation to this statement. The first is a reference to page 6 of the Minister’s statement where he acknowledges a force which is so vital to Australia’s future security - the compelling restraints of the nuclear balance. Unfortunately, I am sure that in the Australian Labor Party the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing because I am quite sure that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has never heard of the nuclear balance even if the Minister for Defence has. After all, the nuclear balance is the fundamental reason why the Opposition supports the American presence in Diego Garcia. We are concerned as apparently the Minister is not about the probable re-opening of the Suez Canal and the implications of that re-opening on the access that the Russian Fleet thereafter will have to the Indian Ocean. The entire trend of the Minister’s statement and of this Government’s policies has been towards passing over the Indian Ocean to Russian control and domination. The Government apparently is not concerned at the implications for Western Australia and for Australia in the future of any change in that nuclear balance which the Minister uses as the basis for his own forward strategic assessment.
Nuclear balance means the equal strategic positioning of the major powers of the world to ensure that, at least from our side, we are not significantly disadvantaged. The nonsense that comes out of the strategic assessment as presented in this paper is that the Minister, having asserted the theory, demonstrates Australia’s incapacity to contribute towards the strength of the Western and free world. There is also the failure of the Government to recognise the importance of Diego Garcia to contribute towards the possible buildup of American presence in the Indian Ocean, a theatre of maritime and strategic importance to Australia.
The Minister then continues to talk about the possibility of low level situations on relatively short notice - for example, in our maritime resources zone - continuing. Having recognised that in a short term there is a possibility of low level situations occurring, he still in the implication of his policy fails to provide the sinews of war, of defence - to meet those low level situations. In another field, of course, we have the progressive movement away by this Government from the free world to the non-aligned world, an alignment that is regrettably increasingly with the communist world as well.
– Even the other day Australia sought a North Korea link. We have moves in every theatre of the world by this Government towards a closer alignment with the communist world and a movement away from the free world. Government supporters might pooh-pooh the entire consequences of this drift, but they need to recognise that we are talking about Australian defence and, if we have a look at Australia’s strategic position, it is important to see from where and in what way a defence threat is likely to emerge. It seems to me that there are 2 probable ways in which such a threat will emerge. One is by any weakening of this nuclear balance. The nuclear balance involves not only the major powers but also those which are aligned on either side and this Government is distinctly moving away from Australia’s traditional position with the Western free world to one which is aligned on the other side of the camp or one that is stuck somewhere in between sitting on the fence. That, of course, is the parity of so much of what this Government does - sitting on the fence, unable to make up its mind where it should head. The other threat comes from these smaller brush fire commitments. Even there in this supposed assertion of Australian nationalism the very substance of this defence statement denies Australia’s ability to pursue or to implement anything of the defence independence that we should be able to implement.
Let us turn now to the actual details of the statement itself and the implementation of this new major capital equipment program which the Minister for Defence has announced in such a brave way to the House this afternoon and, of course, to the Press about a week ago. One comes to expect from the Government an attitude that, after all, the Press is more important than the Parliament and probably that is the order of things, at least from the point of view of the Australian Labor Party. In regard to defence re-equipment, on page 10 of the statement we are told:
The Government did not agree last year to go ahead with the ‘ previous Government’s destroyer program - the so-called DDL - because it was too uncertain in risk and too high in cost.
It is unfortunate that the Minister himself seems to have been so committed to the reversal of the DDL program that he saw fit in an article which appeared in the ‘Australian Quarterly’, volume 44, No. 2 of June 1972 on pages 9 to 17, to commit himself to such a line. On page 17 in his conclusion he said:
I have sought to indicate how the DDL concept goes completely against trends in the development of vessels for maritime warfare. For this reason and the certain high cost, it does not seem to me to be the proper solution for the problems our Navy will face in the next 30 years.
So much for independent advice. So much for the advice of those who are members of the Defence Department and who justifiably should be making the judgment. The Minister will say: ‘Oh, I have said that I have accepted the recommendation of the Defence Forces Development Committee’. Perhaps the Minister might see fit in his concept of open government to table that report. Then perhaps we will be able to see just to what degree the Defence Forces Development Committee and those others who do not feel committed to act just as sycophants to the Minister might be prepared to make a judgment as to the relative capacity of this patrol frigate, the DDL.
Many assessments have been made as to the ability of the DDL in areas where the patrol frigate is not intended to operate. There is no denying that the patrol frigate has an ability in a limited area. It is not intended, however, to operate in the areas and to the degree to which Australia’s defence independence and defence posture may require it. I commend to the Minister an analysis of an article written by Mr Frank Cranston, the defence and aviation correspondent for the ‘Canberra Times’, in this morning’s edition of that paper. In that report he very correctly analyses some figures from ‘‘Jane’s Fighting Ships’, saying that the DDL reference in the current edition of that booklet as ‘a most interesting advance’ compared with the patrol frigate whose limitations are expressly set out, limitations which saw the United States Congress in 1971 expressing severe doubt by denying for 12 months the necessary funds for prototype development. Yet the Minister says: ‘But of course the certain high cost of the DDL is the reason that we found it necessary to reject the project*. Perhaps the Minister has not realised that if one takes the prospective delivery date of these patrol frigates as 1980, under the present inflation rate of 8 per cent per annum from now until that time, the present assessment of costs which the Minister has given in his statement as being somewhere of the order of $167m will escalate to $320m by the time the ships are in fact delivered. So much for the comparison in costs.
It is true, of course, that the patrol frigate has a single screw. Those of us who have in any way been associated with shipping will recall with concern the incidents, even in mercantile fleets, where ships have wallowed in mid-ocean without an ability to defend themselves or to do much about it. Only in the last few weeks we had the lamentable story of Queen Elizabeth II*.
– A 3-screw vessel.
– That is right, a 3-screw vessel and one of the most advanced ships in the world, wallowing in mid-Atlantic because the boilers had broken down. We are talking here about a single-screw vessel which will be called on to cruise around the extensive coastline of Australia in its defence commitment - even the Minister himself acknowledges in his statement that it will be called on - a task which is surely beyond its ability..
Because my time is running out in this debate let me turn to the Minister’s decision regarding long range maritime aircraft. I think it is most unfortunate that there should be such a brief analysis of why there is to be a reduction below the minimum of 12 aircraft which the Royal Australian Air Force itself has said would be necessary. So far as these aircraft are concerned, we do not yet know what aircraft will be committed. Let us make no mistake about this. The Minister has given a general assessment of what he thinks we might need. He does not know which aircraft we are going to buy although he has given us 2 alternatives. But he said we are going to buy eight of them after the Government has shopped around and made a judgment as to which aircraft is the more suitable. There are very real problems in determining to what degree which particular aircraft might be best able to fulfil our requirements.
It is interesting to note that there have been other judgments made of the degree to which Treasury already rules the Minister’s ability to determine the purchases for our defence forces. For example, in the March 1974 edition of ‘Aircraft’ it is said that the RAAF’s interest in the Nimrod was dealt a jolt in 1973 by the return of Labor Administration, and then an almighty wallop by Mr Barnard’s near total defeat in the subsequent scramble for funds. Overnight the official line changed from *we have a requirement for long-range maritime patrol aircraft and we are shopping around for the best to buy’ to the present one that ‘we are maintaining a polite interest in the LRMP but have no intention of buying in the immediate future’. So, long after, on the eve of an election, we get a decision by the Minister, which is a non-decision because he has not even told us which aircraft he is going to buy.
The same thing applies so far as the purchase of tanks for the Army is concerned. The 5-year rolling program which was introduced by the previous Government evaluated the long-term defence needs of this country and, after considerable examination of the alternatives, arrived at a basis by which there could be a continuing re-equipment of each of the services. We were just at the point where a new tank commitment would be entered into. Now, 18 months later, we are told that, instead of an apparent 130 tanks which the local industry people were still thinking would be required only a few weeks ago - local industry has been making an assessment of a possible order of that ilk, that is, 130 - there will be 53 modern medium tanks, although the type of tank has not yet been decided, and another 45 modern fire-support vehicles, lt is just not good enough.
From the Opposition’s point of view we are concerned about the maintenance of Australian security. We are worried about the degree to which Labor has let Australia’s security run down in its inability to maintain a reasonable forward re-equipment program. Perhaps we should be thankful for small mercies, but small mercies are not a basis upon which independent defence capacity can be maintained or asserted. This is no area in which a nation can be fooled around. This is an area of immediate and vital importance to the security and maintenance of our way of life. There is no area in which this Government stands more condemned than in this area for which the Deputy Prime Minister, - who is also the Minister for Defence, is unfortunately responsible.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hansen) adjourned.
– I move:
That the House agrees with the Committee in its report.
The House will recall that this matter was raised on 6 December last by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews). The honourable member informed the House that a letter dated 2 December 1973, written on House of Representatives stationery, and purporting to have been signed by him, had been received by the editor of the ‘Sun NewsPictorial’. The letter advocated a negative vote for both forthcoming referendums seeking Australian Government powers over prices and incomes. Mr Mathews made it clear that he had not written the letter and that the views expressed in the letter were directly opposed to those which he had expressed. Following this inquiry the Committee of Privileges found:
In view of the unanimous findings of the Committee I have proposed the motion that the Committee’s’ report be agreed to and I commend it to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, very briefly as a member of the Committee
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! The question has been put.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It occurs to me that as the honourable member for Griffith was obviously caught off guard by the proceedings and wished to make a contribution in respect of this matter, the Postmaster-General may grant him leave to make a short statement.
– Perhaps that can be done later.
– There is no point of order. The question was put and ample opportunity was given to honourable members who wished to speak to do so. However, if leave is granted, the honourable member for Griffith may speak.
– I am happy to let the House proceed to more significant items of business.
Bill presented by Mr Whitlam, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr Speaker, section 3 of the Constitution provides that there shall be payable out of Consolidated Revenue for the salary of the Governor-General an annual sum which, until the Parliament otherwise provides, shall be $20,000. The Constitution also provides that the salary of a Governor-General shall not be altered during his continuance in office. It is proposed now in this Bill that, for the first time since Federation, the Parliament should establish an amount for the salary of the Governor-General other than that provided in the Constitution. It is proposed that the Governor-General’s salary be $30,000. This salary will become payable when the new Governor-General is sworn.
It is important, as I know the House will readily accept, that a matter such as the Governor-General’s salary should be dealt with in a non-party way. Also, it is necessary that the salary arrangements for GovernorsGeneral should clearly recognise the importance and place of this high office. Appointment to the position of Governor-General should not be made to depend on personal wealth or the availability of other income. These considerations have been taken into account in the salary now proposed. It is time that the Parliament provided an increase.
There has never been any legislative retirement provision for a Governor-General. Consequently, in a number of cases, it has been necessary for the Government to make ex gratia payments to former GovernorsGeneral or to their widows. There are many calls on a man who has been GovernorGeneral or on a woman who is the wife or widow of a former Governor-General arising from the position they have held. It is only reasonable to recognise this. We now propose by this Bill to make provision for the future under legislation rather than by ex gratia payment.
The proposed pension arrangements for the Governor-General are based in part on the pension arrangements that apply for the Chief Justice of Australia. In brief, a GovernorGeneral on retirement will be eligible for a pension equivalent to that payable from time to time under the appropriate legislation to a retired Chief Justice of Australia. The widow of a Governer-General will have an entitlement equivalent to the entitlement for the widow of a Chief Justice of Australia. The House will appreciate that all the provisions of the Judges’ Pensions Act do not automatically apply. It is not desirable to determine, for instance, a qualifying period for payment of pension. The Bill does provide, however, that where a former Governor-General has other pension entitlements payable by Australia or a State or a Territory of Australia the retirement benefit in total shall not exceed that to which a retired Chief Justice of Australia is entitled.
Honourable members will notice that the entitlements for retirement benefits under the Bill are not retrospective. The circumstances of former Governors-General and widows of former Governors-General vary. A full pension entitlement in all cases is not called for, It is intended, however, to continue the ex gratia amounts now payable and to adjust them from time to time. They will be reviewed, in the first place, in the light of this legislation. I shall, if he wishes, let the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) know what adjustments are to be made. The provisions in this Bill both as to salary and as to retirement benefit for Governors-General are necessary and timely. I commend the Bill to the House.
Leave granted for debate to continue forthwith.
– The Opposition most strongly supports the 3 principles to which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) referred, namely, that the Governor-General’s salary should be dealt with in a non-party way, that the salary arrangements for the Governor-General should clearly recognise the importance and place of this high office and that appointment to the position of GovernorGeneral should not be made to depend on personal wealth or the availability of other income. The Opposition recognises changes that have taken place in the situation. It supports the Bill in principle and in detail.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Whitiam) read a third time.
Bill presented by Dr J. F. Cairns, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr Speaker, this Bill provides for the validation until 31 August 1974 of the duties collected in pursuance of those Customs Tariff Proposals which have not been enacted to date. The tariff changes validated by the Bill relate to Tariff Board reports on:
Acetone Derivatives; Ethyl Methyl Ketone
Agricultural Machinery, etc; Lawn Sprinklers
Cathode Ray Tubes
Consumer Electronic Equipment and Components Domestic Appliances, Heating and Cooling Apparatus
Earthmoving, Construction’ and Materials Handling
Equipment, etc. Engines, Motors, Pumps and Valves Fire Hose Lightning Arresters
Machine Tools for Working Stone, etc., and Wood etc.; Pneumatic Hand Tools, etc.; NZAFTA - Machine Tools for Working Wood, etc.; Chain Saws (Dumping and Subsidies Act)
Metal Plates, etc. for Printing Purposes
Prepared Additives for Mineral Oils, etc.
Products of the Printing Industry
Resins of the Propylene Type, and
Synthetic Rubber Latex and the following reports by the Special Advisory Authority:
Industrial Type Plastic Coated Knitted Gloves, and Phthalic Anhydride
The 25 per cent tariff cut and the revised and expanded system of tariff preferences for imports from developing countries are also being validated by the Bill. I commend the Bill.
Leave granted for debate to continue forthwith.
– The Customs Tariff Validation Bill 1974 raises a number of important issues. The Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) stated in the latter part of his second reading speech that under this Bill the 25 per cent tariff cut and the revised and expanded system of tariff preferences for imports from developing countries will be validated. The system of tariff preferences for developing countries is one which is strongly supported by honourable members on this side of the House. I have a particular interest in this area.
The original system of such preferences - generalised non-reciprocal tariff preferences to developing countries - was instituted by the former Government in 1964 and approved by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1965. In doing so the former Government was ahead of international initiatives in that area and alone among developed or advanced countries. So it is an initiative which derived from this side of the House. It has now been extended by the proposal, which will be validated by the passage of this legislation, to comprise a system whereby as from 1 January of this year imports from developing countries will receive a tariff preference in the form of a reduction of 10 percentage points. Of course that may well represent a much larger percentage reduction in the tariff granted. The reduction of a 35 per cent duty by 10 percentage points to 25 per cent is a very significant proportionate reduction.
While broadly in sympathy with this approach I think there will be some difficulties. While agreeing that indigenous industries, in particular, in developing countries should be given encouragement to increase their exports in this way I think that care needs to be taken in looking at the impact on Australian industry. There is the very real possibility that this preference to developing countries will be used by developed countries to avoid the incidence of tariff duties, through subsidiaries established in developing countries to take advantage of the preferences so accorded. For instance, major Japanese competitors could operate from Hong Kong, Singapore or Indonesia and United States companies from Latin America and the Philippines. So I think it is important that this aspect of a general policy with whichthis side of the House is in sympathy should be kept under review. I understand that a further reduction of 10 percentage points is proposed in 2 years time. It may well be that that proposal should be carefully considered in the light of any response along the lines I have suggested to this proposal.
I think that some of the difficulties which can arise are illustrated by the document which has been tabled relating to the printing industry and which is to be validated by this Bill. The system of preferences to which I have referred was instituted on 1 January and, as I recall, the Government’s decision in relation to the printing industry was brought in on 4 January. That was in accordance with an investigation in this case by the Tariff Board - the predecessor of the Industries Assistance Com mission - which took place over a period of upwards of 4 years preceding the lodging of the Tariff Board report in question. After all that time and all that deliberation the Tariff Board recommended and the Government accepted in certain key areas a tariff of 35 per cent. When the Government looked at this report the question of the preference to the developing countries came up and, despite the fact that the origins of competition in certain key areas are specifically referred to in the report as being from countries which would be classified as developing countries, the duty as recommended by the Tariff Board- was reduced by the 10 percentage points in question from 35 per cent to 25 per cent. I instance that only as a way in which a policy which broadly has the support of this House - indeed, which this side of the House initiated, as I have said, ahead of international initiatives in this area and alone among advanced countries - needs to be implemented carefully in view of its effect on Australian industry. The fact that the Board deliberated for over 4 years to arrive at its conclusions and that in one fell swoop, in accordance with this arrangement, the considered opinion of the Board is significantly reduced indicates that we have a situation which needs watching carefully.
I think this episode is perhaps symptomatic of a situation in which there is a great deal of uncertainty, in industry concerning the Government’s policies. Tariff policy is one of those areas. One can ask the question: What is the Government’s tariff policy? The answer is that it is not clear, except that bv and large it is seen by industry as being ‘anti*. I would say that the stance is for low levels of protection, but it is a stance which, in the absence of a detailed statement from the Minister, would appear to be of a theoretical and doctrinaire kind involving, as it would seem, the somewhat haphazard removal or reduction of protection all round. I refer to the situation in respect of the domestic appliances report that is to be validated by the passage of this legislation. It is a very significant report. It is one of interest in that to my knowledge it would be one of the first in which there is a significant number’ of cases in the schedule where the general and the preferential rates have been ironed out into one single rate, which did raise difficulties at the time. When the Government accepted the report it stated that people could look forward to widespread reductions in the prices of these products. But the decision inevitably had the effect in the case of some imports where the single rate was fixed above the previous preferential rate, of prices increasing. However, I mention only that it was a significant report.
In the context in which it was announced, the Government put a good deal of stress on the fact that it implemented the proposals in a period of high domestic demand and one could add to that the situation of local and overseas shortages of supply. There was the implication that all of this would considerably soften the impact on the viability of the industry and on prospective unemployment in the industry. Now, that is as it may be. But surely the tariff decisions must be seen as long term. The frame of reference and the basis for action should be normal levels of demand and total activity in the economy. It is to be hoped that the requirements of this industry have been judged in that sort of context. But it is difficult in the light of the Government’s emphasis on the effect of high levels of demand and local and overseas shortages in softening the impact, to know just what the policy is.
There is the statement by the Minister for Overseas Trade, who is sitting at the table, in relation to the tariff on vehicles. He is quoted in the Press - I do not know whether correctly - as saying in Adelaide that:
One does not need a crystal ‘ball to realise that the Industries Assistance Commission will recommend the reduction.
There was a reference to a reduction in tariffs on imported cars. Not being familiar with the Government’s policy in relation to tariffs, I ask: Why is a crystal ball not needed? Why then a long and protracted inquiry to determine what is the appropriate level of assistance? We have a recent query in relation to the report on woven products. The interdepartmental committee dealing with the matter apparently wrote to the Commission requesting it to comment further on the reasons for its recommendations for an effective rate in excess of 50 per cent. It said:
We have in mind the 1967-68 Annual Report of the Tariff Board where it was indicated that in the areas of production which are found to have little prospect of operating with an effective rate below SO per cent, sufficient protection to allow the industries concerned to compete for resources on the same terms as low cost industries would not be recommended.
This query derives from an important committee, a committee of key advisers to the Government in this area. I put this to the Minister: Does this indicate that the Govern ment’s tariff policy is identical with that laid down in the 1967-68 Tariff Board Report, which was to the effect that industries requiring protection in excess of 50 per cent effective rate were to be eliminated? Is it on the basis of reference to these arithmetic steps or levels of protection? One gathers that a level of 25 per cant was perhaps anticipated for the motor car industry. There was the reference to why the Commission should look to effective levels above 50 per cent in this one case. Have these arithmetic levels proposed by the Tariff Board been accepted by the Government? So far as honourable members on this side of the House are concerned, such arithmetic levels are not accepted in the tariff policy of the Liberal Party.
– They were not accepted by the Minister when he was in Opposition either.
– As my colleague says, they were not accepted by the Minister when he was in Opposition. I am now trying to find out what the position is. So far as Liberal Party policy is concerned, a Liberal Government would not be so committed. We have stated publicly in our policy that we do not accept the proposition that protection is not justified simply because the required protective duty exceeds any particular percentage. Nevertheless, the imposition of high duties, I agree, requires greater justification.
The policy of the Liberal Party in this respect is to afford adequate protection to economic and efficient industries viewed within the overall context of the development of a sound and balanced Australian industrial base. In making this reference to overall development, I say that tariff policy, of course, is only part of an overall policy for industrial development. Among other things, in looking to a balanced and sound industrial base such a policy would put emphasis on high technology industries. In a number of cases these are the very industries that are vulnerable to overseas competition. They are vulnerable in a way in which industries such as bricks, and beer and bottles, for example, are not. Those latter industries do not have to supplicate or to cry out for adequate protection. But we have to consider what is important to Australia’s long term future.
In this context I refer again to the decisions with respect to the report on the consumer electronics industry which are to be validated by this Bill. I am checking the Minister’s speech, Mr Deputy Speaker, to. see that I am not out of order in this respect, knowing how careful you are in these matters. 1 do not want to have further encounters with you, Mr Deputy Speaker. In speaking to a Customs Validation Bill in the final days of the parliamentary session last year I stressed that in this technological age the importance of a viable electronics industry to the future of Australia is strongly supported by the Opposition parties. I raised the question, which was still to be resolved, of bow far the viability of the industry, including its capacity to maintain a nationally independent program of research and development, is dependent on an integrated operation combining a thriving consumer product division with production for the so-called professional market.
I take this opportunity to ask the Minister for Overseas Trade what is the situation in this respect now. I took note at that time of the proposal by the Government, in announcing its decision in respect of this report on consumer electronic equipment, to look to further ways of assisting the industry. Particularly, the Government made reference to the subsidisation of certain sectors of this industry. I said at the time that the Opposition assured the Government that it would not hamper its attempts, through those proposals for subsidisation, to achieve the effective and viable Australian industry that we support. Through you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask the Minister: How far have matters progressed in that particular area which is of vital concern to us all?
What I think is essential to Australian secondary industry is a clear understanding of the Government’s policies in respect of tariffs. One fears that the tariff pressure and the uncertainty to which I have referred are part and parcel of the veritable onslaught by this Government on secondary industry. Secondary industry, I submit, has taken quite a bashing. The investment allowance, so vital for the development of productivity and technology, has been removed. There is in the pipeline a proposed halving, if I might put it that way, of export incentives. There is the excessive revaluation of the Australian currency. I take the opportunity again to say that I have not opposed a degree of revaluation of the Australian currency. But even so distinguished an authority as Sir John Crawford recently has expressed the view that the Australian dollar is overvalued. This makes extremely difficult effective competition or effective penetration of export markets by Australian industry. It is on the build-up of manufactured exports that a main part of the future of the exports of this country relies. There is the limitation which was brought in on amounts available for research and development. As I have tried to stress, for the effective development of Australian manufacture and of those products which can compete effectively in overseas markets, research and development are of the utmost importance. There is this tariff pressure and uncertainty. Above all, of course, secondary industry labours in this context under the. impact of the rampant inflation of domestic costs and prices which have occurred under this Government. In this context, as we validate these measures in the tariff field, secondary industry may legitimately state: Time is catching up on this Government and it is time for a clear statement of its tariff objectives and for a removal of the uncertainties under which industry has had to operate.
– in reply- The Bills that have been introduced of course contain a wide range of action taken by the Government on the recommendation of the Tariff Board or the Industries Assistance Commission as it now is. The spokesman for the Opposition, the honourable member for Berowra (Mr Edwards) has raised a number of questions which, before the debate closes, I should like to deal with. Firstly, he referred to the preference scheme for the lesser developed countries and he claimed credit for the Opposition for having started this scheme. He claimed leadership for the Opposition, as the then Government in Australia, for initiating this scheme in respect of many countries. I take nothing away from the Opposition as the then Government in respect to that. Our Government has carried on developments in this area and we have done so with the care that the honourable gentleman wants.
Departmentally, very careful examinations have been made of the probable or even possible effects of the tariff reductions that have been granted in respect of the products of the lesser developed countries. A number of exceptions have been made already with care for the effect of reductions upon Australian industry. That care will continue to be taken. But I remind the House that there has been a great deal of conservatism in tariff matters in this Parliament. Very often Australian industry has been accorded too much attention in the changes that have to take place in a world where we have a responsibility to have regard to the welfare of our own people and also to make our contribution to the development of peoples in other countries, especially the lesser developed countries.
Both under preceding governments and under this one I think, that if anything, excessive care has been taken to protect Australia. The bias has been on that side. I think the Australian people would expect us to take adequate care, but also to do our share in improving the conditions of trade for the lesser developed countries and for improving world trade as a whole. We have to make our contribution to that. The honourable gentleman also referred to tariff reductions in general. I am sure that he would agree with me, in fact he would have been well in advance of me until recently, when I say that we have been very conservative in tariff policy in Australia. We have been conservative, very often with the effect that it has not been in the interests of our own industries or our own workers to have an allocation of resources that are in fact significantly inefficient. It is not in the interests of workers that they should be employed in inefficient places. It is not in the interests of Australian industry that it should be encouraged to be employed in inefficient places.
– Who said they are inefficient?
– I suppose the interjection from the honourable member from South Australia would mean that there are no inefficient industries in Australia. He asked me who said that they are inefficient. The honourable member for Berowra has said so before. The Tariff Board, the Industries Assistance Commission has said that there are industries in Australia that are not efficient. Industry itself recognises that. I think a somewhat more radical view of tariff making was necessary in Australia from that which has prevailed over a number of years. I miss the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) around here today. I think a more radical approach to tariff making prevailed when we reduced the tariff rates generally by 25 per cent in May last year.
– Was it not May? Well, in July. We were told then that this would result in a great deal of unemployment. But until now fewer than 100 people have notified the employment service that they believe their change of jobs has been the result of tariff reduction. I predicted at that time that in the next 12 months we would probably have $700m more of exports than we had at that time and that we would still have our Australian industries functioning at full capacity and that demand would be sufficient for both. That has proved correct and that has been a great asset.
– It will be different in 12 months time.
– Would the honourable member suggest that we should not have taken that action because the situation might be different in 12 months time? What would the honourable member have done, about inflation? What would any of those who sit behind him have done? I say that as a result of the Government’s policy inflation is 10 per cent less today than it would have been had we not taken that action. I think the Australian people would agree that we have been thoroughly justified in our actions.
The honourable member for Berowra talked about the automotive industry and mentioned that I said the other day that one did not need a crystal ball to expect that the Industries Assistance Commission would recommend a reduced tariff in relation to that industry. I did say that. I want people to know and I want the industry to know that this is the kind of decision that the Industries Assistance Commission would probably make. The honourable member asked me whether it is the Government’s tariff policy to accept the position taken by the Tariff Board in 1967 when it introduced certain arithmetic limits - 25 per cent, 50 per cent and so on. He tells me now that these arithmetic levels are not accepted by the Opposition. When I was on the other side of the House from 1967 to 1972, for 5 long years, I was continuously asking the Government the same question and I never got an answer. This is the first time that I have been asked this question as Minister for Overseas Trade and I will give honourable members opposite the answer now. It is not the policy of the Government to adopt the position of the Tariff Board as stated in 1967 with these arithmetic levels. But for 5 years when I was in Opposition I asked the then Government about this matter, but not one word of answer was ever given. This is the first time honourable members opposite have asked me this question and I am very glad to give them the answer.
– You have changed your ground a bit.
– My ground is exactly as it was when I was on the Opposition side of the House. At that time I rejected this approach. The Government’s policy in respect of this question is that each Industries Assistance Commission report is treated as advisory and each one will be considered and dealt with on its merits. The Government is not committed to that kind of arithmetic classification of Australian industry. I make that clear. I wanted for 5 years to get the same assurance from the previous Government.
The honourable member mentioned consumer electronic equipment and components. He wants to know what the position is. The Industries Assistance Commission, or the Tariff Board as it was previously, recommended a reduction of tariffs delayed for a period of 3 years. The Government decided to accept the recommendation but adopted a provision applying the reduction over 3 years and a subsidy of up to$25m would be provided for the production of components of technological significance. In respect of this matter, Mr Arthur D. Little was retained to report on international developments in components and 3 Australian consultants were retained to look at the local situation. The local consultants’ reports have been submitted already and Mr Little’s report will be submitted next week. In the meantime, the responsible Department is working with local industry groups for the identification of the kind of components which have defence or technological and telecommunications significance so that this program of subsidy can be applied in practice.
I mention too that in this industry, as in a number of other industries, another important development has taken place. The Opposition actually initiated it. It is a system of panels. It is a system which was very informal when I became the Minister for Secondary Industry. It has become much more positive now. I think there are eight or nine panels and one of them is concerned with this industry. The panels consist of representatives of management and unions and sometimes other people. In this industry the panels have had a number of meetings. I attended one recently for the electronics industry as Minister for Overseas Trade with the Minister for Secondary Industry (Mr Enderby) and I was glad to learn that the panel of the industry, union and workers alike, accepted the decisions that the Government had made about tariff reductions and the provision of subsidies and undertook to work practically to arrive at a way in which those suhsidies could be used to produce the most effective and viable industry that we can have. We have progressed that far and we believe we will progress considerably further. It is my belief that the function of the panels - in the case of the textile industry, the textile authority that has been established in association with the Industries Assistance Commission - represents an almost radically new development in the process of industry development in this country. I have great confidence about that as a continuing development
– Is that the authority referred to in your second reading speech?
– Yes. The spokesman for the Opposition, the honourable member for Berowra, has asked me to say something about . the Government’s policy in respect of tariffs. I do not want to take too much time but I will answer the question as much as I can in brief. I have made a number of speeches in the past two or three months in which I have said a great deal on this matter. I hope the honourable member has not missed it. First of all, the Government has brought into existence the Industries Assistance Commission. The significance of that Commission is that it holds public inquiries into the need for assistance. Of course there is nothing new in that - that was the position of the Tariff Board - but it is essential in questions of assistance that there should be a public inquiry; that those who think they need the assistance, those who believe that there should not be assistance and others should have the opportunity publicly of stating their case and having that case examined. That is the first requirement.
– That could well apply in the by-law area at the moment.
– The by-law position has also been under very close examination.
– But not publicly.
– Not publicly. Considerable changes have been made with respect to the operation of those by-laws. I should think the second principle of tariff policy is that the Government believes that competition is the motivating force of this economy and that tariff making, the provision of subsidies and so forth must be geared to increasing competition.
– We both agree. The Opposition agrees with that.
– Right. The Industries Assistance Commission of course will be expected to take that into account. A number of other points were made in the Bill that established the Industries Assistance Commission so that the Commission could have guidance for the first time about the criteria that it has to take into account. When the recommendations come from the Industries Assistance Commission they come to the Government from an advisory body. They will be considered on their merits. The Government will have regard not only to the existing structure of industry, about which a recommendation might be made, but also to the fact that if an industry is to be viable and efficient perhaps the structure has to change. I look forward to the time when through the industry panels and in other ways we will be able to develop in this country an effective way of examining an industry objectively so as to bring about improved designs for it and achieve that form of operation by the industry changing its structure to meet the needs. We oan examine an industry and we can examine part of an industry, and the Industries Assistance Commission may decide that that industry is viable and efficient, but the industry as a whole may not be. The industry as a whole has to be taken into account. I do not think it is enough merely to reduce tariffs and leave it to the forces of the market to bring about some new situation. The market is not always very rational and the market is not always very competitive. What the market decides is not always in the best interests of the community. I think it is time that there was a more radical attitude to tariff making in this country. That attitude has come about. I believe also that we have to graduate these changes.
If there was a next principle that I wanted to put forward in relation to tariff making it would be that I want to see changes graduated. I do not want to see sudden, incisive, substantial changes. That is in the interests of nobody. They must be graduated changes. Secondly, if we are to get the best result, there must be very often some form of adjustment assistance. One knows very well that if industry is to be changed greatly there will be resistance from the (management and the unions.
Mir Edwards - Are you in a position to offer adjustment assistance?
– We are. We have already provided S25m for adjustment assistance in relation to the 25 per cent tariff cut, and hardly a dollar of it has been needed. But it is there in case it is needed. This was an innovation. It was never done before. From my own point of view, I was ready to accept and to adopt the 25 per cent tariff cut because I knew that standing behind that we had the means at any rate to provide adjustment assistance should it be needed. It has not been needed, but it is there if it is wanted. I believe that we need more expedition in the development of the adjustment assistance machinery. I believe that we need tariff reform, not necessarily simply thinking of it in terms of reduction. If this reform is to be effective we need to have the necessary social adjustment machinery to make sure that we do not generate such opposition that we are stopped in the course of reform.
The spokesman for the Opposition said that industry has taken a bashing from the Government. He will know that Australian industry at the moment is returning profits that are higher than ever before in history.
– That is not universal.
– It is universal. The honourable member for Berowra will know that there has been no disemployment. He will know that no industry has claimed to be in difficulties because of any of the changes in policy that the Government has brought about.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr J. F. Cairns) read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from 8 April (vide page 1195), on motion by Mr Crean: That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate is resumed on this Bill, I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the New South Wales Flood Relief Bill 1974, as they are associated measures. Separate questions may, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general discussion covering both measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– These Bills are intended to assist the States of Queensland and New South Wales in meeting .the very heavy cost of relief and restoration measures following the catastrophic floods between January and March this year which spelt hardship and ruin for so many of our fellow citizens. Some Federal Ministers came to Brisbane at the height of the floods to see the situation for themselves and to make their own assessment. But I must say that there was much disappointment on the part of the people of Brisbane and Queensland that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), as the head of the Australian Government, did not manage to come to Brisbane until much later, and then only for a very brief stopover. However, there is nothing partisan in these measures or in the measures taken by this Government or by the Governments of Queensland and New South Wales. They represent, I believe, a worthy contribution to helping to alleviate the distress and the loss caused by a national disaster of very great magnitude. I am sure that these 2 Bills have the support of both sides of the House. (
I was glad that the Treasurer (Mr Crean) referred to the splendid work done by the defence forces and the many voluntary organisations which came so quickly and effectively to help those in distress. There is, however, a need for closer co-ordination of effort in some areas in the event of some future emergency. I believe that this need is recognised and that something is being done about it. I know personally of some acts of real heroism at the height of the floods, as well as of many individual acts of considerable self-sacrifice. These acts may not go down in any official records, but they prove the fine spirit of good fellowship and the feeling of genuine compassion that exist in the Australian community when a real need arises.
As well as the losses suffered by many home owners, of course, major losses were incurred by many business firms and primary producers and many public assets such as bridges and roads were damaged very badly. . The Treasurer indicated, quite rightly, that a great many people were not adequately covered by insurance. This is an important matter. Offers from insurance companies to discuss the inclusion of cover for natural disasters is most welcome - indeed, overdue. Many home owners were dismayed to find that, except in respect of defence service homes, cover for damage by storm and tempest does not cover damage by floods. There is some legal opinion to the contrary, and perhaps this interpretation finally will have to be cleared up in the courts.
The flood in south-eastern Queensland was by far the most serious since 1893, and it points up the need for urgent steps to be taken to deal with flood mitigation. I well remember that, when the Somerset Dam was built in the Brisbane Valley years ago, the people of Brisbane were led to believe that another disastrous flood of major proportions could not occur in Brisbane or in the surrounding districts. In the electorate which I represent there are a number of creeks, including Kedron Brook, Enoggera Creek and Ithaca Creek. Talks have been proceding for quite a long time among government and municipal authorities on the subject of flood mitigation. But not nearly enough has - been done about it. There are very many residents in affected areas who believe that it is high time that something positive and effective was done regarding the mitigation of flood waters, and I heartily agreed with them. I hope that the recent unhappy experiences will lead to an early decision on this very important matter.
I submit that there is a good case for extending the repayment terms for loans made to small business owners and the time for payment of provisional taxation and for the restoration of sections 75 and 76 of the Income Tax Assessment Act. There are individual cases of hardship and distress which have not been fully alleviated by existing provisions. I hope very much that, with the allocation of the funds being made available under these 2 Bills, all of these cases will be taken care of. Attached to the Treasurer’s speeches on these 2 Bills are details of categories of estimated expenditure, indicating the amounts that will be made available by this Government to the States of Queensland and New South Wales respectively. They are set out in relation to the Queensland Flood Relief Bill under the headings: Personal Hardship and Distress; Private Housing; Primary Producers; Business; Local Government Assets; State Assets; and Other Measures.
Let me say a few words about matters under the heading ‘Other Measures’. These consist of grants to cover the cost of repair and restoration of assets of the University of Queensland and the colleges of advanced education. The estimated cost is $lm. I have some reservations as to whether this sum is completely adequate, having made a personal inspection of the whole of the campus of the University of Queensland just after the height of the floods, in company with the ViceChancellor and some of the senior members of his staff. The damage was most extensive, both to buildings and equipment. Losses were severe. Although an immense amount of restoration work had already been carried out at the time of my inspection, I formed the opinion that in respect of the University of Queensland alone the loss would probably run into 7 figures.
The amount of $66m which is provided for by the Queensland Flood Relief Bill which we are now debating is SI 4m less than the earlier estimate announced by the Treasurer. But the Treasurer has explained that this figure of $66m is based on the most recent estimates of costs supplied by the Queensland Government. So we must assume that this total is adequate to meet the cost of all the relief and restoration measures that are being undertaken. The New South Wales Flood Relief Bill proposes an allocation of up to $5. 5m for similar purposes. The details are set out under 5 headings, similar in most respects to those in the Queensland Flood Relief Bill. I have much pleasure in supporting these 2 Bills.
– The principal objective of these 2 Bills is to provide money to the Queensland and New South Wales governments up to a total of S71.5m - S66m for Queensland and S5.5m for New South Wales. These moneys are not necessarily the final moneys. In fact in Queensland there are still some very large areas where estimates of the cost of restoring public assets such as roads and bridges cannot be made for the simple reason that these areas are still under water. I intend to concentrate my remarks on Queensland. The honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) will concentrate on Brisbane and Ipswich and I will cover the rest of the State.
As we well know by now, the floods in Queensland have been a major catastrophe to this nation and a heartbreak to thousands of individual Australians, whether it be through financial or personal experience. Even now, as the floodwaters slowly recede from the devastated areas of northern Queensland, seasoned townspeople, primary producers and their workforce are still walking around in stunned disbelief. Nothing in Australia’s recorded history has approached the ramifications of this disaster. Early in the new year the skies literally collapsed and dumped a cargo of destruction upon Queensland that even the oldest Australians have never seen before. Some areas received over 60 inches of rain in a month. My area has received over 80 inches of rain since 1 January. The magnitude of it, the way the rain fell, the velocity and the shortness of time in which it fell have left weather experts in some disbelief of the evidence.
Across the great cattle breeding areas of the northern Gulf deep floodwaters covered an estimated 26,000 square miles - roughly the size of Tasmania. The land and the sea became one, and living creatures, wildlife included, had little chance of survival. Of course, Brisbane and Ipswich suffered swift and crippling damage. The nation’s sympathy went out to the sufferers in many tangible forms. The Australian Government acknowledges also the many messages and offers of assistance from overseas governments and people in overseas countries. There is no doubt that the people of Brisbane and Ipswich were the hardest hit, but in terms of the national economy it is in the far north where the economic impact will be felt for many years to come. It is very natural that during the emotionalism of the tragedy that followed, the most difficult thing for anybody to do, particularly those affected, was to sit down and discuss the essential question of how we can avoid or lessen future devastations of this kind. With the great and testing battle of rehabilitation under way now the time has surely come for us to look at this whole spectre of this national disaster and ask ourselves this question. Obviously, if we are to salvage anything from the wreckage, which is costing the taxpayers of Australia a king’s ransom, it has to be in the analysis of the disaster and the lessons that can be learnt from it.
In comparison with many other world catastrophes it could be said that Australia has been a lucky country. We can be thankful that very few lives were lost when one compares our tragedy with the tornadoes in the United States of America, the floods in Brazil and the droughts in India and Africa. Certainly we have had droughts, bushfires, cyclones and floods before - all extremely damaging - but never have we suffered as much as we have in these recent devastating flood rains. For most of my life I have worked and travelled in the north of Australia. I travelled extensively through the north during the 2 months of this crisis. I travelled through the Gulf country, central and western Queensland and the Northern Territory. Many people who a few months ago had well established and healthy livelihoods, backed up by assets that would make any bank manager smile, are now bankrupt, facing bankruptcy or mentally ruined. In the great southern cities of Australia people are sympathetic but, in my opinion, they have not the faintest idea of the tragedy that has occurred in these areas.
Let me give one example of a cattleman with a medium sized property in the Carpentaria shire, near Normanton which is a small town in the Gulf country. The man is in his sixties. In the pre-flood days he owned a successful cattle property of 150 square miles. After a lifetime of work, starting from nothing in the pioneering stage, he was almost out of debt. He planned to retire. His property and assets were worth over $lm. When I last saw him a couple of weeks ago, in the township of Normanton still surrounded by water, he told me that he had lost everything. He had lost 6,000 head of cattle, including all his breeders and calves. His machinery, his fences and his dams had been destroyed. No doubt, like so many of his neighbours, he faces a recovery situation that is even tougher than the challenge when he first went into the area. The tragedy of the situation is that this man asked me whether he could qualify for a pension. What can we do to help him? We can give him a $40,000 carry-on loan. What good is that to such a man?
As the floods slowly recede - it will be months before the water is all gone - the sea of water becomes a sea of stinking mud. As I said, the land is less than its virgin worth. Sandflies, ticks, mosquitoes and buffalo fly have taken over many areas. I have mentioned just one case out of many. I know of scores of northern cattle producers who now have bankruptcy staring them in the face. The Australian Government is doing all it possibly can as a national Government. Indeed, apart from the $2m which the Queensland Government has contributed to the cost of this disaster, the Australian Government has picked up the tab for all the damage to public assets. It has arranged emergency relief grants and long term rehabilitation loans for graziers and businessmen. The final bill will exceed the entire total of national disaster commitments paid out by previous federal governments over a long period of years.
The ferocity of the floods in these areas was incredible. Carcasses of cattle are hanging in trees 20 feet above ground level. Others are smashed against the wreckage of fences. Mobs of them were found swimming well out in the Gulf of Carpentaria, and of course they drowned. As one flew across the northern Gulf areas one found no indication of where the land began. It was simply a situation of one vast sea of water stretching for thousands of square miles. I have mentioned before that I actually saw waves 200 miles from the coast of Australia. Rivers, many miles apart, burst their banks and finally joined up in a mass of muddy destruction.
The thriving prawning township of Karumba was literally carved apart. There, fast flowing deep creeks ran through the township where no creeks existed before and houses, cars, trucks, caravans and machinery completely disappeared. Of course, they , went into the Norman River and from there into the Gulf of Carpentaria. There were many stories of heroism and throughout several days and nights in Karumba men worked with heavy machinery to save as much as possible of the township. For example, several worked without sleep for days in a large bulldozer submerged to its floodlights and tottering under the force of currents, pushing debris, earth and mud across vantage, points trying to divert the fast flowing waters. Then, of course, there was another” tragedy. Incredible as it may seem, these places like Karumba were the target of looters. Whocould possibly imagine a town literally torn apart by flood waters having a problem with looters? But it happened in the north. The looters were having a field day looting shops and the houses of people suffering this misery.
Even now it is difficult to assess the total damage of these floods and figures emerging are still only predictions. But they are predictions as dismal as the worst pessimism. Surveys in the Gulf Country suggest that cattle losses, most of which of course are breeding cows and calves, will be disastrous. This is the greatest blow ever suffered by the Australian cattle industry in the Gulf Country in Queensland. Tropical breeding stock in Australia is a precious and rare commodity and it could take anything up to 10 years to build a nucleus breeding herd again. Here is a situation where financial assistance does not automatically solve the problem. The question is: Where do these men, if they have any money, obtain the stock to rebuild their breeding establishments? Obviously, this is a challenge which will have to be faced and which is being faced by the cattle industry and by the Queensland and Australian Governments, lt will need a complete reorganisation of the industry to try to get these areas back into production as quickly as possible. In addition, no estimates can yet be made of the damage to structures such as fencing, water points, dams, yards and tick control points. In many areas, these are still under water.
In the field of agriculture, of course, there have also been great, losses to crops such as cotton, tobacco, soya beans, lucerne, navy beans, rice and sugar. Estimates are still being prepared for these. Sheep losses are estimated by the Queensland Government to be around $10m. Roads and bridges throughout the northern part of Australia have taken a severe and costly battering and this damage undoubtedly will run into many millions of dollars. In fact, to give honourable members an idea of the widespread damage caused by these floods, I instance that over 100 shires at present are still estimating the losses incurred. Small shires such as Eyre have put in estimates of $250,000 of damage done to roads and bridges. Mining received major setbacks, particularly when the railway between Mount Isa and Townsville could not transport either coal to Mount Isa or the result of Mount Isa production to Townsville. Many parts of the railway line around Julia Creek and Richmond just disappeared.
Earlier I mentioned what lessons we could learn from the disaster. One of the most frightening aspects to emerge has been the utter dependence of the north for its survival upon the south, for its food, fuel and essential materials. Here we had a situation where entire communities - indeed, townships of people - would have been starving had it not been for the emergency airlifts of food from the south by the Royal Australian Air Force. People were cut off by road and rail for weeks and, indeed, many are still cut off. Fortunately the RAAF, which did such an incredibly good job, has been able to land Hercules transports on airstrips like Mount Isa, Alice Springs and Darwin for the isolated communities serviced by feeder aircraft from those airports. But what would have happened if the airstrip had been damaged? What would have happened if we had not had such places where the Hercules could land? Of course, we would have had to drop food from the air? What a tragedy it would have been to have dropped food from the air through a wide expanse of the Northern Territory and through northern and western Queensland. So, the necessity of having good airports has been clearly demonstrated by this disaster. It is obvious that we must be much better prepared. By that, of course, I mean that governments, local authorities and communities themselves must be better prepared.
As honourable members know, the Australian Government, in conjunction with State governments, is in the process of setting up a natural disaster organisation to rethink our entire operations in times of such emergencies. As the flood co-ordinating representative of the Australian Government, appointed by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), along with the Premier of Queensland and the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman Jones, I have had many meetings with all authorities con.rerned and we are in the process of formulating a plan - a workable scheme - under which we hope to have every town and city practiable in a better position to withstand these tragedies should they occur in the future. This committee has also streamlined payments to people in necessitous circumstances. There is no denying that at times there was confusion at the height of this tragedy and it still amazes me that the toll of life did not reach tragic proportions. The fact that it did not was due to the magnificent dedication and efforts of all concerned. Apart from a fully organised rescue force it is certain that special barge boats and, at the first warnings of cyclones and floods, helicopters, must be placed at strategic points in the north.
I firmly believe that one of the areas that must be explored is the establishment of national disaster food storages in the Northern Territory and north Queensland which can be drawn upon at selected points throughout the north when emergency conditions apply. At the same time, however, we must have emergency storages in these areas of essential building materials, particularly wire, steel posts and iron. At present there is not even enough building material in the north to make even the most urgent repairs, let alone carry out the extensive work necessary in the next few years. There are many more matters to be investigated and the Australian Government is determined to follow these right through. For instance, I refer to questions about insurance policies and why insurance companies did not have a more widely known policy to cover damage from floods and why in fact the companies made an untested legal decision to differentiate between storm and tempest damage and flood damage. There are pertinent questions relating to city areas, particularly about why local authorities allowed developers to develop housing estates in flood prone areas. There are dozens of other questions to be gone, into as to the best way to spend State and Federal moneys to lessen disasters such as this. After all, if we are simply to repair the damage and. go back to yesterday, what is going to happen tomorrow? Will we have to do it all over again when the next floods come? For example, there is the problem of the Mount Isa railway. What is the point of putting back those sections that almost disappeared or that did disappear? It is far better to look at this properly and rebuild, even if it is going to cost the Australian Government more money. In fact, we are now looking at an improvement plan to try to prevent or minimise the effects of future disastrous floods. These are some of the areas that are being thoroughly explored because, rich as this nation is, it cannot stand too many repeats of disasters such as the 1974 floods. The amount of money that the Australian Government has given to the present time - something like $70m - is really only chicken feed compared to the actual cost to the nation when one adds the losses that have been incurred in these areas.
Finally, I should like to pay a tribute to the defence forces, the police, the civil defence services, the people themselves and the Service organisations which for weeks and weeks toiled to help people. For instance, the RAAF worked tirelessly. To date, Hercules transports have flown 500 sorties lifting 300 people and 6,000,000 lb of freight. Caribou transports have flown well over 1,000 hours in 1,000 sorties, lifting 894 people and 2,500,000 lb of freight. Iroquois helicopters flew over 1,000 hours, rescuing in 2,103 sorties close to 3,000 people. In addition, helicopters lifted 80 medical vacuees and, as well, more than 30,000 bales of fodder were dropped to starving stock. The considerable efforts by both the Army and the Navy are still continuing, but they too will be very significant. It has been a mammoth and commendable effort. Hundreds of people sat desperately on roof-tops in pouring rain in the northern parts of Australia and in outback areas, fearful of losing their lives by drowning, but luckily for them RAAF helicopters and private helicopters were able to rescue them.
If a tragedy of this kind happens again, this nation must be better prepared to cope with it. A mammoth tragedy of economic loss has resulted from the floods. This is the biggest loss that this nation has ever known. But we can be thankful that by good luck and good management, through the dedication of rescuers and the assistance given by the armed forces, a tragedy involving the loss of hundreds of lives was averted. We have to do everything possible in laying down policies and in other ways to ensure that if another tragedy as enormous as this one occurs, the effects will be minimised.
– In supporting the 2 Bills I refer to the first page of the second reading speech of the Treasurer (Mr Crean) in which he said:
In terms of hardship and damage, the floods were one of the largest, if not the largest, disasters that has occurred in this country.
Further in his speech he said:
The amount that the Australian Government expects to provide, $66m, will dwarf any previous expenditure on assistance provided in the case of any single disaster.
I think the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) hit the nail on the head when he suggested that people who are not residents in Queensland do not fully understand and appreciate the extent of the devastation which hit the State of Queensland, lt is ironic that a Mr Edward Shepherd produced a report in June 1971 which warned of the possibility that a catastrophe could hit the Brisbane and Ipswich areas. It is interesting to reflect on his words which appeared in an article in the ‘Australian’ of 27 March when he said that he doubts whether anything would have been achieved if the Government had taken his advice and released information to the public on the flood risk from the Brisbane River to new areas being developed. He said:
Knowing the psychology of people, what could have been achieved? The Government would have been called scaremongers. The immediate risk could not have been appreciated. We had been 76 years without a major flood and the Government did take action by deciding to build the Wivenhoe Dam - the flood just came 10 years too early.
He denied that the report had been kept under covers and said:
It was released, but admittedly it wasn’t shouted from the hilltops.
– Who said that?
- Mr Shepherd, the Deputy Chief Engineer at the CoordinatorGeneral’s Department. He is the man who actually compiled the report to which I referred. It is also ironic that in my electorate of Griffith on the southern side of the Brisbane River there are a great number of homes which are constantly subjected to floods. Recently I checked with the Brisbane City Council in relation to a scheme it had announced whereby it would make land available on a swap basis to those people who are constant victims of floods. Because of man’s psychological make-up, he is king of his house. Very few people understand the flood unless they were personally involved. Apparently not one of the residents in the area to which I have referred has applied to the Brisbane City Council for a land swap. In the years to come these same areas will again be subject to flooding and the story will be repeated again and again. The point that must not be lost is that not all of Queensland and not all of Brisbane is subject to flooding such as happened on this occasion. This was the flood of the century. I hope that none of us will during our lifetime witness another flood of these proportions.
I also pay tribute to the efforts of the local shire councils and the Brisbane City Council, and to the tremendous effort made by the
Quensland State Government and the contribution of the Federal Government. This was a time when few people, particularly those in government bodies, could stand up and seek praise for their efforts because it was a time when government authorities - local, State and Federal, had no alternative but to respond to the crisis of the hour. The people who deserve the really solid thanks are members of the volunteer organisations who so willingly gave of their time, those persons in the armed forces who took risks they did not have to take, and also the members of the Queensland police force who have come out of this tragic event with an image that is better than ever. Those people took risks they did not have to take. They went beyond the call of duty. We are all very thankful to them. I thank the radio stations in Queensland and those who organised the fund raising appeals.
I mention specifically the people of the south in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Hobart and Canberra who responded so generously to the call for financial assistance. I will have something to say later on about the Government. I can now tell the people of the south that the people of Queensland will not forget the way in which they so kindly emptied their pockets to assist a part of this continent which at times seems to be so remote. I think many people appreciated the difficulties which confronted the people of Queensland in Brisbane, Ipswich and other parts of the State.
I would like to recapitulate on some of the history of Australia Day weekend 1974. It is not my intention to be completely political in this matter; I will just be objectively critical. This was a time of sheer and utter confusion. There was a wrangle between a local council authority and the State Government of Queensland which was probably due to the stress of the occasion more than anything else. While people continue to be people and deal with each other, there will always be little misunderstandings which cause emotion and which, in the stress of the moment, lead to a magnification of the issue. But despite all these difficulties there was a great deal of co-operation between local government authorities, the State Government and the Federal Government. A slight outburst which was reported in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ on 6 February involved the Minister for Social Security, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), who was said to be very annoyed and called upon the Federal Government to approach the problems more justly by giving to the Ipswich appeal instead of giving only to the Brisbane Lord Mayor’s flood appeal. After a while this problem was rectified. However, on 28 January there was unfortunately a provocative statement made unthinkingly by the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison). The honourable member for St George came to Brisbane wearing neatly pressed dry cleaned slacks and a nice fresh raincoat. The Minister took one look at the situation and blamed the State Government and local government for allowing people to build homes on flood plain areas. This reveals how little was the interest the Minister took. Whilst there may be some areas of Brisbane which are subject to constant flooding many of the people who were the victims of the 1974 flood never in their wildest dreams imagined what might happen. Furthermore - this must be underlined - there was the absence of the Prime Minister. Press articles throughout Australia carried headlines like ‘Where was the Prime Minister?’
– Where were you?
– I will answer the honourable member later. I will come back to myself. I can look after myself like the people of Queensland will look after the honourable member at the next election. Just settle down. T will come back to myself.
– You were making every effort to get back to Brisbane from Singapore.
– That is right. I have in my possession a copy of a post card addressed to Mr Whitlam, care of South East Asia. It reads:
Dear Prime Minister,
Having a flood. Wish you were here.
It is signed ‘Queensland’. This typifies the reaction to the Prime Minister’s actions. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard an article ‘This Week in Canberra’ by Wallace Brown which appeared on 9 February in the Courier Mail’.
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– I will come back to that.
– I thought you were going to Japan.
– Where were you? I thought you were on your way to China.
– The Minister asks whether I was going to China. Another honourable member mentions Japan. I will come to this later. In the ‘Nation Review’ of 14 February 1974 appeared an article by Mungo MacCallum in which he stated:
Just what Whitlam could do in Queensland in a practical sense has not been satisfactorily explained-
I go along with that comment. Emotions were involved. The article continued: and since a lot of the criticism has come from loyal party workers-
He is referring to Labor Party workers- propping up bars in Canberra and points south, it seems exaggerated;-
And here is the punch line- but there is undoubtedly a backlog of resentment within the Party which is being exploited by both the Federal Opposition and the Queensland Government, and which must rebound both on Whitlam personally and on the Government.
The fact was that Mr Whitlam did not care; he really did not care.
– Where were you?
– The Minister asks where I was. I will tell him and will refer to my efforts. He can check this. It reinforces my belief that Canberra hardly cared about Queensland during the recent floods despite the Minister’s own concern. The truth is that on 28 January I was with a parliamentary delegation in Sri Lanka. I was duc to leave the next morning to visit China. I walked into a shop early in that afternoon. It was evening time on the eastern seaboard of Australia. On my lapel I had a kangaroo badge. The shopkeeper looked at it and asked: ‘You come from Australia, sir?’ I said: ‘Yes’. He said: ‘God save Brisbane’. I said: ‘What?’. He said. ‘Brisbane declared a disaster area. Only He can help now.’ That was the first I heard of the floods in Brisbane. I immediately went to the Australian High Commission to try to ascertain exactly what had happened. The High Commission had not heard a word from Australia. I have since established that many Australian embassies throughout the world had not been advised by the Department of Foreign Affairs that Queensland and Brisbane were being subjected to the greatest disaster of this century or in living memory. The High Commission sent a telegram to Canberra asking what was happening in Queensland. It did not have any information. The following morning I was due to leave on a plane from Colombo to Bangkok en route to Hong Kong and thence to Canton. At the time I was due to leave Colombo the Department of Foreign Affairs still had not wired any information through.
– That is incredible.
– The honourable member suggests that this was incredible. I could not believe it. Without any information I proceeded to Bangkok where the embassy there told me that 9 people had been drowned. The honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) can verify this statement, as can the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti), the honourable member for Evans (Mr Mulder), the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) and Senator Davidson. Let no one cast any shadow upon the accuracy of what I am saying. In Bangkok 1 established what was happening in Brisbane and I headed straight for home. That I could not get out of Singapore from the Tuesday until the Friday night was not my fault. I joined hundreds of Australians who were stranded in that city. If honourable members do not believe me they can verify this by checking with the office of Qantas Airways Ltd in Singapore. I arrived back in Brisbane on the Saturday morning after having thrown to the wind a trip to China, a trip on which I would have been breaking new ground for myself as a Liberal. I was not the only person to interrupt an overseas trip.
It has been suggested that the Prime Minister could not interrupt his trip. In the ‘Courier Mail’ of 13 February is an article wherein it is stated:
Government sources said at the time that such a change was impossible because of the arrangements made to visit several Asian heads of state on a strict timetable.
This was the explanation for the Prime Minister’s absence. Despite the fact that he says he is the greatest, I do not believe that the Prime Minister could have stopped the rains or prevented the floods, but we would have liked to see him in Queensland. Furthermore, I have done some research and have managed to get my hands on the itinerary of the Prime Minister. If he had not been so critical when he was Deputy Leader of the Opposition of the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, perhaps I might not be so vociferous in my criticism of him today, but in 1961 he barnstormed Queensland talking about Sir Robert Menzies being overseas and not caring about Queensland. The Prime Minister did exactly what he criticised others for doing. One thing is for certain, Sir Robert Menzies did not turn his back on Queensland in a time of disaster. However, everybody wants me to refer to this itinerary. I can hear honourable members asking about it. I will refer to it. The Prime Minister arrived at the KingsfordSmith Airport. I seek leave to incorporate the itinerary in Hansard.
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– He arrived at the airport at 10.20 in the morning and left on his special flight at 11.10 a.m.
– I rise on a point of order. What possible relationship is there between the itinerary of the Prime Minister and flood relief. I can see some reason for the honourable member for Griffith trying to defend his own position, being away at the time of the floods, but what possible relationship is there between the Prime Minister’s itinerary and flood relief? We all know that the honourable member for Griffith went overseas whilst there was this flood.
-Order! The honourable member for Prospect has made his point and will resume his seat. I am allowing the honourable member for Griffith to make a passing reference to this matter. He has been referring to the fact that the Prime Minister had not visited Queensland at the time of the flood. I ask him not to trespass too far.
– I came back. I cut short my trip, as did Senator Byrne. The Australian Labor Party is obviously becoming very upset and touchy about what I am saying. That is why I am saying it.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. You have said that the honourable member for Griffith is entitled to make a passing reference to this subject, but he has spent 10 minutes on it. I suggest that he should give his own itinerary and explain why it took him 6 days to come back to Brisbane after he had found out about the floods.
– If the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory reads my speech he will see that I have said that I was stranded in Singapore for 3 days. I was stranded and Qantas was doing its best to get me on a flight. If the Minister wants to debate this matter with me in Queensland I will get Qantas to verify my claim.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! I do not think there is any need to pursue the matter of the itinerary too much further. I suggest to the honourable member that he come back to the terms of the legislation.
– Honourable members opposite have set out to waste time. Because of that I will not be able to refer in detail to the itinerary. But the itinerary is here for anyone to see. The Prime Minister could have made time to visit Brisbane had he cared. Furthermore, the distance between Brisbane and Kuala Lumpur, the first stop on his itinerary, is 4,026 miles and- between Sydney and Kuala Lumpur it is 4,118 miles. His trip would have been about 90 miles shorter via Brisbane and he did not have anything to do except to go to a reception and then a dinner that was put on by the Australian High Commissioner. So the claims of supporters of the Labor Government that he was engaged in interviews and conferences with high officials were but a smokescreen to try to coyer up. The way in which the members of the Labor Party have reacted to my speech today vindicates my standing in this chamber and raising this matter. They are obviously sensitive about it and recognise that the Prime Minister did the wrong thing. Nevertheless, I thank the Commonwealth Government for the financial contribution it will make to Queensland, and also to State and local government in Queensland.
– I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on these Bills. I compliment you, Mr Deputy Speaker, on your balanced approach to the matters of great concern to the people of both Queensland and New South Wales. I wish to reply to the contemptible attack that was made upon the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) by the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) and to add some thoughts to the matter. I would like to reject completely the suggestion that the Prime Minister was not interested in the position of those people of Queensland who were affected by the floods. I propose to deal with some of those matters in a more ordered sequence a little later in the debate. I suggest that it is not very logical to compare the itinerary of a Prime Minister with the itinerary of a back bench member of the Parliament, such as the honourable member for Griffith or me, who happens to be on a parliamentary exercise overseas. It is not a case of what the Prime Minister was going to do in Kuala Lumpur; it is a case of what effect a delay at that end would have on the succeeding program that he had undertaken in South East Asia. It is a case of what it meant to a carefully planned program. I reject completely any suggestion that the Prime Minister was not interested.
I was away from Brisbane on the (Friday preceding the Australia Day weekend. I was at Warwick and Killarney. I came home when the cyclone warning was given. I was contacted by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), who was acting as the Treasurer. He said that he had had discussions with the Prime Minister, who was programmed to have certain briefings on matters associated with his trip. At that point in time and over the succeeding period the Brisbane Airport was closed and the position was quite unclear. No one was in any position to assess the damage. If the Prime Minister had come to Brisbane at that point in time he would have been coming on perhaps a sightseeing exercise. It would have been a gesture. Indeed, in discussions with the Minister for Social Security and in later discussions with the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) as well as in the sending to Brisbane of the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison), as the then Acting Minister for Defence, the Prime Minister showed an intimate concern with what had happened in Brisbane and, of course, Queensland. During the whole period the Prime Minister maintained close contact with the Lord Mayor of Brisbane to ascertain exactly what the situation was at any point in time and to offer the Commonwealth’s ‘help. Before the Prime Minister went away he instructed the Department of Defence and made the offer, in personal communication with the Premier of Queensland, to place all Commonwealth assistance at the disposal of the State Government.
The honourable member for Griffith raised the subject of the complaint by the Minister for Social Security about assistance being given to the Lord Mayor’s flood appeal in Brisbane and not elsewhere. The facts, of course, are that an offer was made by Queensland Newspapers Ltd to the Premier of Queensland to conduct a State-wide flood relief appeal and that offer was rejected by the Premier for the reason that he considered that the question of the relief of personal hardship and distress and the making good of flood losses was more properly a matter for State authorities than for a flood relief appeal. It was only after that rejection was made that Brisbane launched a flood relief appeal. The provision of Commonwealth assistance to the Brisbane flood relief appeal at that time was made as a result of a personal telephone call from the Prime Minister in Kuala Lumpur to the Lord Mayor of Brisbane in which he asked what he could do to relieve distress.
Although the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) referred to the widespread damage caused throughout Queensland, New South Wales and the Northern Territory - throughout northern Australia - by the floods I think we would all agree that attention does tend to focus on the capital cities and major cities in which such damage occurs. The 2 Bills that we are considering seek to give $66m to the Queensland Government, which will make a contribution from its own sources of $3. 65m, and $5. 5m to the New South Wales Government, which will make a contribution from its own sources of $8.6m. The Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory correctly made the point that this is the most generous program of assistance that has ever been given to the relief of a natural disaster in the history of Australia. I was pleased that the Minister referred to the damage in rural areas. Previous speakers have placed on record their appreciation of the efforts of the people involved in the provision of flood relief. I would like very briefly to say that Queensland owes a very great debt to certain Ministers of the Crown - to the Minister for Social Security, who was acting as the Treasurer in the early stages, to the Prime Minister, to the Minister for Science, to the Minister for Defence and to the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory as well as other Ministers. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren), the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) and the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) came to Brisbane, as indeed did prominent members of the Opposition. We are grateful for their interest and concern and for what they have done to help, in co operation with State and local authorities, to alleviate the impact of this great disaster.
There were, of course, some areas of dissatisfaction. Initially they focussed on the means test. There was some suggestion that the means test was a means test imposed by the Commonwealth Government on the State of Queensland. In actual fact negotiations took place and a means test was arrived at. It was relaxed to some extent following discussions between the Commonwealth and the State, which agreed to the introduction of a means test on a phasing-out basis rather than a cutoff point. But I repudiate the suggestion that any means test was imposed by the Australian Government on the governments of either Queensland or New South Wales. When you spoke in the debate, Mr Deputy Speaker, you very correctly made the point that the figure was $14m below the earlier estimates. The facts of the matter are, of course, that the money has to be paid out by the State government concerned. The level of Australian Government assistance is geared to the level of State generosity. I am not using that word in any sense to reflect on the Queensland Government or the New South Wales Government, but it is a fact that the State has to agree to pay and to undertake these programs before the Commonwealth can come to the party. Through its own machinery - its public service, its police department and its engineering authorities - the State has to assess the extent of the damage. The Commonwealth then makes its contribution by assisting financially and in other ways.
I am happy with the Queensland Flood Co-ordination Committee comprising the Premier of Queensland, the Lord Mayor of Brisbane and the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory, who is sitting at the table, because it has a very useful function to play in ensuring that difficult cases are assessed quickly. I refer to problems which arise and which might not meet the ordinary guidelines laid down by the respective State authorities or the Australian Department of the Treasury. The Flood Co-ordination Committee, which has met quite frequently has been able to reach agreement on these anomalous cases. This has been greatly to the advantage of the people who have been affected by the floods.
Previous speakers in this debate have mentioned the Commonwealth authorities involved.
The expenditure by the Commonwealth in servicing these authorities is not taken into account in the $66m provided to Queensland or the $5.5m made available to New South Wales for flood relief. The expenditure by other Commonwealth authorities is not included in these figures. I do not know whether that amount can be assessed. I hope that when it has been assessed the Treasurer (Mr Crean) or the Prime Minister will make a statement indicating just what amount of money was involved. Tribute has been paid to the Royal Australian Air Force, particularly to its helicopter operations. I think that in carrying out rescue operations the helicopter pilots tore up their rule books. This was particularly so with respect to those who were rescued in the Beenleigh and Logan areas. The pilots were flying in conditions in which helicopters normally would be grounded. We owe a great debt to the dedication of those men. I know that they operated also into New South Wales. The Army operated in the flood affected areas of Brisbane and Ipswich and in rural areas, working very well and very hard. One would be completely uncharitable not to record that the cost of these operations cannot be measured only in money because the lives of several Service personnel were lost. They gave their lives in assisting their fellow Australians. These sacrifices can never be measured in monetary terms.
I pay tribute also to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, the Department of the Treasury, the Post Office, which restored telephones to people free of cost, and the Department of Social Security. I again pay tribute to the honourable member for Oxley who, as Minister for Social Security, directed that special benefits be paid so that people rendered unemployed by the flood would have to wait a qualifying period of not a fortnight, but only one week before receiving the first payment of assistance from the Australian Government. The Minister for Social Security also facilitated the movement to Queensland of social workers from his Department to help in the flood relief centres established in the suburbs, which rendered such great service to the people. We owe a particular debt to the Department of Social Security. I wish also to pay tribute to the Department of Housing and Construction not only for the support it provided to the Queensland Housing Commission in assessing the damage but also for the work done by the
Defence Service Homes Section for people who occupy defence service homes. The Department of Northern Development, under the direction of the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory, played a major role in rural areas not only in Queensland but also in the Northern Territory. We would be ungracious indeed if we did not at the same time pay a tribute to the Queensland Public Service, to the Queensland Police, to the civil defence organisations, to the leadership of Police Commissioner Whitrod and to the programs being operated from the new operations room at police headquarters in Brisbane - a remarkably efficient and well-conducted organisation. In particular, in the Queensland Public Service I pay tribute to Mr Spann of the Premier’s Department, Mr Fields of the Treasury Department, the Co-ordinator-General, the Queensland Housing Commission and their officers. All of them served the people of Queensland very well during the recent disaster. The staff of the Brisbane City Council, including its engineers, its building inspectors and its workmen, carried out marathon work, as indeed did similar officers of other local authorities.
I felt very much for those people engaged not only in the activities associated with the flood crisis itself but also in the clean-up in the days thereafter when people were cleaning the rubbish out of houses. I went into some houses in Rosalie that were affected by the floods. I was pleased that my responsibilities required me to spend only a short time there - about half an hour. But I drove away thinking of the men from the Brisbane City Council who were working not only an 8-hour day but also overtime and all through the weekend in order to get the household rubbish and other material that had been deposited in people’s yards carted away, thus averting health hazards and the like. These men are not highly paid. We owe a great debt indeed to them. I also would be uncharitable if I did not pay a tribute to our parliamentary colleagues - both State and Federal - and the aldermen of the Brisbane City Council and people who serve on local authorities throughout the State, for what they did. As I do not wish to appear partisan in this matter, I do not intend to mention names. But many of our colleagues from the Australian and Queensland Parliaments - and I am sure from the New South Wales Parliament - and certainly the aldermen and members of local authorities, did great work.
The Queensland Government subsequently has held a conference to review the effectiveness of its civil defence organisation in the light of the recent flood experience. I am not sure whether that information has yet been given to the Australian Government. But it is a recognition of the fact that this organisation was not perfect and that, in responding to the greatest crisis which the civil defence authorities have ever had to face, it found that considerable room for improvement existed in a number of fields. I am sure that the Australian Government will co-operate with the Queensland Government and its civil defence authorities in order to learn from the problems that were faced in the immediate past and so to ensure that in a similar crisis in the future we will have benefited from that experience.
The problems of course, yet remain. This legislation has a cut-off time in 1976, which indicates that the Government recognises that some of the work to be carried out and some of the expenditure involved will take a considerable amount of time. I think that the Government has made a realistic decision in relation to this matter. I am pleased to see that in the speech made by the Treasurer he mentions the need for flood mitigation. He specifies the continued interest of the Australian Government in flood mitigation in these terms:
These disastrous floods focused attention on the need for an adequate approach to the question of flood mitigation and the Government is examining this problem as a matter of urgency.
The Queensland Government and the Brisbane City Council have together commissioned surveys of the creeks that flooded. They are awaiting the updated reports and the plans on which flood mitgation schemes can be put under way. The interest of the Australian Government, again expressed by the Treasurer, is very much appreciated by the people of Queensland. There are, of course, people who are dissatisfied; people who feel that they should remove their houses but who have not yet received approval to remove them; people who have found that the Government’s offer is too small as the official estimates of loss are perhaps too low in the light of current costs of building and materials; and people whose housing losses are yet to be assessed. I am happy to know that the Flood Co-ordination Committee, on which we are represented by the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory, will continue its work in the future and that these problems will be looked at continuously with a view to assisting people wherever they might need to be assisted.
I thank again the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory and the Treasurer for the sympathetic way in which they have treated any request made by the Queensland Government. Only a percentage of the losses is covered by the program that we have put forward. Newspaper estimates claimed that the losses extend to more than $200m. No one profits by a flood. We are all much wiser having experienced the recent floods. I think that the recent disaster has been a very useful example of the way in which governments which are politically opposed can co-operate when the need of the people arises. I think this level of cooperation was a very great factor in the success of the operation.
Finally I place on record a tribute to one person who died during the flood, John Skinner, who was secretary of the Flood Action Committee in Brisbane, an organisation set up some years ago to work for flood mitigation proposals. During the flood, John, who was a TPI pensioner, worked ceaselessly in driving people to the flood centre at the YMCA hall at Lutwyche and elsewhere in order that they might lodge their claims. He was an ill man. He drove himself very hard in a cause for which he had worked in quite a dedicated manner over a number of years. During the night, after he had spent most of the day transporting people, he passed away. I pay a public tribute to him and say that the success of flood mitigation schemes in the future will be a tribute to his work.
– -I rise on behalf of the Australian Country Party to support strongly the Queensland Flood Relief Bill and the New South Wales Flood Relief Bill before the House. I have been asked by the Leader of the Australian Country Party, the right honourable member for Richmond (Mr Anthony) particularly to express his support and of course at the same time his concern in this very important matter. The floods in Queensland were devastating indeed. I believe that words expressed here would be quite inadequate completely and properly to describe the disaster which has befallen so many people in that State. In northern New South Wales, similarly, there are individual cases of hardship just as bad as those in Queensland. The floods of 1974 will leave for many years to come a trail of loss, heartbreak, devastation and, I believe, a reminder to governments, present and in the future, of their responsibilities to do more to meet the problems of natural disaster.
The sum of money set aside in these 2 Bills is substantial. I am pleased to note that it is not limited to the precise amounts that have been referred to because undoubtedly as the problems of rehabilitation are in the process of being met, the relief that will flow from these measures will be such that some reassessment undoubtedly will become necessary. I want to express congratulations to all those who played a part in the immediate relief requirements and of course in meeting the distress that arose at the time of the disaster. I refer to the Royal Australian Air Force, the Army, the civil emergency authorities in both States, the State police forces and to an almost uncountable number of volunteers who joined spontaneously with the authorities to meet the crisis and worked tirelessly to sustain people during that period and then to cope with their immediate rehabilitation. But of course the work is far from over. It will go on for many months to come.
In the limited time it is not possible to refer to all the problems which have arisen, but 1 want to draw attention to some aspects. The Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) made specific reference to the problems confronting owner-farmers. I want to emphasise that these are not just problems; they involve a challenge. Unless we can help primary producers to rehabilitate, and unless we can ensure that every property in Queensland and northern New South Wales that has been devastated is restored, we will be letting down the pioneers of Australia and the people who established those properties and those enterprises. It is certainly inadequate to limit the assistance to $40,000 in terms of a loan only. At the earliest opportunity the Leader of the Country Party visited many of the devastated areas. Then a group of members, as a committee, visited the Queensland flood areas. We tried to do this in a way that did not intrude upon the efforts that were being made but merely to show our interest and our determination in this Parliament to fight for the interests of these people.
At a later time in northern New South Wales the electorates of Richmond and Cowper were severely devastated. With my colleague the right honourable member for Richmond we held meetings with people who had suffered in the floods and those who represented the communities on the northern rivers of New South Wales. Those discussions drew to our attention, as the local members, some of the problems which have yet to be faced and some of the deficiencies in the flood relief scheme. I want to refer briefly to these. Firstly, we have the circumstance in which the small businessman is far too limited in terms of the assistance that is being provided. The term of the loans which are being offered is too short and should be reviewed. I refer to the plight of the small farmers who lost their immediate income and who, because they are farmers, do not qualify for unemployment benefits that flow to other people in the community under the existing provisions of the requirements and regulations of the Department of Social Security. I believe that this imposes a hardship on this section of the community that should be overcome with a mere administrative decision by a Minister or the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam).
Of course there are problems involving alterations to the Income Tax Act. I appeal for the restoration of provisions of sections 75 and 76 referring to plant and improvements which were repealed in the last Budget. I believe that these provisions should be restored in the case of flood victims on country properties to allow them at least to have that benefit during the rehabilitation period. There are a number of other matters. I think it is very important that special arrangements be made to assist people with essential materials such as building materials, wire for fencing and other supplies which are in great demand because of the floods but which are in short supply. Restoration is being very greatly hampered because of this. I do not think that it would be asking too much for some special arrangements to be made to deal with these problems. Certainly the Federal Government has the means of doing it. I believe that it could, through the Department of Supply or some other department, appropriately assist in this matter.
Members of Parliament, not only some of those who have spoken and those to whom I have referred from my own party, but also members from the other place, met members of the Country Party from flood areas of Queensland and New South Wales in Parliament House, I think 3 weeks ago. At that time we drew up a list of suggestions which were conveyed to the Prime Minister. On behalf of my own constituents and on behalf of people in northern New South Wales generally I forwarded a telegram to the Prime Minister cataloguing some of these requirements. Incredibly, I have received nothing more than a simple acknowledgement. I had hoped that the Minister for Northern Development would have mentioned, when he spoke this afternoon, some of these matters but apparently something has gone wrong in Government administration to the extent that these matters have not been conveyed to him. I am sure that if he knew about them he would have referred to them. After all, he has a great knowledge of country matters and I think that he would be the appropriate minister to make some observations and to give some indication of the extent to which consideration is being given to these very important issues that arise in terms of flood restoration and flood relief.
Much has been said about the need to ensure that the emergency services are improved in the future and for facilities such as helicopters and the like to be readily available. I think that this also requires some kind of permanent organisation at Federal level to coordinate and to assist the States, to ensure that there is no breakdown of the kind that occurred. It was, of course, overcome, but in the process there were delays. I am immediately reminded of the fact that within a few days of the flood there was a call by a number of supporters of the Government, Cabinet Ministers and others, for the creation of a national disaster fund and the setting up of a proper system to assist in emergencies of this kind. It is very disappointing that subsequently to that in this House the Prime Minister himself said that consideration had been given to the matter of establishing a national disaster fund but that the Government believed the complexities were too great and therefore it could not proceed any further with consideration of this matter.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was referring to the important question of a national disaster fund. In his contribution to this debate the Minister for Northern Development made fairly strong charges against the insurance companies. I thought the charges were somewhat unjustified, because after all the insurance companies over the years have played thenpart. Under their charter and the arrangements under which they operate they have properly served the Australian community, but obviously some new scheme would be required to cover national disasters. The insurance companies could well play a part in such a scheme, but the scheme would have to be initiated by the Federal Government. I hope that there will be a proper inquiry into this matter and a proper relationship established between the respective interests; that is, the Federal and State governments, the insurance institutions and the respective government departments. I do not think it can be envisaged that complete compensation could be provided for natural disasters of any kind, but some reasonable cover should be provided to ensure that losses do not affect too greatly the viability of individuals or enterprises.
I leave that matter because time is limited. Earlier I referred to some of the problems which immediately confront flood victims and which do not appear to be covered by the present relief measures in either Queensland or New South Wales. I briefly return to that question. Small farmers who have lost their immediate income due to the floods should be treated as unemployed and should receive unemployment benefits if applied for. I believe that this would be a fair and reasonable proposition. Small businessmen affected by the floods should be offered a concessional loan at a low rate of interest, but a loan made over a period of three to five years seems inadequate. I believe that the term of the loans provided for in the Bills should be extended to 10 years. There should be an extension of time for the payment of taxation and provisional taxation for those people who have suffered severe loss and can justify a claim to have this kind of concession granted to them.
I referred earlier to sections 75 and 76 of the Income Tax Assessment Act, covering plant and improvements, which were repealed at the time of the last Budget. I believe these should be restored for flood victims because in so many instances - typical of them was one that was referred to by the Minister for
National Development this afternoon - this kind of concession would be a great help in the restoration of the very severely damaged rural areas, particularly in Queensland and northern New South Wales. I think too that there should be a review of the decision that local government authorities must find 20 per cent of the cost of road restoration, bridge repairs and the like made necessary by the floods. Finding this money imposes a fairly heavy burden on ratepayers. I am referring specifically to a figure applicable to New South Wales. I am not clear whether that figure is applicable to Queensland, but if the same figure applies - we understand from the statement of the Prime Minister that it does - there ought to be some special consideration in this direction, because the ratepayers in the flooded areas are the losers and in turn are in great difficulty in footing the bill for rate contributions towards flood damage restoration costs. I think special arrangements should be made to ensure the availability of materials to repair flood damage, whether it be in the public sector or the private sector. I think that flood relief assistance to non-government institutions - I refer to private hospitals, nursing homes and schools - should be considered on a special basis. These organisations are not profit making to the extent that they have the wherewithal to meet the heavy cost of restoration work where this is necessary.
In conclusion I want to say one word about flood mitigation. I have been associated practically all my life with efforts to achieve effective flood mitigation on the northern rivers of New South Wales. In the recent disaster flood mitigation by its success, has proved its worth beyond doubt, because the losses iti northern New South Wales have been minimised greatly. The $71m-odd provided for flood relief by the current legislation is a colossal amount compared with what has been spent on flood mitigation. I believe that where it is practical and proper to carry out flood mitigation works in the future effective schemes should be debated in this House and put into effect. I refer to schemes such as those initiated by the Government drawn from the present Opposition over the last five or six years. I think that a very good example has been set. We certainly want to ensure that on a national level this is followed through. Of course there is a great necessity currently to recognise the need for additional funds to complete flood mitigation works already com menced. I hope this matter will receive serious consideration by whatever Government is on the Treasury bench in the ensuing months and that when the next Budget is being prepared there will be an adequate allocation for flood mitigation funds to be spent in the respective States where schemes of an effective nature can be put forward by State governments.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (8.7)- I support the 2 Bills before the House, because the severe flooding which occurred in the early part of the year affected much of New South Wales and a large part of my electorate as well as Queensland, which has already received most of the consideration of the previous speakers. During the whole period of the disastrous flooding no one was more closely connected with the tragedy, suffering and financial ruin caused by the flood than I was. During the height of the floods my own family shared the concern of many of the people in the caravan park at Walgett. The water, which was being held back by a levee bank, was six to eight feet higher than the level of the caravan park itself. The frightening thing was not only that this six to eight feet of water was on the other side of the levee bank but also that it extended some 60 miles back from the levee bank. I can assure honourable members that my family and I certainly shared some of the fear and some of the financial loss, but not to the extent that we would consider making a claim under the provisions of this Bill. However, owing to the inquiries that have been coming into my office I feel that some claims less justifiable than mine will be made.
Many people who witnessed the fury and the danger of the flood not only worked on the flood relief committees but also made personal donations to flood relief appeals. One woman in the Walgett area, after being on the roof of her house for 2 days was rescued by helicopter and brought to Walgett with very little more than what she stood up in. The first thing she did when she arrived was to offer her services to the civil defence authorities making tea and biscuits for those who were assisting people marooned in flooded areas. I can assure you, Mr Speaker, that the Bill that authorises the payment of $5. 5m to assist New South Wales in financing the cost of measures designed to alleviate the effect of the flood will be received with much appreciation. However, as 2 Bills have come before the House together, one cannot help making some comparisons. Perhaps a member whose electorate was so greatly affected by the flood might have a duty to do that, mindful of the fact that $S.Sm was allocated to New South Wales and $66m to Queensland. Of course, we are all aware that the flooding in New South Wales was not as severe as that in Queensland. But one wonders what was the range of measures upon which the New South Wales Government sought assistance from the Australian Government. For instance, why did the Queensland Government provide loans to primary producers estimated to cost only $4m from the assistance given to that State by the Federal Government while New South Wales provided $4.65m in the form of loans to primary producers from the assistance of $5. 5m provided by the Federal Government? I ask those States to have a look at the way in which the money is allocated because it seems to me that a very large proportion of the assistance given to the States should go to primary producers in the form of loans. If this is done, primary producers will be able to get back into production and when this happens all the people of the area will be assisted.
It is very pleasing to note that the Commonwealth’s share of the loans to primary producers is to be given interest free. I hope that the States take notice of this and that they will live up to their responsibilities in regard to interest rates. We have heard much from the Opposition benches and from the States about long term low interest loans to primary producers. Surely there has never been more justification for such loans than on this occasion. I believe that the Australian Government has shown the way and that there can be no justification for high interest rates. Maybe the reason why such a small provision has been made for loans to primary producers is that the States cannot justify higher interest rates.
It is gratifying to read in the Bills that relief will be provided for personal hardship, including immediate relief for emergency repairs to houses. The Bills provide for assistance to local government as well as assistance to States. One of the big concerns in smaller towns is that the levee banks that were built during the last floods have not yet been paid for because of some State regulation about the banks being built to a certain standard. These levee banks have withstood probably the greatest flood that has been known in the history of the white man. Yet, the people concerned with building the banks have not been able to attract their part of assistance from the State Government. I hope that when the New South Wales Government was discussing the various categories of estimated expenditures it did not overlook the mining industry and the miners, because some of these people - particularly those miners at Lightning Ridge - were seriously affected by the floods. I remember receiving a telephone call asking me to have a look at what is called the ‘six mile’ at Lightning Ridge, where the miners were cut off from their mines and their treatment plant. From a distance of about a quarter of a mile they could see 5 feet of water flooding their machinery. These miners built a road with their own plant in order to reach their machinery and treatment plant. I am told that the miners are still unable to enter some of the mines because of flooding. Surely these people would be entitled to some consideration under any relief scheme. 1 think it can be said that the amounts of money that the Australian Government is providing under these 2 Bills dwarf any previous expenditure or assistance provided in respect of any single disaster. I was very surprised to hear the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) criticise the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). They were the 2 men who assisted me most when I had occasion to contact the Federal Cabinet to get various planes, including Caribou aircraft and helicopters, to go to the flood area. The Minister for Science also went to no end of trouble to visit the area. The Minister went with me and looked at every facet connected with the flooding. I remember that he even had long discussions about some of the Aboriginal problems. It is gratifying to know that long before these Bills were introduced the Government had shown its concern for the welfare of the people and had provided this help.
It is very gratifying to know that during the height of the floods there was so much co-operation between the State civil defence authorities and the Commonwealth civil defence authorities as well as between the Australian Government and the State governments. I would say that the co-operation was excellent just about all round, including the co-operation given by the general public. Unfortunately, of course, there were some disagreements in some . areas which claimed that they should have had more aircraft or helicopters. People rang the civil defence authorities and asked for five or six tents whereas the plane which was flying to the area could provide them with only one tent. But, all in all, I think that Australia can be proud of what happened in the national emergency that we had in the floods. I hope that the next time we have a big flood we will have a national disaster scheme under which people will know just what their entitlement will be, what assistance they will receive and how much compensation for damage they will receive.
Some time ago there was an isolated flood in my electorate. It is true that when big floods occur everybody takes notice and the people involved receive some assistance. But in the case of smaller floods it seems that some people are forgotten. I remember a flood which occurred in the Mildura-Dareton area and in which some of the blocks were flooded and homes were washed away. Of course, that flood received only half the publicity that is given to a major flood. I do not want to take the time of other members who wish to participate in this debate. I hope that the Government will give consideration to some of the matters that T have raised and especially to the setting up of a national disaster fund.
– I want to confine my remarks to the Queensland Flood Relief Bill 1974 which authorises the payment of up to $66m to assist the State of Queensland to alleviate the effects of the disastrous floods that have taken place. More than 2,000 homes in the city of the Gold Coast, which is in the electorate of McPherson, were entered by flood waters. The city of the Gold Coast ranked second to Brisbane in that regard. I think it is fair enough to comment on the community effort. It was wonderful to see the response by people and the effort generally by all citizens to help each other and the effort by service clubs and everybody else in the various communities. I think that they are to be applauded by us all. The Treasurer (Mr Crean) made reference to the defence forces in his second reading speech. What he said was correct because the defence forces continually have been of assistance on the Gold Coast not only in regard to floods but also in regard to the threat of erosion. I am bound to say that, by and large, I think that there has been a real degree of co operation between the State Government and the Federal Government in this matter.
I know that the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) made some reference to the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) did not see fit to visit Queensland on his way to South East Asia. I will not labour that point. All I want to say is this: I understand that there are problems when people have set schedules. I would have thought that those who advise the Prime Minister would have seen to it that in some way on his way north he could have demonstrated his personal concern. Not that just going there would have achieved very much, but it would have been helpful and I think that the Queensland community would have been pleased to see the political leader of the country take a personal interest in it. But I do not put that in an important category. One or two Ministers came up and made a few statements, with which we did not agree, but by and large and in the end - which was all that really mattered - there was a very real degree of co-operation and liaison. I think it is one of the few times that after a discussion with the Premier of Queensland both the Prime Minister and the Premier emerged agreeing that very much had been done “by both governments to assist.
The purpose of the Bill is to alleviate the hardship. The amount of $66m is a large amount of money. I am pleased that the Treasurer saw fit to refer to insurance companies. I believe that some derogatory and unfair remarks have been made by people in the community about the role of insurance companies in this exercise.
– You could not make unfair remarks about insurance companies.
– The honourable member, as well as the rest of us, probably has some policies with an insurance company. However, I hope that all of us will explore to see whether insurance companies and assurance companies can play a more important part in providing the community with this sort of cover in the longer term. The Bill refers to the allocation to the State Government and the local authorities for restoration of facilities and amenities owned by them. I think it makes fair reference to the matter of personal hardship. A number of cases have come through my office. In the overwhelming majority of cases the people have been treated fairly. However,
I believe that there is some need for greater flexibility in the approach in some areas, particularly with regard to war service homes.
I want to refer particularly to the assistance to business. Honourable members will be aware that the Treasurer referred to loans of up to $25,000 for business firms. The estimated cost was $8.25m. But it is to be spread over a period of 3 to 5 years. I want to put this to the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) who is at the table: Let us take a family company that has a capital of $100,000 - that is not very much when one considers family companies in Australia today - and a stock level of $80,000. It produces a profit of $20,000 before tax, which would be a fairly efficient result on such a capital and stock level. Because this Government has seen fit to treat private companies in the same way as public companies for taxation purposes it will attract $9,500 in company taxation, leaving $10,500 after tax. Unless half of that- $5,250 - is distributed to shareholders it will attract extra taxation. So the maximum that can be maintained in that business for growth is $5,250. The amount of $5,250 has to be distributed and, of course, that is subject to personal taxation.
Let us take the same company with an inflation rate of 14 per cent. To finance that same business, without any growth at all, its increase in stock costs would be $12,000 in a given year. It is not possible for that company to repay a loan, with interest, in the time required and stay viable. I put it to the Government - this is not the first time it has been put because a committee met recently to consider this matter and the Prime Minister or the Treasurer has received a submission about it - that the Government should consider making the loan for a longer term. If it does not make it for a longer term I do not believe that the Government is really encouraging people to get back into a worthwhile operation.
My friend the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) wants to speak in the debate but he tells me that it is rather doubtful that he will be able to. Because of his immense interest in his electorate, particularly in the rural section of the electorate, the honourable member for Herbert is concerned, as we all are, about primary industry. I hope that the Minister at the table will be able to satisfy us as to where primary producers should look. The Bill mentions that the Treasurer will determine the assistance given. I know that a committee has been set up consisting of the Premier of Queensland, the Minister for Northern Development and the Lord Mayor of Brisbane. Is this a permanent committee? Is this the committee which in the end result is responsible for all decisions?
Another problem in northern Queensland and probably in many other sections of the State is that there has been substantial heavy rain which has not created a flood but which has created a situation in which crops have been ruined and the topsoil has been waashed away. What sort of assistance is given to these people? Although the water did not lie about and it was not a flood in the usual meaning of the word, it was caused by these enormous tropical downpours. The Bill refers also to the period from January to March. The Minister will know that there were heavy rains in northern Queensland before that - in November and December - which also created substantial damage. Generally speaking, with the gaps to which I have referred, I believe that both governments have made very valuable contributions. I am more concerned with where we go from here. We have to reduce the threat and the risk of damage. We cannot stop rain depressions. We cannot stop cyclones. It is quite improper to believe that the development that has occurred on what was regarded as the flood plain can be removed. I hope that the Government will look at how we can minimise future losses, because it would be better to spend the money in that way than to find ourselves with another bill for $66m as a result of the damage.
I put it to the Government that there is need to look at long term flood mitigation works. No local authority and no State government has the ‘capacity to finance the sort of works that are necessary. I know at first hand what is needed in Brisbane in the creation of dams and flood mitigation works on the Gold toast - not only the Advancetown dam but also the Benowa by-pass canal, which is well known to Government supporters. If the Labor Government is sincere it will announce before long that it will enter into financial arrangements with State governments and local authorities for flood mitigation works. The arrangement that has been put up time and again and the one that has been implemented in New South Wales is a 40 per cent Federal contribution, a 40 per cent State contribution and a 20 per cent contribution from local authorities. I hope that we do not hear the argument that this is a tremendous expenditure; that any government must consider this. At the end of his second reading speech the Treasurer said in relation to flood mitigation:
The Government is examining this problem as a matter of urgency. . . . It is urgently examining ways in which protection may be increased against future occurrences of a similar nature.
It is pretty obvious that, when the Govern- ment senses urgency - apparently it does with a general election pending- money can be found for all sorts of things particularly in certain electorates about which the Labor Government apparentily has very good reason to be concerned. If the Government wants to be judged as doing something worth while and something which could be valuable to the community into the future I ask it to look very deeply at giving some long term assistance and planning to flood mitigation works. If that is done we can avoid or substantially reduce the problem of having to expend such an amount to alleviate hardship after a particular State has been devastated by such an occurrence.
– I am going to be as brief as possible because I know there is an arrangement to have this debate completed as soon as possible. However, it is absolutely essential that I bring before the House, the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) and the people of Australia not only the extreme devastation caused by the floods in the part of the world that I represent, which is the north-west of Queensland - because that is all over and we cannot do very much about it - but also the aftermath of these devastating floods and the way they have mutilated and mauled 3 of the industries that are most vital to this nation. I refer to the beef cattle, the sheep and the mining industries. Each has been very seriously affected by these devastating floods.
Before I continue, I would again appeal to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to include on his committee someone who has actually had a realistic and prolonged association with the whole of these floods happenings in the north-west, I know that the Minister for Northern Development played his role very effectively during the terrible time that we went through up there. The reply I received from the Prime Minister when I asked for representation on this committee by someone with local knowledge to act in an advisory capacity to the Minister for Northern Development which I am sure the Minister would greatly appreciate, was that the Minister for Northern Development was on the board and that was that. I did not wish to be placed on the committee myself. The people I have in mind are, for instance, people who are on the flood emergency committee in Mount Isa such as the Mayor of Mount Isa, Alderman Bertoni or the local State member, an Australian Labor Party member, Alec Inch. Both of these men would be able to provide the Minister with detailed information that nobody could appreciate unless they actually lived in the area.
In regard to the depression that has in its grip the north-western parts of Queensland, I thought I heard the Minister for Northern Development refer to the shire chairman in Normanton when he was referring to the serious losses which had been sustained. Here is a case in point. Here is a man with a family who is just one of many people who built up a substantial property - not a great and privileged company but a little man who eventually got together a fairly substantial property - and who has come to the Minister asking if he can obtain relief or a pension. I can mention many such cases to honourable members. My office in Mount Isa is becoming something like an unemployment bureau. Although I was not in the House yesterday - I was occupied elsewhere - I was extremely interested to hear the suggestion that umempolyment in rural areas is not acute. If I can remember the figures accurately I think that over a period of 3 months, unemployment in non-metropolitan areas has grown from about 34,000 to 51,000 and much of this unemployment is due to the devastation caused by the floods.
I should like to give honourable members one or two examples which would be repeated in Cloncurry, Julia Creek, Normanton, Karumba and wherever one looks. In the city of Mount Isa are small contractors associated not only with the pastoral industry but also with the mining industry who have been brought to their knees. I can give honourable members specific cases and names and addresses, if they like, of carpenters who have sold their tools merely to keep alive. There is a vacuum in the plan of things constituted by the fact that there is no accommodation or provision for loans of any substance for these people. A group of us, mostly federal members both from the Senate and from this House met here a fortnight ago to make suggestions to the Government regarding assistance for these people. I hope that the Government paid heed to the recommendations that were made, particularly in regard to the small contractor who has not been provided for.
I mention a coloured friend of mine with whom I went to school, a fellow who built up a tremendous reputation for hard work and who eventually acquired plant worth about $30,000, $40,000 or $50,000. His plant now is bogged down and the whole of his activities are bogged down. He has to meet the demands for repayment on his plant which are coming in fast and furiously. That man, through no fault of his own, is completely immobilised. Surely to goodness he should have funds made available to him on the same basis as the small business man. Admittedly, he may not have had his plant washed away by floodwaters but the effects are just the same. That man eventually will be wiped out unless some assistance is forthcoming quickly. I appeal to the Minister for Northern Development who does understand our problems and has a knowledge of them to make sure that that type of person is provided for. I plead with the Minister at least to appoint to his staff as an adviser someone who is from that area. As I say, the man I could most recommend to have conferences and consultations with the Minister would be either the Mayor of Mount Isa, Angelo Bertoni or the State Labor member, Alec Inch - not me; I am not looking for the job.
Another point I should like to make and which I made long before I came into this House is that I pleaded and appealed to government after government and to Minister after Minister to have helicopters brought into that area for training purposes between December and March. My proposal would be an advantage not only to the people of that area. Let me tell honourable members this: It is not only the great floods of 1974 which have hit the inland part of Queensland and the Northern Territory and other areas which have been affected by these great rains. Even during periods of drought we have had these intermittent flood situations when people have had to be rescued under dramatic conditions and went so close to losing their lives that it was a photo-finish. I can see tremendous wisdom and common sense in my proposal, particularly as I have had the experience as Minister for the Army of coming into contact with these problems on the other side of the spectrum, namely the training side. Can anyone tell me that to go through the conventional forms of training at Oakey or Archerfield would be anywhere near as valuable to helicopter crews both in the Royal Australian Air Force and the Army as to train in the area I have suggested? It could be done. Anything can be done if we really want to do it. I am quite sure that those crews would gain tremendously through a realistic form of training in those areas, rather than remain around the ordinary conventional training areas.
– What would it cost?
– I most earnestly appeal to the Government to give serious consideration to this proposition. Mr Speaker, it occurs to me that while our permanent staff is on strike, many members of this House go out to dine and I think that as well as dining they are probably lubricating themselves far too much and so we get the silly sort of comments that we are getting from the other side of the House.
-Order! I think that we have had enough of those assertions this year. I should like the honourable gentleman not to make them in future.
– I accept your ruling, Mr Speaker, and I most certainly do not include you in that category.
-I am very grateful to the honourable member.
– Tributes have been paid to many people who have played their part and I suppose it would be almost impossible to name everyone involved because I think everyone who was obliged to face up to the conditions of those floods did play a tremendously valuable part. The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) and myself both had similar experiences. We both had the ordeal of wondering just where the next crisis was going to occur and, like the honourable member for Maranoa I had a network of police officers who did a magnificent job. In many cases they were men who had not been very long in the area and who were obliged to make decisions under conditions with which they were not terribly familiar. I think that is probably a flaw in the whole arrangement and I am sure that the Minister will assist in ironing out that particular problem. But there were many more people involved.
One of the quite remarkable things about the entire flood situation was the way the communication services were maintained. I do not think that there was a single example of a telephone communication service being interfered with. I think the linesmen, the people at little post offices and others worked around the clock, 24 hours a day. They did a tremendous job. As for the restoration of the railway line between Hughenden and Julia Creek, that will go down as one of the most remarkable efforts by these ordinary fellows - these navvies - who were able to get this line back into at least some sort of working condition. That brings me to my final point: If we are going to counter the effects of these great floods which will come year after year, 2 things must be done.
Firstly, two roads, the Flinders Highway and the Landsborough Highway, that is the road between Townsville and Mount Isa and the road linking Longreach with the Flinders Highway, will have to be brought up to sealed-road standard as quickly as possible. I am not being parochial in talking about this matter because this is the major link for the whole of the Northern Territory and the northern frontiers of this nation.
– Why did your own Government not do it?
– Go and play with a yo-yo or do something with which your intelligence can cope. Secondly, the railway line to which I referred will have to be brought up to a standard whereby it can withstand the pressures caused by floodwaters. Otherwise we can confidently expect that the same sort of thing will happen in future years if there are other floods even commensurate with those that we have experienced in 1974.
I would like to take up my full 20 minutes in this debate but I know that time is limited. I summarise my remarks by repeating a couple of points. No doubt the Minister does have intermittent consultations with people in an advisory capacity, but when this committee to which he has referred sits down to discuss these matters I would ask him to consider bringing in for consultation someone from the north-western area. Another point I make - this is about the 156th time I have made it - is to ask the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) to give serious consideration to bringing into the area under discussion heli copter units or sub-units for training during the period from December to March.
Motion (by Mr Hansen) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
I understand that time is very limited. The Treasurer (Mr Crean), not I, introduced this Bill. However, I will undertake to obtain answers to most of the points that were raised by honourable members who took part in the debate. The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) referred to the use of people in an advisory capacity. I inform him that we are constantly in touch not only with the types of people whom he has in mind but also people from cattlemen’s organisations, railways, police and other State authorities in working out major plans for various areas in respect of restoration works and also plans for emergency situations in the event that something may happen in the immediate future. I will certainly take into account what he has said.
The honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson) asked questions about unemployment benefits. We will look into this matter for him. I recall that early in 1966 when I first came into the Parliament - I am not certain who was the Minister for Social Services at that time; it may have been the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) who is sitting at the table - I was able to secure for cane farmers unemployment benefits in a time of drought, particularly in the Gin Gin area where the crop was completely wiped out. I will look at the situation to see whether farmers are in similar circumstances now. The precedent for assistance is there. The cases will be looked at sympathetically.
Questions were asked by the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Eric Robinson). I have spoken to the honourable member for
Herbert (Mr Bonnet) on this subject. The procedure with respect to the committee referred to is that when it reaches its conclusions we make the decision. I usually consult with the Treasurer. Up to the present time all anomalies have been ironed out satisfactorily between the State Government and the Australian Government in individual cases. I think it is fair to say that I am in almost daily touch with the Premier’s Department in Queensland or other State departments in respect of cases which have been brought to my attention. These involve pensioners and widows. We take a very lenient view of these cases. There are many cases, as honourable members would know, of houses that have been undermined and blocks of land which are no longer viable as a result, directly or indirectly, of the floods. Although the criterion which is applied in determining the assistance to be given is rigid, when we look at individual cases we can arrive at a flexible arrangement. In relation to the questions asked about the flooded sugar areas in the north, with a consequent loss of top soil and a subsidence of land, each case is looked at on its merits. For example, one case concerns a new bridge in the Burdekin area. It has caused very serious erosion and an undermining of a sugar farm near the bridge. We will have to look very closely at the question of the approaches to the bridge or even replacing some parts of the design in an endeavour to overcome the problems of subsidence and the loss of topsoil.
In regard to submergence cases, usually the criterion applied relates to a decision based on estimates for repairs to bridges and roads. Again, this is flexible in the sense that a house or a property on the side of a hill will never be submerged. However, if it can be proved that a building block is not viable because of flooding which causes the valley below to be submerged, such a case is looked at sympathetically. I can assure honourable members that all these cases are looked at constructively. If we believe that there is a sound logical case for assistance, it will be given. I know of no differences of opinion between the Queensland Government and the Australian Government in this area. I think there has been full co-operation in regard to these cases.
At the present time the question of moving a number of houses in areas which are flood prone is being looked into. The study is being made by a technical committee consisting of Mr Lansdowne, the Head of the Department of Urban and Regional Development, the Chief Engineer of the Brisbane City Council, and the Queensland Co-ordinator General. This case will be submitted to the Government at a later stage when more details are available. I can say to honourable members that the Government is conscious that improvement factors will have to be taken into consideration. After all, there is little point in replacing a single-lane bridge when obviously a doublelane bridge is required. There is little point in replacing a 12-inch main whichhas caused a drainage problem when a 2-foot main is needed to rectify the problem. These cases are being looked at and, even if it means that the Australian Government will be up for more money, loans could be made available to the authorities. These cases will be looked at on their merits when approaches are made to the Australian Government by the Queensland Government. I may have missed some of the points raised in the debate. I will look tomorrow at the speeches and I will reply in writing to those points Ihave missed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 8 April (vide page 1185), on motion by Mr Crean:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr Patterson) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 8 April (vide page 1195), on motion by Mr Crean:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Appropriation Bill (No. 4) and Appropriation Bill (No. 5) represent the vehicle by which the Opposition intends to express its extreme concern at the way in which the Government is exercising the responsibilities of Government. It is the vehicle by which we intend to demonstrate to the Australian people that we believe power exercised by the Labor Party in office in the Federal Parliament has gone to an extreme which calls upon us, for the first time since Federation, to take measures in the upper House of the Parliament to ensure that these Bills are not passed. The action to be taken later in connection with this matter will be considered, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has already indicated, in the light of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) having gone to His Excellency the Governor-General, handed in his request for a double dissolution or handed in his request for at least a dissolution of the House of Representatives and subsequently set a date for a general election. At that time the Opposition will be prepared to accede to the passage of such legislation as may be necessary to enable the payment of sums of money which, in respect of Appropriation Bill (No. 4) relate to certain additional services by the Commonwealth and, in the case of Appropriation Bill (No. 5) - a Bill which we are debating in concert with Appropriation Bill (No. 4) - relate to certain payments of a capital nature.
As to the actual duplicity of the Government I think it is necessary on this the third occasion when the Bills have been before this House to recite to those in the chamber and those who are concerned with the debate the instances which have caused us in the Opposition to take this extreme step. The Gair episode is of concern to the Opposition because it shows, firstly, the extent to which the Labor Party in government is prepared to go in order to seek a majority in the upper chamber and, secondly, the extent to which it is prepared to change the normal practices in order to reverse a proper act by a Premier of a sovereign State of the Commonwealth. I do not want to say a great deal about the appointment of Mr Gair to a diplomatic post but I think it important at this time to express my extreme concern - a concern shared, I am sure, by every Australian - that the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Murphy) and the Prime Minister were prepared not to pursue the normal course of recommending and accepting a resignation by the ambassador-designate but, in consultation, to pursue the unusual claim that his term of office had been terminated because of his acceptance of an office of profit under the Crown.
This is a most unusual step. It is unusual because it means that the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General - both senior legal men and both men who one would hope have some reasonable understanding of the law and constitutional practice - were prepared to condone the continued occupancy in the upper chamber of the Australian Parliament of a seat by a man who they now contend at the time of his occupying that seat was occupying an office of profit under the Crown. In other words, they are as culpable as any other in terms of an offence prescribed within the Constitution. In fact they are more culpable because it was through the direct act of both of them that this man, if he was in fact a senator at the time of his appointment, was sitting and participating in debates. By their acceptance and recognition of bis continued presence in the upper chamber they are culpable to the extent to which they sought to distort the accepted constitutional practice in order to gain control of the upper House of this Parliament and sought to defeat a constitutionally valid step taken by the Premier of a sovereign State.
Honourable members should not think for one moment that this was the first occasion on which this type of culpable behaviour by the Government had taken place. It is, in the sequence of the record of this Government, the third major occasion. There have been many others of a minor nature. Let us refer to the 3 major occasions. The first, of course, was the deplorable exercise of power by the Attorney-General in the raid undertaken by officers of his Department on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. Of course this was compounded at the same time by raids on the homes of several new Australian migrants - raids which, to the best of my knowledge, while they apparently resulted in certain records and material being taken from those homes did not, in any instance, result in a successful prosecution against any of these individuals. These raids were undertaken in the wee small hours of the morning in a completely un-Australian manner in order to assert the absolute power which this Commonwealth Attorney-General sought to exercise. They were raids which brought to those new Australian migrants a facsimile of that way of life from which they had escaped - many of them from communist-dominated societies to which this Government in its foreign policy, :md particularly the Minister for Overseas
Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) who is sitting at the table, seek to draw us closer.
The second example of the abuse of power and the degree to which this Government is prepared to engage in culpable activities concerned the administration of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I say nothing about the Prime Minister having removed one Minister from office and transferred him to another portfolio. I think it significant that the Commonwealth Auditor-General has produced a report, which has been tabled by Mr Speaker in this House, which draws the attention of the Australian people to the abuse of normal financial responsibility in the administration of the affairs of that Department. I say nothing of (he incident which occurred in the office of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. However, the report of the Commonwealth AuditorGeneral drew attention to the degree to which this Government is culpable in its exercise of power.
The third example is the deplorable Gair episode. These give 3 major reasons why this Government cannot be allowed to exercise its present deplorable pattern of behaviour without the people of Australia being given an opportunity to decide whether they wish it to do so. I mentioned that there were several minor episodes. I do not want to take all my time analysing those instances but. I think it necessary to recognise that even yesterday there were three more deplorable minor instances of the Labor Party in office demonstrating its incapacity to govern. The first was the Prime Minister stating in this chamber that he was not aware that the Attorney-General disagreed with his assertion relative to the timing and the manner by which the constitutional change should take place. This was in relation to the interchange of powers and the degree to which each of the States was said by the Prime Minister to be in agreement with the Bill known as the Constitution Alteration (Interchange of Powers) Bill. The Prime Minister quoted a Constitutional Committee A meeting which he attended. This particular constitutional change certainly was discussed at the Constitutional Convention but I, as a member of Constitutional Committee C, attended a meeting in Melbourne on 15 March at which the Victorian Attorney-General, Mr Wilcox, said that he and his Government did not accord with the Prime Minister’s interpretation of their acceptance of the terms of this referendum. Mr McCaw, the Attorney-General for
New South Wales, and Mr Knox, the AttorneyGeneral for Queensland, have similarly disagreed with the Prime Minister’s assertion that they are all in accord with this constitutional amendment Bill. The Prime Minister again has been caught out; yet in this House yesterday he asserted that his version of the truth is correct and that that of those 3 Attorney-General - 3 separate individuals representing 3 separate sovereign governments - is incorrect.
Secondly we have the assertion by the Attorney-General in the Senate that if the motion relative to these 3 Bills were to be defeated it would be the first time that money Bills have been defeated. I draw the attention of the House to a question by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) concerning a statement by the present AttorneyGeneral in the Senate on 18 June 1970 when he said:
The Australian Labor Party has acted consistently in accordance with the tradition that we will oppose in the Senate any tax or money Bill or other financial measure whenever necessary to carry out our principles and policies.
At that time the present Attorney-General tabled a list of 168 financial measures, including taxation and appropriation Bills, which had been opposed either in whole or in part by the Labor Opposition between 1950 and 1970. What utter nonsense it is for the Labor Party now to claim that it is beyond the powers of the Senate to defeat the legislation that is now before this chamber.
The third instance of the duplicity of the Government was a statement yesterday by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) relative to the ordering of 2 patrol frigates for the Royal Australian Navy. I, in a question to the Minister for Defence, referred to a statement by him on 23 May to the effect that whatever the outcome of the cancellation of the DDL order the replacement vessels would be built in Australia. Yet today we had a statement, following the Press announcement of a few days ago, that these ships were not going to be built in Australia. That is another contradiction in fact. There we have 3 major examples and 3 minor ones of how the Government has demonstrated its total incapacity to govern this country. These are the catalysts because of which we believe this legislation must be defeated and the Australian public must be given an opportunity to cast its views on whether it is prepared to condone the culpable behaviour, the negligent behaviour and the lawless activities of the Prime Minister and the Labor administration.
There are 2 specific areas in which the administration of the Labor Government has taken Australia away from the traditionally accepted manner of Australian responsibility, that is, responsibility by a government. The first is in our domestic affairs. The second is in our foreign affairs. I want to refer briefly to the first. In the field of domestic affairs, I think we need to concern ourselves with the economic mismanagement of which this Government has been capable. It might be said that if there were to be a change of Government what chance would there be for a government comprised of honourable members who are at present on this side of the House to contain inflation. I believe there is every chance. There is every chance because we would act with financial responsibility. I illustrated in a debate in the chamber the other day, through reference to a series of articles contributed by Professor Hogan of Sydney University, the degree to which the inflationary impact on the Australian environment is isolated from that overseas because of the measures which have been taken with respect to the appreciation of the currency and the degree to which there are major shortages of commodities in the northern hemisphere. Those two factors mean that there is no longer within Australia a paramount influence causing the inflation in our environment.
There are 4 essential steps that a government comprised of honourable members from this side of the House would and could take. We would cut public expenditure. We would adopt a rational industrial policy, applying sanctions as need be, to ensure meaningful reduction of the incidence of strikes - strikes which in New South Wales at the moment are bringing the whole of the community to a halt. Thirdly, we would reduce interest rates and adopt a sensible monetary policy. Fourthly, we would apply a reasonable sort of policy in terms of the Public Service. Instead of contributing to the diversion of resources from the private sector to the public sector we would adopt a policy which saw to it that the productive enterprises in this country were not destroyed. In the domestic area it is similarly necessary to have positive policies within the primary industry sector.
Even the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns), who is at the table, surely should be aware, because of his responsibilities for overseas trade, that there have been significant reductions in the profitability of all of Australia’s major primary industries in recent months. Yet the Government adopts a cut in the superphosphate bounty, which paradoxically we heard only yesterday is not to be followed in the instance of the nitrogenous bounty. There is to be no superphosphate bounty but there is to be maintenance of the nitrogenous bounty. That is a typical illustration of the way in which, as the momentum of an election draws upon the Government, there is a concentration of its thinking to recognise the contribution that primary industry can and does play in the Australian community. The anti-rural bias of Labor is a significant part of its maladministration of the domestic economy. It is necessary that we have a policy which enables our farming community and our export industries to play proper and balanced roles to ensure that the Australian community continues to prosper.
Unfortunately the Labor Party has shown in government no recognition of the balance between the productive industries and the service industries, but it is prepared to spend money without knowing where it comes from. There are many areas of social expenditure, educational expenditure and health expenditure that we on this side of the House support, but it is our belief that it is not possible to spend money unless one earns it. The policies of this Government have destroyed the ability of those producers of money to continue their effective operation. There are many areas - not only in the implementation of the recommendations of the Coombs report and not only in the provisions of the last Labor Budget but also in the withdrawal of the superphosphate bounty and the changes in export incentives for manufacturing industry - in which there has been a range of negative economic decisions which have regrettably set a climate within which Australia cannot continue to maintain her present standard of living. A small ‘a’ australianism is the notion of nationalism that the Government pursues and it is a small ‘a’ australianism that is going to lead to a reduction of the standard of living and not an enhancement of it. It is a standard of living which cannot be supported unless money is generated. The efforts of the Government have led to an inflationary impact at home which has destroyed the ability of Australians in the middle and long terms to sustain her present way of life, let alone to improve it.
I have said that there are 2 areas - domestic and foreign - in which the Government deserves to be condemned. In foreign affairs the orientation away from the free world to the third world of socialist states, the rejection of a concern for the Indian Ocean in favour of a dominance of it by the Russians, a concern for the development of relations with North Vietnam, North Korea and the other communist states of the world and excessive concern for countries like the People’s Republic of China - for example, the failure to condemn it in the South Pacific Forum for its nuclear explosions but the preparedness to condemn France-
– We did.
– Not in the South Pacific Forum,
– We did. Ask the Minister at the table.
– Order! The honourable member for Hunter will remain silent.
– The honourable member for Hunter should be aware that it was the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) who attended the South Pacific Forum and not the Minister for Overseas Trade.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party entitled deliberately to mislead this Parliament and am I not entitled to object to his doing so?
– That is not a point of order. There is no point of order involved.
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs, who is a member of the other place, attended the South Pacific Forum. It was he who sponsored a resolution condemning French nuclear explosions - a resolution which we support. Indeed, both the former Minister for Foreign Affairs and present Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, at a similar meeting some years ago, and I acting in his behalf at an ASPAC meeting in Korea introduced similar resolutions years ago. But we did not condemn only the French explosions. We also condemned the Chinese explosions. My point is that the Government is falling more and more within the ambit of dominance of communist states which are denying the Australian people a true opportunity to assert an individual point of view.
Within the operations of each of the Ministers of the present Government there are aspects that need to be condemned, but beyond all else the duplicity that is represented by their behaviour in the ASIO raids, in the administration of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and in the deplorable exercise of trying to assert a date for the resignation or cessation of appointment of the present Ambassadordesignate to Ireland in terms of the Gair affair are 3 of the major exercises which mean that the people of Australia must be given an opportunity to express their attitude towards the continuity in government of the present regime. There is no excuse for maladministration. There is no excuse for duplicity. The members of the Opposition are completely united in believing that it is absolutely essential and that the time has come for this legislation to be defeated and for the members of the Australian public to express their view on the duplicity which this Government, regrettably, has demonstrated so often in its administration.
– Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– Many people believe that the Australian Parliament is in an unprecedented position. Does the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) think that the petty, minor arguments and points that he raised tonight will be considered by the Australian people when they are determining that situation? We are in an unprecedented position because a strongly supported Government, elected with a clear mandate, faces termination of office by a Senate with no mandate at all. The Senate represents the people of the past - those who governed for 23 years as though their power in Australia should never end. In 1972 the Australian people said: ‘It’s time for a change’. But the Government they elected has never been given a chance to govern. (Quorum formed.) I thank honourable members for finally finding their way into the House.
Twenty-three years of government is not enough for the people of the past. The forces of the past are emerging again. Constitutional lawyers are indignant at the type of unprecedented action by which they seek to emerge. An example of this is the view of
Sir Robert Menzies quoted in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ of 1 1 March 1 968. Sir Robert Menzies stated:
In the House of Representatives, 25 members (South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania) could never defeat 85 members from the three larger States. It would be a falsification of democracy if, on any matter of Government policy approved by the House of Representatives, possibly by a large majority, the Senate, representing the States and not the people, could reverse the decision …. Otherwise a Senate opposition whose party had just been completely defeated at a general election, would be in command of the Government of the nation. This would be absurd, as a denial of popular democracy.
That is precisely the position we are in today. I will leave members of the Opposition to reconcile themselves to the view of the man who led them for so long.
How did this unprecedented situation come about? It came about because of the appointment of Senator Gair as Australian Ambassador to Eire. Ten minutes before the Opposition heard of Senator Gair’s appointment no member of the Opposition would have thought it was conceivable to take this unprecedented step of rejection of the Appropriation Bills. But Gair’s appointment changed all that. Why? Was there anything unusual in it? Was there anything in Gair’s appointment that justifies the false indignation of the Liberal-Country Parties? Gair was offered an appointment in the belief that, if he accepted it, it would make it more likely that the Labor Party - the Government of Australia - would win one more Queensland Senate seat. What party that has ever been represented in this Parliament would not have done that and thought it was fully justified? Some would have thought that was very clever. What about Anthony, Sinclair, Nixon and Lynch? Perhaps not Snedden - not because of any moral objection but because he would not have been quick enough to think of it. Of course, any party in this House would appoint an Opposition senator to a diplomatic post, if it could find one to agree, just as the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) recommended Mr Gair for appointment as Australian Ambassador to Ireland. But Mr Gair is not a national event. He is not a man about whom Supply should be stopped. Mr Gair will have been forgotten in a week or two and then we will have nothing but an Opposition which wants an election because it thinks it could win.
But expediency of this kind can cause the political instability which endangered government in France, Germany and other countries. If Australia is to have a system of government in which the government can be eroded, obstructed and frustrated and forced to an election every year or so, people will despise the whole process. Those who should be accused of immorality are those who refused to accept the elected Labor Government of December 1972, those who have become inflated with power for 20 years previously, and those who set out to obstruct and hinder the elected Government of Australia in every possible way. I believe that the Australian people will reject the Sneddens and the Anthonys who refused to give the Labor Government a chance. This Government is the government of the majority of the working people of Australia, who have had no Australian Government for 20 years and more. This Government of the majority of the working people of Australia has not been given a fair go. I believe that many Australians will be more angry about that than about anything else for many years. I believe ‘hey should be. 1 ask them to say loudly and clearly whom they want to be the government of this country. I ask them to judge the government on its performance compared with that of the only alternative - a discredited team lead by a discredited leader, not only for one year but for year after year.
When Gair is forgotten the real issues of this election will be seen. The first real issue is inflation. Australia is not an isolated country in which inflation or depression is caused by events here. Australia is part of the world economy. Inflation and depression are caused by world forces of which the forces of the Australian economy are only a small part - perhaps a one-hundredth part, or much less. The truth is that there is not much Australia can do to insulate itself against inflation. There is certainly more that can be done to prevent and reduce depression. But the inflation of 1973-74 was a result of world conditions, of conditions which began to operate in Australia and in the world before the Labor Party became the Government in December 1972.
Since then, Labor has done much to reduce inflation in Australia. We have appreciated the dollar, reduced tariffs, cut expenditure and created a climate in which private business activity of all kinds has reached record levels. If this had not been done, price increases in
Australia in the last 12 months could have been 10 per cent higher. The rate of inflation could have been 23 per cent, not 13 per cent. If a Liberal-Country Party government had been in our place, the result would have been inflation at 23 per cent instead of 13 per cent because the Anthony-led Country Party would have relentlessly opposed currency appreciation and the Liberal Party would have been afraid to reduce tariffs. Inflation would have been at 23 per cent and little would have been done to offset it. A Liberal-Country Party government would have refused to increase pensions because expenditure is inflationary. It would have opposed wage increases relentlessly because wage increases are inflationary, and bitter industrial disputes would have occurred.
In contrast, if honourable members compare the figures on industrial disputes in 1973, the Labor Government’s first year, with the figures for 1972, the last year of the Liberal Government, they will find that the number of disputes, the number of working days lost and the estimated loss of wages have increased but the number of workers actually involved has fallen. This is normal in any year of expansion and inflation, irrespective of which party is the government. If the Liberals had been the government in 1973 industrial disputes would have been far greater. If we compare 1973 with 1971 - not nearly as much a year of expansion - we find that the number of disputes and estimated wages lost in those 2 years are about the same; but both the number of workers involved in the disputes and the number of working days lost in 1973 is much less than in 1971. One does not have to go back far to find that the claims of the Liberals about industrial disputes are completely false. But industrial disputes under the Liberal-Country Party coalition in times of expansion and inflation would wreck the economy. They would not support fair wage increases. They would freeze wages. They would not conciliate the parties. They would arrest the workers. If we were to reduce inflation much more than the Government has done many people would be hurt. First of all farmers would be hurt. The Labor Government refuses to hurt farmers. Farm income was permitted to rise from $892m to $2, 885m. Meat exports were not taxed or restricted.
Like business activities, farm income and activities are at levels which are records for all time. Just look at wheat. This year 11 million tons will be produced. Last year it was just over 6 million tons. How much worse would inflation be if we had only 6 million tons of wheat this year. And farmers will be paid for this wheat. It is sold already. We have seen to it that all the wheat, sugar and coal we can produce has been sold. But if a Liberal- Country Party Government were elected to Parliament it would be prepared to hurt people to try to deal with inflation. Its remedy for inflation is unemployment, and then we would have both unemployment and inflation. This was the result in 1971-72 and the people rightly rejected the Government of McMahon and Snedden which caused it. If the people elect them again, they will cause it again.
What would happen if the Liberal-Country Party coalition got back into office? It is hostile to public spending. It says that it would reduce it. lt would, but where? Welfare would be the first place to suffer. It would go back to the indignity of 50c or $1 increase in pensions once a year. Pensioners would be able to squeeze out of it only what fear of losing an election would permit, and that very often only in the Budget before an election. We have inflation in Australia - much less than Liberal Party inflation would have been - but we have compensated the people who need assistance in times of inflation. Pensions have been increased 3 times in just over one year. The pension is now $26 - 22.6 per cent of average weekly earnings and well on the way to 25 per cent. This is a $6 increase in 15 months, the largest increase in the history of Australia.
If the Liberal-Country Party coalition had governed Australia during the past 15 months there would have been one increase in pensions at the 1973 Budget time and it would have been no more than a couple of dollars. We have supported wage increases that have been fair and reasonable and necessary to keep up with the cost of living. The result has been that wages have kept up with the cost of living and in some cases have risen more than the cost of living. If the Liberal-Country Party coalition had been in office it would have opposed wage increases and it would have devastated the nation by industrial disputes in its attempts to do so. Prices are high in Australia but they are high in other countries too. Inflation came from the countries in the outside world and in Australia it is no more than comparable with other countries. Prices are high but few people in Australia are worse off than when Labor came into ‘office. Everyone has a job, many have two, employment is at record levels and so is production. Prices are high but people have money and they can buy what they need because production is high as well as prices. For most Australians 1973-74 has been the best year they have ever experienced.
The Government has done much to moderate inflation in Australia but it has not been prepared to spread injury and loss over the nation. Something more can be done about inflation than we have done and we will do it. But what the Liberal-Country Party coalition would do about inflation is to freeze wages and pensions, to outlaw strikes and to spread industrial disputes all over the continent. It would not try to control prices and before long unemployment would appear as it squeezed the economy. I am not forecasting something that has not happened before. It has happened every time the Liberal-Country Party coalition has faced inflation - 1952, 1961 and of course 1972 when the McMahon Government was thrown out because of it. To cure inflation we need a society with more solidarity than the one we have. Instead of blaming the workers and governments or strikes we need to find out ways of preventing the social and economic conflict that exists in our own society. There can be no quick achievement of this. The Labor Government has treated farmers well and it has treated workers well. It has a right to ask for their response and co-operation. The Labor Government has brought together employers and workers in industry panels. It has involved local resident groups in area improvement programs, in social welfare activities and in the establishment of community health centres.
None of this can be done without some transfer of power in the Australian community. But this increase in power has been limited by the previous Government to the very smallest amount that is necessary. In Bills like those for the Australian Industry Development Corporation and the National Investment Fund we have asked for no more power than is necessary to allow the AIDC to be the co-ordinator of investment, in fact the co-ordinator of internationalised investment in large economic projects in which, without AIDC Australians will have little say at all. This would mean some increases in the power of government but if Australians want to see a solution of the problems in industry, in their community, in/their health services, in con- trolling their own country and in their own destiny, the national Government must have a little more power. Our opponents will call this socialism. Let them do so. But let the people of Australia understand what is involved. Not only is it important what happens inside Australia, but what happens outside Australia is important too. A distinguished Australian journalist, Rohan Rivett, has recently returned after travelling 8,000 miles in Asia. He has written:
For 23 years Australia was ignored or by-passed in the thinking of most Asian governments. She rated merely as another American satellite blindly following what to most Asians seemed the inexplicable vagaries and miscomprehensions of American policy in Asia.
– Who wrote this?
– Rohan Rivett. But he has found what we all have found. Australia is not now ignored or by-passed in Asia. Rohan Rivett reports what is known all over Asia:
The warmth of the reaction- lo Australia - in government circles in capitals as disparate as Bangkok and New Delhi makes one blink. For so long the thoughtful Australian in Asia has been embarrassed and discomforted by blunt questions to which the Menzies ministries and their successors offered no straight answers.
Rivett concludes about something that does count. He states:
Ambassador Sir James Plimsoll’s overtures to Moscow and Washington to keep the Indian Ocean free may prove abortive. But, for one of the first times in history, an Australian is speaking not just for 13 millions here but for hundreds of millions of Asians.
Gough Whitlam has made more good impression in 16 months on the people of Asia and their leaders than all his predecessors together. He has made friends in Asia for Australia. That he should be able to complete his historic mission is the most important thing for Australia today. A general election for the Government of Australia will now be held. Let us brush aside the whims of petty men and make our decisions upon things which are important for our country.
– I was fascinated by the Minister for Overseas Trade, the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns), when he said that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) of Australia had made friends in Asia and South East Asia. I detected a note of regret on the part of the honourable gentleman that the Prime Minister did not say that he had made friends in Lalor. But still, be that as it may, as I listened to the honourable gentleman I was reminded of the life of a very remarkable Australian, a clergyman by the name of Knight, He was an archdeacon. Indeed, he christened me and he used to delight in telling me a story.
– I wish he had that chance again.
– I think he would do it twice. He used to delight in telling the story that as a young acolyte priest he prepared his first sermon, took it into his tutor and showed it to him. He said: ‘Sir, what do you think of this?’ The tutor read it through and said: Knight, this shows remarkable promise. Obviously you have a great vocation. The sympathy, the empathy, the style, the sense of conduct and of language that you have intruded into it all make it a glorious thing to read’. The young acolyte went to leave the tutor’s study. As he got to the door the tutor called him back and said: ‘Knight, may I make a suggestion to you?’ The acolyte said: ‘Oh, yes, Sir. What is it?’ The tutor said: ‘Knight, may I suggest to you that your sermon would be improved if you cut it in half, and it wouldn’t matter greatly which half you left out.’ I say that to the Minister for Overseas Trade; it would not mattei which half he left out.
I would not seek to combat in every detail the speech of the Minister for Overseas Trade, but I am reminded of another story - not a clerical one on this occasion but one which was told in one of the Parliaments of this country, the Queensland Parliament.
– Order! Is this clean?
– Cleanliness has followed me all the days of my life. The speaker in that Parliament turned to the Government and said: What is this Government trying to do? I will tell you what this Government is trying to do. It has gathered up the reins of the ship of state and it is galloping pell mell towards the edge of the precipice’. That is exactly what this Government is trying to do. One of the chief pilots and captains in this business is the Minister for Overseas Trade, as is the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who is now sitting at the table with an exulting smile on his face. I do not want to indulge needlessly in the polemics of the occasion.
– It is a seductive smile.
– You would need to be desperate to be caught by it. There are very few certainties in this world. One of course is taxes and another is death. For myself, 1 find the greatest of difficulty in facing and accepting either of them with equanimity, at least cheerfully. Apparently there is a third one which, speaking in terms of general events, one may say looms in front of us, that is, the prospect of a double dissolution. I want to say something about that. For myself I would welcome a double dissolution - both Houses out to the people. There is no doubt about that. I hope that even the dumbest among us would understand that - both Houses out to the people to face our masters and to settle the dust of conflict once and for all. I would like the Minister for Services and Property and all my friends opposite to know that I welcome that. For my part, I say to them: We will meet at Philippi. I also give them this warning: Do not think for one moment that when that encounter takes place you will be confronted by a ghost. I assure the Minister for Services and Property and all who sit behind him that I will do my utmost, and with what impoverished means I have at my disposal, to ensure that after the election they sit on the Opposition side and we sit on the Government side. It would seem to me to be a very proper response.
– A beautiful after dinner speech, Jim.
– When I look at the Minister, 1 conclude that it is no wonder that people spent 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness. I want to say to the House and to the country that while in this House I challenge on the most proper of grounds the basis of this election - and I will do so in the electorate - I will have something to say about the circumstances under which it is brought. I say to the House that I believe that the Government, led by my friend the honourable member for Werriwa, is one of the most disastrous governments in Australia’s history.
– To the Liberal Party.
– I did not expect you to receive this with exultation. This Government has encouraged in the country the view that there is no sense of discipline to be observed in any measure of things. And now in this Parliament, the national Parliament of the country, one cannot even get a cup of tea or a sandwich. The Government cannot run a refreshment room. What prospect has it to run a country?
– Order! I have to be fair to my colleague, Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. He shares the difficulty that I have with regard to the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms.
– Obviously difficulty has a catholic selection. What has happened in the country is that industrial conditions are so desperately disturbed that apparently no obligation is cast upon people to observe any norm in any sort of operation. Whatever consequence this may have had, it has had the consequence of contributing enormously to inflation in this country. Let no person here or outside the Parliament sneer at inflation. It was all very fine for my friend the Treasurer (Mr Crean) to say as he sat in Opposition: “There is no duty cast on those in Opposition to do anything about inflation’. The fact is that inflation today in Australia is raging between 13 per cent and 16 per cent. This is making the rich richer and the poor poorer and it is undermining the whole stability and the whole fabric of this country. That is why I say to my friends opposite: ‘No matter how this election may be brought about, count upon one thing: Wherever I am given a platform in this country, I warn you, I will ensure that the people of Australia understand the sense of irresponsibility that controls you.’ Having said that, I hope by way of splendid neutrality, I turn to a matter that gives me considerable anxiety, which I do not disguise. I have had nearly 20 years in this place.
– Too long.
– Yes, but threatened men live long. Whatever else, I have come to respect the authority of this House and I hope to take a quiet pride in its authority. Therefore, I want to turn to something that probably would cast me more in a sense of controversy with those on this side than those on the other side, not for the first time and, I would like to think, not for the last time.
Section 53 of our Constitution provides - with incipient old age gathering upon me, 1 have to put on my glasses to read it:
Except as provided in this section, the Senate shall have equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws.
That brings me to our present dilemma. Three exceptions are set out, and they all deal with the introduction and amendment of money laws and with taxation. They put in simple language, I suggest, the difference between this House and the Senate. I am accused of succumbing a little too willingly to the Westminster practice. That may well be. I just want to say this: Every cent that governments in this country spend originates by the authority of this House, and the fact that the Crown and the Senate approve of it merely passes it into law. Without the authority and the initiative of this House, not one cent is to be spent by any government. If one is to take section 53 of the Australian Constitution, one is drawn inexorably to one conclusion, namely, that technically speaking the Senate has a right to reject a Supply Bill, but the very moment that it accepts that right it infringes the Constitution because it is no longer exercising a power which is equal to that of this House; it is exercising a power which is superior to that of this House.
Let me put this to my friends - and it worries me greatly in terms of the present aggregation of problems but not in terms, I assure you, of eternity: Let me assume that my friend the Treasurer (Mr Crean) puts down a Supply Bill, we pass it here, and it goes to the House of Representatives.
– The Senate.
– I am sorry. One is entitled to a minor aberration on occasions. It goes to the Senate and it is rejected by the Senate. What is the consequence that follows from that? It is not the Senate that goes to the people; it is the House of Representatives that goes to the people. A lot of confusion has intruded into our .present circumstance because double dissolution machinery is already ticking over, as I have described it, and, if the Senate rejects an Appropriation Bill or Supply, it is not that rejection that enables the Prime Minister of the country, whoever he may toe, to go to the GovernorGeneral and say ‘Your Excellency, I request a double dissolution’; it is the fact that the Senate has twice, pursuant to section 57 of the Constitution, rejected a Bill passed by this House.
Whatever blemishes of conduct we may have individually or corporately in this place, I want to make my position perfectly clear. I refuse to accept the proposition that the House of Representatives in the national Parliament of the country is inferior to the Senate. Is that clearly understood? I refuse to accept the proposition that the House of Representatives can, in particular circumstances, be sent packing to the country by the Senate. 1 may stand alone on this issue.
I may be wrong on this issue. I have not the slightest doubt that if I am wrong on this issue time, with its own immaculate determination to remember the error, will remind every person of it. If I should perchance be right on this issue, I would ask for nothing else than to be left in peace.
The last thing I want to say to this House - the House which has favoured me on occasions and frowned on me, I suspect more frequently than it has favoured me - is that, if the Senate sets this precendent, then we are cast into a circumstance that may call for an entirely new initiative in Australian politics. I have indicated - I suppose I was wrong to indicate it, but being as I am I have done so - that if the Senate does what is in prospect I will introduce a private member’s Bill which would seek to add to section 57 of the Constitution a provision which would read to this effect:
Where the Governor-General is required to dissolve the House of Representatives pursuant to the Senate rejecting a Supply or Appropriation Bill, the GovernorGeneral shall simultaneously dissolve the Senate.
It seems to me to be a quite extraordinary proposition that the Senate, by dint of obduracy or wilfulness or sheer antagonism to the politics of this place, could say to the House of Representatives: ‘We reject Supply; out you go. We stay here virgo intacta’. The great authority of the Australian Parliament, I suggest, resides in this chamber. I refuse, no matter what the pressures may be, to succumb or to bow to them or before them. I have had exquisite pleasure in sitting in this chamber. The fact that I have sought to get some humour from the conflict is not meant to indicate that I do not dislike the philosophy or the policies of my opponents and I hope that the fact that I have risen here will not indicate to people that I have abandoned the essential philosophy of the Party to which I belong. We will meet at Philippi. Do not forget that, Mr Minister. I can assure you of one thing: You will not.
– The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) is much more educated than I. I generally have to look up the following week the expressions that he has used to see whether he has insulted me or not. In due course I will investigate his last remark. But one thing for which we can admire the honourable member for Moreton is that he stands out like a beacon among honourable members opposite as one who has the courage of his convictions. Never have I heard described in a more eloquent way than tonight the brutality of numbers and the nakedness of ambition and lust for power by members of the Liberal Party, the Country Party and the Democratic Labor Party. I remind the honourable member that I like him so much that I do not mind if he insults me. I say to him that he stands in illustrous Liberal company because Sir Robert Menzies - the founder of the Liberal Party, the great white father and the highly respected former Prime Minister of this country who today writes articles in relation to constitutional reform - stands beside him in his attitude on this matter. It was Sir Robert Menzies who said:
It would be a falsification of democracy if, on any matter of Government policy approved by the House of Representatives, possibly by a large majority, the Senate, representing the States and not the people, could reverse the decision.
This, of course, would create an impossible situation and would make popular Government unworkable.
Tonight the honourable member stands in his company and, somewhat shabbily, his comrades have deserted him. For the sake of political gain they seek to destroy every vestige of democracy in this country and to throw out the popularly elected Government for sheer political power.
– We are seeking to preserve it. You did not get the message.
– I do not take any notice of the interjection by the bushranger from the Country Party who sits at the table. That is all they are - a collection of political bushrangers raping the nation in every possible way. This is the situation today: The Opposition has made continuous and deliberate attempts to obstruct the Government by blocking important legislation in the Senate. That is what the if ,e is about. The honourable member for Moreton and Sir Robert Menzies stand together at this stage. At this very moment the frightened men in the Senate who are seeking the numbers know that they are destroying democracy. Let us look at the reasons they give for this. The first is the Gair appointment. It does not matter when the appointment was made. We are told that it is the appointment itself to which the honourable members opposite - the Liberal Party, the Country Party, the Democratic Labor Party and the multiplicity of parties opposite - object. There has to be a double dissolution to give every parly in the Senate a chance to get on a ticket because there are so many of them.
Honourable members opposite criticise the practice of jobs for the boys. They say it is dirty and unprincipled that the Government should appoint the man whom they have held up in the country for years as the saviour of all that is good and decent. They say it is dirty and unprincipled politics. What a lot of rot! Since when have honourable members opposite who talk about dirty politics had clean hands? They have a murky and sordid past and present. Let us have a look at the situation. What about those who plotted the downfall of Mr Gorton as Prime Minister? The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), one of the prospective new Ministers, said of the former Prime Minister, Mr Gorton:
This man, because of his unreasoned drive to get his own way, his obstinacy, his impetuous and emotional reactions has imposed strains on the Liberal Party, the Government and the Public Service.
What clean hands that man has! The honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) refused to serve in the Gorton Ministry. He said:
I will not be available to serve in any future Cabinet headed by the present Prime Minister, Mr Gorton.
If Labor were defeated I suppose they would be side by side in the Cabinet. Senator Wood in another place, that mastermind of political intrigue, moved a motion of no confidence in Prime Minister Gorton. He said:
The fact is that we picked the wrong man for the job and it is time we faced up to it.
Now honourable members opposite are seeking to put Mr Gorton and others - the people they condemned - back into power.
Let us look at the long list of Liberal political appointments. There was Sir Percy Spender to the United States of America, Sir Howard Beale to the United States of America, Mr Joe Gullett to Italy, Mr Dan McKinnon to the Argentine and Peru, Mr Gordon Freeth to Japan and Mr Hugh Roberton to Ireland. Fancy sending a protestant to Ireland anyway. I do not know what Ireland has done to deserve Mr Gair, but what did it do to deserve a protestant? Let us look at the high commissioners appointed by the Liberals. There was Sir Kenneth White, Sir Eric Harrison and Sir Alec Downer to Britain, Dr Donald Cameron and Dame Annabelle Rankin to New Zealand, Sir Hubert Opperman to Malta, Sir Joshua Francis to New York and Mr Roger Dean to San Francisco. If I had another quarter of an hour I would finish the other couple of dozen. So what is unusual about appointing some distinguished personage? Honourable members opposite are supposed to be the people with clean hands. Whilst there are some notable men amongst them, there are also some of the greatest deadbeats who ever came into this Parliament.
I might add that the position of Ambassador to Washington was once offered to Mr McMahon by Mr Gorton to get him out of the way, but he said that it was not good enough for him. I thought he would have been going well to get anything at that stage. The honourable member for Farrar was offered the job of High Commissioner in London and he has been crying ever since because he did not take it. History has shown that the Liberals have made a number of political diplomatic appointments to get rid of opponents and enemies within and outside the Parliament. Who stole the late Billy Hughes from the Labor Party to give him the leadership of the party that sits opposite? Who took Joe Lyons from the ranks of the Labor Party to scab on the movement that gave him political birth? Who took him over there to lead? No rotten trick was too contemptible for honourable members opposite to take advantage of, and they talk about having clean hands.
Now let us look at the people opposite who say that they can be the government of the country. They say that they are a unified body. Do honourable members remember what Senator McManus said today. He went out and begged for mercy because he said that honourable members opposite were splinter parties deluxe and asked for unified tickets. Let us have a look at the situation in this House and in the Senate. In the Senate there is a Liberal Party and a Country Party. There is a Country Party here and a Liberal Party here. One does not know what the other is doing. They eat out of each others hands - right up to the elbow - and never talk to each other between sessions. Every time someone on this side of the Parliament wants to make a statement he has to give a copy to the Liberals and a copy to the Country Party because they say: ‘Whilst we are united we have 2 separate policies’. If we do not let Mr Sinclair speak when Mr Peacock speaks somebody will be offended. To keep harmony in the camp I generally give way, because it is not for me to show it. In this Parliament we have seen the Liberal Party and. the Country Party vote one way in this House and another way in the other on such matters as devaluation and rural assistance. The Opposition even has 2 rural policies - one Liberal and one Country Party. On matters such as tariffs and education the Liberal Party went one way and the Country Party went the other. One thing about those who sit in possum paddock is that they know how to get in out of the wet.
Now we find that the Opposition parties are going to get on a double dissolution ticket. Every time one looks at the television screen one sees Mr Snedden and Mr Anthony. They remind me of those famous characters from my boyhood many years ago - Mutt and Jeff - saying: ‘I am jazzing along with Billy’. He has changed his name to Bill. One has to be respectable in the Libera] Party now.
Mir Sherry - Not trendy.
– Not trendy. One has to have decency. Mr Anthony and Mr Snedden are always lining up and the Leader of the Country Party is pushing the Leader of the Liberal Party along. The Leader of the Opposition stands quietly by, smiling, as he can. Most people take it for a smile but intelligent ones would think it was a snarl. Now let us look at the situation of this unified body opposite. The parties are running against each other in every electorate and in practically every State in the Commonwealth. In Victoria the Liberals are attempting to contest every Country Party seat and the Country Party is taking its revenge by standing for Liberal seats such as that of the honourable member for Wannon. As I said, in the Senate they have so many tickets that there needs to be 10 vacancies in order to fit them all on in every State. Mr Anthony called the Victorian Liberals thick heads and idiotic. For once in a while he was right on the ball.
Then there is Senator Hannan. He has broken away. He is the non-trendy. Then there are the trendy Liberals. You take your pick - abortion on demand or not. If you do not want abortion, vote for Hannan; if you want abortion vote for Snedden. In Queensland the Liberals and the Country Party are running separate Senate tickets. The Country Party has joined the DLP to form the National Alliance. In case anyone gets carried away let me add that that is only this week’s name. They change every week. In Western Australia there is open warfare between the Liberals and the Country Party. Country Party members are so desperate that they are even throwing beer cans at public meetings. The Country Party and the DLP have formed the National Alliance. As I said once, one of them will pray for you and the other will prey on you.
In New South Wales Sir Charles Cutler, the New South Wales Leader of the Country Party, will not change the name. He will not have any alliance with the DLP and he will not contest metropolitan seats or Liberal held seats. That is quite different from what the new aspiring young cavalier of the Country Party says. So why have the Opposition parties got together? What a motley, weird collection they are. It is the same old gang tossed out about 18 months ago which is now seeking to rule this country from the grave. The decadent old collection of deadheads on the opposite side in another place, . elected years ago, are trying to vote a duly elected government out of office. I will tell honourable members why they are doing these things. They are inspired by the multi-national and foreign dominated business interests. The Country Party is paid by the oil companies to double the price of petrol and oil for the people of this country. They strive to serve those who would buy Australia’s assets and their coffers are overflowing with monopoly and foreign finance. If honourable members opposite do not believe me, why did they bring on the threat of a double dissolution when I announced that the Government would be introducing legislation to reveal the source of political funds? Honourable members opposite have dirty hands. I was giving the Australian Country Party a chance to get rid of its sordid past and go straight but it did not take it. Those who sit opposite cannot afford to let the Australian people know the sources of their financial sinews and that is why these 2 open enemies of the Labor Party are joined today in an effort to defeat this Government.
We find a lot of things to talk about. We have been told that there has been extravagant spending and a terrific amount of wastage by this Government and that we are wasting the taxpayer’s money. Let honourable members listen to a letter I received from an office bearer of the Opposition parties. I will not reveal his name because I am not that type of fellow. But the point I make is that this is one of the men who is constantly complaining in this Parliament about extravagance. This is the letter he wrote to me about certain equipment that he wanted for his office:
There are several matters which have been outstanding for some time in relation to furniture and
I would be appreciative if you would advise me when action could be expected to take place:
I wrote him back a nice letter in which 1 said:
At first glance your request would appear to be a classic example of meticulous extravagance. I find it difficult to believe the efficiency of your office would suffer if the cupboards were not provided for the telephone books, tea cups and saucers, the chairs not re-covered to match the curtains, etc., or filing cabinets with a wood grain top not provided.
In other words, the honourable member in question talks about the Government wasting millions of dollars and yet writes to me for tin pot things like that.
Then we find honourable members opposite weeping and crying for the pensioners of Australia. This is the crowd that gave 50c now and again while Labor in 18 months in office has given more to pensioners than those opposite gave in the last 5 years. We find that at the Melbourne Town Hall they had a great dinner for these friends of the pensioners. We are told that at 8 p.m. there were 614 guests, including notable politicians, a dozen or so Sirs’, several millionaires and 2 women. They have gone for women’s lib in a big way. Those people paid $50 each to have dinner with Mr Snedden. We get him here for nothing and nobody will listen to him then. Do not forget that there was a fanfare. The master of ceremonies called attention for Bill M. Snedden. There was a grave silence for the guest of honour, the leader of the Liberal Party and Her Majesty’s Opposition and the next Prime Minister of Australia - Bill Snedden. Bill Snedden entered the hall in spotlight and the band played ‘God Bless Australia’. I think they could have changed that to ‘God Help Australia’. Then these friends of the pensioners sat down and struggled through this menu: Selected delicacies served with Amery Bronze Medal Rhine Riesling; turtle soup;-
– What has that to do with the Bill?
– Imported salmon - that would be right in the line of the honourable member for McMillan - halibut Bretonne; roast salmis of pheasant served with Kaiser Stuhl Cabernet Shiraz. That is almost as good as Killen. They had selected international cheeses; strawberries romanoff served with
Kaiser Stuhl champagne and coffee and port. Cannot honourable members image how they thought of the 50c they would give the pensioners as they struggled along with that menu.
– Order! I think the Minister is becoming provocative.
-It is such an important occasion that I am making a speech quite out of character, Mr Speaker. Do not forget that they consumed almost 1,000 bottles of wine. However, there was one disappointment. One of the highlights of the evening was missing - the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Band. At the last minute the organisers of the dinner received a telegram from the British War Office saying that the band could not play at a political function. What a shame! Imagine how much better God Bless Australia’ would have sounded being played by that band. These are the people who are crying for the pensioners of Australia with multi-nationals and others putting them there.
Tonight I have made these few brief remarks in a courteous and, I hope, helpful way to indicate to the Australian people that those who sit opposite are the same collection of individuals as they have always been - disgruntled, disunited, incapable, wrangling and in every way incapable of governing this country. I ask honourable members opposite in what areas they would cut expenditure. Would it be the Public Service? Would they cut down on social services? Would it be education? Would you sack everybody associated with the Public Service in this country? Would they increase unemployment and all those things. I say to the Australian people that when Labor came to office there were about 120,000 people unemployed. There was stagnation in the community. The economy was failing. Pensioners were down below the bread line in every possible way. Social services left people nothing to live on and in 1,001 ways in relation to the economic management of this country the previous Government had been found wanting. Yet in 18 months this Government has restored over-full employment, the economy is booming and, no matter what the country people might say, farmers and other sections of the community are doing exceptionally well.
In 18 months, the Labor Government has transformed the face of the Australian nation. It has brought about full employment and security. Pensioners have had a S6 rise as against 50c from the previous Government. There is work and employment. The education vote has been doubled and in every way, right throughout this country, tremendous prosperity has been brought to Australian people. Industry is booming, profits have never been higher and in every way the economy is one of which a nation can be proud. Yet there are people who sit in the other place who were elected years ago and who seek to bring down this Government for reasons which the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) mentioned are completely contrary to every democratic process. 1 ask the Australian people to follow the line set down on constitutional issues by Sir Robert Menzies and others. When Labor faces the people in the immediate future after those frightened men opposite have brought themselves to vote against this Supply Bill, I ask the Australian people to return the Whitlam Government because it has brought to this country things that the people desire. Internationally and nationally the future is bright and in every way we have cast aside the decadent past of those who sit opposite. We are seeking to give this country new horizons and a new way of life and in every way there is much to be done. On this occasion, I ask the people to vote against a Senate that refused to face the people itself and yet seeks to force this House to the people. I ask them to restore democracy to this country by giving a majority in this House and the Senate to the Australian Labor Government.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) has tonight attempted to make up for the fact that when the Australian Labor Pary as part of the ‘It’s Time’ campaign threw a $50 a head dinner, he was not invited to be the guest speaker. They were fussy on that occasion. We have heard an after dinner speech tonight by the Minister for Services and Property which, to be charitable, rivals some of the best efforts of the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). I was fascinated by the Minister’s comments about political friends and political enemies and the disposing of friends and enemies in Australian politics. I remind him tonight that when I was walking alone in the House of Representatives rose garden, I ran into the Minister for Services and Property and he said: ‘How are you going Tony? Taking a walk with all your friends?’ I should like to point out to the Minister for Services and Property that that is how he will be walking on this side of the House after the election which the Government by its acts in this country have succeeded in bringing about.
Let us look at this myth in Australian politics about the disposal of political friends or enemies by Prime Ministers. It is of course important for Prime Ministers to be able to promote or elevate to other places those people who have made a significant contribution and who would wish to pass their later years in some quieter place. The Prime Ministers, in the Liberal tradition, have understood the good sense in this as Prime Ministers in every country always have. It is a time-honoured tradition in politics that a man who has given his life to public service in the parliamentary arena is altogether entitled to spend his last years in some other place. The notion that Sir Robert Menzies in particular used this method of appointment to cut down his enemies within the Government or the Liberal Party is patently absurd. It has been said by Sir Robert Menzies himself in more than one place that such a proposition is patently absurd. When one considers the people who left this House or the other chamber to take up other posts it is clear that Sir Robert Menzies’ purpose was far from the notion of disposing of potential threats to his power as Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Party. Did Lord Casey, Sir Percy Spender and Sir Garfield Barwick go for that reason? In all cases like this the proper view is that the Prime Minister of the day expressed some surprise, though no consternation, that these right honourable gentlemen wished to go to other places. They were in no sense threats to his power or authority and, as I say, it is one of the great myths of Australian politics that these people were cut down by Prime Minister Menzies.
– Just mischievous.
– It is mischievous and absurd. It is true that in some cases people who have worked for a government and who have served under a Prime Minister year in and year out feel that it is wise not to live in the shade any longer. Inevitably such a man is sometimes living in the shade and takes himself off, properly, to other places. But let us note one or two important features about the way it was done by Liberal Prime Ministers in this time honoured tradition of promoting members of Parliament out of this place to other places. First of all. Sir Robert Menzies promoted his colleagues. I cannot say that in every case they were his friends, but he promoted his colleagues. The point is that Prime Minister Whitlam has promoted an age old enemy. Prime Minister Whitlam has not only promoted an age old enemy and one of the bitterest enemies he could have had in the Australian political system but he has promoted this age old enemy in order to destroy the normal democratic processes of this country.
– He did it by stealth.
Mx STALEY- I thank the honourable member for that interjection because I was about to go on to make the even more important point that it was the way it was done which was so wicked. Never before has any Prime Minister of this country so stealthily, so unnecessarily and so unpleasantly executed such a political deed. Let me put it this way: When Prime Minister Menzies or any other Liberal Prime Minister appointed people to ambassadorships they were appointed as ambassadors, but everyone would have regarded them as ambassador designates until they actually received their credentials in the countries to which they were posted. What did the present Prime Minister do? Let us look at this because this is the background to this great event on the eve of an election which this country is facing. The events were simple and few people foresaw as the drama unfolded what was about to happen. It appears that on 14 March the approval of the GovernorGeneral to the proposal for an ambassadorial appointment for Senator Gair was obtained. What the Prime Minister would have us believe is that as of that day Senator Gair became our ambassador to Ireland. It is worth remarking that when on a later date a member of the staff of the Leader of the Liberal Party went to the telephone and by a simple act telephoned the Department of Foreign Affairs and inquired of that Department: ‘Who is our ambassador to Ireland’, the answer was plain, simple and straightforward. The answer was: Mr Brennan’. This was after 14 March, the date on which the Prime Minister would have us believe Senator Gair became our ambassador to Ireland.
– Who said that?
– The Prime Minister. Mr Whitlam. It is some of the most disgraceful behaviour that this House has ever seen by an Australian Prime Minister. And then the Prime Minister gave the lie to his actions by, on 21 March, himself signing an Executive Council minute in which it was pointed out in point No. 3 that the date of the appointment was to be announced by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) and he had not by that date, 21 March, announced the date of the appointment. But the Prime Minister would have us believe that Senator Gair had become Mr Gair on 14 March, an earlier date. The whole thing was revealed only last week in this Parliament, about 3 April, when the enormous difference between the interpretation of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and that of the Prime Minister became clear to this House and to the Australian people. The Prime Minister was asked today whether he had advised the Governor-General to request the Governors of the States to issue writs for 5 Senate vacancies in each State and in particular whether he had requested that 5 writs be issued in respect of Senate vacancies for the State of Queensland. The Prime Minister made this request to the Government of Queensland.
The Prime Minister was asked today whether, because he was of the view that on 14 March Senator Gair had disqualified himself from membership of the Senate, he had then taken up his pen and penned a note to the Governor-General requesting a further writ to allow for the appointment of a further senator for the State of Queensland. The Prime Minister was asked whether on 14 March or any day after, he had requested the Government in Queensland to appoint an extra senator for that State. The Prime Minister refused to answer because, if he had answered that question, whatever answer he gave would have been unsatisfactory to him because it would have revealed the duplicity of his approach in this House in recent days. Clearly, the Minister for Foreign Affairs had made it plain that in no sense at all had Senator Gair ceased to be a member of the Senate on 14 March.
I do not want to delay the House any longer on these events which led to this crisis in the democratic process of this country where the Prime Minister by his action and his colleagues by their actions brought us to a situation in which it was necessary for us to put the question to the Australian people. It has been said - my colleague and friend the honourable member for Moreton has put the view - that it is not in accordance with the best principles of parliamentary democracy for the Senate to exert this role. I want to make it quite plain that I agree with him completely that, if the Senate is going to put this House out to grass, there is every reason why we should consider the proposition that members of the Senate should go out to grass at the same time and be prepared themselves to face the electors who they rightly say in accordance with their powers ought to be given the choice as to which parties should govern in this country. I make it plain that there is a large measure of agreement between the honourable member for Moreton, myself and many of my colleagues.
I turn now to another proposition. One of the great problems of governments in the 20th century - it grows greater every day - is the power of the executive government over Parliament. Let us take a case. If the Prime Minister of Australia had decided that the circumstances were ripe for a double dissolution and had gone to the Governor-General, after setting up the parliamentary processes which would have enabled him to call on the Governor-General, would we have heard a cry of rage from anyone in Australia that the Prime Minister had no right to go to the Governor-General to bring about the early demise of this House? I think not. As long as the Prime Minister of Australia has power to do this as the head of the executive government, why should the parliamentary processes of Australia not have the countervailing power to that which the Prime Minister has? I am aware that there is a novelty about the Australian Constitution. There is that novelty because there is a novelty about this country. No other case fits the Australian case. As my friend the honourable member for Moreton has expressed it, there is all the difference in the world between the powers of the House of Lords-
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I draw your attention to strangers in the House.
– Can the honourable member point out where there are strangers in the House?
– When I spoke to you, there were strangers in the House.
– Speaking to the honourable member for Adelaide.
– Order! The honourable member for Diamond Valley is speaking to the honourable member for Adelaide.
– He was not when I drew your attention to this matter.
– No other gentleman was within the precincts of the House.
– He was over the fence.
-Order! I suggest that when I am speaking honourable members remain silent. The precincts of the House are the benches where honourable members sit. I suggest that there were no strangers in the House. It is a breach for honourable members in the House to discuss matters with people in the gallery, but that does not constitute-
– I draw your attention to that.
-I suggest to honourable members that if they wish to discuss matters they do so behind the back row of benches or outside the chamber.
– As long as the Prime Minister, as head of the executive government of this country, has the right at any stage to bring about a general election by a double dissolution, it is entirely proper, and indeed of the utmost importance, that the Parliament should also have that power. I am sick of the idea that the Prime Minister of Australia can do these sort of things on grounds of principle because of a question of mandate but that the Parliament, which has official power in this matter, for some strange reason has no such power or opportunity. Both Houses of the Parliament are elected by the people. They are differently elected, but they are both democratically elected. Different ingredients are introduced and there is, it is admitted, a built-in representation of our Federal system, which is the way we wanted it, the way the people of Australia still want it and will want it as far into the future as any of us here can foresee. I say that every member of this Parliament, from the Government side as much as from the Opposition side and from the Opposition side as much as from the Government side, is elected on a mandate. Every senator has his own mandate. I am sick of hearing the proposition that the Government is the only part of this system with a mandate.
Since when has it been part of democratic theory that a government should be put into power and never touched by the Parliament? When was it democratic theory that a government has a guaranteed life of 3 years? When was it democratic theory that the people should have no opportunity, when the Parliament gave them that opportunity, to have another look at a government which had been elected democratically? Far from this being the case, it is the very heart of democratic theory that a parliament should make a government look down the barrel of a gun. One of the tragedies of parliamentary democracy throughout the world is that it is harder and harder for parliaments, as institutions, to make governments look down the barrel of the gun when circumstances demand it. We are extraordinarily fortunate that this is a country which has a democratically elected lower House and a democratically elected upper House, that it has no House of Lords and that there is an opportunity for the people, where there is a basic and real impasse in the government of the country, to be given another chance to have a say. Why should we give the Prime Minister the right to decide when the people should have a say and not give that right and power to the Parliament when it actually exists in the Constitution? Many expected much of this Labor Government. Those who expected so much have been sorely disappointed. For that reason and because this Government has got involved not only in the sordid affair of Senator Gair but also in sordid affair after sordid affair, the whole question of the future of this country is at stake and ought to be decided by the people of Australia.
– When the honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley) first came into this Parliament it was after I had been elected to it. When I learned that the Liberal Party candidate for Chisholm was a lecturer in political science, as I had never had the opportunity to attend a university I thought I might learn something from this honourable gentleman as he lectured to this House. After listening to him for the last 20 minutes I am not surprised that he is in this House of Parliament because if that is all he knows about political science there certainly is no place for him as a lecturer in a university. He tried to draw a parallel which it is impossible to draw by saying that the House of Representatives and the Senate should enjoy the same rights and privileges. He conveniently overlooked the fact that the
House of Representatives is the popularly elected House and only the House of Representatives reflects the view of the people at any time. It relies, as we do at the moment, on a Senate not elected on the basis of population but purely on the basis of area. He should know that the States of Australia are not equal in area or population but they are equally represented in the Senate. Some of the senators who are now purporting to pass judgment on the affairs of the House of Representatives were elected when the late lamented Harold Holt was Prime Minister so long ago yet those ancient, decripit old gentlemen - except for the Labor Party Senators - now seek to . pass judgment on a contemporary House which reflects the views of the people, judgment having been passed by the people only 16 months ago.
– Who wrote this speech?
– Obviously not the honourable member for Cowper, because he would not be able to write. The honourable member for Chisholm made the point that the Prime Minister should advise the governors of the States about the issue of writs for Senate elections. As a lecturer in political science and as a student of the Constitution, which he pretends to be, he should know that it is the prerogative of the President of the Senate to advise State governors when extra vacancies occur. That is one of the many errors he made.
-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House, I. propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I want to get off my chest a few views I have formed on local government and the proposed referendum concerning local government. Local government is a most important level oi government. It is the so-called third tier of government. The financial problems of local government have been well documented. They relate mainly to a serious debt burden and an inability to increase revenue at a sufficient rate. The aggregate debt of local government bodies amounted to some £600m in 1960 but a decade later it totalled 81, 600m. Local government debt has increased at a faster rate than the State government and Federal government debt. Its legacy is an unevenly distributed but generally substantial interest burden. Over the last few years local government has been called upon to provide the amenities and services that the other 2 tiers of government were not willing to provide. With increasing inflation and these additional burdens local government finds itself in the invidious position in which it is today.
The referendum proposals of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), particularly the Constitution Alteration (Local Government Bodies) Bill 1974, may appeal to local government to have the short term advantage of immediate financial assistance. For this short term relief and assistance I believe that local government will be sacrificing the federal system of government. There are many reasons why this form of assistance and this referendum should be opposed. The basic reason would be that the Australian Labor Party sees the proper structure of government in Australia as being a unitary system. The Prime Minister has, on many occasions, announced uncompromisingly that he believes in a unitary system.
There seems to be some misunderstanding of what a unitary system is. So let this be made quite clear. A unitary system is one in which there is a single central government and there are no State governments. A unitary system would mean the abolition of the State governments. The Prime Minister and the Australian Labor Party propose to create some sort of provisional system of representation. Just what that would be has never been spelt out. It is the clear purpose of the Labor Party to have this single unit of government in Canberra. I resist this proposal because I believe that this would be a particularly bad form of government for Australia, which has a large land mass and which also has over that large land mass an increasing population. We are looking . forward to the population building up further over the years.
The Constitution Alteration (Local Government Bodies) Bill is a proposal by the Government to by-pass the States and to contribute to the centralism in Australia which it so ardently wants. The way in which it will achieve centralism is not by the proper and correct course of conducting a constitutional referendum which would have as its purpose the elimination of the State governments or the sub- stantial diminution of their powers. The way in which it chooses to do it is very indirect - to cut back the powers of the State governments and to see that they decay. That is what the Government wants. There has been no hesitation on the part of the Prime Minister and presumably on the part of his Party to acknowledge that fact.
In order to do that the Government has set out on a deliberate campaign to encourage local government throughout Australia to believe that the Labor Party has the interests of local government at heart. In fact, what the Labor Party has in mind is to deceive the local government bodies into believing that it will get a better deal in such circumstances. Of course, if Labor succeeds - it will be our purpose to prevent it from succeeding - the local government bodies will have no more role in Australia than the Labor Government sees as being the role of the State governments. There will be a concentration of power in Canberra. I am afraid that those in local government who believe that they will get a tremendous deal from the Federal Labor Government are in for a nasty shock. There is no doubt that if a money enticement is offered by the Commonwealth it is absolutely certain that there will be conditions that go with the grant of that money. Once this centralism is achieved we will find that the grants of money will have a whole series of conditions attached to them which will deprive local government of its own freedom of action and some bureaucrat in Canberra will decide the way in which local government ought to conduct its affairs. I do not believe that all the wisdom resides in Canberra. I certainly do not believe that one can assemble in Canberra bureaucrats who know what is good for local government. They do not understand the problems of the southwest of Western Australia in particular.
So what is to be done? It is my view that it is reasonable to suggest that financial arrangements to assist the position of local government be made by the Commonwealth. It is not reasonable to propose fundamental constitutional amendments as being a necessary condition to do this. If the people are to be asked to exercise a choice it should be clearly established that the proposition be firm and fixed to alter the Constitution before it is necessary and desirable to do so. It is neither necessary nor desirable to alter the Constitution to assist local government. I recognise the compelling nature of the problems of local government and believe that financial arrangements must serve and strengthen the Constitution and not undermine it. Given the existence of the present State government machinery and expertise it would be a more rational use of resources to increase the flow of Commonwealth funds through those existing or even enlarged channels.
I would not only seek to make local government not simply a passive recipient of increased finances but also to ensure that it was well equipped to make effective use of additional assistance. I recognise that even if Commonwealth borrowings on behalf of local government authorities were to result in very marginal benefits in interest rate repayments the problem of debt servicing would remain. I see strong local government administration as being one means of securing financial strength. There should be a meeting of the State Premiers with the Commonwealth Government to identify the scope and nature of local government’s requirements and shortfalls. This conference could establish the magnitude of the assistance required over a 5-year period and the relative contribution of the State and Commonwealth governments. The objectives would be to establish a 5-year program on a continuing basis to equalise the facilities available in richer and poorer local government areas, that is, on a needs basis. There is no need to establish new regions through an expanded Grants Commission and to impose political changes for political purposes. Commonwealth assistance could be channelled through the State machinery on the basis of priorities determined by the State governments and their advisers in consultation with, for instance, the local government associations.
I see the need for assistance to be on a grants basis in recognition of the serious indebtedness position. The Loan Council borrowing entitlement for local government authorities could be enlarged if required. In the meantime I believe that it is important for local government to be encouraged to take full advantage of the financial resources available to it. For as long as I remain in this Parliament as the representative of the electorate of Forrest I will fight for finance for local government without strings and without a cutting down of the rights or powers of the States, especially in the State of Western Australia.
– I think the honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond) will be very disillusioned if he believes that money can be passed through the States without strings being attached. The complaints I receive about moneys which are passed through the States to various bodies is that the States take so long to pass the money on that the bodies which are to receive it almost forget that they are to get it by the time the States have dealt with it.
One other matter I mention in passing is that during recent weeks we have heard much about people taking up positions which are not altogether honest. We have heard members of the Opposition, both in this Parliament and outside it, consistently oppose the abolition of the superphosphate bounty. I am sure that the Liberal members of this House will be interested to know that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has said publicly today that if the Opposition becomes the Government it will not restore the superphosphate bounty but will-merely refer it to the Industries Assistance Commission. It will be interesting to see whether that statement will be changed tomorrow when the Country Party directs the Liberal Party on what its policies on rural industries must be.
In any government formed from the other side of the House, the Liberal Party will have no say whatsoever. The Liberal Party will be told what it will do by the people who have told it that they will destroy the parliamentary system of government in Australia. That is what honourable members opposite are in the process of doing, and a number of them realise it. But honourable members opposite, with one exception, do not have the courage to say so. I am rather intrigued at how a group of supposedly responsible members of Parliament can sit down and believe, or convince themselves, that once the weapon of refusing Supply in the Senate is used it will not be used again.
The Senate is made up of persons who are not generally answerable to the people. Of the 60 senators, 48 are party appointees under the system under which they are elected. The people could not defeat them even if they wanted to. There are 12 elected members in the Senate, and most of those senators are, in fact, elected because of the general voting trends in the States they represent. Very rarely do State representations alter greatly. In a House where half of the present members were elected on a policy of sending conscripts to Vietnam - one wonders how irrelevant to contemporary politics such a situation could be - people are prepared to assume responsibility for the financial authority of the country.
Do honourable members opposite really believe - are they really that naive? - that once Supply has been rejected in the Senate it will never happen again? God forbid that the Australian people - if the Opposition parties become the government - should have such irresponsible people inflicted on them as their government. If an Opposition majority exists in the Senate and an unpopular measure has to be taken - honourable members opposite should not kid themselves; if they become the Government they will have to take unpopular measures, as any government does - do they honestly believe that immediately that happens the Senate will not throw out the government and it will not have to go to the people itself? The Senate has all care but no responsibility. The House of Representatives can be sent to the people every 6 months by the Senate, without the Senate itself ever having to answer to the people, except once every 3 years in the splendid by-election type isolation which normally surrounds Senate elections.
– That is not so.
– The honourable member for Petrie is an opportunist. He does not care about parliamentary democracy. He does not even care about the law which he professes to practise.
– Oh, yes, I do.
– I am sure you do! But, if the honourable member for Petrie can see an opportunity to make a buck or to achieve a quick rise to power, he will throw the whole tradition of that law out of the window. That is what the honourable member for Petrie is doing now. He is not fit to call himself a man of letters. The point I make, and the point I continue to make, is that governments are answerable to parliaments. A government which cannot command a majority in this place must go to the people. In the current situation a government is being inflicted with the rejection of Supply by a House which is not answerable to the people - a House in which governments cannot be formed - by opportunists trying to seize a political moment to get themselves out of the morass of squabbling, fighting and brawling. The leader of one Opposition party is already negotiating with another member of the party from which the Prime Minister would supposedly come to replace the present leader of that party if the
Opposition is defeated in an election. Honourable members opposite should not kid themselves. The Leader of the Opposition has blood running out of his heels from one of the front bench members snapping at them.
The point I make, and the point I would hope the honourable gentlemen opposite would have enough common sense to think of, is that if they proceed with this action that they propose to precipitate they will change the way of Australian politics to the way of Italy, France and other countries where there has been 20 to 30 governments in 20 years.
– Oh, now, now.
– The honourable member for Griffith is just an opportunist. Unfortunately, his opportunities are limited only to election day. If the Opposition destroys the balance of the Westminster system of government - in the House of Commons 3 weeks is the maximum period for which the House of Lords can delay a money Bill - it is destroyed not for today, tomorrow, this year or next year, but forever. It is not destroyed only for the Labor Party; it is destroyed for the Labor Party and the Liberal Party but, more importantly, it is destroyed for the Australian people. Real government, democratic government and stable government in Australia cannot exist under circumstances where persons not responsible and not required to go to the electorate are able to dismiss a government at any time. Every 6 months Supply legislation comes before this Parliament. Honourable members opposite should mark my words: Once the Opposition has started rejecting Supply on what is a very cheap and shoddy pretext, it will always find that other political parties will be able to find similar excuses. The responsibility is on the heads of honourable members opposite. They are the people who will accept the blame forever for the destruction of the parliamentary system of government in Australia.
– That is not true.
– It is.
– I did not propose to address myself to the matters which I thought had been canvassed already at some length in this House tonight. But I daresay that the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) would provoke even me to make some passing reference to the comments that he has made here tonight. I believe that the reason why this House is in the state in which it is today is the very irresponsibility of the Government which is sitting opposite us and which has brought this country almost to the brink of ruin. I think it is quite clear that the action proposed by the Opposition parties here is very responsible and that the Opposition senators also are entitled to exercise that responsibility, as they will, in dealing with Supply. This action will give the Australian people an opportunity to pass judgment on the Government in the manner in which I have already done.
It is only a short time since a by-election was held for the seat of Parramatta. Some honourable members opposite may recall that fact. I notified the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) of the matter I propose to raise tonight. I thought that he would take the opportunity to follow me in this debate because the comments that I propose to make relate to the decision that was taken by the previous Liberal Government when it set about to acquire a site in Parramatta for the erection of an office block. This project was commenced and a site subsequently was acquired, albeit after the election of 1972. Although in the period that has transpired - some 16 months - we have seen a number of comments about this proposal, we have not seen any determined effort by this Government to bring to fruition this urgently required project. I wish to point out to the House some of the comments of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development because I think they are pertinent. Over a long period of time he has made comments in the Parramatta Advertiser’. One would almost think that he was the member for Parramatta and not the member for an adjoining electorate by the way in which he has made comments about the needs of Parramatta from time to time. He indicated the urgent need in this area for such proposals -
– You must be able to do better than this.
– I can, but this is of particularly urgent significance and I think it is a matter that is deserving of being raised in this House. I hope that the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) is not suggesting that Parramatta can be ignored. If that is his view or his Government’s view I think it is clearly my responsibility to point it out to the electors of Sydney and the elec tors of Australia. Parramatta is deserving of far more credit than the Minister is attempting to give it by his interjections. I think it would benefit the Government to listen to me as I am discussing the projects that the Minister for Urban and Regional Development has indicated are required in Parramatta. The Minister said we require cultural facilities for this great metropolitan centre. He mentioned art galleries, theatres and cultural workshops as things that were needed. With that I would agree. During the by-election he produced roughly drawn diagrams which appeared, strangely enough, in the newspapers in Parramatta. I think it is perhaps proper to give the headline: ‘Unique Mini “City” Plan’. We saw most elaborate plans thrown around the electorate as though they were almost a reality.
– Were these put out before the by-election?
– Remarkably, yes. The following week appeared the headline: ‘Music Bowl is Likely to Cap it AH’. One would have wondered what Parramatta was about to get by the amount of largesse that was about to be distributed on this electorate, none of which has been seen since that remarkable day of 22 September. Since the Minister raised these matters I have also had reason to raise them. He mentioned that we needed offices of the Postmaster-General’s Department, the Department of Labour, the Department of Health, the Department of Services and Property, the Department of Social Security and the Taxation Office in the electorate of Parramatta. I have added in representations of my own that we urgently require a Department of Immigration representative in this electorate. That is a particular need and one which I would have thought would have been obvious even to the Minister, who has so many migrants in his own electorate, which adjoins mine.
Time is against me so I must turn to another point. More recently we have heard a large number of comments about rental accommodation. In fact, I could take honourable members through Hansard and show them where the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) has from time to time paid a great deal of attention to the consequences of Government’s continuing to rent accommodation rather than buy its own. In the 16 months that this Government has been in office we have seen no major projects for office accommodation commenced. The only office blocks completed were those commenced under the previous administration. Remarkably enough I have here another article from a more recent copy of the Parramatta ‘Advertiser’ which states: ‘PS Moving in Here’. It is worth noting that it is moving into an office block owned by the Industrial Acceptance Corporation Ltd finance company. The Commonwealth Government will take up 7 floors of that building lo be rented.
– Is that a multi-national?
– I do not know. It is associated with one of the banks, rather surprisingly. We now have the Commonwealth renting accommodation in this building because of urgent needs for office accommodation. Recently the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) in a speech introducing the States Grants (Urban Transport) Bill made certain comments which ought to be recorded again because they are associated with the comments I propose to address to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development and the Government. The Minister for Transport indicated that proposals for construction of a building on the Meggitt site at Parramatta were being considered by the Goverment. He said that the proposed railway line to serve Parramatta would be 24 miles long and would cater for a work force which is expected to rise from its present level of some 12,000 persons to 100,000 by the end of the century. Yet when I addressed a question to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development in this place on 21 March in these terms:
Firstly, has all the site been acquired? Secondly, have working drawings been prepared and the exact form of the project decided? Thirdly, will he assure this House that this most important project is proceeding expeditiously, that moneys are available for it to proceed and that the first sod will be turned shortly?
He answered in these terms:
There have been further discussions between the Department of Services and Property and my Department as to whether further lands should be acquired. Those discussions are still going on. In fact the matter is now before Cabinet which is discussing the type of development that is to ‘be carried out in Parramatta.
This answer differs greatly from the comments made by the Minister during the by-election campaign and differ greatly from the recognition that I have paid and the Minister paid some 16 months ago to the urgent need to sat isfy the demands for real accommodation - that is Government-owned accommodation - in this important metropolitan centre. But more importantly, I wished the Minister to have the opportunity to make reference to the remarks that I have seen in a journal named Objective’. In speaking about an alleged conflict between the Minister for Urban and Regional Development and the Minister for Services and Property it states:
The result is an inter-departmental deadlock which has stalled virtually any building and acquisition program by the Labor Government in its 16 months of office.
I should like the Minister for Urban and Regional Development to come into this House and tell us whether the Government will proceed with this important project and to explain why such important matters as these can result in conflict in this way. It is very relevant that the amount of rental accommodation occupied by the Government has risen from some 50 per cent under the previous administration to some 52 per cent now.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am sure that most of us would greet with pleasure the latest statistics on registrations for employment and would have noted the decrease in the numbers of people registered as seeking work. I agree, however, that there are quite obviously pockets with what we would call more unemployed than are found on average throughout the country. It appears that in those areas there is a need for a number of steps to be taken. I know that the 170 officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service under the responsibility of the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) are doing something towards solving this problem by way of providing adjustment assistance, retraining programs and the like. There is one aspect which has not yet been covered to which I understand the Minister for Labour is giving his attention. I refer to the ways in which assistance may be given to people who find that they need to shift from one area to another to continue in their employment. For the average worker to shift with his family and his furniture can involve him in a cost ranging from $300 to $500 depending on how far he must travel, how large is his family and how much furniture he takes with him. But it seems that $300 to $500, as an average, is about the amount required by the average person to shift. This expenditure can cause a big drop in his income in the year in which he shifts. Of course, such a person has an alternative of remaining on unemployment benefit until he can find suitable employment near where he is residing.
But I believe it is more economical and a wiser use of labour if he can be assisted to transfer.
-Order! It being 1 1 o’clock, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2.15 p.m.
House adjoined at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Isolated School Children: Correspondence Education (Question No. 11) Mr Malcolm Fraser asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
With regard to the education of isolated children in the Northern Territory, which is a responsibility of my Department, a two-year program to equip correspondence pupils with battery-operated players and slide-filmstrip viewers will commence this year. It is not possible at this stage to cost the program accurately, as arrangements for producing associated teaching materials are not finalised. The program is expected to benefit about 300 children in approximately 200 locations in the Territory.
As recommended in the Karmel Report, the Schools Commission has been asked to consider the question of the provision of additional financial assistance to the States to enable them to provide improved education services to isolated children. It should be noted, however, that both through its programs of general building and recurrent grants and of assistance for disadvantaged schools the Commission is already providing the States with resources whereby a range of education services, . including the education of isolated children, can be developed throughout the community on the basis of need.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
What was the reduction in the civilian manpower strength of the Defence Forces in the last six months of 1973.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Civilians are not employed in the Defence Forces as such. The total reduction in the civilian manpower strength in the Defence Department (including those attached to the Navy, Army and RAAF) and the Department of Supply from 30 June 1973 to 31 December 1973, was 2,521.
Re-engagement Bounty Scheme (Question No. 49)
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
What expenditure was incurred under the Reengagement Bounty Scheme during 1973.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Expenditure incurred under the Re-engagement Bounty Scheme during 1973 was 817.6m.
Purchase aH Aircraft from New Zealand (Question No. 41)
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
Has the Government decided to purchase CT4 Airtrainer aircraft from New Zealand.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
UnitedNations: Persons Appointedfrom Australia (Question No. 86)
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
How many persons were appointed from Australia following assistance provided by his Department to the United Nations, its major specialised agencies and the Department of Foreign Affairs in the recruitment of experts for overseas assignments in 1973.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Persons appointed from Australia during 1973 to undertake overseas assignments as experts with United Nations Agencies numbered 83, and 433 were appointed to projects of a foreign aid type.
GrossNational Product: WagesComponent (Question No. 93)
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
– If it is assumed that the term ‘wages component of the Gross National Product’ refers to the Commonwealth Statistician’s concept ‘Wages, Salaries and Supplements’, then the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows.
(a) Wages, Salaries and Supplements for 1972-73 were estimated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics to be $22,518m.
Estimates for the whole of 1973-74 are not available. Wages, Salaries and Supplements (seasonally adjusted) for the first 2 quarters of 1973-74 were estimated to be 813,054m. This figure represented 61.1 per cent of Gross Domestic Product at factor cost for the same period.
Department of the Capital Territory: Increases inPositions (Question No.111)
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Minister for Immigration:Statement Made In Manchester (Question No. 115)
asked the Minister for Immigra tion, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The statement was based on a report by the Immigration Planning Council which said, inter alia:
The Council noted with satisfaction the vastly improved employment opportunities in Australia but expressed its concern at the serious strains being placed on the economy by the rising level of unfilled demand for labour. As from August, job vacancies have exceeded registered unemployed. In October, unfilled vacancies notified to the Department of Labour exceeded registered unemployed by 25,713. In seasonally-adjusted terms vacancies exceeded unemployed by over 9,000. August statistics show that the average level of overtime working rose to an alltime record level of 4 hours per week, seasonally adjusted, despite the relative inefficiency of using overtime for production. The September figure was almost as high, at 3.9 hours per week-.
It was noted that the most serious shortfalls were in skilled and semi-skilled occupations.
The Council supports and emphasises the necessity for apprenticeships and other training and retaining schemes to help meet the long-term needs of the Australian economy for skilled labour. The importance of stepping-up such programs without delay was stressed. However, such schemes are essentially longterm and cannot make a significant contribution to solving the current shortages.
Consideration was given to the extent that current labour shortages might be overcome by including employable persons not presently in the workforce to become employed. It was noted, however, that total civilian employment has already risen sharply and that the former reserves of manpower in the economy have already, largely, been absorbed. The number of wage and salary earners grew by 182,000 or about 4 per cent in the 12 months to August 1973, compared with an increase of some 46,000 or about 1 per cent in the year to August 1972. In the three months to August 1973, the rate of increase was even greater, representing an annual rate of S.2 per cent. The Council took particular note of the minimal effect of the tariff reductions earlier this year upon the level of unemployment. It was reported that between July and November, only 36 persons were registered with the Department of Labour as having become unemployed as a result of the tariff cuts.
Industrial production is continuing to show strong upward movement. Of 33 ‘indicator’ items examined in September 1973, 21 had shown an increase in their output of 20 per cent or more over the preceding year; only six had shown decreases. Consumer demand is now very strong with retail sales for the September quarter 1973 standing 11.5 per cent above the level of the corresponding period in 1972. Export demand for Australian goods has remained high.
asked the Minister for Trans port, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
On 21 March 1973, I wrote to both the Australian National Line and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited saying that it would be beneficial if both organisations were to co-operate in considering a standard design for a large bulk carrier in excess of 100,000 dwt suitable for the coastal trade.
I indicated that the experience which they would gain in operating the large imported vessels for which approvals had been given would be valuable in arriving at the most suitable design. Both ANL and BHP replied on 27 March 1973 saying that joint discussions had already been held on this matter. BHP stated that further consideration of the matter would be undertaken when clarification was obtained regarding the largest size vessel that it would be possible in future to build in Australia.
Progress on this matter has been delayed because, until recently, there was only one bulk carrier in excess of 100,000 dwt operating on the coast. There are now three such vessels in the coastal bulk trades, two being operated by BHP and one by ANL.
As the Australian National Line vessel only commenced trading in February 1974 the Line has not yet had an opportunity to gain operational experience with a vessel of this size.
CoffsHarbour (Question No. 229)
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
CoffsHarbour: Discontinuance of Major Shipping Service (Question No. 230)
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Yes; a submission was presented for consideration, proposing:
I see no need to consider a subsidy to enable a direct service to continue as a means of maintaining a viable port entity. The Honourable Member will be aware that, as far as any direct subsidy of the port itself may be concerned, the management and operation are under the control of the State Government. I have corresponded with Mr Hopkins on behalf of the Coffs Harbour Trades Unions Council, the Honourable I. Robinson on behalf of the Shire Council and the Branch Secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation on this matter since I saw the delegation in September.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
What action has been taken following representations on the adoption of Indo-Chinese war orphans I made to him on 18 June and 27 July 1973.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Following your representations I arranged with my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs for the matter of bringing war waifs to Australia to be put to study. This was done and Senator Willesee has now reported to me. Concurrently a proposal came forward for the establishment of a national agency to provide a specialised service in relation to intercountry adoptions in Australia. This proposal was examined by the Social Welfare Commission and was later considered by the Annual Conference of Australasian Administrators of Social Welfare held in Wellington, New Zealand in February. That conference supported in principle the establishment of a national overseas adoption agency in Australia. A Conference of Australasian Ministers for Social Welfare, in endorsing that conclusion, considered there was a need for a conference of the Australian State adoption officers and interested Australian Government Departments to discuss, inter alia, such an agency. As a result of all this, I shall be writing to the Premiers suggesting a meeting of Australian Government and State officials to consider ways of improving the existing arrangements for inter-country adoptions and including the proposed national agency and possible financial assistance.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The information sought by the honourable member is not available in the form requested. The Commonwealth. Statistician collects and publishes details of the amount pf capital extended by:
finance companies under wholesale finance agreements (which includes all goods and of which, motor cars form only a part), and
non-retail finance businesses for the purchase of motor vehicles (which includes both new and second hand cars as well as motor cycles, boats, caravans, trailers, motor parts and accessories).
Interest charges are not collected for either of the above categories.
For the honourable member’s information the tables below give a summary of the capital provided for the purposes outlined above, by States, for the five calendar years prior to 1 January 1973.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What is the estimated expenditure of his Department on econometric research and model building,
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Expenditure on econometric research and model building within the Treasury is not separately costed. Most of the research of this nature is carried out by a small group of third division officers in the General Financial and Economic Policy Division of the Treasury, but such research occupies only part of their time. There is also a small unit in the Australian Bureau of Statistics which carries out econometric research and model building in co-operation with the Treasury officers referred to.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Hire Purchase Companies: Loans to General Public (Question No. IS)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
See answer to Question No. 17.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Attorney-General’s Department Positions (Question No. 25)
Mir Lynch asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
What is the net ‘increase in positions created within the Attorney-General’s Department and authorities for which the Attorney-General is responsible since 2 December 1972.
How many of these positions were in the (a) First, (b) Second, (c) Third and (d) Fourth Divisions.
How many of these positions were (a) permanent, (b) temporary and (c) exempt.
What is the annual salary estimate to meet the net increase in positions.
Mir Enderby- The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Housing and Construction, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1). (2), (3) and (4) Please see my answer to the question without notice from the honourable member for Chifley on 8 April 1974 (pp. 1108-1110).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 April 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1974/19740409_reps_28_hor88/>.