29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 12 noon, and read prayers.
The CLERK-Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed Universal Health Scheme is essential to the well being of all Australians, in so far as it will-
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will hasten to introduce this much needed scheme so that health care services in Australia can begin to function equitably, efficiently, and economically.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Charles Jones and Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘free’ national health scheme is not free at all and will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme.
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will utimately remove an individual ‘s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the basic principles of the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McLeay and Mr Wilson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that, as an interim measure, the Government will immediately increase the current grants being made to children in non-government schools to at least 50 per cent of the cost of educating children in government schools, thus enabling the nongovernment schools to continue to exist and fulfil their function of educating Australian children.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Mathews and Mr Staley.
To the Honourable The Speaker and Members of The House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
We the undersigned citizens of Australia do humbly petition the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia that it might take such steps as may be necessary either to direct the Commonwealth Banking Corporation to preserve and restore The Palace Hotel or itself acquire the said Palace Hotel St George’s Terrace, Perth on its present site so as to preserve and restore it in perpetuity.
Further we do humbly petition this honourable Parliament to make such funds as may be necessary available to purchase the entire contents of the said Hotel from the owners thereof.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bennett.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament Assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas it was reported in ‘Newsweek’, August 26th page 12, 1974 that the Australian Government agreed to send $225,000 for “humanitarian purposes” to black guerrilla movements fighting Rhodesians, South Africans and Portuguese in southern Africa;
And whereas these guerrilla movements being members of ZAPU, ZANU, FRELIMO and FROLIZI and other kindred organizations have been guilty of ninety six documented acts of murder, abduction, mutilation, arson, cattle maiming and rape chiefly against other peaceful Africans between 22 December 1972 and 10 May 1974 in Rhodesia alone;
And abducted 295 people chiefly school children from the St Alberts Mission in Rhodesia as reported in the newsmedia;
And whereas these above mentioned and kindered organizations have been guilty of many other barbarous acts of brutality as reported in ‘The Silent War’ by Chris Vermaak and Reg Shaay, and the ‘Real Case for Rhodesia’ by Charlton Chesterton, both books widely read in Australia.
So therefore your petitioners most humbly pray that the Australian Government will cease to support by material and other means those organisations in southern Africa which are guilty of their various acts of terrorism, because such material and other assistance would give the impression of agreement of the Australian people and the Australian Government to the various acts of brutality which have been perpetrated by the organisations concerned.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Donald Cameron.
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 we strongly oppose the easing of restrictions on the importation, production in Australia, sale or distribution of pornographic material whether in films, printed matter or any other format.
That any alterations to the Television Programme Standards of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board which permits the exploitation of sex or violence is unacceptable to us.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the existing Television Programme Standards or to permit easier entry into Australia, or production in Australia, of pornographic material.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Chipp.
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 up to ten million people are said by the UN Secretary-General, Mr Kurt Waldheim, to face death by starvation in the Sahelian region of Africa and that as a result of this drought, many nomads are being forced to give up their traditional way of life, and
That the resources of the Governments of this region are inadequate to cope with either the immediate or long-term needs of these people.
We your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge that the Australian Government grant both immediate emergency aid to a value of at least ten million dollars and continue to assist in the long-term agricultural and social development of this region.
And that it take a leading part in initiatives to set up a World Food Fund and World Fertilizer Fund at the World Food Conference this November.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrCoates.
All Weather Road from Weipa to Cairns
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the people of the township of Weipa, North Queensland respectfully showeth:
There is an urgent need for the construction of an allweather road between Weipa and Cairns.
Delays of general cargo of up to 3 months and over is not uncommon, causing inability to purchase necessary commodities.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your Honourable House of Parliament will take necessary steps in the current session of Parliament to arrange for appropriate authority to take steps that will alleviate the isolation and inconvenience now being suffered.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fulton.
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 amend the proposed Family Law Bill in accordance with the points contained herein.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hodges.
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:
Whilst all colonial powers except the Soviet Union have granted independence and self-determination to all their colonies and dominions, and whilst Australia is in the process of granting independence to Papua and New Guinea, and whilst all previous Australian Governments have refused to recognise the Soviet Union’s right to the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, occupied following a secret agreement between Hitler and Stalin, the present Australian Government has now extended such recognition contrary to international law and moral principles. The undersigned petitioners humbly beg Parliament to condemn such an action and to reverse the Government’s decision.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Wilson.
To The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament Assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth: that a fundamental principle of a fair taxation system is that any form of double taxation should be avoided;
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the law be amended to allow tax-payers to deduct from income, for income tax purposes, all rates and taxes paid by them in respect of their primary home or land bought for the purpose of building thereon.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Wilson.
– My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. Yesterday the Acting Treasurer said that the penal tax provision on socalled unearned income was justified and he argued for it. It is reported that the honourable member for Blaxland argued in a Caucus committee that the provision is totally unjustified. In the spirit of honesty that the honourable gentleman spoke of yesterday, will he say unequivocally which side he is on today and which side he was on when Cabinet was reaching its conclusions to apply the new tax in the Budget?
– I rise to order. As the record of the Parliament will show, yesterday I said that a surtax on unearned income- a surtax and not just any sort- would be justified. I rather gathered that without necessarily being totally committed to any view the honourable member for Chifley expressed a similar principle.
-That is not a point of order. When the Acting Treasurer rose to his feet I thought that the Acting Prime Minister had passed the question over to him.
– I was just pointing out that as usual the Leader of the Opposition is wrong on both counts.
-That is not a point of order.
-The question that the Leader of the Opposition has asked is based on rumour and speculation. I attended the football with him on Saturday and I think there has been a bit of a carryover.
– I ask the Minister for Transport: Is it a fact that as a result of decisions taken by this Labor Government shipping freight rates between Tasmanian ports and the mainland have in effect been subsidised to the extent of $3m?
-I am interested in the question that has been asked by the honourable member for Franklin. I am aware of the interest which he and all other honourable members and honourable senators on the Government side from Tasmania have been displaying in freight rates. I have noted just recently quite a deal of criticism of the Government’s decision to increase shipping freights by 25 per cent and talk of what the Leader of the Opposition or the Leader of the Australian Country Party or other members of the Opposition would do if by some mischance the Opposition became the Government. Let us have a real look at the Opposition’s record- and this is important. In August 1970 there was an increase of 12½ per cent in all Tasmanian general cargo freights; in July 1971 a12½ per cent increase in freights between Sydney and Tasmania; an 8 per cent increase in July 1971 in freights between Melbourne and Tasmania.
Now let us look at what the Opposition did in regard to freight rates in August 1972, just before it was rolled in the election in December 1972 and at a time when it was in full flight as the government. It then increased by 25 per cent the freights between Melbourne and Tasmania by the removal of the concession on dense cargoes. There was a 12 per cent increase in SydneyTasmania freight rates, then an increase due to the removal of concessions on heavy cargo which was the equivalent of a 22 per cent increase in freight rates for those commodities. There was a 20 per cent surcharge applied on hazardous cargoes, an 18 per cent increase due to the removal of the concession on industrial machinery and a 17 per cent increase in the freight rates on newsprint. That was not a bad sort of record for the then Country Party Minister for Shipping and Transport to have on the eve on an election. Yet I have heard of statements that have been made by the Leader of his Party as to what the Country Party would do about freight rates.
This Government examined the question of freight rates charged on goods shipped to Tasmania, and it examined freight rates as a whole. As the result of numerous meetings between all the members of the Government in Tasmania and the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and myself, we worked out a formula whereby assistance could be given. Because the report from the Nimmo Committee had not then been made available and because we did not wish to upstage that report, we agreed that freight rates would not be increased on certain commodities. The Acting Prime Minister was in Tasmania last Friday, and he made a certain announcement. The decision was the direct result of logical representations which were put forward by Labor members from Tasmania. Their comments were noted and we did something about the situation. Not only did we do something about the situation last week by giving some assistance to Tasmania, but we did something about it in the previous Budget.
– I rise on a point of order. Last night during the adjournment debate I complained about the lack of opportunity being given to back benchers to ask questions. The Minister is taking up half the morning with an expose on Tasmania. Why does he not make this matter the subject of a general debate?
-I ask the Minister to make his answer as brief as possible. I suppose there are many questions to come from both sides of the House.
-I will conclude my remarks on this point: Honourable members will recall that in the Budget of last year the Government paid a subsidy of $lm on the ‘Empress of Australia’ to ensure the continuation of that ship carrying not only cargo but also tourists and people who are interested in Tasmania to and from that State. This Government is interested in what has happened. The 25 per cent increase in freight rates which was introduced by the Australian National Line should be compared with, for expample, the increase in charges by the Union Steam Ship Co. in 1974. That company increased its freight rates by 38.29 per cent and other shipping companies increased their freight rates. Overall, ANL’s increase was long overdue, if we want to ensure that it operates on an even keel. Honourable members opposite can support the Australian Shipping Commission Bill which is before the House at the present time, which will ensure that the ANL pays its way.
-My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. I refer to the lender of last resort facilities which the Reserve Bank of Australia in its capacity as the central bank should normally accord to the banking system. Does the Minister realise the fundamental difference between the present Australian system and that which obtains, for example, with the Bank of England in the United Kingdom or with the various federal reserve banks in the United States of America? Does he consider that Australian practices in this regard could be improved either by amendment of the banking legislation or by a change in administrative practices? Does he realise that there is a widespread view that the present interest rate charged for these facilities by the Reserve Bank is too high and is responsible for at least part of the excessive interest rates current in other respects throughout the community? Finally, what rate is charged by the Reserve Bank to the various member banks for this facility?
– I am aware of the widespread view that the rate of interest in this respect is high and may cause difficulties that could be avoided. I am not specifically aware of the rate of interest that is charged but I will have that checked and inform the honourable member. There are differences between the powers in Australia, especially in the operation of the Reserve Bank as a lender of last resort, and those in the United Kingdom and the
United States of America. Undoubtedly the position could be improved in those 2 countries as well as in Australia. I am satisfied that the powers and scope of the Reserve Bank are adequate, although undoubtedly they could be improved. I think it is most important that at any time these powers should be adequate, that they are seen to be adequate and that they are sufficient to justify the confidence of the community in the ability of the Reserve Bank to do its job. I have that confidence and I hope it is shared by everybody else.
-Is the Minister for Urban and Regional Development now in a position to advise the House of the detailed financial arrangements for the implementation of the northwest regional water scheme in Tasmania? What will be the benefits of the scheme? To clarify the position, will the Minister advise why no specific amount was included in this year’s Budget for the scheme?
– There was a commitment in the Budget by the Australian Government for urban and regional water schemes. There was a commitment for the north-west water scheme in Tasmania and also for the water purification scheme in Adelaide. There have been discussions between my Department and the Tasmanian Department for some time on this matter. A commitment has been made to an extent of something like $ 10.5m which will be spread over some 6 years. The commitment agreed upon in principle was that 40 per cent of the scheme would be paid for by the Tasmanian Government and 60 per cent by the Australian Government. Of the Australian Government’s commitment of 60 per cent, 30 per cent will be in interest free non-repayable loans and the remainder will be lent at the long term Commonwealth bond rate, which is the same as the provision for the national sewerage program.
The reason why there was no financial commitment in this Budget was that the details had not been finalised between the Australian and Tasmanian governments. But there is a contingency in my Department’s commitment with Cabinet If there is an agreement this year, an amount of money can be provided in the Supply Bill in autumn to make sure that this work can commence. The reason for our commitment is that on the north-western fringe of Tasmania there are many small schemes in which many of the water supplies are extremely dirty. These small schemes are a poor way of dealing with the matter. We were approached by a regional organisation. We have supported the whole concept of local governments coming together as a region and in principle we have given them moral support to do so. We are now giving them physical and financial support. It is for this reason that we will be supporting a regional water scheme to administer this proposal.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware of reports from New York this morning of a statement by the Prime Minister to the effect that the Iranian Government may take shares in the Australian Industry Development Corporation and in the Petroleum and Minerals Authority so that it can obtain supplies of uranium, iron ore and other minerals from Australia? I ask the Minister whether he can give the House any further information on this matter, particularly in relation to investment in the Petroleum and Minerals Authority by a foreign government.
– When the Shah of Iran was here the Prime Minister and I had extensive discussions with him covering all the areas which have just been mentioned in the right honourable gentleman’s question. The Shah expressed his interest especially in iron ore and the pelletising of it, in the processing of bauxite and in uranium. He expressed interest also in investing in Australia. He made it clear that he appreciated our position in standing strongly for independent Australian ownership, especially by a government body. He said that it was a fundamental principle in his own country for mineral and other resources that are essential to the nation to be owned by the nation. He told us that that is a fundamental principle of his own government. He appreciated the extent to which he had high regard in this country for Australian ownership, both private and public. We mentioned to him- he already knew- the position of the Australian Industry Development Corporation and of the Petroleum and Minerals Authority and he expressed the view that he would consider favourably investment in such bodies. That is a general position that was taken both by -
– How can he invest in such a body? I do not understand that.
-It may be that the Leader of the Opposition does not understand investment but now is not the time for me to be concerned about educating him on it.
– Do not play politics. How can the Iranian Government invest in the Australian Industry Development Corporation?
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition will remain silent.
-I will arrange to have a written explanation given to the Leader of the Opposition. I think that this general position was a very favourable one. I was most impressed with the attitude taken by the Shah when he was here. I think that his visit means that we could very well be opening a new chapter of history in relations between Australia and Iran and across the Indian Ocean in general because that country is extremely significant in that part of the world. The Shah explained to us that he has taken a view of the importance of Australia in his assessment of the outside world.He said that it was not a very old one- it dated back less than 2 years. I think that there was some significance in that. But the right honourable gentleman will agree with me that there is not a great deal of difference between his view and mine on the importance of independent Australian ownership and, I think, on the role played by such bodies as the Australian Industry Development Corporation.
– How does it get involved in the Petroleum and Minerals Authority?
– The provision of funds to the Petroleum and Minerals Authority is not envisaged as being a matter for direct investment of that type.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Transport. The Minister will recall that in April of last year, in answering a question from myself regarding the possible hazards of toxic gas emissions from burning aircraft furnishings resulting from fires after crashes he advised the House that the matter had been referred to his Department for report. Will the Minister advise what action has been taken and whether such a report has been received?
-I appreciate the interest of the honourable member for Scullin in this matter. It is an important matter, having in mind the numbers of people who at different times have unfortunately lost their lives in aircraft accidents, particularly in what appeared to be in some cases minor accidents. This subject was reported on briefly by the newspapers some 12 or 18 months ago. The honourable member referred today to the question which he directed to me somewhere about that time. What we have done with regard to it is ask the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to carry out an investigation. It prepared a report which was then referred to a working group comprised of representatives of the Department of Transport, the airlines and CSIRO. That working group has now prepared a report which I am hopeful of tabling in this House either tomorrow or next week, depending upon when I am in possession of sufficient copies of it.
– The Parliament will not be sitting next week.
-Well, the week after. When the report is available to me in sufficient numbers I will table it. I have a copy of it in my room. I propose to make a copy available in the Parliamentary Library. The interesting part about the working group’s report is that the toxic gases such as hydrogen cyanide were considered to be a major hazard. It found that smoke, flame and superheated gases were very important considerations, bearing in mind their concentration in aeroplanes at the time when people were being exposed to them.
Without going into the question in detail, the facts are that the report will be tabled within a very short time. It has brought up some interesting points. Firstly, it would appear that there is no necessity to refit all existing aircraft, but in future we should examine closely the types of material with which aircraft will be furnished. Having this in mind, I will be asking the Minister for Science to permit the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, which comes within his portfolio, together with the Department of Transport and the airlines, to conduct further investigations into the types of material which should be used to furnish aircraft so we can overcome the problems in which the honourable member for Scullin and I are interested, as every member or person who flies in an aircraft should be interested.
-Has the Acting Prime Minister been advised of or has he read reports emanating from New York in which the Prime Minister has stated that Australia may be able to increase foodstuffs production, in the face of a possible world famine? In these circumstances does the Acting Prime Minister believe that the superphosphate bounty to which he referred in Tasmania yesterday might well be seen as a measure by which production and productivity could be encouraged rather than as a welfare measure? Is he aware that the New Zealand Government has decided to increase the subsidy which it pays on superphosphate to hold down the price paid by farmers in that country to $26 per tonne, whereas Australian farmers will be paying $45 per tonne from the end of this year? In view of the stronger competitive position which New Zealand farmers will therefore enjoy compared with Australian farmers and in view of the Minister’s comments, will he now support a general reference on superphosphate to the Industries Assistance Commission, in addition to the limited and narrow reference which the Commission is already considering and which relates only to the new land areas of Western Australia?
-I am aware of the statement made by the Prime Minister, and it coincides with the statement in this respect which I gave in the House yesterday in answer to a question on this subject. Both the Prime Minister and I realise the significance of Australia as a food producer and the rising demand which will take place in the rest of the world over the next decade or two because of the dramatic increase in the standard of living of so many millions of people which is likely to take place in those decades. I do not think that the description of the superphosphate bounty as a welfare provision is a new one. In my opinion, it has been a welfare provision for a long time for quite a number of people who did not need it, especially the wealthy farmers who got most of it. It was very largely as a result of this welfare provision by which previous governments were willing to make the assistance available to primary industry that we decided to bring an end to the existing arrangement and refer the matter to the Industries Assistance Commission, albeit on a narrow basis. Yesterday I said that I believed that although this reference was a narrow one it would allow the Industries Assistance Commission to give to the Government advice on which we could decide upon the matter of superphosphate assistance in general. I am satisfied that that is so. Unless I can see much greater evidence than I see now of the necessity to widen the reference, I would think there is no need to do so.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. He will be aware of my concern about the employment situation in Tasmania.
Opposition members- No!
-Mr Speaker, I can wait until members of the Opposition have finished. I repeat: My question is directed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. He will be aware of my concern about the employment situation in
Tasmania and of the degree to which we welcome the Government’s initiative in introducing the regional employment development scheme. Is the Minister yet able to announce any grants for Tasmania under this scheme, and has he any details of them?
– I was hoping that somebody would ask me a question about this matter because I heard some very ill-informed remarks from the Opposition side yesterday about the unemployment position in Tasmania and the alleged indifference of the Government to the Tasmanian position. I have had very strong representations made to me by the Minister for Defence and by the honourable members for Braddon, Denison, Franklin and Wilmot. These honourable gentlemen have been on my back, to coin a phrase, for the last couple of weeks. I am very pleased to be able to say that 1 8 projects have already been provisionally approved for Tasmania under the regional employment development scheme; another 12 projects have been approved subject to additional conditions being met; and a further 1 1 projects are under consideration. Of the 1 8 projects so far approved, nine are recreational projects submitted to my colleague the Minister for Tourism and Recreation and covering the district employment areas of Devonport, Hobart, Launceston and Burnie. These projects alone will cost over $400,000 in total, with the Australian Government contributing a direct grant of more than half that amount. In the district employment areas of Hobart and Launceston -
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Under the Standing Orders may we call for the tabling of the paper from which the Minister is quoting?
– If the Minister agrees to table it, he may do so.
-After I have read it I will table it. Let me start again. In the district employment areas of Hobart and Launceston another 9 projects, involving various municipal improvements and estimated to cost $322,000, have been approved. A further 12 projects in the areas Launceston, Hobart and Devonport have been approved subject to certain additional conditions being met. These relate mainly to the provision of more details to satisfy the recommendations of the Department of Urban and Regional Development and the Department of the Environment and Conservation. This is consistent with our concern that such projects should have a real and lasting community value and should not be just dreamed up in order to make work and put people into chain gangs chipping grass, as the McMahon Government did during the 2 years for which it was trying to grapple with unemployment. The total estimated cost of these 12 additional projects is of the order of no less than $300,000. Further projects involving a total expenditure of well in excess of $460,000 are under consideration. Mr Speaker, you will note therefore that a total of over $1,482,000 is in the pipeline for this large number of valuable projects in Tasmania. Much of this sum is being provided directly by the Australian Government. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard details of the projects to which I have referred, so that the people of Tasmania will know in detail what the RED Ministers have proposed for them.
– I remind the Minister that the Leader of the Opposition asked that the document be tabled. The Minister must table it unless he classifies it as confidential.
– I table the paper from which I read. I now seek leave to incorporate details of proposed work in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
-Leave is not granted.
– Then I will read it:
District Employment Office Area
Devonport: Toilet extensions to Christian $24,900 Youth Centre Camp, Ulverstone
- Mr Speaker, I rise to order. The Minister quite plainly is making a farce of question time.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I have warned the House on numerous occasions about the noise emanating from both sides of the chamber. I have repeatedly asked the House to come to order. Regarding the length of answers by Ministers, I have repeatedly told the House that unless the Standing Orders are changed I have no control over the length of an answer. I can only request Ministers to make answers short, proper and relevant. I request the Minister for Labor and Immigration to make his answer as brief as possible.
– I will do that. I again ask leave to incorporate this document in Hansard.
-Right. I continue reading it:
Devonport: Recreation and sporting centre, $30,000
Latrobe, Wesley Vale
Hobart: Foreshore development Went- $160,000 worth Park, Clarence
Hobart: Sweat track, Geilston Bay High $21,300
School- Clarence Mun.
- Mr Speaker, in accordance with your previous ruling I ask the Minister to make a statement immediately following question time in accordance with normal practice.
-Order! I remind the Deputy Leader of the Country Party that I did not give a ruling. I made a request and that is as far as the Chair can go with respect to an answer given by a Minister. Regarding the length of time occupied in answering a question, I was in Opposition for many years and quite often listened to Reg Swartz. I used to listen to the details he gave. I think that honourable members are entitled to learn from the example of Reg Swartz.
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker. If my recollection is correct, when I was a Minister in a previous government a former Speaker on one occasion sat me down for replying for too long to a question, so surely there is a precedent.
-Order! The fact is that the Chair has no jurisdiction concerning the length of an answer given by a Minister. It is a matter of record that on one occasion a Minister took 27 minutes to answer a question.
– I am still in the Hobart area. The list continues:
Hobart: Sporting complex, fields and fa- $30,000 cilities New Norfolk
Launceston: Scout Camp development bunk $52,000 house-lobby and recreation hall, West Tamar Scouts, Launceston
- Mr Speaker, I rise to order. May I remind you, without impertinence, that you have a fundamental duty to members of this House to protect their rights. This Minister, for the second time in succession -
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker -
-Order! I have informed the House on numerous occasions that there is no substance in a point of order of this nature. I will not listen to any points of order regarding the Chair’s jurisdiction over answers given to questions. If the House decides at a later stage to alter the Standing Orders to give me power concerning answers to questions I will certainly take appropriate action. At present, I have no jurisdiction over the length of answers given by a Minister.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker, and refer you to standing order 145 which states:
– I take a point of order.
– I am on my feet taking a point of order which I have not yet made. Mr Speaker, standing order 145 clearly states that an answer shall be relevant to the question. You have the authority to administer that standing order. I suggest that if you are ruling that this answer is relevant, it is a very curious ruling.
– I suggest that the honourable member for Hotham check up on the Hansard report tomorrow. He will see that the answer is quite relevant. The honourable member for Denison asked for complete details of what had been done in regard to the Government’s attitude towards unemployment in Tasmania.
– I again ask leave to incorporate the document in Hansard.
– The Minister can table it. He can make a statement after question time. We are not going to co-operate -
– Order! The request before the Chair, the only one with which I am allowed to deal, is for leave to incorporate a document in Hansard. There can be no debate on that request. The answer is quite simple, yes or no.
– I will move to the Burnie area. Here we have netball courts -
- Mr Speaker, just before the last point of order was taken the Minister was talking about Launceston. Would he also give the unemployment figure for Launceston while he is playing about.
-No point of order is involved.
-As I was saying, at Burnie the projects are netball courts and amenities costing $43,500; Waratah recreational amenities, $38,149. At Wynyard, heating and providing wind breaks to the swimming pool are to cost $ 1 1 ,000. At Hobart, in the municipality of Huon, a project to upgrade obsolete water mains in Franklin is to cost $2 1 5,562. In Hobart, in the municipality of Huon, upgrading water mains at Crabtree Grove is to cost $12,700. In Hobart, in the same municipality, upgrading the water main at Mountain Valley is to cost $16,110. In the municipality of Beaconsfield, which is in the Launceston area, painting by female labour is to cost $32,000. This is a fine experiment in the use of female labour for this kind of outdoor work. In Launceston, employment of female labour at the Beaconsfield Council chambers is to cost $4,650. This proves that all is not lost when there are pockets of unemployment and normally one would think that only men could be employed. Women can be employed and are being employed in this excellent pilot program.
Motion (by Mr Lucock) negatived:
That the Minister be not further heard.
-At Hobart we are to develop the Lewis Park Beach at a cost of $13,000; clear the Risdonvale Creek and repair the weir at a cost of $20,300; work on the beach and foreshore cleaning are to cost $5,000. Another project, at the South Arm Reserve, relating to improvements, is to cost $3,000. The total cost for the second list I referred to is $332,000 and the cost of the first list I read is $410,000. Again at Launceston female typists are being employed to do a special job costing $800. This is a small contribution, but at least work is being provided for some women. Work is being performed at the salmon ponds at Plenty for the inland fisheries commission. This is costing $600 a week for labour alone.
In the municipality of Clarence we are carrying out work for improvement to fire fighting access trails at a cost of $12,000. In the same municipality we are constructing a walking track at a cost of $16,150 from the Tasman Bridge to Ballarine Bay. An elderly citizens’ complex is being developed in the municipality of Kentish at a cost of $140,000. We are providing, also in the same municipality, for stormwater drains and improvements to the stormwater system at Railton, at a cost of $10,000. Again in the Kentish municipality we are paying $ 10,000 for kerb, channel and drainage works. Another job in the same municipality also provides for kerb, channel and drainage work again at a cost of $ 10,000. In that municipality the Cradle Mountain road is being upgraded at a cost of $82,000.
We are to make improvements to the Lake Barrington Reserves in that municipality; that work will cost $12,000. Improvements of the track to the summit of Mount Roland in the Municipality of Kentish are estimated to cost $4,000. Finally, in the municipality of Kentish, improvements to the Kentish Olympic Swimming Pool will cost $3,000. The total estimated cost of those projects approved for regional development is $299,950. Eleven further projects involving a total expenditure well in excess of $460,000 are under consideration. The House will be interested and gratified, I am sure, to know that the RED Ministers will be meeting again at lunch time after which we hope to be able to announce further of these very worthwhile projects.
-I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he regards as reasonable the response of the Minister for Labor and Immigration to the very serious problem of unemployment throughout Tasmania? Will the honourable gentleman tell this House and the Tasmanian people that, consistent with the response of the Minister for Labor and Immigration, this Government is prepared to spend on employment projects throughout Tasmania no more than this Government was prepared to spend for the purchase of a major painting? I ask the honourable gentleman in a serious sense not to make a mockery of the plight of those who today are unemployed but to imagine for one moment the reaction of a person unemployed, listening to the Minister for Labor and Immigration in relation to the projects which he has just put down -
– I rise to take a point of order. My point of order is that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has no right to make a speech in the course of asking a question.
-The the point is upheld. I ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition not to debate his question.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister: Is he aware that the level of unemployment in August was worse than the most serious level of unemployment during 1972? Has he seen reports in today’s Press that unemployment during September increased by around 16,000, which figures exclude school leavers? Are the reports true. Will he explain to this House in a serious response, unlike that of the Minister for Labor and Immigration, what policies the Government proposes to adopt to protect the jobs of Australian workers, not simply in Tasmania where the figures are grave, but everywhere in Australia?
– The level of unemployment in Tasmania is higher than the Australian average. I listened to the answer given by the Minister for Labor and Immigration to the question asked by the honourable member for Denison. I listened to the details of the projects that were named by him. I know from my own travelling in northern Tasmania on Friday how welcome each and every one of those projects will be. I know from my own knowledge that at least a dozen of them were put to me on Friday as necessary jobs that the people in that area wanted to be done, and that the people there were looking forward to getting finance very soon to do them. I assured them, while I was there that the Government would quickly respond in respect of that and the response has been quick. Had the Leader of the Opposition had enough sense to agree to have that list incorporated in Hansard insead of obstinately refusing to agree to it, that list could have been recorded properly, as it should be recorded, but of course he would not do that. I think that the Minister for Labor and Immigration was not only exercising his responsiblity, but he was exercising it well. I am satisfied that those projects for which more than $lm is immediately being provided- and that, if necessary, is the beginning of it- will go a long way towards meeting much of the immediate needs not only for employment but also for very useful work in the areas that he has detailed.
- Mr Speaker, during the course of that answer -
-Order! I have told the Leader of the Opposition that he just cannot rise to his feet and burst out into a speech. He has got to get the call. What is the point that you are rising to make?
- Mr Speaker, if it needs to be declared a point of order, it is, and it is something that you ought to protect. I want to make it -
-Order! A point of order must be taken according to general practice and procedures of the House or the Standing Orders. What is the point of order? It is a point of order on what ?
– The point of order is this, Mr Speaker: There is provision for the incorporation of certain documents in Hansard. It has been a well established practice throughout the period that I have been here that if a person wishes to incorporate a document in Hansard he first shows it to the other side- whether it be the Government or the Opposition. That course was not adopted by the Minister for Labor and Immigration, and it is wrong for the Acting Prime Minister to disgrace himself and the office that he occupies by pretending that there was obstruction on the part of the Opposition. The Opposition was complying precisely with practice.
-Order! In regard to those matters about asking for leave to incorporate documents in Hansard, the only jurisdiction that the Chair has is to give a ruling. When leave to incorporate a document in Hansard is requested, if it is agreed to I give an instruction and it is incorporated in Hansard. That is the only jurisdiction that I have. I have no jurisdiction over any arrangements made between honourable members in regard to what should be incorporated in Hansard or when or to whom it should be shown. A couple of weeks ago I made an appeal that honourable members should show the information to Hansard before they ask to have it incorporated in Hansard, and that later, if leave to incorporate it in Hansard is agreed to, it would be incorporated in Hansard. I have no jurisdiction over any arrangements that are made between any members of Parliament in regard to what should be incorporated in Hansard.
– I present for the information of honourable members 3 reports prepared by the Industries Assistance Commission titled Polyamide and Polyester Yarns dated 18 June 1974, Tyre Cord and Tyre Cord Fabrics dated 25 June 1974, and Foundation Garments dated 28 June 1974. These reports were forwarded to the Prime Minister on 1 7, 24 and 25 July respectively.
– Pursuant to section 37 of the Australian Industry Development Corporation Act 1970 1 present for the information of honourable members the fourth annual report of the Australian Industry Development Corporation for the period 1 July 1973 to 30 June 1974.
– Pursuant to section 38 (3) of the Industrial Research and Development Grants Act 1967-1973 I present for the information of honourable members the seventh annual report of the Australian Industrial and Development Grants Board for the year ended 30 June 1974.
– Pursuant to section 22 of the Gold Mining Industry Assistance Act 1954-1972 I present for the information of honourable members the twentieth annual statement concerning the operation of the Act and the payment of subsidy during the year ending 30 June 1974.
-In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1974, 1 present the reports relating to the following proposed works:
Ordered that the reports be printed.
-I have received a letter from the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government’s failure to publicly outline its policy on the development of Australia’s uranium resources and the damaging effects of Government statements on industry confidence and international goodwill.
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 thenplaces) -
– The time has long since passed when this Parliament, and the people of Australia, should have been told what the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) has in mind for the future development of Australia’s mineral and energy resources. In fact, the time has long since passed when the Minister should have told the Government what he has in mind. The Government- the Cabinetand the Caucus have no more idea of what the Minister intends to dc than anybody else has. This week we had the incredible situation in which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), who I notice now describes himself as the head of Australia’s social democrat government- whatever that might be- tell the world what Australia will do with its resources, while back home in Australia there is almost total ignorance of our own resources policy.
The Prime Minister tells the world how responsible Australia is and how we are going to make our resources available to the people who need them at fair prices. But back home the Minister for Minerals and Energy acts in precisely the opposite way. He forbids exports of natural gas. He forces the Japanese to pay higher prices for iron ore to offset the effects of revaluation, only to have the Government devalue shortly afterwards. He blocks all new exports of uranium, while he dribbles out bits and pieces of policy ideas in this House in response to questions from his own back benchers- policy proposals that have not even been before his own Party or his own Cabinet.
– That is not true.
-The Minister said that he is still preparing proposals to go to Cabinet and his Party. So the honourable member does not know. It is a matter for real concern that we have the Prime Minister making pronouncements before the United Nations when those pronouncements are completely lacking in firm policy support at home. The Minister must take the earliest opportunity to present to Parliament a comprehensive and coherent minerals and energy policy statement.
Uranium is one of the world’s key strategic resources. Australia is relatively well endowed with uranium ore. There are very large resources in this country. There was a high level of exploration activity during 1972 and major discoveries in the past 3 years have meant that our claimed reserves are in excess of 300,000 tons, of which about 220,000 tons are located in 4 areas in the Northern Territory. These reserves make Australia one of the world’s major potential sources of uranium ore. The Minister has placed a ban on new exports of processed ore- that is, yellowcake. Existing contracts are to be met from the Mary Kathleen deposits in Queensland. This is a relatively small low grade deposit owned by Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd and the existing mill there is to be upgraded with Government financial support through the Atomic Energy Commission. In addition, the Minister has proposed that the existing stockpile held by the Atomic Energy Commission be used to meet some of the existing contracts.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
-Before the suspension of the sitting for lunch I was mentioning that the cream of the uranium ore is in the Northern Territory. The original plan for the companies there was to develop their deposits with separate mills and to process the ore into yellowcake for export. The largest single mill being proposed was to have a capacity of 3,000 tons with an eventual aggregate production possibly of around 8,000 to 9,000 tons. However, a total freeze has decended upon the industry. If the previous Government’s policies had been in operation we would be seeing at least one of these mills almost coming into production now, adding considerably to the economy. Meanwhile, the world energy crisis has forced up energy prices. Consequently the theoretical market value for our uranium has escalated. The Minister, of course, claims that this is a vindication of his policy of keeping the ore in the ground. Like the hoarder, he gloats and exults over the value of his buried treasure. What a negative policy. But it is more accurate to say that Australia is simply being denied the fruits of the world price boom for uranium ore.
The Minister’s intentions for uranium have never been properly spelt out. As far as I can gather, the following seems to be the situation: The Government, through the Atomic Energy Commission, is to establish a mill in the Northern Territory to process uranium ore from all sources into yellowcake. The yellowcake is eventually to be used by a 100 per cent Australianowned nuclear enrichment plant. From then on, only enriched uranium will be exported by Australia. Until then, existing contracts will be met by Mary Kathleen and the Atomic Energy Commission. This leaves open a large number of very important areas of uncertainty. Uranium developers do not know whether the Minister plans to acquire their ore compulsorily. They do not know what return they will be allowed on their capital investment. They do not know to what extent they will be allowed to realise the considerable returns to be made from uranium processing and export. The developers of the large Yeelirrie uranium deposits in Western Australia and at Lake Frome in South Australia do not know what their future is. They do not know where the proposed mill in the Northern Territory is to be located, what its capital cost will be, or what the ore transportation costs will be. We do not know the relative efficiency of such a plant, which would have to handle widely ranging grades of ores, compared with mills at the individual sites. If the mill is in operation in 2 years time- and I question thatthere is no indication as to what is to happen to the yellowcake between then and the time the enrichment plant gets into operation.
To debate the Minister’s uranium policy is to spar at shadows. A nuclear enrichment plant would cost a tremendous amount of money- at least $2,000m and possibly $3,000m. Since the Minister’s stated objective is 100 per cent Australian ownership, presumably this money is to be obtained from the Australian taxpayer, the Australian capital market or by overseas borrowings. Iran is now being asked to participate in the Petroleum and Minerals Authority to help nationalise the industry. In other words, foreign capital is asked to take over private enterprise in Australia. At the moment, the market for the products of this plant look good.
Enrichment has never been commercially tested. All plants to date have been government controlled and built mainly for military purposes. There is a great deal of uncertainty about the future market. Nobody knows what the cost of enrichment or the price of enriched products will be in the 1980s. Much depends upon the movement in energy prices. Enrichment technology is developing rapidly* under the impetus of rising fuel prices. At this stage the choice is between the well-proven diffusion and the fairly complex centrifugel method. All major nuclear countries except Japan have assured supplies of uranium until 1985. It would therefore seem at this stage that the major potential market for enriched uranium will be Japan. Unfortunately, Japan is not willing to meet Australia’s conditions for participation in an enrichment plant.
Since this question of financing and market outlet is the key one, the Minister should be telling the Parliament what assured partners are willing to provide technology, capital and markets for an Australian enrichment plant. If an enrichment plant is not a goer the future for our industry obviously lies in the export of yellowcake. An enrichment plant would be a huge venture. If the diffusion process is used, the energy input would be absolutely enormous. Vast quantities of water would be required. The potential market would be nuclear reactors. A lot of international work is being done on fast breeder reactors, which would greatly reduce the demand for enriched uranium in relation to the relatively inefficient light-water reactors in use today.
As a reasonable guess then, our large deposits of uranium will probably have a peak market period for the next 15 to 20 years, when advances in nuclear development or other energy sources, such as solar energy, or even the conversion of sea water, are unknown factors. All we do know is that we have a buoyant market for yellowcake at present and the possibility exists -it is only a possibility- of a sound market for an enrichment plant. If an enrichment plant were available in, say, 8 years time, it would have about 20 years of life. Over that period it would consume some 80,000 to 360,000 short tons of uranium ore, depending on its size. Our known reserves are about 300,000 tons. What this means is that until an enrichment proposal is fully resolved we should be careful in controlling exports. But in the meantime companies have every right to an adequate return on their investment.
A sensible means of ensuring this would be to allow a limited flow of exports of yellowcake to proceed until the enrichment proposal is resolved. Since the resolution of the enrichment proposal is so important, we should not be too rigid in insisting on 100 per cent Australian ownership. The important thing is to get moving, to make sure that the commercial prospects are sound, to line up assured partners, and to exercise adequate control. Above all, we need now a publicly announced uranium policy so that investors and customers know where we are going. Since uranium is a strategic reserve, there are grave foreign affairs implications in blockading exports of such a vital commodity. From the domestic viewpoint, we should be integrating uranium policy with a national energy policy. What are to be our requirements for uranium? How much of the products of an enrichment plant will we need ourselves? The Minister talked earlier of meeting an increased percentage of our energy demands from natural gas. What about his proposals for converting natural gas into hydrocarbon liquids? What is the future of solar energy in Australia? Is there any future for generation of power by tidal forces in northwest Australia? What are the proposals about coal conversions about which the Minister has talked so much?
Instead of a coherent policy, we have a hotchpotch of half hinted at proposals. Off the Northwest Shelf the Woodside-Burmah consortium waits and waits for a decision on its natural gas. The Minister has compulsorily acquired it but has not said what he wants to do with it. Is it to be converted to petrol? Is it to join the national pipeline grid? Is it to be exported? Is it to be converted into petrochemicals or to be used in the input in steel manufacture? What price is it to be acquired at and what would be the annual volume required? We do not know. What is to be the position in regard to coal conversion? What process would be used? Would the plant be located in the Hunter Valley, beside the Queensland coal fields or would it use the Victorian brown coal reserves. What would be the size of the plant? What volume of production would it achieve and at what cost? What proposals has the Minister for financing research into solar energy? This is one area in which Australia should have an advantage compared to many other countries. What program has the Minister for expanding our declining oil search? What is his program on farm-ins? Is he dogmatic in his statement that there be no increase in the price of oil, even for new deposits?
The point I am making is that you cannot have a uranium policy in complete isolation not only from a foreign affairs approach, but also from a national energy policy point of view. Until we do have such a comprehensive approach the minerals and energy industry languishes. The resources lie in the ground. Overseas customers wait. This Parliament and this nation demand that there be some positive and prompt answers from the Minister. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has made statements to the United Nations that Australia wants to make its contribution to mankind by providing energy and food resources to the World. Yet we have no firm policy being given by this Government. It is a ludicrous situation when the Prime Minister speaks to the world and the Minister for Minerals and Energy refuses to reveal to this Parliament, his own Caucus or his own Resources Committee, what his attitude is to uranium or any other energy resources in this country.
– That is not true.
– The honourable member for Blaxland says: ‘That is not true’. Every member of this Parliament knows that there is discontent and division within the Labor ranks because of the blundering way in which the Minister has been acting. It is time we had a positive answer.
– I am not very interested in answering melodrama. This is a specious matter of public importance in which the Opposition seeks to criticise delay which is of its own making. But it conveniently forgets that until 7 May last Judge Woodward as a royal commissioner had not delivered his report in relation to the Nabarlek uranium deposits. Do members of the Opposition suggest that we should not have waited for that report which was delivered on 7 May? There happened to be an election as well which again was precipitated by the Opposition. We in fact were ready on 29 March. We had then gazetted regulations under the Atomic Energy Act. At the very first opportunity when the Senate resumed- action was taken in that place because the Opposition would dare not do it in this House- a notice of motion was given for the disallowance of those regulations. That notice of motion was dealt with only less than a fortnight ago. Now the Opposition seeks to take advantage of its delays. Members of the Opposition have the gall to come into this House and accuse us of delays.
I have already said that we have lost 6 good months in the development of uranium. I have already said to the House this week that we did not propose to temporise any further, that we would use the residual powers which we undoubtedly have under the Atomic Energy Act, and that we will use them to the limit. The powers that we have are based on legislation introduced by the Menzies coalition Government in 1953, which with the support of the Labor Party passed the Atomic Energy Act which is still the law of the land. In the debate on that legislation the then Mr Casey said:
The purpose of the Atomic Energy Act is the establishment of an Atomic Energy Commission to control all aspects of atomic energy in Australia from the mining of uranium to the final disposal of the fissionable material. The Commission will supervise the prospecting for and the mining of ore, the concentrating of the ore, its transportation, research into methods of ore dressing and the exporting of the final product and the use of the product.
And the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) talks about policy -
– What year was that?
-It was 1953. Section 35 of the Atomic Energy Act clearly states that uranium and kindred substances on land in a territory of the Commonwealth, whether alienated from the Crown or not and, if alienated, whether alienated before or after the commencement of the Act are declared to become the property of the Commonwealth. And the property they are. The Opposition in the Senate is not prepared to accept regulations based on its own legislation. Public opinion polls reflect the public resentment of this deliberate frustration of the Australian Government.
The Atomic Energy Commission complies with my directions in relation to the performance of its functions and the exercise of its power. We have lost 6 months already through the bloodymindedness of the Senate and I do not propose to wait further. The Opposition would be well advised, if it wants policy, to consider sections 17, 18, 19, 34, 35, 36, 37, 39, 40 and 41 of the Atomic Energy Act. Section 35, of course, clearly vests title. The Leader of the Country Party should have had a look at the Act before having the impertinence to come into the House and try to tell us what the law is.
Over 70 per cent of Australia’s recoverable reserves of uranium are in the Northern Territory. The Australian Atomic Energy Commission advised me last July that in its next annual report it will show that the total reserves of uranium reasonably assured and estimated up to a price category of $15 would be 270,000 tons. We can add another 28,000 tons to that with the recent Pan Continental discoveries. The gross values of these reserves at the currently conservative valuation of $A10 per ton is $6,000m unenriched. Enriched, the amount can be five to six times that figure. Honourable members opposite should go and ask Professor Messel who would give them the details. We heard a diatribe from the Leader of the Country Party about Government delays and Government restraints in regard to uranium. But that was precisely what the former Government did and what the present Opposition would like to continue to do.
Before the Leader of the Country Party commence to speak I gave him a copy of a letter which was sent by Mr Proud of Peko-Wallsend EZ to the then Minister for National Development in which he said:
Thus there is no urgent need to bring into production new uranium sources within the next decade.
And mark this, Sir-
The cost of establishing uranium production relative to the sale value of the product is possibly the lowest of any mineral so that two matters follow:
That to develop its own uranium resources is comfortably within the capacity of Australia’s domestic capital resources.
On the other hand to overdevelop the milling side of this industry in its infancy would place undue stress on the borrowing credibility of the emergent Australian producers.
That letter is dated 21 August 1972. That is the type of thing that we inherited from the former Government. Is the Leader of the Country Party prepared to allow me to incorporate these in Hansard- yes, or no?
-Order! Is leave granted?
– The Minister can include them.
-There being no objection, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows)- 21 August 1972.
Sir Reginald Swartz,
Minister for National Development,
Canberra, A.C.T., 2600
Dear Sir Reginald,
URANIUM MARKETING AND THE CURRENT BELIEF THAT A NEED EXISTS FOR A NATIONAL URANIUM POLICY
The principles enunciated in this letter were raised in Sydney on 7 August when the Secretary of your Department and other officers together with the Secretary of the Department of the Interior were good enough to meet with potential uranium producers to discuss matters of common interest.
One such matter which particularly affects the Department of the Interior is referred to in a letter of today’s date addressed to Mr Hunt, a copy of which is attached for your information.
There are two specific matters which the industry wishes to place before you which are now stated under the respective heads of marketing policy and uranium resource policy. More particularly these are as follow-
In these circumstances, farm-ins for parts of such important resource areas as those held by Queensland Mines (4,000 square miles) and E.Z.-Peko (2,720 square miles) are being sought by a number of interests which are not panics to the world producer arrangements.
URANIUM RESOURCES POLICY
Such a policy could be considered on two levels:
The above is submitted as matters which it is believed merit serious Government consideration and in view of the splendid relationship which is emerging between Government and the uranium industry we are encouraged to believe that such consideration will be generously given.
JOHNS. PROUD Chairman of Directors. 21 August 1972
The Hon. Ralph J. Hunt, Minister for the Interior, Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600
On Monday 7th instant representatives of potential uranium producer (that is those companies who have defined economic resources) met representatives of government including Mr George Warwick Smith, Secretary to your own Department, and Mr Lloyd Bott, Secretary to the Department of National Development, who was accompanied by Mr D. J. Gates and Mr W. Ricketts.
Those representatives of industry whose mining titles are located in the Northern Territory raised amongst the matters discussed at that meeting the very serious problem which they are encountering regarding the detailed exploration of their Exploration Licences under the requirements of those licences.
The operation of the existing Northern Territory exploration licence ordinance requires that an exploration licensee may explore the entire area granted to him for a maximum period of only two dry seasons, thereafter reducing by half to a maximum retention for any part of the original area for a total of five years. The right to convert selected prospects or areas of interest to long term mineral tenure under leases or other mining tenements is very dubious under existing conditions. Application for leases in the Northern Territory uranium provinces have been held up for over eighteen months since court hearings have determined applications legal in all respects and recommended approval.
In these circumstances, farm-ins for parts of such important resource areas as those held by Queensland Mines (4,000 square miles) and E.Z.-Peko (2,720 square miles) are being sought by a number of interests which are not parties to the world producer arrangements.
Such farm-ins are considered adverse to the long term interests of the Australian community and particularly to the Australian uranium industry. In fact as far as many of these interests are concerned, these are antagonistic to the nearby interests of Australia as the discovery and exploitation by any of these interests will immediately subtract from the market otherwise available to Australia and jeopardize the large investments in the new uranium mining and milling plants being planned for both the Northern Territory and Western Australia.
A slowing down of the rate of work would also result in a more systematic approach and more effective use of exploration funds.
Mineral exploration in the South Alligator uranium province in the Northern Territory would benefit technically by a slower rate of exploration. The area is practically unique in being one of the only uranium provinces in the world in a low lying tropical area where lateritic and semi-lateritic cover is developed ubiquitously. New techniques for effective uranium exploration have to be developed and each new technique as it is applied has to be patiently tested for its effectiveness. Much more efficient exploration will result by a systematic approach to the problem of uranium exploration over an extended period.
Should existing exploration licence holders be shown to be satisfactorily exploring the areas in their possession, tenure should be reasonably continuous and in the event that they be shown not to be satisfactorily exploring their area, the areas it is then suggested should revert to the Crown for reallocation to Australian interests in accordance with policy from time to time as required.
The implementation of a policy generally in accordance with the requirements suggested above could in no way prejudice Australia’s export of uranium concentrate, as between MKU, the Northern Territory mill and the Western Australian mill there could exist capacity to export not less than 12,000 tons U3O8 per annum by 1980, which total market tonnage could not be considered available by that date.
Concurrently with this submission to you a submission is also being made to the Minister for National Development comprehending matters also raised at the same meeting and as these two problems are in some measure reciprocal we have taken the liberty of enclosing with this letter a copy of the letter forwarded to the Department of National Development, and with the letter to the Department of National Development a copy of this letter to you.
It is the belief of the uranium industry that although the rewards of this industry will not be of great significance before the end of the 1970s, that Australia will develop a very important uranium industry into the 1980s and beyond, and the little time left should we believe be used to Australia’s best advantage.
JOHNS. PROUD Chairman of Directors
– We, on taking office, assured Japan that we would honour contracts entered into right to within a couple of months of the election despite the fact that the contracts were made at excessively low prices. Demands have been made since by Queensland Mines in particular to try to panic the Japanese. We have assured them that delivery will be made, that we have the stocks to make these deliveries, and the stocks are at Lucas Heights at the present time. We can provide all commitments up to 1980 out of those stocks.
– Who is going to get the benefit?
-Order! The Leader of the Country Party has already spoken. I ask him to contain himself.
-The benefit of those stocks will come to the Australian people who own them and who will continue to own them. We are not prepared to flog off the birthright of the Australian people to suit you or your particular friends for whom you are the chief lobbyist at the present time.
– I am not ashamed of that.
-In addition to that -
-Order! I would like the Minister to address the Chair. Also, the Leader of the Country Party will cease interjecting.
– In addition to that, we will reopen Mary Kathleen mine. We have already agreed to underwrite a new share flotation. We have already taken the necessary steps. The underwriting agreement was signed the other day. There will be no increase in foreign ownership. The degree of foreign ownership will remain the same. There will be 10,700 tons of yellowcake available also. We want to see the shareholders get some cash flow and that is easily done with the price of uranium today. Beyond that, we want to make sure that we know exactly where the technology is going. Of course, it would suit the purposes of the Opposition to discredit the Government’s proposals on the eve of a visit by the Japanese Prime Minister. The Opposition has already had the discomfiture of the Shah of Iran saying that he believes in government to government trading. So do we.
– The Japanese -
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat. I do not intend to continue asking honourable members to cease interjecting. I will take the appropriate action if interjections do not cease. I ask the honourable member for Kennedy to cease interjecting. If he does not I will have him removed from the House.
– Yes, Mr Speaker.
-It is a deliberate tactic by the Opposition to waste the limited time that is available to me. Thank you for your protection, Mr Speaker. The milling plant that we propose happens to be identical with the size of that which the Ranger interests planned to introduce. There again, let me say that the Ranger people have clearly known right from the start what the policy of this Government is. The market is now right. We propose to mill uranium and mill it in sufficient quantity to see that there is a cash flow to the people who have had faith for many years in the companies in which they invested. At the same time we will, in the period whilst the major plant is being constructed, be also able to consider which technology ought to be finally introduced. There are plenty of nations which are only too anxious to come in with Australia to establish an enrichment plant. I reject utterly and completely as false and deliberately misleading the statement that was made by the Leader of the Australian Country Party. We have no intention of reserving everything for that purpose.
There must be a cash flow for people who have waited very patiently. What a remarkable return they will get. At the same time, we are sure that the people of Australia also will get a remarkable return. It certainly will not be a royalty of the order of 1 V4 per cent. It will be a proper participation and that is the basis upon which we will operate. We do not want to see 3 or 4 small milling plants in the Northern Territory which will be inefficient and which will compete with one another. We can and will establish our own undertaking. There is no authority better for that purpose in Australia than the Australian Atomic Energy Commission which operates under the charter of its own legislation.
As for the returns, I repeat what I said yesterday. Much has been said about how much it costs to mine and to find uranium. In the letter of Mr Proud it is stated quite distinctly that uranium is the cheapest of all minerals to find and to exploit. In most cases uranium can be exploited in the Northern Territory by open cut mining. An amount of $1 1m has been spent- that is all- for a gross return of $700 for every $ 1 , however it is finally cut up.
I have noted with great interest and approval a statement made on 5 September by the Honourable Donald Macdonald, the Canadian Minister for Energy, Mines and Resources. He said that within the next decade there will be a 4 to 6-fold increase in the annual demand for uranium within and outside Canada. I am equally interested in his uranium reserves policy so far as it is applicable to Australia. The Australian Government is prepared and determined to control the destiny of Australia’s wealth of uranium in the interests of the Australian people and with due consideration for explorations made to date.
The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in Tokyo last October spelled out with the utmost clarity our determination to ensure that uranium, because of its importance as the world’s most potent energy source, should be under full Australian ownership and control. The honourable member for Richmond referred to the Yeelirrie deposits. They are outside the Northern Territory and under the jurisdiction of the State of Western Australia. We have only one internal control over those deposits and that is related to defence. In relation to exports, we are determined to see that on a government to government basis, we get world parity- the going world price- which is something our predecessors in office were never capable of doing. The attempted intimidation of the Government will never have the slightest effect on me or on the Government. We are determined to see that the vagaries of the share market no longer afflict the investors in uranium companies. The Government says to the people who hold shares: ‘Hold on to them, do not let the sharpies and the shrewdies chisel you’. Those investors will get a fair and a just return.
I want to repeat also the assurance which I have given on many occasions to official representatives of Japan, West Germany and Italy in particular, that as major trading partners their needs will be met on proper terms from Australia’s abundance. It is noteworthy that the United States today has paused in its enrichment program. It has 3 gaseous diffusion plants and it plans 6 plants. It has not the uranium to fuel the additional 3 plants. The Japanese have discovered that also. We hope to speak to Australia’s best trading partner and its Prime Minister in a proper way and to give it fair and honourable treatment. We will continue to do so.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– It is always surprising to hear the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) accuse the Opposition of intimidation whenever one of its members rises to speak on a subject within his portfolio. It is quite obviously a defence mechanism that he indulges in every time he is asked to debate the policies of his Government. Every time we talk about those policies we find that there is no policy at all. What the Minister does is to give a curt answer to a question which has been given to one of his cohorts to ask as a Dorothy Dix question. We saw a perfect example of this last Thursday when the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) was a little late coming in to the House. The Minister was waiting for him to give him the question he was supposed to ask.
– That is not true.
– It is true because I saw it with my own eyes.
-Order! Interjections will cease and the honourable member for Stirling will address the Chair.
– I always watch the Minister for Minerals and Energy when he comes into the House to see to whom he is going to give his next Dorothy Dix question. This is the great objection of the Opposition to the techniques of this Minister who has under his control probably the most vital portfolio within the Government.
Energy is the life blood of any community and energy will be the life blood of Australia in years to come. We must secure now the sources of energy in order to sustain our economic growth in the future. Although nuclear energy is not part of the Australian energy scene today, it is most likely to be a significant part by the end of this century. All the Western world is finding that it must turn to nuclear energy more and more to satisfy its energy demands. The Minister spoke about Japan which is our great trading partner. Japan above all nations has been caught in the energy crisis brought about by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. It is a fact that the Japanese plan that by 1985 one-quarter of that nation’s total generating capacity will be of nuclear origin. So it is understandable that Japan should be interested in not only securing supplies of uranium but also advancing its own technology in this field. But what we have to do for Australia is to establish now our national program for development of the uranium industry and, in the future, the nuclear energy field.
I was interested to hear the Minister for Minerals and Energy quote from a policy statement by the Canadian Minister for Mines and Resources, the Honourable Donald S. Macdonald on 5 September 1974. I was privileged to be in Ottawa within a week of that statement being delivered and I was also privileged to be given an audience by Mr Macdonald. One of the key subjects which we discussed was uranium and nuclear energy. He gave me a copy of the statement that he had issued, together with his background paper on Canada’s uranium policy and also the policy statements and Press releases of the Government of Canada on uranium for the last 10 years. What a tragedy it is for Australia that we do not have a Minister who will issue a statement on the Australian Government’s policy on uranium. All that we have is about a 5-line answer to a question appearing in Hansard for those who care to read it.
The Opposition asks that this Minister does his homework and that this Government does its homework in the field of uranium and nuclear energy, and that this Minister and this Government give a prepared statement which the Opposition, the industry and the people can study. From that study they will be able to understand in what direction the Government wants to take the country. Yet we have heard nothing on policy. The industry and the people are kept in the dark. I know from my own knowledge that there have been inquiries by correspondence and verbally of the Minister asking him what the Government’s policy is in the field of uranium. He has been asked whether he will allow export of uranium and whether he will allow feasibility studies into the establishment of a uranium enrichment plant to be carried on. The Minister has been obtuse enough, if not rude enough, not even to give the courtesy of a reply to those inquiries. How can any foreign country, how can any participant in the uranium industry of other countries, how can any participant in the domestic uranium industry, carry on its business and conduct its affairs if the Minister will not even speak to it? That is at the heart of the trouble in Australia at the moment.
What we want is a policy having a number of points clearly stated and presenting clear guidelines to the industry. Those who wish to explore want to know upon what basis they can explore and, more particularly, on what basis they can produce when they discover. A basis for production by the industry needs to be established. We do not want a monopoly by the Government. If the Minister only studied what is going on in other parts of the world he would understand that countries which in the 1980s and beyond will be dependent upon nuclear energy are looking to private investment to supply them with their needs. I mention the United States of America and Canada in particular. We do not want a monopoly within this vital industry; we want a diversity of productive capacity amongst those who wish to engage in the industry. We then want the industry to earn enough from its efforts so that it can pour its earnings back into technology.
Technology is the thing of which Australia is in the most short supply. When the Minister talks of a uranium enrichment plant, I would like to know where he is to get the technology from. Technology is the most vital and precious aspect in Australia. What price is the Minister going to pay overseas countries who have the technology to give it to Australia? They will only want to trade off their technology for some benefit to themselves. I ask the Minister what the trade-off benefit to Australia will be. We have not heard from him on that point and I think it is about time that Australia did. The Minister talks of an enrichment plant involving either the gaseous diffusion process or the centrifuge process. From whom will the Minister purchase the technology to establish a gaseous diffusion enrichment plant? America almost has a monopoly on the technology at the moment. America at the present time is prepared to let private industry in on some of the secrets which up to now have been held by the Atomic Energy Commission for the very purpose of supplying the country with the enrichment plants it will require in the decade of the 1980s. What of the centrifuge process- a technology which is in its infancy and which is being jealously held by those countries which are trying to develop it? Has the Minister embarked upon any discussions with those countries which are developing that technology to see whether they will allow it to be used within
Australia? These are the sorts of answers that we need.
The fundamental point as I see it is that 1974 is the time when we must set about building the base of industry which will provide both the income and the wealth within that industry and the technology which we can use in the 1980s and beyond to the end of this century. Unless we build the base within the industry itself, we will not be able to compete in the world energy scene and, in particular, on the world nuclear energy scene because uranium enrichment will become an international industry. Australia must put itself in a position now where it can participate in that international industry when it comes about within the next 10 years. What are so often forgotten are the tremendous lead times that are involved in developing the technologies in this field and building the plants, whether they be nuclear reactors or uranium enrichment plants. Lead times of from 8 to 10 years are involved. When the Minister speaks of being in a position in 216 years time to make a choice between the gaseous diffusion and the centrifuge process, he should bear in mind that it will be another decade before we will have that enrichment plant. We on the Opposition side call for some firm policy statements now, not in 2Vi years time.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-At the outset I refute the imputation made by the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) that I asked a Dorothy Dix question of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor). I draft my own questions, thank you very much. I do not need any Minister or anyone else to draft them for me. I take to task the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) for his comments. His first proposition was that the Minister for Minerals and Energy is suspect in the Australian Labor Party, that there is disenchantment with him in the ranks of the Labor Party and that the Government’s policy on fuel and energy matters is not known to them. Firstly, I remind the right honourable gentleman that, outside the leadership of the Labor Party, the Minister for Minerals and Energy was elected to the Ministry with the highest vote in June this year. Secondly, there was a 3Vi hour debate last Wednesday night by the resources committee of the Caucus on uranium. On both counts the right honourable member is so far from the mark that it is not funny.
In the last 2 years we have heard bleatings from the Leader of the Country Party and all the other lobbyists opposite that the Government has not spelt out a policy on uranium. Today the Minister outlined some of the reasons why it has not. They are connected with the Woodward Committee. That Committee did not bring down its report until May of this year, and the Government could not act before it received the report. Then there was the gazettal of the uranium regulations under the Atomic Energy Act. The maximum time elapsed before these regulations were disallowed in the Senate. They were not disallowed within a week of their being put down because that would have been too convenient. They were disallowed towards the end of the time in which they could have been disallowed so as to foul up the Minister for the longest period possible.
Despite all this obstruction by the Opposition the Minister is proceeding under the Atomic Energy Act. The premise upon which the Leader of the Country Party bases his argument is that we should be exporting uranium and capturing what markets are available. He refuses to recognise that for 20 years the Liberal-Country Party Government of which he was a member at one part had an embargo on the export of all uranium from this country. It was not until the Australian Labor Party came into office that we had to flog off everything at any price we could get for it. In the last 1 8 months we have heard story after story on this subject. There was one in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 11 July 1974 that overseas interests in uranium stockpiles may be on the wane. That was taken from a paper delivered by one of the producers to the Australian Institute of Mining Metallurgy Conference. At the same time as we have had these persistent stories about how our uranium is going to be worthless the price of crude oil in the world has been climbing dramatically. It must be common sense to anyone that an equivalent amount of BTUs, whether it comes from uranium or any other energy resource, must be as valuable and must be inflating in price at the same rate or something near it as the price of oil is inflating. There is the additional value that uranium is able to be stored and stockpiled, which cannot be done with lots of other fuels. So the point will never arrive at which our resources are worthless.
The Minister referred to a letter which was written by Mr John Proud, the Chairman of Directors of Peko-Wallsend Ltd, to Sir Reginald Swartz in August 1 972- that is, a few months before the Labor Government came to office. I wish to labour the point on a couple of paragraphs of the letter which was written by that gentleman to illustrate the fallacy and the phoneyness of the Opposition’s approach to the subject of uranium.
– Have you spoken to him lately?
– It has a tune for all seasons, but this is the true situation. In relation to marketing policy the letter states:
The Australian Government has asked the Australian producers to come to an arrangement which will ensure orderly marketing of uranium and will maintain the price of uranium at a reasonable level during the market surplus.
I emphasise the words ‘during the market surplus ‘. The letter continues:
The six companies which presently intend to produce uranium in Australia (Peko-Wallsend, EZ Industries, Noranda Australia Limited, Queensland Mines Limited, Mary Kathleen Uranium Limited, and Western Mining Corporation Limited) are now parties to an arrangement which would meet the Government’s wishes.
The world uranium market will be in substantial oversupply until the early 1980s. It is believed that the demand/ supply situation will be in balance in the mid-1980s and that there might be a shortage of uranium towards the end of the 1980s.
The greatest danger to maintaining the world marketing arrangement while there is a market surplus is that further substantial uranium deposits may be discovered and brought into production by companies not a party to the arrangement.
In other words, messing up their little plan.
– That is 2 years old.
– Does the Leader of the Australian Country Party dispute that there is still an over-supply situation. In paragraph 8 on the subject of a uranium resources policy the letter states:
It would appear reasonable for the Government to decide that all future uranium finds in Australia -
Listen to this- should be under Australian control, i.e. at least a majority equity interest. In this connection the policy established by the Canadian Government is of particular interest.
Paragraph 1 1 of the letter reads:
The cost of establishing uranium production relative to the sale value of the product is possibly the lowest of any mineral so that 2 matters follow:
That to develop its own uranium resources is comfortably within the capacity of Australia’s domestic capital resources.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I request the honourable member to table that document.
– It has already been tabled. Why did the honourable member not come into the chamber at the start of the debate?
-As the honourable member for Blaxland is not a Minister he is not required under the Standing Orders to table the document.
-Paragraph 1 1 of the letter continues:
If that does not answer all of the criticism of the Leader of the Australian Country Parry I do not know what does. That demonstrates that what he is saying is completely untrue. Everybody in the know in the industry knows that there is an oversupply situation and that we would be foolish to sell into it. In fact the countries of the world which have been given the option of taking up their selling rights- the producers’ club- are letting their rights pass beyond them to the next producer because they are waiting to sell at the right price. That is precisely what we intend to do.
Taking up the point made in the letter, the Minister has said that the Australian Government will set up its own mill to refine uranium with a throughput to meet the demands at the time. He mentioned the figure of 3,500 tons. That figure may vary. The point is that the uranium producers are going to be treated fairly. The contracts which the Liberal-Country Party Government criminally signed 3 weeks before the election, at which it lost office, which had to be a graft situation of one sort or another, were for $5 -
-Order! I think the honourable member for Blaxland is getting pretty close to the knuckle.
-I do not care what you think, Mr Deputy Speaker; I am going to say it. The contracts were signed for $5.25 per lb. The price is now $12. The projections available to most of the industry indicated that it would be $12, but the previous Liberal-Country Party Government signed those contracts just before that election. Those contracts are going to be met to the letter because the Australian Government has ratified them and the decisions of one Australian government have to be upheld by the next Australian government. Our contracts have to be honoured and they will be honoured from the existing stockpiles that are available to the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and that will be available from the production flowing from the re-opening of the Mary Kathleen uranium mine. The Government has decided to underwrite the cost entailed in that re-opening, which will bring 1,050 tons into production per annum and which will supply those contracts until 1980. Three years after its re-opening the new plant will be able to produce from 3,500 tons upwards for a uranium market which at that time will look something like the world price to supply reactors and producers who require fuel at the end of the fabrication of their plants into the early and mid-1980s. The price will be something like an acceptable price. There will not be a selling into an over-supply market. That is our policy. The Opposition knows fundamentally what is our policy. It has been a wait and see policy. But there has had to be a wait and see attitude in the sense that we could not act before the Woodward report came in. When the Woodward report came in the Opposition had its stooges in the Senate reject the Minister’s regulations, but he has adequate other powers under the Atomic Energy Act and there is no way in which the Opposition will be able to frustrate the Government’s will to introduce what is a correct policy for Australia. It is a valuable energy resource.
There has been idle chatter about fast breeder reactors, which are a thing of the future and which are nothing like as developed as the enrichment plants we are talking about. As a major part of his argument the Leader of the Australian Country Party is saying that the value of our resources will be depleted because they will become redundant due to the introduction of fast breeder reactors. Even if they were to be introduced as soon as they came off the production line they would not be introduced in sufficient quantity before the year 2020. So we have another 40 years of production, another 40 years of power to be supplied by conventionally enriched reactors. There is no reason why the price of uranium will not keep escalating and there is no reason why this Government will not allow a maximum return to the people of Australia and the uranium producers of Australia.
-Order! The time for the discussion has now concluded.
Bill presented by Mr Hayden, and read a first time.
– I move:
The Aged Persons Hostels Act came into being on 29 September 1972, its purpose being to stimulate the building of additional hostel accommodation for needy aged persons. This legislation is complementary to the Aged Persons Homes Act, and eligible organisations will receive entitlements on the basis of 2 beds for every unsubsidised bed they currently operate, or one bed for every 2 beds subsidised in the first few years of the Aged Persons Homes Act on a $l-for-$l basis.
The intention of the Aged Persons Hostels Act was that religious, charitable and other voluntary organisations having an entitlement under the formula I have just mentioned would be able to use their entitlement to erect hostels without having to make any contribution to their capital cost. The amount of the grant was specified in the Act as $7,800 per person accommodated plus $250 per person for furnishings. The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the Government’s announcement in March 1974, and referred to on a number of occasions since then, that the capital grant payable under the Aged Persons Hostels Act would be increased from $7,800 to $9,000 per person accommodated in a hostel approved under this Act, retrospective to 1 April 1 974.
As most honourable members are aware, increases in maximum subsidy limits can be made administratively under the Aged Persons Homes Act but hitherto this has not been possible under the Aged Persons Hostels Act as the maximum amounts which can be approved in respect of capital expenditure and furnishings are stated in this legislation in specific terms. In order to allow a greater degree of flexibility and to enable changes in the amount of grants to be made more readily in the light of changing costs, it is proposed that the specific amounts detailed be deleted from the Act and provision made for the maximum amount of the grants to be determined by the Minister for Social Security in future. I might add that this problem does not arise in respect of the Aged Persons Homes Act as the latter does not specify maximum amounts of subsidy.
The Government’s intention was to introduce this legislation at a much earlier point in time but it has been delayed by the double dissolution and other very important matters which had to be dealt with during the limited time that the House has been in session since then. The delay of some 6 months in presenting this legislation to Parliament and the rapidly escalating building costs in that time have resulted in some organisations that commenced projects in good faith being now faced with financial problems in meeting their commitments. Many others have deferred action on building urgently needed hostels. The level of construction costs has undoubtedly been a restraint on the development of this program recently. Most honourable members will be aware of the need for more hostel accommodation for the aged and particularly for hostels in which personal care services can be provided for those who have become frail but who do not need nursing attention. Unfortunately lack of suitable hostel accommodation in the past has resulted in the less acceptable and more expensive nursing beds being utilised for such persons.
Honourable members will be interested to know that with the concurrence of the Treasurer (Mr Crean), a working party of officers of the Departments of Social Security and Treasury has been looking into questions associated with the maximum subsidy limits such as methods of cushioning the increased building costs of projects approved prior to and since 1 April 1974 and the feasibility of introducing zone loadings in respect of projects in country areas. It is known that many organisations with entitlements under the Aged Person Hostels Act do not propose to use them. The reasons are varied but mainly are that they are fully extended in administering the accommodation they have already provided or they may have a small entitlement which would be inadequate to enable them to provide a hostel of a size that would be an economic proposition, or they may feel that they have not the necessary expertise to enter this field of care of the aged. In order that these entitlements will not be wasted and to add further stimulus to the legislation, the Bill introduces a provision which will enable an organisation which does not intend to take advantage of its rights to transfer them in whole or in pan to another eligible organisation, subject to the approval of the Director-General of Social Security. The measures in this Bill should enable this 3-year program to more readily achieve its object of encouraging the quick provision of accommodation of the aged of the type most needed. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Adermann) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Hayden, and read a first time.
– I move:
The Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Crean) contained a great many items concerned with this country’s welfare services. Several of these are concerned with care of the aged and include an increase in the rate of subsidy payable under the Aged Persons Homes Act from $2 for $ 1 to $4 for $ 1 as from 1 January 1 975, and also for a 25 per cent increase in the rate of personal care subsidy paid in respect of aged residents in hostel-type accommodation.
The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to one of the items mentioned in the Budget Speech, namely, to increase the rate of subsidy payable under the Delivered Meals Subsidy Act by 5c per meal- that is, from 20c to 25c for each meal delivered or 30c if the meal includes an approved Vitamin C supplement. This represents an increase of 25 per cent on the basic rate. One of the most traumatic effects of growing old is for people to find that with increasing frailty they can no longer maintain their independent way of life in the dignity of their own homes. From social, humanitarian and economic viewpoints it is obviously preferable for aged people to remain in their own homes rather than build institutionalised accommodation to house them. This means, of course, that attention has to be given to the provision of a range of domiciliary services upon which the aged person may depend according to his or her particular requirements. As honourable members will know, the Government meets two-thirds of the State’s expenses in providing home care services for the aged under the States Grants (Home Care) Act. These may include housekeeping, shopping, sitter, linen, and handyman services. I might add here that whilst many very good services have been developed in some States, the Australian Government is far from satisfied with their rate of growth. I hope soon to examine ways and means by which a greater coverage of these services can be obtained.
As a complement to home care schemes, meals-on-wheels services play an important role in caring for the aged by delivering nutritious meals to the homes of frail elderly persons. The main burden of the work in preparing and delivering meals-on-wheels is undertaken by voluntary helpers who give their time and the use of their vehicles to maintain this service for elderly people who for varying reasons cannot prepare their own meals. I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the Australian Government to thank all the volunteers throughout Australia for their continuing assistance in supporting this worthwhile service. To fully appreciate the value of a meals-on-wheels service it is necessary to recognise all the functions involved. Primarily from a purely medical point of view the aged person is supplied with a hot appetising meal which will contain most of the nutrients required for a minimal daily intake. This alone could be the factor which permits the aged person to continue to live in his or her own home. Other allied services which may be made available to the recipients could include shopping, letterwriting and referral of other facilities available through other organisations. But in many cases the social contact with the meals-on-wheels volunteer is equally welcomed by the aged recipient.
Not that the nutritional aspect has been overlooked, for this is a matter which has been of considerable concern to both the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) and myself. In order to ensure that both the meals-on-wheels organisations and the aged persons are aware of the nutritional aspects, the nutrition section of the Department of Health has produced 2 publications. One is entitled ‘Welcome to Meals-on- Wheels’ and explains to the aged persons what other items of food they should consume each day to supplement the delivered meal. This publication has been distributed by the Department of Social Security. The second publication is a rather more comprehensive document entitled ‘MealsonWheels Food Guide’ which is designed to provide meals-on-wheels organisers with a valuable guide to planning highly nutritious meals. It is expected that this publication will be distributed by my Department later this year. I ought to acknowledge the contribution made by my colleague the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) in this field when he was the Minister for Social Services.
The Bill provides that the increased rate of subsidy will be payable in respect of all meals delivered on and after 1 July 1974. It is estimated that meals-on-wheels services will deliver more than 5 million meals during 1974-75. On that figure the annual cost of this measure will be $250,000. Mr Speaker, I am confident that all honourable members will support the increase in subsidy provided in this legislation. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Adermann) adjourned.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do indeed, by no less a gentleman than the right honourable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) who maintained his capacity for inaccuracy. Yesterday in this House- I refer to page 1992 of the Hansard record- the right honourable gentleman said:
I refer now to Huon in the electorate of Franklin. The honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) has not bothered to come into the House for this debate.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I claim to have been grossly misrepresented because the record will clearly show that I was, in fact, in this House for that particular debate.
Bill presented by Mr Hayden, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill seeks the approval of Parliament to the provision of contractual guarantees by the Australian Government for overseas borrowings by the Papua New Guinea Government in foreign currencies not exceeding the equivalent of $20m prior to achievement of independence in 1974-75. The proceeds of the loans will be used by the Papua New Guinea Government to finance public works and services. In the 1 972-73 financial year the Papua New Guinea Government made its first overseas borrowing on the international capital market. This borrowing, which was guaranteed by the Australian Government under legislation similar to that now before the House, was for an amount of 50 million Deutsche marks. Under the Papua New Guinea Loans Guarantee Act 1973 guarantees for loans of 5 billion yen and 50 million Swiss francs have also been given. Parliament has also, on a number of previous occasions, approved similar contractual guarantees by the Australian Government in respect of loans to Papua New Guinea from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Asian Development Bank.
It is proposed that arrangements for the borrowings for which this Bill provides contractual guarantees will be concluded prior to the achievement of independence by Papua New Guinea. Loan possibilities on overseas markets are currently being investigated by the Papua New Guinea Government. The form of guarantee that is customarily required in international capital markets is similar to those that have been given to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and to the Asian Development Bank in respect of borrowings by Papua New Guinea from those institutions. The borrower and the guarantor would also both be required to give customary undertakings to the effect that interest payments and repayment of the loan would be made without deduction for taxes and would also be free of exchange control restrictions. The Bill accordingly provides for such undertakings to be given.
The Bill is purposely couched in general terms in respect of the currencies and the precise forms of the proposed borrowings so as not to restrict the Papua New Guinea Government’s choice as to the particular overseas markets in which it finally decides to arrange the loans. The provision of contractual guarantees by the Australian Government will materially assist Papua New Guinea in negotiating favourable terms for the borrowings as well as enhancing its status as a borrower on overseas capital markets. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Adermann) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Hayden, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise the payment of capital grants to the States in 1974-75 totalling $326,618,000. This amount represents the grant component of the State governments’ Loan Council programs for 1974-75 and is equal to 32.1 per cent of the total programs (excluding the temporary allocation of $9,919,000 for Queensland for flood restoration purposes)- the same percentage share as in 1973-74. The Bill also provides for the payment of capital grants in the first 6 months of 1975-76 up to an amount equal to one-half of the 1974-75 amount pending passage of similar legislation in that year. Payments authorised under this Bill may be made from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or from the Loan Fund, and appropriate borrowing authority is included.
Following arrangements settled at the June 1970 Premiers’ Conference, the Australian Government undertook to provide, on a continuing basis, a portion of the State Governments’ Loan Council programs in the form of interestfree grants in lieu of what would otherwise be borrowings by the States, in order to help the States finance capital works, such as schools, police buildings and the like, from which debt charges are not normally recovered. The savings to the States in debt charges arising from the capital grants are estimated to have totalled $74.8m to the end of 1973-74, and to amount to $59.7m in 1974-75.
At its meeting in June 1 974, the Loan Council approved programs for the State governments totalling $934,919,000, consisting of a basic program of $92 5m and a temporary borrowing allocation of $9,919,000 for Queensland to finance the additional cost of restoring flood-damage assets to above their pre-flood standard and to cover the cost of re-siting and constructing new assets to replace old assets destroyed or abandoned because of flood damage. In September 1974 the Australian Government proposed and the State governments agreed that the basic program should be increased, by 10 per cent, to $1,017,500,000. This increase is to be formally approved at a subsequent meeting of the Loan Council.
The basic program for 1974-75 takes into account estimated capital expenditures of which the States would be relieved in that year as a result of the Australian Government’s assumption of full responsibility for financing tertiary education from 1 January 1974. The reduction for 1974-75 agreed at the June 1973 Premiers’ Conference-Loan Council meeting is $65. 4m. These arrangements complicate comparisons between 1973-74 and 1974-75 but when adjustments are made to take these differences into account the 1974-75 basic program for each State is 20 per cent greater than the 1 973-74 program. The basic program of $1,017,500,000 is made up of borrowings totalling $690,882,000 and capital grants to be provided by the Australian Government of $326,6 1 8,000.
At its June 1974 meeting the Loan Council also approved an increase of $70m, or 12.4 per cent, to $636,084,000 in the borrowing programs for State authorities classified as ‘larger’ authorities for this purpose. In 1973-74 these were semigovernment and local authorities whose individual borrowings for the year exceeded $400,000. For 1974-75 the Loan Council agreed to increase this amount to $500,000. There is no overall limit on borrowings of authorities whose individual borrowings amount to $500,000 or less. The ‘larger’ authorities program includes a permanent addition of $ 10m to the New South Wales allocation and temporary allocations of $9,584,000 for Queensland for restoration of flood-damaged assets to above their pre-flood standard and $6m for Western Australia under arrangements made between the Australian and
Western Australian Governments. Overall, the funds available to the States and their authorities in 1 974-75 for capital purposes from Loan Council borrowing programs, Australian Government general purpose and specific purpose payments and from estimated borrowings by ‘smaller’ authorities are estimated to amount to over $3, 390m or about one-third more than in 1973- 74. Of this amount, the Australian Government will provide or support more than $2,579m or over 40 per cent more than in 1973-74. Further details concerning the Loan Council programs of the States and their authorities for 1974- 75 may be found in Chapter III of the Budget document ‘Payments to or for the States and Local Government Authorities 1 974-75 ‘.
Turning to the details of the Bill, clause 3 authorises the payment of grants to the States totalling $326,618,000 in 1974-75 and clause 4 authorises the Treasurer to make advance payments in the first 6 months of 1975-76 at the same annual rate as in the current financial year. The amounts for each State are set out in the Schedule to the Bill. Under clause 5 of the Bill payments may be made either from Consolidated Revenue Fund or Loan Fund and clause 9 provides for the necessary appropriation of these funds. The extent to which the payments will be met from Loan Fund will depend on borrowings during the year, which cannot be estimated in advance. Clauses 6 and 7 of the Bill authorise the Treasurer to borrow funds in the period from the commencement of the Act to the end of December 1975, up to the total of the amounts of the grants payable in 1974-75 and in the first 6 months of 1975-76. This borrowing authority will be reduced by the amount of any borrowings made before the commencement of this Act, under the authority of the States Grants (Capital Assistance) Act 1973, which may have been used to finance grants made in the first 6 months of 1974-75. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Adermann) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Hayden, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill will give effect to the Budget proposal to increase the rate of pay-roll tax in the Australian
Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. The present rate of 4½ per cent will be increased to 5 per cent from 1 December 1974. Since the transfer of the tax to the States in September 1971 pay-roll tax has been payable in respect of salaries and wages related to the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory under legislation applying only in the Territories. Since 1 July 1974 the Territory rate has been 4½ per cent, the same rate as levied by the States from 1 September 1973. Following the Premiers Conference last June the Premiers foreshadowed an increase to 5 per cent in the rate of pay-roll tax in the States. Legislation to bring the rate up to that level as from 1 September 1974 has already been introduced into some State parliaments. There is no good reason why Territory employers should not be called upon to meet taxes and charges comparable with those borne by employers in the States. Accordingly, this Bill will bring the Territory rate into line with the rate applying in the States. The increase to 5 per cent will apply first to wages payable on and after 1 December 1974 and included in pay-roll tax returns due for lodgment on 7 January 1975. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Adermann) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Charles Jones, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill seeks the ratification by the Parliament of an agreement made between the Australian and South Australian governments for the construction of a standard gauge railway linking Adelaide to the transcontinental line at Crystal Brook. Honourable members will realise that the new railway will complete the linking of the mainland State capital cities to the national standard gauge network which has been a policy accepted by both sides in the Parliament.
This project had its origins in the Standardisation Agreement of 1949 in which the Australian Government agreed to convert to standard gauge the entire South Australian railway system. Following commencement of the Port Pirie-Broken Hill standardisation project the Premier of South Australia in 1964 sought provision of a standard gauge connection from this line to Adelaide. In 1965 the State proposed an alternative scheme involving substantial standardisation of lightly trafficked country lines. Following lengthy discussions with the State it was finally agreed to employ consultants to study and report on the most efficient, economic means of providing a standard gauge link to the interstate network. Maunsell and Partners were appointed consultants and a report outlining the intended scope of the project was presented in March 1970. Following a change of government in South Australia the earlier proposals were again raised and it was not until January 1974 that the consultants were able to submit their master plan for the works to be carried out. Some other minor matters were raised by the State and finally the formal agreement was signed in May by both the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and Premier of South Australia.
The new standard gauge line involves construction of a high capacity railway from Adelaide approximately 192 kilometres to link with the transcontinental standard gauge line at Crystal Brook. The route will follow the general line of the existing broad gauge railway from Adelaide to Red Hill and then deviate on a new alignment to Crystal Brook. Included in the project are standard gauge connections from Snowtown to Wallaroo, to industry at Mile End and Port Adelaide and the livestock sidings at Pooraka. The work entailed is to be carried out by the South Australian Railways as constructing authority under the supervision of my Department and is expected to take over 5 years to complete although standard gauge trains should be able to operate to the Adelaide metropolitan area within approximately 3 years of commencement. The consultants estimated the total cost of the project to be about $81m at January 1974 prices. In common with other standardisation projects which were previously undertaken, the Australian Government is committed to meeting the total initial cost of the project; 70 per cent of the total expenditure will be treated as a nonrepayable grant and the State will repay the remaining 30 per cent of the expenditure plus interest over 50 years.
I have already mentioned that this project will result in the linking of the last remaining mainland State capital city to the national standard gauge system and I am sure honourable members will recognise the benefits which will accrue nationally from increased efficiency and lower costs resulting from the contruction of this railway. In addition it may be expected that South Australia will benefit substantially from the improved access to markets on both the eastern and western seaboards. I mentioned in dealing with the Tarcoola-Alice Springs railway the benefits for the people of the Northern Territory in a uniform gauge railway from Adelaide to Alice Springs. A further point which should not be overlooked will be the added convenience for passengers with the introduction of through running to Adelaide and the elimination of the necessity to change trains for journeys on the Indian Pacific route or to Alice Springs. I am sure this project will have unanimous support. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Adermann) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Charles Jones, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill seeks the ratification by the Parliament of an agreement made between the Australian and South Australian Governments for the construction of a standard gauge railway from Tarcoola on the Trans-Australia Railway, to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. Honourable members will recall from previous statements I have made in the House that agreements had been reached in April with the South Australian Government for the comstruction of the railway.
The construction of a line from Tarcoola to Alice Springs was an option open to the Australian Government in the Railways (South Australian) Agreement Act of 1926, but instead the present narrow gauge line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs was constructed. The possibility of constructing a standard gauge line from Tarcoola was not again considered until 1 966 when the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner took the initiative and examined the advantages of a completely new route. I emphasise that it was the Commissioner who took the initiative and not the then Liberal-Country Party Government. In 1967 he made his report examining 3 alternative proposals but coming out strongly in favour of the new route which is now proposed. At that time the Commissioner was concerned at the very high cost of maintaining the existing narrow gauge railway, the continued disruptions to the service and he was no doubt also influenced by serious flood damage which occurred in 1966. The House will remember that the worst flooding in Central Australia in living memory occurred this year and that services on the Central Australian Railway were virtually suspended for 3 months, with serious consequences for the people of Alice Springs and the Northern Territory.
In 1968, the then Government decided to investigate the relative merits of an improved road link as against an improved rail link. The resulting study led to the conclusion that the economically preferred course was to go ahead with the standard gauge railway, but that a fully sealed road to Alice Springs was also justified. In July 1970 approval in principle to construct the line was given and negotiations to obtain the consent of the South Australian Government for the construction of that part of the line within the State were begun. These negotiations proved to be protracted and it was not until earlier this year that I was able to finally resolve the numerous difficulties raised by South Australia. The Agreement, which is a schedule to this Bill, was then signed by the Premier and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). The State Government has agreed to introduce enabling legislation as soon as possible.
The new route, approximately 830 kilometres in length from Tarcoola, has been carefully chosen to avoid areas subject to flooding and indeed some minor changes have been made as a result of the exceptional 1974 conditions. Honourable members may appreciate that the construction of the proposed line will be a project of world stature. Commonwealth Railways will be the constructing authority. An amount of $ 145m has been provided in the Bill as the maximum allowed by the legislation and includes provision for minor design changes and some increases in costs that may occur over the duration of the project. It is expected that construction of the line will take about 5 years to complete, however, it is likely that goods will be transferred to road transport at the railhead after 3 years or so. The diversion of some traffic to the new line will relieve the pressure on the narrow gauge section of the present line and improve the service to the Northern Territory at the earliest possible time.
In addition to the benefits of a high capacity line and freedom from interruptions to the service by floods provided for the Northern Territory by this line, further advantage will come from the construction of the standard gauge link from Adelaide to Crystal Brook which is the subject of separate legislation. This latter line will be constructed at about the same time and will allow the through running of standard gauge trains from Adelaide to Alice Springs. This will eliminate the delays in transit at present caused by the transfer of goods to standard gauge at Port Pirie and then to narrow gauge at Marree. The people of the Territory can look forward to a substantial improvement in the service provided by their railways. I am sure the Bill will receive the support of honourable members on both sides. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Adermann) adjourned.
Bill presented by Dr Cass, and read a first time.
– I move:
Honourable members will be aware of worldwide concern for the conservation of wildlife and of places of natural, scenic, scientific and recreational significance. The environment produced by the billions of years of evolution which has resulted in man in his present state, is being drastically altered in a few decades by man himself. Everywhere the natural systems which evolved with man and of which he is part are under threat. We must make a strong stand in determining that this generation of man will ensure that evolution itself will proceed as much as possible without deliberate or unthinking intervention by man. Over 100 nations have taken action for the permanent reservation of natural areas to represent the range of landscapes and ecosystems within their boundaries, and to protect thenunique wildlife resources. They have assembled professional staff to ensure the effective planning and management needed to consolidate legislation and area reservation.
Despite the excellent initiatives taken in some States, our record in Australia has not been good. Since the arrival of the white man some 5 species of marsupial and several species of bird have been wiped out. Many other species have been endangered. The area of our vast continent dedicated as parks and reserves is far from sufficient. Both the House of Representatives Select Committee on Wildlife Conservation and the Committee of Inquiry into the National Estate have underlined the pressing need for action at various levels to rectify deficiencies in the system in this country. This Government is taking action which accords with the sentiments of those reports. The Bill proposes the establishment of a professional service to enable the Australian Government, for the first time, to bring a coordinated approach to the management of nature conservation resources in the areas under its direct control. The Bill is the product of 18 months of careful work and thought and is a major initiative aimed at overcoming the inactivity of the past. I will also soon be introducing a Bill to make finance available to the States for nature conservation purposes and a Bill creating a Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. An amount of $9m has been provided for national parks and nature reserves in this year’s Budget. The Council of Nature Conservation Ministers set up on this Government’s initiative will, I hope, help in the development of a national approach to the conservation of our unique fauna and flora. The National Parks and Wildlife Service will also facilitate co-operation with the States in the national nature conservation effort, and the meeting of Australia’s obligations under the increasing number of international agreements for the conservation of wildlife to which this Government has become a signatory. Its functions will include education of park rangers and the provision of assistance to other countries in nature conservation matters.
The Bill makes special provision for agreements with Aboriginal people for the operative conservation management of their land and its wildlife resources. In land vested in the Service, regulations will be made where necessary to meet the special needs of the Aboriginal people while ensuring that overall wildlife conservation objectives are met. In all cases, there will be consultation with the Aboriginal people and proper consideration of their traditions and culture which have so much to contribute to the heritage of this nation. The Government has dealt positively with the question of minerals in national parks. Where minerals occur in a park or reserve, no operations for their recovery may take place except in accordance with a plan of management approved by both Houses of the Parliament. We believe that Parliament itself should make the vital decision on whether operations for the recovery of minerals should take place in a park or reserve and then only in the genuine interests of the nation. Under the Bill, the Service will be able to manage parks for a variety of purposes in addition to nature conservation, such as tourism, recreation, and for scientific investigation.
With the passage of this legislation the Government will move quickly for the proclamation of a number of outstanding areas. Foremost is the proposed Kakadu National Park, in the Northern Territory, which the then Minister for the Interior in July 1970 referred to in the following terms: . . . the area’s ingredients of scenic grandeur, interesting and unique flora and fauna and cultural and historical elements, if blended and managed successfully, could produce a great park for public interest and enjoyment as well as making a major contribution to conservation.
We agree with this assessment and will be proud to proclaim this long-promised, world class, national park. We will also proclaim Gudgenby National Park in the Australian Capital Territory, promised but not established by a former Government.
In commending this Bill to honourable members, I would like to stress that it is high time that this Parliament enacted legislation on behalf of all Australians to permit the Australian Government to play its proper part in the conservation of our national heritage, which indeed is part of a world heritage becoming increasingly precious to mankind. I regard this Bill as a significant part of this Government’s response to the growing awareness of our fragile world. It exemplifies our willing acceptance of the obligation to set the example required of a national Government.
In conclusion I would like to say that this action accords with the sentiments of the Australian Labor Party platform where it is recognised that ‘man lives within and depends upon a complex natural system which must be protected and managed as a whole’. The platform further states:
The advance of agricultural pursuits and the expansion of cities and their industries have been the cause of much of the natural habitat of Australia’s native flora and fauna being severely reduced and in some cases lost completely. Our natural heritage should be fostered and our natural landscapes protected for the sake of social, cultural, educational and scientific purposes as well as for Australia ‘s future tourist potential.
To achieve this protection the Australian Labor Party in its platform has pledged to ‘conserve for future generations adequate samples of Australia’s unique flora and fauna by the development of a comprehensive system of national parks, nature and recreation reserves’. This Bill is a vital step and will be complemented by further legislation. This will deal with important aspects of environmental concern, in addition to nature conservation, aimed at halting man’s unthinking degradation of the total environment, the genesis of life on this planet.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hunt) adjourned.
Consideration of Senate’s amendments.
A person shall not refuse or fail-
A person shall not present to an officer doing duty in relation to this Act or the regulations an account, book, document or other record, or make to such an officer a statement, that is false or misleading in a material particular.
Senate ‘s amendment No. 1 -
Leave out clause 12.
Senate’s amendment No. 2-
In clause 13, leave out paragraph(b).
Senate’s amendment No. 3-
In clause 14, after ‘statement’, insert ‘(whether in answer to a question or otherwise) ‘.
– I move:
That the amendments be agreed to.
These amendments to the Bill were proposed in the Senate by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Murphy) on behalf of the Government. The effect of the first 2 amendments is to remove from the Bill clause 12 (lines 30 to 36) and paragraph (b) of clause 13 (line 39) which gave to authorised officers power to examine persons on oath or affirmation and imposed a penalty for failing or refusing to be sworn or to make an affirmation. The Government proposed these amendments because it considers it to be improper and unnecessary for legislation to give powers of this kind to officers unless there are special circumstances making this necessary.
Clause 1 1 of the Bill gives authorised officers powers to require answers to questions and to require documents etc., to be produced. These powers are considered to be so adequate for the administrative tax collection purposes of this Bill as to render unnecessary the additional power to examine on oath or affirmation. The third amendment, clause 14 (line 3), is a drafting amendment which seeks to make it clear that a false or misleading statement made to an officer includes a statement made in answer to a question from an officer. I commend the amendments.
-The Opposition does not oppose the amendments. I have read the report of the debate in the other place yesterday and also the explanation given by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Murphy). The Opposition does not oppose the amendments.
Amendments agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 1 October (vide page 1972), on motion by Mr Stewart:
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 Commonwealth Banks Bill as they are related measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on the 2 measures 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 debate covering both measures? There being no objection, I shall allow that course to be followed.
-The Australian Tourist Commission Bill and the Commonwealth Banks Bill seek authority for the Commonwealth Development Bank to provide finance for the establishment or the development of undertakings involved in the tourist industry and to widen the operations of the Australian Tourist Commission so as to include the promotion of domestic tourism. The Commonwealth Banks Bill 1974 proposes that enterprises providing tourist accommodation, transportation and promotion facilities will be. eligible for assistance by the Commonwealth Development Bank with particular consideration given to small undertakings. The Australian Tourist Commission Bill 1974 proposes that the existing Act be amended to broaden the powers of the Commission beyond its present jurisdiction of encouraging visits from overseas tourists to include the promotion of travel by Australians in their own country.
The Opposition Parties, of course, support both Bills. They are positive and constructive proposals designed to assist an Australian industry which contributes significantly to the quality of life in this country. However, the House will recall that the proposal to expand the role of the Commonwealth Development Bank into tourism was first outlined in the Liberal-Country Party’s 1972 policy speech. The Opposition Parties are very much aware of the significant contribution which this industry makes directly to the Australian economy. We made, our position clear during the debate on the earlier legislation on 3 April and it is not my intention to repeat here in detail what I said on behalf ‘ of the Opposition Parties on that occasion.
Nevertheless, since the passage of that legislation through the House on 3 April a number of disturbing features have emerged in the Australian tourist industry which require comment in the context of this legislation. The Australian National Travel Association has sought a full scale inquiry by the Industries Assistance Commission into the tourist industry. The Association has pointed out that the hotel and motel industry’s average return on shareholders’ funds decreased from 6.9 per cent in 1970 to 1.8 per cent in 1973. Statistics provided by the Association demonstrated that the industry ranks last of all Australian industries in terms of profitability. This, of course, must be reflected here as an issue of very great concern. The rapid decline in industry profitability must be considered in the light of a travel gap the value of which has increased from $52m in 1968 to $220m in 1973. Even with the very substantial cost pressures which are now prevalent throughout the industry, there is no evidence that the present Government has yet adopted an effective national tourism policy.
The report prepared this year by the Department of Tourism and Recreation devotes some 8 pages to tourism in a total of around 52 pages. I regret, in the light of that observation, that the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart), who is in charge of the tourist industry so far as the activities of the Federal
Government are concerned, is not in the chamber.
– He is temporarily at an Executive Council meeting.
-The Leader of the House mentions that the Minister is at present at an Executive Council meeting. I would have thought that the business could have been so arranged between the Minister and the Leader of the House, seeking of course the best result in this Parliament for a total examination of the tourist industry, that the Minister would have been present for this debate.
– I am very receptive.
– If the Minister is very receptive I wonder whether in that sense I could ask him, through the Chair of course, a specific question because it so happens that I have a copy of the minutes of the proceedings of a Caucus meeting held on Tuesday, 29 September, headed ‘Urban and Regional Development Caucus Committee’. This is Caucus committee No. 5. Page 2 of the minutes tells me of a presentation which the Minister for Tourism and Recreation made to that Committee on the subject of the Travel Agents Bill. The Minister for Services and Property, with his usual indulgence and sense of democracy and open government might tell me whether he is prepared to have the minutes of this meeting incorporated in the Hansard record.
– I will ask the Minister when he gets here whether he would not mind this being done. I have not seen the document to which the honourable member refers. I am not a member of the Committee. I have a few interesting documents of the honourable member’s in respect of which I hope he will extend the same consideration to me later.
-I will say to the Minister at the table that if he stops telling lies about me I will agree not to tell the whole truth about him and on that basis I know who will be the more embarrassed of the two. The Minister for Tourism and Recreation, according to the minutes of the Caucus committee, is understood to be bringing forward a matter for discussion with the committee. It is called the Travel Agents Bill. I regret that this is one of the few initiatives that the Minister has under consideration at present.
I referred earlier to the report prepared by the Department of Tourism and Recreation and took the point that the report devoted only 8 pages to tourism out of a total of around 50 pages. I think that in a sense dispels the level of appreciation that this Government has towards the contribution of the tourist industry throughout Australia. Sixty-two per cent of the appropriation made for the Department of Tourism and Recreation was in fact expended. Disregarding the payments made directly to the Australian Tourist Commission, some 1 3 per cent of the Department ‘s outlays can be attributed directly to administrative expenses. Including funds provided to the Australian Tourist Commission, only about two-thirds of the Department’s outlays were directed generally towards the tourist industry. This, of course, is again a subject of very great concern. It is clear that the minimal assistance provided by the Government has done and will do nothing to reverse the serious decline in the Australian tourist industry. This is particularly serious in a time of excessive unemployment. Unemployment is now substantially higher than the level reached during 1 972.
The travel industry is a significant employer of labour throughout the country. It employs directly at least 10 per cent of the Australian work force, primarily in transportation and accommodation. In particular it provides employment for women. Around 60 per cent of employees in hotels and restaurants are women compared with the approximately one-third female component of the work force as a whole. The tourist industry again has suffered directly from the credit squeeze and the wide range of other Government decisions which have caused so major a slow down in business activity throughout the private sector. The tourist industry has not been able to secure essential funds to enable it to maintain working capital ratios because of the combined effects of the credit squeeze and inflation.
The Minister for Tourism and Recreation would be well aware of the financial difficulties now facing the tourist industry. He would be equally aware that at this stage no Government policies have been brought to bear in order to prevent a further serious decline in the fortunes of the tourist industry and therefore directly in the capacity of the Australian economy to take up the increasing number of persons unemployed not simply throughout the tourist industry, which as I have mentioned before is a significant employer of labour, but throughout the country. I am delighted to see that the Minister is now at the table. Perhaps he has heard of the Caucus minutes that I mentioned before.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, -
– Is the Minister taking a point of order!
– I am taking a point of order. I have just returned from an Executive Council meeting. I would like the honourable member to withdraw and apologise.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member made a statement in which there was nothing unparliamentary or such as to require an apology.
– I really cannot understand why the Minister should be so much on the defensive. If he has been involved in the compelling business of this nation elsewhere, that I understand, although I regret that he was not here during the early part of the debate. But so that the Minister can have a full comprehension of some of the basic points I was making during the course of the debate, let me again reflect on the fact that the Caucus minutes of 29 September show that the Minister put forward a draft of the Travel Agents Bill. He is understood to have taken that matter to Caucus. I invite the Minister to tell me whether he is prepared to have that document tabled in the Parliament.
– There is no such thing at the moment.
– What do you mean, there is no such thing?
– There is no Travel Agents Bill.
-Order! Might I suggest that private discussions between the Minister and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition cease. If the Minister and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition desire to have a consultation they might do so outside of the chamber and not during the debate on this Bill.
– I, of course, always concur with the inimitable wisdom of the Chair and I regret very much that the Minister at the table is unprepared to allow me to table in this House the minutes of the Caucus committee which looked at matters for which he has responsibility.
I do not seek to delay the passage of this Bill. I have mentioned before that the Opposition Parties, of course, support the Bill before the Chair. Perhaps I could be forgiven in my role as member for Flinders for taking this opportunity to remind the House of the very significant contribution which Phillip Island, a very important part of my electorate, makes to the travel industry throughout Australia. I might also say that Phillip Island is world renowned for the famous penguin which graces the beaches of that magnificent part, not simply of Victoria, but of the whole of Australia. I only regret that this debate is not being broadcast at the moment so that those many millions of Australians who listen to the parliamentary broadcasts could have the opportunity of being reminded of the fact that they have not been to Phillip Island to see the famous penguin and they might have a compelling urge to do so.
– They have a good representative.
– I am delighted to hear the honourable member say that. My colleague assures me that the people of Phillip Island have a good representative. I hope on his behalf that he will have as long a stay in this place as the member for Flinders. I thank my colleague for that interjection. I support the Bills which are before the House.
– Would you place on record that this Government gave $50,000 towards the development of the penguin reserve on Phillip Island?
– Yes, I think in fairness I would accept what the Minister has said, that the Government, pursuant to representations of course made by me over a long period of time, has in fact provided some funds for the industry on the island. But in making that concession, following the representations which I made to the Minister’s office, could I remind the Minister that that gesture, of course, is welcomed but it represents too small a contribution to the outstanding potential which is represented by the island. I hope that the Minister in his generosity, notwithstanding our policy of moderating Federal expenditures, might see his way clear to increasing the contribution which he has made.
-I am normally a peaceful person. I would not like the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) to leave the House until he has heard my remarks. . Mr Lynch- I am going to Melbourne.
– The honourable member may be going to Melbourne, but I was surprised and rather saddened by the cheap jibes made by a man who should know better. I will leave it at that. Other than that I will start my remarks in the way in which it is traditional to start a speech in this House. I support and highly commend the Australian Tourist Commission Bill not because it emanates from my side of the House- the Government side- but because I have the highest respect for the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) and also because it represents, in my eyes, another step forward in the right direction in this field. For many years the Commission has been extremely successful in its overseas promotional activities. Australia, in fact, relies heavily on the Australian Tourist Commission to provide expertise and ultimately to sell our tourism in overseas countries.
Earlier this year the Commission was charged with the extra responsibility of entering the domestic tourist promotion field. The aim of the Government was quite simple and was clearly defined. It was to induce and encourage more Australians to travel in their own country. With the speed and efficiency which is characteristic of the Australian Tourist Commission, it has produced a handy little tourist guide book and has launched a massive newspaper, magazine and television advertising campaign all under the same slogan: ‘Australia, a Land of Things to do’. But I understand that that is only the beginning of the Commission’s involvement in this field of domestic promotion which in the past was left to State governments, travel associations and the private sector of the community. The cheap jibes which came from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition make me wonder why in the 23 years in which the Opposition was in government it did absolutely nothing for tourism.
I understand that the Australian Tourist Commission will expand its activities and, after aiming at the youth market will turn its attention to the middle age group- in which I could be classed- and also to the families and even to the elderly. There are even elderly members of Parliament in this House. By offering all of those groups sufficient information and, even enticement, to make them discover their own country, I feel there is a place within tourism for those who do not want to be run off their feet, who do not want to get in a Pioneer bus- that is not a plug for them- but who just want to sit down and enjoy the natural beauty which this country possesses.
I went to New Zealand in January of this year. I was sold on New Zealand by the advertisements which appeared on television. I will be quite frank. I was disappointed. There is nothing in New Zealand that even compares with Australia. We have scenery on our Barrier Reef, on the north coast of Queensland- even in areas which members of the Opposition representaround Bundaberg, around Cairns, on the Atherton Tablelands, in the Barrier Reef area, and in the Whitsunday Passage which surpasses any beauty and any tourist potential in the world. I am convinced that it is essential to cater for all classes of people. I am convinced also that the relatively small cost of $400,000 for this project this year will be spent well. The main beneficiaries from any domestic tourism increase, let alone a boom which I hope will happen, will be the private sector of the economy- hotels, the catering industry, tour operators, coach services and others. But the Government feels- quite, rightly- that this industry needs not just prodding but also active assistance if it is to survive the hard times and the prosperous times which will follow later. However, we all know that more will be needed than just an expansion of the Australian Tourist Commission Bill to create boom conditions in the tourist industry. There are many fields where we are still reluctant to venture into the unknown, where Australiansthe private sector as well as officialdom by which I mean government departments- examine new ideas and proposals with a view to seeing why they could not be done rather than working out how they could be done. I am hopeful that some government officials will see the light and do the job of promoting tourism as it should be promoted in my view.
Honourable members on this side of the House have been saying for a long time that our air fares- both international and domestic- are excessively high. I accept some of the assurances of experts that airlines are making only a marginal profit but I am dubious that government airlines should strive to make these profits at all. I might add that in New Zealand there is only one airline which is a government airline. It runs efficiently. It is a one class system. It runs effectively but it does not run luxuriously. I do not want to see Ansett Airlines of Australia abolished. I think that Ansett provides healthy competition. What I would like to see is TransAustralia Airlines entering into new fields in active competition with its one and only competitor. Because of the enormous distances in our own country- often within one State- a great many people just cannot afford to fly whether the rate per mile is justified or not. The question arises of whether we are really trying to meet these would be travellers halfway or whether we should stick to our strict policy that the justified high air fares must be paid no matter what, even if the aircraft fly half empty. I have experience of this happening. I think every honourable member on both sides of this House will know that many aeroplanes within Australia fly half empty except at peak periods because the fares charged are too high to encourage the number of people in Australia who would love to see Australia to travel by air.
There is, I realise, a certain snob value in going overseas. Part of the snob value is the fact that one can make people jealous, of one wishes, by going overseas. The ones who are jealous are those who do not go. Those poor people have to suffer ‘the slides which are shown to them by the other people who have been overseas and who pound their ears about it. The people who travelled overseas probably, in reality, did not enjoy their trip but because of the large outlay involved they have to convince others that they did enjoy it. When they come home they show you those eternal slides and you have to sit through them.
I feel that there should be more co-operation between Federal, State and local bodies, railways, coach companies and people involved in other areas which cater for the traveller. In the United States of America we have the famous Greyhound - buses hurtling people across the States for a Very small fee. In Europe they have the Eurailpass which is a marvellous combination ticket’ for trains, buses and even boats. If they can have a successful and profitable system shared by a dozen countries or more in Europe, I would like to know what it is that prevents Australians from devising similar inexpensive transportation systems. Personally, I am tired of hearing about the difficulties that prevent such a transportation system. I would like to see a plan which shows me how it could be done and that is the responsibility of members of government departments. That is their function; that is the job they should be doing.
Domestic tourism is more than mere business; it is a national affair. The more our people travel, the more they become conscious of their own heritage- Australia. They receive the wellearned holiday break in a pleasant spot and can return to their places of employment relaxed and with regenerated dynamos to cope with the rat race in which we live. Domestic tourism is also a business. Our travel gap now stands at an awesome $200m or so a year. One day, if our overseas reserves are not in a very good state, this money draining out of the country could be sorely missed and could lead almost to a financial catastrophe. That is one of the reasons why I regard the Australian Tourist Commission Bill as an important and progressive one, but the Commission’s modest Budget allocation is a drop in the bucket. The Government has no intention of discouraging Australians from travelling overseas but feels duty bound to attract overseas tourists to Australia and to increase the volume of tourism at home. The Australian Tourist Commission is excellently equipped to cope with both tasks. I have pleasure in commending the Bill to the House.
-Naturally I support this Bill. The honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin) has said somewhat uncharitably, I feel, that the people in the tourist industry need prodding. I hope I heard him incorrectly, but I would say that they need active assistance. Previous governments, not only this Government, have given minimal assistance to the tourist industry. I would hope that the introduction of this legislation is merely a first and a very significant step towards recognising one of our major income earners.
Proposed new section 6 of the Act provides that the Commission is to consist of no more than 9 members, two of whom are to be nominated to represent all the States. Of the remaining members, one is to be a public servant. Where others are to be drawn from, I do not know. As the member for the Northern Territory, I ask why there is not a Northern Territory member on that commission. The last I heard was that the Northern Territory produces $28m a year from tourism. It should be borne in mind that as a conservative estimate a dollar spent by a tourist is worth $3.50 when it is circulated around a town. That means that a colossal amount of money has gone into the public pocket. It is rather inconsistent with general representation that there is not someone from such a famous tourist area as central and northern Australia on that Commission. I would hope that when the Commission is reconstituted this omission will be fixed up.
We in the Territory have something to offer; we have something that is of far greater fascination than most other tourist centres in Australia. I will not expound that point because honourable members know that as well as I do. At this moment when our other major industries, that is the mining and pastoral industries, are under heavy attack from this Government- I am talking generally about Australia but in particular about only one-sixth of Australia because I represent one-sixth of it- it is significant that the tourist industry can be of great assistance to the economy. I urge the Government to pay very close attention to this part of Australia.
Proposed new section 15 of the Act states that the Commission is established for the purpose of encouraging visits to Australia by people from overseas and of travel in Australia. Surely if encouragement is to be stepped up, the funds required to encourage people to visit Australia should be stepped up also. I suppose somewhere along the line the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) will tell us what sort of financial encouragement is to be provided. It is noticeable that hitherto the Commission has been lacking in funds and has been unable to engage in overseas promotion. There will have to be an increase in tourists from overseas if this encouragement is to be proven successful. I expect that with the build up of the encouragement, which seems to be the whole purport of the Commission, and also with the devaluation of the Australian dollar American tourists and tourists from various other countries will again come to Australia. I would point out that, as in the past, accommodation, places at which to eat as well as transport, rail and road facilities will be stretched or over-stretched by a long way. As the Australian Tourist Commission Bill and the Commonwealth Banks Bill, which allow for the financing of tourist facilities by the Commonwealth Development Bank, are being debated together, I would ask the Bank to take a more sympathetic view towards assisting the building up of tourist faculties.
Local operators are now faced with increased taxation, greatly increased operational costs and increased fares and freight rates. Whether these tourist facilities be at the Blue Mountains, Portsea, Alice Springs or anywhere else, people will have to pay increased fares to get to them. There is also a shortage of materials for building or enlarging premises. Anyone in the business will know what it is like to have premises half built and being unable to get mirrors or sliding windows or tiles on the roof etc. It is a very real problem. One form of assistance could be of great help to the private operators who will carry the brunt of the influx of encouraged visitors. No depreciation allowance has been extended to the tourist industry in the past and if such an allowance were made today and it were earmarked for development and improved programs, then I am sure that some of these tourist facilities would get off the ground and would be in a position to supply accommodation or assistance in whatever manner to a far greater number of people. The profitability on tourist operations has fallen very considerably. In fact, many operators would be making only a marginal profit at this time. By the time the Coombs report and various other things bite, a lot of these people could go broke. There has been a tremendous increase in costs both to the traveller and to the person looking after him, and both these groups are being very heavily disadvantaged. So I ask the Government to look at the points that I have made with regard to that matter.
Again and again we find tourists who arrive at a place at which no accommodation is available becoming disillusioned. The road and the railway line connecting Alice Springs both have been unserviceable at times this year because of wet weather and the town has been overrun by tourists. Because there has been no spare accommodation, no nothing, people have become disappointed, disillusioned and frankly disgusted with the whole deal. There are many things that have to be looked at. I am looking to the Commission to do that. I am certain that the Minister will give it the benefit of his great interest in tourism and that it will go ahead. I only hope that it is not really meant to be a means of taking over from the States and private enterprise in this field. I do not think that is the case. I am certain that the Tourist Commission’s activities will be a great step forward in providing assistance and attractions for tourists.
While I am on my feet I would like to make one more suggestion with regard to Darwin. If Darwin were to be made a free port it could become a tremendous tourist attraction, sitting as it does at the bottom of the Indonesian Archipelago. If it were to become such a tourist attraction it could help to finance the development of the north. We hear so much about the north drawing on the Commonwealth’s funds. That is dead right. But if serious consideration were to be given to such a proposal it could result in a great influx of tourists who would start in the north and go through the rest of Australia by way of a set of tours. I am sure that would be a very successful way of attracting tourists. I hope that the Commission, with its representative of the Northern Territory, will give more consideration to the provision of real assistance to tourist operators. I am certain that the Minister will ensure this is so.
-I do not want to say very much in this debate. I contributed to the debate when this Bill was before the Parliament in April. It would be wrong of me to take up the time of the House with repetition. But I would like to expand on my contribution on that occasion by indicating to the House what a contribution an expanded tourist industry can make to many other facets of industry and life in Australia. Firstly, it should be realised that the tourist industry is a great employer of labour. It is a very labour-intensive industry. It employs directly about 10 per cent of the labour force when one takes into consideration accommodation, transportation, development and so on. In particular it lends itself to two areas of the work force which, given a slight downturn in the economy, can have difficulty obtaining employment in remote areas. I refer to female labour and Aboriginal labour. In particular, decentralised areas are usually the first to be bit by a downturn in the economy. One also finds coincident with the decentralised areas the better areas for tourist attraction. Surely with this coincidence lies a possible solution to overcoming the employment difficulties.
The women who find it easy to obtain work in the tourist industry also find it suitable work because of the convenient hours of work. The peak loading of several tourist attractions coincides with a time that is suitable for them to leave thenchildren and find employment. Secondly, it increases government revenue at local, State and Federal level. In 1971-72, for instance, 24 per cent of the total visitor expenditure was collected in taxation. The income to the domestic coffers from visitor expenditure helps to redress our balance of payments and from the taxation revenue we are able to finance our domestic projects, which in a rather circulatory way means the tourist industry.
The increased costs must also be met. It should be noted that the Budget provides for a total outlay of $7.4m, which represents an increase of $3.2m. The Australian Tourist Commission will be able to expand its activities, which is the purpose of this Bill and the accompanying Bill, the Commonwealth Banks Bill, which are being debated cognately, to an amount of $3. 3m.
Another side effect or benefit from an increase in the activities of the tourist industry in Australia is the contribution it can make to the development of regional areas. One has only to consider the expansion of a town like Swan Hill over and above its neighbouring towns and cities to appreciate the great contribution that is being made by the tourist industry. It has attracted $1.5m in capital works and provided 120 jobs. I would like to mention that a couple of towns in my electorate- in particular Healesville- could also benefit greatly from an injection of funds from these two sources. Healesville is a small town, but it has its own percentage of children and young people who desire recreation outlets and who desire cultural outlets. If a town is too small those outlets cannot be provided. A certain size is needed to develop and support the infrastructures for what are to many suburbanites and those who live in large towns normal community facilities- libraries, sporting facilities and so on.
An ideal opportunity for Healesville to develop would be with the development of a strong tourist centre. If we could, for instance, upgrade the railway line, which the State Government has threatened to close, knowing that there would be a contribution from these sources for either offsetting the cost of fares or subsidising fares, we would be able to encourage people to take a one-day return railway trip to Healesville and spend the time there looking at the tourist attractions which are going to be developed, such as the Lilliputian town depicting all the large and well-known structures of Melbourne, and the well-known Sir Colin McKenzie Sanctuary and so on there. That would be a rationale for the support and continuation of the railway service. In turn tourism would build up and provide the infrastructure that could provide the other necessary cultural activities. Another opportunity for development could arise with the removal of the Army medical school from Healesville. It will soon be removed to an area closer to the hospitals of either Sydney of Melbourne, which will be an important move. Its removal means that a very large guest house, a golf course and other facilities which have been provided for the use of officers in the past will be left vacant. Here we have an opportunity to use it as an accommodation centre for tourist attraction and so on.
What I am trying to get across to the House is that it is important to realise that tourism is not an isolated thing but that it has to be looked at in the context of the way in which it integrates with urban and regional development, town planning, conservation, the environment and so on. In other words, I have been talking about the social and cultural advantages in a parochial sense; but in a national sense tourism has even wider values. Another contribution that the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart), the Department of Tourism and Recreation and these two Bills can make is the development of a national identity. They can make people realise that they are connected by more than geographic and transport links- they are connected by some unique Australian bond which comes only with an understanding and realisation of what Australia can afford in the way of an Australian way of life.
Increased Government assistance demands increased responsibility to be shown by the tourist industry. One does not get anything for nothing. The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) told us of the advantages of the Northern Territory as a tourist attraction. He spoke of the great scenic attractions and the natural geographic attractions. There will be an expansion of the national parks system there if the Australian Government, through the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) and the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, receives co-operation. We can see, for instance, the Mt Olga-Ayres Rock national park still attracting thousands of tourists, but it is threatened. The Kakadu National Park is being established and expanded but it is threatened. The common threat is that very soon, unless strong management policies are developed, the increased tourism will exceed the tourist carrying capacity of these parks. The tourist industry must realise that if it is to maintain its asset, retain its asset and develop and profit by that asset both individually and nationally, it must develop management policies which will preserve that asset.
I mention my own electorate again because it happens to be situated within a radius of about 40 miles from Melbourne, thus being ideal for one-day and 2-day trips from the metropolis of Melbourne. The Dandenong Ranges, the Upper Yarra Valley and the Great Dividing Range come into that area. The national parks which are within one day’s travel and return of Melbourne are the Doongalla Reserve, the Ferntree Gully Park, Sherbrooke Forest and the Lysterfield Reserve. All these have already reached their carrying capacity. If the national Government is to provide assistance to enable State governments or local governments to continue to provide tourist facilities and to advertise them, I believe that it should demand and expect in return an acceptance of the obligation to provide management policies for these parks to see that they are not threatened by over-use by tourists. I believe the Government must demand overall management plans for these areas before funds or loans are handed over.
First and foremost the 2 Bills before the House should provide assistance. Australia must become more competitive in order to narrow the gap between Australian expenditure overseas and visitor spending in Australia, which will probably be boosted by the recent announcement of the devaluation of the Australian dollar by 12 per cent. It is now cheaper to travel in Australia than it was and it is now dearer to travel overseas than it was. Reflected in this 12 per cent devaluation should be a return to Australia in earnings from increased tourism. On the other hand, a non-economic, more intangible but just as important value is the increased contact and understanding that overseas countries will have of Australia.
The Government is to expand the functions of the Commonwealth Development Bank to lend to firms engaged in the travel industry. The Government received a slight jibe from the Opposition about the mining industry, but honourable members are fully aware that the Government already assists primary and secondary industries. Now it is time to extend the resources available to developers from the Commonwealth Development Bank to the services or tertiary industries- in this case tourism. Another aspect of this expansion of the activities of the Australian Tourist Commission is the promotion of domestic tourism as well as international tourism. It is well enough to generate more people from outside to provide increased earnings but it is equally important to generate increased travel opportunities to indigenous Australians. As the working week becomes shorter, as the tension of modern life in the cities becomes stronger and as the desire for escape from it becomes stronger the opportunities should be provided at weekends for one-day and 2-day trips. There will also need to be provided one-week and 2-week trips such as to the Centre, to the Great Barrier Reef and to the other internationally known natural and geographic features.
The Australian Tourist Commission was established in 1967 because of the recognition of the need for a central organising agency. But until this Government took office the Commission was limited virtually to name only. What is needed and what will be provided is that the Commission be more of a guide, a catalyst, a promoter- as well as an integrator. I believe that that is what this Commission will do under its expanded role.
Particular attention should be given to the small tourist projects. It is true that we need large scale hotels of international standard, but more and more we need to provide facilities for the average suburbanite to get away from it all, to escape modern living, to get away on day trips and 2-day trips to something different- to what Professor Ovington has described as the outback syndrome. We need to escape to our more primordial surroundings, our environment, and to imbibe something more natural than the artificial life we have created in the cities and the suburbs.
– You farmers should understand that well. I came from the country myself.
– You made a great mistake going back to the city.
– Do not worry, my friend. I have purchased 8 acres to grow my own grapes. I have expressed in no uncertain way my primordial desire to return to the earth from which I sprang.
The Budget provides $2.25m for the development of tourist attractions. The Government has announced that it will widen the criteria on which this will be based. In fact $4.1m will be spent on assistance to the tourist industry. The La Trobe electorate offers many examples of tourist activities close to the large metropolises. I do not wish to be parochial but I want to emphasise that. For example, I believe that this Government should assist the developing museum at the Police Paddocks in Rowville. There is unparelleled scenery in the Dandenong Ranges, in the national parks I have mentioned and in the waterways of the Upper Yarra Valley. Art galleries and restaurants have been developed there to make it a unique area on the outer fringes of the metropolises. Healesville has a very active promotion committee. There is the sanctuary, and now it is developing its Lilliput town to depict in one-twelfth scale the more important and renowned engineering feats of Melbourne. I cannot understand why the regional area which the State Government has developed will extend from the Eildon Weir right down to Flinders near the penguins which the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch) mentioned and praised, and quite rightly so. It seems to me that this region offers little in the way of connection or co-ordination in a link. This means that it is still bound with parochial emphasis on profit to the town, to the individual or to the local government in the short term. I believe that what the Minister has suggested in this legislation as the expanded role of the Australian Tourist Commission and of the Development Bank will help to turn that parochialism into a national identity and a national purpose.
-I rise to support the Bill to amend the Australian Tourist Commission Act 1967-73. As the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) stated in this House, the Bill was introduced on 19 March originally and, whilst debate did take place, it lapsed on the occasion of the double dissolution. As previous speakers have indicated, tourism in Australia is indeed very big business. Last year overseas tourists spent $150m. These tourists came mainly from New Zealand, the United States of America, Britain, Papua New Guinea and Japan. There were 472,000 of them- an increase of 10.7 per cent over 1972. The income from tourism to this country rose by 16.3 per cent. Both increases are higher than the world averages for 1973. This information comes from the International Union of Official Travel Organisations.
As one would expect, New Zealand, being so close to Australia, continued to be our most important market representing one-quarter of the total visitors and spending $34.6m in this country. However, individual Japanese visitors spent more money than others, amounting to $410 during a visit, at a rate of $24 a day compared with $16 by Americans, $9 by New Zealanders and $5 by Britons. Tourism is a growing industry and more than half of Australia’s population are now consumers of travel and tourism. The industry’s income generation is estimated at $2,400m or 8 per cent of the gross national income. It is a growth industry with a capacity to double in size every seven or eight years. It provides an acceptable alternative industry in the non-urban areas. Its growth is related directly to the increased leisure and the rising personal disposable income of the Australian citizen. The more leisure hours that people have in Australia the greater the ability of citizens to travel and so increase tourism in Australia. The industry employs at least 10 per cent of the Australian work force, primarily in the fields of transport and accommodation. It is a major employer of female labour. It also employs a high proportion of casual workers. Travel and tourism can generate additional employment thus contributing to overcoming substantial seasonal, structural and technological unemployment occurring in other industries.
The travel industry contributes to local, State and federal authority revenues not only through direct taxation but through the heavy throughput of products subject to excise, such as fuel and liquor. It contributes a high incidence of payroll tax, road tax, licence fees, sales tax on consumables, vehicle licence fees and inspection fees on transportation. Its contribution to Federal revenue funds was $33.2m last financial year. However as the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) knows, and as has been reported in various tourist articles, Australia has an adverse balance of trade. The figures for December 1973 show that 319,000 short-term visitors came to Australia whereas the short-term departures were 460,000. Receivables amounted to $139m and overseas spending $359m. There was a gap of $220m. This represented an increase of 25 per cent over the previous year. This is a serious situation. People in the tourist industry in Australia and particularly the Minister would recognise this fact and I am sure would be doing all they could to arrest this situation and to make our balance of trade more favourable from a tourist point of view.
The Australian Tourist Commission is doing a splendid job overseas. It is interesting to note in the Budget figures that the allocation to the Department of Tourism and Recreation is to be increased this year. It is estimated that $8,356,000 will be spent this year as compared with $6,317,000 last year- an increase of more than $2m. I know that the Minister would have liked a bigger increase to enable him to promote our tourist industry both overseas and within Australia. The vote has been increased by $2m this year and no doubt he has his sights on a still higher vote next year. The main purpose of the Bui is to amend the existing Act to enable the Commission to enter the domestic tourist promotion field. This work was previously left to the State governments and various tourist associations. I pay a tribute to the State governments for the effort they have made in their respective States in promoting tourism and in granting financial assistance to tourist associations. The New South Wales State Government has conributed to tourist associations in New South Wales and I have no doubt that other State governments have done likewise in their States.
My association has been with the North West Tourist Association in the north of New South Wales. In my electorate there are 2 associationsthe North West Tourist Association and the Hunter Valley Association- both receiving grants of approximately $10,000 from the State Government. This, with finance from local governing bodies, has enabled them to employ full time tourist officers who have done a grand job in promoting tourism in their respective areas. The State governments and local governments have played their pan and I have no doubt that the Tourist Commission, through the Minister, will co-operate to the full with State and local government authorities to increase the promotion of tourism. My own electorate has a great tourist potential. I am pleased that coach companies in New South Wales are taking full advantage of this potential. Weekend tours and weekly tours leave Sydney and Brisbane and pass through my area. The tourists inspect the vineyards which are a great attraction at Pokolbin and elsewhere. Tourist coaches are taking full advantage of this attraction. Near Maitland are the lovely surfing beaches, Lowstone Dam, Lake Liddell, Glenbawn Dam and Keepit Dam, all great tourist attractions. The State tourist associations are doing all they can to assist their promotion and I am pleased to say that this industry is developing.
We must develop our own internal tourist industry to cater for overseas tourists. Devaluation most certainly will help overseas tourists who come to Australia. In my travels overseas I found that people complained that Australian costs were too high and that our dollar was under-valued. I feel that with the devaluation of the Australian dollar we will see in Australia more visitors, particularly from the United States of America. This could help our great tourist industry considerably. This Bill is being debated cognately with the Commonwealth Banks Bill. No doubt the Commonwealth Bank has provided considerable finance for this industry but with our present high costs and a high interest rate of 1 1.5 per cent it will be difficult to secure finance for tourist propositions and for facilities for tourists. A reduction in the interest rate would help the development of the tourist industry and enable the provision of more facilities. I support the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
– I move:
I take this opportunity of thanking honourable members who have spoken in this debate. Their suggestion and queries will be taken into consideration and where an answer is required it will be sent to them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 1 October (vide page 1967), on motion by Mr Hayden:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Stewart) read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill 1974
Wheat Products Export Adjustment Bill 1974
Wheat Export Charge Bill 1974
Wool Industry Bill 1974
Wool Tax Bills (Nos 1 to 5) 1974
Debate resumed from 1 October (vide page 2024), on motion by Mr Crean:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Snedden had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with the view to substituting the following words: ‘this House is of the opinion that the Budget fails to tackle Australia’s economic crisis, in that:
1 ) unemployment is permitted to grow and the prospect for school leavers is prejudiced,
inflation is accelerated,
existing poverty is ignored and new poverty is created,
personal income tax is increased 45 per cent,
living standards will be lowered,
private enterprise is stifled,
Government power is further centralised,
individual incentive and thrift is penalised, and
a double tax is levied on estates; and because the Government:
has made the Budget a socialist vehicle to intensify the attack on the States and break down the free enterprise system,
believes the absurdity that the Government can spend without people paying or can build without people producing, and
has preached private restraint but has threatened its achievement by its own Government extravagance ‘.
-When this debate was interupted last evening, I had exhaused half of the time available to me in this debate. Consideration of an Appropriation Bill is one of the occasions when one is able to speak in this House on a number of issues. One of the proposals for which money is appropriated in this Bill is the extension to certain States and the continuation in other States of the Australian Legal Aid Office. I draw the attention of the House to some of the problems that are arising at present with respect to this Office.
Last week, in South Australia, a Mrs Strattnan sought as a solicitor employed by the Australian Legal Aid Office in Adelaide to bring a case before Mr Justice Sangster. Mrs Strattnan said that she was not acting as a principal on behalf of the applicant in the sense of being entitled to receive or retain any fees for her attendance. She was being paid by the Australian Government as a staff solicitor of the Australian Legal Aid Office. The judge immediately ruled that she had no right of audience and gave the following reasons for his decision, among others:
The court has given long standing directions that no practitioner who is not representing his client as a principal shall appear as counsel for the client in court or in chambers . . ..
Later in his ruling, the judge said:
In chambers or in court, the Court is entitled to look to the practitioner representing a party as having the right to speak for and bind the party in relation to the proceedings and this, too, is a right which is clouded if the practitioner is not engaged by the party but employed by some outside party, albeit a government.
I draw the attention of the House to the fact that, although this is certainly protection of private enterprise for the legal profession, it is wrong. At present, many solicitors appear for people in cases such as third party cases and the like. In those cases the solicitors obviously are being paid by the insurance companies concerned; they are not being paid by the parties named in the action. That is quite clear. Yet, this judge in South Australia has ruled that people who do not employ directly their own solicitors cannot be represented by those solicitors in court. I think that the point of view is a biased one and that it is important that the Australian Government should take the matter up and make it quite clear that, whilst certain judges and members of the legal profession as a whole would like to protect their interests and continue private practice which is almost the sole concept of the legal practice, this is not a procedure acceptable to the whole of the Australian population.
It is interesting to note that on almost the same day the opposite view was put in an article in the ‘National Times’ with respect to a case that was heard before a court of appeal in New South Wales. Questions were raised by the court which refused the application from the applicant because he had not applied for legal aid in the terms of the official scheme in operation. This person was represented by counsel from the Council for Civil Liberties. I have been a member of the Executive and have sat on the committee of the Council for Civil Liberties for many years- in fact, ever since its foundation until I went overseas last year. One of the rules of the Council for Civil Liberties has been that no lawyer who is on the Executive or on the committee of that Council can be paid when acting on behalf of the Council; otherwise this action would be open to the suggestion that such a lawyer would take jobs and be paid for them on the basis of being a committee member of the CCL. The Council has stated quite clearly that a lawyer who is on the Council committee and who appears for an applicant or a defendant in a case cannot accept payment for that appearance. Yet this court of appeal in New South Wales with respect to this involved case to which I have drawn the attention of the House refused the application in question. This case and the case in South Australia raised important issues which must be faced by the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) and his Department following the introduction of the Australian Legal Aid Office scheme and the extension of the operations of that scheme.
In the few minutes that remain to me, I wish to deal with what the Labor Government has done in the 2 years that it has been in office. We have tried to improve social equality in Australia. Today wages as a proportion of gross domestic product have risen significantly when compared with the figure in previous years. Despite inflation, in real terms, Australians have done reasonably well since the Labor Government came to office. In real terms, average weekly earnings have increased by 3.2 per cent in the year to June 1 973- admittedly for half of that year the former Liberal-Country Party Government was in office- and have increased by 3.9 per cent in the year to June 1 974. Further, in the year to March 1974, real gross national expenditure has increased by a remarkable 12 percent.
It is important when people talk about taxation and complain, as everbody does, about excessive taxation to realise that what is paid in tax is not a loss to the taxpayer. The taxpayer gains through increased social welfare benefits, education, roads, sewerage, and so on. One of the difficulties which governments face- not only in Australia- is that political parties have been almost swept into office with ridiculous policies for the abolition of taxation as we have seen in some Scandinavian countries. It is important for a government to make quite clear to the public that money collected through taxation is not wasted. I am not saying that some of the money so collected is not wasted occasionally. The media draws attention to that fact in the same way as the Opposition must draw attention to what it considers are similar deficiencies in the Government. Almost all of the additional money which is collected through taxation is used for good purposes.
I believe that some important things have happened under this Government. I have little time available to me, so I will concentrate on social security. Under this Government there has been a further important step towards greater social equality. This was the increased level of pensions announced at the end of July. For the first time ever in Australia’s history, age pensions were raised to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings at that time. Although the position is not yet satisfactory- average weekly earnings are going ahead and the next increase in pensions will not be due until the beginning of next year there is no doubt that pensioners under this Labor Government have done better than ever before. Between October 1972 and July 1974 the consumer price index increased by 20.7 per cent In the same period, because of the Labor Party’s increases in pensions, the married rate pension increased by 49.3 per cent and the single rate pension
– I thank the House.
– What is the rate of inflation?
– That is a comparison in which the rate of inflation is taken into account. I conclude on the following 4 general points. The Labor Government has done a good deal in a short time as a reforming government.
– There is a limit to the speed at which social change can be introduced.
– It is a deforming government.
– Well, it has been deforming in the sense that we took over a deformed economy, but I will not go into that in detail now. In such fields as health, social security and help for Aborigines and in other areas such as education, the Labor Government has tried in a way that the Liberals did not to introduce genuine social reform. Many of the changes introduced are irreversible and whether the Australian Labor Party increased by 55 per cent. There were other significant increases in pension rates. I ask for leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard a table setting out ‘Labor’s Record on Pension Increases’.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
remains in office for a long period or not important social gains have been made.
From the economic point of view, it is a very difficult period to be in office. It is more difficult than at any other time since World War II. It is very difficult to make decisions on economic matters when conditions are changing quickly. Variables such as exchange rates, commodity prices, rates of inflation in the major nations, and output and employment are extremely uncertain. It follows that nerve is needed in the economic management. In conditions of uncertainty, there is always a danger of ‘ad Hocery’, that is, too many ad hoc decisions. Lags in economic policy mean that we must try to judge the future, make what we believe are the correct decisions and then wait. We must resist the temptation to over react and to panic. I agree that inflation will not be overcome quickly. The present likelihood is double figure rates of inflation will continue for some years. We may need to learn to live with
inflation and indexation. The alternativesavage unemployment- is certainly completely unacceptable.
-The statement by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) of 17 September which we are debating in the House today is not a Budget. It is a fraudulent claim by those who presume to give it that title. It is, in fact, a prescription for disaster and is almost as bad, or probably just as bad, as the prescription for disaster that was brought down in this House by the Treasurer last year. There are more narcotic elements in the ingredients of this Budget, or this paper, than there were last year. It is not a Budget because it does not meet the fundamental requirements of any Budget in an English speaking community which believes in democracy and the Cabinet system of government.
In the first place it does not map out the trend of events as foreseen by the Treasurer and the Treasury in the Budget year. It does not indicate the problems that are likely to be faced and the remedies and policies that are being adopted to overcome the problems that the Treasurer, the Treasury and the Cabinet of the country believe will emerge. It does not- this is of paramount importance- set out a strategy for sound economic and financial management of this country. Where can we find anywhere in this document at all a comprehensive, internally consistent and effective series of remedies which are likely over the whole field of activities- that is the Budget, exchange rates, monetary and interest rate policies, wages policy and a psychology that can be designed to ensure that all the ingredients are there and are brought together consistently- to ensure the better welfare of the people of this country?
In addition we cannot find anywhere in the Budget at all policies that are directed towards the main elements that are essential to the growth and the progress of this country. Let me look first of all at growth and progress- 2 words that I like to use together. Where do we see in any part of the statement itself or the statements that are attached any forecast of the way in which the economy is to grow and grow in a way which will be productive and will be the sound foundations on which future developments and better opportunities and life style will be created? It does not indicate its attitude to progress in the real sense of the word. I refer to progress where more of our growing wealth- remembering there will not be any growing of wealth this year- will be distributed over the community. More will be diverted to the less wealthy sections of the community, to those who are suffering hardship and to those who are bordering on the poverty line in this country. Looking at the facts in the statement where can we find any reference to the remedies for the increasing unemployment, to increasing inflation and to the problems associated with our balance of payments?
Where can we find in the statement in this Budget any analysis of problems associated with the credit squeeze, liquidity and the money supply? Ever since I have been in this Parliament, a period now of listening to 26 Budgets, statements of that sort have been included. In fact, I now have to say and have to confirm that one does not find them there. One does find a prescription for the difficulties I have mentioned. Where do we find in the statement or the statements attached anything relating to a balance between demand and supply in the economy or our international balance of payments or an understanding of those problems that are so critically important if we are to know where we are going and if business is to have confidence and the people are to know that they are being satisfactorily and reliably governed?
The tragedy of it all is that this Labor Party, when it inherited the reins of office, had the whole world in its arms. It had the voters worshiping at its feet, but it no longer has them there. It had them there because we were not able- I do not know why- to press these arguments resolutely and in a determined and conniving way ourselves. Our growth record was something of the order, in real terms, of 714 per cent for non-farm production. Judged by the implicit price deflator index we had inflation down to 2.2 per cent. It is now running at 18.8 per cent and probably will run much in excess of 22te per cent this year. Even in terms of the consumer index we had inflation down as low as 4.6 per cent. We brought unemployment down in the month of October to 88,000. What is the figure today? Honourable members should remember that when we were in government we included school leavers in the raw numbers of unemployed. I am pretty reliably informed that the number of unemployed in September rose by 15,000, bringing the full crude figure up to about 123,000. 1 believe another 20,000 can be added because of school leavers. The seasonally adjusted figure would be something of the order of 150,000.
– At least.
– I do not need much help, but I think it is at least 150,000. I now turn to inflation itself. I mentioned the figures which applied when we were in government. It has been made abundantly clear by the Treasury that it expects the process to worsen. I am pretty certain that conditions will quickly become of paralysing proportions, will cost us out of international markets and will, I believe, cause enormous hardship to those people who are not fleet of foot and fleet of mind and are unable to look after themselves.
Let us look at what I think should have been done and what sort of Budget should have been brought down. First of all I say that when one looks at the increase in expenditure and in revenue one must be driven to the conclusion that it is wickedly bad. There was an increase in expenditure of $3,980m and an increase in receipts of $3,700m. If there was a figure of $1,000m two or three years ago there would have been outcries from every section of the community that this was too big. Last year the figure of$2,000m was bad; this year the figure of about $4,000m is infinitely worse. It must compound all the problems we have and make the difficulties even more intense than they are at the moment. My recommendation undoubtedly would have been that at least $2,000m should have been chopped off each figure. I shall outline how I would use that amount.
First of all tax concessions of about $ 1,000m would have been provided over the whole scale of the tax range giving at the margins an inducement to work harder and to do better for every section of the community. Obviously we would concentrate the heaviest cuts to the people who are in the greatest need. Greater assistance would have been given to the States to prevent indirect tax and action would have been taken by the Commonwealth to cut down inflationary effects of indirect taxes. Then we would have given incentive both to savings and investment. Even Dr Jim has now recognised and agreed with this proposal in one ofhis recantations and changes of plumage and policy. No country, whether it be Liberal, socialist, authoritarian or whatever it might happen to be, can progress unless it invests and no country can invest unless it is prepared to save and to give incentive to savings and investment.
I have no difficulty at all in prescribing therefore that we shouldhave restored the investment allowance for primary and secondary industry. We should give incentives to our mining industries to permit them to explore, develop and build up our export income. We should give greater incentives to savings through the assurance companies. These and other remedies are necessary if again we are to carry out the ideas of Dr Jim and if we wish to work our way and produce our way out of inflation and inflationary pressures. We can do that by the kind of incentives that we are now proposing.
Turning then to monetary and financial policy, I want to make this point quite strongly: The money base today is being steadily reduced and that can only have disastrous results. I have heard it said by members on the Government benches that the money supply is being liberalised or being increased. But only in the last 2 days the figures have come out relating to the money base, as it is called. There are 3 different ways in which it can be interpreted, but there are only two that are strictly relevant- that is, the actual money or cash in the community together with current accounts, or cash in the community, current accounts, plus deposits in the savings banks.
If one looks at the figures that have just been produced by the Reserve Bank, it is critical that one should look at the rate at which changes are occurring.
There was a vast increase in the money supply in the early part of last year. It tapered off until about February and remained static for some time. Now, let us remember it is the rate that we are looking at. The rate of decrease in the money supply in either case in seasonally adjusted terms is between 12 per cent and 13 per cent per annum. This is a prescription for disaster and nothing can save us from the consequences while this economic stupidity goes on. So what would I do? I would have no hesitation in the monetary field in permitting the Reserve Bank to go on with its policy of open market operations by purchasing bonds in the money market. Recently it has carried its operation a little further than usual and in relation to commercial bills that are either accepted or endorsed by a bank it has now permitted them to be bought at a rate of about 1 1 per cent or 1 1½ per cent.
I would be absolutely certain that I would not be going into the money market to raise funds through Commonwealth bonds and securities. Nor would I try to convert maturing loans. It is of critical importance that we ease the money supply. The overkill has occurred.
I believe we have to take one other measure that up to the moment I have heard nobody discuss because of the dislike for the banks. New and increased advances by the trading banks must be permitted to expand. The Labor Government permitted new and increased advances to run riot last year with all the damage it caused, particularly with regard to certificates of deposit. Such developments were permitted to go too far too rapidly, with all the difficulties these changes are causing today. I believe we must increase the new and increased advances, certainly by S50m or $60m a week, but preferably to somewhere close to $ 120m a week to permit this to be done.
I have pressed for long that on the international exchanges there should be a devaluation or depreciation of the Australian currency by 12 Vi per cent. I must admit that I did not think this should be done until about the middle of the March quarter of next year. But it has been done and whilst it has been done prematurely the main thing is that it has been done.
In addition the residue of the special variable deposits- the deposits that have to be made on money borrowed overseas and brought into Australiamust be removed. I understand that the Reserve Bank wants to cling to the money, but that is a greedy outlook. As it costs more to borrow under this system I think that the residue ought to be removed immediately.
The 2 year and a day rule relating to short term loans should also be taken off. If we want to encourage people to come here and invest- I think even Dr Jim has accepted the view that we need -
-I suggest that the right honourable gentleman should refer to the Deputy Prime Minister -
-All right, the Acting Treasurer.
-Order! He should refer to the Deputy Prime Minister.
– I am talking now of a socalled Budget and I am directing my remarks -
– The right honourable member is referring to a member of this House by his Christian name. I ask the right honourable member to refer to him by his proper title.
– I think you are wrong, Sir, but should you so wish, I shall refer to him as the Deputy Prime Minister. The Deputy Prime Minister has accepted the fact that we need a large influx of capital. We will not get this when we have hate complexes like that of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) or other people who show their entire distrust or dislike of people in other parts of the world. If one listened to the replies that were given to questions asked of the Deputy Prime Minister on Sunday night in the ‘Federal File’ program one would have realised that he virtually commends each one of the Liberal Party’s policies. In other words, he said that the statement of 17 September, parading under the title of the Budget, is entirely wrong and he believes the kind of remedy that the Liberal- Country Party Opposition is proposing are the policies that should be adopted.
He said that we have to have production incentives, greater capital inflow, and a reduction in short-term interest rates which the Reserve Bank is now trying to achieve. He rather likes the multi-nationals. He did not agree with one of his colleagues and particularly with Bob Hawke, who feels that the multi-nationals are obnoxious. He did not think that there should be any increase in progressive taxation. He agrees with me that there should be an easing of all of the marginal rates of tax.
He has now stated his position, but he has a responsibility to deliver. He will establish his integrity, his standing, and his persuasive ability within the Caucus and the Cabinet and the trade union movement when he achieves his policies and will establish pretty clearly just how far he can commit the Government.
I mention just one other thing to show how difficult it is to know whether the Australian Labor Party really knows what it is talking about. In this House only yesterday the Deputy Prime Minister tried to deny that there was anything in the 2 Budgets designed to create the atmosphere and the conditions under which there would be a reduction in the private sector of the economy to permit assets to be transferred to the public sector. He denied that. If he cares to look at 2 statements on pages 2 and 3 of the Budget Speech he will see that that statement contradicts what he was stating to be the truth in the House yesterday. I shall quote from just one paragraph: . . . decisions taken in the Budget context remain important in the overall strategy . . . The expansion in the public sector contained in the Budget is designed to take up the slack in the emerging and private sector.
I believe that it does not matter who one is or of what political persuasion one might be, one has to be driven to certain conclusions about these 2 statements or Budgets, however one likes to describe them.
The first one is that the Government wanted to intensify the credit squeeze for political reasons, and it has largely achieved that. The second one is that the Government has a policy of business bashing. Look at the 2 Budgets. What did the first one do? It took away the investment allowance. The Government wanted to take away still further the subsidies on superphosphate. In this Budget it took away most of the allowances that were given to the mining industry. It punished the life offices and reduced their capacity to attract investors or subscriptions with the prospect of getting better bonuses for the 3 million people who have invested their funds with the life offices and superannuation funds of Australia.
All these business-bashing activities are creating a bad philosophy, a bad outlook and a bad psychology in this country. One has to be driven to the conclusion that the Government wanted the private sector to slow up. If that section slows up there can be no doubt whatsoever that the people of Australia will suffer. Nor is there any doubt that Labor is trying to get some kind of socialism in its time, not by direct methods but by bankrupting this community and making us an item of ridicule in the free part of the world.
I wanted to say something about wage restraint. All I can say is: Thank heavens the Government is giving up the idea and is slowly working away from the rather foolish idea of indexation. It is a word that is captivating. But any sensible person will know that you cannot tie an economy to a set of rules and deny yourself flexibility. If you do you cannot safeguard yourself against what unexpectedly happens.
Brazil was supposed to be the splendid illustration. For a while it got its inflation rate down to three or four per cent; it is now running on a basis of 40 to 45 per cent. No one favourably thinks about indexation there any more as a God-given remedy for all their problems.
I finish on this note: There can be no doubt that today the Australian people are becoming increasingly disillusioned. They are sick and tired of having this kind of statement or Budget forced upon them. They do not want it and far from amendments being made to it I believe it should be completely rejected. I also believe that this rejection imposes a far greater responsibility on our Senate. It must look more carefully at every measure that comes before it and if that measure will make harm of a kind that cannot be remedied I believe the Senate has a responsibility -even if the measure is an Appropriation Bill- to see what it can do to make requests to the House for amendments. If those requests are not agreed to, it must consider what other remedies, including rejection, are available to it.
– It is always fascinating to listen to the discourse of the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) in the field of economics. I approve of a lot of what he said. I am the first one to concede that he was a better Treasurer than the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) ever was. The Budget introduced by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) on 17 September was a reaffirmation of this Government’s determination to continue its program of social reform, that is, to maintain the momentum and the thrust in the fields of education and social welfare in particular. Seen in the light, the Budget is a document of understanding and compassion.
The Leader of the Opposition had a week to prepare a counter argument. But his speech was, as always, totally lacking in substance and an exercise in bellowing humbug. To return to matters of substance, I want to relate most of my comments to the social welfare commitment in the Budget. As honourable members are aware, the total Budget outlay in 1974-75 is estimated to be $ 16,274m which is an increase of some 32.4 per cent over the total outlay for 1973-74. An amount of $ 1,535m has been allocated for education. I pose the question to the Leader of the Opposition, and those who support him: Does he propose to cut back in this vital area of education? If he does- if the Opposition proposes to do this- he should say so.
To my mind one of the most gratifying initiative has been the acceptance by this Government of the Kangan Committee’s recommendations on technical education. For far too long the field of technical education has been rather the poor relation in the educational processes of this country. The Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) deserves the highest praise for his unstinting and compassionate understanding for this complex and very sensitive portfolio. In specific terms as far as my own State of Tasmania is concerned Federal spending on education this year will almost double right across the broad spectrum of all education payments in that State. The care and education of the young, and young children in particular, is recognised with the commitment of $75m- a program of the highest priority that every member in this House- even the Leader of the Opposition- will I am sure support.
In the social security and welfare field the Government has responded to the needs and the very legitimate aspirations of all pensioners. The standard rate of pension is almost now 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. While there is a perfectly justifiable pride in what has been achieved in just 22 months, more needs to be done for these people. As I have said in this House before, pensioners have an undeniable right to share in the prosperity of this nation. They have made a vital contribution to the development and the affluence of this country and on those terms they are entitled to their fanshare.
I am happy to see that Tasmania has been granted $280,000 for improved pensioner unit accommodation. This is part of a 3-year project costing the Federal Government some $10m. The decision by the Government to recognise the plight of parents with handicapped children is one of the most pleasing features of the social welfare document. I know from the number of people who have contacted me personally just how much this measure will really mean to them after years and years of neglect. The increase of the subsidy under the Aged Persons Homes Act will play a very tangible role in meeting some of the difficulties being experienced by many religious and charitable organisations which are coping remarkably well with many of the problems that escalating costs inevitably bring about.
The increase in repatriation benefits has been welcomed by all Service organisations. One is reminded of the absence of comment on this measure by so many members of the Opposition. All the organisations are now well aware of the increases and I will not trespass on the time of the House in repeating them. But perhaps I could be permitted to just mention two or three of the most significant new measures in the repatriation field. These new and very welcome initiatives are listed on page 9 of the Budget Speech:
Free medical and hospital treatment for any condition will be provided for all Australian ex-servicemen and women who were interned as prisoners of war.
This is another issue which was long neglected by the former Government.
All ex-service personnel, irrespective of whether they had service in a theatre of war, who suffer from malignant cancer, will be provided with any treatment necessary for that condition. These benefits will be introduced during the Budget sittings.
Further benefits will be introduced from the Autumn of 197S. The means test on service pensions will be abolished for those aged 70 and 74 years. A further 25 per cent of all war pension payments will be disregarded as income for service pension means test purposes. Ex-service personnel who had war-time service in the defence forces of other countries of the British Commonwealth and who are now residing in Australia, and have done so for at least 10 years, will be eligible to apply for service pensions.
These are new initiatives introduced by this Government which were long ignored by the previous Government. Does any honourable member opposite suggest that we cut back in this program? I turn briefly to the field of Defence Service Homes and I welcome the increase in the maximum loan from $12,000 to $15,000 and the easing of the eligibility conditions.
– What are the interest rates on that?
– My friend, you are one of those people who have a limited capacity to know that you are developing into a parliamentary bore. I want to turn to particular issues that vitally affect my own State of Tasmania. There is of course, and always will be, a necessity for national governments to recognise particular geographical problems, and the metaphysical problems of the honourable member. The continuing difficulty being experienced by all sections of the Tasmanian community can nearly always be traced back to the acute and seemingly never-ending problems of freight rates so delicately touched on by the Leader of the Opposition yesterday. I will have more to say about that in a moment. We do not have the advantages in Tasmania of road or rail alternatives and the whole economy of the State can be brought to a standstill if we are priced out of the market by the disadvantages of excessive freight rates. In last year’s Budget there was a provision for a $lm subsidy to be paid to the Australian National Line. This amount, of course, will continue in this Budget and again next year. This move most certainly has been welcomed and Tasmanians have been gratified to see at last a national Government recognise an act to overcome this disability. Therefore I was delighted to hear that the Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) had announced that there would be a freeze in the proposed 25 per cent increase in freight rates between Tasmania and the mainland.
However, associated with this acute problem of freight rates are other factors. Unless there is an improvement in the arrangement for shipping services to and from Tasmania and unless there is a greater expertise in evidence in regard to the State’s requirements, the situation will not improve. Unless there is a greater and more acute sense of industrial responsibility, no matter what this Government might do, the situation will always remain critical. I intrude these observations because if there is not a willingness to display a corporate sense of goodwill and common sense the position of Tasmania will always be one of great difficulty and the State will always have these problems.
I would now like to refer to some comments on freight rates that were made by the Leader of the Opposition last evening. He came storming into this chamber in his usual bull-like fashion as if he had suddenly discovered Tasmania and talked in his predictably pious fashion about freights. He should be the last person to raise that subject because he was the Treasurer who presided over a 25 per cent freight rate increase to Tasmania in less than 18 months. The people of Tasmania will be told the truth and they will see what a humbug the Leader of the Opposition really is. The Leader of the Opposition spoke about the plight of local government. We all know that he is not the sharpest member in the House but he conveniently forgets, or does not know, of the grants to local government made by the Grants Commission. Those grants were announced in this place only 2 months ago. My own electorate of Franklin- in which the Leader of the Opposition was so desperately interested- received more than $350,000 under this arrangement. The right honourable gentleman informed us that he sent out hundreds of telegrams to municipalities. Lord knows how much that cost the taxpayer. What did he discover? The Leader of the Opposition must have known that the granting of these moneys by the Grants Commission was then in train.
The Leader of the Opposition must be exposed because he opposed the Government in giving local councils a vote and a voice at the Australian Loan Council. Yet, he has the temerity to stand in this House and say that he is the Lord Protector of local government. Yesterday we saw his crocodile tears. We heard his phony concern for Tasmania, his propositions which are as shallow as the man himself, the piece de resistance- his attack on the Government for introducing the tree-pull scheme- and his attack concerning the plight of the Tasmanian orchardists. Does he not realise that it was his government- of which he was then a member of the Cabinet- which introduced that particular measure? What an incredible man the Leader of the Opposition is. How the Country Party tolerates him I will never know. Yesterday he claimed that the $15m for Tasmania under the States -
– What about -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable member for Darling Downs will remain silent.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition claimed that the $ 15m for Tasmania under the States grants legislation was not enough. This was the amount asked for by the Premier of Tasmania. The Leader of the Opposition always says: “The Government is not doing enough. It is not giving enough money’. But in the very next breath the Leader of the Opposition slams this Government for spending too much money. How inconsistent can one be? The Leader of the Opposition is consistent in one way and that is in his inconsistency. After hearing the Leader of the Opposition yesterday no one in Tasmania would ever take him seriously. He totters into this
House with his tattered policies trailing behind him. He is the Liberal Party’s Falstaff lurching from one embarrassment to the other. The honourable member for Darling Downs may well lurch from here before he is here much longer. The honourable member suffers from a twofold disadvantage. This honourable member here -
– Which honourable member?
-You-the honorable member who keeps interjecting. The honourable member for Darling Downs has an undisciplined tongue and a very slow rate of cerebral progression. I can excuse the latter but not the former. The decision of the Government to proceed with the new terminal at the Hobart Airport at a cost of $1.3m is most welcome indeed. This is long overdue. The Opposition, as is its practice, does a lot of talking but takes very little action. The decision to update the capital city airport in Hobart, which for a capital city facility at the present time is nothing short of disgraceful, is welcomed. The Hobart Airport has been in a disgraceful state for a number of years.
I want to pay tribute to the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) for tolerating the many hours of argument put to him by my colleague the honourable member for Denison (Mr Coates) and myself to have this airport receive the highest priority. I am glad to say that work on the Hobart airport has already commenced.
– It is a pity he did not do something for Brisbane.
-If you moved out, he possible would. I want to turn now to the proposal in the Budget for assistance to the Tasmanian apple industry. If there is one industry that has been quite savagely mauled in the last decade it is the apple industry. The industry has an expertise unequalled anywhere. It has a product that is also unequalled. The people involved in the apple industry have an energy second to none. Domestic and, more particularly, external forces have created a very difficult and critical situation in the apple industry. The provision of $2.6m, following agreement between Tasmania, Western Australia and Queensland that the Federal Government will support a guarantee scheme for the next season, is very welcome. The establishment of the Apple and Pear Corporation will, I hope, provide that industry with an organisation that will enable these people to make a substantial contribution to the State’s economy, not only to survive, but also to prosper. Of course, the recent devaluation of the currency must be of some assistance to the industry.
There are one or two other matters I want to mention briefly. The first is the abolition of radio and television licences. This is a subject to which I have devoted some time. I am delighted at last that this tax- because that is what it was- has been abolished. I hope it never returns. I warmly welcome the provision in the Budget for an additional $6m for the Australian Council for the Arts. As most honourable members will be aware I have constantly and consistently supported in this House a greater governmental awareness of and participation in the Arts.
The scope and breadth of any Budget cannot be covered in a single speech. That, of course, would be impossible. I conclude with the same sentiment with which I began: The Budget is a document that maintains the thrust and momentum in the social welfare and educational fields. It seeks to continue the great experiment begun in December 1972. It certainly will not solve many of the current difficulties but I believe it is a very genuine and sincere attempt to reconstruct the priorities of the nation. I realise that the Budget does not satisfy the Leader of the Opposition. Of course, we all know that the Leader of the Opposition has a monumental capacity for believing that he is the repository of all knowledge. He is a splended example of the observation that ambition is the last refuge of the failure. I support the Bill and reject the amendment.
-This Budget was out of date before it was written. It has been by-passed by the flood of economic events, and is now almost irrelevant to the situation which confronts our nation. It is not only the Treasurer (Mr Crean) whose thinking lags behind the times. Opposition speakers have talked about stagflation confronting us- a combination of stagnation and inflation, with prices rising and production in the doldrumsthe condition to which the Government brought Australia straight after its re-election in May. But here in October it is no longer stagflation which confronts us, but its more terrible twin, slumflation a combination of inflation and slump. Business has been squeezed into impotence, our overseas funds are ebbing away, unemployment greater than any in the last 20 years is already with us, and much heavier unemployment is in prospect. All the time inflation goes on and prices must soar to keep pace with costs. This is no longer stagflation- it must be recognised for what it is, slumflation.
In the halcyon days before Labor got into government- when it was still the Oppositionits leaders delighted to castigate us for what they described as our ‘stop-go’ economic policy. Because we used both the brakes and the accelerator, as occasion required, we incurred their criticism but at least we kept the Australian economy moving forward at a relatively steady pace and we kept unemployment within relatively narrow bounds. I say ‘relatively’ because in the press of human affairs complete evenness is not practicable. Some variations of pace are inevitable but at least we kept these fluctuations within narrower limits than did most of the world over those two decades. But this Labor Government has done just the opposite. In the last 2 years, Australian inflation has been worse than that of most countries, prices have risen faster and unemployment has worsened more rapidly. ‘Stop-go’ indeed! Rather the Government changes policy from day to day, almost from hour to hour, denying now the principles which they proclaimed immutable only a few minutes ago. Nobody knows what it will do next, and the whole country suffers from its confusion. ‘Stop-go’ indeed! Rather it is like when the traffic light shows green and the constable at the crossroads is at the same time giving you the stop sign.
But when all is said and done, the Budget is not the sole or even the principle determinant of the economic climate. The deterioration was in train before the Budget was presented, and even though the Budget may aggravate our troubles, there are more massive and sustained forces at work. I am not one of those who believe that the level of Government spending is the main cause of our current inflation, and I do not join in any appeal to cut it back in total. Indeed, in the period of slumflation which we are now entering, the stimulus of public expenditure may well be justified as a measure of pump priming which the economy would temporarily require.
The prime cause of our current ills has been a Government miscalculation- it has failed to appreciate the time lag between the imposition of economic restraints and the working out of their effects. Granted that some credit restriction and related actions were necessary early this year or even before, why did not the Government understand that the measures it took then would not have their real effect for many months ahead? Not realising this, the Government followed one packet of restraint with another packet and still another. Then, when the effects of the first restraint started to appear, we were already committed to the second and the unnecessary third.
In its clumsy way, for instance, the Government has brought the building industry not just to recession but to incipient collapse. Its tariff policies have brought unemployment instead of just price restraint.
It is as if a child did not realise that medicine took some time to act and, finding no immediate effects from one dose, took another and still another. By the time the first dose started to act in the normal way, the other doses would be irrevocably in the pipeline, and their consequences would be still to come. This is what this inept Government has done to our once prosperous and stable Australian economy. To return for a moment to the motorist’s metaphor, the brakes have been applied inexpertly and we are in a skid. We must regain control of the car before we get into a bad collision.
The first thing to do is simple: Ease the squeeze. This implies not only the relaxation of credit, but concurrent measures with tariffs and the encouragement of private enterprise. But remember that here too there is a time lag. Just as the Government’s deflation measures took time to act, so too will any reflation measures. Panic repetition of such measures in the interim can lead to a crisis when they all take effect. If the Government repeats its past economic clumsiness, we will have stop-go in Excelsis. Is it too much to hope that the present Treasurer- and the other Treasurer behind him- will have run out of incompetence?
There are many things that could be said against this Budget, and so many practical suggestions that could be made for its improvement! In the short time available to me, let me mention just one. I hope it will be taken as a constructive point. The Government is rightly concerned with moderating wage rises, which it rightly regards as one of the main engines behind inflation. It has very reasonably suggested that, if further claims were put on ice for the time being, it would only be fair to restore quarterly wage adjustments based on some objective measurement such as the consumer price index. I would most certainly support this- indexation the Government calls it- as part of a plan of restraint and industrial peace- for disruption of production, causing shortages of goods, is the second main engine behind the inflationary thrust. In passing, let me add that I believe this indexation should apply to all award wages and salaries without the kind of fiddle which the Minister for Labour and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) has suggested, because I believe that it will be more difficult to preserve industrial peace if we do not preserve full wage relativity.
In the days when the price rise was relatively slow- under the Liberal-Country Party Government it averaged less than 3 per cent per yearannual wage adjustments, made substantially in advance were reasonable enough; but today, when prices are rising at some 5 per cent per quarter or over 20 per cent per year, quarterly adjustments, quarterly wage indexation, seem only fair.
But here comes the other snag in the Government’s proposals. As money wages rise, the tax on them rises more than proportionately, because our system of income tax is progressive, and the higher the wage the greater is the proportion of it taken in tax. Accordingly, under wage indexation without tax indexation, the wage earner’s net take-home pay does not rise as far as the price rise, and he can buy less with it. Naturally he feels he has been cheated. A couple of months ago I suggested in a television interview in ‘Federal File’ that wage indexation should be accompanied by tax indexation and I am glad to see that our friend Mr Hawke has now somewhat belatedly adopted my suggestion, and that even the Treasurer is now giving it some consideration. The principle of tax indexation must be that there is an automatic adjustment of tax in accordance with price indexed rises in money wages, so that the real wage- the net take home pay- remains stable. It is not good enough just to reduce tax; we must devise a mechanism for the automatic and progressive reduction in taxation so that the proportion of tax paid on a given real income remains steady, even though prices may have risen and money incomes may have increased correspondingly.
There is a convenient mechanism to do this, which I shall now endeavour to explain. If honourable members will look at the memorandum circulated by the Treasurer on Budget night, they will see that he sets out Income tax rates for 1974-75. 1 seek leave to have the table incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– I thank the House. It is these rates which we want to keep stable in terms of real incomes. There is a simple device by which this can be done. The rates set out by the Treasurer change at various steps- that is, up to $1,000 per annum the rate is 2c in the dollar, while between $1,000 per annum and $2,000 per annum it is 10c in the dollar. Now when prices rise by, say, 5 per cent, all the steps in the table would, under my proposal, be multiplied by 105 over 100, so that up to $ 1 ,050 per annum the rate would be 2c in the dollar, and between $1,050 per annum and $2,100 per annum it would be 10c in the dollar, and so on.
The adjustment could, of course, be done quarterly, but it would probably be more convenient to average the 4 quarters at the end of the year, and apply the averaged rise in making final assessments, so that pay as you earn taxpayers would receive a substantial refund at the end of the tax year. However there is no basic reason, other than administrative inconvenience, why some remissions should not be given to PAYE taxpayers at the same time as they get their quarterly adjustments.
But on the whole I would think that the annual adjustment would be fair and equitable, and would be generally satisfactory. Let me give a hypothetical example. Suppose the price index at the start of the financial year is 100 and during the 4 succeeding quarters it is 105, 1 12, 1 16 and 123. These last 4 figures add up to 456, and the average of the four is thus 1 14. The basic tax table for the year, in place of the Treasurer’s table set out above, thus becomes the table which I now seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– I thank the House. The document shows how the rates would adjust automatically. It should be emphasised that once the price indexes have been determined this adjustment would be quite automatic and provision for it could be incorporated in the annual income tax rates Act. The effect would be to provide full equity for the taxpayer against the Treasury. No longer would the rise in money incomes prejudice him: He would continue to pay the same proportion of tax on his real income, irrespective of its money value. That effect can be seen from a table which I have in front of me. I seek leave to incorporate the table in Hansard.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– I would hope that when the Treasurer brings into the House the Bill to set 1974-75 tax rates he will make some provision for the automatic indexation of taxation which would prevent the Treasury from profiteering at the expense of the taxpayer. If he fails to do so, I would hope to find an opportunity of moving the necessary amendment in the House.
It will be said, of course, that the Treasurer has based his Budget on continuing inflation. Indeed he said as much at page 88 of the statement attached to his Budget Speech and circulated in the House. It will be said by some people that nothing should be done to increase the deficit of $5 70m estimated by the Treasurer in his Budget Speech. I do not share this view for three reasons. First, with the outflow of funds overseas, the liquidity of the Australian banking system will need some replenishment if we are to avoid a complete economic collapse. The statutory reserve deposits of the trading banks have now almost run out, so there is not much margin for increasing bank liquidity by reducing them further. Some other way must be found, and a federal deficit would be one device- not the only one, of course- available for this purpose. In the circumstances an increased cash deficit in the Commonwealth Budget might well be desirable for its own sake.
Second, although the Treasurer has announced an estimated deficit of $570m, this is not a correct figure. It has been arrived at by a fiddle- by cooking the books. I do not, of course, say that this is the first time that this has occurred. When we were the government we did the same, though never to the same degree. Let me explain. If honourable members look at page 20 of the Budget Paper No. 10- that is, the statement of national income for 1973-74- they will see, tucked away there, a very revealing figure whose significance, apparently, has not been generally appreciated. There is there a table showing an amount of $4, 124m spent in the year by public authorities on capital works. That table gives also the source of those funds and $2,967m- that is, 72 per cent- is stated to have come from the ‘surplus on current transactions’, that is, from revenue, and nearly all of it from Commonwealth revenue. Thus when the Treasurer announced that the Budget result for 1973-74 was a deficit of $293m he was most misleading. This ‘deficit’ was arrived at after charging nearly $3,000m of capital works against it. By any normal accounting method, the Treasurer should have shown a very substantial surplus for last year. Application of the same principles would show a very substantial surplus in his current estimates.
Third, while the fight against inflation is still important, it is no longer our top economic priority. Under present circumstances our top priority is action to ward off a slump which has been brought on by an unhealthy pre-occupation with the inflation problem. Unless we deal with mounting unemployment and gathering business bankruptcy we can find ourselves face to face with an economic and social collapse, which, however much it may be relished by those whose avowed aim is the destruction of the whole fabric of our society, must surely be abhorrent to men of goodwill. Measures against inflation, which are already too sustained and too rigorous, will, if continued, produce this collapse. It is no use our economic doctors telling us that the operation was a success but the patient did not have the strength to survive it. Our first concern must be the survival of the patient- the Australian nation.
For those 3 reasons I do not think it at all irresponsible to envisage a further reduction in taxation in this Budget. Such a reduction might well produce a cash ‘deficit’, which would not only be an acceptable way of relieving bank liquidity, but would also leave a substantial real surplus on any normal accounting principles in the Budget where capital expenditure is not charged in total against revenue. No, the irresponsibility would not he in tax reduction. Rather it would he in the continuance of the credit squeeze and related measures, which have already brought the Australian economy to the verge of collapse and which are spreading a wave of unemployment far worse than this generation of Australians has ever known.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-In this debate I follow a number of honourable members from both sides who have dealt with the economic issues as they see them, pointing out the problems of Australia and the solutions that they put forward to those problems. I propose to take a somewhat different approach tonight. In the fairly short period of time available to me I intend to deal in particular with the assistance given in the Budget to the State of Queensland. In Queensland we have a Country-Liberal Party Government. This Government and in particular the Premier, the Honourable Johannes BjelkePetersen, have been constant critics of the Australian Government since the very day it was elected. It is accused of being parsimonious and mean to the the State of Queensland. It is constantly suggested whenever Commonwealth money has been given to the States that this Government is doing no less than would be expected, that it is merely returning to the people of Queensland the money that they have paid in revenue. Of course, that is in part true.
On the other hand there has been a whole range of suggestions that the Commonwealth should be doing more to cut back expenditure. I have heard it argued several times in this House in the course of this debate that expenditure should be cut back. But of course the great dilemma is: In which area do you cut back expenditure? I have not heard any suggestion that expenditure to the States should be cut back, either to Queensland or to any other State. There seems to be some concept that expenditure in private enterprise is more worth while and less inflationary than expenditure in public enterprise. The proposition is always advanced that the money spent in State activities gives a greater return to the people than the money spent in activities of the Commonwealth. I do not accept that. What I do say is that if that were true surely a great deal of money that the Commonwealth is voting in this Budget by way of direct grants to the States must be well spent.
I therefore propose to deal with some of the major areas in which assistance has been increased to Queensland under this Government. Once again in this Budget, following the pattern of the previous Budget, the greatest single area of increase is for education. If one looks at the grants to universities- I propose to compare the figures for the last complete year of the rule of the former Liberal-Country Party Government in 1971-72 with the proposals for the current year- the comparisons in terms of generosity to the State of Queensland must be obvious.
– Did you make allowances for inflation?
-May I deal with that a little later on? I think that we all accept that there has been a certain measure of inflation around, and rather more than any of us would have hoped for. I felt that the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) suggested in some aspects of his speech that there was something wrong with providing for inflation in the Estimates of the current Budget. Any Australian government bringing down a Budget at this time that failed to provide for inflation, which extends not only to this country but also to the rest of the world, would be irresponsible indeed, particularly in those areas in which the States depend so much on Commonwealth revenue if they are to carry out their activities.
In 1971-72 the Commonwealth provided grants for universities totalling $ 1 1 m. In this year the Commonwealth is providing over $53m. I accept the fact that there is an offset of $7,800,000 arrived at between the Commonwealth and the States, so the actual increase in Commonwealth assistance for Queensland would be $7,800,000 less than $53m. In 1971-72, the last Budget of the Liberal-Country Party Government, the Commonwealth provided $5,636,000 in grants for colleges of advanced education and teachers colleges. The amount proposed for this year is $34,565,000, a handsome increase. The grants for technical education in 1971-72 totalled $1,238,000 as compared with an amount this year of $6,8 1 5,000. Of course, this is a new area of Commonwealth involvement. I think we would all agree, following the report of the Kangan Committee on Technical and Further Education, that one of the great contributions being made by the Australian Government towards education at the moment is the much needed expansion into the field of technical education. In 1971-72 the amount voted for the State of Queensland in grants for schools was $7,955,000. In the current year it is proposed that $56,838,000 be spent. That is for both government and non-government schools. If we extract from that the non-government schools we find that in 1971-72 an amount of $5,604,000 was paid and in the current year it is proposed to pay $19,107,000.
In housing, which is another problem area, the amount has doubled from $10,500,000 to $20,900,000. Let me refer to roads. Last week the Queensland Government was threatening to sack people in the Main Roads Department in Brisbane because of the lack of funds. The money made available to the Queensland Government for roads this year will be $71,457,000 as against $45,360,000 in the last year of the Liberal-Country Party Government. I turn now to payments for natural disasters. I do not pretend that this is something on which one can make a a comparison year by year because it depends upon what the current disaster happens to be. In 1971-72 Queensland received $6,889,000 as compared with $26,100,000 proposed to be spent this year as a carry-on from the $27,859,000 provided in 1973-74 because of the great disasters that hit Queensland, other States and other parts of northern Australia at that time.
A new area of expenditure is urban public transport. In this year’s Estimates an amount of $7,757,000 is provided by way of assistance to the Government of Queensland. I would like to expand the discussion on that aspect for the moment. During the election campaign in May Mr Hooper, the State Minister for Transport, made much play in the Press in Brisbane about the fact that the Commonwealth was strong on words but not very strong on deeds. He said that money had been promised for urban public transport but that none of it was forthcoming. The documents associated with the Budget Speech point out that some of this money would have been paid earlier if the legislation had been passed through the House. The States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Bill was introduced in this place on 4 April 1974. That Bill lapsed when the double dissolution took place almost a week later and it was put before the Parliament when it resumed in July. Mr Hooper was either deficient in the information provided by his Department or completely uninformed on this question because it was in no way the fault of this Government that the money was not flowing under the States Grants (Urban Public Transport) legislation prior to the present time.
Let me mention some items of interest so far as assistance to the State of Queensland is concerned. Provided in the Estimates this year will be $1.2m for the first part of stage 2 of the Wynnum public nursing home. It is estimated that only $300,000 of that will be spent in the current year. There is a grant for community health facilities and services- a new program commenced by this Government. The amount of $5,129,000 has been paid. Again we have evidence of the approach of the Queensland Government. There are places in Queensland where community health centres are being built with Commonwealth money. Of course, they are being opened by the State Ministers and built by the State departments. No credit at all is being given to the Commonwealth Government. It has been said of several of these: ‘We intended to do this anyway.’ Even if that were true, the fact that this large amount of Australian Government money is now available is surely a great help to the people who will benefit from the presence of these medical centres.
Another new program provided for in this Budget is the school dental scheme- a scheme where the training of dental nurses commenced at the beginning of 1973. The program is now expanding. When the Labor Party looked at the question of what could be done in the field of dental health some years ago it was put to us by the Australian Dental Association that the most constructive thing we could do was to ensure that every child in the course of his or her primary or secondary education was given adequate dental treatment and taught the principles of proper care of their teeth. It was said that if at the end of their compulsory schooling we turned out teenagers with healthy sets of teeth we would be getting better value for the expenditure of public money than we could get in any other area of dental health. That may be a question for debate but the fact of the matter is that for this new program from which we expect great things $3,852,000 has been provided for Queensland in the current Budget.
The grant for health education campaigns is increased from $48,000 in 1971-72 to $160,000 this current financial year. The proposed expenditure relates primarily to new programs concerning drug abuse and smoking, both very much matters of enthusiasm for the Minister for Health, the honourable Doug Everingham, the honourable member for Capricornia. Of course, in this particular area of health education, considerable amounts of money have been given to private organisations quite apart from the Health Education Council.
In 1971-72 the government of the day provided $91,000 as grants for senior citizens centres. This year the Australian Government is providing $160,000. In 1971-72 an amount of $661,000 was provided for dwellings for pensioners. This year it is proposed to provide $1,490,000. Thus, of course, is a very good program initiated by the previous Government. This was a 5-year program and it catered only for age pensioners. The increased amount not only reflects the inflation referred to earlier but also indicates that the scheme is being widened to include single invalid, B-class widow pensioners and certain service pensioners who have obtained their service pensions on the grounds of invalidity or because they suffer from tuberculosis. This was a good scheme of the previous government which the present Government is expanding in the current Budget.
One should perhaps consider some items of capital expenditure to which reference should be made because they are new or because they reflect expenditure in rural areas. For example, this year it is proposed that Queensland will receive $32m towards the cost of the Gladstone power house. I think all honourable members will agree that this is a handsome sum. New works related to water resources development are proposed. It is expected that this year $300,000 will be spent on the Clare weir on the Burdekin River. An amount of $3m is proposed for this work. An amount of $2m is provided in the Budget for the Bundaberg irrigation works for which the Commonwealth has agreed to provide an additional $4.4m. An amount of $880,000 is provided for the Glenlyon Dam which will affect not only Queensland but also New South Wales because it is adjacent to the border. Provision is made for $2m for the Julius Dam at Mount Isa. For the second stage of the Ross River Dam $2. 56m is provided of which it is expected that $600,000 will be spent this year. A further $2.5m is provided for the Eton Irrigation scheme near Mackay. The sum of $3 15,000 is proposed for the Fairbairn Dam and $454,855 for the Dawson River weirs.
Mr Speaker, I am sure you will remember that the Burdekin River Dam was an area of controversy in North Queensland for many years. Prior to the 1949 election the late E. M. Hanlon, the Premier of Queensland, approached the then Prime Minister, Mr Chifley, for assistance for this work. Assistance was promised. The former leader of the Country Party who, at that time, was the member for Darling Downs, the honourable Artie Fadden, pledged Commonwealth support for the Burdekin River Dam. The money now being provided is the first reflection of Commonwealth money for this project. The first money actually spent on irrigation works in Queensland was spent under the relief for unemployment program in 1962. It was expended at Paddys Green in the Mareeba-Dimbulah irrigation project. After many years it is important to see a Labor Government carrying out a pledge of a former Labor Government for money for irrigation works on the Burdekin River. Of course I accept the fact that we are not building the Burdekin River Dam which was proposed to be built in 1949. For people in the country areas all of these irrigation schemes are important although I agree that the Ross River Dam is important to the people of Townsville as well.
Another major concern for all Queenslanders and those people interested in the beef industry is the proposed increased expenditure on the eradication of bovine brucellosis and tuberculosis. In 1971-72 the government of the day provided $458,000 for this purpose. This year the Government is providing $1,897,000. An additional expenditure is proposed for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. This year an additional $327,000 is being provided, making the assistance almost $lm out of the $3m which will be provided under a 3-year program. That service does not only apply to Queensland. It operates in other States as well but the Flying Doctor Service is extremely important to people in outback Queensland.
Other Commonwealth programs in Queensland should be mentioned because major items of expenditure are involved. I was happy last year to see that $122,000 was spent on the flood warning system in the Brisbane River Valley. This year, $2.4m is provided for the Australian Institute of Marine Research near Townsville. For the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation an amount of $1,070,000 is provided for a fisheries research laboratory at Cleveland Point and an additional $779,000 for the Indooroopilly-Long Pocket laboratories. Much of the research carried out in the latter laboratories is devoted to the very important beef industry.
In the Budget provision is made for the expenditure of $2,774,112 to complete the Taringa Kingsholme Rehabilitation Centre. Very happily $4,250,000 is proposed for the temporary international terminal at Eagle Farm. This building will be constructed as an international terminal for the short term and will revert to use as workshops when the final terminal is built. I am sure that Queenslanders will welcome this commitment to the rebuilding program of the Eagle Farm Airport. Substantial expenditures are proposed for the Postmaster-General’s Department. An amount of $9,626,013 carried over is available for the Wooloongabba Telephone Exchange and $734,000 for the first part of the Spring Hill Telephone Exchange. The latter exchange is in my own electorate of Brisbane. Money is provided in the Estimates for 8 new telephone exchanges in Queensland, most of them in country areas. One should not overlook that under the heading ‘Defence’ this Budget provides money for 8 long-range maritime patrol aircraft to replace the Neptunes at Townsville. Money is also provided to complete new facilities at the Canungra Jungle Training Centre.
I have dealt only with some of the major expenditures proposed for Queensland, although I have referred to amounts of particular interest. In addition $8,954,000 is provided in the Budget as recommended by the Grants Commission for assistance to local authorities. Of this amount, $2m will go to the Brisbane City Council. This year a record amount of $93m has been approved for local authority borrowings and $44m by way of grants to the States for regional organisations of local government. The total of all this assistance to Queensland this year will be $639m as compared to $475m in the year 1971-72.
I never particularly like making a speech which is a cataloguing of figures. Such a speech is never attractive to listen to but I felt some purpose was to be gained by contrasting the treatment of the present Government in this year’s Budget with the treatment accorded to Queensland in the last Budget of the former Liberal-Country Party Government. I ask those people who suggest that Commonwealth Government expenditure should be cut to say in which of those areas in Queensland where Commonwealth expenditure is proposed such Commonwealth assistance should be cut. This assistance will be substantially welcomed by the people of Queensland and money so spent will contribute to the development of the economy of that State and in the provision of better services to its people by way of health, education, housing and the like. Of course expenditure on defence matters is important to the security of Queensland and the rest of Australia.
-I commend the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) for searching so hard and so diligently to find something to compliment in this Budget. I, too, am from Queensland and I will point turn to a Budget which was introduced recently in the Queensland Parliament. I think that it is a model which this Government could well copy. The right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) - and he was an excellent Treasurer- speaking earlier in this debate pointed out that the document that we are considering has no right at all to be called a Budget. From the gloomy faces on the Government side when the Budget was introduced and from the manner of the presentation adopted by Government members to try to defend it, I think that they agree with his comment. This Budget would be one of the worst Budgets, the most illconceived Budgets and most inappropriate Budgets that was ever presented to the Australian Parliament.
At a time when inflation is at an alarming level and is still rising rapidly, is ripping the heart out of our country, is destroying the savings of our people and is cruelly and viciously striking at pensioners and those on fixed incomes as well as the home seeker,, the primary producer, the working man and the business man, and when a wage-price spiral is wrecking our economy; a Budget is presented to this Parliament which seeks to do absolutely nothing at all to stem the tide of inflation. This Government, when in Opposition, attacked its predecessors for an inflation rate of 4’/2 per cent. But it has framed a Budget which is based on the premise that inflation will continue at an increased rate of more than 20 per cent. This Government blames everybody from the multi nationals to the media, but never itself, for the inflation which is rampant in our country. In this Budget, the Government has abrogated all responsibility and has virtually admitted that it has no idea in the world how to begin to tackle the problem and, worse still, it does not seem to care one iota about it.
Restraint was surely the required keynote. The Government had called upon the trade unionists for restraint in wage demands. It had called for restraint in the control of prices. It had told the State governments that they must exercise restraints in their own Budgets. Then, as it presents its own program, it throws restraint to the winds and budgets for massive Government expenditure increased to the extent of 32.4 per cent. It then approached the trade union movement and urged it to restrain its wage and conditions demands. As a carrot, it dangled before the unions a specious tax cut, a tax cut so small that by Christmas at the present rate of inflation, the effect and the benefit of the tax cut will have completely and absolutely disappeared. The Government well knows that it has given the trade union movement no lead and no incentive for restraint. It should not wonder at the reluctance of the unions to embrace indexation and the other proposals which are being suggested to them.
The Government has called on business and industry for co-operation and restraint. Yet it presents them with a Budget which not only ensures the continuation of inflationary cost rises but also penalises all initiative, destroys all incentives to investment, discourages savings which are essential to investment and which will not reduce the impost of crippling interest charges, and it will retain a credit squeeze which must undoubtedly aggravate the difficulties of liquidity and send an increasing number of businesses and industries into receivership and liquidation.
This Government has completely destroyed its credibility as a ‘no unemployment’ party. This is the Party which said that the Liberal-Country Parties would fight inflation by massive unemployment. This Labor Government will not even fight inflation and it has unemployment of the like which we never dreamed we would ever see in this country. It has accepted and it has used unemployment as a policy option. It has guaranteed by its Budget and its policy that unemployment figures will continue to rise, and to rise rapidly. That has been admitted by members of the front bench of the Government.
Where it establishes, as it has established, and exacerbates, as this Budget does, a business climate of rampant inflation, escalating costs, industrial turmoil, credit squeezes, record interest rates, tariff measures which of themselves have virtually destroyed many industries such as the textile and clothing industries, the footwear industry and the electrical retail industry, businesses and industries will continue to fail and to go to the wall, and there will be retrenchments on a massive scale. That will be the fault of this Government. This Budget exacerbates that situation because it destroys all initiative and all enterprise. It sounds the death knell of many industries and will throw an ever-increasing number of the Australian work force into the misery of unemployment. It will destroy their dignity, their hopes, their aspirations and their natural desires for the social justice about which this Labor Government preaches but which in effect it denies.
At a time when increased productivity is absolutely vital, when Labor spokesmen blithely say that we must produce our way out of inflation, incentive and opportunity have been destroyed. The only incentive in this Budget is the incentive to contract and contain all activity and expansion in the vain hope that such curtailment might enable them to ride out the storm. This is totally inconsistent and incompatible with productivity and destroys one of the essential bases on which any fight against inflation and unemployment must begin.
Even its hand-outs are barbed. The welcome elimination of television licences is the next aspect to which I turn. I remember the honourable member for Brisbane telling us all that the Post Office was doing. He did not tell us how the Labor Government had raised the postal charge for an ordinary letter to 10c. He did not tell us of the massive rises in telephone connection fees. He did not tell us of the disastrous telephone policy in the country areas of Queensland as a result of which people have come to me and told me that to convert from a party line service to an automatic service for which the lines already exist will cost them $3,000, $4,000 or $5,000. That is the record of this Government and of the Post Office under its control.
Television licences have been eliminated. But this action comes at a time when costs have risen and are rising so rapidly that no one can afford a television set. It is a time when tariff policies have wrought havoc in the television repair and parts industry. Many would be in the same position as I am. My Kriesler television set has been sitting in a television repair shop for 6 months. It cannot be repaired because parts are completely unprocurable. The Government has a novel way of dealing with that problem: In this Budget, postage has been made so excessive and phone calls so expensive that I cannot even write to or ring my Federal member to complain about the situation. I cannot drive to see my Federal member because in Queensland no fuel is available to put in my car.
-Order! Too much noise is coming from the honourable gentleman’s supporters in the back.
– Well, they are naturally very stirred up about the whole situation. So honourable members can see that not everyone is wildly enthusiastic about the abolition of television licences. Television sets are inoperative and, anyway, are unrepairable at this time.
I wish to quote from the ‘Australian Taxpayer’ of 28 September 1974. What it states cannot be refuted. Referring to the Budget, it says:
When introducing the Government’s financial plan for 1974-75, Mr Crean said that the Labor Party stands ready - r
I like that; he stood ready last year and he is standing ready again this year- . . during the year to take action on the expenditure side or revenue side of the Budget to give a quick stimulus to demand and employment.
The comment is this, and I agree with it:
Only a fool would read into that anything less than a resolve to further increase Government spending and to finance it from even more tax this financial year if the private sector is hit so hard that employment falls beyond the present post-war record low.
I had the opportunity in a debate yesterday to show the wickedness of the so-called supertax on what the Government likes to call ‘unearned income’. I do not want to repeat what I said, but it does seem to have some echoing chords, unfortunately, in the minority in the Labor Caucus. I do say that the tax is ill-conceived and vicious and it will be abolished by the Liberal and Country Parties when they come back to office.
I should like to say something about the capital gains tax. This is somewhat difficult. What a situation we are in. Not only will the legislation be delayed, even perhaps until the autumn session next year, but also its drafting is nowhere near complete. In fact its implication and its application has not yet been determined in very many vital details. The Treasurer (Mr Crean) said that he will let drop from time to time crumbs of information whenever somebody gets a bright idea. What a way to run a government. What sort of Budget is that to bring into the Houses of the Parliament? What sort of plan is that to put before the people of Australia? What a way to introduce such a new impost about which so many conflicting interpretations have been circulated. At this stage if we want to find out how the capital gains tax operates in relation to trust and partnerships and other aspects we just have to wait. I have tried to find out and I know my statement is true. The system has not yet been established or worked out.
So, what can we say about the capital gains tax. There are one or two things we can say. One thing is abundantly clear. Because death is deemed as a disposal, within 2 generations I believe that it will mean the end of the family farm. There is tremendous confusion as to how the value is to be established on Budget or valuation day. It is all very well for the Government and the taxation authorities to say that they rely on the honesty of the taxpayer and accept his declared value. That is very fine in theory, but we all know the worry and concern that many taxpayers face when they are confronted by demands for information from the Taxation Office. They are not exactly public relations exercises. If there is a confrontation, where are the big guns? They are on the side of the Taxation Office. I wonder how we are supposed to get a clear and established basis of valuation which can be recorded now and which will be accepted in the future if ever capital gains tax applies. Have honourable members ever seen such a con trick? The Treasurer said that capital losses will be allowed. Then we see how they will be allowed. Capital gains, of course, are added straight on to a person’s income and he is taxed but capital losses cannot be deducted from income. They have to be put in one’s pocket. They can be carried for years and years and the only way they can ever be used is if a person receives a capital gain against which to offset them. I do not call that deductibility. I call that a confidence trick.
Another quotation from the ‘Australian Taxpayer’ is, I think, very appropriate to the capital gains tax. It says that capital gains tax inhibits risk taking. Of course it does. Under this tax, if a businessman needs a new factory the effect of the capital gains tax on disposal of the old factory could make it impossible for a change of site or change of factory to be made. So, the businessman stays in his old premises under his old difficulties and his productivity is lessened and employment also suffers. There are particular problems on death. I do not want to say too much about them. The Budget statements tell us that assets subject to the tax will be deemed to have been sold immediately before death and a few minutes after death the death duty man puts his shovel into what is left.
– It is a double hunger.
-That is right We heard tonight from the honourable member for Brisbane about what this Government has done in regard to education. He did not tell us what the Government had done to the concession that is allowed to the taxpayer for education expenses. That cut alone takes away any tax cut the taxpayer gets. Cutting the maximum claim from $400 to $ 1 50 a year is unreasonable and stupid. It is unreasonable and stupid for a number of reasons. Is there anyone here who honestly believes that $ 1 50 will anywhere near cover the costs of uniforms of children going to government schools, let alone cover all the other things that must be provided under the free education scheme?
– Only the Minister.
-That would be right. The reduction is unwise because it will penalise country children. Country children very often are condemned because they go to the despised private schools. Do honourable members know why? They do so because it is the only place they can go. They do not have the facilities in the country for secondary education. They have to go to these private schools and be boarded at them. What sort of deduction do they receive- $ 1 50.
– Why do you not have the common decency to mention the isolated children’s allowance?
-Order! The honourable member for Fisher will resume his seat for a moment There are far too many interjections from both sides of the House and I ask them to cease.
– I am not denying the isolated children’s allowance. I am not arguing with the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) on that aspect at all. I am trying to show the inequity of a deduction which takes away the tax remission for a start. It imposes penalties which I foresee could mean that some children who are now in non-government schools will be forced to go to government schools. If that happens this Government will find that the public sector will have to provide a lot more capital for buildings, teachers ‘ wages and teacher training.
I am very alarmed that the Government also hits the self-education expenses. This is something which the Liberal-Country Party fought for for years and eventually introduced. I do not think the deduction of $400 was enough. The deduction is now to be cut back to $ 1 50. What does it mean? It gives 2 choices- Hobson’s and
Buckley’s. Either students abandon their course half way through or they meet yet another unforeseen expense- the extra tax that Canberra wants. I wish to say also what this Budget did not do. This Budget did not keep faith with a campaign promise of the Labor Party in 2 elections. The campaign promise was made to the older people, the pan pensioners. The Government promised- every promise was specifically under a certain timetable- that it would further remove the means test. Now it is deferred until next autumn. It was made as an election promise twice. If there was an election tomorrow the Government would promise to do so again.
Let us look at the Government’s priorities. It talks about its expenditure. The pensioners and the people who were relying on this promise now know where the Government puts them in its order of priority. They know that for all the fine words of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) he has allocated them a priority that can be pushed off until next autumn, provided it does not have to be pushed off again. We now know the worth of his promises. If anyone has to wait apparently it has to be these people- the people to whom he made promises and the people he betrayed. Never let that man come into this House again with his pretty words and pious sentiments because he has established his priorities and his credibilities in this Budget.
– The honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) has been weeping copiously here for the last 20 minutes. He is the apostle of gloom and the promulgator of continuing strings of cliches that have been lifted from some Liberal or Country Party written dossier produced at its headquarters. At heart he probably thinks, if he has read and understood it, that it is really a first class Budget. My colleague the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) questioned why he could not acknowledge in his diatribe of woe that there are things in the Budget that benefit the people whom he is supposed to represent.
Let us take some of the words he used. He used such terms as ‘the worst’, ‘the most ill-conceived ‘ -he used those words quite often- ‘the most inappropriate’, ‘produced no facts or figures to support any comparison with the past’. It might do honourable members opposite well to browse through the copious outpourings of our predecessors in office including the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), and his predecessors, who used a continuing string of cliches about inflation and growth as excuses for its not being appropriate to carry out social programs.
They preach consistently about the need for restraint. But they will not front up and say what area of our social program we ought to restrain. Nor does the constant baying from the Country Party corner indicate any understanding of what is happening even in the areas it represents. What is the position in the sugar industry? What is the position in the wool industry or what would it be if we had not taken steps to protect the wool industry? Honourable members opposite for years have perpetuated and continued the idiocy of the open auction system for wool with no reserve price. What about wheat? I am not too sure what the position is with peanuts but I have no doubt they are doing quite well too. (Opposition members interjecting)-
-Order! The members of the Country Party will come to order.
– He is antagonising us.
-Order! The honourable member for Darling Downs will remain silent.
- Mr Speaker, I do not think you ought to inhibit the mooings from the barnyard. Let us examine some of the things the honourable member for Fisher said. Let us just take the area of education.
– It is the only audience you have.
– I am glad that the honourable member has turned up. There is a possibility that after all these years, slow learners as honourable members in that corner are, they might well garner some knowledge. Let us examine some of the things the honourable member for Fisher, said. I rather liked the contradiction when he said: ‘I am not all that fond of the increase in interest rates’. I think, as he does, that it is a threat, but it is not a threat to savings. Surely some profit flows to savings. He did not even admit those things that are apparent to anybody who reads the financial pages of the newspapers. He said that all initiative and enterprise are being denuded of profits. He did not quite use the words in that eloquent manner, but that is what I think he meant. One has only to look at the pages of the ‘Australian Financial Review’ to see who is reaping the profits. All the Opposition’s friends and supporters are making magnificent profits. Occasionally its principal friends, the speculators, the land boomers and developers and that sort find themselves in trouble.
But let us go back to the question of education. I forget the word he used- it was ‘diabolical’ or something to that effect- but he criticised the reduction of the taxation deduction for the support of children at school. He completely ignored, as my colleague the Minister for Education said, the subvention that we have put into the education system through the isolated children’s scheme. He mentioned the self educated person, presumably the person at a tertiary institution. While honourable members opposite were in government such people had to pay extravagant fees. The honourable member overlooked the fact that there are taxation deductions for the maintenance of children, anyhow. He perpetuated the archaic Queensland nonsense in relation to school uniforms, which were abandoned long ago in the advanced electorate of Wills.
There was something archaic about his approach to education. He spoke of the terrible fate of the young children of Australia who would be forced to leave a private school and to attend a state school! Why, they might mix with people like us- like my friend the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), one of the finest flowers of the Western Australian State education system, or myself, one of the fine products of the Victorian education system. The honourable member’s catalogue of gloom was totally irrelevant to everything that this Budget had to say.
We face the question of preparation of Budgets for this nation in a totally different way from our friends opposite. In our predecessors’ exercise in philosophy and objectives, as set out in the speech of the present Leader of the Opposition in 1872- no, in 1972 -we find this passage:
Finally, we have also been determined - they showed great courage- to find room for measures having merit on broader grounds of social welfare and equity.
At the end of his 5 or 6 paragraphs about the fate of the nation he could find a little corner for the social objectives of what used to be one of the world’s most socially advanced nations. We do not look at Budgets as economic instruments so much as social instruments. It is essential in a modern society that we use the economic instruments to advance social causes. In the 19 years that I have been in this House- I have listened to innumerable conversations and conversaziones on Budgets; I have listened to some 18, 19 or 20 Budget Speeches and semi-Budget Speeches- all the Budgets of our predecessors had the same theme. There were constant threats to the economy which meant that previous governments could not do the things that they would have liked to do. We said: ‘The objective of society is the social advancement of the citizen and we will adjust the economic measures to fit. ‘ It is quite obvious from the past, from the experience of everyone else in the world, that none of the tinkering with taxation or other measures of this nature will solve the problems of inflation.
I should like to say briefly in response to my colleague from Fisher that, while it is true that we are not able to control the price structure, it is nevertheless true- not to the Opposition’s credit- that it vigorously opposed the prices referendum last year, which at least would have given us some of the machinery, not necessarily totally effective machinery, to handle the situation. I wonder how members of the Opposition are prepared to step out into the public in the face of what they said less than 12 months ago. They were the economic vandals of Australia with the campaign they mounted about the referendums. Yet they have the hide in this place consistently to talk about our failure to solve the question of inflation. In some areas inflation is destroying people’s hopes perhaps. I underline the word ‘perhaps ‘.
The honourable member mentioned his television set. Perhaps he has not missed much of his television set during the 6 months it has been out of operation in Queensland. What would have been the advantage of looking at Queensland’s Premier on the television screen? As a matter of fact, television sets are cheaper relative to average weekly earnings than they were 10 years ago, as indeed is the motor car. Some 12, 15 or 20 years ago it cost the average person going into the field to teach- I shall cite my own former profession- a year’s salary to buy the cheapest motor car on the market. These days it can be bought for about 8 or 9 months salary. If one takes many of the capital costs in the community -refrigerators, television sets and motor carsthat is the case. I represent one of the great producing areas of Australia.
– Honourable members opposite say ‘Oh’. They think that the only persons who produce anything in Australia are the persons who own the farms on which some underpaid employees do the job while they come to this place and make ridiculous speeches. In fact, the long chain of production not only includes the honourable members- some of whom actually own land and might even be productive in their use of it- but also the people who gather the produce, those who arrange for its sale, those who transport it to the market and those who process it from the factories in electorates and places such as I represent. The fact is that 90 per cent of the citizens in my electorate are better off financially than they were 2 years ago or than they ever were. It is true- and I say this with some sadness- that they are some of the people affected by changes in the economic structure of the textile industry. But it is also true that large numbers of them- they say so; they admit ithave more cash in their pockets than ever before. Large numbers of people in business will tell you that the average working person is managing to keep in front of inflation.
– That is deceit.
– I will suggest that the right honourable gentleman visit the area; I will take him around. It is true, as I have said, that there has been a serious diminution of opportunity in the textile industry. But many of the other factories are increasing their production. Average weekly earnings have got up to somewhere between $5,000 and $6,000 a year and generally throughout Australia the figure is higher still. Anyone of them will tell you that he paid cash for his refrigerator in the last few months which was something that he could never do before and something that his father never thought he would be able to do.
Where a great deal of what had been said about inflation is analytical it is reasonable. But where it is simply gloom chasing it is a piece of social, political and economic vandalism which tries to stimulate insecurity in the community. We are here this evening continuing the campaign to ensure that the people of Australia have a rising quality of life and that their standard of living rises continously as the wealth of the nation increases. I believe that in large measure the apostles of gloom opposite are totally irrelevant to the situation.
What are some of the programs that the Government has put forward? Let us consider the education program. I suppose I can claim the credit, such as there is for it, for being one of those who converted the attitude of this Parliament on education from one of nonconstitutionality into a total acceptance of our national responsibility in education. We started the campaign some 18 years ago. I can recall the distinguished predecessor of honourable members opposite, the Right Honourable Sir Robert Menzies, telling us that the Commonwealth had no constitutional authority in the field of education. We were still new to the game and eventually, I suppose, we would understand. What is the situation now? In 1971-72 honourable members opposite put forward a Budget which put $346m into the education system. This year the figure is $ 1,534m. Honourable members opposite will say, of course: ‘Yes, but the dollar is not what it used to be’. True enough- it never was. But for the first time in Australian history, I should think, the education budget of this Parliament is greater than the defence budget. This is a symbol of the priorities of our social and national programs. This is a symbol of our progress in international affairs where we have made the people opposite look totally irrelevant and archaic within a few weeks of our return to office.
Let us take some other areas. We have moved from a figure of $8m for Aboriginal education a couple of years ago to $33m in this Budget. There has been no greater area of neglect both by the Australian Government and the State governments in the past than in the field of migrant children’s education. I represent a very large migrant population. The schools in my electorate have been tortured by the influx of migrant children for whom no provision could be made. We have raised assistance in this field from $3m 2 years ago to $20m in this Budget. One of the great social achievements in my view was the abolition of university fees. It is fair enough to admit that in the same context as the abolition of the means test many people in a Party such as ours felt that the abolition of university fees was not the highest priority of the Government. But I for one, representing the people that I do, and remembering my own past and the difficulties of approaching a university, believed that the abolition of university fees was a fundamental step towards education and social equality. I know a number of working class families for whom the load was lifted by this Government’s action because no matter how good their children were many of them would not have obtained scholarships. So the university doors have been opened to every Australian. There has been support for students at the senior secondary level. Also there has been support for isolated children. These programs, together with the great support given to the State education systems, represent a social and educational revolution of the first magnitude.
So we have embarked upon a totally new set of social objectives. Therefore I have no fear of stepping anywhere in any public arena not only to support the Budget but also to promulgate the advantages that will flow from it to the Australian community. It is time we accepted the fact that this is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and there is no excuse whatsoever for some of the disadvantages that have been visited upon so many people in this country. The situation of the Aboriginal children was a disgrace. The situation of migrant children as well as Australian born children in schools in the industrial electorates of Australia was a disgrace. The greatest continuing disgrace has been our inability to get State governments to act. It is true that the Premier of Queensland is Australia’s principal figure of political fun. People think that he is perhaps the worst premier in Australia. However, on behalf of those unlucky players from south of the Murray I think that the Honourable Richard Hamer beats him hands down. He and his government are the greatest experts in the obstruction of national social enterprises that one will find anywhere in Australia. In education, health and other areas, they have done everything they could do to prevent our education policies being carried into action in the school grounds. As I said earlier, I represent one of the areas where schools are disadvantaged and where the only thing that can be done is a dramatic attack on the building program under which we would pull the schools down and start again. Everyone in Australia who looks at a television set saw the Brunswick Girls School which highlighted these difficulties.
So this evening we are here to make sure that this House passes what is Australia’s first adventurous Budget for many years in which social programs have been given, a much higher priority than the economic materialism of our people opposite. So we press on. I have just a moment to read something which has been read twice before. We have inherited an Australia run down, with a nonsensical foreign policy, with materialists at the helm who have neglected everything in Australia that was worthwhile. The following comment is made at page 334 of the report on the National Estate:
The Australian Government has inherited a National Estate which has been downgraded, disregarded and neglected.
Turn to page 334 of the report and see the most eloquent indictment of the failures of the previous Government.
– It is a pleasure to follow the very eloquent contributions that we have heard today. I refer particularly to the eloquent contribution of the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) who raised some very pertinent matters in regard to the taxation system, the very eloquent comments of the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon), and the most practical comments of the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann). I was somewhat surprised to hear the comment of the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant) that he was not ashamed to promulgate the virtues of this Budget.’ ! was of the view that the only place’ honourable members opposite were prepared to promulgate its virtues now was in this House. In fact, I wonder if they dare go on the hustings and promulgate the virtue of it anywhere else. Certainly with the chopping and changing that we have seen to date one would wonder- “where its virtues are when it has had to be changed so radically in such a short time and before the discussion on the Budget has yet concluded in the national Parliament.
I have much pleasure in supporting the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). He has accepted a responsibility in respect of this nation and has brought to public attention the matters that we all know and hear about as we go from place to place and as expressed in the very firm terms that we see in his amendment. That amendment expresses the concern of the Australian people for our future and our welfare. The amendment bears repeating because it covers the very important matters that face this nation. The amendment states: this House is of the opinion that the Budget fails to tackle Australia’s economic crisis, in that:
I support the amendment because of the state of the economy in Australia at present and because this Budget that we have before us, although it tersely acknowledges the problems, in no way sets out to solve them. In fact, the Budget indicates that because it has no answer and the Government has no answers to these problems the Government should push on regardless with its social program which is incapable of implementation because of the very nature of the problems that we have before us. I refer honourable members to the first few lines of the Budget speech of the Treasurer (Mr Crean). He said:
We share with all our major trading partners problems of economic management unparalleled in modern times.
It is a very serious statement. Even though the Treasurer acknowledges the strains which our nation suffers, he gives us only a simple Budget setting. The Treasurer does not mention in any detail a program to deal with inflation or a program that will develop Australia for the futurethat will plan a national situation in which businesses, individuals and workers can see thenlife styles and can plan accordingly the way in which they can advance themselves. There is no setting in which a business, a worker or any other person can advance himself or see the way in which he will advance himself in the future.
The attitude of the Minister who preceded me in this debate, the Minister for the Capital Territory was to ask the Opposition what it would do if it were in government and to ask where the Opposition would cut expenditure. I have heard this sort of attitude expressed continually in this debate. Honourable members opposite have spoken as if we were the Government, as though we had the responsibility for making these decisions and as though we were the people who had to put these decisions into effect. That is not the case. If the present Government runs its full term in office it should introduce a number of other Budgets after this one. One is entitled to look at the Budget, not at what the Opposition is doing. The Opposition is not the Government at this time and does not have the responsibility to advance an alternative. It is not that the Opposition is not capable of advancing an alternative.
When one examines expenditure of this nature and the matters that are dealt with, be they education, social reform- particularly the Australian assistance plan which is something I personally commend- or urban development and sewerage, one is reminded of the position of an individual. When I go home to my wife she seems always to want more money because she wants to do something- perhaps she would like to buy a new dress or buy something for our little daughter. The Australian community is in no different position to this. I have to tell her that we cannot do it at this time because we have to plan for the future. Why should not a government be any different to this? Why should not a government have ordered priorities? Each honourable member opposite criticises the Opposition because our priorities might be ordered. In effect, the Government asks the Opposition which one of the Government’s projects which it cannot afford we would cut out. That is not a responsible approach. It is a most irresponsible approach from a government. Yet this is what we see.
Often in debates in this House we hear the ‘Financial Review’ being quoted. Recently, it has been quoted more than it has been quoted for a long time. I do not know why. I would like to quote from an editorial that deals with Government spending. The ‘Financial Review’ seems to receive the imprimatur of approval from this Government. That editorial of 26 September 1974 in the ‘Financial Review’ stated:
If the Government wishes to invest its decision to devalue the Australian dollar with any vestige of economic responsibility it has to drastically recast its Budget of last week.
In the face of such a decision arrived at largely on the basis of political pressures the Government, to preserve some semblance of economic sanity, has to cut back the rate of growth in public sector spending outlined in the Budget.
Considering that the Government felt no compunction in ditching its Budget strategy by its move on the currency question this should be an insurmountable hurdle.
I would endorse those comments as I think every honourable member on this side of the House would endorse them. I even heard the Minister for the Capital Territory cite the ‘Financial Review’ as an authority.
– I did not. I just quoted its headlines.
-The Minister indicated quite clearly that it was a document upon which he was relying to make his point. It is a document which can be quoted quite validly to support the proposition I am now putting forward. I am glad the Minister is still in the House because I would like him to hear what I have to say. I saw a Press statement issued by the Minister a few weeks ago. I was rather amazed that he would state this position in such clear terms. In that Press statement he said:
For the first time in Australian history, the education allocation exceeded that spent on defence . . . but, at the same time, we have protected the traditional importance of defence expenditure.
Quite clearly, the Budget indicates that that is not the case. I will deal with the matter of defence in a short while. I was rather surprised tonight to hear the Minister for the Capital Territory say that .this was a symbol of the Government’s priorities. I will read Hansard tomorrow because I hope for the sake of Australia that that comment is publicised throughout Australia as a statement of priorities of the Government. Then the Government will be recognised for what it is. In these nationally uncertain times defence cannot have that sort of priority. I am shocked as I think most young people would be shocked to learn that the Government has these priorities in relation to defence.
– That is why you are all rushing off to join the services.
-That has nothing to do with it. The fact is that in this world when we have a food crisis or a crisis concerning the sources of energy, it is not hard to imagine a situation in which the threats that we may suffer from could be much greater than they have ever been before. I have not yet seen a statement produced by the Government affirming a previous comment that Australia did not have any foreseeable threat in the next 15 years. I would like to know what the Government’s advisers on defence say about the situation now. I would like to see a defence statement that sets out priorities. The Australian people should be aware of such priorities. I believe that if a statement were prepared by the Government’s advisers concerning defence problems and the uncertain future that our nation faces it would be a frightening statement in the eyes of the Australian people. It would highlight in their minds the way in which this Government is ignoring defence, allowing our defence forces to run down and really jeopardising the future not just of the young people but of families like mine. I will not go on from that, because that comment does not seem to worry the Government very much, but it is of great importance.
I deal now with the economic problems that we face today. Wherever I have gone- I have been to Tasmania, like many other members have of late- I have become aware of the great concern that is being expressed throughout this country about our future. As I walked down a street in Parramatta recently- this does not happen very often- a person pulled me in off the street and said: ‘I am sorry, Philip, to do this to you, but I have real problems. I will be out of business next week’. I propose shortly to quote from some letters I have received which indicate the same thing. The problems that are facing people are very realistic problems in their minds. They warrant the concern of this House and warrant a Budget that would deal with them. As the Budget has demonstrated clearly, there has been a failure to plan for the future in terms of dealing with unemployment and inflation; yet such a plan is what the Australian people require immediately. The Leader of the Opposition produced a speech on the Budget which set out national objectives. I refer honourable members to these comments:
The construction of a Budget each year should be based on the economic and social conditions of the nation, not just for the 12 months ahead, but for the years beyond. A Budget should have both short and long term consequences. It should be a major platform of a national government aimed at the achievement of the nation’s objectives. By that measure, this Budget fails our destiny. Our national objectives are now endangered. Instead of progressing steadily towards them, we are slipping back.
I have not heard honourable members quote that passage. I think it is one deserving of their thought. It prompted me to think about the nature of this Budget.
It was not so long ago, 1972, when a Budget was produced by members who now sit on the Opposition side of the House. I do not propose to quote from the speech that the present Leader of the Opposition made on that occasion, although one honourable member on the other side of the House did. It is pertinent. I read the speech of the then Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), the Prime Minister as he now is. I felt that it was worth looking at his speech to see what he was saying then about the nature of a budget. I direct honourable members opposite to read that speech, because so much of what is being said now, although not quoted directly from that speech, is what the Prime Minister was saying ought to be done by a government. These comments seem so pertinent, do they not? I quote from page 510 of Hansard of August 1972. The present Prime Minister then said:
Last year’s Budget was presented as the ultimate in all economic wisdom. So, of course, was this year’s. Last year there was even a proud declaration headed: ‘The Budget Strategy ‘. It proclaimed in ringing tones:
We see it as a critically important objective of our policy to combat the inflationary forces now running in our economy.
This Budget sets out no strategy. The comparable heading this year is reduced to a modest ‘Philosophy and Objectives’ -
That is far more fitting than the heading ‘The Budget Setting’ that we see in the Budget before us- though philosophy or objectives are hard indeed to discover. Instead of a declaration of war against inflation, or unemployment, we are merely told confidentially: ‘In looking at the year ahead the government has in mind a number of considerations’. This relatively modest tone, this retreat from rhetoric, is I suppose the most we can hope for; the nearest we can hope to get to a confession of failure from the Treaurer. On his own admission, he has failed in what he called ‘the critically important objective to combat inflationary forces’.
How apt these comments are.
He says now: ‘A modest abatement of inflationary trends has been achieved’. How modest is shown by comparing this year’s Speech with last year’s. In last year’s Speech he said: ‘By the June quarter of 1971 the underlying rate of increase in prices was above 6 per cent’. Last Tuesday he said: ‘In the year to the June quarter of 1972 the increase was still far too high at 6. 1 per cent’. Some reduction! Some achievement!
Where are the interjections now from the honourable members opposite, as we near a rate of inflation of some 14 per cent which is likely to be some 20 per cent, about the sorts of problems that we face now? The Prime Minister’s comments seemed so apt on that occasion perhaps. How much more apt do they seem to honourable members opposite now?
I am ashamed that I can come into this House as a new member and have to debate a document that clearly has no intention of dealing with the problems that we will face in the future. We are debating a budget that talks about tax concessions in the most remarkable terms. I refer honourable members to the Treasurer’s statements on page 30 of the Budget Speech. He spoke so glibly about these matters when he said:
Taken together, our tax measures constitute major reforms. They will make the tax system fairer and more equitable. The great majority of wage and salary earners, and especially low-income single-income families, will pay less tax as a result.
I suppose that the voices of honourable members opposite will herald that as well as a major reform.
I would like to refer them back to the speech of the Prime Minister from which I quoted. Perhaps the reason why they are so silent now is that they recall his words then about taxation. In the time remaining to me I would like to quote the Prime Minister’s remarks. On page 5 12 of the House of Representatives Hansard of August 1972 the Prime Minister is recorded as saying:
A mere reduction in the rate of tax increase is not real redistribution of the tax burden.
What a magnificent comment that is from the man who leads the Government that has introduced such a Budget as we are now debating and has made so little reform. He is the man who criticised, quite aptly perhaps, what I believe were major attempts to bring about a major change in our tax structure at that time. In his speech the Prime Minister said:
Nothing has been done to attack the real problem of middle income earners paying taxes at rates set for high income earners. The equivalent of $5,000 18 years ago was a high income; it is an exceptionally modest income today. But the $5,000 a year man today is taxed as if he were the wealthy man of 18 years ago- because the system remains unchanged.
It remains unchanged today. He continued:
The new scales just do not attack that fundamental problem. Yet there are commanding economic reasons why such an attack should have been made this year.
An attack should have been made this year, but it was not. We saw in this Budget an attempt to stifle thrift with a most iniquitous super-tax or surcharge on so-called unearned income. Other proposed taxes will stifle initiative. The Prime Minister himself by his own tax planning in sending his wife out to work has demonstrated quite clearly that the only lurk left is to have 2 income earners in the family and to have an income division. I defend Mrs Whitlam ‘s right to earn money. I defend her against the criticism of the President of the Australian Labor Party.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-When listening to the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) and Opposition spokesmen who preceded him, I reflected on the relative joys of my 1 1 years in Opposition at State and Federal levels. I can assure you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I have no desire to return to those years. During those years Budget time was a time when it was easy to attack and to criticise. But we in Opposition gave opposition with responsibility. Our efforts were designed to provide constructive suggestions. I recall the very vital role that the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), who is now the Minister for the Capital Territory, played when in Opposition and the suggestions that he made on education and in many other fields that have now come to reality. I only wish that the members of the present Opposition would show the same attitude of responsibility. The Minister for the Capital Territory did well in describing the people of his electorate of Wills, which is an electorate that adjoins my electorate and that has much in common with my electorate.
The honourable member for Parramatta asked which supporters of the Government had promulgated the Budget in their electorates. I can answer that question in my case. I live in my electorate, I have an office in my electorate and, when my parliamentary duties allow me to do so, I work in it and talk to people in it about the Budget and other measures the Government is implementing. I regret that the honourable member for Parramatta cannot understand the Budget setting in the terms in which it has been put, but that is the very reason why he and his colleagues are sitting on the other side of the House. I believe that the Treasurer (Mr Crean) is to be congratulated on the Budget he has presented. It is one that was prepared and brought to the Parliament at a time of some disadvantage and stress. Even the most biased member of the Opposition would agree that the circumstances of the double dissolution and the subsequent delay did cause much strain. Also, as the Treasurer himself said and as was referred to by the honourable member for Parramatta:
Furthermore, it has been framed within the context of an economy subjected to exceptional strains. We share with all our major trading partners problems of economic management unparalleled in modern times.
I have waited for some of the Opposition Jeremiahs who have been so loud in their prophecies of doom to touch on this aspect of international pressures. I have waited for them to indicate whether they believe there is any relevancy in a comparison of the world situation and the Australian position. Last night I heard the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) start to trace some of the changes in Western society. When he began to talk about changes in Western society in recent years I though that we were at last going to have a look at the overall economic position. Also, after some mention of Keynes and his philosophy- I think he probably found out about that only in the last couple of weeks- he petered out. While not professing to have a high degree of economic expertise, I have examined some of the current reporting of inflation in major overseas countries. It has become clear to me that much of the Western world has become increasingly frightened of the prospect of a major economic calamity rivalling that of the 1930s. It is certain that there must be some sort of international effort as well as national effort to solve the problems of inflation. In a country in which unemployment, although used by the present Opposition when in government, particularly in 1971, is rejected as an instrument of economic control, it is depressing to read a caution from the International Monetary Fund in the last week or so that the world’s industrial countries will have to live with higher unemployment and slower economic growth for a long time if they are to beat inflation.
– But they have an oil price rise problem.
-The present Government rejects that view and seeks other solutions. Does the honourable member for Curtin, who interjected a moment ago with regard to other factors, believe that the Australian situation is completely divorced from the world situation?
-Almost! Now we know what economic expertise to expect from the Opposition.
-I suggest to the honourable member for Scullin that he direct his remarks to the Chair
-I will be delighted to direct my remarks through you, Mr Deputy Speaker. We have with us an honourable member who is saying that Australia has been able to divorce itself from the world economic situation. I will not dwell on that because I think some of the things I will say later will fit in with this matter of what is the Opposition’s philosophy. In Australia we do have some advantages. We have high productivity, vast natural resources and a great capacity to expand. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and his myrmidons loudly proclaim that they have all the nostrums and cures for inflation, but they have not offered even one specific and assessable technique of any sort to control it. I was reminded of them when I read the following extract in an article in the magazine ‘Newsweek’ of 30 September at page 32:
But even with occasional bright spots, the truth is that the economies of the US in particular and most of the countries of the Western world in general are seriously ill- and perhaps the most disturbing thing about it is that nobody has any really fresh or proven ideas on how to make them well again. While plain citizens could once hope that some combination of economic wizardry would pull them through, that no longer holds true- and the result is a pervasive feeling of helpfulness both at home and abroad. For in truth, economists have lost a great deal of faith in themselves and in the nostrums they used to prescribe. ‘The long-standing claim of economists that they knew how to control inflation is an empty pretence’, said Nobel Prize winning Harvard economist Wassily Leontief recently.
What an opportunity for the Leader of the Opposition and his team to make a world reputation! After all, Australia can do without them and those other countries apparently need thensolutions. I believe that the quotation I have just made is far too pessimistic for the position in which we find ourselves. Later on the article postulates 3 principal alternatives that are available to the industrial nations. The first of those- I suggest the most desirable- is for both the supplier and the consumer nations to get together and work out a new set of equitable rules for conducting the world ‘s business, guaranteeing fair prices for an unrestricted flow of both raw materials and finished goods and re-structuring the outdated international monetary system. The article suggests that we need a new Bretton Woods Agreement. The article goes on to discuss that in some detail. I must admit that it does offer second and third alternatives. The second is a growth of great nationalism. The third is a Dr Strangelove position which postulates armed action and invasion. But the article does show that we cannot ignore the international situation.
I trust that the present International Monetary Fund discussions may be leading to such an international co-operation as is suggested in the first postulant. One has only to look at rising inflation in our major trading partners to realise the urgency of the situation. Also there arises the possibility of the economy of a small nation like ours being manipulated by external forces. The Government has shown a realisation of that with its efforts to buy back the farm and to encourage investment in Australia without surrendering control. I have tried to speak on these matters without invoking hysteria. Multi-national corporations do have a far reaching influence. They do have so much economic muscle that they can, in pursuing their own objectives, gravely affect small industrial nations or poorly developed nations. It is not unknown for major powers to manipulate smaller countries by economic and political means. I will not dwell any further on that other than to invite honourable members to consider the present public soul searching in the United States of America regarding the Central Intelligence Agency. This is not something that I am raising as a bogey; it is something that the Americans themselves are questioning in Congress and through the media. The idea that their economic muscle has been used to effect political and economic changes such as occurred with the Allende regime in Chile is anathema to their proclaimed moral sense. But it occurred and is admitted to have occurred. I have no doubt that other major powers may use similar techniques. Without vigilance we are a vulnerable nation.
Australia’s experience, I am sure, parallels those of our group of nations. In these countries it is accepted that the seeds of the present inflation rate were sown in the early 1 960s and it is the measures adopted then which have now supplied the harvest of inflation that we are reaping. This applies no less in Australia than it does, admittedly, in those other countries.
– What about Vietnam?
– According to some commentators the general cessation of hostilities in Vietnam has played a part. That dreadful tragedy has assisted in this present world situation. The general laissez-faire attitudes that were adopted in the 1960s stretched the economy of the country beyond all bounds. Much investment, speculation and company structure which was said to involve risk appeared ‘no risk’ because of governmental attitudes. Even then there were the elements of collapse in these undertakings. Who can forget such fiascos as Reid Murray, Testro, Factors, Tasmanex and so on? Do failures such as those of Mainline Corporation Ltd and Cambridge Credit Corporation really surprise us so much now? Too much free-wheeling entrepreneurial activity, high interest rates and large rake-offs assured their ultimate downfall. The Opposition cannot be a figurative Pontius Pilate and wash its hands of responsibility when a major portion of the trouble on the Australian scene rests with it. I believe that this Government has tried to create a climate on the national scene for all groups which have a part to play to confer and co-operate. I believe it has also taken international steps for co-operation.
The Treasurer in his Budget Speech commented that the Government was committed to a program of social reform and, despite its dedication to the fight against inflation, felt responsible to continue this program. I gather that the Opposition agrees with a great number of aspects in this program. In some Budget areas honourable members opposite seem to indicate to the public Press that they believe there should be increased expenditure. I cite the honourable member for Wannon who said:
But proposals that might be good individually, when taken in the mass, can mean and spell out utter financial irresponsibility and can be utterly wrong and, for the nation as a whole, quite evil.
Those are fine words indeed but backed by nothing of substance. What chunks of the mass that he refers to would he and his colleagues carve off to remove the evil and leave only the good? I believe that he is describing some sort of curate’s egg. If this is the genuine Opposition philosophy let honourable members opposite back it up with some meaning. It is no good the honourable member for Parramatta saying that they may responsibly criticise without responsibly being constructive.
I welcome the programs of social reform that are developing. On previous occasions in this House I have deplored what I saw as the development of certain ‘under classes’ in the community. Under classes have developed in education. If the demand for increased productivity is important, so is education for the technology which is so essential to it. This Government’s initiatives in education are now showing real effect. It was strange to hear the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann), who is such a devoted disciple of the Premier of Queensland, complaining about the lack of government schools in country areas in that State. Surely what he was complaining of was a complete lack of activity in that area by the Queensland Country Party- his own Party- for so many years.
I welcome the initiatives in the health field. I have on several occasions in this House spoken on the question of home rental dialysis units for sufferers from chronic kidney disease. I have been concerned with a voluntary organisation supplying such units to sufferers. I know that the organisation made representations to the Liberal Government. I know that it received the old heave-ho and no help at all. Strangely, conservative State governments were far more responsive to this sort of matter than the Federal Government. There was a similar situation with the supply of stoma appliances. I was talking to the President of the Victorian Stoma Patients Association only the other night. In the past people who have this unfortunate disability had to spend many hundreds of dollars on these appliances. They received no help from the previous Government, They approached the present Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) before the double dissolution. As he said, they thought they were forgotten and then found that they received assistance. I welcome the community health program because it operates on a basis of need. One of the municipalities in my electorate has 100,000 inhabitants with only 22 doctors to service them. Many of these people are at a low economic level. The community health centre program there will provide hope for them, not only in individual general practitioner care but also in providing an integrated health service for a community that has need of the services and also an economic need.
I welcome the initiatives that are to be taken in compensation and rehabilitation. The first mention of these areas is made in the Budget. A general outline is given. Further investigation will go on. I believe that the Budget has shown some sound lines. It has shown a setting for the future. It has shown a devotion to a social program. I believe that if the Opposition is to have any credibility at all it must answer some of the questions that are asked of it as to what it sees as the solutions to the problems, whether it can deny that the position of our major trading partners in many instances is far worse and whether it can deny that their situation affects our economy.
-The honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) raised the issue of whether our major trading nations have anything to do with the inflation rate in Australia. Of course I will concede that, to a minor degree, they have something to do with our inflation rate. But to say that this Budget is framed just as a social instrument, not as an economic instrument, and has nothing to do with the economy and to blame that statement on the fact that our trading partners have a heavy inflation rate seems very illogical to me. Do Government supporters not concede that many of the inflationary problems in most industrial trading nations are caused because they do not have resources such as Australia has? In Germany the inflation rate is 10 per cent- far less than Australia’s inflation rate- but 4 per cent of that is directly attributed to the price it must pay for oil.
Would they not agree that it is our internal inflation rate which is affecting the price of our minerals, foodstuffs and fibres that we export? I will not accept the type of argument advanced by Government supporters. They cannot abdicate their economic responsibilities for this Budget. To merely say it is a social instrument is quite ludicrous. I believe this is an historic Budget because it will be the death knell of our private sector. One should not be surprised at this possibility because the Labor Party is a socialist party which believes in socialism and in the State rather than the individual, so why should it not set about its legitimate business of destroying the private sector? In his Budget speech the Treasurer (Mr Crean) said:
The relatively subdued conditions in prospect in the private sector provide the first real opportunity we have had to transfer resources to the public sector.
Let us examine that statement. The private sector is having a downturn because of the policies pursued by this Government. While the Government may have good reasons to cut down the tall poppies- the people who are exploiting the community and taking excessive profits out of the system- its method of accomplishing this happens to act against the small man, the little man, the man for whom the Government is supposedly the champion. In its endeavour to bring to heel the small percentage of wealthy people throughout the community the Government is doing great damage to the little man, whether he be a farmer, a small businessman or a private company. It is also doing damage to those who rely on these people for their livelihood. If it does realise the implications of this Budget with its capital gains tax, property tax and its lack of support for export industries, we must recognise that it does wish to destroy the private sector. It is interesting to quote here from a book entitled ‘The Quiet Revolution ‘ written by Dr Cairns, the Deputy Prime Minister, in 1972. He wrote:
Revolution in an advanced capitalist country can become a possibility only if there is a serious economic crisis.
The Budget makes no pretension of combating inflation. The increase in Government spending is almost frightening, yet one realises, of course, that it has to increase its spending to keep up with the inflation rate that it has itself promoted. When we criticise Government spending, members opposite immediately ask: ‘Where would you cut your expenditure if you were in government?’ The honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) eloquently answered this vexatious question. It is hardly our responsibility but during the election campaign in May we proposed a $600m tax cut. However because of price and wage escalations since then that amount may have been much greater had we been in a position to bring down this Budget. It is not our responsibility but I would be prepared, as an individual, to suggest and be responsible for a cut right across the board- in expenditure on health, education, welfare, culture and urban and regional development. I believe that with the Government spending at the rate it is currently spending we are endeavouring to live beyond our means. I appreciate that we all want to see facilities and benefits maximised to the greatest extent but we are living beyond our means.
When the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) spoke earlier this evening I took his point that at this moment we are living in different times and no matter if the Government decided now to ease restrictions, to give the private sector more of the liquidity it needs and to adopt the measures that we have suggested there would be a time lag before those measures were effective. The honourable member for Mackellar argued that right now the Government perhaps has to keep up with its spending program to cushion the effects of the unemployment we will see in Australia in the next few months. What is proposed in the Budget for social welfare, urban and regional development, culture and recreation are, in the main, worth while and they bring little criticism from me other than in the broad. I believe we are trying to accomplish too much too quickly and we will endanger the goose that has inherently laid the golden egg- the private sector.
Much has been said about the receipts side of the Budget by Opposition members so my comments will be brief. Despite the huge increase in revenue to be gained from personal taxation the Government has seen fit to increase the overall receipts by the use of various methods. The surcharge on property income was debated thoroughly in this House on Tuesday morning last, 1 October. I agree completely with the Opposition spokesmen who at that time said that this tax should be completely withdrawn. It is a tax that in endeavouring to get at a few of the wealthy in our society drags everyone into the net. Perhaps the Government will amend this proposal. However I should like to read from one of the many letters that I have received concerning this tax. I do not know whether the people who have written to me will fall into the tax bracket that will enable them to escape from this net but I believe many will be on the borderline, even if this tax is altered, and will be hit hard. The letter reads:
Dear Mr Drummond,
I wish to protest about the 10 per cent surcharge on investments. I earned the money, I have invested by hard work. Cooking for shearers, rearing chickens and such like. The Federal Government seems to hate people who work hard and save for their retirement.
The letter was signed by a Mrs Burgess of Cranbrook. My heart feels for her. It is my belief that these small people in our society who have worked hard and saved should not be hurt. The whole concept of this tax should be thrown out the door.
I turn now to consideration of the proposed capital gains tax. The horror of this tax is that it does not seem to have any regard for the rate of inflation. We will not know what is involved until the legislation and regulations are worked out some time next March. Until then we will be operating in the dark. Inflation will continue. People with assets who are liable to pay this capital gains tax will, in fact, pay tax on an inflated capital. The Government concedes that inflation will run at a rate of 20 or 22 per cent this year. This must be reflected in the value of properties and assets unless there is a general collapse of our whole farming and private sector system.
It is interesting to carry out a small exercise to illustrate what effect the rate of inflation has over a period, say, of 20 years. Let us take a farm property with a value of $100,000. In 20 years time, at an inflation rate of 10 per cent per annum, the value of that farm property will have risen to $672,752. Let us assume that the owner of that property dies after that 20 years. After the initial value of $100,000 is subtracted, the estate would be up, in approximate figures, for capital gains tax of $189,000, the maximum rate, on the balance of $572,752, leaving a total of $483,000. Probate duty on that would amount to $92,000. The death duty applicable in New South Wales would be $130,000. This is a total of $223,000 which would leave, after taxes, an estate of $260,000. The rate of taxation applied would be 61.3 per cent. If this type of calculation is made using a 22 per cent inflation rate, we find that after 5 years, capital gains, death duties, and Federal probate duty would amount to 53 per cent of the value of the property. There can be no doubt as to what effect a tax bill such as that would have on rural properties or any properties. I could not imagine any farmer’s heirs being able to carry on with the property.
Who will buy these farms? One can quickly see this developing into either a peasant community with the farms being of no value or one of corporate farming which, I would have thought, would be against the wishes of this Labor Government. But, then, perhaps it would not be corporate farming so much as State farming with the State having to take over the land because it would be impossible for free enterprise or individuals to carry on with the farming. One must remember also that we are going through a rural recession. In fact, we are going through a recession in all areas, the likes of which we have not experienced for many, many years. The value of land and other assets including shares would be at its lowest ebb for a considerable time.
– Since the great depression.
-Since the great depression, in fact. Yet sale day is to be 17 October 1974, right in the middle of this lowest period. Surely assets, whether they be in shares or property, can hardly do anything else but escalate in value from now on. The Government of the day will be the great reaper.
I wish to turn very briefly to the rural scene. There have been numerous speeches made in this House since the Budget was presented. There have been many speeches made, and made very well, by members of the Liberal Party and the Country Party on this side of the House concerning the rural scene. Those honourable members have explained time and time again to the Government not only just what effect this Government’s policies are having on the rural community but also the effect of the world wide gluts and uncertain monetary conditions on some sections of the rural industries. This Government must shortly become aware that there is a crisis developing in large sections of our rural community.
I hasten to congratulate the Government for stepping into the breach in the wool industry and providing that industry with a floor price when it was facing a very uncertain period. I would like to give the House just one small instance of what I am referring to. In a fertile, reasonably newly developed area in my electorate- it is a high rainfall area which runs down the west coast of Western Australia and is basically concerned with growing beef cattle- a few weeks ago, one of my State colleagues had an informal meeting with the local bank managers, the local stock firm men, and two or three of the district’s leading farmers. They sat around the table. After their round table informal meeting, they came to the awesome conclusion that if the monetary situation did not change and if the market situation did not change- and it would not appear that either of those will change in the foreseeable future- 70 per cent of the farmers in their area would go bankrupt before Christmas. That was the conclusion drawn in good faith by these people. That is the concern uppermost in their minds in their neck of the rural area.
If anywhere near this type of calamity occurs, who is going to buy the farms? Who will take them over? What will happen to production in Australia? Its very life blood still comes from rural areas. What will happen to the very prosperity of our country? The sooner the Federal Government recognises that there is a dangerous situation on our hands, the better. I believe that it should recognise that it is a temporary situation and that the wheel of fortune will turn, although I would not know how long it would take to do so in the beef industry. Be it 12 months, 18 months or 2 years, I have no doubt that the rest of the world will once again be eagerly seeking beef and protein from Australia and the other countries which can produce it. Those countries seeking beef will be able to pay for it. As the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) pointed out to the United Nations in the course of his current trip, we have a responsibility to produce.
At the moment, these farmers basically need finance to get them through this difficult time. I know of some instances of farmers being forced to sell their stock to meet their commitments. Others are finding it impossible to borrow money to pay to have their sheep shorn. I cannot remember a time when the farmer could not get finance to harvest his wool clip when he is so close to getting his return and paying back the money that the financier has lent him. That is how bad the liquidity situation is. It is no consolation to the rural community to realise that the rest of the private sector is so deeply in trouble. I make the plea to the Government to recognise that the private sector is facing a liquidity situation which is now forcing people in different spheres of that sector- not only the small farmerto sell up their businesses at whatever price they can get and to try to make a new life wherever they can.
Australia needs free enterprise. Free enterprise has given us our prosperity, provided 75 per cent of the jobs in the country and has produced the goods and services that the public seems to want. It has created community wealth. It is from the free enterprise system that the Government obtains the tax revenue to pay for the very desirable social welfare programs that we all support. The present Government obviously recognises the need of labour and that there must be rewards for labour. But it does not seem to recognise that free enterprise and business generally also require rewards and that there must be rewards for free enterprise and saving, just as there must be for effort.
-I think that the honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond) has been quite moderate in his criticism of the Government’s Budget. Therefore he does not deserve the criticism that I would level against any member of the Opposition who had been rather sadistic in his criticism of my Government. I hope that the honourable member for Forrest continues with the modest criticism of the Government, because that is the role of the Opposition. When he reaches the stage of going overboard I think the members on this side of the House can curb his unjustified, bitter and sadistic criticism. I will be in the forefront in doing so on behalf of my Party. I wholeheartedly support the Budget. I congratulate my Government on its introduction. I believe it is perfectly tailored to suit the times in our nation and throughout the western world.
– Just like your coat.
– It might not look so nice on you. It might be a bit difficult to fit you with anything. I am grateful for the Government’s endeavour and concern in trying to curb the economic monster that has enveloped the western world at this time. No single government any where in the western world- honourable members would admit this in private- can curb or eliminate this economic monster of inflation without using, of course, the old Tory methods of deliberately creating a great army of unemployed, creating tame-cat unions and making workers subservient to big business. I hope that those times have gone in Australia and I know they have in the opinion of all my party members.
It can be truly said that a short time ago there was over-employment. I know, as we all know, that this method creates problems such as difficulty in controlling some employees by smalltime employers and in meeting the public demand for goods, which results in high costs and inflation. I believe in discipline in industry as do most of my colleagues in the Labor Party. If I had to make a choice between over-employment and a lack of discipline in industry against an army of unemployed, I am afraid that I would have to come down on the side of overemployment. I would like to see- as all honourable members would like to see- a society free of both of these evils that often too frequently raise their ugly heads in free societies. I think it was the Minister for Labour and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) who said recently that if 100,000 people were unemployed approximately 40,000 of those would be unemployable, such as the mentally retarded who do not qualify for an invalid pension.
– How does the honourable member justify the present figure of 123,000 unemployed?
– I do not believe there are 123,000 unemployed. There are certain alcoholics in our society, created by our society, who are unemployed. We have the lazy, like some members of Parliament, who would not work in an iron lung. Then we have the hardheaded spiv who lives on his wits. They help to make up the figure of the 40,000 unemployables. I believe labour is the lot of man and that a man should have to be gainfully employed in his society. What does the Budget depict. It depicts the fundamental principles of a genuine Labor government. It provides for the poorer sections of society- the under-privileged. It provides for the middle classes. The Budget outlays the colossal sum of $ 16,274m. This sum would have been considerably curbed had the Opposition still held the Treasury benches.
The Labor Government believes that the important needs of society should come first. Education, social welfare and hospitalisation are all top priorities in any country similarly situated to Australia. My Government regards education as a top priority. Last year our allocation for education almost doubled because of the lag that had been created by the 23 years of Tory administration. In 1975 total outlay is estimated at $ 1,535m. We have all learned that a country that is highly educated has immeasurably higher living standards. There was an increase of 78 per cent on the 1 973-74 figures because of the lag, as I said, by previous anti-Labor governments.
– That is if you can afford to send yourself to school.
– The honourable member for Petrie keeps interjecting. He forgets that he undermined a colleague. It is a pity that he did not come to the Parliament with a cleaner background because he would have been freer and more justified in interjecting on a member of the Government Party or on any member of the House. When a member does not come here with a clean background he always suffers the possibilities of humiliation.
– I will take you on any time.
– If the honourable member is on his feet at the end of 4 rounds I will give 50 bucks to the Canberra Hospital. That is what I think of him. We used to push you fellows over with a feather duster when I was in the other job. We have increased expenditure on schools from $234m in the last financial year to $555m in 1974-75- an increase of 137 per cent. Expenditure on universities and colleges of advanced education will rise from $524m to $8 18m- a 56 per cent increase in this Budget. Never before in Australia’s history has university education been free for those qualified. It always stunned me, coining from a strong industrial area, to see people from my environment with good brains going down into the bowels of the earth to dig coal because their parents could not afford to send them to university. Under a Labor administration that situation will no longer exist and should not have existed as long as it has.
Provision is made for the expenditure of $28m on health in 1974-75. We intend to meet the urgent needs of the community which have been lagging so long under anti-Labor administrations. The Budget makes provision for nursing home benefits. They were increased from 1 August at an additional cost of $24.6m. We intend increasing the subsidy for aged people’s homes from $2-for-$ 1 to $4-for-$ 1 . People in the Newcastle and Hunter electorates will be overjoyed at this humane legislation. The Hawkins Masonic Village in the electorate of Hunter, the Church of England Booragul Homes and the St Joseph Homes at Hexham -
– Are you booked in?
– I beg your pardon. I cannot hear the honourable member very clearly. This humane legislation no doubt will be appreciated by other similar organisations throughout the country.
– The honourable member for Petrie wanted to know whether you had a reservation in the old people’s home after the next election.
– Let him ask himself. Social service pensions have already been increased this year. The single rate pension has been increased by $5 a week and the combined married rate has been raised by $6. This is in conformity with the Prime Minister’s election promise to raise the basic pension to 25 per cent of the average wage, which it almost is now.
This is the first Budget for many years before which pensioners have not stormed Kings Hall and sought a substantial increase. The National Federation of Pensioners said that it did not expect pensioners to get an increase in this Budget. This indicates that pensioners appreciate the humanitarianism of the Australian Government.
Provision has been made to improve sewerage in the capital cities. Provision has been made to build Australian Government hospitals in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne to overcome the lag in the provision of hospital beds. This should be commended even by the tory Opposition. The hospital care subsidy for approved hospitals for the aged is to be raised from $12 to $15 for those who are bedridden or semi-bedridden. Meals on Wheels subsidies are to be increased from 20c to 25c. I applaud my Government in particular for its humane outlook toward those who have the unfortunate circumstance of having a physically handicapped child. Only last week a lady in my electorate, 50 years of age, a small frail woman, told me that she has to sponge, care for and help her 32 year old son out of bed, onto the toilet, and to walk about the house. The allocation of $10 a week to people like that indicates the humanitarianism that the Government displays in its policies. The national family planning program- something that was lacking under tory administration- is to get $425,000.
– It is a pity it was not made retrospective.
– Yes. There might not have been so many foolish interjections if it had been. To my mind this is a great thing because it will eliminate the sordidness of illegal abortions about which honourable members know I have spoken in this House on a number of occasions. It will eliminate the backyard abortionist or butcher.
I turn now to the provision for the Structural Adjustment Board. Imagine a tory government providing $1 1.8m to assist employees displaced by government decisions. Such a scheme could never have been introduced by a tory goverment because it would have immediately met with repercussions from big business and the Chambers of Manufactures, which form the backbone of the Opposition’s support. Repatriation benefits are to be upgraded. The Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory are to get an initial $ 14m to overcome their housing problems. In urban development, as I said, $390m is to be provided for sewerage. How can any fair minded person say that this is not the ideal Budget to meet the needs of the Australian people at this time?
I thought the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) slaughtered the Opposition this morning in the debate on uranium. The Opposition wants uranium to be under the control of private enterprise. I honestly and sincerely believe that that is not the view of the Opposition but is the result of the Opposition yielding to the pressures of the multinationals and gigantic mining companies who have subsidised its election expenses. I can well understand that when people put themselves in the hands of those people they can be politically blackmailed. I feel sorry for the Opposition in allowing itself to get into such a position. In the discussion this morning my mind went back to the action of Sir Robert Menzies the result of which he has to bear during the whole of his political career. The wharf labourers defied the tories and their foreign policy in refusing to load pig-iron on the eve of the Japanese-German war against the Allies. The wharf labourers’ actions proved to be correct. They said: ‘We will not load it because we will get it back in guns and in the bodies of our soldiers’. How right they were. This is what free enterprise would do if it had the whole and sole control of Australia ‘s uranium.
Particularly at this time in the world’s history the export of uranium should not be taken from the control of the Australian Government. I believe that the Australian Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, said in the United Nations that Australia would not export uranium to any country that had not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. We all know that the bombs that can be produced by the great powers of the world today can destroy the fabric of the earth. We know from the lectures of Linus Pauling, the great American nuclear physicist, that a 20 megaton bomb exploded 5 miles above the earth has such a killing effect, that every living thing is destroyed within a radius of 50 miles and very few people survive within a radius of 100 miles. One can visualise that a 20 megaton bomb dropped over Katoomba would destroy Wollongong, Sydney, Newcastle, Port Stephens, Bathurst and Orange. Some honourable members laugh when these serious things are raised and when one mentions that uranium should be controlled.
The Opposition was reminded in the discussion this morning that it was the tory Government, the present Opposition, that introduced the Atomic Energy Act. The previous Government made provision in that Act, as was so effectively pointed out by the Minister for Minerals and Energy this morning, that uranium shall remain the property of the Commonwealth. But as I said, the Opposition is under the pressure of big business and the mining companies who want to reef uranium out of the ground and get an exorbitant profit irrespective of what is done with it or what it could be worth after 1980. We know that the price of uranium will treble or quadruple. I believe that it is the proper attitude of the Minister for Minerals and Energy to intend to recommend to Cabinet that we set up a uranium enrichment plant in the Northern Territory. It would be a great thing for the Northern Territory.
The Minister pointed out that in their search for uranium the mining companies spent a mere $12m and that the success of their search undoubtedly would have depended on the preliminary research done by the Bureau of Mineral Resources of Australia which is controlled by this Parliament and paid for by the Australian taxpayer.But on the other hand the estimated value of the uranium on present world prices is $7,000m. So what is a mere $12m? We know that the mining companies use this argument in the ears of those who are not knowledgeable in politics and they get a very patient hearing when they say that they had spent $12m searching for uranium and that the Government will not let them develop it. That sounds very good but when it is pointed out to them, as some of us do point out when we go to other parts of Australia, it is a mere bagatelle when the value of uranium is$7,000m.
I would like to have said something tonight on the power of multinationals, as my mind was prompted by the very sincere speech of my friend, the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins). We have been criticised for our attitude to multinationals but I hope that some day the Australian people will approve an assets tax being introduced in this Parliament. The present British Labour Government intends to do this in the foreseeable future because of the gluttonous wealth still in private hands.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is rather interesting to follow the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James). I sat here listening to his incoherent waffle, listening to him lurching from point to point like a rubber duck and trying to fill out the time to the end of his speech by talking about uranium. When the honourable member’s time had almost expired he wanted to talk about multinationals and a few other things which had equally little reference to the Budget. It now becomes apparent why the proceedings of this House are not broadcast on the 3 sitting days because it would be rather unfair to project such stuff to the Australian public. It is equally obvious that the management of this House is such that non-broadcast days are left for members like the honourable member for Hunter to have their rip.
– You are on today.
– I get 10 minutes tomorrow because the debate is to be interrupted at 10.30 tonight. After hearing what was contained in this Budget one wonders how supporters of the Government can with all honesty go to the pubs in their electorates and stand up to their fellow men. The Budget is an absolute disgrace. The apologists for the Budget have been digging around in the back pages of the Budget papers for some sort of inspiration, for some good points that they can dig up to bring into this House, some good points that they can try to get across to their supporters, to the people to whom they have had to hand out so many sops. We hear them talk about the Budget being a social justice and welfare Budget. This Budget is an economic and social disaster. We need to look at it in some sort of perspective. We have to be able to look at it in the light of what the problems facing this country are and were at the time when it was drawn up. The things that were crippling Australia then, as they are today in a greater degree, were inflation, unemployment, crippling interest rates and so many other perpetrations by this Government since it has been in power.
What has the Government done? Having fought 2 elections in December 1972 and May 1974 at which the Government promised what it would and would not do, it now comes in and introduces a Budget which is based on Liberal and Country Party policy which was rejected by the electorate in May of 1974. The Government has based its Budget policy and strategy on tax cuts and tax cuts were the central theme of the Liberal and Country Parties when they went to the polls. We did not hear a word about tax cuts from the Government during the elections. The Government went to the polls talking about full employment. It said that it would not use unemployment. But what has the Government done? It is presiding over the greatest degree of unemployment that we have ever seen in this country. It makes the policies of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) on unemployment look like kindergarten material.
The policy of the Budget is so confused. The Budget strategy has been completely confused and it has been completely rejected by the Government already. Within a week of the Budget being brought down we have seen such significant alterations to the strategy as $ 150m having to be found for wool funds because the Government believed that it was politically in its own interests to reverse its decision to try to get that money provided by the trading banks or alternatively by the Reserve Bank of Australia. What the Government has done is for some vague political motive to provide that money itself, and that has thrown the Budget out from a $23m domestic surplus to about a $130m deficit, just like that.
We have had a devaluation of the Australian currency by 12 per cent, and this from a Government which swore black and blue that the value of Australia’s currency was the cornerstone of its economic policy. We have had an overnight turn around. There is no discussion with anybody; it is just done. Let us sincerely hope for the future of Australia in world markets that this arbitrary figure of 12 per cent that the Government has picked is a correct figure because if it is not the decision will do Australia irreparable harm. We have the Regional Employment and Development program which the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) proudly refers to as the RED program. Red indeed! This is a $20m proposal to pump money in to cure the massive levels of unemployment that have been created in a mere 20 months under this Government.
As I said earlier- and I say again- when sectors of the economy are brought to their knees the rescue operations cost so much more than the cost of keeping the economy in some reasonable state of stimulation so that the problem does not arise at all. What about the Caucus committee which is dictating to the Government? The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) walked into the House after dinner one night and announced that a certain tax announced by the Government in its Budget had been rolled.
– He got it wrong.
– And he could not even say it right, as my friend from Chisolm points out. The honourable member for Chifley came in here and talked about $5,000 of property income when he meant $5,000 of taxable income. He could not even get it right when he came out fresh from that meeting which was undermining the Government’s strategy. What are we going to see next? Government supporters talk about the advancement of the citizen. The Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant) came in here this evening and talked about that. I ask the House to reflect for a moment on just what that means. How can we possibly advance the citizens if all the time the Government is chipping away at the basis of things, if it is destroying the social and economic environment in which these people live, if it is putting extra tax burdens and impositions on the people, if it is taking away incentives, if it is creating unemployment and if it is causing massive redistributions to the public sector from the private sector? How can the Government expect to be able to improve the lot of citizens? All that it is doing is creating some massive book entries which will be brought to account before very long.
We are asked where cuts should be made in taxes and government expenditure. Everyone on the Government side says: ‘Where would you make these cuts?’ I will tell them where I would start and they should listen to this because it will be good stuff. I would start with the natural gas pipeline. I would cut that out and put it back into the hands of private enterprise where it belongs. What about the arts? What about the millions of dollars that are being blown on the rubbish that has been purchased overseas? We are talking about $4m that has been spent this week on statues and ceilings that will probably break up when they are moved. We have purchased the paintings ‘Woman V and ‘Blue Poles’. Where are we going to stop? This Government is blowing money down the drain and is trying to present some sort of avant-garde image to the world. What about unemployment payments? The Government having created unemployment is creating a system whereby anyone who vaguely looks as if he is unemployed is able to receive unemployment benefits. This Government is creating the greatest lot of bludgers and bums that this country -
-Order! The honourable member has not been here for very long and I inform him that the remark that he has just used is unparliamentary. I ask him to withdraw it.
-I withdraw, Mr Speaker. The greatest lot of bludgers and loafers -
-Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to withdraw that word which is unparliamentary.
– I withdraw that one, too, Mr Speaker. Thank you ;or your guidance. This Government is creating the greatest lot of freeloaders that we have ever seen in this country. I would support some rationalisation of the unemployment benefits that are being handed over to these people. Anyone who is genuinely unemployed is entitled to a fair benefit. I would support the payment of these benefits to those people but I do not support the double payments that are being squeezed out of the Government and the Treasury by people who register in 2 places and people who will not take jobs offered to them.
What about the 115 commissions of inquiry that have been set up by this Government and are wandering around the world and the countryside considering things which the Government probably will never implement anyway. Let us make some cuts there. Let us make some cuts in the growth of the Public Service. What about making some cuts in the overseas jaunts and junkets that are being made by Ministers of this Government? The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) are at the forefront of that list. Ministers travel in BAC 111 aircraft and hired jets all over the world. They are ripping it off the taxpayers. Because the jets cannot carry a large amount of fuel they have to stop in terribly unpleasant places like Bali and Singapore on the way through to Peking. What a strain on these men. My goodness, where is it going to stop? Let us start by making some cuts in public -
-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 will speak rather gently upon a subject which may have some remote interest in this place. It is concerned with the Grants Commission. The Grants Commission is well known to the House. I believe it was touched upon in a passing manner in a debate which occurred yesterday. The Commission has operated in Australia for more than 40 years. It has been a body which has pursued a most creditable path and has a valuable record. In fact, pre-eminently it has been a body quite unique to Australia. From the early days its task has been to pursue principles of equality between the States. It is often termed ‘fiscal equality’. As a testament to its value and as a testament to its respect the Grants Commission has remained in an undisputed position which has been accepted by nearly all State Treasuries and all State Governments throughout its existence except for a short time during the Second World War when there was a famous and colourful Tasmanian Treasurer known as Dwyer-Gray. He waged the last public campaign against the Grants Commission towards the end of the war years. But the Grants Commission has remained in the situation that I have described and it has been respected. The Commission has been responsible for assisting Western Australia and Tasmania to attain positions in which they feel that they are able to withdraw as claimant States before the Commission. All this is a respectable background for a body which is worthy of the respect that has been given to it.
I am concerned that a new appointment has been made to the Grants Commission. The new appointment- probably to the most complex economic body in Australia- is of a New South Wales judge. His name I understand is ElseMitchell a nicely hyphenated name. Judge ElseMitchell has been appointed as Chairman of the Commission- as Chairman of a body for which he has had no training. He has exhibited no knowledge as to the principles of operation of this body. His appointment is in stark contrast to other appointments which have been made to the Commission during the last 8 or 9 years. I believe that his appointment has been a simple mistake. To appoint a man whose expertise is almost wholly in the law to the chairmanship of a most complex body of this type is rather like appointing an accountant to a supreme court. In another way, it is rather like appointing an economist to the High Court of Australia. How would either of those assess the evidence presented before them? How would His Honour, who has been appointed as Chairman of the Commission to replace a very great man, Sir Leslie Melville, assess the very technical evidence presented to that Commission by the Federal Treasury and by State Treasuries? Mr Justice Else-Mitchell, in fact, has not been trained for the job. I do not think that this appointment can pass without my making a reference to it.
– What sort of training would you require?
– The person to be appointed to such a position needs some training in finance. He needs some understanding of interstate finance and economics. Certainly, he needs to have quite a detailed knowledge of economics. Mr Justice Else-Mitchell has exhibited no knowledge of such matters. His appointment, frankly, is a bad mistake.
What I think is most galling is that his appointment to that body has been brought about at the same time as he has been given the highest status that anybody has ever been given who has been appointed as Chairman of the Grants Commission. In a Press release issued by the Special Minister of State, the Minister said that it was the Government’s intention that the new Chairman should have the same status and privileges as a judge of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court. He has less ability and less training yet he has been given higher status than those who have preceded him. Some very famous people have preceded Mr Justice Else-Mitchell in that position, especially during the last decade. I would not suggest that he is the first lawyer to be appointed to it but since the Grants Commission has become most skilled, especially over the past decade, he should not be appointed.
A number of States deserve to be very concerned about this appointment, especially those States which remain as claimant States before the Commission. The 2 States to which I refer are South Australia and Queensland. A number of years ago South Australia ceased to be a claimant State. It was in the late 1950s. South Australia decided a little over a decade later to come back to the Commission and it has been well satisfied with the determinations made by the Commission for the benefit of the South Australian Government. The Queensland Government, which is the other claimant State before the Commission these days, has also been well satisfied with its determinations in the past 3 years. An effective $2 5 m by way of advance and completion grants is reported to have been awarded to my State for this year.
I believe that the appointment of a chairman of this nature places the position of those 2 States at risk. It places all the determinations of the Commission at risk, especially when interstate finance is in a state of turmoil. I mention 3 areas to illustrate my point: Firstly, there are the adjustments for education, the Karmel Committee grants, the disadvantaged school grants and other grants which have changed altogether the way in which money is allocated between States, and which affect the determination of equality between the States for the purposes of the Commission. His Honour has no skill in that area.
Secondly, in my own State the people have been concerned about health. My own State is concerned with what are purported to be special grants made to it to replace the free public hospital system. It will amount to money being put into one pocket and taken out of another. In other words, it is a matter of taking from Peter to pay Paul. It is the same principle. The Chairman of the Grants Commission will not be able to dissect on his own the arguments presented before the Commission. The third point I wish to make concerns the effects of mining operations on the level of the State ‘s activities whether it is a matter of capital grants, capital loans for railways or the operation of the mines themselves. The fact is that Queensland has been elevated to a very preeminent place among Australian States in terms of its own growth, principally through the feedback effects of its mining operations. In 1972, for example, 3 small open cut mines that employed 3,000 people between them in Queensland were responsible for supporting- this is a conservative estimate- up to 65,000 people. Similar operators have played a most dominant part in the economy of Western Australia.
His Honour has given no indication of being able to evaluate the principles of equality concerning royalties, freights and capital expenditure payments by the claimant States as compared with the standard States. All these matters must be placed at serious risk. Mr Justice ElseMitchell will have to depend upon others for his advice and for his determinations. A chairman of that body which is not an arm of the Treasury ought not to be in that position.
Hitherto the Australian States could always rest assured that no matter what happened there was an opportunity to appeal to the Commission for justice and for the application of the principle of equality, which has been better preserved in various parts of Australia than in any other country. The operation of that principle and the effect of the judgments that will be made by the Commission will be placed at risk as a result of this appointment. The assurance that the States will receive equal treatment has diminished. I believe that the principle of equality is in the process of passing away. I believe that quite clearly and obviously the appointment of Mr Justice ElseMichell as Chairman of the Grants Commission places at risk the position of States such as Queensland and South Australia. I believe that when Tasmania returns to the Commission this appointment will place determinations for Tasmania at great risk. Judgments will be made not according to the knowledge of the Chairman but according to his lack of knowledge.
-On 25 September 1973 I had the pleasure of presenting to Parliament the first report of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Road Safety. The report recommended the creation of a national authority on road safety and it commented on the constitutional position and statistical needs in the road safety field. The Committee then inquired into the environment in which the motor vehicle moves, specifically roads, road engineering, town planning and roadside obstacles, and I had very much pleasure in presenting this report to the House on 10 April 1974. At that time I began to make some comments on the Committee, its staff and the report itself, but was unable to complete my speech because of the pending dissolution of Parliament and need to discuss Government business.
The report has only just become available in printed form and it is appropriate that I should, at this time, bring it to the attention of all people interested in road safety. It was my first experience in chairing a House committee and I was delighted with the work of both the staff and the members of that Committee. While I was Chairman of the Committee we sat on 33 occasions and held public hearings in all the capital cities. During these public hearings evidence was received from 115 witnesses and 3,600 pages of evidence was taken. One of the sharp distinctions between committee work and debates of the House of Representatives is the degree of unanimity one can achieve in a committee although the Committee consisted of members of all political philosophies represented in the Parliament We were able to resolve these difficulties and come up with a unanimous report that I believe has far reaching consequences for this country and for its citizens.
The great problem that we face in our society today is that the motor vehicle has been imposed upon a system which was never designed for a motor vehicle, certainly not the five and a half million motor vehicles that are present in Australia today. Seventy years ago, no one would have foreseen the growth in motor vehicle usage. Thirty years ago, our planners failed to foresee what was likely to happen and the result is a tangled mess that results in enormous wastage of resources and time, a massive loss of life, and large numbers of injured. The decisions that we make today will determine whether, by the turn of the century, we will have shown more foresight than did our forebears. We expect to build as many new communities during the next 25 years as we have in the past 200 years. We have a marvellous opportunity to learn from our failures of the past and to see that death and injury from the motor vehicle are reduced to a bare minimum.
The previous report and this report stress the need for an overall systematic approach to the problems of road safety. The major aspect which has been dealt with in this report is the environmental side of the problem and covers such things as road design; construction and maintenance; the roadside environment; traffic engineering, including signs, signals and markings; town planning and the transport system, including alternatives to the private vehicle. Other aspects such as the vehicle, driver, law enforcement, care in the post-crash stage etc. will be covered in future reports of the Committee.
This systematic approach is nowhere more applicable than in the field of roads, road engineering and town planning. This area is one which is most fruitful for effecting major reductions in road accidents. An improvement to the road will continue to save lives for the whole life of the road, provided there is proper maintenance. Effective separation of vehicles from other vehicles and from pedestrians has the greatest possibility of a major reduction in accidents. This can sometimes be done at a very low cost, such as by merely closing off a road to traffic, creating a pedestrian mall or simply limiting access to arterials. In other cases, town planning and land usage aimed at minimising the exposure to accidents can be achieved at no cost or even lower cost than their alternatives. The main ingredient is proper planning.
The Commonwealth Bureau of Roads recommended that the Australian Government should contribute $2,607m for the provision of roads and highways for the next 5-year period. The Australian Government agreed to the Bureau of Roads recommendation, and a total of $6,608m will be spent by the States and the Australian Government during this period. With this in mind the Committee decided to bring forward this aspect of road safety so that the 2 reports could be considered together. Unfortunately, past history shows Commonwealth aid road grants have never been related in any way to safety features and we believe that it is the responsibility of the Australian Government to use the power of direction it has through the Commonwealth aid road grants to ensure that the highest standards of safety are implemented. We were also conscious that the new Government has taken a more direct involvement in the development of new cities and growth centres and is working on blueprints for these areas at the moment.
The Committee felt that the new Department of Urban and Regional Development and its offshoot, the Cities Commission, should be extremely aware of the need to plan the cities and to redevelop the old cities in such a way that there was a maximum separation of the vehicle from other vehicles and of the vehicle from the pedestrian. Throughout our hearings we were also made conscious of the fact that a large proportion of the developed areas are the responsibility of local councils and private developers. Repeatedly, evidence was given to the Committee that local councils lacked the technical expertise to design communities with the highest degree of road safety. Private developers who put forward to councils imaginative although sometimes revolutionary new proposals which were designed with a high degree of road safety found themselves obstructed rather than encouraged by the rigid rules of local government authorities. They received no encouragement from the State or Federal governments and often reverted to traditional types of grid developments with the subsequent high risk of death and injury.
Pedestrian deaths and injuries account for approximately a quarter of the road toll and amongst pedestrians, the very young and the very old account for around 60 per cent. The one really well planned city in Australia, Canberra, has the lowest pedestrian death rate in Australiaapproximately one-sixth that of any other major city. Our society will be able to save thousands of lives of future generations of Australians if it applies known technology to the planning and building of our new communities. I would like to cite one example we saw when we visited Western Australia, where the Committee was taken by Councillor Paul Ritter to view the Crestwood Estate, built by an idealistic developer, Mr Ron Sloan. This estate will comprise some 1,250 homes and a population of around 7,000 people.
Features of Crestwood Estate include parks where children can play, can visit their friends without crossing a street while walking through lawns and going through parks and along underpasses. The road system within Crestwood meets the home on the street side while the other side of the home becomes the main frontage opening onto parks and a pathway system, both of which keep children from playing on the streets and allow residents to move or play freely throughout the entire area and to attend school without ever crossing a roadway. Recreation areas and a swimming pool in each village are all accessible by walking or cycling without crossing a roadway but still allow access by vehicle and provide for detached housing. Swimming pools, tennis courts, bowling greens, squash courts and basketball courts will be provided in each area and again will be accessible without the need to cross roads.
The Committee decided to recommend that the Australian Government should encourage State planning authorities and local government bodies by technical and financial assistance to adopt safer and more efficient town planning principles. The Committee believed that it was essential that private developers who were prepared to build large developments of the Crestwood type be given incentives by the Government.
The Committee supported whole-heartedly the principles in the Bureau of Roads report that the Australian Government should proceed posthaste with the building of a highway system. There was a monumental amount of evidence that massive reductions could occur in multi-lane divided highways connecting the major cities of Australia. On the autobahns, autostradas and the expressways of the world it has been shown that accident reduction of up to 70 per cent can occur when these highways are built. Our present intercity road system is a disgrace and many of the roads that we now call highways could not be described as better than fourth class rural roads. Sections of the Hume Highway, the busiest highway in Australia, connecting Sydney and Melbourne, have enormous usage and high speed vehicles now pass each other with often only half a metre or less between them at speeds up to 1 10 kilometres an hour and above. It is inevitable that from time to time a mistake occurs and it usually results in a multiple fatality. There are, of course, enormous benefits besides injury and fatality reduction to the community in the building of an inter-city highway system. The Committee adds its voice to the public criticism over the condition of the Hume Highway, which can only be described as a national disaster.
The Committee looked at the problems of urban freeways and although it was not specifically in our terms of reference we were conscious of the opposition to the building of urban expressways that concentrated on bringing vehicles into the central business districts. The environmental cost of community disruption of these new expressways was considered by the Committee to be vastly in excess of their value of saving lives compared with new alternatives that were put before the Committee.
Spot improvements to the roads, roadside and traffic management provide a low cost, high benefit method of reducing accidents. They do not rely on a general panacea but are aimed at solving specific problems which can be solved more easily and cheaply. There is a problem of diagnosing these problems but this can be overcome by co-operation between the various levels of authorities. Hobart City Council provided an example of a survey which might be followed. A $5m program is presently under way. Surveys by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads indicated the need for around $154m for minor improvements. However, because of lack of engineering and specialised equipment this was reduced to $89m.
My time is running out. There were some other matters I wanted to discuss. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the recommendations of the Committee.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
The Committee recommends that:
Formulate safety standards for land use, town planning and road design; and seek ways of creating greater public acceptance of the desirability of and necessity for planning and building communities in which the vehicle and pedestrian are separated; for example, by the greater use of Radburn design principles, cluster housing estates. (Para. 59(c))
New Approaches to Road Design
Road Safety Education at Tertiary Level
Alternatives to the Motor Vehicle
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– There is very much that the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) has just said which I certainly would support and which I believe everybody in the House would support. I do not want to detract from anything that he has said or in any way minimise my support by just drawing attention to the fact that one mistake that is rather crucial was incorporated in his argument. The honourable member talked about new towns and the people who are going to live in them. On our present population statistics there are not going to be many new towns. The population statistics are such that the Government’s program as a whole is nonsense. I say that particularly for the benefit of the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson), who is at the table, because his housing program incorporates a great deal of nonsense for the simple reason that he has not looked specifically at the proper projections of the Australian population. That is a very important subject. It is one which I hope to be able to develop at greater length at another time.
– Do you know what we are doing? Do you know that we have started looking at it for the first time?
– I know perfectly well what the Government is doing and I know perfectly well what Professor Borrie is doing. I am saying that at the present moment the Government’s plans incorporate a great deal of nonsense because they are based on a population projection which is simply wrong. I make that statement categorically and I am prepared to defend it in detail in this House or elsewhere. I know that Professor Borrie is shortly to reduce his previously published projections. I am familiar with what is going on. I make the definite statement that there is a great deal of nonsense talked by the Government, particularly by the Cities Commission, in this regard. If the Minister will do me the honour of looking at a small article which I wrote in the Sydney ‘Bulletin’ of this week he will see a little bit of this subject discussed but he will not see it discussed in depth because there was not enough room to do so. But, as I have said, I will take the opportunity in the future of discussing this matter in depth in the House.
What I wanted to talk about tonight very briefly is the peculiar omission from the terms of reference of the Royal Commission which is inquiring into payments made to the maritime unions under duress. What happened was that when this matter was brought to the attention of the public the Government professed a great deal of indignation about it, said that it was improper and set up a Royal Commission to inquire into it. But one of the things that was missing from the terms of reference of that Royal Commission was any reference to misdoings by the Government itself because the Government itself knew about this misdemeanours and did nothing. One of the terms of reference of the Royal Commission should be why the Government did nothing, what Ministers had guilty foreknowledge of this matter and to what extent were they culpable in trying to hush up these events before they came to the notice of the public. I believe that this omission from the terms of reference of the Royal Commission is very significant because in my view there are guilty men in the Government.
Why was the Royal Commission not told to investigate the prima facie fact that on 26 July, for example, the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) and the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) knew that money was being extorted by threat, and knew that the threats were a criminal act, yet they did not refer this matter to the Royal Commission. They allowed money to continue to be extorted from 26 July until a month later. They knew about it. They had prior knowledge that money was being extorted in regard to the ‘Sevillon Reefer’ under threat. It seems prima facie that there was a criminal act, that the Government knew about it and that the Government did nothing.
I would not go so far as to assert that the Ministers are themselves criminally liable. They may be; I do not know. But I was very interested to look at the legal authorities on what is known as misprision, which is the concealment of a felony. I looked in particular at the case of R. V. Crim.mins which was heard in the Supreme Court of Victoria in 1959 and in which the judgment of a single judge was upheld by the Full Court The introduction to the report on this case states:
The offence of misprision of felony is not obsolete. The citizen’s duty is to disclose to the appropriate authorities any treason or felony of which he has knowledge remains the same and is still as binding upon him as it was in the early days of the common law.
It is not an element in the offence of misprision of felony that the offender should have made his concealment of the crime a source of profit to himself.
That is very clearly set out in the report. I want to read again from the judgment as contained in the report. It states:
Misprision of felony has certainly come to us from the earliest times in the development of the common law … In our opinion, however, the citizen’s duty to disclose to the appropriate authorities and treason or felony, of which he has knowledge, remains the same and is still as binding upon him as it was in the early days of the common law. And no doubt cases will arise, from time to time, when the public interest will be best served by the citizen, who fails in his duty, being prosecuted for misprision of felony. There is certainly no justification for the view that such a prosecution is no longer available to the Crown.
The question then is: What are the constituent elements of the crime? We think they are really determined by what we have already said. The offence lies in the failure to perform the duty to disclose … it matters not what induced the citizen concerned not to do his duty.
Those are weighty words. They are not my words; they are the words of the judge. As I have said, they were endorsed by the Full Court. It may be that the Attorney-General should be filing a bill against two of his Ministers. I do not go so far as to say that he should do that, but I say that there is prima facie evidence- it is in the public records- of maybe not a criminal offence but certainly a moral offence and certainly a kind of offence which should have been referred to the Royal Commission. It was not referred to the Royal Commission. I ask the Government now to extend the terms of reference of the Royal Commission to enable it to consider or report upon the failure of any Minister or Ministers to disclose the offence when it came to his or their notice or to take action to prevent its repetition.
I want the Royal Commission to tell us whether any Minister has in a guilty way concealed things which should have been brought to the public attention because there is a time lag as evidence in the documents. I am not talking from hearsay; I am talking from documents. There is a prima facie case of wrongdoing- perhaps not criminal wrongdoing but wrongdoing- against a Minister and it should have been referred to the Royal Commission in all honesty. I wonder whether the whole commission inquiry is meant as a cover-up of guilty Ministers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.59 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture, upon notice:
– The Minister for Agriculture has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
Actual levels of use and comparative percentages are shown in the table below:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture, upon notice;
– The Minister for Agriculture has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Dairy 10 per cent, Wheat, Sheep, Beef 7-9 per cent and Horticulture 1 percent.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) are answered in the table I. However, it should be noted that not all meetings that have been held on the Australian Assistance Plan are necessarily recorded on the Social Welfare Commission’s files, or known about by the Commission as meetings are convened by local groups, which may not advise the Commission of their action.
Nature and Purposes of Grants
Administrative Grants up to a maximum of $20,000.
Capitation Grants up to $2 a head for population in the Region. The capitation grants are for the funding of welfare projects which have been researched by the Regional Council and approved by the Social Welfare Commission, in consultation with the Department of Social Security.
asked the Special Minister of State, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1)and(2)
Since the inception of the. Commission the Governments have not so directed and with their approval funds have been used by the Commission in developing output at Christmas Island.
There are further deposits of lower grade aluminium phosphate (classified as’C’grade) amounting to 148 million tonnes. So far the economics of various ways and means of processing “C grade phosphate which have been investigated by the Commission have not proved favourable.
Research into utilization of’C’ grade deposits is continuing.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
Will he provide in consolidated form information he has already given or obtained subsequently from the States in reply to my questions Nos 339 of 29 March 1973, 581 of 22 May 1973 and 773 of 8 April 1974.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is set out in the following tables.
In providing this information I believe it is essential to have some understanding of the respective schemes to avoid the possibility of drawing invalid conclusions. A brief explanation of the basis for the allocation of funds is contained in the Appendix to this answer. I would also point out to the honourable member that the provisions of the Science and Libraries Programs do not apply to the Territories of the Commonwealth where science and library facilities in schools are provided under different arrangements.
The programs have developed over the last decade. In the case of the Science Facilities Program, some $123m will have been provided by 30 June 1975. With the Libraries Program some $57m will have been provided by 31 December 1974.
Under the original arrangements for both the Science and Libraries Programs, the available funds were divided between the State and non-government school sectors and between the two non-government school sectors subsequently on a basis related to State population and secondary school enrolments.
In 1967 the allocation to non-government schools was doubled. For the present quadrennial period of the Science Program, the proportionate distribution between government and non-government schools was maintained. The basis of calculation was the actual assessed entitlement to assistance of the various non-government schools concerned.
For the present triennial period of the Libraries Program, the State population factor was not taken into consideration. The total known amount available for the period was initially divided between the government and non-government school sectors on a secondary enrolment basis. The available funds for the non-government schools were then allocated on the proportionate basis of their established requirements to bring all eligible non-government school library facilities to an acceptable standard. To illustrate; if what was required to raise a particular sector of the non-government schools in a State to acceptable standards was 10 per cent of what was required to raise all non-government schools to acceptable standards, that sector received 10 per cent of the amount available to non-government schools. The amounts appropriated under the legislation are set out in Table 7.
In respect of State government schools it has been the practice of State education departments to construct science and library facilities under normal contractual arrangements. This means that the library or science facility is paid for, in full, on completion. However, with non-government schools, available grants, particularly in the libraries program, have not usually been sufficient to cover the full cost of the project. Consequently, many schools must raise any balance with their own finance to complete their projects.
State Advisory Committees recommend the allocation of funds to non-government schools, and these were established originally for the Catholic and non-Catholic sectors respectively. This method of allocation was undertaken to ensure the widest possible distribution, throughout the nongovernment school system, of Australian Government assistance. In the government sector, allocations are made by the State education departments. At the beginning of each program State authorities provide the Minister with a broad general program of proposed expenditure for approval. The legislation requires the States to provide a statement in respect of each year of the program, listing the schools on which the funds have been expended. The statements are coordinated and tabled in the Parliament to comply with the requirements of the States Grants legislation.
State education authorities adopt different approaches to the allocation of funds to meet priorities. As an example, in one case a State applied the bulk of its funds to three projects which were in urgent need at the time. Consequently, the percentage figure of schools assisted bears no direct relationship to the funds made available to that State. To a greater or lesser extent a somewhat similar situation exists in most States. In the non-government sector, funds are more widely disbursed and projects tend to be single unit construction in each school.
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice:
What is the attitude of the Government to joining in an agreement with the United States of America to exchange scientific knowledge and technology in the solar energy field?
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Australian Government is receptive to any proposals to further scientific and technical cooperation with the United States of America, as with other countries, in fields of mutual interest. On this basis, the Government has entered into a formal agreement with the United States to participate in a study on solar energy. The ultimate objective of the study is to assist in encouraging the use of cost effective and practical solar heating, cooling and hot water systems in residential, commercial and public buildings.
The U.S./Australia Agreement for Scientific and Technical Cooperation is an existing avenue for cooperation and information exchange in various fields. A seminar on solar energy was held under the auspices of the Agreement from 19 February to 1 March this year. The seminar included a four day meeting in Sydney, a visit to the CSIRO solar energy field station at Griffith, N.S.W., and another meeting in Melbourne. Eleven U.S. scientists and 21 Australian scientists attended the seminar which will provide a basis for promoting future close cooperation in solar energy research and development between the two nations.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
How many trained nurses are there and what is the turnover rate of these nurses in each State in
What is the present salary rate of trained nurses in each State in
What is the average overtime worked by trained nurses in each State in
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
This information is not available as, in the past, no arrangements have been made for its collection. However, this situation is now being corrected following the creation within the Department of Health of a special section to collect this type of information in the future.
In addition the Government has established through the Hospitals and Health Services Commission, a Committee on Health Careers (Personnel and Training) to advise the Government on the implications of the material collected.
The Royal Australian Nursing Federation and other relevant bodies are co-operating in this process.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Is it intended to accede to the Royal Australian Nursing Federation’s request to grant, over three years, $3m as a fund for nurses obtaining tertiary qualifications, and to enhance nursing education programs.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Royal Australian Nursing Federation, in submissions to the Hospitals and Health Services Commission and its Committee on Health Careers (Personnel and Training), sought unspecified funds in support of nurse education and training initiatives.
RANF, on behalf of the Working Party on Goals in Nursing Education, has already received funds under the Health Services (Research and Planning) Program to enable a survey of proposals for changes in nursing education to be undertaken.
The RANF submissions have canvassed a wide range of proposals for enhancing nurse education and training. These proposals will be evaluated and discussed in a report by the Commission later this year on health manpower generally.
Department of the Capital Territory: Management Consultant Firms (Question No. 812)
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The only major activity yet to be commenced is the conversion of petrol pumps, already organised for 1 975.
From the outset, industry was keen to achieve early conversion because of the benefits that it expected would result from the change. Already cost savings have been reported from such industries as transport, textiles, building and packaging. These savings will in the long run offset any initial outlay on the change. They result from the simplicity of the system and from the opportunity that the change offered to rationalise sizes and ranges of products.
The following is a list of industries and products operating predominantly in metric units at 1 August 1974.
Asbestos cement sheets.
Wooden doors and door leaves (imperial sizes special after July 1974).
Fibreglass boards and panels.
Victorian Forestry Commission; South Australia Woods and Forests Department; Western Australia Forests Department; Australian Capital Territory Forests
Branch; Forestry and Timber Bureau; New South Wales Forestry Commission; Queensland Department of Forestry; Tasmanian Forests Commission; Northern Territory Forestry Commission.
Iron and steel industry:
Forgings and castings; fabrication; cast iron pipe and fittings; steel tubes and fittings; merchant bar; structural sections; wire; sheet and strip; railway materials.
Land and surveying.
Temperature, pressure, distance, wind speed, weather system movement.
Mineral wool insulation.
Particle board (Modular Sheets).
Plywood (Modular sizes 1 July 1974).
Poultry grading ( frozen).
Ready mixed concrete.
Reinforcing bar and fabric.
Retail sales of piece goods.
Road signs and road maps.
Ropes and twines.
Sporting bodies (all major sports).
Steel ( beams, plates, etc. ).
Tanning industry- leather.
Tariffs (solely metric).
Tide tables and harbour navigation. Timber industry.
Transport (freight rates, passengers, etc.) air, rail, road and sea).
Vinyl tiles and sheet.
Water and sewerage (customer billing).
Wheat, barley, rice and other coarse grain.
Wine and brandy (production).
The following is a list of tentative and confirmed dates for conversion revised to 1 August 1974. Further revision may be necessary to allow for incompatibilities between programs and other contingencies.
Aeronautical industry, 1 973 onwards.
Agricultural and veterinary chemicals, now convening.
Automotive industry, converting now to 1978.
Baby foods, now converting.
Bottles and cans, now convening.
Bar sales, now converting.
Bread, now convening.
Brooms and brushes, now converting.
Building and construction:
Design, now convening.
Council Plans, 1973-1974.
Chemical engineering, 1973-1975.
Clothing, commence 1974.
Clay bricks, now available.
Compressed gases: CO2, now converting.
LPG, now convening.
Dairy products, 1972-1976.
Adult, now convening.
Secondary, 1973 complete 1974.
Tertiary (non-university), now converting.
Tertiary (university), now converting.
Technical, now convening.
Electricity generation and distribution, 1 972- 1 976.
Electronic and electrical engineering, 1973-1976.
Explosives (industrial), now converting.
Fabricated Metal Products, now converting.
Farm Milk Tanks (new installations), now converting.
Fasteners, now to end 1975.
Furniture and bedding, now converting.
Gas industry, 1973-1977.
Household utensils, 1 973- 1 977.
Iron and steel industry:
Plates, September 1974.
Locomotive and rolling stock, 75% by 1978.
Machine tools, January 1973 onwards.
Manchester, now converting.
Meat (wholesale), now converting.
Meat (retail), now converting.
Dispensing pumps, 1974-1976.
Sole metric marking, now permissible.
Sole imperial markings withdrawn, January 1976.
Progressive size rationalisation, 1972-1977.
Paint industry, May-September 1974.
Paint brushes, converting.
Petroleum products, 1972-1977.
Plastics and chemicals, now converting.
Printing, now converting.
Real Estate, now converting.
Rubber industry, now converting.
Small boat industry, progressively now to 1 978.
Soft drinks, 1973-1974.
Spirits industry, 1975.
Sporting bodies, progressively converting.
Tobacco production, now converting.
Vegetables (packing and marketing), now convening.
Water and sewerage (metric water meters), now being introduced.
Weighing machines, progressively converting.
Wine and brandy (retail), 1973-1975.
asked the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
There are many officers in my Department engaged from time to time on work which might be classified generally as ‘research and development’. Those who have the designation of ‘research officer’ are to a very large degree engaged in research pursuits. Others, though having other designations, are also engaged in more or less degree in research.
In respect of positions in the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, for which I am responsible, where the designation ‘research officer’ is used, the following information can be provided:
The head office of the Authority, 82 Pitt Street, Sydney.
Work associated with the statutory function of the Authority to obtain and publish information relating to the stevedoring industry
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
1 ) The functions of the National Drug Advisory Council will be:
Australian Advisory Committee on the Environment (Question No. 975)
asked the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
Do members of the re-structured Australian Advisory Committee on the Environment receive any income or allowances in their capacity as members of the Committee; if so, what are the details.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I draw the honourable member’s attention to my reply to a similar question asked by the honourable member for Parramatta (See Hansard 19September 1974page 1635).
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
What is the composition of the fleet of aircraft used by his Department, formerly referred to as the Department of Civil Aviation fleet.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Department of Transport, Air Transport Group aircraft fleet comprises three F27s, one HS 125, one DC3, six Merlins, two Aero Commanders, one Cessna 310, one Cessna 170, five Beech Bonanzas, one Piper Aztec and one Piper Cherokee.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
Is there any airport in South Australia capable of receiving a 707 or 747 aircraft.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Adelaide Airport is capable of handling both the Boeing 747 at reduced operating weights and the Boeing 707.
Adelaide has been available as an international alternate for some years past.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Essendon traffic was-
Moorabbin operations include flying training, charter and aerial work and private flying.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 October 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1974/19741002_reps_29_hor90/>.