29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr Speaker (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
Foreign Students in Australia: Rights
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens and foreign students in Australia respectfully showeth:
That many foreign students in Australia, as well as many Australian students are deeply concerned at the political surveillance of foreign students in Australia by officials of foreign missions from the nations of these students, particularly students from Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, South Korea and South Vietnam.
That the undersigned strongly object to the extension into Australia of the laws of foreign nations in regard to the political activities and or beliefs engaged in by foreign students during their stay in Australia.
That foreign students on their return home have in fact been charged with activities engaged in while in Australia which under Australian Law are legal.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will ensure that: (a) foreign students in Australia are not subjected to political surveillance;
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Dawkins and Mr Kerin. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the reduction of the allowable deduction or education expenses under Section 82J of the Income Tax Assessment Act from $400 to $150 is $50.00 below the I9S6/S7 figure.
That this reduction will impose hardship on many parents who have children attending school, whether nongovernment or government; and particularly on parents with more than one child at school.
That this reduction will further restrict the freedom available to parents to make a choice of school for their children.
That some parents who have chosen to send their children to a non-government school will have to withdraw their children and send them to government schools already over crowded and understaffed.
That the parents to benefit most relatively from educational income tax deductions, in the past and even more in the future, are the parents of children in government schools and this has a divisive effect in the Australian community.
That parents should be encouraged by the Australian Government to exercise freedom of choice of the type of school they wish for their children. The proposed reduction means an additional financial penalty is imposed on parents who try to exercise this choice and discourages them from making an important financial contribution to Australian education over and above what they contribute through taxation.
That an alternative system, a tax rebate system, could be adopted as being more equitable for all parents with children at school.
To compensate for the losses that will follow from the proposed reduction and to help meet escalating educational costs faced by all families your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should take immediate steps to restore educational benefits to parents, at least at the 1973-74 level either by increasing taxation deductions or through taxation rebates.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Crean. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology which has catered for tertiary needs of Melbourne for nearly 100 years is still without any location where students can gather in a social context.
That a properly constituted meeting of students supported the policy of the elected Students’ Representative Council that Union Facilities should be the First priority of the Institute.
That the S.R.C. formulated a Definitive Plan that is un acceptable constructive and reasonable amendment to the present planning schedule at the Institute.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House ask the Australian Commission on Advanced Education to consider in their 1976-78 Triennium Report an allocation of funds to ensure the provision of Union Facilities at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Crean. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of Australia in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth: That we have read the petitions concerning the Family Law Bill and support the bill as sufficiently protecting the legal and social rights of women and children in the family.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Family Law Bill be debated and passed as soon as possible.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Cass.
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 House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should not admit into the law of this land the principle that marriage is only temporary and the family no longer the fundamental unit of society.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Kevin Cairns.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas uranium found in vast quantities in Australia is the raw material for the nuclear fission reaction,
And whereas presently assured reserves of uranium in Australia represent a potential production of over 540,000 kilograms of Plutonium 239 if utilized in Light Water Reactors overseas,
And whereas the Maximum Permissible Inhalation of Plutonium 239 is 0.00000025 gram,
And whereas Plutonium 239 is one of the most dangerous substances human society has ever created, causing mutations and cancers,
And whereas there are no methods of safely and absolutely confining Plutonium from the biosphere for the requisite quarter of a million years,
And whereas Plutonium coming in contact with the air forms an aerosol cloud of micron-sized particles, its most dangerous form.
And whereas the export of uranium may return to us an import of Plutonium particles dispersed in the global environment via the circulation of the atmosphere,
And whereas there are no sure safeguards against the military use of nuclear fission, and the nuclear proliferation represents a prime environmental threat to all forms of life on the only earth available to us,
And that it is therefore an act of self-preservation to demand a halt to all exports of uranium except for bio-medical uses,
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members, in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry.
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 least50 per cent of the cost of education 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 Jarman.
To the Honourable, the Speaker, and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘free’ national health scheme is not free at all and will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme.
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an individual’s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the 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.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country is causing and will cause widespread inconvenience, confusion, expense and distress.
That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.
That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored in those areas where the greatest inconveniences and distress are occurring, that is to say, in meteorology, in road distances, in sport, in the building and allied trades, in the printing trade, and in retail trade.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Macphee.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that they support the Family Law Bill 1 974 which provides for:-
Your petitioners humbly pray that the House will pass the Family Law Bill without delay.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the 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 Morris.
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:
We the undersigned do humbly request that the Australian Government commission an enquiry into the provision and funding of State and Municipal Public Libraries throughout Australia. Public Libraries are an essential part of the nation’s facilities for education and information, and the cultural life of the people. Organisation and financing methods to date have manifestly failed to develop Public Libraries to the standard that Australia needs, therefore it is imperative that a thorough national enquiry be conducted.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will press for the long-awaited Enquiry into Public Libraries throughout Australia withthe utmost of urgency.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Oldmeadow.
– I have to inform the House that we have present in the gallery today members of a delegation from the United Kingdom Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association led by the right honourable R. Graham Page, M.B.E., M.P. In view of the delicately poised test cricket position between England and Australia, this is a very appropriate time for our visitors to be in Australia. On behalf of the House, I extend a very warm welcome to the members of the delegation.
Honourable members- Hear, hear!
-I give notice that I intend to present on General Business Thursday, No. 8, a Bill for an Act to amend the law relating to parliamentary elections, by making provision for the use of a simplified method of preferential voting.
– I ask the Minister for Minerals and Energy: Did the Minister and the Government announce a financial investment in Wambo coal mine at Warkworth in the Paterson electorate to the extent of $3.7m, plus a $700,000 loan? Was this the same proposition as was put forward by Australian Anglo American Ltd, which contract was submitted to the Minister for approval? Did the Minister then decide to take over this contract? Is it a fact that Wambo Mines has not been advised officially of the Government’s intention? Has Australian Anglo American not been advised that its proposition, as submitted, has been rejected? Will the Minister lay down future guidelines so that mining interests do not stand the risk of having submissions sabotaged by the Petroleum and Minerals Authority?
– I am afraid that the honourable member has a very real misconception of the facts of the case. I was approached by a Mr Burke who had contacted me at least 13 months before and who had submitted substantial data to me on that occasion. At that stage the Petroleum and Minerals Authority did not exist. I told him that he could subsequently apply for assistance. In fact, we would have been moving in any event because Australian Anglo American Ltd -
– I cannot hear the answer.
– Can these microphones be attended to, Mr Speaker? They are worse than useless. I shall repply answer to the honourable member’s qu,-suon. It is a simple one. First contact was made about 13 months ago. Quite recently we were approached by Mr Burke of Wambo. To suggest that we were muscling in or horning in is absolutely incorrect. The Petroleum and Minerals Authority has certain functions to discharge. Of course the paramount one is to protect Australian interests. The company which the honourable member chooses to champion is one which, I understand, is an affiliate of the De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd interests in South Africa. Accordingly, on more than even financial grounds it is a company which we should at least refrain from encouraging in Australia. I am proud of what has been done. This is a good deal which will be for the benefit of Australia and not for the benefit of overseas investors.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Minerals and Energy. I refer to his announcement yesterday concerning Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd. Does the Minister consider that he has been guilty of a practice amounting to insider trading by withholding vital information from the market during the recent share issue of Mary Kathleen Uranium? When were the details of the new uranium prices available to him? Is the Minister aware that the practice which he has apparently adopted in this case would lead to the suspension of any normally publicly listed company? I understand that the Australian Associated Stock Exchanges have in fact suspended Mary Kathleen Uranium pending clarification of the position.
– May I quote, in answer to the honourable member, the old saying: ‘Evil to him who evil thinks’: The re-negotiation of the pricing of uranium was conducted in the normal way as a normal commercial transaction. We entered into an underwriting contract. The management and control of Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd are still in the hands of the directors of that company. They in fact renegotiated. The information was available and would have been given to the shareholders and other interested parties. It was not within our competence to do other at that stage than act as underwriters, as we did.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture aware that the price of feed wheat at least in Tasmania rose yesterday from $7 1 a tonne to $83.40 a tonne- a 1 7.3 per cent increase for the poultry industry? As the poultry industry uses 80 per cent wheat in its feeding program and as this increase could force many small producers out of business, will the Minister consider some form of Commonwealth assistance including the setting up urgently of a Commonwealth poultry industry stabilisation fund to give some security to this turbulent industry?
-The sale of wheat in Australia comes within the provisions of the wheat stabilisation scheme which has been approved by this Parliament and which operates in conjunction with complementary legislation in the States. I would point out that the price of wheat on the domestic market in Australia is governed by a formula related to the movement in specific costs. I would also point out to the honourable member that the price of wheat in Australia both for human consumption and for stock feed is very much below the world price of wheat.
- Mr Speaker, my queston is addressed to you. It concerns the honourable member for Mackellar. I ask you, Sir, whether you will reconsider the circumstances under which the honourable gentleman was suspended from the service of this House, and in particular the non-observance of the parliamentary convention that when a person has transgressed against the Standing Orders of this House an opportunity is afforded to him to apologise before being suspended. I ask you further, Sir, whether you will consider reporting to the House when you have reflected upon the circumstances and, if need be, using your authority to facilitate a debate on the matter in this House. Finally, Mr Speaker, may I ask you whether you will accept my assurance that, whereas the honourable member for Mackellar seeks nothing but justice for himself in this matter I, in the final result, ask you whether you will entertain on his behalf clemency for Christmas.
– The Speaker has no jurisdiction over the determinations or rulings of a Chairman of Committees. The appeal against the suspension of the honourable member for Mackellar should have been made to the Chairman of Committees at the time. I have no jurisdiction over the rulings of a Chairman of Committees. I should like to make that point perfectly clear.
– Can the Minister for Minerals and Energy inform the House of the current position of the hearing of the High Court challenge by the Australian States to the vali’dity of the Seas and Submerged Lands Act?
-The position is that last Thursday the High Court fixed the date of hearing of the challenge by the 6 Australian States as 1 1 March next. It is anticipated that the hearing will occupy a period of some 6 weeks. Then for the first time we will have a full and final determination in respect of the sovereignty of the Australian Government over the continental shelf. In addition, we anticipate that the challenge to the validity of the Petroleum and Minerals Authority will be heard about the end of June. Both of these cases are of the utmost importance and it is necessary that they be determined. I might add- and it is a matter of regretthat the various designated authorities of the respective States have failed to honour both the text and the spirit of the agreement that was entered into in 1967. The machinery exists in the terms of section 32 sub-section (8) of the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act for holders of exploration permits to continue their operations. As the various permits are expiring the State governments are refusing to confer with the Commonwealth in the terms of Clause 1 1 of that agreement. In so doing they are ignoring and, worse than that, in some cases deliberately frustrating the national interest which has been clearly defined in this House by repeated statements by myself.
The Government has these objectives in mind: That there will be Commonwealth participation in the development of the resources of the continental shelf and that we are entitled to the traditional SO per cent. I made that clear in a statement recently in respect of uranium and an arrangement which has been entered into with the Peko-EZ interests. In addition, there is an obvious need for a requirement that the products found, whether they be natural gas or crude oil, be first made available to the Australian nation. There is a further requirement that there be a proper intensity of drilling. The various States through their designated authorities are assuming that they have a complete right to grant a renewal without discussing these matters that are of vital national importance. I leave the judgment of their responsibility, or the lack of it, to the good sense and to the patriotism of the Australian people.
– I address a question to the Minister for Overseas Trade. I say by way of explanation that it is well known that the economicuplift in Japan over the last several decades has enabled the population to increase its intake of protein foodstuffs, leading to the addition of larger quantities of beef to the previous staple diet of rice and fish. So it is possible for a nation to change its eating habits within a short period of time. My question to the Minister is: As Arab oil exporting countries are accumulating tremendous reserves of wealth, does this not point to u big potential market for Australian beef if religious reservations or restraints can be overcomefor example, by the employment of a few Middle East slaughtermen in Australian exporting abattoirs to carry out the actual killing of the beasts in accordance with the tenets of their religion? Is the Minister aware of any efforts by the industry to build up this market or are any efforts being directed by his Department in this field?
-It is true that the Japanese experience in the post-war period shows that as the living standards of nations rise the consumption of protein rises. Of course, in the case of Japan there would be an even greater consumption of imported meat if it were not for the fact that the Japanese meat producers, although they represent a small proportion of the community, have a very strong political influence.
– Have they a Country Party too?
-I thought the similarity would be noticed. In the case of the Middle East, it is certain that as the living standards of the oil exporting countries rise as a result of the increase of the price of oil their imports, including protein, will rise very considerably. This gives Australia a great opportunity. The leaders of most of the oil exporting countries are very well aware of this. In his recent visit to Australia the Shah of Iran was most interested in the prospects of establishing increased relations with the Australian meat producing and exporting industry. Already several companies have been involved in constructive discussions with that country. This applies also to one or two of the other oil exporting countries. It is true that there are some religious inhibitions in respect of the consumption of meat when killed under certain circumstances. This involves the export of live animals for a start, and consequently a very large number of live animals have been exported to the Middle East area. At first there was union objection to this but that has been modified. I am sure that when the interests and needs of the people in the countries we are talking about are taken into account we can expect that Australian unions will understand the situation and will be prepared to co-operate provided there are proper safeguards. I am sure those problems can be overcome.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. I refer to the continued procrastination of the Queensland Minister for Health in regard to the generous offer of the Australian Government to finance the building of an urgently needed major hospital in the southern outskirts of Brisbane. I ask the Minister: Has the Queensland Government yet come round to any responsible approach to this offer or is it to be left to the Australian Government to proceed with this project without the assistance of the Queensland Health Department and the Queensland hospital system? Can he give honourable members any information so we can be reassured that this project will proceed without delay?
– As the honourable member will be aware, every effort has been made since the introduction of the Budget last year to get the Queensland Government moving on planning for a major hospital complex in the outer suburbs of Brisbane, which is the city in Australia with the most centralised hospital service of all. 1 believe the largest hospital in the Southern Hemisphere is the Royal Brisbane Hospital and this centralisation causes severe disabilities to people in the outer suburbs, particularly the southern and western areas of Brisbane. However, we have now managed to get the agreement of all States to the establishment of joint works councils to look at hospital building priorities.
Dr Cass, on my behalf, informed Mr Tooth on 29 November 1974 that the Government had approved an initial grant of $5. 151m for this financial year under the development program for Australian hospitals and that this would be devoted to the program of public hospital works submitted by the Queensland Health Department on the priorities the State nominated. The redevelopment of the Mater Misericordiae Hospital was raised at this joint works council and discussions centred on the possibility of splitting funds between the Mater Hill project and providing up to 200 beds at Inala.
– Oh, get it rolling.
– I can understand that the honourable member, who went very close to losing his seat to Brisbane’s Lord Mayor, does not want to hear the answer but I am going to give it. I am reading from the original letter that was sent by Dr Cass on my behalf to Mr Tooth and if honourable members want it, I shall table it. At the same time Dr Cass released a statement which gave some details of that funding. Over $lm of it is to go to psychiatric facilities; for example, accommodation for the intellectually handicapped at Wolstan Park in Brisbane, at the Baillie Henderson Hospital in Toowoomba and at Rockhampton Hospital.
– Are you one of the bellyachers’
– The only bellyaching I do is about the obstruction of the States regarding the money that the Australian Government has offered to them, which they have not yet spent. I can understand that the Country Party does not want to hear about this because of the delays by the Bielke-Peterson Government in spending money- several millions- that the Federal Government has offered to it. There will be well over $2. 5m allocated for the planning of hospital projects, including the Mount Gravatt Hospital, the medical block at Toowoomba Hospital and the new block at the Atherton Hospital. We have asked for the State’s views on the siting of the Mount Gravatt Hospital, where we are prepared to make available a better block of land than the State has got. The ball is now in the court of the Queensland Government. We are prepared to co-operate with it in all respects to get this project off the ground, a project which it has been promising at about 3 elections without anything being done.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Manufacturing Industry. Is the Minister aware that before the Government introduced measures to give some protection to the shoe industry there were already over one million pairs of shoes, on the water, coming to Australia? Is the Minister aware that Myers, the company which supported Labor in 1972, placed an order with a South-East Asian country, where they have cheap labour, for the supply of thousands of pairs of women’s thongs of the same kind as have been made by a firm in Brisbane for the last decade? Is the Minister aware that this Brisbane company has been forced to lay off 150 of its 200-member staff? Is the Minister aware that many of these imports, such as the footwear I now display and which are not even reinforced, as I now demonstrate to the House, are faulty? I ask the Minister what he is doing to protect the shoe industry from the impact of these one million pairs of shoes which are already on the water and what he is doing to warn the Australian public about the inferior quality of much of these imports, which have been made possible by the non-existent tariff policies of this present Goverment?
-The act of malicious damage to property just performed by the honourable member might well provoke action by the police in another place at a different time. The Government is aware, of course, and has been aware for some little time, of great amounts of imports of footwear to Australia. I have had discussions with representatives of the Myer organisation, which is an importer about certain aspects of this. Honourable members will be aware that the Government recently took action in respect of those very high levels of imports. It caused a reference to be sent to the Temporary Assistance Authority, which operates within the context of the Industries Assistance Commission, and the Temporary Assistance Authority conducted an open public inquiry into the nature of the problem. It made a recommendation which was adopted by the Government within a matter of a day or two and action was taken to impose restrictions on imports of the kind referred to by the honourable member. I think I quote the figures correctly when I say that it was set at about 1 20 per cent of the figures for 1972-73. So it can be seen that it is a very substantial roll-back. The Department of Manufacturing Industry has been engaged since that time in allocating quotas to importers. There is a particular problem involved in this regard because some importers are caught with their pants down, so to speak, because they have out irrevocable letters of credit. Firm and positive action has been taken to protect the local manufacturing industry.
However, one should not lose sight of the fact that Australians as consumers are entitled to have access to shoes- footwear. In this regard I will tell the honourable member a short story. There is a principal Australian manufacturer who makes a good quality woman’s fashion shoe which retails for $21.50 a pair. He complained that he could not compete with an identical pair of shoes that were being imported into this country. He showed them to me perhaps a month ago. These shoes were retailing for $6.50 and were absolutely identical with the locally manufactured article. His complaint, and understandably so, was how could he compete with this identical pair of shoes which were selling for $6.50 but which he could not make and put on the market for less than $2 1.50. We took action in respect of that matter to grant protection and to achieve the correct balance between protecting Australian industry and Australian jobs and giving the consumerthe customer, the woman who wears shoes of that sort- access to shoes of that kind because she is entitled occasionally, when she wants to do so, to buy the imported goods.
It should also be made known that that imported shoe which was selling for $6.50 should have been selling in fact for about $4.50 because the price at which it was being imported would have enabled a reasonable mark-up to be placed upon it even at the lower price. The Government has taken firm and decisive action.
Overall, it has been applauded by the Australian footwear manufacturing industry.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the House in his capacity as Minister in charge of electoral affairs. Is it a fact that the Government’s reforming electoral legislation has been defeated by the Opposition in another place? Is it also a fact that many responsible commentators have condemned this shallow and cynical action? What measures does the Minister propose to democratise the Australian electoral system which for far too long has been a captive of the Australian Country Party?
– I state in answer to the honourable member that it is true that in this House the Opposition did not take advantage of the opportunity to debate properly the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill and subsequently voted against it without giving it any reasonable consideration. I would say that the legislation introduced was not only impartial but also of far reaching benefit to the Australian people. It included no fewer than 16 amendments introduced into this House by the honourable member for Gwydir on 31 March 1971 when he was the Minister for the Interior. We had the unseemly and irresponsible spectacle in the Parliament of the former Minister and all his supporters over there- there are only one or. two of them, I know- voting against the legislation which they had introduced. In commenting upon aspects of the Bill the Leader of the Opposition in another place, Senator Withers, said that the Opposition thought things were different when it saw the provisions in legislative form. Although they had introduced the provisions, members of the Opposition decided that they were not good. Consequently, those reforms and others were defeated without due consideration. The Bill was not given even a second reading in the other place, despite the fact that it contained amendments and reforms that members of the media and others had said were very necessary.
The situation now is that we are loaded with an electoral system that has not been properly revised since 1902. The regrettable feature of this is that the Chief Australian Electoral Officer under successive governments has worked for these reforms. It must be exceedingly disappointing for him to see an Act which he sought to bring up to date being treated so shabbily by honourable members opposite. It is said that the Opposition did not have the opportunity to debate this Bill in the Parliament. Let me say that no gag motion was moved during the second reading debate. With the agreement of the Opposition I had intended to take the debate only to the second reading stage on the first day. I was prepared to allow a very extensive debate in Committee. The honourable member for Moreton said that he did not want the debate in Committee. He did not even want to discuss it. Consequently it went through this House without any gags whatever. The Liberal section of the Opposition capitulated to the Australian Country Party, which stands over it on these issues. It is true that in Queensland the Country Party gerrymander is the most undemocratic in the world, and it is to the eternal discredit of the Liberal Party in this Parliament that it continually capitulates to the Country Party gerrymanders and refuses electoral reforms. One of the Government’s proposed reforms, optional preferential voting, was introduced into the Australian Capital Territory by those who sit opposite. It was introduced into Papua New Guinea by those who sit opposite. Recently the Liberal and Country Parties won elections in the Northern Territory and the ACT under optional preferential voting. And they have the hide to say that it is loaded for the Labor Party.
The Government will press on with its electoral reform. Early in the new year honourable members opposite will get another opportunity to vote on these proposals. I shall expect them to judge the matter responsibly and make suggestions in Committee as to what might be decided. We are prepared to consider these matters. But on the overall picture, let the Australian people realise that sitting opposite today are people who believe in rigged boundaries. The Country Party exists on them. Sitting up in the back of the chamber is an honourable member who was elected on 26 per cent of the primary vote.
– It increased.
– He said he has had a tremendous increase. The vote went up from 1 7 per cent. The Press of this country has commended this legislation. In addition, it has condemned the gerrymander in Queensland. If it is possible for Mr Bjelke-Petersen to win on Saturday- and that seems very doubtful- he can put it down not to the vote of the Australian people but to the rigged boundaries under the Country Party, which continually criticises this Government’s reforms and will not give effect to them. I thank the honourable member for a very intelligent question and I am delighted to say that I think the answer was very good.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Manufacturing Industry. A question was asked a couple of questions ago with reference to the importation of sandals by the retailers, Myers. At that time comments were made in relation to the support of that organisation. I take this opportunity, if I may have that indulgence, to say that one very leading member of Myers in 1972 did announce his support for the Australian Labor Party. I would be terribly surprised if he still supports that Party. The great majority of the Myers staff and management I am sure very strongly support the Liberal Party.
-Will the right honourable gentleman ask his question?
– Is it fact that more and more Australian manufacturing companies are finding it necessary to make arrangements to have their product produced overseas and then imported into Australia simply because this Government is unwilling to give proper protection to the Australian manufacturing industry? Does the Minister believe that a 25 per cent tariff cut right across the board protects Australian manufacturing industry? Does he believe that an extraordinarily tight credit squeeze assists and protects Australian manufacturing industry? Does he believe that the withdrawal of all incentive for the investment in modern plant and equipment is a protection of manufacturing industry? Does he not accept that for Australia to be the growing country that it ought to be and to get back into an achieving position, it is the manufacturing industry of this country that will provide jobs to reemploy those people who are now unemployed? The retrenchments have occurred in the private sector, not in the public sector.
-The right honourable gentleman ‘s question was more in the nature of a speech. Until he had proceeded half way through his political talk about the political affiliations of members of the staff of the Myer Emporium in Melbourne I wondered what his question could possibly have to do with the Department of Manufacturing Industry. I said yesterday in answer to a question that the industries in Australia- and they include the manufacturing industries- which are able to operate on the lower levels of protection are those that are able to pay the highest wages to Australian employees. In fact the percentage difference in terms of wages is something in the nature of 12 per cent, a figure produced by research in the Industries Assistance Commission.
This Government was the first government to recognise the importance of manufacturing industry to the extent that it set up a special body, the Industries Assistance Commission. I would appreciate that the recommendations- and that is all they are- of that body have at times been controversial. But the overall thrust of it is to facilitate the movement of resources in Australia into the more productive areas. The right honourable gentleman is quite correct in saying that manufacturing industry contributes enormously to the benefit of Australia. It contributes approximately in round figures 30 per cent of gross domestic product and a similar percentage of the work force. The industries that the right honourable member obviously has in mind have suffered from some import competition. That is always going on. I also said a little while agothe right honourable member may recall thisthat the present unemployment figures are higher than they should be and with this Government is doing everything that can be done at this time to reduce them, the approximate percentage of unemployment attributable to tariff changes is less than 10 per cent of the whole.
The right honourable member mentions demand policies and credit management, and quite rightly so, because it was his Government that let the supply of credit in Australia get completely out of control in 1971, 1972 and 1973. The figures are well known. The supply of money in this country was just allowed to run wild, to run rampant at the time when the Whitlam Labor Government first began to take over in December 1972, because of the failure of the Government of which the right honourable member was a Treasurer to revalue the Australian dollar and to place any restrictions at that time on overseas borrowing, on the flood of foreign money which was pouring into this country and which triggered off the inflationary boom. The demand management policies that this Whitlam Government implemented to dry up that flood, to soak it up and bring about a better balance between supply and demand, is what is now beginning to produce desirable results. But the disaster of that time bomb that the previous Government left for us to pick up -
Opposition members- Oh !
– Well, read the economic writers when one is looking for scapegoats. I said in Brisbane, and I repeat here, that when the history books are written listing the achievements of this Whitlam Labor Government, they will list the achievements relating to social services, pensions and education, but its contributions to the growth of a prosperous manufacturing industry will rank very high.
JOHN McEWEN HOUSE APPEAL
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. While I appreciate that even if he is in a position to do so he would never disclose the names of any companies concerned, could he nevertheless tell the House whether or not some companies did apply for and in fact were actually granted tax deductions on moneys donated towards the building of McEwen House?
– The answer to the honourable gentleman’s question is yes.
Government supporters- Ah!
– As I indicated yesterday, the deductions were legitimately claimed in terms of section 5 1 of the Income Tax Act. If T may cite as an example, I happen to have in my own electorate a charitable organisation, conducted by the South Melbourne Council, called the South Melbourne Community Chest. If I made a donation to that organisation, it would not be allowed under section 78 ( 1 ) (a). No individual can claim it. However, if a firm operating in the district made a donation to it, it could legitimately be claimed under section 51. This is all I sought to point out yesterday. There is no difference in the Act in 1 974 from what was in the Act when John McEwen House was constructed.
– Are you saying that the -
-Order! The Deputy Leader of the Country Party will remain silent.
– It is all right for the honourable gentleman to get indignant. I accept his belief that no individual could claim and that the Commissioner of Taxation could not give any different assurance to him about John McEwen House than was given in the letter written by Mr Curtin, a First Assistant Commissioner, quoted yesterday in this House- and, if I may say, quoted selectively the other evening on television writing what the general position was. He explained quite specifically that nobody- no individual- can claim a deduction under section 78 (1) (a), but whether deductions could be claimed under section 51 would rest upon the merits of the case.
– I rise to take a point of order. My point of order is that advice was given to me personally and to Mr Holten different from the advice the Treasurer is now giving. It was given by a taxation officer.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. He knows that is not a point of order.
– I am not disputing what advice was given. I quoted a number of legal cases yesterday. They simply show, as happens in so many cases, that the courts interpret the letter of the law. I will have to alter the Income Tax Act, or my successor will, shortly to correct what I think is an unscrupulous practice being pursued by certain individuals in respect of bonus shares. I propose to alter the Act. All I say is that section 51, like so many other sections in the Income Tax Act, is interpreted not only as to what is written in the law but as to what is decided from time to time by the courts of this country.
– I rise to order. My point of order is that the Treasurer has said that deductions were given to a number of companies which contributed to John McEwen House. That is contrary to the Income Tax Act -
-Order! There is no point of order.
– That is contrary to the provisions of the Income Tax Act.
-Order! No point of order arises! The Deputy Leader of the Country Party will resume his seat. The Chair is not in a position to know what was done in this case. A point of order should only be taken in regard to the general practices and procedures of the House and in regard to the Standing Orders.
– For the benefit of the honourable member, I repeat that certain things are listed specifically in section 78(1) (a). John McEwen House was not one. John Curtin House is not one. There is no intention to alter section 78 ( 1) (a) in respect of John Curtin House. But, as far as section 51 of the Act is concerned, not only the words but also the interpretation that the courts have put upon it are important. I will not mention any names. All I am saying is that nobody in this House knows whether or not -
– It is a scandal.
– You are asseverating quite certainly something about which you cannot be certain.
– The Melbourne ‘Age’ reckons it is a scandal.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Barker.
– I am surprised also about the Melbourne ‘Age’ editorial in this matter. It is another example -
– The Melbourne ‘Age’ said that it was a scandal.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Barker that if he interjects once more I shall name him.
– It is another example of what I might call selective reporting. I cited yesterday the case of another newspaper which was able to avail itself of an interpretation of section 51. This was something which was voluntary but which was, nevertheless, regarded as having some commercial value to the firm which made the donation. It was allowed under section 5 1 . That was quite true of John McEwen House. I shall not mention the headquarters of the honourable member’s party, and I shall not name any firms, but if firm A made a donation- I have cited the South Melbourne Community Chest as an example of the variety of things -
– Has the Minister been told of any firms?
– If a deduction is claimed by a firm in respect of John McEwen House or John Curtin House, in some circumstances it may be allowed by the Commissioner of Taxation.
– Has been allowed.
– I will not mention any names, and I have never sought particular names, but some donations claimed by firms as having been made to John McEwen House were in fact allowed as tax deductions.
-Pursuant to section 14(1) of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948-1973, I present a supplement to the twenty-fifth report of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board on the operation of the Act for the period 1 July 1972 to 30 September 1972, incorporating financial accounts and the report of the AuditorGeneral on those accounts.
-Pursuant to section 16(2) of the Defence Forces Retirement and Death Benefits Act 1 973- 1 974, 1 present the second report of the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Authority dealing with the General administration and working of the Act for the year ended 30 June 1974.
– Pursuant to section 10 of the International Monetary Agreements Act 1947, 1 present the report on the operations of that Act and of the operations, insofar as they relate to Australia, of the International Monetary Fund and of the International Bank For Reconstruction and Development for the year ended 30 June 1 974.
– Pursuant to section 14 (2) of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1 948- 1 973, 1 present the second report of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board dealing with the administration of part III of the Act for the period I July 1973 to 30 June 1974.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes, by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) yesterday in answer to a question, I think asked by the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan). Yesterday during a reasonably long diatribe the Prime Minister in answer to a question about the hiring of a Qantas Airways Ltd aircraft by the Prime Minister to undertake his overseas trip stated:
Bearing in mind the pricing structure referred to, Qantas sees no operational or financial advantage in operating the aircraft commercially to and from Australia or anywhere else during the period that I will not be using it in London.
The point I made in my speech, as will be quite clear to anybody who reads Hansard, was that it was the injection of the one hour return flight to Dublin half-way through the 8 days which made it commercially impossible for Qantas Airways Ltd to use the plane sensibly over that 8 days. The point I make is still valid. The Prime Minister claims that I was wrong and that Qantas did seek the use of the plane for that 8-day period. It was the inclusion of the Dublin trip half-way through those 8 days that made it impossible. The second point is that the Prime Minister said that my last 3 overseas trips as a Minister on Government business- I make the point that I was on Government business- cost the taxpayers $28,000. That is a tenth of the cost of the bare bones charter of an aircraft- I just mention that as an aside- for one trip by the Prime Minister.
-The honourable member must show were he has been misrepresented. The charter cost of an aircraft for the Prime Minister has nothing to do with the honourable member’s being misrepresented.
– I was in good company because I notice that the Prime Minister as Leader of the Opposition on his last 3 trips, not on Government business, spent $32,500.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government to protect the jobs of Australian families.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
-Yesterday the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said that Australia was tackling unemployment with more success than any other country. He went on to say that the trade unions accept that situation. I think that claim of the Prime Minister is probably one of the falsest that he has ever made and he has established a good deal of competition for himself in that arena. However we judge it, whether on the activities of the trade union movement, whether on criticisms of the Government such as those by Cliff Dolan of the Electoral Trade Unions of Australia or on industrial disputes, there is clearly a situation which the trade union movement does not accept and will not accept under the policies of this Government. It has escaped almost without notice that the industrial dispute record of this Government is the worst since 1913. We have the highest amount of wages lost since 1913, the greatest numbers of days lost and of time lost since 1913. That is a pretty proud record for the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) and his Prime Minister whom he was praising so greatly yesterday as having performed so much for the trade union movement.
But in other areas the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke, has said that the Government must cut back imports to protect jobs, otherwise imported goods will be left on the wharves forever to rot. The ACTU also mentioned textiles, tyres, the rubber industry, the timber industry, the electrical and electronics industries, motor vehicles and parts and printed goods. How do honourable members who represent electorates that contain such industries feel. The honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard) has done nothing to protect employment in the textile industries in his electorate. The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) has car manufacturing plants in his electorate going out of business as a result of policies of this Government. The car assembly plants in the electorate of the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) have also been affected. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) has hosiery, clothing and textiles industries in his electorate but what has he done to protect them and the employment of people in his area? The textile mills, light engineering works and the meat works in the electorate of the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) have been grievously hit as a result of the policies of this Government. The textile manufacturing industries and now the major steel works and iron foundries in the electorate of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) are starting to feel the difficulties of the situation created by the Government. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) has car assembly plants and aircraft production factories in his electorate. But what does the present Treasurer do to protect the industries in his own area? The honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) has textile mills and light engineering works in his electorate.
Has any one of these honourable members ever spoken in this Parliament in defence of his own electorate’s industries; in defence of his own people; in defence of employment, of job opportunities for the average Australian? I have not mentioned the honourable member of Corio (Mr Scholes) whose electorate might well be the hardest hit of all. There is a very difficult situation in the motor manufacturing industry and textile industry in Corio. I invite the honourable member of Corio to contradict the suggestion that he wrote either to the textile industry or to the motor industry and said that if the Government did not change its policies he would resign from the Australian Labor Party. That report is widespread in some parts of industry in Melbourne. It is one that the honourable member ought to contradict in his own interests if it happens not to be correct. But if it were correct it would at least indicate that he had done something, if behind the scenes, to try to protect employment in these areas. If it is not correct, maybe he has done no more than any other member of the Australian Labor Party to protect full employment, which was always the great cry of the Labor Party. The Labor Party has always presided over more unemployment than has ever been seen in other circumstances in Australia.
The Prime Minister attacked unions for ‘screwing the public’. That is a delightful turn of phrase! Did he use it in the American context or in the Australian context? How do honourable members feel, when they know quite well that the trade union movement is desperately concerned for the jobs of people right around Australia, when the next day the Prime Minister attacks members of his own Party, who, within the privacy of Caucus, might have done something to try to protect employment- for bellyaching and for promoting vested interests. Was he referring to vested interests of the electrical trades? Was he referring to the former secretary of the Electrical Trades Union supporting what Mr Cliff Dolan had said? Was he referring to one of the other members I have mentioned who had been speaking of defence of employment and of Australian industry which is being destroyed by the policies of this Government? This Government has no alibi. The Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Treasurer-to-be say that it is a world phenomenon; other people are responsible; it is not the Government’s fault; there is nothing the Governemnt can do about it. But the unemployment and the inflation that we have in Australia are fairly the responsibility of the present Government. They are not overseas caused.
If we had had the same impact of oil prices rising from $2 to $8 a barrel, inflation in Australia would have already been well over 30 per cent, indicating the impact which has fallen on other countries overseas but which has not yet touched Australia. Movements in beef and wool prices this year have been helping the Government. They have been pushing the consumer price index down. If it were not for the fall in beef prices, inflation would have already been over 25 per cent. I hardly think the present Government can blame trade unions in Britain, France, Japan or the United States of America for what the Government has more recently called the unreasonable wage claims of Australian trade unions. Surely that is an Australian phenomenon and not something which can be blamed on a union leader in some other country.
But the Prime Minister continues to look for excuses. First of all it was the Treasurer who was no good, so the Treasurer is to be moved. That will take a month or two to settle. But then it was not the Treasurer who was wrong; it was the Treasury that was wrong. It was not supplying good enough statistics and was not able to tell the Government what the position was. Something had to be done about that. The Minister for Overseas Trade was the solution. But had people forgotten that the main Budget of this year was the creation of the Minister for Overseas Trade? For 3 famous days the Minister for Overseas Trade was quietly letting it be known how much he was responsible for that measure, how much the Treasurer proper had been overrun in Cabinet and Caucus and had achieved something different from what the Treasurer had formerly wanted. But after the third day the present Treasurer-elect- the present Minister for Overseas Trade- began to realise that that Budget was not going to work, so he had to suggest that it was not his responsibility. The person who was responsible for the greatest Budget failure of all time is the person who is now being moved into the position of Treasurer- the person whom the Prime Minister thinks will save the Government. But the Prime Minister realises the mistake he has made and he realises that the Treasurer-elect also is inadequate, because the Secretary of the Department of the Treasury and the Chairman of the Reserve Bank have been told to report direct to the Prime Minister and not through the Treasurer-elect. Are there any more excuses that the Prime Minister can find? I have no doubt that he will look for them.
The positive actions of this Government have resulted in record unemployment and record inflation. I instance the 25 per cent tariff cuts without examination; the successive revaluations; the unreasonable government spending leading to inflation; an initial wage policy which added very greatly to inflation, which the Minister for Labor and Immigration has at last come to recognise and which the Prime Minister has more recently come to recognise; the policies of the Prices Justification Tribunal which were designed to squeeze companies and profits so that there would be nothing left for reinvestmentthis has been recognised far too late by the Prime Minister in his letter to the Prices Justification Tribunal- and the credit squeeze itself which is causing many firms to become bankrupt and many others to put off employees in an effort to survive. These are all actions of this Government, taken within Australia for reasons which the Government believed were Australian reasons. They had nothing to do with overseas matters. Can the Government still say that the present position is not its responsibility? The Government is responsible for every one of those positive actions. Overseas factors that have affected overseas countries have had virtually no impact on Australia.
The excuses that the Government is using are a sign of a weak, futile Government- a pusillanimous Government- which, if it had any courage, foresight or understanding of what is required in Australia, would say: ‘No matter what the problems are overseas, we can overcome them. We can develop policies that will enable Australia to ride the storm.’ But the Government just says: ‘We cannot do anything about it. It is overseas caused. ‘ That is false. It is not true. But if there were any courage in the Government, even if the problem were overseas caused, it would say: ‘It is a problem that we can overcome’. It cannot. The Government cries about it and tries to blame somebody else from one day to the next.
The result is that in seasonally adjusted terms, there are presently 189,000 people unemployed and, in seasonally adjusted terms, there are 90,000 people receiving benefits. Both of these are the highest figures on record. If one takes the raw figures one finds that they are the highest figures since records were kept in 1946. That is the proud record of this Government! The Government says that things will get better some time. We want to know when. The Minister for Labor and Immigration started by saying March but when the recent survey of manufacturing prospects was put out by the Department of Manufacturing Industry and when a forward look is taken at what is happening in the economy, one finds that it is most unlikely that there will be any change in present trends in March, April, May or June. In addition to the present 189,000 unemployed there are 200,000 school leavers who will not find jobs. The impact on the December figures will be greater than in past years because of the changed definition of school leavers. There will be a further impact because of dismissals over the December-January period, which are largely unproductive months, caused by the necessity for firms to try to survive during those months. They know unfortunately that because of the policies of this Government labour will certainly be freely available throughout next year.
I turn now to the income maintenance scheme which blurs the present situation for many firms and individuals because firms are saying: ‘People can be put off now; they will receive 6 months’ average earnings and then if things come good they can be employed again’. Because of the income maintenance policies of the Government many more people are likely to be displaced in the summer months than would otherwise have been the case. The Government is papering over the cracks in this situation. It has set up a Regional Employment Development scheme for the country; a Regional Employment Development scheme for the city; National Employment and Training proposals which are still far from the objectives which I think the Minister for Labor and Immigration would want; and the income maintenance scheme which is utterly unfair because why should those who are out of work as a result of a tariff decision receive preferred treatment to those who are out of work as a result of a credit squeeze? Why should those who have been laid off and who receive their average earnings for the previous 6 months ‘ period, receive more than those who remain in employment because overtime has been cut virtually to a minimum? Why should those out of work from an industry receive more than those remaining in work in the industry? It is a nonsense situation.
The Government is now setting up a relocation scheme which will move people to the larger cities or to the capital cities. It will reverse the efforts that have been made towards decentralisation. Whilst we do not object in principle to a sensible support for relocation, one that under present circumstances will have that result is not desirable. What is needed is massive encouragement for private enterprise- a reversal of the policies of squeeze; incentive for people to work; incentives for people to invest- because the socialist ambitions of this socialist Government are incompatible with a prosperous and contented Australia. The Government and the Prime Minister say: ‘You do not need to do as much for yourself because the Government is doing more for you’. That leads to a subservient people and that is a result that Australians do not want.
– I congratulate the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) because he has shown that he is a man of enormous resilience. Anyone who could come up fighting like this so shortly after such a crushing defeat as he suffered as the result of the action of his faithful supporter, Mr Staley, last Wednesday is a man of undoubted leadership qualities. It is a pity that his supporters have not recognised this. At the same time it is not surprising that the right honourable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) should be notably absent when this very important matter- or at least we are told it is very important- is before the House of Representatives. If one could anticipate or assume that the right honourable Leader of the Opposition has the same interest in unemployment as has his unfortunate victim of last Wednesday’s bout, one would have anticipated that he would have been here, he would have been supporting him and cheering him on, instead of which there is not a sign, neither hide nor hair, of the right honourable Leader of the Opposition. Where is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) during this discussion of such a terribly important matter? It is so important, indeed, that it is the fourth time this session that somebody from the Opposition side has chosen to take up the time of the House talking about unemployment without suggesting any cures or solutions of the problem. Where is the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony)? He is notably absent too; there is not a sign of him. Neither is there a sign of the Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Sinclair). They are showing their complete contempt for this man of quite outstanding qualities.
I will admit that if I had been Mr Staley and his followers I would have voted for the honourable member for Wannon as Leader of the Opposition. I think he is far superior to the present Leader of the Opposition. He looks more like a Leader of the Opposition than does the present incumbent; I think he has a great deal more intelligence; he certainly has more resilience; and I think members of the Opposition missed a golden opportunity of selecting a leader who could have looked a credible alternative Prime Minister to the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). I understand the point of view of the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman), who yawned his way through the honourable gentleman’s speech. I can understand his apprehension that during the next election campaign his Party has to follow behind the right honourable Leader of the Opposition and see him try to vie with the present Prime Minister on television, in the Press and at public meetings. Of course members of the Opposition are apprehensive and with very good reason. The only thing that I am sorry about is that the team of nearly thirty who supported the honourable member for Wannon last Wednesday has deserted him so quickly. Why have not these members shown the same resilience as he certainly has?
The only solution that the honourable member for Wannon has mentioned for curing unemployment is that we should increase and expand the economy so that private enterprise will be able to employ more people. However, while he is asking for expansion in employment opportunity the Leader of the Opposition is asking the Government to follow a policy of contraction. He wants less expenditure on the government side. He wants to reduce government expenditure by about 8 per cent across the board, which means that some areas of government expenditure must anticipate cuts of up to 25 per cent if we are to assume that health, education, urban development and other good expenditures are not to be cut by the full 8 per cent across the board target.
The only matter the honourable gentleman did not mention at length- he skirted over it- was the price of petrol. He said we are in a fortunate position because the price of our oil is much lower than in any other part of the wo but he conveniently overlooked the fact thai if the Liberal and Country Parties had been elected at the last elections the Leader of the Country Party would have screwed the Leader of the Liberal Party- to use that coarse Americanism which the honourable gentleman seemed to gain such delight from repeating a moment ago; and I could not think of anything worse than witnessing that kind of performance- until he agreed to an increase of $4 a barrel for crude oil produced in the Bass Strait. Does the honourable gentleman realise that to increase the price of crude oil by $4 a barrel would increase the price of petrol by $ 1 a gallon at the pump? How is this going to deal with the issue of inflation? How is this going to create more employment?
We all now admit that the reason for rising unemployment all around the world is, to a very large extent, the decision of the Arab states to increase the price of crude oil by the amount by which the Country Party proposes to increase the price of Australian crude oil. That is the prime reason for the downturn of the economy in the Western countries and it is because there has been this downturn in the economy of the Western countries with whom we have to do business that our economy has been adversely affected. Talk about papering over the cracks! I think I should move to another subject because I might become as coarse, crude and crass as the honourable gentleman was a moment ago if we talk too much about that.
I invite honourable members once again to join with me in a trip into the official records of the previous Liberal-Country Party Government and to look at the advice it got from its experts. I quote again from a minute which was produced by the Department of Labour and National Service, as it then was, advising the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who was then the Minister for
Labour and National Service. The minute is dated 15 September 1971 and it is from the Permanent Head of my Department to the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition. It followed on the minute of 18 August 1971 which I gave the House the opportunity of hearing the last time I spoke. The minute of 18 August states:
Our view is that the Budget is more deflationary than was necessary . . . It is our view that this overshoots the mark and that the labour market will ease significantly, especially in the second half of the year.
The minute to the Minister for Labour dated 15 September was in response to the question:
To what extent are the Government’s economic policies responsible for the increase in unemployment that has occurred.
That was the question put by the then Minister for Labour and National Service in the LiberalCountry Party Government to his Permanent Head.
-Will you table it?
-Yes, I am going to put it all in. The reply of the Permanent Head to Mr Lynch was as follows:
We pointed out in our minute of 6 July 1971 -
This was the third minute in which the Department was warning the Minister for Labour and National Service about the economic consequences of the Budget- that the economy was growing more slowly than productive capacity which was partly due to the January 1971 decision to cut back in Government spending and partly because of the ‘psychological war’ against inflation by the previous Prime Minister and partly because of the continued tight monetary policy.
We argued, therefore, in our minute that unless the Budget provided a sizeable stimulus to the economy it would lead to an increase in unemployment. We warned, however, that a positively deflationary Budget would create serious unemployment problems. As you are aware, the Government in fact introduced a significantly deflationary Budget. Our original assessment of its impact is unchanged. We believe it will lead to an appreciable increase in unemployment. If the Government wanted to make certain there was no significant increase in unemployment it should have adopted an expansionary or at least a neutral Budget. It has not done so and therefore must accept responsibility for the increase in unemployment. If the Government’s policy of trading a little less inflation for a little more unemployment does succeed it will be ipso facto at the cost of some increase in unemployment. It will be specious - said the minute- to argue that the Government is not responsible for the increase in unemployment.
Whereas the Opposition’s policy when it was in government was deliberately designed to induce unemployment and had nothing whatever to do with an economic downturn in the economies of our trading partners, the present Government’s monetary and fiscal policies are deliberately aimed at reducing unemployment, even against the influences of the cyclical economic downturn throughout the western world caused mainly by the increase in the price of crude oil, an increase which the Country Party proposes to inflict upon this country if ever it is elected to Government.
I first forecast this world wide downturn in the economies of these countries in October of last year at a dinner given by the Employers Federation at the Hotel Canberra. The right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) was present and heard me then forecast what in my view would happen. I was again relying upon the excellent advice given to me by my economic advisers in the Department of Labor. I did this again; I gave the same warning in December 1973. My warnings were ignored by the experts. I was criticised by the spokesman for the Opposition and I was ridiculed by editorial writers in the daily Press. I was accused of irresponsibility by the leaders of the business world. I was right.
– Yes, you were right.
– I was right, and all of my critics were wrong.
-All of them?
– I wish it were the other way around. I have never misled this Parliament, nor have I ever misled the public of the realities of the unemployment situation. I say now, as one whose past forecasts have been more consistently right than those of any other authority, that unemployment is caused mainly by . factors outside the control of the Government. To the extent that any Australian Government can act to relieve unemployment this Government has already acted, and the effect of its policies will begin to produce positive results that will increase employment opportunities by June of next year. That is a forecast made by the Prime Minister. It is a forecast that I share. So far the only solution given by the Opposition for increasing the level of employment is, as I said earlier, to reduce Government expenditure by 8 per cent. From the Country Party, the solution is to increase the price of crude oil by $4 a gallon so that we would have to pay $1 or more a gallon for our petrol at the bowsers.
Let us have a look at whether or not the minute from my Department to the Government of the day said something in isolation. Was it something said to a government that was unaware of what it was doing, was unaware of the path that it was treading, was unaware of the course that it was leading the country on and was unaware of the tragic consequences deliberately caused by it? I turn now to a report in the ‘Australian’ of 2 1
January 1972 of a statement issued the previous day by the then Treasurer, the present leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), who is unfortunately still the Leader of the Opposition- unfortunately for Australia, unfortunately for the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and unfortunately for his loyal supporters. The statement was:
We have achieved what we set out to do in that we have created an environment in which over award payments are depressed.
A great triumph for the present Leader of the Opposition! It was no accident that unemployment came about during the reign of the previous Government. Unemployment was not caused by outside influences, it was deliberately designed in order that over award payments could be depressed. Is it any wonder that the Opposition parties want to get rid of him? Is it any wonder that they want the honourable member for Wannon to lead them? Is it any wonder that they see nothing but disaster facing them whenever the next electoral contest is held? It is no wonder that they took the course they did, and I congratulate those worthy supporters of the honourable member for Wannon for the part they played in trying to remove the incubus that now rests straddled across the shoulders of the Opposition.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do. During the speech of the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) he said that I yawned while the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was speaking, with the inference that I was bored at what the honourable member was saying. I know the Minister is not quite as bright these days as perhaps he was when he became the Minister and he is not perhaps as perceptive. What actually happened was that I opened my mouth to say ‘Hear, hear’ to what the honourable member was saying but I realised, of course, that those listening in the gallery and those listening on the air would have seen the logic of what the honourable member was saying and it was quite unnecessary for me to give him that support. That is exactly what happened, and I do want the Minister not to be under a misapprehension.
-There is one thing about the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron). He cannot accuse the members sitting behind him of yawning while either the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) or the Minister himself was speaking, the simple reason being that he has no support behind him. Look at the empty benches- one, two, three, four, five, six members of the Labor Party concerned with unemployment, every one of them nervous Nellies, bellyachers. Other Labor Party members are not even here to defend the Government because they are so ashamed of the Minister for Labor and Immigration, who has sat over the greatest unemployment in this nation’s history. He is the most destructive Minister for Labor that this Parliament has ever seen. He has brought about a situation where there are 180,000 unemployedthe last figures that I know of-with 200,000 school leavers to come into the work force. He is about as tough as the seat of my saddle. He cares not one whit for one of those unemployed people. He is the most shameful shedder of crocodile tears as a Minister for Labor that this Parliament has ever known.
Let us look at the record. The Minister talks about his judgments ‘My judgment was right’, he says in a pious fashion. ‘My judgment is right’. Let us look at his judgment. On 20 July: ‘Your job’s safe. No worker will suffer’, says Cameron, with a 25 per cent tariff cut. ‘Your job’s safe ‘. How right he is! I am reminded of the story Sir Robert Menzies used to tell: ‘If you want one opinion ask 2 economists’. If you want one opinion about the state of the work force and the unemployment level ask the Minister for Labor and Immigration. He will give both answers, yes and no. He is the most shameful Minister ever to have disgraced the benches of this Parliament. In an almost Sunday morning sermon he blamed overseas conditions for the state of the economy in Australia. This Minister for Labor and Immigration is, like his Prime Minister, always blaming somebody else and does not take any blame himself. Let us see what one of the few honest men in this Parliament has had to say about overseas conditions.
– It would not be you.
– And it is certainly not you; that is impossible. You are one of the nervous Nelly bellyachers the Prime Minister spoke about and you have not got the courage to come in here and stand on your feet and say something about the position. This honest member of the Labor Party said this:
The major causes of price increases in Australia during the past year are not to be found in external factors. We have suffered less than most others from the oil price escalation.
Rather, our problems arise from the conjunction of the demand and cost pressures experienced during 1973 and the momentum built up then is still having its effects, despite the abatement of demand pressures.
Those are the words of the present Treasureruntil next week- the Honourable Frank Crean, one of the few honest members of the Labor Party. Unlike the Minister for Labor and Immigration, the Treasurer is prepared to admit where he is wrong. He is prepared to tell the truth. The fact is that this Government must be the most inconsistent, confused and inept government in our history. It is presiding over the greatest level of unemployment in our history, a situation brought about by the Labor Government, a government that one would have thought would have been concerned with the jobs of the people of Australia. The nervous Nellies are not prepared to rise in the Parliament and bring forward this issue; the Opposition has to do this. I have had to rise to my feet on at least two or three occasions to draw to the attention of the Minister for Labor and Immigration by means of motions similar to the one we are debating today the stupidity of his and the Government’s policies. He has done nothing about the position. In May, the Prime Minister said this:
In Australia alone unemployment and inflation do not march side by side.
Unemployment and inflation did not march side by side in Australia for years.
– Give us another quote.
– I will give the Minister another quote in a minute. That was the historical position in Australia. Unemployment and inflation did not march side by side down through 23 years of good management by the Liberal and Country Parties. No sooner was the Labor Government in power than we had, as the Prime Minister says, unemployment and inflation marching side by side. The fact is that there was economic management by the previous Government which avoided a situation in which unemployment and inflation marched side by side. It is true to say that all the comparable countries in the western world have continually had unemployment and inflation marching side by side down through those 23 years. But because of good economic management by the Liberal and Country Party Government, never did it happen in Australia. Let it be recorded and made known that all the problems do not come from outside, and let us have no more of these cheap tricks by the Prime Minister to deceive the people of Australia.
Let me quote somebody else in the Labor Party who is honest. There is more than one person in the Labor Party who is honest. On 24 October- this puts the Minister for Labor right back in his box where he deserves to be and proves how shallow and deceptive he has been this morning- it was stated:
The Federal Government knew its economic policies could lead to 1 80,000 people being thrown out of work.
Those are the words of the Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party and the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia (Dr J. F. Cairns). Let me repeat those words so that the Minister for Labor and Immigration might at least understand them. I know that he is a bit thick between the ears, so I shall quote them a second time:
The Federal Government knew its economic policies could lead to 1 80,000 people being thrown out of work.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Cairns, said that on 24 October this year. What has the Minister got to say now about external policies? What has he got to say now about Government policies? The truth is that he is a failure.
– I am not.
– He is a great failure. He is such a failure that the Queensland branch of the Australian Labor Party said: ‘Please do not send the Minister for Labor and Immigration to Queensland to campaign for the Queensland election. Keep him out. ‘ That is what they said about the Minister. He is a rank failure and is known to be a rank failure throughout the whole of the Labor Party organisation. The Minister ought to read what Bob Hawke said about him. I cannot quote it in the Parliament. It is unparliamentary. I would dearly love to have it incorporated in Hansard. I wonder whether I can find a way of having it incorporated in Hansard.
– Table it.
– It is unparliamentary. I cannot do it. The fact is that the Deputy Prime Minister made it plain for all to see that he recognised the position. He and the Treasurer were the two leading figures in the economic kitchen Cabinet who recognised that it has been the disastrous policies of their Government that has led to this situation. Let us have no more humbug from the Minister for Labor and Immigration. Let us have a little bit of honesty. While I am talking about honesty, let us have a little more honesty from the Prime Minister. We heard him in a television interview last night state to the people of Australia that this position is due to external problems. He stated that no comparable country in the western world has suffered any differently from us. This is disgraceful. Why does the Prime
Minister not show a bit of honesty and a bit of truth on matters of great moment of this nature. Does the Minister realise that there are 180,000 people without jobs? Does he realise that there are 200,000 school-leavers coming into the workforce? Does he care at all? Does he have any sympathy in his bones for people who are out of work? I turn to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, because I am making no impression on this leather-faced, hard-hearted Minister for Labor. He does not have any interest in his job, apart from his pay, or sympathy with the people who are unemployed.
The employment position has been the direct result of the 25 per cent tariff cut across the board which has led to the great flood of imports of textiles, shoes, electronic goods, motor cars and motor car parts. All the high labour intensive industries have been flooded out by the stupidity of the Government’s policies and because of some economic clap trap that has been fed to the Government by a few backroom boys. The Ministers do not take notice of their own departments. The Government stands absolutely condemned for its callous approach to the whole problem of unemployment. Members of the Government have shown that they are more concerned with maintaining office than with anything else while they have been in government. They will go to any length to maintain office. The Minister for Labor and Immigration is one of the architects of these destructive policies. I believe that when the Prime Minister reshuffles his Cabinet- it is a pity that he cannot shuffle some of his Ministers out of the Ministry, but he has not the power to do it- he should make the present Minister for Labor and Immigration Minister for Public Works or give him some portfolio right out of the public arena. I agree with The Leader of the Queensland Labor Party. The Minister for Labor ought not to go up to Queensland. He would cost the Labor Party more votes than ever. I invite the Minister for Labor to come down to Gippsland and try to explain to retrenched workers there why they are out of work.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I suppose that we could hardly call what we have just heard from the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) a speech. The words that we have just heard from him reflect little credit on this House and certainly no credit on himself. I think they just reflect the desperate position in which the Opposition Parties now find themselves. They have raised this matter now on about 6 different occasions and we have heard the same sort of diatribe over and over again. Never, on any occasion, have Opposition members offered anything of a constructive nature. The honourable member for Gippsland mentioned that there were few members sitting on the Government side of the chamber. He ought to realise that he delivered such a puny attack that it requires only two or three Labor Party members to repel it. But he should have turned around and had a look behind him. He would have found that sitting behind him were 6 Liberal Party members, four of whom were asleep, and 8 Country Party members, six of whom entered the chamber when he started speaking.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I think he is worthy of many more people in the chamber -
-Order! There is no point of order involved. The honourable member for Gippsland will remain seated.
-It seems to me that an attack of this sort is curious. (Quorum formed). As I was saying when I was interrupted, it seems to me to be very curious that that Opposition raises a matter of public importance and then has to call a quorum to get its members into the chamber. I might add that 2 Opposition members wandered into the chamber when the quorum was called. I think they could not have been advised that it was only a quorum. The Government members came in in strength as they usually do. We are talking about unemployment. The honourable member for Gippsland is an ideal person to talk about unemployment. It seems to me that he is doing his bit to keep the people of Australia employed- especially chartered airline pilots and crews. Some of his colleagues are keeping car drivers in employment much more than they ought to. But we are talking about the subject that has been raised. I shall state it again just in case we have lost track of it
The failure of the Government to protect the jobs of Australian families.
Again we have heard the same sort of diatribe come from the Opposition about this question and all blame seems to be laid on the Government. All that members of the Opposition ever do is to carp, whinge and whine about the situation, trying to make political capital from it. Never once have they offered any constructive criticism. Not once have they put forward a constructive proposal as to how this situation could be corrected.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) went on television and said that the Opposition would cut Government spending by 8 per cent. I remind those who sit on the other side of the House that an 8 per cent cut in Government spending would necessitate a reduction in staff and surely that would worsen the unemployment situation and not solve it. Let that be enough of the cant that we have had from the other side of the chamber. One wonders when a ‘Matter of Public Importance ‘ is a matter of public importance. It seems that daily the device of raising a matter of public importance is used by the Opposition to delay the business of the House and to frustrate the will of this freely and democratically elected Government. The terms of the subject we are discussing today are paradoxical and indeed inaccurate in that this Government has certainly done more to protect the jobs of Australians than has any previous Government. Every consideration has been given to easing the burden of those who are victims of a concerted attack by some corporations on the Australian Labor Party Government.
We should not be talking about surgery being performed but rather about the malaise itself. It must be clear, even to the most blinded member opposite, that what is happening in Australia is indeed happening in every comparable country, to a larger or lesser degree. To find the cause we need to examine the system. In doing that we find that in every one of these countries free enterprise has had its head unfettered, speculation has been rife, and as a result economies have become overheated. In Australia we have witnessed the spectacle for a number of years now and the entrenched financial interests, both national and multi-national, have been aided and abetted by their allies in the Opposition Parties.
When Labor came to power in 1972, just one day more than 2 years ago, the establishment realised that the honeymoon was over. Further recognising the incompetence of its champions in parliament, it decided to do something about the situation itself. Its champions sit on the Opposition benches. There is no doubt that many influential sections of the private sector decided to place the Government under seige. We do not mind a fight like that, but why should so many families suffer as a result ? Let us have an example of how these entrenched interests ply their nefarious trade. An Australian company which I know well has regularly availed itself of an overdraft from a large private bank- the Australia and New Zealand Bank. Each year the company seeks an increase in its overdraft to meet its commitments to its employees over Christmas. The company is financially sound, well managed, and has orders in hand. Each year it has been the practice to approach the Bank and the request has been agreed to. This year the usual approach was made and was arbitrarily rejected by the ANZ Bank. Because of that rejection the company now finds itself in a very difficult position. It has lost its liquidity, which it was relying upon to come from a bank in the private sector.
To lay all this at the feet of the Government seems to me to be carrying the argument a little too far. Those who are critical of the Government have never availed themselves by reading a book that was written some years ago and entitled ‘The Land Boomers’. If they read that book they would find that what happened in the 1890s, in Victoria in particular, has been happening throughout Australia over the last 23 years and has gone unchecked. Now, when the time bomb, as it was described this morning, has exploded or the bubble has burst those on the other side sit and scoff and try to blame the present Government for it. It was their own ineptness and mismanagement of affairs, their own lack of understanding, and their own disinterest in interfering in the affairs of those who finance and physically support them that brought Australia to the position that it is in today.
There is no need to defend the Government in this position because the Government’s actions do not need defence. They are right; they are proper and carried through they will solve the problem, which is not of the Government’s making but was made by the incompetence of people on the other side of the chamber who could not even organise a coup to get rid of their leader. They are so inept that they could no even do a thing like that.
– He would be easy enough to shift.
-He must be the easiest. In that area the Opposition was so inept that it could not even organise that. So how in the hell could it ever organise to manage the affairs of this country? I have a little bit of a dirty on with the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser). He went through a great list of members who had not neglected to stand up and defend their position in their electorates. I do not know whether he knows it, but there is a lot of industry in my area. He ignored me. I do not know whether he did that on purpose or whether by inference he believes that I am doing the right thing by the people in my electorate. I prefer to think the latter.
The matter raised for discussion must of necessity die. There is no substance in it at all. The Government’s position has been ably and capably defended by the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) and myself. I doubt that there could be two more able defenders of the Government’s position in this chamber. The Opposition has been put to rout. Opposition members have vacated the chamber again leaving only two of their number to maintain some sort of vigil. That is the sort of importance that they, as a party, place on this matter which they claim to be of public importance. Next time they raise this sort of thing let them be genuine. Let them make sure that their leader is in the House at least and that their followers and supporters are with them. Let them put on a show. Then, and only then, will they be taken seriously, not only by the Government but also by the people of Australia who can see through their patent hypocrisy. I leave the matter there.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. During his remarks, the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) suggested that I had indicated that I would resign from the Australian Labor Party if certain policies were not changed. That statement is not correct. I have written to Ministers on a number of occasions expressing my concern about certain policies, especially round about the middle of this year. (Opposition members interjecting)-
-This is rather serious. I suggest that if members of the Opposition think that it is a joke they should just treat it that way. I wrote complaining about certain policies relating to structural adjustment. Whether interpretations were wrong or otherwise, firms were told that they could be considered for compensation only if they closed their factories. I repeat that I wrote letters complaining bitterly about that. That policy has now been reversed and firms are receiving assistance in order to carry on. Also, loans for structural adjustment are being made available under Bills passed through this Parliament in the last few weeks.
– Come on, stop making a speech about it.
– I think the honourable member for Corio should concentrate on the area in which he has been misrepresented.
-The area in which I have been misrepresented is the indication that I would resign from the Australian Labor Party. That could have the effect of bringing about a change of Government and that would be a tragedy for Australia.
-The discussion of the matter of public importance is concluded.
Bill presented by Br Patterson, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this short bill is to obtain Parliamentary approval for the agreement entered into by the Australian and State Governments on 2 December 1974 to extend the Fruitgrowing Reconstruction Scheme to 31 December 1975. The scheme provides assistance, supplementary to the main Rural Reconstruction Scheme, to meet some of the special needs of the horticultural industry. Orchardists who are experiencing, or are threatened by financial difficulties may receive financial assistance for the removal of surplus fruit trees. A subsidiary benefit of the scheme to the industry is that the removal of surplus trees helps to bring the industry’s productive capacity into closer alignment with the market for its products.
The scheme offers 2 forms of assistance: clear fell, for the grower who is predominantly a horticulturist, who is in severe financial difficulties, and who wishes to remove all his fruit trees and leave the horticultural industry; and partial removal, for the grower whose property would become viable if some or all of the fruit trees were removed and the land put to an alternative use, but, who lacks the financial resources to withstand in the short term the effect of the removal of the trees. Assistance under the scheme is provided by way of a loan which is converted to a grant after 5 years conditional on the recipient not replanting specified fruit trees within that period. The scheme is restricted to fresh apple, fresh pear, canning peach, canning pear and canning apricot trees at present, although it is open to any State to seek approval for the extension of the scheme to other varieties of fruit.
The Fruitgrowing Reconstruction Scheme has played an important role in assisting growers in financial difficulties, especially in Tasmania. Over two-thirds of Tasmanian apple and pear growers have applied for assistance and approvals to date for removal of trees would account for more than 20 per cent of Tasmanian apple and pear production. The scheme has played a lesser role in other States because of the availability to growers of more remunerative market outlets and more profitable alternative enterprises. There are still many fresh apple growers in Tasmania who could be in need of assistance in the next 12 months. A substantial portion of the State’s production is expected to be sold on markets which provide growers with very low returns.
Production potential of canning pears still exceeds long term assessed market requirements, although an unusually low crop in the Goulburn Valley and low current world stocks of canned fruit in general, resulted in a satisfactory market situation for canning pears in the 1974 season. It was in this context that the Australian Government accepted the view expressed by the appropriate Ministers of the Australian and State governments when they reviewed the scheme in April 1974, that there was still a need for the kind of assistance provided by the scheme.
Provision of additional funds is not required to enable the scheme to be extended. Of the original $4.6m allotted by the Australian Government, approximately $2m remains uncommitted. The amendment of the agreement also provides an opportunity to remove a restriction imposed on growers who applied for assistance before 1 July 1973 and who withdrew their applications after the first extension of the scheme was announced. Such growers will now be eligible to apply again under the scheme.
When the scheme was introduced in July 1972 the intention was that it should operate for one year to June 1973. As the initial response to the scheme had been slow, an extension to 3 1 June 1974 was approved by the States Grants (Fuitgrowing Reconstruction) Act 1973. This further extension to 31 December 1975 will allow orchardists in necessitous circumstances to avail themselves of the benefits of the scheme pending the outcome of the current inquiry by the Industries Assistance Commission. The LAC has been asked to include the question of assistance in the reconstruction of fruitgrowing industries in its inquiries on rural reconstruction, and to provide the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) with the report covering fruitgrowing by 31 October 1975. The provision of assistance beyond 31 December 1975 will be considered in the light of that report. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Sinclair) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 26 November, on motion by Mr Crean:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-This is the second successive occasion on which the Government has asked the Parliament to extend the operations of the Companies (Foreign Take-overs) Act. It is the second occasion on which the Government has informed the Parliament that no progress has been made in upgrading the statutory protections afforded to Australian companies against foreign control. The decision to extend the Act by the Government is a dereliction of responsibility. It is we believe an admission of inexcusable negligence. The present Act is clearly unsatisfactory. Its continuance in its present form has no justification. It is almost inconceivable that the present Government could have attached such a low priority to a matter on which it has twice campaigned so vigorously.
In his 1972 policy speech the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) claimed it was ‘time to stop the great take-over of Australia’. At that time he made the following commitment:
The protection of Australian enterprises against foreign takeover can only be achieved by explicit government policy. We will establish a secretariat to report to the Government on all matters concerning the flow of foreign investment and all substantial takeovers and mergers.
Today, 3 December 1974, is the day following the second anniversary of Labor’s election. It is 2 years since it has failed to honour a single promise in this area. It is a record of neglect and total disinterest.
On 27 November 1973 the Treasurer (Mr Crean) made the following statement during his speech on the Companies (Foreign Take-overs) Bill 1973:
We are now in a position to identify essential requirements of reasonably effective legislation and work is in progress with a view to the introduction of new legislation into the House.
On 28 February 1974, Her Majesty the Queen’s speech stated quite explicitly that:
The Companies (Foreign Take-overs) Act will be replaced.
The Prime Minister in his April policy speech had this to say:
We will continue to pursue with vigour the surveillance of all foreign takeover proposals for shares or assets of existing Australian companies . . . The Government will proceed with the further definition of guidelines for foreign investment and will extend the present systems of surveillance and review into a general screening process of foreign take-overs and new direct foreign investment. This screening process under the co-ordination of the Treasurer will seek to develop performance guidelines particularly in the areas of export franchises, research and development, licensing of technology, purchasing policies, and tax avoidance.
The Government has repeated its commitment to amend this Act in every major policy statement. It has sought to give the impression that great progress has been made towards the protection of Australian companies from foreignowned interests. The hard reality is, however, that it has done nothing.
The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) have made a series of overseas trips and on each one the Australian press has announced so-called shifts in Australia’s policies towards overseas investment. But the Australian Parliament has never been informed as to the actual policy adopted by the Government and it has certainly never been advised by Parliamentary statement of any shifts or changes in the application of that policy. The Government has alleged that the Prime Minister’s statement to this House on 7 November 1 973 represents its foreign investment policy. But that policy of course is totally vague. It is ambivalent and it is equivocal. We are informed that the policy has been institutionalised in the form of an interdepartmental committee, separate from the Foreign Take-overs Committee, which reports to the Government. Like other departmental committees and contrary to the Prime Minister’s ‘open Government’ promise with respect to inter-departmental committees, its operations are subject to a cloak of continuing secrecy.
The fact is that the question of overseas investment in Australia is a jig-saw of confused, conflicting and secret policies. The Japanese Government is confused. The United States Government is confused. Every potential investing nation is apprehensive. The Chairman of the AIDC and the Deputy Prime Minister have made numerous overseas visits in search of development capital. The Government has claimed that the AIDC has been widely accepted as a borrower in the international capital market. But there is now a Bill before the House to provide Government guarantees to loans for that organisation. The Deputy Prime Minister has travelled the financial capitals of the world without any indication to this Parliament of the brief he has been given by the Government, the type of funds which have been subject to negotiation or the purpose for which the funds are being sought.
Australian companies were alternatively subject to comparative disadvantage by the variable deposit requirement on long-term borrowings and then totally confused by the manner in which it was abolished. The embargo on shortterm borrowings has been reduced from 2 years to 6 months. Is the embargo to be a permanent feature of policy or is it to be abandoned like the long-term restrictions?
If the Government is seriously concerned by the low level of business confidence and the dramatic decline in private sector investment it should, at least, lay down a comprehensive overseas investment policy which should be subject to the scrutiny of parliamentary debate. Such a policy should clearly specify the roles to be adopted by the wide range of Government institutions which appear to have become directly involved in this area. The House will recall the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) announcing that all direct equity investment in Australia was to be by way of the AIDC. That policy was apparently rebuffed by the Japanese Government. But the Minister concerned has at no stage sought to clarify to the satisfaction of this House the real position. The same Minister has directed the Petroleum and Minerals Authority to take action with regard to a wide range of investment plans. The latest incident on the public record was its pre-emptive takeover of the joint venture arrangements being made between the Anglo-American and Wambo companies. No proper explanation of that action has so far been provided.
– He has not even advised the companies concerned.
– That advice, as I understand it, certainly has not been provided. Those companies would be as confused in relation to the intentions and policy directions of this Government as in fact is this House at present. Again, the Minister for Minerals and Energy told the House yesterday of the decision to permit the Atomic Energy Commission to take a substantial equity holding in Mary Kathleen uranium. This matter, because of the Minister’s complete ineptitude and mishandling, has led to the suspension of Mary Kathleen uranium shares. I say no more on that issue because the shares have been subject to suspension on the exchanges. The matter is subject to developments outside this chamber as this debate takes place now.
There is a series of other Government decisions, such as the deferral of its plans for the Redcliffs project, which are all matters relating to overseas investment in Australia and which have led to continuing uncertainty, confusion and apprehension. The confusion exists with respect to State governments, Australian companies and, indeed, overseas investors. As in other areas of Federal policy there are far too many Ministers and too many government agencies operating in the absence of a clear and consistent policy framework. The question of investment policy should, in the first instance, reside within the ambit of the Treasurer’s direct portfolio. This has not, however, been the case under the Whitlam Administration.
One of the more obvious reasons for the delay in introducing the urgently required legislation has been the serious policy disagreements which have take place between senior Ministers with economic portfolios. The 1974 economic survey of Australia by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development pointed out in no uncertain terms that the Government simply had no minerals and energy policy. The report, in respect of overseas investment, stated: . . . One of the component measures which reflected a growing concern at the degree of overseas control and ownership of Australia ‘s resources and industries involved the establishment of vetting machinery in respect of foreign takeover bids. The takeover measures were included in part in the Companies (Foreign Take-overs) Act of November 1972.
The report goes on to say;
The Companies (Foreign Take-overs) Act is to be replaced with more permanent legislation by the end of 1974.
In other words, the OECD was informed that the present Act was to be replaced during this session of the Federal Parliament. Last week, in introducing the present Bill, the Treasurer claimed that the Government had completed its review of the existing foreign takeovers legislation but had been unable to draft legislation because of the competing demands on its legal drafting services. The review is apparently to be conducted and completed in secrecy. If such a review has been conducted, in any spirit of open government it should be subject to the tabling of the document in this House. During my speech on the Bill last year I called on the Treasurer then for a detailed analysis of the operation of the Act. He refused to do so. On numerous occasions since that time I have publicly advocated the provision of information about the efficacy of the legislation. No such information has ever been provided. The only public information available to the Opposition Parties, apart from the brief monthly Press release issued by the Treasurer, has been by way of Press leaks for which this Government has become notorious. On 24 September the ‘Australian Financial Review’ carried a story headed ‘Government’s New Takeover Law’. The story announced that the Cabinet had approved strong new legislation to regulate foreign takeovers. It went on to say that a new Bill would be introduced during the present Budget session. On 15 October the same newspaper announced, in a story headlined, ‘Foreign Investment Log- Jam’ that the Government faced the prospect of having its legislation ‘drastically delayed’. I quote an extract of the ‘Australian Financial Review’s’ article:
Despite the fact that the Cabinet has approved the drafting of the new legislation, delays in drawing up a Bill are making the administration of foreign investment at this crucial time incredibly messy and confused.
The Government wants to avoid having to roll over the existing temporary Foreign Take-overs Act for a second time, especially as different measures are urgently called for to handle new problems in the screening process and the state of Australia’s external reserves has also changed quite quickly.
That, as you would be very well aware, Mr Deputy Speaker, is a considerable understatement. The extract continues:
The Government is being advised that the new legislation must provide the screening authority with power to examine foreigner-to-foreigner transfers of Australian assets and resources.
At the moment the foreign takeover of Australian-owned shares is the principal measure with which the Foreign Takeovers Committee concerns itself.
This limitation is presenting several difficulties.
There is no doubt that the present Act is being seriously abused by avoidance procedures. Foreign takeovers- contrary, I believe, to the national interest of this country- are being effected by the acquisition of assets and by other devices. The Act, as it now stands, relates only to share acquisitions. The Treasurer is well aware that it was introduced as an interim measure only. It was, in fact, intended to introduce further legislation in 1973. He would also be aware that the Act’s extension for a second time has already led to serious abuses and has in no way served the national interest by protecting Australian companies.
The Opposition’s policy on foreign takeovers has been set out in detail on numerous occasions. We published a comprehensive overseas investment policy in April of this year. That policy reaffirmed our commitment to strengthen the foreign takeovers legislation. We believe that the Act will remain dangerously incomplete while it ignores takeovers which occur by the acquisition of assets, especially land, real estate and mining rights. We believe also that the administration of the Act must be undertaken by an independent authority responsible to the Federal Treasurer. These are basic proposals but they are urgently required at the present time. Not only do we believe that the present Act should be strengthened but also we recognise the need for guidelines to be established to govern the operations of overseas companies operating in Australia.
The guidelines should facilitate the employment of Australian personnel and require majority Australian representation on boards of directors. They should ensure that information, similar to that required from publicly listed companies by Australian stock exchanges, is provided on a regular basis. Finally, the guidelines should ensure that the national interest is not contravened by restrictive export franchises, royalty, licensing, patent arrangements or local operating policies in general. The Opposition has an effective policy towards overseas investment in Australia. That policy is subject to continuing review. It is a policy that we would be prepared to back with legislation and to ensure that the present provisions are subject to marked strengthening.
We regard the Government’s progress in this area as totally unacceptable. The simple fact is that this Government, for all its political debates and harangues on the hustings during 2 Federal elections has failed to deliver to the Australian people and companies the real goods on this issue. The Government has preferred to indulge in progaganda campaigns directed against the so-called multinationals rather than to concern itself with developing an effective policy for Australia. It has used the issue of Australian ownership and control as a blatant tool for its own political advancement. This Bill comes before the House subject to the second extension during the period in which this Labor Administration has been in office. This is an indictment of the Government’s capacity to get new legislation before the House and of the so-called principles for which it has loosely alleged it has stood during 2 election campaigns. I think the Australian people are entitled to say on this issue, as they have on so many others, that this is a government of double standards which is prepared to preach one thing during election campaigns but which, on so many other occasions, has not been prepared to produce the real action to back the words which it has put down.
-The purpose of the Companies (Foreign Take-overs)
Bill which is shortly explained in a one-page speech made by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) is to extend for a second time the operation of legislation introduced by the former Government. As the Treasurer quite properly points out, the legislation which was introduced in 1972 was an interim measure. It expired on 31° December 1973. Its operation was to be extended until 3 1 December 1 974. It is now proposed once more to extend the operation of the legislation. We cannot object to the Bill because quite properly if we did object there would be no legislation to control foreign takeovers at all. What one has to look at is whether the legislation which was brought in by the former Government as an interim measure, and as explained by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch), is adequate for today. If one looks at statements which one has seen from the Government it becomes quite clear that at least in the Government’s eyes the legislation is supposedly inadequate.
If one reads the very early statements on these matters one presumes that the Government intended to act promptly because it considered that this matter required urgent review. I have before me a Press statement issued by the Treasurer in mid-February 1973, which was shortly after the Government came to office. It was reported in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ under the headline:
Government plans to alter law on takeovers.
When one goes through and reads the comments of the Treasurer at that time- February 1973- one appreciates that he saw urgency in amending this law. The Treasurer stated:
Australian takeover procedures are not satisfactory . . . ‘we can’t do anything about them until Parliament meets’.
He was addressing the Australian Institute of Chartered Accountants. The article states:
He was asked whether he saw a need for any alteration in takeover procedures.
Mr Crean said the takeover legislation brought in by the McMahon Government was unsatisfactory because ‘it calls on people who are already very busy in other sorts of areas to be the examiners.’ ‘It takes an inordinate amount of my time,’ he said.
The legislation has had some quite remarkable effects, unsatisfactory as it is. We are considering amending it. but I don’t think we’ll have anything until April or May. What is there will continue as an interim measure. ‘
That was April or May 1973. We are now in early December 1974. This does not seem to be keeping with the rhetoric of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) when he spoke in the election campaign of November 1972. In speaking about the control of Australian resources, the Leader of the Opposition as he was then but the Prime Minister as he was to be, stated:
Now, the most profitable and significant of Australia’s industries and resources are under foreign control. Sir John McEwen described this process as selling a bit of the farm year by year to pay our way. Mr McMahon, more than any other Liberal, prevented any effort to limit foreign investment in those years. More than any other Australian, Mr McMahon bears the responsibility for Australia ‘selling the farm’.
Yet today we have legislation which is designed to continue the operation of legislation which was in fact, introduced into this Parliament by Mr McMahon. This legislation has now remained on the statute books effectively for the Government’s purpose for 2 years. The Prime Minister was devastatingly critical, as he can be on occasions like this. I would like to hear what he is saying now about the need for this sort of legislation. He went on to state:
But in truth, it has not been the ‘farm’ which has been sold- not the industries like wheat or wool or fruit or dairying or gold, the industries which have faced the crisis and hardships of recent years. It is the strongest and richest of our own industries and services which have been bought up from overseas. It’s time to stop the great takeover of Australia. But more important, it’s time to start buying Australia back. A Labor Government will enable Australia and ordinary Australians to take part in the ownership, development and use of Australian industries and resources.
Specifically the Prime Minister dealt with takeovers. He stated:
The protection of Australian enterprises against foreign takeover can only be achieved by explicit Government policy. We will establish a secretariat to report to the Government on all matters concerning the flow of foreign investment and all substantial takeovers and mergers.
That statement was made during that campaign. It has not been adhered to by the Government. If I want to find out what is the Government’s policy I am required to go to’a number of newspaper reports to ascertain it. The one substantive statement which I have been able to find was the address by the Treasurer to the Association for the Retention of Australian Ownership on 13 October 1973. The substantive paper which was produced by any government in Australia was in May 1972. That was the paper produced by the former Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, on Overseas Investment in Australia. It was tabled and it became Parliamentary Paper No. 51. It comprehensively dealt with very many problems. We all acknowledge that there are problems in dealing with this sort of area in terms of producing legislation. It is clear that many people in our community are interested in the form of legislation. I for one would be interested to know what form of legislation we will see, what its effect will be and what areas it will cover.
I think there would be nothing more desirable than for the Treasurer today to table at least the guidelines which have been given to the parliamentary draftsmen so that the community will know the manner in which the Government intends to legislate in this area. Certainly there is nothing in the Treasurer’s statement of 13 October 1973 which would indicate what those guidelines might be. More so than the Prime Minister’s speech, it was a series of platitudes designed to indicate to the Australian people that perhaps the Government was concerned about the control of Australian resources. If one reads that speech- I have read it- one will find nothing in it which would indicate the substantive directions in which the Government believes we ought to be going. The Treasurer’s only statement of any consequence was subsequently reported in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ in these terms:
For this reason we want to ensure that foreign capital enters those areas where it is really needed and where it can make a significant contribution to our continued economic growth.
That was reported to be a little bit more of the business bashing and overseas investment bashing by the present Government. Quite rightly that interpretation could be put on it. Nothing in that speech and nothing that has been foreshadowed in terms of legislation would indicate how the Government thinks it can ensure that foreign capital enters those areas where it is really needed or how the Government proposes to use the controls that were introduced by the former Government.
I read a number of statements to try to ascertain what the Government thinks ought to be done in this area. I found from an article in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 28 November 1973 that it was felt that the control of assets, as distinct from shares, which was one of the problems that the Government thought was important, might be one matter that ought to be looked at. The statement indicated that the Government might be having difficulty in controlling joint venture operations. It indicated that it might be having problems in controlling the establishment of new foreign companies in Australia. It indicated that it was at least considering the matter suggested in the Liberal policy statement, that is, that a separate secretariat ought to be dealing with matters of foreign take-overs. It suggested that we ought to have a separate agency such as the one in Canada which deals with these matters rather than an inter-departmental committee. The Government may have been considering that.
There were suggestions that a new definition of a foreign company may be needed. There were suggestions that the Government may have to deal also with aspects of a foreign company taking over another foreign company if substantial Australian assets could be controlled by that company. There were suggestions that leasing by foreign companies of local business operations might be looked at. There were also suggestions that other aspects might have to be covered, including export franchises, research, development expenditure, licensing, purchasing policies and also tax avoidance. I notice that these latter matters were mentioned by the Prime Minister in a speech that he made in Perth.
What I am complaining of is that for a member and for the community to find out what direction our legislation might take they have to go to a series of Press leaks and statements to find out what it is all about. We have no clear statement from this Government as to what it considers needs to be done in this area. I believe we need this statement. If I were a member of this Government I would be ashamed of the fact that in this important area, one that has been made an issue in 2 elections by the Government, merely one sheet of paper has been given to explain the purpose of the Bill that we have before us when so much needs to be covered if the Australian community is to know what is to be done. The only substantive statements that I have been able to find that have been made in this House have been in answer to questions. In May 1973, the Treasurer agreed that there was need for the Act to be rewritten. He said this in answer to a question from the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson). It was very disappointing to read the statement of the Treasurer which, as I said before, contained only mere generalisations. If the Treasurer is having any difficulty in learning what sort of legislation ought to be available to him and the manner in which it ought to be drafted, then I would advise him to have a look at the Canadian Foreign Investment Review Act, which covers a number of matters.
– The Canadians oddly enough had a look at ours.
-I would suggest that the Treasurer might have a look at their scheme because it contains provisions which deal with the control of assets in a situation like our own. Clearly to date all we have seen from the Government have been public relations exercises. I draw the attention of the House to an article by Professor Irving Kristol. He quite properly pointed out in an article which he wrote entitled ‘The Corporation as a Dinosaur: Unadulterated Bad Guys’ the difficulty that people would have in understanding the way in which multinational corporations have been dealt with on the Australian political scene. Quite clearly today when the Government has lost so many other whipping posts, it has had to find a new one. The Professor says of multi-national corporations:
That the cultural environment is hostile, is obvious enough. Today, businessmen, and especially corporate executives, are just about the only class of people which a television drama will feel free to cast as pure villains.
Jews and blacks and teachers and journalists and social workers and politicians and trade union leaders and policemen- and just about everyone else- are given protective coloration on the television screen.
I think this is the stage that we have reached. The Government looks today for whipping posts and has sought to belabour multi-national corporations in this way. What I am saying is that what we need from the Government instead of a whipping post is a clear policy statement on what it is going to do in this area. The multi-national corporations as much as anyone else are entitled to know what policy proposals the Government has in mind to deal with them. They are entitled to see a paper presented setting out the approach that the Government would take.
I invite honourable members also to think about a matter that worries me. A friend of mine kindly prepared for me, at my request, a statement on certain taxation aspects. Taxation was one of the matters that the Prime Minister mentioned in his address in Perth. It is one of the matters that I believe ought to be looked at more conscientiously by the Government. I do not know what aspects the Treasurer has in mind to deal with taxation of foreign investments in Australia. I do not think that they ought to be taxed any differently from Australian citizens in terms of their earnings. I believe that there is an obligation on us all to ensure that they are taxed fairly and that they pay their just part as we all do in terms of the contribution that they make to revenue.
I have not seen any substantive case law which would indicate that the Australian Government has taken action to ensure that foreign corporations investing in Australia pay their just due. I know that from time to time eminent critics have indicated that perhaps- I do not know whether it is true or not- in the past oil companies, by their pricing policies may have avoided, by marking up the price at which they sold products to Australia, the obligation to meet taxes in Australia. I understand that in New Zealand, the New Zealand Commissioner of Inland Revenue was concerned about the aspect of whether taxable revenue may have been lost. As the responsible revenue collecting authority, he brought action against the companies to collect taxes in such instances. There was the Europa (New Zealand) Ltd case against the Commissioner of Inland Revenue. This case dealt with major oil companies which had supplied the New Zealand market and channelled its crude oil supplies through a wholly owned subsidiary incorporated in the Bahamas. In this case, the Commissioner sought to recover the revenue by disallowing a deduction claimed for the purchase price. I wonder whether this important case might have highlighted the need to clarify Australian legislation, although quite possibly the New Zealand precedent is sufficient. Section 5 1 ( 1 ) of the Australian Income Tax Assessment Act is the equivalent of the New Zealand law under which the decision was made in the Europa case. It is my submission that the Commissioner of Taxation ought to be looking at these areas much more closely than he appears to be doing, in terms of the reported decisions that I have seen on this important question.
I propose to conclude my remarks by inviting the Government to stop its multi-national bashing, as I see it, and to get on with the job. I hope that we will see legislation in this important area introduced quickly and promptly so that we will know where the Government stands, we will know what its policies are to deal with these matters and all honourable members will have a lengthy time to consider and deal with them. I suppose that that is the only advantage I can see in the extension of time that is being granted by this particular Bill.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
-The Treasurer (Mr Crean) in his second reading speech made it clear that the purpose of this Bill is to extend the Companies (Foreign Takeovers) Act 1972-1973 until 31 December 1975. He also very clearly indicated that it is the Government’s intention to incorporate its proposals into new legislation, but he set out the reasons why this has not been possible. No doubt after December 1975 we will see a new Bill along the lines of the Government’s proposals.
– December 1974.
-December 1974. As at 30 June 1973 there were 404 branches of overseas companies operating in Australia and there were 2,123 Australian subsidiaries of overseas companies (excluding sub-subsidiaries of the Australian companies operating in Australia. This indicates very clearly the important part that overseas capital is playing in the development of Australia and in the trade of this country. We have to have foreign investment in Australia to develop our great mining, petroleum and pastoral industries. The present Government has certainly not encouraged overseas capital in these fields. Let us take the petroleum industry. When the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party were in government there were 1 9 off-shore drilling rigs operating in Australia. At the present time there are only two. The reason is that the Government has discouraged overseas knowhow, overseas expertise and overseas capital, which is risk capital, in our petroleum industry. It is most important to encourage overseas risk capital in this industry and to improve our production of crude oil in this country. At the present time we are producing 70 per cent of our petroleum needs from Bass Strait, Barrow Island and Moonie in Queensland, but these finds are not being increased. They are decreasing. So it is extremely important that we encourage overseas capital in this field to give us more petroleum production in this country, to save foreign exchange and to help us economically.
The same thing applies to the mining industry in this country. The present Government has discouraged overseas capital in this field. It has laid down no guidelines, and the mining companies do not know where they stand from the point of view of capital to develop the mines and from the point of view of marketing the minerals which they produce. The same situation pertains to our great pastoral industry. As I have mentioned, the Government has not encouraged overseas companies to come into this great country of ours. We must have overseas capital, but it should not be allowed to take over our great industries in Australia. There is plenty of overseas capital available on a minority share basis if it receives encouragement. This Government has realised the great mistake it has made. It has turned about face and has found that it must encourage the investment of overseas capital here.
For instance, on his recent overseas trip the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) said in the United States of America that the Australian Government now welcomed foreign investment. This is a complete change of policy. He reacted strongly to suggestions that this apparent about face by the Government indicated that its original policy on foreign investment had failed. He said that economic conditions had changed in the past 2 years and that different conditions had to be met by different measures. Speaking at a Press conference in Washington after a hectic day of almost hourly talks with a wide range of United States Government officials in the capital, the Minister for Overseas Trade said when questioned about an apparent change in the Australian Government ‘s policy on foreign investment: ‘That is a loaded question. We are not changing policy. The economic situation has changed. ‘ In the past few weeks there has been a complete reversal of this Government’s attitude to foreign capital coming into Australia. When the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) took over in 1972 the barriers against money coming into our country were strengthened. Overseas companies had to deposit 33 Vi per cent of their capital with the Reserve Bank for 2 years, interest free. The proposals which needed foreign money were carefully screened, and the impression was put about that Australia did not need overseas money. What a change there has been! We find that overseas investment in this country dwindled to such an extent that the 33 lA per cent statutory deposit with the Reserve Bank was brought down to 25 per cent. Then it was changed to 5 per cent, and now it has disappeared altogether. The deposit requirement has gone.
Recently, on his overseas trip, the Minister for Overseas Trade reassured private investment corporations that Australia would welcome their money and that ‘profit’ was no longer a dirty word in this country. I was interested to hear the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) ask today: ‘What money has Dr Cairns achieved for this country on his visit to the United States and to other areas?’ The Deputy Prime Minister has made no statement as to whether he was successful in obtaining foreign capital for Australia. This position should be cleared up and a statement should be made so that we know whether his overseas visit was successful. Both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have made soothing statements along the same lines about the encouraging of overseas capital into Australia. Australian industry is seriously short of capital. It is clear that the private sector will not be able to expand- and thus the economy will not be able to survive- without substantial investment funds. Only the most optimistic and naive nationalists think that internal capital generation will provide anything but a small proportion of our requirements. From the remarks of the Minister for Overseas Trade it should be obvious to industrial and banking leaders overseas that the
Government does not now subscribe to that view.
Australia received a flood of foreign capital in October following the 12 per cent devaluation which took place in late September. No doubt the devaluation was clearly the main reason for the sharply increased rate of inflow from $10m in September to $230m in October. Possibly the September and October figures together even out the influence of devaluation on capital flows. But there is no doubt that this Government has found in the 2 years it has been in office that it cannot do without overseas capital to develop our petroleum, mining, pastoral and manufacturing industries in this country. But these overseas people, having been discouraged in the first 1 8 to 20 months of the Labor Government, will be reticent about re-investing funds in Australia. Therefore, it behoves the Government to do all it possibly can to attract overseas capital to develop our great industries in Australia. I say: Do not let overseas capital take over in this country but do not discourage it. As I said earlier in this speech, there is plenty of overseas capital ready to come to Australia for a minority shareholding in our great enterprises.
-We are debating the Companies (Foreign Take-overs) Bill 1974. It is a simple Bill which comes at the end of a very heavy legislative session. It merely extends for 12 more months legislation which was produced for this Parliament and passed through this Parliament in the life of the LiberalCountry Party Government under Prime Minister McMahon. I have had the job in this debate of listening to 3 Opposition speakers- two from the Liberal Party, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) and the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock), and one from the Australian Country Party, the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe)- with a watching brief because members of the Government Party have not taken their turn in this debate due to the heavy legislative program. Frankly, I am wondering what I can do with that brief because there is so little to answer. There have been many generalities but not much of a particular nature. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly), who will follow me in this debate, has promised that he will bring up the case of one or two companies and be more specific. I am sorry I do not have the advantage of following him because perhaps there might have been something of substance about which I could have commented at that stage. Perhaps the Treasurer (Mr Crean) will be able to comment on those matters when closing this debate.
As I said, the Bill merely extends the operations of an Act which was brought into this Parliament by the Opposition when it was in government. We have heard from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition such phrases as ‘dereliction of duty’ and suggestions that we, on the Government side, are being ambivolent or equivocal in merely following the previous Government’s legislation. I am the first to admit that the legislation does have some bad disadvantages, that it does have some holes in it which need to be filled, but this is a complicated sphere. The Government has been working hard at drawing up guidelines. I hope I will find time later to mention the foreign equity participation guidelines as they relate to the mining industry. It is one thing to have the guidelines but another to translate those guidelines into complicated legislation. If we had brought into this Parliament at this stage of the parliamentary session such complicated legislation with a view to getting it through before 3 1 December, the Opposition would have criticised that action as well.
Surely no honourable member opposite is suggesting that the legislative program has not been sufficiently full for us to have plenty of excuses not to have brought this on any earlier than now. Each one of us in the Parliament meets criticism in the community and is asked: ‘Why are you people always bickering? Why is it that the Opposition is always opposing everything that the Government does? Is there not plenty of legislation on which you can agree?’ I have to own up and explain to the people that often the Opposition does agree with the Government on legislation going through this place but we do not hear about that because it does not make the headlines in the newspapers and it does not take time in this House.
-That is right.
– I am glad the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) is here and agrees with me that we do hear these criticisms and that my answer is a correct one. I suggest that this piece of legislation should have come within that category. There is every reason why this Bill to extend the original legislation introduced by the Opposition when in government should not be hurried but should be mulled over carefully, and that the guidelines which have been produced should be very carefully translated into legislation.
I think the sorts of speeches we have heard from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Parramatta and, to a lesser extent from the honourable member for
Paterson, do not do justice to them. I deal first with the comments made by the honourable member for Paterson. He talked about an ‘about-face’ in relation to Labor Party policy in this matter. A ‘reversal’ was another word he used to describe it. His assertion is just not true. The Labor Party’s platform is quite clear in relation to foreign investment. It is as follows:
Establish clearer guidelines Tor overseas investors, for the benefit both of these investors and of the Australian community. Overseas investment in Australia to be encouraged only where it introduces new technology and expertise, includes plans for Australian participation in the enterprise and/or otherwise shows itself to be in Australia’s national interest.
That has been the policy of this Party both before it came to government and since. But we have to see the implementation of that policy in the context of the economy.
There is little doubt that when we came to power in December 1972 funds were flowing into Australia as they have never flowed in before. The banks had money flowing out of their ears because our currency was undervalued and because there was inadequate legislation and inadequate administration to stop this money flowing into the country. The Act which this Bill seeks to extend was- to use the words of the Treasurer (Mr Crean) when he led for the Labor Party, when in Opposition, during the debate on this legislation which became law- a death bed repentance on the part of the Liberals. For 23 years there was no legislation covering foreign takeovers of our companies and suddenly there was this death bed repentance and this legislation came into force.
I have mentioned that the Act does have some deficiencies but it has not been all that bad. We have not heard any specific proposals from the Opposition as to what are those deficiencies. We are still anticipating, of course, what the honourable member for Bradfield may have to say; but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in his generalities, did not mention specific areas where the legislation is deficient. I will mention a couple of areas in which there are deficiencies but they are not loopholes that are easily closed. The weakness of the existing law is manifest especially in the incapacity to screen the takeover of assets and companies which are foreign controlled but which have a small Australian equity. In addition, Australian acquisition and examination of foreigner to foreigner deals are two of the areas which, I hope, the new legislation will cover. This is being specific but I have not heard anything of that nature from the Opposition so far.
Also, the Opposition completely overlooked that since this legislation was introduced we have had much more administration over the inflow of funds relating to foreign exchange. There is now a Committee on Foreign Investment which is examining funds flowing into this country- not only funds which are being used to take over Australian companies, which is the subject of this Bill, but also funds which are generally flowing into this country. That Committee screens all transactions coming under the foreign exchange regulations. That is something which has been totally overlooked but which has been a very worthwhile tool of government in ensuring, as we on this side of the House want to ensure, that the assets of Australia are not going to be owned abroad and that decisions, for instance in respect of the motor industry in which I as the member for Adelaide am most interested, are not taken in Detroit but in Australia.
I do not think there is one objective Australian who would do anything but recognise that since the Labor Party came to power there has been a new feeling of nationalism in Australia. The Government has been able to use this death bed repentance of the Opposition Parties very effectively. Having conceded that there are a few loopholes in this legislation and that new legislation is needed, there point out that the existing legislation, and the Committee on Foreign Investment to which I have referred, have done a worthwhile job in ensuring that not too many of our assets are owned abroad. We have yet to buy back Australia, but at least since Labor took over we have not been selling off any more of Australia, and this is one of the very strong points of this Government which will be recognised again and again when we go to the polls. One of the criticisms made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) was that there were very unclear guidelines in relation to what foreigners could do in relation to takeovers of Australian companies and what they could not. Mr Speaker, I want to draw to your attention an article dealing with the Committee on Foreign Takeovers which appeared in the ‘Australian’ on 16 February 1974. The article stated:
The Committee on Foreign Takeovers- the body which vets overseas bids and makes recommendations about them to the Treasurer- has embarked on a program to explain its role.
It was in February 1974 that that program started. The then chairman of the Committee, Mr Sharah. apparently spoke on a number of occasions to very many different bodies of accountants, investors and others explaining the rules that were being used by the Committee on
Foreign Takeovers. It is not true that this has been a bad example of open government. It was a good example of open government when the Treasurer made Mr Sharah’s time available lor him to speak to such groups throughout the community. I know that Mr Sharah outlined at these meetings the information his committee was seeking, and indeed still does seek. He also gave a good indication of what a bidder needs to take into account if he is to succeed in his approach for a company and if he is to succeed in his application to the Committee. The article continues:
High on the Government’s list, for example. is the introduction of a new technology or new products to Australia as a result of a takeover . . .
High on that list also is the establishment of new markets for Australian produce. These are some of the guidelines laid down by the Committee and they follow, of course, the platform of the Australian Labor Party, as I have indicated earlier. The article goes on:
The foreign takeovers scheme is actually administered by a staff of 20, comprising 14 graduates in economics, engineering, science or arts, two accountants and four clerks.
Is it not open government to explain not only what are the committee’s guidelines but of what they are made up? Furthermore, I have evidence of this open government in the fact that the Committee has also indicated to the community that the requirements spelt out by Mr Sharah were that details must be given about production, quality and range of products and services, cost and distribution efficiency, managerial, technological and viability of the proposal. That is open government, explaining to the community just what the Committee is looking at in this matter of foreign takeovers. The article goes on, referring to the Committee ‘s staff:
They are split in five teams each of four persons. Two teams are involved in preliminary investigations, one on detailed investigation and one team functions as a secretariat. The fifth team is engaged on what is known as executive assistance, involving liaison with ministerial officers, publication and notification of orders, press releases, reports to ministers, etc.
Where a clear need for a foreign takeover is established, it rarely goes past the preliminary examination stage. Others go to detailed examination to allow time for careful examination of complex benefit arguments.
This is the work of the Committee of Foreign Takeovers which is so vital to ensure that our assets are not being gobbled up by those living abroad.
Finally, I want to mention the guidelines that the Prime Minister has announced in relation to mining companies. During the recent visit to Australia by the Prime Minister of Japan the opportunity was taken by the Australian Government to release these guidelines for foreign equity participation in and control of the mining industry of Australia. Australia’s Prime Minister said that the guidelines were a development of the policy he had outlined in Tokyo last year and should be read in conjunction with the recent statement by the Australian Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) on the Government’s program for the development of the uranium resources in the Northern Territory. The guidelines fell into 6 separate headings: Development in Australian interests, equity control and ownership, roles for the public and private sectors, exploration, processing and consultations with the Australian Government. Unfortunately, I did not have an opportunity to show this document to the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), who is at the table, as he came into the House only shortly before I came to my feet. This is an article entitled ‘Australia Invites Foreign Equity Participation’, published in ‘CACCI Newsletter’, and it sets out the guidelines in relation to mining and foreign takeovers. I seek permission to incorporate this article in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
AUSTRALIA INVITES FOREIGN EQUITY PARTICIPATION
Government Sets Guidelines
During the recent visit to Australia by the Prime Minister of Japan, the opportunity was taken by the Australian Government to release guidelines for foreign equity participation in and control of the mining industry of Australia.
Australia’s Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, said the guidelines were a development of the policy he had outlined in Tokyo last October and should be read in conjunction with the recent statement by the Australian Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, on the Government’s program for the development of the uranium resources in the Northern Territory. The guidelines released by Mr Whitlam are as follows:
Development in Australian Interests
The Government’s basic aim is to ensure that Australia’s mineral resources are developed in such a way as to bring maximum benefits to the Australian people. If this objective is to be achieved, ultimate responsibility for the exploration, development and processing of minerals must rest with Australians: all enterprises, whether Australian or foreignowned, engaged in exploration, development or processing, must conform with the national interest. The Government will use all of its powers, including its export and exchange control powers, to achieve this aim.
Equity, Control and Ownership
The Government desires, as a major objective, to promote Australian equity in and control of its resources and industries, and maximum Australian ownership compatible with Australia’s long-term capital requirements and its needs for access to markets, advanced technology and know-how. The
Government recognises, however, that many of the important existing enterprises engaged in the development of Australian resources are under foreign equity control. For this reason, the promotion of Australian equity in and control of our resources and industries must be viewed as a longer-term objective.
Roles for the Public and Private Sectors
The Government recognises that private participation in exploration and development will continue to be essential. A maximum level of activity will be achieved only if there is participation both by public bodies, such as the PMA and the AIDC, and private enterprises. The Government recognises also that participation by companies will be dependent on the prospect of a return on capital employed which is commensurate with the high risks sometimes involved.
The Government seeks Australian participation in mineral exploration. It believes, however, that because of the risks involved and Australia’s limited capital resources, it is more important to secure a high degree of Australian equity participation at the production stage. The development of any mineral discoveries will, of course, be subject to approval by the Government in accordance with these guidelines.
The Government’s objective is the maximum level of mineral processing consistent with the rational use of Australia ‘s resources.
Consultations with the Australian Government
The Government expects to be informed of all major mineral development proposals- by Australian as well as foreign enterprises- at an early stage. The point of contact will he the Minister for Minerals and Energy who will refer to other Australian Government Ministers matters coming within their areas of responsibility- e.g., the Treasurer on foreign ownership and on financing aspects, the Minister for the Environment and Conservation on environmental aspects, and the Minister for Urban and Regional Development on urban and regional aspects. This will assist the Government in ensuring that maximum benefits accrue to the Australian people as a whole.
– I thank the honourable member for Gwydir and the Opposition. I shall leave the matter there. These guidelines are clear. The Government has promised to bring down legislation shortly. This Bill is a simple one extending the existing legislation, which was brought to this Parliament as a deathbed repentance by the Opposition parties shortly before they were defeated. There are some deficiencies in the existing legislation but they are not deficiencies which are easily overcome. The Government would have been derelict in its duty if it had now rushed through this Parliament the complicated legislation which is at the moment in the hands of the Parliamentary Counsel. We look forward to debating this subject of foreign takeovers of Australian companies later in the life of this Parliament, perhaps in its next session. In the meantime, I am glad that this Bill has been introduced, extending for an additional period the existing legislation.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. I claim to have been misrepresented.
-Have you spoken in the debate?
-No. Mr Speaker.
– I am sorry, a personal explanation is not permitted unless you have spoken in the debate. Are you seeking the indulgence of the Chair?
– Yes, I want to reply to something that the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) attributed to me.
-You would have to seek leave to make a statement.
-I will not pursue it further.
– Unless you are speaking in the debate, but the honourable member for Bradfield has the call.
-Mr Speaker, it never ceases to amaze me how a government which has now been in office for 2 years and which celebrated its second anniversary only yesterday is still able to accept a piece of legislation which was first discussed in this House on 24 October 1 972 and at that time was attacked by the then Opposition and now they try to justify it on what can be called at best specious grounds. Mr Crean, now the Treasurer, made the point at that time that this Bill was but another one of those deathbed repentances, and the present Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, said then:
This legislation is an outrage and it deserves the contempt of every decent honest Australian.
If this is such contemptible legislation I find it difficult to appreciate how, 2 years later, we are being asked by its detractors to extend its period of operation for another 12 months. On that same occasion the then Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, made the point in this House when he announced the Government’s intention to legislate for the control of foreign takeovers which the Government considered would be against the national interest that he was breaking new ground in terms of Australia ‘s legislation. I emphasise that point. It was new ground. It was not a perfect piece of legislation and it was not considered to be one at that time, as the members of the then Opposition were so quick to point out. But 2 years later we are again being asked to extend the life of the legislation when we still lack specific guidelines. We still do not have legislation which this Parliament can say honestly to the Australian people is up to date, covers the loopholes and is going to do the job. h was for this specific reason that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) today made the point that the decision to extend this Act was a dereliction of responsibility and an admission of inexcusable negligence by the present Government. We have learned to our cost in the last 12 months in particular how Australian companies have been squeezed, many of them out of existence, and how capital imports because of controls have been grotesquely limited while foreign companies have still been allowed to import capital into Australia. Much of this money has been used for the purchase of Australian companies.
We know of the existence of the Interdepartmental Committee on Foreign Takeovers which was established by the present Government. We do not know specifically what the guidelines of that Committee are. Furthermore, we only see the odd Press release advising members of the Parliament and the Australian people of action taken by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) following advice from that Committee. The fact still remains that at the present time there are sufficient loopholes in the existing legislation, of which the Minister has quite obviously been aware for some time. It is because of that specifically that the Opposition has to take the present Government to task for its failure over 2 years to update this legislation and cover these many loopholes.
I would like to take 2 companies as examples of what has happened. Escor Ltd was a company incorporated on 29 May 1920 under its then name, Grimley Ltd, under the provisions of the New South Wales Companies Act 1 899. Grimley Ltd changed its name to Eastralian Securities Ltd on 24 September 1970. On 28 February 1974 the name of the company was again changed, to Escor Ltd. On 7 July 1970, shareholders approved a proposal for the merger of Grimley Ltd with 4 subsidiaries of Rail Australia Pty Ltd. This resulted in further takeovers of Paterson Reid and Bruce Ltd, Moynihans Fashion Pty Ltd, Snappy Panties Pty Ltd and Snappy Panties Manufacturing Co. Ltd. Since then, the list of companies taken over has grown further. On 27 August 1971 the company took over Board Mills of Australia. On 22 March 1974 it took over Freighter Franklin Ltd and Frigrite Ltd, and on 2 1 June 1 974 Tutt Bryant Ltd fell within its control.
On 7 September 1973 the company issued its interim report for the 6 months to 30 June 1973. This is what it said: it is advised that Bowater-Ralli Australia Pty Ltd, a foreign corporation in terms of the Act, -
That is the Act that this Bill we are debating today seeks to continue - had disposed of 2,000,000 shares to certain Australian institutions.
It is interesting to note that among those Australian institutions was the Australian Industry Development Corporation which acquired no less than 900,000 shares. The report states that additionally the corporation was granted by Bowater-Ralli a voting proxy over a further 2,400,000 of the remaining Australian shares held.
This proxy had the effect of reducing the voting power held by Bowater-Ralli to under 15 per cent, thus enabling Eastralian Securities Limited, or Escor Limited as it is now known, to avoid classification as a foreign company under the Act.
That is just one example of what has happened. There are others.
The second example I would like to draw to your attention, Mr Speaker, is that of Industrial Equity Ltd, a public company listed on the Australian stock exchanges which has 60 per cent of its capital owned by a New Zealand company known as Brierley Investments Ltd. For the information of honourable members Industrial Equity is a takeover specialist. New Zealand control brought Industrial Equity within the ambit of the Companies (Foreign Take-overs) Act and several of its takeover attempts were thwarted early in 1973 by a freeze applied by the Foreign Take-overs Committee. To overcome this impediment to its operations, this company decided in November 1973 to sponsor a change in the articles of the company to limit the votes of the New Zealand shareholders to 14.9 per cent of the total votes. This new article was apparently deliberately framed so that the limitation applied to shares registered in certain names but did not take account of the actual beneficial ownership. The New Zealand company exploited the wording of the article within a few months of its adoption by buying more shares but registering them in Australian nominee names, including the company ‘s merchant bankers.
When Industrial Equity itself became the target of a takeover offer, the New Zealand parent- this is the significant point- transferred 21 per cent of the shares it owned to an Australian holder to be voted at a shareholders’ meeting free of the 14.9 per cent limitation and then transferred them back again to the New Zealand control. In other words, the company transferred the shares back to foreign ownership. By this means, Brierley Investments Ltd exercised approximately 42 per cent of the votes, well above the 15 per cent cut-off to foreign companies under the legislation. Having reverted to a non-foreign status, Industrial Equity promptly announced 2 further takeover offers for Australian companies, Noske Ltd and Narla Minerals N.L. The Foreign Take-overs Committee has been advised of all this but for some reason which I do not understand nothing was done. There is only one conclusion that can be drawn from these 2 cases. It is that there are companies today which are not breaking the law because the law is not tight enough, but simply going around the law. They are making a mockery of the takeovers legislation by claiming not to be foreign companies and by shuffling shares at will to ensure absolute control by the foreign companies.
There is also evidence that the Foreign Takeovers Committee has failed to take action despite section 8 of the Companies (Foreign Takeovers) Act. Section 8 of the Act reads:
For the purposes of this Act, a reference to control of the exercise of the right to cast a vote in respect of a share in a company to which this Act applies, or to control of the exercise of the right to cast a vote in respect of a share in any other corporation, shall be read as including a reference to control of that right that is direct or indirect, including control that is exercisable-
as a result of, or by means of, trusts, agreements, arrangements, understandings and practices, whether or not having legal or equitable force and whether or not based on legal or equitable rights; or
by reason of a person being in a position to control a corporation or corporations.
The evidence is quite clear. We cannot keep giving 12-month extensions for a piece of legislation which now has so many holes shot in it that it is a travesty of what a legislative enactment of this House should be.
-I raise one matter in relation to something that the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) happened to say in the course of his address to the Companies (Foreign Take-overs) Bill. I agree with the honourable member for Adelaide that very little publicity is given to the debates in which the Opposition in fact agrees with legislation that is brought into the House by the Government. I think this is a great pity. I believe that at times not so much the standard of reporting but the standard of editing in our national newspapers is not in the best interests of the public. This is because so much legislation passes through the Parliament in regard to which there has been agreement between the Opposition and the Government but in regard to which some very constructive suggestions have come from honourable members on this side of the House. Of course, this passes without the general knowledge of the public. I think it is a great pity that this is so. That far we are in agreement. However, I hope that the honourable member did not suggest or understand that I was not in agreement with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) who spoke in this debate earlier today.
– I think if you read my remarks in Hansard you will see that I did not impute that at all.
– Very well. So we are in agreement on the first part at any rate.
– in reply- For the comfort of the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) I remind him that I once said in this House that there is nobody more faceless than the writer of an editorial, and sometimes nobody more morally pontificating without identification. Perhaps I am a little personal about editorials at the moment. I thank honourable members who have participated in this debate. I accept the rebuke that it was hoped that fresh legislation would have been brought before the Parliament earlier than was the case. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) has not been very long in this House. He would know if he had been here for the last 10 years that there were plenty of pieces of legislation that were promised quickly but which, for more than one reason, took a long time to get onto the statute books.
I appreciate the remarks of my colleague from Adelaide (Mr Hurford) who has at least praised the workings of the mechanism although, like others, he has pointed to some of its deficiencies. I simply say here that what was virtually a makeshift piece of legislation, prepared by the previous Government more because of public outcry that something had not been done than with any very careful thinking through of the legislation, has been able to achieve quite a lot in the takeover field. I think one great deficiency was that before this legislation was even conceived most of what was worth taking over in Australia had already been taken over and the big fish had already got not through the holes in the net but had got through in the absence of any net.
I hope that new legislation will be available early in the 1975 session because the drafting of it is quite well advanced. When it is understood that such intricate pieces of legislation as those dealing with non-bank financial institutions, restrictive trade practices, amendments to company provisions and so on have been introduced it will be realised that the draftsmen who operate in this area have been fully occupied. I had hoped that I might have been able to indicate broadly the lines upon which the new legislation would proceed. I may even yet take that opportunity so that at least those who are interested in the details will have some idea as to what is involved and Opposition members as well as people outside may be able at least to examine the framework and suggest whether they think it goes far enough.
I am pleased to say that both sides of the House accept that the legislation has a deficiency in that it allows for companies to be taken over by means of assets rather than by the acquiring of equity. I am pleased to see that there is on the Opposition side of the House a realisation of that deficiency. It is one of the deficiencies which we intend to remedy. One other important area, to which the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) referred, is the need to see that not too much more is taken over and that perhaps we should attempt to buy back a little. One of the deficiencies in the Companies (Foreign Takeovers) Act at the moment is that it does not cover the takeover of one foreign company, so-called under the Act, by another. That also will be looked at critically in the proposed new legislation.
I thank those on both sides who took part in the debate for their evident interest in the matter. It is a highly significant field. I assure honourable members that new legislation will be introduced quite early in the next session. At least one blessing of new sessions is that the notice paper is not cluttered up and there is a greater opportunity to debate things fully than at the end of a session. In the absence of the honourable member for Bradfield, who has now returned to the chamber, I said that had he been a member of this House for 10 years rather than for less than a few months he might have known that there were plenty of examples of legislation introduced by the previous Government which took a long time to pass through the stages of gestation and fructification. That is true of both sides of the House. But I assure the honourable member again that new legislation will be introduced as early as is possible. Either I or my successor may take the opportunity within the next week or two to say something about the outline of the proposed legislation so that at least it can be considered.
On one night recently I spoke at a meeting and indicated that we were contemplating bringing out a handbook indicating the procedures currently followed by the committees. I pay tribute to the honourable member for Adelaide, to Mr .Sharah and to Mr Besley, the head of the Foreign Investment Division of the Treasury, who at least have talked to groups throughout Australia when requested and talked to those who are involved. There were a lot of legalities in the procedures, as honourable members know. Those gentlemen have endeavoured to indicate to people what the situation is. A body of case law has almost evolved around the procedures that have already been established. I hope that perhaps early in 1975 we will have a handbook that will indicate to those who are interested the various procedures and so on.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Crean) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 20 November, on motion by Mr Morrison:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate on this Bill is resumed I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Judges’ Pensions Bill as they are associated measures. Separate questions will of course be put on each of the Bills at ‘he conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr 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 will allow that course to be followed.
-These Bills are far more important than either the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Matters Relating to Papua New Guinea (Mr Morrison) or the Government has divulged. This is in keeping with the manner in which some aspects of the administration of Papua New Guinea have been carried out during this Government’s period of office. With the utmost respect to the judges of the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea, it seems to me that it is most necessary to give them the security provided by this legislation. The transfer of the functions of the Supreme Court to the control of the Government of Papua New Guinea is a most important matter from the domestic point of view, and the Opposition supports it. We commend the provisions dealing with the lower courts, the House of Assembly, electoral matters and trie repeal of appeals to the High Court of Australia, just as we commend the smooth and early transition of Papua New Guinea to independence. Clause 3 of the Bill reads:
Section 3 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting paragraphs (a) and (b) of sub-section ( 1 A).
This means that we are transferring two most important reserve powers to Papua New Guinea, namely, the power over defence matters and the power over foreign affairs. If that is the case, I should have thought that, if not the Minister for Science, at least the man who ran away from the responsibility of answering for both the administration of defence services in Papua New Guinea and more importantly the arrangements between Australia and Papua New Guinea in a postindependence scene ought to have been prepared to tell us in this Parliament what the arrangements will be either after this Bill is passed and in due course is proclaimed or after independence what the relations between Australia and Papua New Guinea will be in the defence sphere.
We are now moving towards the most important stage in the history of Papua New Guinea. The watershed in relations between the 2 countries will occur at independence. At present it appears to me that we are prejudging the manner of independence by placing a resolution before the General Assembly of the United Nations. But I do recall that our duty to the United Nations is in fact and at law twofold. It is first a duty under the trusteeship agreement in respect of New Guinea alone and secondly under the charter of the United Nations in respect of both Papua and New Guinea. At independence Australia’s United Nations obligations will be discharged and a new set of relations between Australia and Papua New Guinea will need to be developed. But where is the information regarding this new set of relations that is to exist between Papua New Guinea and Australia? What is the situation going to be in the postindependence scene? What are the postindependence relations in a wide variety of fields to be? We have hardly been told.
I know that in relation to fisheries and other fields statements have been issued by respective Ministers indicating what the relationship of administrative and legal functions will be under either joint or several arrangements between Papua New Guinea and ourselves. But this Parliament has been largely ignored- I was nearly going to say misinformed- in regard to this important sphere in a post-independence scene. Whilst I was the Minister for External Territories the Government of which I was a member agreed that we would discuss well before independence what the relations after independence would be, on the very axiomatic point that this takes some time to develop, that it would not be in Australia’s national interest or indeed in Papua New Guinea’s interest to wait until the date is reached and then look at one another, as it were, and determine how we are going to go about things. We wanted certainty and order not merely in the transition to independence but certainly in the relations in the post-independence scene. As I say, we wanted this not only in Papua New Guinea’s interest, but also in Australia’s interest. But what study of Australia’s national interests in relation to our arrangements with Papua New Guinea has been done? We would not know. We have .no[ been told. We can assume, I suppose, by the non-disclosure that very little has been done.
I would say that those who worked in my Department when I was the Minister have done a great deal. But has the political machinery worked at this end for the Government to be able to set out for us what those relationships are going to be? I trust that the Minister when he comes round to replying in this debate will inject some certainty for those who are concerned about post-independence relations between Papua New Guinea and will advise us.
I opened my remarks by saying that this is a far more important measure than many people realise. It is important because after this piece of legislation apart from, as I understand it, certain Australian defence legislation that applies equally to Papua New Guinea and will have to be eradicated so that it applies only to Australia, there will be an independence Bill and the final obliteration of the remnants of the Papua New Guinea Act which is being amended by this Bill, and little else.
We know the reluctance of the Government to discuss foreign relations. There has been one international affairs debate of any substance in this Parliament since the Party on the other side of the House assumed Government. We know its reluctance generally but why the reluctance in regard to Papua New Guinea, that country which has a special relationship with us over and above any other relationship that we have had with any other country. I would say that if we examine the relationship between metropolitan powers and administered entities- whether it be with African countries, whether it be Fiji and the United Kingdom or what other entity one chooses- we would see that there has probably not been an administered area which was as close to the metropolitan power, not geographically but in the way it moved towards its independence- as Papua New Guinea used to be to us. Perhaps in fairness to the Minister who is sitting at the table I should not say ‘used to be’. I think that relationship is still very close.
I have been concerned, however, about the way in which we have appeared to be forcing the pace. This is just not my criticism. The Constitutional Planning Committee in Papua New Guinea last year said that. And, of course, the words of the Minister a couple of weeks ago in a statement in Papua New Guinea conflicted with a statement he made in this House, or appeared to do so by Press reports. According to Press reports he said a couple of weeks ago:
This unique situation which is unsatisfactory both to Papua New Guinea and Australia will not and cannot continue any longer.
I put that into the record because it seems to me to be a contrast to what the Minister said only a few days before that in a debate in this House on 1 3 November when he said -
- Mr Speaker, perhaps it might assist the honourable member for Kooyong if I rectified a misquote in which he has persisted. I did not say: ‘much longer’. I said: ‘for very long’. I would be very delighted to hand him over a copy of the Press statement that was made at the time. I think it is a very relevant point to this debate and should be clarified as soon as possible.
-Order! There is no point of order.
-There is no point of order.
-It is only a suggestion. It is not a point of order.
-I feel I am grateful to the Minister. I would feel lost if he was not on his feet interjecting at a time when I am making speeches. It seems to be a regular regurgitation when I get to my feet to talk about a matter which I feel I know almost as well as he, although the memory is dimming somewhat now. If the words are as the Minister said, it still applies with the same thrust as I was putting, that it cannot assist for much longer or words to the effect that the Minister used. The intent is the same. If a person stands before you and says: ‘This situation is intolerable; it cannot exist any longer’ or he says to you ‘It cannot exist much longer’ then clearly he is bringing to bear pressure on the person to whom those remarks are directed. As I say, they are in contrast. Either way the remarks that the Minister helpfully provided in his alleged point of order or the remarks that he was quoted as saying contrast with the statement he made in this Parliament on 13 November when he said:
My action has been to resist making any statement -
He could have fooled me- that could be interpreted or misinterpreted or as intervention or interference in the very proper role of the House of Assembly in establishing, developing and enacting its own constitution. This has been a difficult period but it is a difficult period that we recognise. It is a period in which we have desisted from making any statement that could seem to be, or could be seen to be, an interference in the affairs of Papua New Guinea.
-Who said that?
– The Minister at the table who has just told me some pedantic point of distinction between what was reported and what was said. I think that the honourable member with his keen awareness of the developments in Papua New Guinea would recognise that in fact, in reality, there was no distinction between what he said and what he was reported to have said but a very real distinction between either one of the variants that have been put to us and what was said here. He went on to say:
I stress any action by us to make a statement that is relevant to the discussion by the House of Assembly which is an autonomous body could be seen and could be interpreted as intervention in its affairs.
So much for the Minister. I do not want to dwell on him. He has been a good Minister in regard to Papua New Guinea and I do not want to spend time denigrating the efforts he has made in developing a close relationship with Papua New Guinea. But there is a contrast sometimes with this Government which is symptomatic also with this Minister, between what is said and what is done. Here it was a contrast between the 2 statements. It ought to be pointed out for the record on this important occasion on which almost the penultimate Bill on Papua New Guinea has been brought into this Parliament.
What is more important is the fact that I was mentioning earlier about post-independence relations. When the Government was elected within a matter of days the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said: ‘One of our first actions will be to move the Papua-Queensland border’. It is now just over 2 years since the people inflicted upon themselves a government of the incompetence of the side that sits opposite us in this chamber. In that period of time we have not had a move on the Papua-Queensland border because the Prime Minister spoke without knowledge or, if he spoke with knowledge deliberately warping it and ignoring the provisions of the Constitution which did not permit him to act unilaterallyeither he or his Government- to move the border between Papua and Queensland. This is a very contentious matter in Queensland. It is also a contentious matter in Papua itself, particularly amongst those who represent southern Papuan regions. If Papua New Guinea is to become independent in a matter of months, surely its territorial jurisdiction ought to be certain. Surely the people of that country must have taken heart following the remarks of the Prime Minister when he came to office. But nothing has been done because the Prime Minister ignored the constitutional fact and the legal aspect that the Government of Queensland must be consulted as any State must be consulted if its border is to be changed.
As I say, it may only be a matter of months, less than 12 months, until Papua New Guinea becomes independent. But it seems to me that we have to keep an eye on relations after independence now as much as we do in the smooth and orderly transfer of functions to the independent State itself. It seems to me that the Government has committed itself to a course that it could not execute in relation to the movement of the border between Papua and Queensland. It has dashed aspirations in Papua itself. Unless the Government rectifies this matter, I have no doubt whatsoever that members, particularly from the southern Papuan region, will be urging their Government to take the matter before the United Nations.
This Government already has the most implausible record of consistency on voting in the United Nations. I have no desire to see any government of my country irrespective of its complexion, derided in the United Nations because it refused to act upon undertakings that its Prime Minister made- undertakings that he knew could not be executed unilaterally. Why does the Government not clarify the border situation and indicate that the border can be moved only with the co-operation of and in consultation with the people of the Torres Strait Islands, the people of Papua New Guinea, the Queensland Government and itself. Why does it not say that and then set to to ensure that proper negotiations are held? For what the Government will find is that in a matter of months when Papua New Guinea becomes independent, the matter may not be resolved and we may have what history is replete with, namely territorial disputes causing more than casual friction between the countries concerned. I urge the Government to pay serious attention to what it may regard as something about which it was worth while producing flowery rhetoric when it was elected to office. But it has done nothing to implement the alleged aspirations of the southern Papuan people or to meet the Queensland Government which had every constitutional right to defend itself against the unilateral action proposed by the Prime Minister. That is the first matter on postindependence relations.
The second and most important aspect is that on which I touched earlier concerning the question of our defence forces and the relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea. In clause 3 of this Bill Australia proposes to transfer the power over foreign relations and defence to Papua New Guinea. These powers will cease to be reserve powers to Australia- reserve in the sense that when Papua New Guinea achieved self government on 1 December 1973 certain powers remained with the metropolitan powerAustralia namely, defence, foreign affairs, the supreme court and certain other stated matters. Those powers are being removed from our control. I put it to the House that other than the 5 pages of the statement made by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) on 24 October, we have heard virtually nothing from this Government in regard to defence arrangements between Australia and Papua New Guinea.
Frankly, as I read them, these 5 pages of that statement seem to me to be a rhetorical embellishment of what we knew, that is that Australia has been abdicating its duties and its responsibilities in determining a proper and cohesive arrangement between Australia and Papua New Guinea. The Minister says that discussions have been occuring since this Government was elected to office. That is true. He says that he has been especially pleased to note the spirit of co-operation and goodwill. Of course one would get that from the Government of Papua New Guinea. It was co-operative in respect of everything that we ever raised with it as it has been in respect of everything that the present Government has raised.
What else does this statement tell us? It tells us that the Papua New Guinea defence force will have a strength of 3,500 uniformed servicemen, with 2 infantry battalions, an engineers company, a patrol boat squadron and a landing craft squadron. The Minister goes on to say:
There can be no question that ultimate responsibility Tor the defence of Papua New Guinea will lie with Australia until the trusteeship agreement is terminated.
Well, honourable members might say, this Government is going to be answerable internationally to the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations. What do we have to fear? Even if it refuses to answer our questions in this House, even if it ignores the very facet of parliamentary democracy on which this nation was built and even if it throws that out of the window, there is still the United Nations to appeal to. What the Government has not told us, what it has not told this Parliament and what it has not told the Australian people is that, in the last weeks, it introduced into the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations the following resolution which I was lucky to come across when reading reports, and reading them somewhat more avidly than, with the exception of the Minister for Science, who is at the table- no, let us just tie it to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee)- that Minister seems to read his own reports.
This is the resolution proposed by Australia to the Fourth Committee and subsequently to be adopted by the General Assembly. It is in these terms: . . . resolves in agreement with the administering power -
I interject to say: Namely, Australia- . . . that on the date on which Papua New Guinea shall become independent the Trusteeship Agreement for the Territory of Papua New Guinea approved by the United Nations General Assembly on 13 December 1946 shall cease to be in force;
That resolution looks like passing. Well and good. Why are we not told of this? The object of it clearly is that this, the 29th session of the United Nations General Assembly, meeting now, must do this because Papua New Guinea may be independent before the 30th session of the General Assembly commences. But why not tell us?
Why not tell us that what the Government is in fact doing is providing for an arrangement whereby when Papua New Guinea becomes independent all the Australian Government will have to do is write a letter to the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations telling the United Nations this and Australia’s answerability to that forum is finished and completed? So, it matters not that the Minister for Defence says: . . . ultimate responsibility for the defence of Papua New Guinea will lie with Australia until the Trusteeship Agreement is terminated.
Of course it will. But there will be no forum in which to question it or to probe or to analyse what is transpiring unless there is such a holocaust in Papua New Guinea that the relevant body of the United Nations is called together specifically to discuss that holocaust. It seems to me that the Australian Parliament should have been advised of what moves were being taken in the United Nations. To my recollection at least, no such advice has been tendered. What are the arrangements between Papua New Guinea and Australia therefore? This is the Government which says to us repeatedly that it will not allow ‘Australian servicemen to serve outside Australia’. It has 650 Australian servicemen at present serving within the ambit and control of the Papua New Guinea defence force, as I understand it.
– It is 630.
-My figure is as at the date the Minister for Defence produced his statement. If the Minister for Science has any doubts about the capacity of the Minister for Defence to put the proper information, those doubts are shared by me. He says here- I see that it is 630. The Minister for Science is right. Australian servicemen integrated in the force will be reduced to a figure of about 430 by the end of December next year, months after the date of independence proferred by the Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea. Therefore, on the Minister’s own figuring, there may be 430 Australians serving in Papua New Guinea. We have no complaints on this side about that. We are very happy. We regard it as our duty to do that. But how many of these men will be integrated within the Papua New Guinea defence force? How many will be under the direct control and order of the Papua New Guinea defence force itself? We are told by the Minister that only 7 personnel will be in combat battalions. But combat battalions need supply and support. The remaining 423 persons will be playing a role along the guidelines produced by the Minister for Defence in Papua New Guinea, Mr Albert Maori Kiki, if there is any need to bring out the Papua New Guinea defence force in support of the police- in other words, in support of the civil power or to put down any form of uprising. I do not suggest that to inject a pessimistic note into the future of Papua New Guinea. No one in this Parliament or outside it has spoken with greater confidence about the future of Papua New Guinea and about its leaders than I have, but it seems to me that there is a profound duty- which has not yet been executed- on this Government to tell us just what will be the role of those servicemen if in fact there is any requirement for them to be used up there.
– It is a possibility.
-Of course it is a possibility. It is not something that we would wish or would see as a probability. But the Minister for Defence in Papua New Guinea- as the honourable member for Boothby reminds me by saying that it is a possibility- has put down guidelines as to the circumstances in which servicemen could be used. So it is certainly open to members of this Parliament to ask what will be the role of those servicemen. After December next year, how many of them will be involved? At what cost will it be? To what extent will Papua New Guinea be meeting some of the bill? Is it $25m or $28m for defence alone? Will Papua New Guinea be able to carry that expenditure into the turn of the century? The answer is: Hardly; nor will we expect it to do so. As far as aid is concerned, we will treat Papua New Guinea in a special relationship, as I term it. So many times I have said that Papua New Guinea is deserving of additional aid over and above the aid other recipient countries obtain from Australia because Papua New Guinea has been so closely associated with us at law, geographically and within the ambit of the trusteeship agreement. All these things have made that special relationship.
But I have no advice from the Minister for Defence. He was kind enough to write to me yesterday, and I am grateful for that, telling me that he would like to give me information. He enclosed a speech which I had already read. It was kind and thoughtful of him to do so. But I would like him to send me more than a speech which he made in Parliament on 24 October because I believe that many Australian are concerned about the way in which our defence arrangements are being carried out in this country, let alone in Papua New Guinea. I simply say that the same degree of what has been termed delinquency in defence which has occurred in Australia applies as an accurate assessment of the defence relationship between Papua New Guinea and Australia. Hopefully it does not apply, though, in Papua New Guinea. We have heard nothing on that.
So I have no objection to the transfer of control over the Supreme Court and local courts and over the provisions in the Judges’ Pensions Bill which provides pensions for Australians who were appointed prior to 1 December 1973 to serve on the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea. All these areas are contained within the Judges’ Pensions Bill and the Papua New Guinea Bill (No. 2). The single exception is the deletion from the principal Act of the reserve power over defence and foreign affairs. The caveat which I inject on the latter 2 matters, defence and foreign affairs, is not that I believe that they ought not be transferred. It is part of the orderly movement that they be transferred. We will still have responsibility until the esteemed Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) writes his note to the Secretary-General of the United Nations telling him that independence has occurred and that we are no longer responsible.
If the Minister is going to get up and explain to me about the ramifications of trusteeship arrangements, I point out that I do not need to be told. It would be a change for the Government to talk about that matter, but that is about all. When the Government introduces legislation providing for the areas of defence and foreign affairs to be withdrawn from the Papua New Guinea Act in order that Papua New Guinea can rightly introduce its own legislation- I understand that it has a defence Bill before the House of Assembly now- the Minister ought to tell us what the Government is doing about foreign relations between Australia and Papua New Guinea, not only in the lead up to independence but also in the post-independence period when these matters will be beyond our control. Also the Minister ought to tell us what the role, the size, the structure and the cost of defence arrangements between Australia and Papua New Guinea will be. It is a sad and sorry commentary on historical pieces of legislation such as this that the Government injects them into Parliament as nothing but pieces of paper to take their place alongside other statutes in the history of this country.
The Government does not offer even a backward glance or a forward wink at the relationships between countries with whom we are most closely linked. This would not have happened in my day. It would never have happened in the days of Charles Barnes. In the days when we administered Papua New Guinea we would never have come before Parliament with two important pieces of legislation and more or less described them- although the term was not used- as machinery Bills. It is a matter for regret that I have to speak with such feeling on the matter, but I do feel very deeply about it. The Government is cutting across the basis of the understanding of this Parliament of what we ought to be doing. The Opposition has not sought to make political capital out of the Government’s administration of Papua New Guinea. We have not sought to embarrass the Government with things which have caused us concern. But we have reached the stage where we say to the Government: ‘After 2 years you have administered the country quite well. You have produced too much pace and pressure on the Government of Papua New Guinea. Regrettably you have refrained from detailed explanations of what you were doing.’ I do not blame the Minister; I blame the paranoid and petrified attitude of Government supporters. The attitude they have is consistent with their viewpoints on defence and their involvement with other countries. They do not wish to disclose just what they are up to in relation to the use of Australian servicemen in Papua New Guinea.
If I make no point other than that, I ask that, prior to legislation coming into this Parliament, the Minister at the table, who is the Minister Assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Matters Relating to Papua New Guinea, advise the Minister for Defence that I expect when he brings in Bills amending Australian legislation applying in the defence area, which also extends into Papua New Guinea, that he will let us know that he has completed discussions or that he has entered into arrangements. I am not talking about a specific defence agreement, which the Minister has already ruled out. I am suggesting that the arrangements between the 2 countries should be such that there is no uncertainty between us when we reach independence. Both countries ought to have a clear blueprint and a clear schedule for the future.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-One of the difficulties in following the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) in a debate such as this is that more or less everything that can be said about the subject has already been said. This is the third occasion on which I have had the privilege or otherwise of following the honourable gentleman in debates relating to Papua New Guinea. I think that the House and
Australia owe a debt of gratitude to the honourable gentleman for the contribution which he has made in regard to the Papua New Guinea Bill (No. 2) and the Judges’ Pensions Bill which are before the House. A quick look at them might perhaps indicate or give the impression that these are machinery matters, that they should just come before the House, be agreed to and passed by the House. Because we are in the closing stages of this session of Parliament it is not my intention to delay the House for a great deal of time, but I feel that attention must be given to what the honourable member for Kooyong has said.
Perhaps we might emphasise what has been hidden from the Opposition and from the people of Australia by a Government which has said that it believes in open government. Many problems are associated with the independence of Papua New Guinea. Many problems are associated with the United Nations. I had the privilege of being at the United Nations in 1957. I was a member of the Fourth Committee which gave attention to these matters of trusteeship territories, including South West Africa. I appreciate from the discussions at that time some of the problems which could face Australia and Papua New Guinea in the future. I believe that the thought that I had at that stage is relevant at this moment. What is to be the relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea in future? What is to be our defence association? I believe that those matters are of utmost importance to us at this stage, particularly with incidents and happenings- this might be going a little outside the Bill- in the Asian area at this time and over the last few months. There appears to be pressure by this Government and an interference with those in charge in Papua New Guinea, which is completely unjustified.
It is because of these facts that I express on behalf of the Australian Country Party and myself support for the contention and the arguments put forward by the honourable member for Kooyong. I believe we in this Parliament must give more attention than we are giving at the moment to this post-independence period. There are many complexities; there are many difficulties. We have been responsible for Papua New Guinea for a considerable time. There are many complexities within Papua New Guinea itself. I do not believe that we can abdicate our responsibility merely by saying: ‘They have their independence; it is their responsibility. They have to do all these things on their own’. I think that in the present circumstances this Government and the people of Australia should show a greater sense of responsibility towards the people of Papua New Guinea and their leaders, than perhaps we did when we had the responsibility for the trusteeship, the care and the progress of the future of the country. While the 2 measures we are debating may merely be machinery matters, I think that they emphasise that not sufficient attention has been given by the Government to many of the problems that will be associated with Papua New Guinea obtaining independence and going into the future as an independent nation.
– I am indebted to the contributions of my good and learned friends from the Opposition on the subject to which I believe this House has shown great responsibility now and also in the past. I would like to follow on from the point of order that I made to elaborate a little on the thinking of this Government and also of the Government of Papua New Guinea and the House of Assembly of Papua New Guinea in relation to the movement from self-government to independence for Papua New Guinea. For the information of honourable members I should like to quote, perhaps a little more accurately than the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) was able to do- I presume he quoted a distorted Press account of my speech- from the statement which I made in Manus at the decommissioning of HMAS ‘Tarangau’ a couple of weeks ago. I said:
As with defence so too with your country generally. Papua New Guinea is now exercising the rights of nationhood. Your Government has authority for formulating its policies and putting these into effect. As I have said, rights, authority and power create responsibilities and obligations. However at the moment Australia remains internationally responsible and liable for Papua New Guinea but it no longer exercises authority in Papua New Guinea. This unique situation which is unsatisfactory both to Papua New Guinea and Australia will not and cannot continue for very long.
The purpose in making that statement was to repeat the fundamental policy of this Government which we have stated publicly and which is well known to the honourable member for Kooyong and the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock). I would like now to give 3 quotes. I will give the source of the quotes after I have given them. The first is: … the period between self government and independence, was one that the western powers would not have inflicted upon their territories if they had experienced it themselves.
The second quote is:
The self governing period is a difficult one for both Papua New Guinea and Australia. While Australia understandably wishes to end its responsibility for a people now finding their own future in their own way the Papua New Guinea Government is equally keen to finish with the frustrations of a self governing period and stand as an identity in its own right in world affairs.
– Those are my words.
-Actually they are not, but I will let the honourable member into the secret a little later. The third quote is:
Those who argue that there should be a long gap between self-government and independence are more than anything else mis-informed about the essential character of each concept. Self-government means independence of action on all domestic matters. This is the great step.
The quote concludes:
You will have deduced from what I have said that the Australian Government does not favour a long interval between self-government and independence.
We will deal with the last quote first. It is from a statement I made 18 months ago in April 1973. The second quote can be ascribed not to the honourable member for Kooyong but to the Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea. The first quote is from a statement made by the Prime Minister of Fiji, Sir Ratu Kamisese Mara. What we are dealing with here is not a question of pressure; it is a very sensitive stage of the development of one country into nationhood and independence. As the honourable member for Kooyong is well aware, this is a very sensitive period and one which requires a great deal of diplomacy and understanding on both sides. Might I pay a tribute to the understanding that has been shown by the honourable member for Kooyong and other members of the Opposition in making this very sensitive transfer so much easier. I can assure the honourable member for Kooyong, the honourable member for Lyne and other members of the Opposition that there are certain responsibilities that any Minister who has this fascinating role must undertake. There are certain decisions that have to be made in bringing a country to nationhood. I suppose in many ways that it could be likened to driving a car. Sometimes one has to put one ‘s foot on the accelerator and other times one takes the foot off the accelerator. I believe that we are all motivated by a very high instinct to ensure that we as one of the last colonial countries in the world are able to transmit the power, the authority and the responsibility to a former colony so that this transition can be undertaken without hardship, without catastrophe and without disaster to the colonial country. I believe that this is happening.
As I say, it is a very sensitive period. The Opposition has made many points but they are not novel points. The honourable member for Kooyong has raised a number of issues and he rightfully raised them. But to give a definitive reply to them, I think he more than anyone else will understand the complexities at this stage. At the very moment we are talking here the Papua New Guinea defence legislation is before the House of Assembly. I think it was only this morning that the House of Assembly in Papua New Guinea was discussing one of the chapters of the Constitutional Planning Committee’s Report which also deals with defence. The Papua New Guinea House of Assembly- not just the Government but the Papua New Guinea House of Assembly- is giving very detailed and very thoughtful consideration to how it sees defence relations between Australia and Papua New Guinea, how it sees the defence of Papua New Guinea- the defence forces, the structure and the role of the defence forces of Papua New Guinea. I believe that this is a period when all the sensitivity that the House has shown in the past should be maintained. I am happy to say that after some of the conversations we had this morning this sensitivity is being maintained. But the important point is that the views that have been put forward by the Opposition are not novel. They are ideas that we have had under very detailed and active consideration since we came to office.
I would like to make a couple of observations. In taking over this portfolio and in co-operation and discussions with the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard), we had to make some very drasticchanges in the thinking that was prevalent In our relations with Papua New Guinea. One of the basic concepts and attitudes that we had to change was the view that was held that Papua New Guinea’s defence forces- the indigenous platoons and companies, the Pacific Island Regiment- were in fact a part of the Australian defence structure. This view was very prevalent and was maintained for some time. It took quite a lot of effort to change that point of view. The Government moved very rapidly and in January 1973, just a month after it took office, renamed the composite group the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. The quotation I just read was from the decommissioning of HMAS ‘Tarangau’ and its recommissioning as the Papua New Guinea Defence Force Patrol Boat Base. We have now reached the situation in Australia where there is no longer the old attitude that the Papua New Guinea Defence Force was an integral part of the Australian Armed Forces.
The second point, which concerned me greatly, was somewhat more insidious. This was the proposition that the internal security of
Papua New Guinea was more a matter for soldiers than for police. I exclude my colleague, the honourable member for Kooyong from these remarks because he was not the Minister at that stage, but we had the spectacle of the former Liberal-Country Party Government- a gunhappy government- talking about and preparing for the call out of forces to aid the civil power in the Gazelle disturbances in July 1 970. There was the very easy assumption- an assumption which the present Government found very difficult to remove- that the soldiers were a line of easy resort in a call out to the civil power. The Government did not accept that proposition and I as the Minister responsible certainly could not accept it. We sought the best and most effective ways possible of building up the police so that they and not the defence forces would play this role- I think it is a role that the police must play in any democracy- of the control of the internal security situation.
So the Government started from behind scratch. It had to change the philosophies it inherited and that it believed were very dangerous. In doing this perhaps the Government has passed on its philosophies and concepts to the Papua New Guinea Government which it has applied in developing its concepts and attitudes towards the role of a defence force in a democratic country. I am sorry that the honourable member for Kooyong should have denigrated the views expressed by my colleague, the Minister for Defence, in his statement. He put very clearly some of the basic propositions by which the Government is guided. I am sure that the honourable member for Kooyong is aware of the statement made in August 1973 by Mr Maori Kiki, who is now the Papua New Guinea Minister for Defence, Foreign Relations and Trade, when he said that the Papua New Guinea Government has repeatedly stressed its view that the Papua New Guinea Defence Force should be used as a last resort for the maintenance of internal security. A number of other propositions have been explained very carefully to this House. I am sure honourable members understand from the background in which we have been operating, with Papua New Guinea finding its own way to its own point of view and its own attitude, that we have not been able to make definite statements but I can assure members of the Opposition that as soon as we possibly can make public the results of the continuing discussions we have had with Papua New Guinea these matters will be the subject of a statement in the House.
The honourable member for Kooyong referred to a resolution before the United
Nations. One of the points he omitted to stress was that this was a resolution which, although it had the full support of the Australian Government, also had the full support of the Papua New Guinea Government. Mr Maori Kiki in his statement to the Trusteeship Council said:
I am of the firm opinion also that it will go down in history that this meeting of the Trusteeship Council will be the lust council meeting in which Papua New Guinea appears on the agenda as a Trust Territory.
So there is no dichotomy between the attitudes and the views of the Australian Government, the Papua New Guinea Government and many of the leaders of Papua New Guinea on that resolution that went to the United Nations General Assembly through the Trusteeship Council. It is a viewpoint that Australia has put. It is a viewpoint that Papua New Guinea has put. I believe that it will be a viewpoint that will be endorsed almost unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly.
So these points have been covered. I accept that many of the points are grounds for concern and because they are grounds for concern the Government is giving them continuous undivided attention in its discussions with the Papua New Guinea Government and in its discussions with the leaders in Papua New Guinea. I believe that Papua New Guinea will be moving towards independence certainly before the end of 1975. The statements that have been made by Mr Maori Kiki, Mr Somare, myself and the Government are all in complete harmony. Papua New Guinea is virtually independent now. All we are seeking to do in this legislation is to provide through this Parliament the opportunity for Papua New Guinea to assume these powers and responsibilities when Papua New Guinea asks for them to be transferred. The Papua New Guinea defence legislation is now before the Papua New Guinea House of Assembly. It could be passed tomorrow. By that stage Papua New Guinea will be prepared and will be organising itself in January or early February next year to ask the Australian Government to transfer these responsibilities. The Government has acceded to that request. That is why the legislation is now before us. We will be in a position to say: ‘When you have your legislation organised we also will be in a position for you to undertake your rightful responsibilities as a country which is very soon to be independent.’ It is in that sense that the Government has brought forward this legislation. I am happy to know that the Opposition will be supporting the legislation in this House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Morrison) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 20 November, on motion by Mr Morrison:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Motion (by Mr Morrison)- by leaveproposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
-For the first time in speaking on a Bill relating to Papua New Guinea I have been remiss in that I did not pay the credit that is due to those Australians who have administered justice in Papua New Guinea through the courts, particularly those personnel who served on the Supreme Court and who served with such distinction, sometimes under difficult conditions and sometimes despite many frustrations with the conditions of their service. By this measure this Government is taking over responsibility for the pensions to be met by the Australian Government, whether they be for people such as John Minogue, who has retired, or others who remain in service in Papua New Guinea. On behalf of the Opposition I would like to say how much we appreciate the work they all have done. It has been of extraordinary quality, sometimes under difficult conditions. I am only sorry that in the course of my remarks at the second reading stage I did not make those viewpoints known.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 26 November, on motion by Mr Crean:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Loan Bill 1974 is described by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) as a machinery measure designed to meet legal and constitutional requirements associated with the Government’s financial transactions and accounting arrangements. It may be described as a machinery measure but it is far from a usual measure; it is a most unusual measure in that for a Bill -
– It is not unique though; it is not the first time such a Bill has been introduced.
-The honourable gentleman intervenes and says it is not for the first time. That is certainly true but it is of the order of three to four months earlier than any prior Bill of the same kind and, secondly, it will be of a magnitude the like of which has never been thought of before. It all arises out of the decisions which the Government has taken in relation to spending and in relation to the economic management of this country which is going to lead to a $ 1,850m deficit. That is essentially where it all flows from. In the past there were some similar Bills. My recollection is that I have introduced a similar Bill myself but it was for a different purpose. This Bill will operate in a reverse direction. A provision in the Constitution provides that the surplus revenues of the Commonwealth must be distributed among the States and it has been the practice of successive governments to make sure that there is no surplus in the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The net result is that the Government transfers the money out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund into the Defence Trust Account so there is no surplus to be distributed. All governments have done that and it is a time honoured practice. In the early days the States protested greatly but that protest has now been muted.
The present situation is quite different. On this occasion, rather than there being a surplus out of which money comes from the Consolidated Revenue Fund into the Defence Trust Account, the Consolidated Revenue Fund will be in deficit very substantially. There will certainly be no surplus which may be called upon to be distributed; there will be a serious shortfall. I am sure that the Treasurer cannot give me more than an estimate of what that shortfall will be but it is likely to be of the order of $700m. Of course, the $700m shortfall in the Consolidated Revenue Fund is not to be confused with the overall Budget result, which will be a deficit of $ 1,850m or more. The deficit may be more because of Government spending decisions or it may be less because of the significant jump in average weekly earnings which will throw out the estimates of the Treasury, but I will come to that in a moment.
– It may be less if the wool position improves.
-Let us hope the wool position does improve; let us hope the beef position improves; let us hope manufacturing industry improves; and let us hope that the Government improves. In the past, any Bill of this nature has had a different basic purpose. Although precedents can be used to argue for the validity of this Bill, it is difficult to say that they are direct precedents. The other major point is that these Bills that represent precedents of any kind have always come into the House in March, April or perhaps even as late as May. This Bill has come in in December and I have no doubt that the Treasury officers, when they were privileged to learn what the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was going to say on that Tuesday in November when he announced economic measures, threw their hands up in horror and said: ‘What are we going to do about the Consolidated Revenue Fund?’ I have no doubt that they very quickly put a submission to the Treasurer saying: ‘Do you realise the sort of trouble you are going to be faced with?’ How could the Consolidated Revenue Fund be financed from this immense deficit of probably $700m? They suggested that the precedents should be argued to satisfy bringing in a Bill of this character now.
According to the second reading speech of the Treasurer the purpose of the Bill is to allow all the defence expenditure from 1 January 1975- that is for half the financial year- to be funded out of the Defence Trust Account. The Parliament passed legislation to appropriate money for defence of the order of, for simplicity, $ 1,500m. However, that $ 1.5m is not to be spent out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund as one would have expected it to be spent when the Appropriation Bill passed through the House. Half of that amount- the amount that accumulates from 1 January 1975- is to be spent out of the Defence Trust Account; so there will be the incredible situation of half the total spending on defence coming out of the Trust Account. This will enable the Government to save itself from running down the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The money will come out of the Defence Trust Account but sooner or later it has to be put back. All it means is that this is a method of internal manipulation of the books so that the fund required to be in balance is in balance and the other is way out of balance. Then there can be further internal manipulations to try to bring the Defence Trust Account into balance also.
– It is a submarine subterfuge.
-It is submarine subterfuge, as the honourable member for Corangamite says.
– The others must have been aerial subterfuge.
– I do not know whether the Treasurer means the Shakespearian character Ariel or whether he has in mind an aeroplane.
-I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition should address the Chair rather than engage in these conversations.
– Well, to recapitulate, the Government has got itself into an awful mess and the awful mess is this: Its spending decisions will result in a $ 1,850m deficit but the Consolidated Revenue Fund has not the money to pay it. The Consolidated Revenue Fund will have a deficit of about $700m, I estimate. Therefore, the purpose of this Bill is to allow half of the year’s spending on defence to be taken out of the Defence Trust Account instead of out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, even though there has been an appropriation of funds by the Parliament for that defence spending. In this way, the first step of making the books look respectable will be taken. The next step for the Government to take is to decide what it will do with the deficit of about $700m that is created in the Defence Trust Account. How will the Government get that money?
– Print some.
-That is a suggestion. Basically there are 3 ways in which the shortfall in the Defence Trust Account can be made good. The first is by issues of securities to the public; that is public loan raisings for that amount. Let us suppose the figure is $700m. To raise public loans of $700m in the first half of next year would be an extraordinary economic and political decision for the Government to make. The Treasurer is listening, so if I am wrong he will correct me. On 2 occasions already this year the Government has forgone the opportunity of raising public funds by way of issuing government securities.
– Because it has helped the liquidity position.
-True, it has helped the liquidity position, as the Treasurer says. I readily acknowledge that, and that is why the decision was taken not to do it. But what is going to change the situation to make it desirable to raise $700m in the first half of next year? To do that would make a significant difference, but I think that, basically, if the money goes on defence and the money is raised by public borrowings the effect on overall liquidity will be very little. But I do not think that the money will be raised by the issue of public loans and securities to the public.
The second way of raising the $700m is by the issue of securities to the Reserve Bank. If it is going to be financed by way of Treasury bills from the Government to the Reserve Bank, that is exactly the same as printing money, as asking the Reserve Bank to print money. That is exactly what it is. It is a time honoured, centuries old certainty that if you ask the Reserve Bank to give you money for Treasury bills all that the Reserve Bank does is to print money. I hope that that is not the way in which it is going to be done, because it will create a very strong inflationary effect; and how big the inflationary impact will be depends on how big the deficit is, on how many banknotes have to be printed. If it is $700m it will have a very big effect.
The third way of doing it is by doing some more switching- switching, for instance, from the other trust fund balances such as the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve balances; but that is an extraordinary way in which to do it, because that only means the Government buying its own securities. Sooner or later the Government has to get the money to buy its own securities, and inevitably it would mean Treasury bills issued to the Reserve Bank.
– You did not do too badly on that fund yourself over the years.
– I am interested that the Treasurer by way of interjection says: ‘You did not do too badly on that yourself over the years. ‘ In other words, he accepts the facts of what I am saying.
– No, I am talking about the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve.
-The Treasurer pleads that he can be excused because we did it, but we never did it to the extent of a deficit of $ 1,850m. Nobody ever even dreamed about a deficit of $ 1,850m. In fact, I do not think the Treasurer himself knew until I put a question to him the day after the announcement by the Prime Minister. I asked him ‘What is the deficit?’, and he then agreed that it was $ 1,850m. That was the figure I put to him and that is the figure that has been in the -
– I must be slipping if I have got to learn from you.
-No. As a matter of fact, if you contributed to the decision to reduce personal income tax by $ 1 ,000m you did learn from me. I suppose the choice among these alternative forms of borrowing will be made late in the financial year in the light of the monetary situation and the economic situation then prevailing, but I am told, in answer to inquiries I have made, that the Treasury would see such -
– You went to a good source for your inquiries.
-He is an officer I know very well. Such borrowings need have no effect on the money supply, the Treasury officer says. The fact is that they will have a very significant effect on the monetary supply if it is done by the issue of Treasury bills and by the Reserve Bank printing more money. There is no doubt about that. The only way in which the operation will have no effect on the monetary supply is if the Government takes the first alternative I spoke about, that is, the issue of public securities- a Government loan- to the extent of about $700m. That will not make any difference to the money base but it will of course have a very significant effect on the economic picture at that time. I do not know whether the Treasurer, who has been willing to interject quite freely- and I have not objected to that- would indicate to me now how he is going to raise this money. By the issue of public securities?
– I will reply when you finish.
-You mean you want to think about it? I suppose that is one way out. The full significance of the overall deficit of $ 1850m is something which has not yet reached people. When you talk about that amount of money, the sheer magnitude of it leaves people unimpressed. But when you consider that it is a deficit which is probably about 4 times higher than the previous highest deficit in our history I think one can then start to get some understanding of the sheer volume of it and the impact that it must have. However, the Government has created an economic climate in which I would bet 20c- I never bet more than 20c- that the Treasurer could not give with certainty an estimate of the deficit that would be within $200m.
– Neither could you 2 years ago.
– I could not do it now; by far I could not do it. Two years ago I not only could, I did. I did give the estimate. Where the Treasurer has a problem is that he does not know how much of the money that has been allocated can actually be spent. We will allocate all this money, but actually translating it into terms of bricks and mortar or of actually clearing the ground and putting in the kerbing or actually buying the ground and providing the services is a very dicey matter requiring judgment. So the Treasurer has got very serious difficulties about estimating in that sense. He also has a very serious difficulty in estimating the amount of money that will be collected in tax, because in the September quarter average weekly earnings went up by 1 1 per cent. The Budget estimate was on the basis of average weekly earnings increasing by 22 per cent, I think it was, or was it 23 per cent?
– It was 22lA percent.
– Average weekly earnings to increase over the year by 22Vi per cent. In one quarter they increased by 1 1 per cent, and the consequence is that the amount of collections that are going to be made under the income tax provisions is beyond anybody’s guess. If it compounded and turned out to be an increase in average weekly earnings of 40 to 50 per cent -
– It will not be that, of course.
– It will not? What would you estimate it to be?
– You know it is quite wrong to multiply the 1 1 per cent by four.
– What would you estimate it at?
– I am not estimating at all. I am simply saying you cannot imply -
-The Treasurer will not estimate what average weekly earnings are going to be. We can imagine what the impact on inflation rates is going to be with average weekly earnings at that level. By way of interjection a little while ago the Treasurer said to me that he either could or could not learn from me, I have forgotten which. Certainly I have proved that he can learn from me. One of the things which the Treasurer now accepts and which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) accepts and which the Deputy Prime Minister and putative Treasurer, the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) accepts, is that it is excess wage increases beyond productivity which is causing the major impact on inflation, and if the average weekly earnings go up at this rate it is going to be quite a horrendous inflation that we will face. If the method of funding this deficit of $700m is by printing money in the Reserve Bank, the impact that that is going to provide to inflation is going to put Australia into the really top class of inflation producing countries of the world. I should think that at that stage some of the South American republics would be saying: ‘Poor old Australia’. I ask the Treasurer to have some regard to the interest rates. If inflation is running at a rate of 20 per cent per annum, which basically it is now, how can the Government encourage people to put their savings into investment? That is why investment has taken such a nose dive. The result of there being no investment in plant, equipment, machinery and technology will be with the people of Australia for 10 or more years. The work force of Australia will be working with outmoded plant, machinery and technology and we will not be able to achieve our drive for productivity.
It is fundamental that 2 things be done in order to get interest rates down: The first is to end the credit squeeze and the second is to tackle inflation and to bring it down so that people can invest their money and not lose money by having it invested. This Bill is a monument to the Treasurer and to the Government for political manipulation and economic inadequacy. We will support this Bill. We will support it for the simple reason that at this point of time it is necessary for the Government to be able to go ahead with its economic measures. The only way in which it can go ahead is by preparing in advance in such a way that it will not be necessary for it to bring about a monumental increase in inflation. If the Government chooses the right course, that is, to fund the advance trust fund properly, it need not add to liquidity. But if it chooses the wrong course, it will add a tremendous impact to inflation. Whether the Government will be able to make the right judgment remains to be seen. I have very serious doubts about it.
– in reply- I am pleased to know after all that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) will not oppose the Loan Bill. He rather ridiculed the suggestion that the Bill is a machinery measure. I said that it was not unique in the sense that there had been measures of this kind in the past. I remember on one occasion when 1 was sitting where the honourable gentleman is sitting now. I never rose to the great eminence of being leader of my Party, but I was its shadow Treasurer for a long time and I listened from the other side of the House as I listened today to the honourable gentleman. I remember Mr Howson who was, I think, Minister assisting the Treasurer at the time bringing in a Bill, in much the same terms as the Bill before the House today, requesting a sum of $400m. The amount of $400m in the days that he asked for it- some five or six years ago- was not substantially different from the sum of $700m that the honourable member has chosen to work on today.
I think that the honourable gentleman’s speech today was a little better than his speeches have been on some other occasions. I have always done as I believe ought to be done in the Parliament, that is, I have allowed honourable members on the Opposition side of the Parliament access to Treasury officials. The honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch) asked me for this. I am quite sure that at least the honourable gentleman will concede to me that I have never been reluctant to let officials talk over technical details with honourable members on his side of the House. I cannot say that that courtesy was always extended to me when I had the position that Mr Lynch now has. At least, it has always been extended to honourable members opposite.
– It was always extended by me.
– The right honourable member was not very long in that position. In any case, as I say, I have not been reluctant to do it. I hope that I will not be reluctant to do it wherever I may be in the future. As far as this measure is concerned, no sum is mentioned in it because, as the honourable gentleman knows, it is a little uncertain at this point what the expenditures and revenues of the Government will be in the next 6 months. I do not think anyone discounts the seriousness of the amount of unemployment that exists in Australia at the moment. Again, that position is not unique to Australia. At least the Government is prepared to ameliorate the circumstances of those who are unemployed. There may well be considerable expenditure not yet provided for but which might have to be incurred in regard to schemes like the Regional Employment Development scheme and structural adjustments. So there is uncertainty on the side of expenditure. There is equally uncertainty on the side of revenue. Not only did the Budget posit a certain level of average weekly earnings; it also probably posited a somewhat lower rate of unemployment than now exists. In consequence, revenues may not be quite as high as some people suggest.
I point out that the honourable gentleman obtained the figure of $ 1,850m as the potential deficit only because I gave that figure to him myself. He made his own calculations. At the time he made them he was aware of some figures of which I was aware. Those figures related to the additional assistance to be given to wool growers. Additional assistance may yet have to be given to beef producers. I hope that if and when that expenditure comes before the Parliament there will not be a resentment on that side of the House to concede additional expenditure.
– The wool assistance is a loan.
– Exactly, all I am suggesting is that the figure of $ 1,850m does not include only the annual items. It includes items that are in the form of loans. As I have said, the amount of money to be put into the wool industry will be $350m when other legislation passes through the other place. I am optimistic enough to think that some of that $350m will be recouped before 30 June of next year. I hope that the honourable member shares my optimism. In fact, I had the rather curious example the other day of the representatives of a firm, which I will not name because I do not think that would be fair, telling me that it could not afford to buy raw wool or greasy wool. I said that I had something like 800,000 bales of the wretched stuff in hock at that moment. I told them that we ought to be able to do a little bit of cross-bookkeeping, to use the honourable member’s term.
It is easy to talk about printing money and manipulating finance when honourable members opposite are in the position they are in. In many respects the art of government is manipulating finances, but manipulating them sensibly and not concealing the manipulation. At least there is no attempt here on my part to conceal what is being done. It is true, as the honourable gentleman said, that because of arrangements made between this level of government and the States a long time ago- long before my time and long before his time- it was soon established that there would be no surplus revenues so far as the Commonwealth was concerned. Those sums of money were merely transferred to another account. What is forgotten is that there is some money in that account going back, if you like, to the day when the honourable gentleman was the Treasurer. I suggest that those who are interested in the matter look at the reports of the Auditor-General over the years and trace the history of that rather curious account called the loan consolidation and investment reserve. He and his predecessors made good use of it as I in my time believe I can make good use of it, if needs be.
Of course, this hoary old one about printing money is designed to stir the emotions of the masses. I was rather curious to find the other day that every Christmas time we run short of coins. I had occasion to ask a section of my Departmentthe mint- about this matter the other day. Since we changed to decimal currency, which is not very long ago, approximately 2,000 million pieces of coinage have been produced. If honourable members like to do the sum, they will find that of the total Australian population of 13,500,000 people every man, woman and child ought to have about 200 coins in his possession. I suppose they do not because some people have them in tins and boxes which they bring out at times. The question of making money is not always the devious process that the honourable gentleman has suggested.
This legislation, I repeat, is a necessary machinery measure because of the things that the Government has chosen to do. There will not be sufficient in the Consolidated Revenue Fund to meet all the requirements for the year, but there is provision in the other 2 accounts. I think I would have been pilloried, for instance, if I had gone on to the loan market at the moment and sought several hundred million dollars. I do not think I would have got any thanks from those who say there is a liquidity shortage in the community at the moment, although I am not too sure myself that a loan might not have been quite successful. But we have chosen not to go on the loan market and this again is one of the reasons why we have to resort to this device. I thank the honourable gentleman for his little essay in economics. He could do with a lot more of them and maybe he will get them. - Nevertheless, I am pleased to know that underneath all the badinage he is willing to support the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Crean) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 27 November, on motion by Mr Hayden:
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 legisation? 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 Homeless Persons Assistance Bill as they are both associated measures. Separate questions will of course be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in the debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering both measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-We are considering 2 Bills. One deals with the homeless. As one goes through big cities one can see them on park benches pathetically trying to make conversation with each other. One can see them sometimes when one goes to a public library- men, and to some extent women, in their dishevelled gear in a moment of sobriety, knowing that they have seen better days and trying to recapture some of the glory of those former days. To put the debate into context I should like to quote a passage that appeared in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ just today. It reads:
Wearing battered greatcoats, old sports clothes and blank looks, they shuffled into the big green hall of Surry House yesterday. The word was out and Sydney’s faceless had responded. They came trudging up Foveaux Street from every corner, down-and-outs seeking a hot meal at the City Mission ‘s soup kitchen, reopened for lunch after 1 2 months.
We joined the depressing queue of 30 men; no one spoke as whitehaired Mr Col Breem ladled mince stew into paper plates and handed them out. The silence continued at the trestle tables: washed down with weak tea, the meal was filling. Old Rod beside us, ‘on the scrounge’ since leaving jail nine days ago, mopped up his stew with bread. He spoke suddenly: ‘Now I ‘ve only got me next feed to worry about. ‘
I think that poignant story points up the problem of the homeless in our country. They include not only the men one sees in the disused Army greatcoats lounging around parks and gardens or in the depressed areas of the city, but also the young homosexual who is cast out by his family because they do not understand that some people are sexually deviant without any blame cast upon themselves. The young person cast out with nowhere to go finally goes to some place at one of the lowest levels in our society. They include also the single mother who is cast out of her home by non-understanding parents and is driven into a desperate situation. They include the discarded daughter of a family who will not meet the strict moral requirements of that family.
These are the sorts of people which the Homeless Persons Assistance Bill is destined to help. It is designed to help the battered wife who quite often puts up with bashings day and night, sometimes several nights a week, who is virtually a prisoner in her home and who suffers unspeakable agonies at the hands of some monster who takes some sadistic pleasure out of woman bashing. Then one day something breaks and she leaves the home because she cannot stand it any more. These are the kinds of people about whom we are talking today. They have no pressure group. They have no lobbyist in Canberra. The tragedy is that politicians disregard them because there are no votes in looking after the homeless. That is why I commend the Government with as much force as I can for this humanitarian gesture.
If I can put the problem into perspective, I shall quote from an article written by a man who knows a lot about homeless men in the community. If the honourable member for Henty (Mrs Child) will excuse me I am not being chauvinistic when I say men, because as she would know that for some interesting philosophical reason for which I do not have the answer, of the homeless in our country the men outnumber the women ten to one. The article states:
The term ‘Skid Row’ is more applicable to American cities than to Australia, where the facilities used by homeless men are spread over relatively large areas of the cities. However, the picture is essentially similar; a population of homeless men roughly proportional to the size of the city is found in association with night shelters, cheap rooming houses, religious missions, charitable handouts, wine shops, lowgrade hotels, and sources of casual employment. Being in personal contact with each other, homeless men tend to become acculturated to the distinctive values, customs and myths of the Skid Row community, which therefore has some characteristics of a sub-culture.
I commend the word ‘acculturated’ to the vocabulary of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden). It has been used only twice before in the history of this country to my knowledge. The article continues:
The men who are observed in a given period might be classified arbitrarily into men who appear briefly while in transit from one place to another, men for whom the particular Skid Row is the headquarters from which they move out periodically to work or to wander, -
Or to go to gaol- and the immovable hard core of ‘derelicts’.
Homeless men may be defined approximately as persons who exhibit extreme social isolation, and who are chronically dependent on the community for material support, either continuously or recurrently. The great majority of homeless men are chronic excessive drinkers. Their social isolation follows chronic and severe failure to sustain intimate personal relationships, resulting in loss of all primary group ties. Another way of stating much the same fact, used by Pittman and Gordon, is to describe homeless men as ‘undersocialised ‘, implying that their social failure is due to failure ever to learn adequate social skills. Many homeless men do become integrated in to the Skid Row community, but they never identify themselves completely with the group, and their friendships and loyalties are usually weak and unstable. Most homeless men support themselves most of the time, but all are subject to recurrent crises, during which they often become dependent on the community. Material support is obtained as social service benefits and pensions, from welfare agencies and missions, by begging, by ‘borrowing’ from other men, and by residence in hospitals, prisons, sanatoria and homes for the aged. Material dependency tends to become more complete as the man grows older.
I believe that is a tragic commentary and description of the homeless about whom we are talking today. It is tragic to observe how little compassion and regard the community has for such people. I still recall my own guilt some years ago when I was walking down Little Collins Street, a very busy thoroughfare in Melbourne, at lunch time and one of these people had collapsed in a crumpled heap on the footpath. I walked past him like probably 1 ,000 people walked past him in the 5 minutes since he had collapsed. I walked past about 30 yards and my conscience impelled me to turn back to see what had happened to him. I saw that a scruffy newspaper vendor, probably regarded by society as one of the lower class in the community, was trying to prop this man up against one of the buildings to give him some comfort. He appealed to everyone passing by to assist him in the task of helping this derelict. He was completely ignored by everyone who passed by. Finally he was impelled to yell out: ‘Will not someone help me? You would not leave a bloody dog in this situation’. I think that comment sums up the situation of the way in which society regards these people.
The unhappy thing about this is that as our cities grow- and the current prognosis for Melbourne is 4 million to 4.5 million people by the year 2000 and 6 million or whatever for Sydneythis problem of the homeless will grow proportionately according to the social reports that we get. I know that the various State governments have institutions in this area. I would not say that they have done what they might have or could have done but they have done something. Essentially this problem has been left to the churches and to the philanthropic and charitable institutions. I do not think that history will ever record the kind of service to their fellow human beings organisations like the Salvation Army and other branches of the Christian church have done for these representatives of the flotsam and jetsam that are in our cities. But one of the unfortunate things about these voluntary organisations is that simply because of the lack of finance they have to treat these people rather en masse rather than individuals. The one thing that these peope want if there is to be any hope at all for them is to be treated as individuals rather than as part of an amorphous mass.These organisations will get some assistance under this Bill. I again commend the Government for it.
I hope I will now proceed to be constructively critical of the Bill. I am sure that the Minister would agree with most of my criticisms. At least he has made a start. We did not for 23 years. I commend him for it. Again we seem to be falling into the trap of throwing money at any social problem with which we are confronted. I am sure the Minister will agree with me that throwing money at a problem like this will not solve it. It will stop these poor devils from going hungry. It may help to put a roof over their heads. But it will not solve the basic social problem that makes them homeless people. The purpose of the Bill is to assist the eligible organisations engaged in providing temporary accommodation and personal services for homeless men and women and, in one-parent family situations, their children. The Minister has given an undertaking that the legislation will not interfere with the fields of child care under the administration of State governments. The Opposition is pleased to see that.
The assistance will be available for 3 years. Assistance will be given to voluntary organisations to buy buildings, to rent buildings and to improve buildings up to in some cases 100 per cent of the project. It is estimated that $ 1.45m will be spent in the remainder of 1974-75. Also, the Bill allows for recurrent expenses to be paid, sometimes up to 50 per cent of the salary of a social welfare worker. The Bill defines a social welfare worker as someone qualified or not necessarily qualified. I am delighted to see that the definition of a person who might receive assistance under this Bill is not so narrow as to disqualify people who do not necessarily have a university degree. The cost of the subsidy on salaries is $250,000 for the remainder of this year.
Also there will be a subsidy for food and accommodation. This is where I might be critical of the Government, although I am conscious that I cannot be too critical because at least this is a start. But I am sure that the Minister will agree with what I am about to say. On meals the proposed rate of subsidy to organisations is 20c per meal. I am not going to say that is miserable. Of course, one cannot provide a meal at such a cost. As I said, this is a start and I commend the Government for it. But I remind the Minister that the proposed subsidy is 5c below the basic meal rate and 10c below the vitamin C supplement rate which applies to the delivered meals on wheels scheme. As delivered meals are frequently delivered in private cars the differential between the 2 meal rates seems to be arbitrary. I put it to the Minister- I think it is a valid pointthat the nutritional needs of the homeless, especially alcoholics, may be even greater than those of pensioners and the need for a vitamin supplement subsidy may be a significant omission from the Bill. I would like the Minister to pay me the courtesy of responding to this point when he replies.
The 75c daily subsidy for organisations providing accommodation and food represents in effect a 60c subsidy for 3 meals and a 1 5c subsidy for accommodation. Here I think I can be justifiably critical of the 15c subsidy for accommodation because in these days such a subsidy is completely unreal. I wonder whether there is any rationale behind those figures. I have the report of the working party which the Minister established and which recommended these matters some months ago. It seems a small matter to raise now but I hope that the Minister or his Department might take note of some suggestions. I have said before that it is no good just simply having these poor devils line up in stew lines or soup lines receiving a hand out each day and then going away and dossing in a doss house. The working party suggested a great number of practical and constructive things such as an aggressive program of creating employment opportunities which could be undertaken by the Commonwealth Employment Service and which could persuade employers that there are many jobs which homeless men can perform quite adequately. The working party suggested certain activities such as tree planting which at least would give a sense of some sort of achievement to a person in this situation.
It is not clear from the Minister’s second reading speech whether or not the Bill will assist in the provision of a central reception and assessment centre in each capital city as proposed by Dr T. Vinson, the Director of the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, and recommended by the working party. Dr Vinson said: a hard core of 7 per cent of detainees accounts for more than 20 per cent of the total arrests for drunkenness in New South Wales.
And- only a small number (8.8 per cent) of those arrested for drunkenness have a history of offences against the person.
This ‘revolving door’ approach of repeated arrests for drunkenness cannot offer any hope of dignity or rehabilitation for those involved. I would ask the Minister to respond on that point and to make it clear whether the Government will assist in the provision of a central reception and assessment agency which, I would believe, would be vital to this Bill. The Bill will not apply to statutory authorities although this was recommended by the working party. I point that out not as a matter of criticism of the Government but as something that I believe should be given consideration by the Government in future after the scheme has been monitored.
In concluding my remarks on the Bill that provides assistance for the homeless I commend to honourable members an article written in the Social Security Quarterly’ of winter 1974- a publication of the Department of Social Security. This is an article by Deaconess Noreen Towers who has spent a lifetime with the homeless people of the cities. She makes several points. This may seem a strangely out of place and incongrous matter to raise in a Parliament which, with respect to the honourable member for Henty (Mrs Child), is almost full of hard, cynical men. But I believe it is worth injecting into this debate, if we are to think compassionately about the homeless rather than, as I said before, throw money at their problems, what Deaconess Tower says. Her article states:
It is self evident that if we are dealing with homeless people and wish to grapple seriously with the problems, the first basic requirement will be the provision of a ‘home-like’ environment. By this, I mean not just the building, but all the elements that are present in a good home:
Acceptance, which includes love, significance and security.
Adequate, suitable food.
Accommodation that provides reasonable comfort and makes possible the maintenance of personal dignity.
Motivation to improve social skills.
One point that she does make which is, I believe, a counsel of perfection but one which we cannot see on the horizon is this:
One of the basic requirements, in my view, is the opportunity for the homeless man to relate to a women in the role of substitute mother.
That, I believe, would present enormous problems to welfare organisations. But I know that those people are conscious of this need. Perhaps that is the reason why with respect to the homeless in this country men outnumber women by ten to one. Sociological research indicates that almost all of these people were denied the love of a women in their childhood. Summing up, Deaconess Towers says:
Firstly, it would be preferable if our buildings and programs were much less institutionalised.
I would agree with that. She continues:
Secondly, I feel that a program of care would mean that something should be done to make it difficult to obtain methylated spirits for human consumption.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I am very serious about this matter. I realise that it probably lies in the province of the State governments. She goes on to say:
It is very easily obtainable and unfortunately some people are addicted to it. In an attempt to prevent it from being used for drinking purposes, an unpalatable deterrent could be added, just as is done in Sweden.
I have been to some of these establishments. The places reek of methylated spirits. Social workers have told me that to give the hideous concoction some extra bite sometimes it is mixed with unbelievable substances like boot polish. One would think that it is not beyond the wit of State health authorities to devise some way in which methylated spirits, a cursed addictive substance, can be made unpalatable for human consumption.
Deaconess Towers continues:
Thirdly, I hope that a program of care would mean providing the opportunity for these men to meet and mix with decent women.
She mentioned this earlier in the article. She concludes:
Although the house mothers would encounter some problems with some of the men, such as the handling of jealousy, the men do respond to the care and attention given by women.
Finally, on this Bill, I commend the Government for this humanitarian piece of legislation, with the reservations and criticisms that I have given, and I would hope that, in his response, the Minister might clear up the matters that I have raised.
The second Bill that we are debating cognately is the Nursing Homes Assistance Bill. That Bill undertakes to introduce a system of deficit financing for nursing homes. These are nursing homes run by voluntary organisations. The system of deficit financing is to meet the losses incurred. The scheme does not include privately run nursing homes or nursing homes run by the States. The assistance contained in this Bill will go also to local government authorities, which conduct nursing homes, as well as to charitable, religious and philanthropic institutions. The Bill gives assistance not only for in-patients but also for visiting patients. It includes physiotherapy, occupational therapy and other forms of therapy. It includes the costs of transportation and others.
The Opposition supports this Bill, but again I wish to point out some dangers contained in it, as I see them. No voluntary organisation is compelled to enter into this arrangement with the Government for deficit financing. The Act does not force them to do so. It gives them an option. They can continue as they are today virtually on a hand to mouth basis with rising costs and so on, or they can say: ‘Look, let us take away the worry of financial difficulties and enter into an agreement with the Government’. The agreement is one of the key provisions of this legislation.
There are 3 features in the terms of the agreement. The first is that the proprietor of a nursing home will have to submit a budget on income and expenditure. That budget will be examined by the Department of Social Security for reasonableness, having regard to the costs of operating other nursing homes participating in the deficit financing arrangement and the past costs of the nursing home concerned. That is a perfectly reasonable provision to put in an agreement. If taxpayers’ money is to be spent in millions in subsidising nursing homes, notwithstanding the fact that those nursing homes are run by religious or philanthropic organisations, the Government of the day has a duty to protect the expenditure of taxpayers’ money on them. But I do point out the danger that, as soon as a nursing home applies to the Minister for Social Security for deficit financing, it naturally and automatically places itself in the hands of the Government as far as even administration, budgeting and the operation of the home are concerned. It depends on the way in which the Minister allows his Department to administer this Act whether he will permit his Department to intrude into the private running affairs of the nursing homes. That would be up to the Minister. I would hope that the amount of intervention by bureaucrats in this area of social need would be limited to the absolute essential and not go beyond that. But that would be up to the Minister.
Secondly, under the arrangements, the Australian Government will make advances to a nursing home to meet a deficit as it is being occurred. This will relieve the cash flow problems confronting a number of these nursing homes at present. Thirdly, when the actual deficit has been determined at the end of the year, a final settlement will be made by the Government. The deficit financing will extend further the control that the Government has over voluntary non-profit nursing homes. Despite the fact that the agreement between the home and the Government will be voluntary, it will probably prove easier for a home to join the scheme than it will for a home to leave the scheme after it has been participating in it for a few years.
Experience under this program may necessitate a greater degree of control than is currently anticipated. In some cases, voluntary homes may let private sources of income lapse while accepting deficit financing. That would be a bad thing, I believe. If Freemasons’ homes, Presbyterian homes, Methodist homes and Jewish homes allow the private sources of financing to lapse and say: ‘We will rely completely on Government handouts or on Government deficit financing’, I think that would be a retrograde step. If experience of deficit financing proves unsatisfactory the homes might find it extremely difficult to revive private sources of income. The Bill also gives enormous power to the permanent head of the Department of Social Security or his delegate. As I understand it, it gives the permanent head power to say to a voluntary organisation: ‘You will build your home here’, even though a State Government might believe that that is the worst possible place to build a home. It gives the permanent head power to determine the size of a nursing home. It also gives the permanent head or his delegate power to determine standards both for nursing homes and for outside services being provided for them.
I point out another feature of the Bill which leaves a single pensioner $4 for his tobacco, toiletries and so on. I point out to the Minister that this amount is lower in proportion than the amount proposed by the Liberal-Country Party Government when it amended nursing home benefits in 1972. In this area I do not think the Minister can be too proud of that figure of $4 because it is in fact lower than the one which we proposed. Another factor about the $4 left to the pensioner to spend- I would like the Minister to correct me if I am wrong- is that on my reading of the Bill the amount that the pensioner pays, $32 a week or whatever it is, is fixed by the Act. That will get out of balance very quickly if inflation continues at this rate and if pensions continue at this rate. I think it would be more sensible and easier for the Minister to administer if he said that the pensioner paid a percentage of his pension to the home, leaving a certain percentage over. That would obviate the necessity of having to come back to Parliament every time the Government wanted to alter that provision.
There is nothing in the Bill to assist the privately run, privately owned nursing home. We believe that such homes have performed an extremely valuable function in this country in caring for the aged. Many times they have done this at a lesser cost than the voluntary charitable organisations and certainly than the State run institutions. There is nothing in this Bill against the private nursing homes but one would hope that the Minister does not persevere with his obsession to destroy them. That would result in a great social upheaval for people who no longer can care for themselves. With those comments the Opposition commends the Government sincerely on the Nursing Homes Assistance Bill. It supports with reservations the Homeless Persons Assistance Bill.
-Before speaking to the Nursing Homes Assistance Bill and the Homeless Persons Assistance Bill I tell the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) that I do not consider him a male chauvinist but I think I know the reason why there are more homeless men than women. It is because society designed women but not men to be home makers. They cling tenaciously to about the only thing that society has left them. There are a lot more homeless men than women.
– Is the honourable member saying that society has designed women to be home makers?
– Yes, home makers, and so we cling to our homes.
– Women’s Lib will not love the honourable member for saying that.
– But that is what society designed women to be. I do not say that I agree with it, because I do not. I would not be here if I did. I had better get on with the debate on the Bills. The Homeless Persons Assistance Bill arose through the interested commitment of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) who moved very quickly after taking over his portfolio to set up research into vagrants or homeless men. During the collection of material it became very obvious to him that there were many groups of homeless and helpless people with literally no help available to them. So out of that original interest we now have the Homeless Persons Assistance Bill. Whilst at this stage it does not apply to all those groups which are homeless or which need temporary help- those groups which our society has forgotten- it also does not exclude them. It does not exclude the possibility of their being considered as funds become available. We are an odd community in that we spend millions of dollars in enforcing the laws but we do not bother to spend money- or we spend very little- on rehabilitation.
I recently heard of a very tragic case of a 42- year-old alcoholic homeless ex-seaman who spent a portion of every week in Pentridge Gaol, and one night of every week in the local police station. We arranged to have him collected outside Pentridge when he was released but we could never hold him long enough to get him into a rest home to be rehabilitated. He went through the cycle of the local police station, Pentridge and then out on methylated spirits, kerosene, melted down boot polish or anything he could get his hands on. But the interesting point is that he always returned to the same local police station so that, even though homeless, his security was always associated with the cycle of the police station, a bath, food, Pentridge and a roof over his head. He had nowhere to go. He met his end a few weeks ago. He was run down by a car when staggering across to his only security, the local police station. He was killed. Apart from the police station there was really nowhere for him to go. His case was hopeless right from the beginning. The police had no facilities to offer him, other than a bath, some dry clothes and a meal. In other cases like this I have found the police to be particularly understanding of the man or men.
No Government money, or very little, is spent on counselling, providing treatment, nutrition, rehabilitation or on any of the supports which are needed to get such a man back on his feet and out of the reverse rat race which he has entered. Such a person has nowhere to go but down because there is no help for him. There is no program to meet the material needs of homeless men and women. They are without support, without income and without hope. Once they are without hope they have nothing. This Bill will assist eligible organisations to provide temporary accommodation and help for those who through alcoholism or domestic conflict are lonely. Often these lonely or introverted people cannot join groups, and they finish up homeless. For years such centres have been providing meals for homeless people. They will get a subsidy for the cost of the food and for the cost of the night’s lodging.
This is a 3-year program. It is really an experimental program. I hope that it will be researched thoroughly so that we can learn from the program as it is put into operation just why so many men and, increasingly, women are homeless. The 3-year program will involve updating existing facilities, expanding treatment which is almost non-existent and building more accommodation. It should be regarded by the community as an involved experiment. It will be almost worse than useless if it does nothing more than hand out a meal or a bed to people who need those things without finding out why they need them and what started them on that downward pattern so that they have become like my alcoholic seaman who had nowhere to go. We have to find out why so many people need assistance and what faults lie with us or with society that there are so many.
I hope that as the program unrolls we can see this experience used in other areas. I am glad to see that the legislation is reasonably flexible. I hope that we will be able to finance half-way houses for those women and children who live in fear of being beaten, and who are probably being beaten daily or frightened of being beaten daily. In fact they have nowhere to go to get away from this situation. People sometimes wonder why the women stays with the man. Where can she go? She has no money. She has children to look after. She has to have a roof over her head. Where does she go? Half-way houses are absolutely necessary because if a woman goes home to her sister or to her mother her husband finds her. I know he finds her because I have been out several times trying to shelter women from their husbands. I have not got a beating yet, but I suppose that could come. Halfway houses are a desperate need. I believe that they fit into this Bill where they do not fit into any other one.
I hope also that the program will eventually recognise and cope with the problems of the men and women who batter their children either physically or mentally. I hope that they can be given counselling and support to help them withstand their own emotions and help them understand their own emotions. Those parents who make up Parents Anonymous show a tremendous amount of courage in acknowledging their own deep psychological problems and the fact that they batter their children either physically or mentally, but we do not give them any help. They need half way houses, some counselling and some relief, from the strain that they are under day in day out. Anyone who has had four or five children in pretty poor circumstances understands exactly what these people are going through. They are not cruel people. They do not stand apart from you and me. We do not stand superior to them or people who have other special problems. We do not give them any place to go for help with their problems.
As usual, we have had to rely, in helping just about all the people I have mentioned, on the voluntary and charitable organisations. They are closest to the people who need counselling and treatment, who need rest and nutrition and who need an opportunity to return to a normal life. I hope we will always provide finance through such organisations. I hope that we break up our care and treatment into smaller units dotted around more centres so that these places do not get an institutionalised air about them. I agree with the honourable member for Hotham that institutionalisation will not help rehabilitate anyone. I am not too sure about the need for the homeless men to have the care or love of a good woman because in the last 2 years I have come in contact with a number of these men who have had very happy childhoods with parents with whom they had good communication, and they have still hit skid row. So I do not know whether the love of a good woman can save a man from everything.
Let me return to how this Bill got off the ground. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) stated in April in the period before we went to the polls this year:
This program is devised in response to a much neglected need: It will be of benefit to the young as well as the old. It will be of benefit to any person in immediate need: To the permanently homeless, to the deserted or disturbed woman and her children, to the Aboriginal or teenager in want or distress, to the battered woman or the battered child, to the single parent- in short, to anyone without support or an income.
I am taking that statement to mean that no one will be excluded from this legislation. The Bill does not exclude anyone and I believe that the Prime Minister did not intend that any groups of people would be excluded as this program unfolded. I see it as running in co-operation with the much needed community health centres which are now being set up. Such half way houses for the victims of rape, members of Parents Anonymous, homeless men or beaten women, will run very well pivoting around the community health centres because there they will have all the paramedical servicesphysiotherapy, counselling, social work and nursing treatment- that will be needed by the homeless, the disturbed and the battered. I see them complementing each other. I hope that the honourable member for Hotham will take this into account when he is opposing the building of community health centres because such centres can be complementary to voluntary organisations and to the work that needs to be done among the homeless, the helpless and the hopeless.
-At the outset I want to say how deeply concerned the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) is about social security matters. He is often criticised for some of his attitudes in certain areas but, as a person who has sat around a table with him and discussed these matters, I know of his deep concern for them.
– He cares for people.
-He cares for people, as the honourable member for Griffith has stated. The Opposition does not oppose these Bills. As a matter of fact, the Opposition is agreeable with the Government on many occasions. I think that fact was pointed out by one of the Government members in the House this morning. However, the Opposition will vehemently oppose bad legislation when it comes into this House. The Statesthose governed by Liberal and Country Parties as well as the Australian Labor Party- enter into many agreements with the Federal Government. But of course there are some propositions which are totally unacceptable to the States, be they ruled by Liberal and Country Party governments or by Labor governments. We encourage social reform. As a matter of fact, the elder statesman, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), who was suspended recently from this chamber for a week, was one of the finest Ministers for Social Security this country has seen in many a year. The point I make is that many of the Bills that come before this Parliament are only extensions of the legislation that was introduced by a previous LiberalCountry Party Government. In spite of supporting social reforms in many respects, the Opposition will oppose socialism in the true sense. We abhor it; we will fight it as long as we have breath left in our bodies.
Much has been stated in this House about the poverty that exists in Australia today. It gives me pleasure to support the Homeless Persons Assistance Bill. Today we have scores of derelicts, people who are less fortunate than we are, in most of our cities, particularly the larger cities. Unfortunately some men and women are alcoholics and drug addicts. As the honourable member for Hotham said, many of them drink methylated spirits. If honourable members have witnessed people suffering from delerium tremens, or the DTs as it is often called, they will agree that it is not a very pleasant experience. Such a condition is basically caused through a lack of food, a lack of vitamin B, too much alcohol and not enough nutrition.
So this Bill to provide homes for homeless people is an extremely worthy one. These people require normal rest; they require nutrition that in many instances they are not getting. As has been stated in the second reading speech of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), they require treatment and counselling. We would hope that, with rehabilitation, they would be able to find their feet and get back to enjoying a normal life. This Bill will provide funds for the many eligible organisations- religious and charitable bodiesthat will provide havens for these people. This assistance will be provided over a 3-year period. Grants will be made by the Minister to approved projects. Grants will be made also to provide premises for rental and to provide furniture, fixtures and fittings. A subsidy of up to 50 per cent of the salary of a social welfare worker employed at one of the centres will also be provided. I notice- and in my opinion, it is an extremely important part of the Bill- that grants will be provided to organisations providing meals and accommodation or meals only. Those honourable members who have visited the soup kitchens, as they are called, would appreciate the difficulties under which many of these organisations are operating. It is good to see that there will be organisations to provide meals and accommodation or meals only where no accommodation is provided. A number of these organisations that have been referred to, such as the Salvation Army and the Methodist Church, provide extremely good services in this area. No doubt they will welcome the subsidies that are to be provided.
I turn now to the Nursing Homes Assistance Bill, and I will refer to 2 aspects of it. Although this Bill provides for deficit funding for religious and charitable organisations it has an extremely important bearing on the private nursing homes. I want to take a minute or two to talk about the private nursing homes. Moving the subsidy from the patient to the organisation may at first sight seem rather harmless but this means that the money will be paid to the nursing homes on behalf of the patients. One wonders what is the eventual aim of the Minister for Social Security in this matter. I hope that he will answer some of these queries later. I believe that he should state quite clearly the Government’s position in relation to the private nursing homes. Does he want private nursing homes to continue or does he not?
As I see it, this is the thin edge of the wedge. Certainly the religious and charitable organisations in the main- I say ‘in the main’ because I understand that one or two of them will not be entering into this deficit financing area- are approving of the extra grants to them. I believe that this is out of necessity, because they have been squeezed to such an extent that they would find it impossible to continue if they did not accept further assistance from the Government. So the situation could be that the people will not be complaining bitterly because the subsidy is being paid to the religious and charitable organisation but the churches might voice their disapproval at the lack of subsidy forthcoming from the Government. One wonders whether this is not a devious and unscrupulous method which the Minister is employing with the aim of the eventual demise of the religious and charitable organisations also in this field. As I see it, it certainly sounds the death knell for the private nursing homes. I hope that the Minister will take up that point in his reply. I want to know what are his views in relation to the private nursing homes.
It is interesting to note that in Australia today there are approximately 38,000 private enterprise nursing beds. Approximately half that number again are owned and operated by the church and by charitable organisations- about 50,000 all told. But more interesting is the fact that in 1973-74 there was an increase of approximately 1,000 beds. To achieve this increase there was an increase of 2,000 beds controlled by the religious and charitable organisations and a decrease of approximately 1,000 beds in the private sector. I think this is a clear indication of the difficulties being experienced by the private nursing homes. Many of them have had to be sold and their numbers are decreasing. As I said earlier, I believe that this is a distinct wedge that has been driven between the religious and charitable organisations and the private nursing homes in this area.
I also want to know whether the religious and charitable organisations are forfeiting their autonomy. In similar legislation so much has been made of the importance of the common touch in private nursing homes and in the religious and charitable organisations that one wonders whether they are not heading down the road to destruction. In Queensland on 19 August this year nurses’ wages increased by 35 per cent to 40 per cent. I think these increases occurred around Australia. On 1 5 October the subsidy was increased by $2.50 a day and a loading system was introduced. I cite a case in point where a religious and charitable organisation in Queensland, which has approximately 800 beds, will suffer a loss of over $60,000 when it enters the deficit funding scheme. As I see it, there are 2 alternatives for this organisation. One is that the Government could allow the home to include the value of the unexpired loading in its deficit budget. The second is that it be allowed to charge the loading to the patient until the date on which the loading expires. This is extremely important. The amount involved is about $60,000 and that is money that the religious organisations concerned could be using for capital works. I ask the Minister to give consideration to this matter. The Bill is not opposed by the Opposition. As I said earlier, it is another of the many Bills that the Opposition is pleased to support.
– I wish to commend the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) for his initiative in this piece of legislation the Homeless Persons Assistance Bill. I support the principle of providing financial assistance for these voluntary agencies and organisations providing shelter for the homeless and for wives and children escaping violence. Many of these organisations have experienced considerable financial difficulty in the present inflationary situation. This, combined with certain problems of health and building regulations in some areas, has meant that the number of beds available for this unhappy group of people has actually declined. Something of a crisis has developed in this area. I also support and applaud the provision of finance for social workers, for rehabilitation and for subsidising food costs.
I wish to refer to the problem concerning the exclusion of local government at this time. In his second reading speech the Minister said:
Earlier announcements regarding the Government’s intention to introduce this worthwhile program, an initiative in a completely new field as far as the Australian Government is concerned, mentioned that statutory authorities would be able to participate.
He went on to explain the reasons- I accept that they are sensible reasons- why in the first instance they are not included. I want to ask the Minister whether the exclusion of statutory authorities means that local government bodies are not included at the present time.
-That is clear. I accept the reasons that the Minister has given and also that in the first instance the Government perhaps has financial problems and wants to see how the scheme will work. I want to draw to the Minister’s attention the problem in country communities where I think local government should eventually be included. In my electorate there is a community of about 10,000 people which has a definite need for a night shelter. The city is not large enough to provide a self-sustaining voluntary organisation specifically in that area and it appears that the possibility of other organisations using it as an adjunct to their work is fairly remote. I think that the local government body is perhaps the most likely base for the establishment of such a night shelter, if not in total then in part. I hope that, as the scheme develops and as the Government sees how it is going financially and whether it is successful, this point about local government servicing some of the smaller communities outside the major metropolitan areas can be looked at again. The second piece of legislation is the Nursing Homes Assistance Bill.
– May I interrupt the honourable member. I just had an inspiration from on high. Local government is included; it is not a statutory body.
– Right, that clears up that point. I thank the Minister.
– Perhaps we could delete what I said earlier and also my nod of the head.
– I think it is better to have it satisfactorily decided now than it be the subject of later discussion, and I thank the Minister for that correction. I move to the second piece of legislation, the Nursing Homes Assistance Bill. Like other Opposition members I reluctantly support this Bill. It does provide, initially at least, some financial guarantee for the religious and charitable organisations who are conducting nursing homes. I believe that eventually these bodies will or could live to regret this action because of the power conferred on the Minister in this legislationa power to determine how those organisations or those nursing homes will operate, down to the approval of budgets and even, perhaps, to the siting of new constructions. It appears fairly inevitable that an average cost will be established for organisations at a State level or community level and that those above that average cost will be forced to reduce.
In many ways it is a mischievous piece of legislation because I feel its deliberate aim is to squeeze the private nursing homes, and it disregards the present nursing home bed situation in this country. According to the annual report of the Department of Social Security for 1973-74, there are presently 54,420 nursing home beds in this country and of this number 42,328 are in what are called participating homes, meaning religious or charitable or private nursing homes as distinct from State nursing homes. The number in this category has declined slightly from the previous year and my information is that that particular section, the private nursing homes, has declined more greatly- up to 2,000 beds have disappeared- in the last 12 months. The point I make is that the majority or nursing home beds in Australia are in this category and anybody who ignores this situation ignores the well being of people who are requiring nursing home care. He also ignores the fact that information provided indicates that they provide more economic care than at least the government nursing homes. I think the religious and charitable organisations may be marginally the most economic.
To me, the mischief in this legislation follows this pattern: The pensioner patient’s contribution is to be fixed in the legislation but subject to regulation, and the Minister will always have control over what the level of nursing home bed subsidy will be. He will squeeze the private nursing homes by not updating the nursing home bed subsidy in line with inflation as he did for the first 18 months of this Government’s life. It was only after those first 18 months, when it became apparent that there was no satisfactory alternative provision of bed care for all those thousands of people in private nursing homes, that the Minister and the Government relented. Now, by this different tack, he is dividing the religious and charitable homes from the private ones. Their income will be maintained by the deficit financing arrangement but, because the bed subsidies are not increased in line with inflation, the private nursing homes will be squeezed out. Then, I presume, the religious and charitable homes will be encouraged by the $4 to $ 1 grants to take over some of these private nursing homes that have been forced out of business.
– You have an unnecessarily suspicious mind.
– I think it is necessarily suspicious when one considers the 18-month time lag after the Labor Party took office before any alteration was made to the nursing home subsidy. This was during the most inflationary period Australia has had for many years. Of course, since then inflation has accelerated and with this acceleration in inflation the problems of survival of nursing homes will increase unless the nursing home bed subsidy is regularly altered.
In both of these pieces of legislation there is a general principle with which I am not happy. The point 1 make is not restricted to this Government because it was legislation of the previous Government that instituted the nursing home bed subsidy arrangements. I refer to the method of payment. I would prefer to see a form of State grant arrangement so that the States would continue to have a responsibility in this area. I would also like to see the Commonwealth adopt basically, or move towards, a common fee or common bed subsidy. At present, there are still considerable variations between the amount of bed subsidy in the different States. There is a movement towards a standard fee. I think this movement should be gradual to prevent problems but it should, nevertheless, continue. If the States had greater responsibility through a form of State grant, then if a State wished to pursue different regulations or requirements for its nursing home beds, in conjuction with this federalist approach the State would have the responsibility of maintaining its position. Together with other members of the Opposition I support both pieces of legislation.
-In the short time available to me I want to deal with the Nursing Homes Assistance Bill. Before doing so, I should like to comment upon the way in which part of this debate has been a debate of the Parliament, there concerned members of Parliament have been able to express a point of view about legislation which is to make real social progress to help the needy people within our community.
The hope that I express is that when we go out into the community it will be recognised and acknowledged that the sorts of changes we are dealing with today are changes brought about by the Parliament and not necessarily by any particular Party. If there could be more such debates and more such acknowledgement I am sure there would be a greater appreciation and more response in the Australian electorate to our activities in this Parliament in deliberating on important issues.
The Nursing Homes Assistance Bill is designed to enable the charity, benevolent, non-profit nursing homes to operate a deficit financing scheme. I want to underline the concern that was expressed by my colleague the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) in his speech to the House. Undoubtedly those people who are aged need security of income; undoubtedly those people who are aged need security of accommodation; and undoubtedly those people who are aged need security in the possibility and actuality of ill health. For many aged people the concern about ill health is a fear. Unfortunately for some it is realised. Their concern is: Will there be a bed available and, if there is, can I afford that bed? The last Liberal-Country Party Government introduced a nursing home benefits scheme which was designed to provide benefits that would enable 70 per cent of the beds to be available at prices which a pensioner could afford- at prices which would leave to the pensioner at least one-quarter of his total income, comprised of a pension plus supplementary assistance.
When this Labor Government came to office, for 18 long months it refused to make changes in the nursing home benefits and then, in quick succession, recognising at last the vast increases in the costs of operating nursing homes, it made 2 increases in the nursing home benefit. But it has not given any indication as to what is to happen in the future. Yet, in the second reading speech of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), which dealt with the Nursing Home Assistance Bill and its provisions for deficit financing, the Minister says to the charity nursing homes that the option is entirely theirs- the option to determine whether they will enter this scheme or stay under the present nursing home benefits scheme. But what is the alternative option? The Minister has given no indication as to when nursing home benefits will again be reviewed. In fact, on the last occasion on which he announced increases in the benefits he denied that these benefits would be related to an index.
I have challenged him on a number of occasions to fix nursing home benefits in accordance with an index. He says it is not possible. Yet when we look at this Bui, the Minister or his officers are going to examine the budgets of the charity-run nursing homes and determine whether or not in the circumstances the fees that they are charging and the deficit under which they are operating are reasonable. If he can do that for those nursing homes I am amazed that he and his officials cannot do it for the generality of nursing homes. After all, his Department has great expertise, for it is the Department which determines the fees that can be charged by nursing homes. In fixing those fees he has an accurate idea of the fees charged in respect of the 40,000 or 50,000 nursing home beds throughout Australia. I should think it would then be easy to relate the benefits to an index influenced by the fee determinations of the Minister’s own Department. If the Minister were then able to tell the nation, to tell those who are concerned with the administration of nursing homes that they could expect increases in nursing home benefits, then the charity-run nursing homes would have a real option. They would be able to determine the advantage of going into deficit budgeting as against the alternative advantages, the greater autonomy and the freedom from control in operating under the present scheme where the benefits are maintained at realistic levels. But the Minister has remained silent on this, and if he has an opportunity in closing this debate I hope that he will be able to declare to the public that nursing home benefits will maintain their real value and that the choice that charity-run nursing homes have is a real one.
My other criticism of the proposals in the Bill is that the Bill deals with nursing homes entering into agreements but it does not indicate how they can opt out of the agreements or whether, if they can opt out of them, the financial burden of opting out will be set so high that the price will keep them locked into the deficit budgeting scheme, unable to free themselves of the controls that might be imposed upon them. Also, the agreements that they enter into can be varied by the Minister- true, after consultation- but consultation does not involve taking notice of those with whom one consults. The Minister can change the agreement and the agreement is not only changed for the future but it is changed in respect of those homes which have already entered into the agreement.
I make my final point by expressing concern that in setting standards the Minister might follow up some of the remarks he made earlier when he commented on the fee structure in the Victorian nursing homes. The method of operation and the philosophy behind the operation of many nursing homes differ, and merely to say that their fee structure is different is not to say that the one is any less efficient than the other. One may be providing a better service with greater emphasis on rehabilitation. Mr Deputy Speaker, I know that my colleague, the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) wishes to speak and I therefore conclude my remarks at that point.
– Previous speakers have made considerable references to the Nursing Homes Assistance Bill and in the very short time available to me I should like to direct my attention to the Homeless Persons Assistance Bill. At the outset, I congratulate the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) on the introduction of this Bill. There would probably be no other electorate in Australia which has a higher percentage of those unfortunate derelicts and homeless persons than my electorate of Griffith, on the south side of Brisbane. The honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross), who is not in the chamber at the moment, and I know more than any other Queensland member about the tragedy that is associated with these people. I recall very vividly the days in my electorate of Mrs Joyce Wilding, who was eventually awarded an O.B.E. for her work in South Brisbane, and I recall the job which has been done for both men and women by the Salvation Army. I hope that the Minister for Social Security, who comes from Ipswich and who is a little isolated from this, might listen to what I have to say. One of the problems has been that the placement of a number of these facilities, what might be described as shelters- for instance, St Vincent de Paul Society shelters- in the inner city area has not exactly helped to eliminate the problem. I know that the Homeless Persons Assistance Bill makes provision for up to 100 per cent of the amount of money required to build a new home, and I would enter a plea now to the Government to study closely the desirability of encouraging those charitable organisations which might wish to become involved to move out of the inner city areas because those areas are responsible for half the problem of loneliness of many of the people who presently use the facilities. Come 5 o’clock the cities are deserted by the working people. There might be people going to the theatre or to have a drink, but other than that the inner areas of the cities are lonely areas in the evening. They are lonely areas which do nothing to assist these people in their loneliness. Just as a lesson is to be learned from the manner in which the Government allowed Aboriginal hostels to be set up in Brisbane- there is some problem at New Farm now- I hope that there will be recognition of the need to encourage these organisations to move out of the city. I realise that the argument on the Aboriginal hostels is that the people living in them have got to be close to their work places, but regrettably many of the people who will be catered for in these homes have little inclination to work and that argument does not apply and is not valid. If you throw the homeless into the dirty, dingy industrial parts of the big cities, what hope do they have? The honourable member for Henty (Mrs Child) made references earlier to the bashed women for whom these homes might be able to serve as a half way house. I should like to suggest- and there is no mention of this in the Minister’s second reading speech- that there are also mentally battered men. How many men on Skid Row have come from a marital home, have been driven out by their wives? As the only bachelor in this House I know that many honourable members might say that it is strange for me to be speaking with such authority on such a subject. But it is a fact that many men have been mentally beaten from their homes whereas many women are physically beaten. It goes both ways.
– The mental battering is worse.
– The honourable member for Murray, who seeks solace in the Canberra area during the week days, says that the mental battering is more horrible. That is obviously so. There are a number of other things that I would have liked to raise but I see that the time is 5.45 p.m., which is the agreed finishing time for the debate. I again congratulate the Minister. As one whose electorate contains many of these unfortunate people I will be watching to see how the scheme works. If I can come forward with useful suggestions in the future, either to the present Minister of his successor, whether he be in the present Government or another government, I will most certainly do so to improve the situation.
– in reply- It is a most unusual circumstance to have a series of accolades from the Opposition hoisted in my direction. In fact, I found it a little unsettling- so much so that at first I reflected that there must be some dubious quality about the legislation I was putting forward. However, the legislation seems to have withstood the test of debate and I thank honourable members for their comments. In those areas where honourable members opposite have been critical, they have been constructively critical. If honourable members do not mind, I will quickly and generally refer to a couple of points which were mentioned.
The question was raised very early in the debate by the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) as to whether the allowances for the meals of homeless persons would be adequate to guarantee a nutritional value in the meals. He made some comparisons and I thought that he established a fairly solid case to substantiate the view he was putting forward. I tend to agree with him. I would. like to make the meal allowance more generous and I would hope that we will do that in the future. But as he was also fair enough to point out, the important point is that the Government is taking a major initiative in this area. We are establishing the Australian Government’s involvement in a completely new and very needy area, one which has been overlooked totally at the Australian Government level in the past. Having eased ourselves in the front door, I think we can walk in this area with a bigger presence as time progresses. I accept the points taken by the honourable member for Hotham. I would hope that in the future we will be able to contribute even more generously. We are seeking to have central reception and assessment clinics established in each capital city. Honourable members who have raised that point will welcome this advice. Naturally, we do not include such a purpose as a sort of fixed proposition in the legislation. But this is in our minds and we will work to achieve this end.
Finally and quickly I want to reassure honourable members on the Opposition side in regard to private nursing homes. Honourable members on the Government side of the House never seem to require this assurance from me. Perhaps that is because they know me so well. It is not my purpose to undermine the role of the commercial nursing homes in our community. These profitmaking nursing homes certainly have a role to play. Where they have played it well, they have made a valuable contribution to the community. That is why we have been extremely generous in the way in which we have provided bed day subsidies for all nursing homes. In fact, I think we ought to bear in mind- it is a little sobering in its effect- that we have increased our total outlay on bed day subsidies for nursing homes by 67 per cent in the period that we have been in office over the amount that was provided in the last Budget of the previous Government, that is, before we came into office. The level of assistance is now $ 155.5m, if I recollect the figure accurately. It is certainly very near that level. That is a lot of money. In these circumstances it was not unreasonable for us to seek other ways of financing nursing homes- the voluntary nursing homes as they are called- the ones that are motivated by a sense of vocation and dedication, and selflessly give so much in the community. We want to encourage these people by responding to their proposals to provide an even greater range of services than they have provided in the past. Hence our initiative in this area and our initiative under the Aged Persons Homes Act.
The tyranny of the House is the lack of time. I cannot take any more time on this discussion unless I deprive other members of speaking time on other Bills, which is not terribly disconcerting. But what is disconcerting is that the Government Whip is sitting right behind me reminding me of the problems I will run into later when I want to speak on other subjects. I accordingly conclude the debate.
– Why do you not sit next week?
– Because the honourable member has already booked a palatial bachelor holiday flat down at the Gold Coast for next week and he does not want to be held up here.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hayden) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 27 November, on motion by Mr Hayden:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hayden) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 27 November, on motion by Mr Les Johnson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition supports this legislation which seeks to make available to the States non-matching advances for the purpose of building houses for pensioners. In fact, this legislation represents a renewal in a sense of legislation which we introduced while in government in 1969. On that occasion the legislation provided for $5m to be made available to the States for these purposes for a period of 5 years. This Bill seeks to make available $10m a year for 3 years. It expands the eligibility of persons for pensioner dwellings on a rental basis. We support the expansion of the scheme. When we introduced the legislation in 1969 it was called the States Grants (Dwellings for Aged Pensioners) Bill. On this occasion the title of the Bill leaves out the word ‘aged’. This is because the present legislation seeks to include single age pensioners, single pensioners without dependants who are eligible for supplementary assistance, invalid pensioners, Service pensioners who are unemployable or suffering from tuberculosis, and class B widow pensioners. We support all these “measures. We make the point that basically this is our legislation in any case. As a matter of interest I would like to table a completely apolitical table which compares the populations in the States of Australia with the distribution of this finance to the various States. For example, it is interesting to note that New South Wales which has 36.4 per cent of the Australian population recieved 40 per cent of the money under this Bill. That is the table and I ask -
– I think it would be nice if we maintained the courtesies of the House and checked it where we can.
-There is an established procedure in relation to this matter. Is leave granted for the document to be incorporated in Hansard? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– I thank the House. I wish we all could be so excessively concerned about the courtesies all the time. There is another small item I would like to have had included in Hansard to save the time of the House. I would like to have had incorporated some of the remarks from the annual report of the South Australian Housing Trust in respect of this legislation. There are no politics in this either. The South Australian Housing Trust is, I believe, one of the most efficient State housing authorities in Australia. The report seeks to make the point that the demand for this form of rental accommodation is still maintained at a very high level. It was 9,000 a year, according to the last annual report which was published about 12 months ago. The Trust is accommodating about half that number each year. I would like to have had incorporated the details about an investigation which the Housing Trust conducted into the sort of people who required this accommodation. If the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) feels that it is stretching the friendship too far to have that information incorporated I shall not worry about it. There are no politics in it.
-Is the honourable member seeking leave to have the document incorporated in Hansard?
– Yes. It is a report which was commissioned by the South Australian Housing Trust. It determines the sorts of families who are in need of this sort of accommodation.
-Is leave granted?
– I am happy to grant leave but here again-
-There is a question of how much is involved.
-There are about 3 paragraphs on page 27.
– I am happy to accede to that being incorporated, Mr Deputy Speaker. Hopefully we might check these things out in the future.
-Leave is granted. I suggest to the honourable member that on future occasions the normal procedure be followed.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will see that that happens. It is not always easy in the hustle and bustle of this place, as you know. (The document read as follows)-
Several studies of rental applications were made during the year and these studies highlighted the growing problem of housing for single-parent families. Applications from this group have risen from a rate of 832 per year, or 9.6 per cent of total rental applications, to a rate of 1,000 per year or 1 1.8 per cent of total rental applications. This proportion, when related to what could be termed current applications, may be even larger, since it would appear likely that the ‘wastage rate ‘ of this group is less than that of other applicants.
The proportion of houses allocated to one-parent families is more than twice the proportion of applications currently being received from this group. An analysis of allocations during the December quarter 1972 showed that 4 1.3 per cent of vacancies in semi-detached rental houses were filled by one-parent families.
To illustrate the Trust’s problem even further, a study of rental tenancies revealed that 3,943 (or 12.6 per cent) of the Trust’s rental houses were occupied by ‘single’ tenants with children. Their only income is a pension and/or a maintenance income. The study of applications from one-parent families also revealed that 25 per cent were currently living with relatives and friends and that 32.4 per cent had one child, 33.6 per cent two children, and 34 per cent three or more children.
-Now that we have dealt with the niceties and I have said that the Opposition supports the legislation, let me say that we on this side of the House make the point that the bulk of rental housing in Australia traditionally has been provided by private investment. But if the Government continues to impose taxes such as the surcharge tax on so-called unearned income we will have fewer and fewer flats provided by the private sector and fewer and fewer houses for rental accommodation. Rents will go up and we will have an even bigger waiting list. I think this has already been confirmed.
I should like to take the Minister and the Government to task on the way which this legislation was handled. It is a source of some concern to us to see that every time there is to be a new piece of legislation or a renewed piece, as this is, consistently there is a leak to the Press beforehand. In this case there was a leak- I think that is the only way we can describe it- on 29 August which stated that a $25m plan for pensioners was to be announced shortly by the Government. The day that that was reported in the Press the Opposition put out a statement making the point that this was not new legislation and that even the allocation then mooted would only keep up with inflation. Then we had another announcement from the Minister for Housing and Construction round about the time of the Budget which gave the updated facts. We found that the original leak was not accurate. Instead of the allocation being $25m it was $30m. I think that probably what happened was that the Minister took the matter back to Cabinet and said that he realised that he had made a mistake and that $25m only kept pace with inflation and that the Government should give a few more million dollars. So to that extent the Minister can thank the Opposition for assisting him to get those few more million dollars.
The Press release put out by the Minister, which really follows the terms of the second reading speech, was not accurate. It said that the pensioner dwelling scheme allocation was to be doubled. That is not true. When we were in Government the pensioner dwelling scheme involved an appropriation of $25m, and this scheme is for only $30m. The Minister also said that single pensioners living alone in private accommodation too often were forced to pay too high a proportion of their pension in rent. Yet in this Bill he has included a clause which seeks to see that low rentals will not be charged by the State authorities. By and large we object to the way in which bad news which the Minister puts out as being good news is unfortunately reported and the true situation is not coming through to the Australian people.
I have another example of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement arrangements and the preceding release in which the Minister said that he had a bottomless pit of money for the State Ministers. Yet when the Ministers got together in October one State Minister was so unhappy at the way he was being treated that he walked out. The New South Wales Minister for Housing said that the open cheque that the Minister for Housing and Construction was talking about was a myth, that it really did not exist. So to that extent we think it is unfortunate that the things that we are saying are not being picked up by the commentators and reported accurately to the Australian people.
For example, the recent legislation providing for housing an amount of $150m was passed through this place. We have some concern about that. I think we will find that the savings bank deposits and approvals are increasing, and possibly so are commencements of dwellings, as a result of the extra savings banks finance, but the loans and the approvals from permanent building societies will fall considerably. We would like to have seen some of that money put through the permanent co-operative building societies. We would like also to have seen a provision that that money- at least the great bulk of it- was to be spent on new houses.
We have been drawing the attention of the Australian people to the current shortfall of dwellings which we believe at this moment is in excess of 50,000 and which we believe by this time next year will be as much as 120,000 or even 130,000- almost one years’ supply of houses. We want to know what the Government is going to do about this. How will we ever be able to provide not only the ordinary requirements but also the shortfall which will have accumulated by then? We keep drawing attention to the cost of building, the increasing deposit gap, the discrimination against people who are earning in excess of $ 1 50 a week and up to about $200 a week and the impossibility of that sort of person being able to buy a house.
In particular, we have recently drawn attention to the figures produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on October building approvals, which admittedly showed a very marginal increase in home building over September but a dramatic decline between the number for October this year and October last year of nearly 50 per cent. Unfortunately none of these things is being reported and the Australian people do not know what is happening. We regret this. A lot of the things that we on this side have been saying have come to pass. We believe that the home building industry is really at a crisis situation. There is already massive unemployment in the industry.
As a result of this piece of legislation- I realise that perhaps I might have strayed slightly from the Bill before us- I should like to place on record that the statements of the Minister, in our view, will be proven to be incorrect. The Minister believes that more pensioners will be housed as a result of this legislation. We believe that fewer will be housed. I have taken out some figures which I should like to quote to the House. According to the Minister’s second reading speech, just over 3,000 pensioner units were completed during the 5 years to 30 June last. If that is so- and I am sure it is- this means that the cost per unit over that period- dividing 3,000 into $25m-works out at $8,000 a unit. If we take the current year, at this moment in the building industry we have an annual inflation rate which I believe will be shown to be 25 per cent. So the cost of $8,000 per unit we are expecting to spend this present year will in fact be increased by $2,000. If we divide the increased cost of those units, which will be $10,000 a unit, into $10m which is the appropriation for this year, it means that the most we can expect is 1,000 units this year. If we apply the same formula of a 25 per cent inflation rate in building and apply it to the next 2 years, next year the reduction will be 800 units and the following year, 660 units. So that by the end of the 3-year term envisaged in this legislation 2,460 units will have been completed.
If this legislation goes to its complete 3-year term- as there is no doubt it will- we will have spent $30m to produce 2,400 units. Yet, when we were in Government we produced 3,000 units for only $25m in a 5-year term. So what we are saying is that pensioners, the people who are eligible for the sort of housing proposed in the legislation, will be worse off under this scheme because of inflation which inevitably hits the poor and the under-privileged first and hardest. To put the situation in another way: By the end of this year the $10m will be worth only $7.5m; next year, $5. 5m; and the following year, $4m. So today’s $30m by the end of the contract will be only $ 17m.
I would like to quote what the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) had to say when he addressed the Building Workers Industrial Union on 5 August last. During this speech he said that the cost of high priced homes had levelled out. I wonder what comfort that is to most of us in the community who do not buy high cost homes? He had this to say about inflation:
The present tight liquidity and high interest rates are a result of the Government’s determination to control and reduce inflation. We shall not capitulate; we shall not waver from this policy to achieve some short-lived popularity. 1 am tempted to quote what Thomas Macauley had to say- that the object of oratory alone is not truth but persuasion- because it is my view that the Prime Minster is a persuasive talker but there are plenty of times when his oratory does not necessarily include a great deal of truth.
I turn now to the debates that took place in 1969 when the legislation was first introduced. There are some interesting figures and comments in those debates. At the time apparently the present Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) was leading for the then Opposition. He incorporated a table which he had apparently obtained from the Parliamentary Library and which suggested that the number of dwellings that would be completed during the course of this contract would be nearly 5,000 units. In fact the number turned out to be only 3,000 units. He made the point during the debate, apart from when he attacked the Aged Persons Homes Act, that all single pensioners should be entitled to this sort of accommodation. He said: … it will take 1 73 years to pick up the present backlog in the waiting list of single pensioners . . .
According to my calculations, as a result of inflation it will now take over 200 years and, as the Minister said, there will not be any of us around in 1 73 years to find out. This is what is happening as a result of inflated building costs.
At that time the then Opposition moved an amendment to section 30a of the Act which is the section dealing with supplementary pensions and the amount that is paid in rent. I do not see the present Government, now that it is in power, doing anything about this part of the Act. It is also interesting to note that the present Minister for Labor and Immigration at one stage said: 1 point out that one thing the Government could do is allow the people who make bricks, cement, roofing tiles and the host of things that go towards the building of a home to write off in their income tax returns the cost of the machinery in one year.
That does not seem like a bad idea, but the Minister for Housing and Construction does not seem to be enthusiastic about introducing it now.
I am suffering from the same problem as the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) who was leading for the Government in the previous 2 Bills; we have the tiger of the watch upon us. I have agreed with the Government Whip that I would leave a few minutes so that the Minister for Housing and Construction could sum up. I do that in a true spirit of friendly co-operation because he was so co-operative to me at the beginning of my remarks. But in doing so- and just emasculating the rest of the things I had to say- I would like him to comment on the purchase of the Glebe lands which I know is not his responsibility but with which I know he is involved. I am receiving very distressing information about what is happening there to people- the sort of people who are the subject of this legislationwho are being victimised, with other people coming into the area at favoured rentals. I am sure that the Minister knows what I am talking about.
Also I would like him to tell the House something about the purchase of land from the Leyland factory. Has the Government bought it? If so, what is the Government going to do with it? Does the Government believe that the land is suitable for housing, because we have serious doubts. I will now wind up my remarks and ask the Minister to reply to those couple of quick questions. At the same time he might tell us whether or not the action of the Government is constitutional.
– in reply- The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) has been good enough to leave me less than 3 minutes. I certainly cannot talk about the Glebe lands or the Leyland lands as he would be well aware. What he would be interested to know is that loans by banks and building societies have increased by over 30 per cent in October and although it is apparent that there are some people in this House who have a vested interest in talking doom and gloom, the fact of the matter is that there is an expectation that the housing situation in Australia can improve.
I have no apologies to make about the honourable gentleman’s reference to so-called leaks because these matters have been the subject of meetings that are of a public nature between myself and the Housing Ministers of the various States. It is a matter that evolves over a period of time and they have agreed to amounts that have been allocated and all are aware of it. Of course, it is very understandable that people have prior knowledge as to the intentions of the Government. We are debating a very significant Bill. It doubles the annual allocation of money for the purposes set out in that Bill. That cannot be treated lightly. It widens the range of eligibility to invalid pensioners, Service pensioners who are permanently unemployable or suffering from tuberculosis and class B widow pensioners.
– It does not double them.
-It doubles the annual rate. It supplements amounts being made available for other purposes associated with the housing of aged people which the honourable gentleman did not find the time to mention. I refer, of course, to the Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Bill, the expenditure for which is increased from $22.4m to $30.8m, the Aged Persons Hostels Bill, the expenditure for which has been increased from $3. 9m to $15m and this Bill under which the expenditure has been increased from $5m to $10m. In other words, we have brought expenditure for these purposes up to $55. 8m this year. It is an extremely substantial amount of money which can, of course, be added to the money that we spent under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement. I know that there is general approval for this legislation. Time will not permit me to speak any further on it. I commend its provisions to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Les Johnson) read a third time.
Message received from the Senate intimating that the Senate did not insist on its amendments disagreed to by the House.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the House of Representatives in this Bill.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
NATIONAL HEALTH BILL (No. 2) 1974 Second Reading
Debate resumed from 27 November, on motion by Mr Hayden:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The House is debating a surprising Bill introduced by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) last Wednesday. We are asked to debate this Bill tonight, the following Tuesday. No notice has been given of the intention of or the reason for this Bill to be debated. There is no rationale for it. Out of the blue, we get something so fundamental which we believe is probably the greatest and most naked assault on the private health insurance funds that has ever been introduced into this House.
In his second reading speech, the Minister said:
Proposals directed to improvements in the legislation authorising the present health insurance arrangements were placed before the Government recently.
We have to look at this aspect in the context of the state of play at the moment. The Government has had certain Bills passed through a joint sitting of both Houses of the Parliament. This gives it authority to introduce the so-called notorious Hayden health scheme. The Minister’s departmental officers and ministerial advisers have been traipsing around the country trying to get support from the various parties interested in his health legislation to co-operate. I refer to the doctors, the private hospitals, the private nursing homes, and the private health funds. Everywhere he or his representatives have gone, they have met with rebuff. Nobody will have a bar of his health scheme.
But there is a further ingredient which happened just a week ago in the New South Wales Supreme Court. The power of the Minister to destroy private health funds was questioned, in fact torpedoed, by a judgment of that Court. Now we have the prospect of the Minister and the Government committed beyond any shadow of doubt to introducing its health scheme which will change the whole complexion of health care in this country by 1 July of next year; or now they are saying perhaps 1 October of next year. Nobody will co-operate with them. It is now quite clear that the Government cannot introduce its health scheme by October of next year without either the co-operation or the subservience of the people or the organisations that I have mentioned, that is, the doctors, the health funds, the private hospitals, the private nursing homes, the States, and so on.
– They will co-operate.
– I beg the honourable member’s pardon?
– I think they will co-operate.
– I acknowledge the interjection of the honourable member for Robertson who said that he thinks they will co-operate. If this Bill which is before the House was passed, they would have no option but to co-operate. This is why the Opposition is going to oppose it with all its force both here and in another place.
One of the main obstacles to the Minister in implementing his health scheme are the private health funds. Can I take a moment to discuss these institutions? The Minister and Government speakers have painted them as rapacious health funds, as private enterprise at its worst, profiteering out of the public. But what are they? They are virtually co-operative societies. No dividends are declared by these health funds. The sort of people and organisations against whom this Bill is directed are the friendly societies which for years have traditionally been a body of people interested in grouping together to protect their own health and to protect themselves against, among other things, the cost of medicine.
It was only about 4 hours ago that I stood at this place and commended the same Minister for his compassion and understanding in introducing legislation concerned with homeless people. I cannot understand his fanatical obsession with the health insurance funds of this country. They are not multi-national companies. They are not groups of people headquartered in London or New York or anywhere else who have come here to take us over. These are Australian born people who are serving in an honourary capacity to assist Australians to insure themselves against injury or sickness.
– They tend to be empire builders.
– I acknowledge the interjection of the honourable member for Robertson. I do not understand its import. If the honourable member says that they tend to be empire builders, I reply: Of course they do. Any organisation unhappily inevitably falls into empire building in terms of Parkinson’s law. But what the honourable member for Robertson and the Minister want is the greatest empire of all time in the Australian Health Insurance Commission, a bureaucratic monster that will take over the whole of health insurance in this country, run by the Government or run by the big brother. If Government members are going to talk about empire building, I say that the mind boggles at the kind of empire building of Much that sort of organisation is capable.
The health funds obviously are the key to the implementation of the Government’s health insurance program we on this side of the House have s u we are intractably opposed. The Minister knows that he cannot get his health scheme without the co-operation of these organisations that I have mentioned, primarily the health funds. He has asked them to be agents temporarily, for 3 years, until the Australian Health Insurance Commission can take over. The health funds have refused. The Minister has given an extension of time to the health fundsuntil 3 1 December of this year- to make their decision. They have remained intractable in their opposition because the kind of offer that the Minister has made to the private health insurance funds of this nation has been such that, if they accepted his agency proposition, they would be signing their own death warrants and signing the death warrants of the millions of contributors that there are around Australia.
– They have not even asked their contributors what they think about it.
– I respect the honourable member for Kingston. If he contemplates that interjection, he will see in a flash how absurd it is in its context. What company or organisation takes out a referendum on -
– Do you know how the directors are elected?
– They have never been elected according to -
-Please, Mr Speaker. I am complimented that members of the Government are interested in what I am saying and pay me the courtesy of interjecting. I would have hoped that the interjections would be of a higher quality than that of the honourable member for Kingston. The Minister has a refusal from the private health funds all over Australia, even one in New South Wales which is oriented towards the Labor Government.
– Which one is that?
-The honourable member for Prospect knows to which one I am referring. Even that fund has refused the Minister’s Don Corleone offer to it so far as agency relations are concerned. Then there was the reverse in the Supreme Court of New South Wales last week. So what does the Minister do? He introduces this legislation which is designed to knock out the last prop of opposition to his health scheme. This legislation will allow him to take over these funds and to bend them to his wishes. If this Bill is passed by this Parliament it will create a situation of anarchy in Australia. Anarchy is a situation not unknown to socialists. It is part of their bread and butter. If one wants to create something new and one is frustrated by the usual democratic processes, one tears everything down and destroys everything. One reduces everything to a state of chaos out of which some socialist order might arise. I am sure it is the intention of this Bill to destroy the private health funds as a last desperate throw to reduce the whole of the health insurance funds of this country into chaos. Out of that situation the Minister will build up his socialist Australian health insurance commission.
– This is not very -
– I warn the honourable member for Robertson.
– The Minister, in a preposterous statement, said:
The health benefit organisations could not have grown to their present significance -
As if they are some monster fleecing the public. nor could they continue to operate, except for the very generous support that comes from Government sources, directly and indirectly.
I would like the Minister to tell me- he is not even in the House while I am speaking in this debate- and I would like the interjectors on the back benches of the Labor Party who are apparently substituting for the Minister to tell me where is the justification for the statement that governments have propped up the health insurance organisations. Where do they think the appropriations from governments, both LiberalCountry Party, and Labor, have gone? Have they gone to the organisations or have they gone to the patients? What absurdity it is -
– They have gone to the organisations.
– Does the honourable member for Prospect think the subsidies and contributions which the Government has been paying have been pocketed in some secret reserve of these non-profit organisations in which people work in an honorary capacity? I think this shows the fanaticism of the Minister and of the Labor Party about these health insurance funds. I recall the definition of George Santayana when he tried to define a fanatic. He said that a fanatic is a person who redoubles his efforts long after he has forgotten his aim. That seems to me to be a perfect description of the Minister and of the Labor Party as far as anything private is concerned and as far as anything not owned and administered by the Government is concerned.
– What does the honourable member call somebody who has forgotten what he is supposed to be speaking about?
-Order! The honourable member for Prospect will cease interjecting or I will name him.
– The inanity of the honourable member for Prospect is only exceeded by his stupidity.
-Order! The honourable member for Hotham will address the Chair.
-I was, Mr Speaker. I was addressing that remark to you.
- Mr Speaker, I ask for a withdrawal of that remark. You make me withdraw much less things.
– Did you hear what the honourable member -
-Order! That is not a personal reflection at all.
– He referred to me as -
-Order! The honourable member for Prospect will resume his seat. I call the honourable member for Hotham.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker. I will cease to be provocative unless I am further provoked. The Minister went on to state:
It was recognised by the previous Government -
Then the Minister chose to distort words used by my distinguished colleague, the honourable member for Barker, Dr Forbes - that where an organisation does not comply with the Act . . . ultimately the only course of action available is to cancel the registration of the organisation.
Mr Speaker, that is basically not true because a few weeks ago this House passed an amendment to the National Health Act, with the support of the Opposition, giving the Minister increased powers. What does this Bill do? What sorts of powers does it give the Minister? In the Minister’s second reading speech we have a classic of ineptitude, of petulance, manifesting itself in legislation. One would hardly believe that we are talking in a Westminster style democratic parliament when one reads this section from the Minister’s second reading speech. We have a great number of private organisations right throughout the country. Trade unions have their own health funds. In Victoria we have the Hospital Benefits Association. There is the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Ltd, the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows and friendly societies, all of which are virtually cooperative societies. Because the Minister cannot get his own way he says this about them:
The Bill includes provisions to enable the Minister -
That is himself - where he believes it to be in the contributor’s interest-
In other words, his first exercise is to persuade himself that he is acting in the contributor’s interest - to request an organisation to show cause why it should not he investigated in relation to specified matters.
In other words, all the Minister has to do is to persuade himself that a health fund has to be investigated. The Minister continues:
Where the organisation fails to satisfy the Minister -
This means that the onus of proof is on the organisation, the health fund - and he believes it to be in the contributor’s interest, he may appoint an inspector to conduct an investigation into specified matters relating to the affairs of the organisation.
That simply means, in plain English, that if the Minister for Social Security believes that a health fund is not bowing to his wishes all he has to do is say: ‘You bow to my wishes because I will satisfy myself that you are not acting in the interests of the contributors and I will put an inspector into your organisation.’ It sickens me that a Government Minister can have that sort of power and that he has the effrontery to put this sort of Bill up to a House of Parliament. But worse is to come. The Minister further states:
The Bill further provides that after he has considered the report of the inspector -
Honourable members can imagine how long he will consider the report of the inspector -
The Minister may take such action consistent with the Act as he considers appropriate.
The action the Minister can take is this: He can make an application to the Australian Industrial Court for the appointment by the Court of a judicial manager to manage the affairs of the fund or for the fund to be wound up by the Court. In other words, the Minister is asking this Parliament tonight to pass a Bill which gives him power to simply go to a fund and say: ‘You do this’. If the fund does not do so the next step is a judicial manager who has the power to wind up all the affairs of the fund. The Minister then goes on to say what the judicial manager can do. He has the powers of an official receiver. He can conduct the affairs of the fund with the greatest economy consistent with efficiency. This includes recommendations to return the fund to its former management, to transfer all or part of its affairs to another organisation with the consent of the other organisation, or the fund can be wound up. That is dictatorship, jackboots at its worst.
– What does the honourable member think of the judiciary?
– This is a judicial manager who is not a member of the judiciary. A sycophant of the Minister would be appointed.
– You are casting reflections on the courts.
– I respect the interjection of the Minister for Science. Not withstanding how much he would like to be the Minister for Social
Security, he is not. God knows where the Minister for Social Security is tonight, because he is not in the House nor have I received any apology from him for not being here for the debate on this very vital Bill. The Court is required where practicable to effect the transfer of contributors to a fund to be wound up to a fund conducted by another registered organisation. This sort of Bill gives the Minister carte blanche to do whatever he likes with every private health fund in Australia. The health funds are the stumbling block to his implementing the infamous Hayden health plan for Australia- a plan to which the Opposition is intractably opposed.
The Bill contains even worse measures. It provides greater flexibility- that is a favourite word of the socialists- as to the manner in which reserves of medical and hospital funds may be utilised. In other words, these private health funds have reserves. They have contributors who choose to insure themselves against medical expenses. What is left over from their contributions after the medical expenses have been met by the health fund goes into a medical reserve fund. Other people choose to insure themselves for hospital insurance only. They are different people and the excess of their contributions over payouts goes into the various funds and form reserves. The Minister wants to say: ‘You cannot have that reserve because you have insured for medical insurance, and because your fund shows a profit on medical insurance, we will grab the excess money at my direction- the direction of the Minister in Canberra- and take the money away from the fund to which you have contributed and give it to another fund. ‘ It is like giving the Minister power to say of the parliamentary retirement fund or whatever it is called, to which all of us have contributed over-generously over the years, ‘Look, your parliamentary retirement fund is too great. I am going to grab $20m out of that and give it to -
– To me.
– ‘To the honourable member for Melbourne’ who, by the way he dresses and conducts himself could well spend $20m with ultimate pleasure. This is another function which we reject. Then as the height of naivete the Minister says: ‘Look, I am not going to act unilaterally on this’. He says that the Bill also provides that the Minister may direct the transfer of reserves where the Registration Committee- the expert Committee established under the National Health Act- so recommends. I do not want to demean the Registration Committee. The Minister always points it up to an expert autonomous committee that can give him independent advice.
The Registration Committee is his child. It is a committee consisting essentially of members of his own Department. It is hypocrisy- if I may use that word without being too strong- of the Minister to use the powers of the Committee.
The Minister’s next obsessive attack is on the special account. The Liberal-Country Party Government instituted the special account, and we are very proud of it. It is a contribution by the Australian Government to a health fund in respect of a contributor who went into hospital with an apparently benign disease, the consequences of which he could not foresee and therefore did not insure against, but who was subsequently discovered to have something fundamentally and chronically wrong with him and could not be discharged from hospital. We introduced the special account scheme to allow that sort of person to remain in hospital without financial worry. The Minister then turns his attack on the private health insurance funds and says that in fact they have used and manipulated the special account to their own benefit. He wants to be able to transfer money from the reserves of the funds- again a naked assault on the reserves of health funds so as to impugn their independence.
I challenge the Minister- I ask one of his departmental officers in the gallery to make a note of it- to reply to this charge. In saying that the funds have manipulated the special account he has told a deliberate untruth to the Parliament. That is a serious charge to make against a Minister. I say there is no question of any organisation manipulating the special account system as each contributor transferred to the account is the subject of investigation and decision by an officer of the Minister’s own Department. Once the decision is taken, the contributions paid by the member must be credited to the special account for a minimum of 2 years.
I am conscious that this is a very technical Bill. Although 40,000 people are listening to this debate or were listening before I rose to speak, it is a Bill that is appreciated only by people interested specifically in it. I allege that the Minister told a deliberate untruth to the Parliament.
-Order! The honourable member knows that he cannot cast a reflection of that kind on a member or a senator. He must withdraw that reflection.
– I am sorry, Mr Speaker. May I say that he told an untruth or said something that was untrue?
-Order! The word ‘deliberate’ is out or order.
– Yes, I accept that in a flash, Mr Speaker. I am sorry. The Minister told an untruth to the Parliament and I would like him to answer the charges I have just made. One could go on about this Bill and criticise it because of the way in which the Minister chooses to destroy the private health funds. There are some provisions of the Bill, explained near the end of the second reading speech, with which the Opposition agrees. We think these are commendable and they will be referred to by my colleague the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd), who is the shadow Minister for Health. They are matters affecting health rather than social security.
We will move an amendment to this Bill, the thrust of which will be that if the Government wishes to redraft this Bill in such a way as to reintroduce the matters contained at the end of the Minister’s second reading speech, we will undertake, even though this is the last week of the sittings, to give it expedition. In a moment I will give notice of the amendment which I propose to move. Before I do that and conclude my remarks, may I make a statement concerning the attitude of the Liberal and Country Parties towards the Australian Health Insurance Commission. I believe this is a significant statement of policy.
– The MBF released it yesterday.
– That is a contemptible remark. It is not true. The honourable member for Prospect has many talents, but they do not include being clairvoyant as to what I am about to say. I would like to remind him that I usually do not need any assistance from him in making my speeches. I would like to make this fundamental statement on policy which I will be distributing in the Press galleries in a moment or two:
The Liberal-Country Party government would disband the Health Insurance Commission if returned to power at an appropriate time. I make this statement now so that present and potential employees of the Commission would know where they stood. The Opposition ‘s intentions also needed to be made public in fairness to contributors to voluntary health insurance funds, staffs of these funds and their managements. The Health Insurance Commission could eventually reach a stage of development when its abolition would create major administrative problems. However, this stage was not likely to be reached within the next year or so.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– It was a bit hard to follow the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) because he wandered a fair way from the Bill, so I will take the same liberty. He pointed out that one portion of the Bill makes him sick, and that is the portion that says that the Bill includes provisions to enable the Minister, where he believes it to be in the contributors’ interest, to request an organisation to show cause why it should not be investigated in relation to specified matters. I cannot see why that should make him sick unless it is the health insurance people about whom he is so concerned and not the contributors’ interest. This Government has always taken it upon itself to look after the contributor. It does not fight the battles of the Australian Medical Association, the health benefit funds, the doctors or the General Practitioners’ Society, as the honourable member for Hotham takes it upon himself to do and as he has done ever since national health was thought of by this Government.
The fact that there are millions of dollars in the reserves of those funds does not make him sick. I think the director who has just been in court earns something like $32,000 a year, so I would hardly say that he is working on a voluntary basis or that he is a philanthropist. This Bill is designed to take up the slack between what we have operating now and what will operate when the national health plan is implemented in July. The honourable member’s definition of ‘fanaticism ‘ was rather interesting because I thought we had a display of fanaticism when the honourable member for Hotham was speaking. He has been fanatical in his opposition to the National Health Bill and anything to do with the National Health Bill since it was first introduced. I think he was the one who said that he would go to the barricades to fight against it if it were to be introduced. This means that he is prepared to go to the barricades to fight against the national health plan that was endorsed by the people of Australia in 1972, endorsed again in 1974 and endorsed at the Joint Sitting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. I would have imagined that that is the democratic process in line with the Australian Constitution. It has been thrice endorsed. The honourable member for Hotham is prepared to go to the barricades to fight against it and is evidently prepared to fight in support of the medical health funds to get rid of the provisions -
– Even to a double dissolution again if you want it.
-A double dissolution?
– Again if you want it.
– How democratic can one get?
– Right now if you want it.
– The honourable member is also taking part in assisting the doctors to oppose the building of a local community health centre in my electorate. They are acting very democratically, I must say. A public meeting was held to set up the community health centre. It was endorsed again by the people. But once again big brother, in the form of the AMA aided by the honourable member for Hotham, has told the people of East Bentleigh that they will not have a health centre. Then the doctors held their democratic meeting from which they excluded anyone who did not agree with them, including me, and I am on the committee for the health centre. The honourable member for Hotham was graced with an invitation. I am not sure whether that was a compliment.
The millions of dollars that are held in reserve by the funds need supervision. When the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) was the Minister for Health he stated:
In addition to the new measures which I have just mentioned, the Government is considering the introduction of legislation providing for penalties to be imposed on funds’ officers for serious neglect of their responsibilities, and enabling the replacement of funds’ officers by appointed managers in certain circumstances, as proposed in the Nimmo Committee’s recommendation.
So it is nothing new that this Government also feels that contributors and the reserves of money must be guarded. The recommendation of the Nimmo Committee to which the former Minister for Health referred reads as follows:
That organisations and their officers be subject to penalties for any failures to comply with the conditions imposed by and under the National Health Act.
I believe that until the national health plan of this Government is in operation it is as well- it is a watchdog for the Australian people and the Australian contributors- that health benefit organisations have some sort of eye put on them. After all, they hold millions of dollars in reserve. It is the contributors’ money. Health benefit contributions are consistently increased. I do not know how often they have been increased but I know that my children, who are apprentices, are paying something like $29 every 3 months for health insurance. Why do they not receive the benefit of some of the millions of dollars that are held in reserve?
The health benefit organisations could not have grown to their present significance nor could they have continued to operate except for the very generous support that comes from Government sources directly and indirectly, and that is people’s money. If people’s money is involved the Government not only has a right but also has a responsibility and a duty to make sure that the people’s money is protected. This Bill is an interim measure. I do not quite understand why the honourable member for Hotham has gone off about it. Perhaps it is because the proceedings are being broadcast and 40,000 people are listening. That makes a difference. The national health program and everything connected with it has been attacked and vilified by the AMA, the General Practitioners Society, individual doctors and all who have a vested interest in maintaining the present chaotic system that grew up under 23 years of Liberal government. I repeat that the scheme has been endorsed by the people twice. But that does not mean a thing to members of the Opposition. The honourable member for Hotham said that he would call for another double dissolution. The national health scheme has been the butt of a deliberate campaign of deceit and misrepresentation of the program such as seldom has been seen in this country. If the honourable member for Hotham is going to fight at the barricades against the proposal for a universal health program he will be fighting against the people’s decision. He will be fighting against things that the people of this country have endorsed. I would like to refer to something that Senator Steele Hall said at the Joint Sitting, when this program was again endorsed in line with the provisions of the Australian Constitution. He said:
I believe the former members of the Parliament who have been returned should support the result of this Joint Sitting. There is no other way to look at Australian democracy.
This health Bill and all connected with it have been endorsed. He said:
Not to do so would be to deny constitutional representative government in Australia and to set up a dictatorship in a House which is not based on that form of representation.
I do not agree with all that the honourable senator said but I agree that there is no other way to look at Australian democracy. I agree with the honourable member in most of what he said but I think that all members, old and new, should be tied by the democratic principles of the Parliament, and not just the old members of the Parliament who forced a double dissolution. Honourable members will remember that the National
Health Bill was specifically mentioned in the reasons for a double dissolution- ‘Get a mandate from the people’ we were virtually told, and that is what we did do. The people endorse this concept of national health. They endorse the concept of community health centres. The contents of this Bill which will carry us through until we bring in our own national health scheme, will ensure that this Government will protect the contributors to the national health funds from the rapacious interests of the national health funds.
-The honourable member for Henty (Mrs Child) talks about the people’s decision as though the people supposedly had spoken in favour of what appears now to be the Government’s still-born health policy. It is interesting, if the people have spoken, that in all the gall up polls on this question the vast majority of Australians have been in favour of the existing arrangements and continue to be in favour of the existing arrangements in spite of all the propaganda that Government members have displayed on this matter. The Bill is a conglomeration of four or five separate health and welfare proposals. The major part of it concerns, first, the quest for dictatorial power for the Minister over the health insurance funds; secondly, matters relating to increased nursing home subsidies; thirdly, the correction of anomalies with the handicapped children payments; fourthly, the widening of the provision with respect to hearing aids to enable the supply of other surgical appliances by ministerial regulation; and, fifthly, the extension of full approval rights for certain friendly society dispensaries.
The Opposition has made it quite plain that it is in favour of certain parts of this legislationthe positive provisions of the Bill which relate to nursing homes, handicapped children and surgical appliances- but it believes most emphatically that the Bill should be withdrawn and redrafted to allow these positive aspects to become law but to omit those unsavoury aspects concerning unnecessary ministerial control over health insurance funds as well as what we believe are unnecessary additional provisions relating to certain friendly societies in South Australia and Queensland.
The major part of the Bill concerns the quest for power over the voluntary health insurance funds. This Bill is the latest attempt by the Minister to dominate these funds. He failed to cower them by disapproving the just increase in premium that was requested by 2 funds in New South Wales. The answer to that particular episode came in the Supreme Court recently, when the funds were completely vindicated and the
Minister was defeated. So he has tried another tack. He tried to inveigle the health insurance funds into accepting agency arrangements for his proposed national health scheme. To the credit of the voluntary health insurance funds, they are not silly enough to commit suicide. Now, by this Bill, the Minister wants to take them over by ministerial power and, as the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) has pointed out quite clearly, he will have the power to appoint inspectors and then judicial managers, and once the latter are placed in this position of control over a fund by the Minister and are subject to the Minister, they will decide to accept an agency arrangement for the Government’s proposed scheme.
Special emphasis is placed on overpowering the central feature of Commonwealth support for the health funds through the special account. Because of the unwillingness of this Government to update its assistance to the funds in line with inflation, as it should to protect the people of Australia, the special account has achieved even more significant importance. Now the Minister intends to attack the special account by forcing the funds, through Ministerial control, to transfer up to 25 per cent of the expenditure under the special account during the previous year. This same special account is to be abolished if the Government’s proposed health scheme is introduced. Hence, with the end of the special account, will come the end of many specialist private hospitals which have been serving this community for many years. The Minister obviously is either aware of the need for continued private health insurance, or he has a complete lack of faith in the likelihood of the acceptance of his own legislation; otherwise, he would not be bothering at this time to introduce such legislation. If his scheme does ever get off the ground, it is obvious that because of the inability of many Australians to obtain a hospital bed they will be forced to continue with private health insurance, no matter how expensive it is. Hence his desire for control. We reject these proposals as a completely unjust and unwarranted intrusion into the voluntary health funds.
The Opposition has no quarrel with the nursing home and handicapped children’s proposals. It supports and basically congratulates the Government for the widening of the provision related to surgical appliances. Previously this was restricted to hearing aids; now it will be widened to surgical appliances generally. The provision of appliances additional to the 2 suggested at the moment- stoma appliances and home dialysis units- will be introduced by ministerial regulation. There will be a number of future extensions of this policy to include other surgical appliances which I think we all would support if they were researched and worked out properly and cost controlled. A person could have a chronic illness which could cost the pharmaceutical benefit scheme, and hence the Government and the taxpayers, hundreds of dollars a year on repeat medicines. But if a person has some physical ailment, quite often requiring some sort of surgical appliance, he could miss out altogether. I can think of a number of other surgical appliances that hopefully will be included in the future.
There are a couple of curious aspects of the 2 reports from the Working Party on Medical and Surgical Aids and Appliances. Both reports have been published for some time- one in April and one in June. The Working Party contacted people who were expert and interested in the field of stoma appliances and kidney problems and, although these reports have been published for many months, very few, if any, of these people have been sent copies of the Working Party reports. It would seem to me to have been sensible for those people to be supplied with copies of these reports seeking their comments to see whether, although the Working Party has researched this matter, there are not ways of improving what is in the reports. I should like some assurance on a couple of points from whoever replies to this debate on behalf of the Minister. I refer to the report on the provision of stoma appliances wherein a recommendation states:
Approved colestomy and ileostomy appliances be made available, to all who need them, from hospitals operated by the State and Australian Governments; religious and charitable organisations; health centres; and stoma associations.
These appliances are required after surgery. Much surgery is done in private hospitals and not in State hospitals. Does this mean that if a person attends a private hospital rather than a State hospital he will not be entitled to the supply of these appliances from that hospital? I would like an answer from the Minister on this matter. Presumably, the proposal would include a person in a private or intermediate ward in a State hospital. However, I think an answer, particularly on the aspect of private hospitals, is desired by the people who have an interest in this subject.
There is also the question of the provision of these appliances through pharmacists in country areas. How do people manage in the country if they require these appliances but live many miles from a stoma association or a hospital that has experience in the supply of these appliances? I am told that many country people would prefer to have the supply made available through their local pharmacist. I would like an answer on this particular point also. Everyone to whom I have spoken has agreed with the recommendation that stomal therapists should be trained, on the basis of a registered nurse, and that such therapists should be available in hospitals where operations have taken place so that training in the use of appliances can be given. We evidently have in Australia a low percentage of people on home dialysis treatment for kidney failure- about 25 to 30 per cent, which is about half that of Britain and some other countries- but we do have a far higher percentage of kidney transplants than Britain and many other countries. The report mentions the forms of assistance provided at the State level until now, and the forms certainly vary from State to State.
I welcome the recommendation to provide a standardised form of assistance throughout Australia and also the move to some form of standardisation of equipment. But there is more need for careful cost control with the home dialysis equipment than with the stomal appliances, and I would be interested to hear from the Government how these proposals will be completely implemented, including the aspect of cost control. For example, I am told that one form of dialyser can be bought for about $20 and another form can be bought for twice as much. It is stated on both the $20 and the $40 packs that they are to be used only once, but experts in this field say that they can be used up to 9 times. I hope that some sort of advice can be given on this aspect of cost, which can get out of hand, as well as in relation to the safety margins of the different types of dialysers to be used and the number of repeats to be allowed in processing.
There is also the point of financial assistance for home alterations. This is accepted, but where does one stop with home alterations? Will it mean the building of a completely new room to instal the equipment? I am sure that some people will try to do this if they can get away with it, and I hope that general rules will be provided for the instalment of this equipment in the home so that people will not burden the health scheme unduly by the use of this equipment. The question of prolonging life also brings a step closer the possibility of making home dialysers available free to those who need them. There is the question of whether or not this equipment will all be free and who will make the decisions on how long life should be prolonged. The provision of dialysis equipment could be and possibly will be only the first step, and pieces of life-prolonging equipment will be available which could be very expensive. I believe that some very difficult decisions will have to be made in the future by those who are concerned in the medical area and by those who are concerned in the cost area of government about these issues.
My final point concerns the extensions of full approval to seven friendly societies in Queensland and five in South Australia. The National Health Act in 1964 froze the basic number of friendly societies in this country that would have full approval. Those societies which have commenced since that time have only limited approval, and by limited approval it is meant that they can dispense to society members but they cannot dispense to the general public, particularly at the reduced rates that apply in the society dispensaries. Some of the States have restrictions on the number of friendly societies which can be established in the State and some have no restrictions. In fact, I understand that in 2 States the entitlement is not completely filled at the present time. In Queensland there appears to be no State-imposed restriction, and this brings with it certain problems. There are too many pharmacists in existence, and I believe that the Pharmacy Guild is doing its best to reduce the numbers in order to make pharmacies more viable. There is no question by the Opposition that the friendly societies should be restricted or prevented from dispensing to their own members, which is the right of every co-operative and, as a believer in co-operatives, I support them. But the friendly societies are in a privileged position in that they are not forced to charge a $ 1 prescription fee. Under the National Health Act, general pharmacies have to charge the prescription fee and they cannot give rebates. I understand that the general fee in the friendly society pharmacies is 50c, or half the fee charged by ordinary pharmacies. If we approve these 12 additional friendly society pharmacies there is nothing to stop more pharmacies commencing in the State of Queensland on a limited approval basis and then requiring or wanting or expecting the Commonwealth Government to allow them to dispense not only to their own members, which I say they have every right to do and I congratulate them on this, but to the general public as well, and I believe that this is not in the best interests of pharmacy generally.
There is another provision in the legislation which refers to changing the age of minors in relation to the friendly societies. Until now the Act has provided that persons of 16 years or under can be accepted as members of a friendly society although they cannot join in their own right but are members through the membership of their parents. There is an updating provision in the Bill concerning full-time students at university or students who for some reason are still dependent on their parents. The Opposition accepts that this is a sensible and necessary updating of the definition of an allowable dependent for the purposes of membership of a friendly society through the parents of the dependent. It is not just the view of the Opposition on this question of friendly societies which should be considered. There are also the recommendations made by the Joint Select Committee on Pharmaceutical Benefits, which presented a report to this Parliament about 2 years ago. The Committee made this recommendation:
The Committee recommends that in the event of the Commonwealth approving any expansion of the rights of contributors to friendly society dispensaries to receive rebates for national health scheme prescriptions, other organisations should also be approved to provide similar benefits at private pharmacies on payment of a similar contribution.
At present private pharmacies are refused this. Paragraph 265 of the report and other paragraphs concerning friendly societies confirm the attitude that the Opposition has taken on this matter.
To sum up, the Opposition believes that there are both good and bad aspects of this conglomerate Bill and it will positively move in the Senate for the deletion of certain aspects covering the control of the voluntary health insurance funds as well as the extension of full approval to the 12 dispensaries. The Opposition will move for the deletion of these provisions from the Bill but it will support the positive aspects, including those relating to nursing homes, handicapped children, surgical appliances, and the change in the definition of a junior for the purpose of friendly societies.
-Dealing firstly with the comments of the last speaker, the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd), I have not discussed this matter with the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham), but the honourable member made two or three points dealing with stomal appliances and whether or not they would be distributed to patients who have been operated on in private hospitals. There is no restriction on that basis. The appliances will be distributed via hospitals and stoma associations; in other words, organisations to which people who have got stomata can belong and should belong. There will no doubt be other methods of distribution of the appliances. On the question of stomal therapists I am surprised at the attitude of the honourable member for Murray. The Opposition is usually terribly keen to keep everything for the State governments, yet the honourable member wants to bring Commonwealth stomal therapists into State hospitals. It is an interesting proposition. Finally, I am surprised at his proposition that there should be some doubt about the question of renal dialysis equipment because of its life-prolonging aspects and its cost. I do not want to make political capital out of this. I realise that there is a big question involved in how long people should be kept on a renal dialysis machine, but surely that decision has to be made by the medical practitioner who is looking after the patient and it should not be decided on the basis of the cost involved.
I have risen tonight because of the speech made by the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp). He made a ridiculous speech. He talked about anarchy and socialism and fanaticism when we are dealing with realtively minor alterations to the National Health Act.
I find that it is a great pity that the honourable member for Hotham and, for that matter, the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden ), who to me in any case are much more pleasant people than many of those on the other side, fail because they do not prepare their briefs. They do not read the Bills. This is the case with the honourable member for Hotham when he is dealing with the subject of national health, the honourable member for Moreton when he is dealing with education and the Leader of the Opposition when he is dealing with the economy. I think that it is depressing that leading members of this House make it quite obvious that they do not know what the propositions are that are being discussed. I come specifically to the proposition dealt with by the honourable member for Hotham, that in some way there will be some sort of dictatorial interference with the hospital and medical funds which are, to use his words, at present highly democratic organisations. Let us look at what kind of organisations they are. The honourable member for Hotham, in reply to one of my interjections- it was my final interjection before Mr Speaker took action against mereferred to one of the major funds in New South Wales being under Labor Party control. I would certainly like him to tell me privately what fund this is.
I would like to run quickly through a list of the major funds and point out how they are run. Let me deal first with the Medical Benefits Fund which claims to have 2.5 million contributors and dependants. There is no provision for the election of the contributors’ representatives to the governing council of the Fund. In fact, although the Fund receives about $60m to $70m in contributions from its members, the members are not entitled to vote for the council. Only medical members have a vote. Clause 7 of the articles of association of the MBF reads:
Medical members of the association shall be elected by the Council or by a committee appointed by the Council with power in that behalf.
In other words, not even every medical practitioner is a medical member of this Fund. I certainly never was. A person has to be a medical practitioner, a contributor to the Fund and then be selected by the present council of the Fund to become a medical member. One is then entitled to vote to elect that council. It is certainly an extremely undemocratic way of doing things. There has never been an opposed election. This is not surprising since the people who are elected decide who will vote for them.
The Medical Benefits Fund often denies that it is run by the Australian Medical Association for the Australian Medical Association. But let us look at this claim. The Fund was formed by 17 persons who, to use the wording of the MBF, were ‘desirous of being formed into a company’. That is a quote from their Articles of Association. Out of the 1 7 people, eight were described as surgeons, seven as medical practitioners and two as physicians. Their signatures were witnessed by officers of the then British Medical Association and fourteen of them have been BMA or AMA State Presidents. The net effect of this control by the AMA is the restriction of benefits to services rendered by medical practitioners. Even though the articles of association show quite clearly that there was never any intention to allow contributors any say, their claim now is that there is no common role for elections. That in itself is a breach of article 21 of the Fund’s articles of association. The members of the council of the Medical Benefits Fund include 12 active medical practitioners plus a consultant for the Development Finance Corporation Ltd and former deputy general manager of the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Co. Ltd, a Country Party member of the Legislative Council in New South Wales and director of country newspapers and television, another board member of Development Finance Corporation Ltd and director of 8 companies including Australian Fixed Trusts, Queensland division, Queensland Oil Refineries, the National Bank of Australasia, City Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd, Mutual Acceptance Ltd and a Tasmanian Liberal ex-member of the House of Assembly. They are the people who claim to be representing the Medical Benefits Fund contributors and controlling the policy and huge reserves of that Fund. They claim to be representative of their contributors and yet the contributors have no say whatsoever.
Let us look at the position of some of the other funds. The Hospital Benefits Association in Victoria is slightly better because it has 8 contributor representatives. But they are vastly outnumbered by the appointed representativies of other sorts of organisations. Then, we have the Medical and Hospital Association of South Australia. It operates on the basis of 100 $2 shares. The people who have those shares elect the council of the fund. The honourable member for Hotham tells us that those funds are mutual benefit organisations. But only those people who hold those shares are able to vote in the election of the council. In 1972-73, which is the last information I have, the council consisted of Mr I. McLachlin who was the chairman and president of the Liberal Party of South Australia and director of Colonial Mutual Life Association Society Ltd; Sir Clarence Rieger, who was president of the Australian Blue Cross Association, former president of the British Medical Association, former federal president of the Australian Medical Association; Mr P. Parsons, director of Television Broadcasters Ltd; Mr A. Brookman, who is the son of the late Honourable Norman Brookman, Liberal-Country Party member of State Parliament and brother of another Liberal-Country Party member and the chairman of the South Australian Seed Growers Co-operative Ltd and Sir Roland Jacobs, former chairman of the South Australian Brewing Co., Ltd and the present chairman of Executor Trustee and Agency Co. of South Australian Ltd. Then there is a barrister and a retired gentleman on the council. I am sure that they are a pretty representative crowd of the average contributor to that South Australian fund.
I will not speak much longer because our Whip is making noises behind me. However. I feel very strongly that when members of Parliament such as the honourable member for Hotham talk about the contributors being disadvantaged by the insertion into the legislation of a clause which enables a judge of the Industrial Court of Australia to appoint a judicial person to look after the funds, such honourable members are being rather hypocritical. Surely there is a complete and absolute lack of democracy in those funds. No attempt is made to establish within the funds what the view of the membership may be on the question of whether they should co-operate with the Australian Government. Surely one would expect if anybody was representing the contributors that there would be some discussion in those funds as to whether they would co-operate with the Australian Government. I certainly hope that as the time for reply from the funds has not closed yet, some of them at least will co-operate.
It has been pointed out to me that my 5 minutes has taken nearly as long as the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) took for his 5 minutes last night. 1 think it is a ridiculous proposition that is being peddled by the honourable member for Hotham that somehow or other there is an attempt by the Government to be dictatorial. To state that there will be interference with the democratically run medical funds is completely untrue. Finally, when the honourable member for Hotham released what he called the Liberal Party’s policy on the National Health Insurance Bill, he said that anybody who went to work for the proposed National Health Insurance Commission could, in years to come, be sacked if there was a return of the Liberal and Country Parties to government. All I am prepared to say is this: I am sure that when election time comes along and this National Health Insurance Commission is established the Liberal and Country Parties, if they were returned to office, would be just the same as any other political party which gained office in this country. They would cave in and say that they would guarantee the jobs of these people for ever and ever. I will be interested to see what the Liberal Party’s policy is when an election comes along next time and when the National Health Insurance Commission is established.
-The honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman), the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) and honourable members on their side of the House have been looking around in their customary way as they have been doing for so many years for an opportunity to denigrate the health funds in order to promote their particular scheme, conceived in infamy and by a couple of academics. They are trying again to continue the same process of denigration which they have engaged in quite deliberately for so many years. In doing this, I am astonished that tonight of all the funds they have chosen to denigrate the health fund in Australia which has generally been acknowledged by the officers of the Minister’s DepartmentI ask the Minister to deny this- as the best run health fund in Australia. I refer to Mutual Hospital Association of South Australia.
The honourable member for Prospect quite deliberately stood up and in a snide way quoted people like Mr Ian McLachlan, Sir Roland Jacobs and Mr Anthony Brookman to denigrate this fund. I challenge the Minister for Social Security to say that the officers of his Department who have had experience with this fund over the years would not acknowledge that this is the best organised, the best run and the most beneficial health fund in Australia. I also challenge him to say whether any of his officers would commit themselves to saying that a government run health fund could be run better and more economically than the Mutual Hospital Association of South Australia, because they darn well could not and the Minister knows it.
The Minister took over from his leader, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) 5 or 6 years ago this technique, this process of attempting to promote for his own political purposes a health scheme which will do enormous harm to the people of Australia- to the Australian taxpayers. In order to promote that he pursued a deliberate policy of denigrating these voluntary non-profit making health funds. This has been the Minister’s deliberate stock in trade for 6 or 7 years. The Minister for Social Security did not conceive it; his present leader, the Prime Minister, conceived this process of denigrating the health funds in order to promote the great monolithic, compulsory health fund to be run by the Government which the Minister is in the process of foisting on us. He did not conceive it, but he continued it and he is continuing it in this Bill.
I am astonished that this legislation is proposed at this stage when Government supporters boast that this great conception of theirs is coming to fruition, when we are going to get this great new health scheme which they have been promoting for so many years and in the getting of which they have been denigrating so many good people round Australia- the people who run the compulsory health funds; the people who do the work in the field, in the medical profession; the people in the public hospitals; the people in the private hospitals; the people in the nursing homes. All those people have been denigrated year by year in order to promote this great monolithic socialist scheme. This legislation is being proposed just as they have achieved a situation in which, according to them, the scheme will be introduced. We went to a Joint Sitting, and the Minister has told us that we are to get this scheme on 1 July next year.
In other words, the voluntary health scheme which they have denigrated over the years is to be phased out. It will disappear in the next 6 months. Yet this Minister has thought it necessary to bring before the Parliament for the remaining 6 months of the scheme a Bill to introduce additional controls over the voluntary health funds. Why? I am suspicious. I am not normally a suspicious person. But there are only 6 months to go. We are going to achieve the millenium in 6 months time, and for those 6 months we are to have these measures which will produce a situation in which any representative of a private health fund who defies the Minister’s directions can be subject to penalties. It has been found necessary to introduce for those 6 months something which has never been found necessary until now in the whole history of the voluntary health scheme since it was first introduced many years ago.
This legislation is designed to enable the Minister to transfer reserves from the medical funds to the hospital funds even though the people who contribute to those different funds are not the same people. To me this is sheer daylight robbery. It is deceit. It is taking money contributed by people for a particular purpose and transferring it to another purpose for which the contributors have not given their permission. This is theft. This is robbery. Do you know what it is designed for, Mr Deputy Speaker? I am suspicious. It is designed for one of 2 purposes or both. The first purpose is to reduce the Government’s own subvention, which it has been paying ever since it came in as a government, to the voluntary health schemes- to use the contributors’ reserves to take over the obligations which should be accepted by the Government. The other and probably most important purpose in the mind of the Minister for Social Security is to use this legislation as a device against the stated decision of the courts of the land which found against him in New South Wales recently. He can use this as a device to expropriate the reserves of the voluntary health funds before his iniquitous social scheme is brought in.
Government supporters have discovered something else in these dying hours of the voluntary health scheme, these last 6 months before it is to disappear forever according to them. They have told us it is going to disappear. I sometimes wonder whether they have any real confidence that the voluntary health scheme is going to disappear. There are a number of reasons why it would not disappear. One of the reasons would be that the Government’s scheme will not be ready. Might it be true that the Government is running into difficulties with its scheme, that on 1 July next year this much vaunted socialist scheme will not be ready to take over, and that the Government foresees a continuation of the voluntary scheme for much longer? Or perhaps there is an alternative scenario. Perhaps the Government supporters have divined that they might not be in office on 1 July next year. I do not know. This might be in their minds. In any case, in these last dying 6 months of the scheme they have suddenly discovered the special account provision.
Let me remind the House what the Minister had to say about the special account. He said:
It must be realised that the special account system was designed by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government to prop up the health benefits funds.
He also said:
The special accounts machinery provides a hidden sur -i-.h to medical and hospital benefits funds and the structure of the legislation is such that the system can be manipulated to the advantage of organisations.
The same old thing- bash the organisations, denigrate the organisations, denigrate the previous Government because by doing that you will put it into disfavour and you will establish a basis for public acceptance of your own monolithic socialist scheme. I can remember that over the years first of all the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) when he was Leader of the Opposition and followed by the present Minister for Social Security when he was the shadow Minister for Health never used to talk about the special account. We never heard about it. The only thing we heard from the Minister for Social Security and from the person who is described as his Leader was the inadequacy of the then Government’s contribution to the hospital benefits scheme. Time after time the Minister for Social Security stood and talked about the $2 a day which was provided as a Commonwealth contribution to the hospital benefits scheme. He reminded us that that had remained static for many many years, and so it had. But did we hear the Minister or the Prime Minister at that stage talk about the special account about which they are so concerned now that they are seeking to do something about it in this legislation? Of course we did not. The reason we did not was that for their own political purposes they wanted to make it appear that the only money which the LiberalCountry Party Government put into the hospital benefits scheme was through the $2 a day, when in fact of course as time went on and as a result of a decision by the then Liberal-Country Party Government, we chose quite deliberately to improve the situation in relation to special account contributors because we judged that they were the people most in need. The then Opposition knew that. The present Minister for
Social Security knew this. He knew that the reason why we did not increase the $2 a day was to widen gradually the ambit of the special account because after all the special account provides for people who are in hospital for lengthy periods, people who otherwise would have waiting rules imposed on them by the funds and other restrictions. The Minister knew that these were the people who were most in need, and allegedly his Party stood for a system which gave the greatest benefit to the people who were in the greatest need.
But did they mention the special account when in Opposition? Of course they did not. All they did was to concentrate on the inadequacy of the $2 a day most of which was provided to the people who were not most in need. Now in the last 6 months, in the so-called dying era of the voluntary health scheme, they move to deprive the people most in need of the special account provisions. I shall not go on; there are other people who want to speak on this measure. I would just sum up by saying: I believe that this Bill, brought in in the dying hours of the voluntary health scheme, as the Government sees it, is symptomatic of the deceit which has been exercised by the Labor Party in relation to the health scheme ever since 2 people called Deeble and Scotton came along and said to it: ‘We have got a nice tidy little compulsory socialistic scheme which you can sell to the Australian people and which will help you get back into office’. Ever since then it has been one continuous record of deceit, one continuous record of denigration of the voluntary health funds, denigration of the medical profession, denigration of the hospitals, denigration of the nursing homes -
– And of yourself.
– Yes, denigration of me. But that does not matter. That was probably the only denigration which was justified. But I am here and I am a member of this Parliament. I am paid to take this sort of thing. The people about whom I am talking are not paid to take this sort of thing. Most of them are people who are in it because they are committed and devoted to health carethe people who run the health benefit funds; the people whom the honourable member for Prospect denigrated tonight. Unlike him, they are not professional doers. They are not paid to do this. Mr Ian McLachlan is not paid to do his job. Mr Anthony Brookman is not paid to do his. Sir Roland Jacobs is not paid to do his. This is true of any members of the boards of voluntary health funds around Australia. Even if they wanted to be paid we provided that they were not. The Mutual Hospital Association in South
Australia- the honourable member denigrated the people who belong to this organisation- is a good example of what these organisations have done alone. The Mutual Hospital Association was established long before the present scheme was devised, long before there was a health scheme at all because the people who established it had a feeling for the public. So let the Minister not denigrate people who are dedicated and have been working devotedly whether it be in the health funds, in the medical profession, in the nursing profession or in the hospital profession. I know of nothing so infamous in the political history of this country. This Bill is an outstanding example of what the Labor Party has been trying to do for many, many years.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-We have just heard one of the great speeches of this session by the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes).
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Chipp’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Question put:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr Hayden) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
-I will not detain the House for more than a moment. I know that the Government has business to get through. But what I deplore on a Bill which is so fundamental -
Order! The level of conversation in the chamber is far too high. The business of the House will not resume until the House comes to order.
-I said earlier in the debate that we regarded this National Health Bill as one of the most naked and blatant assaults on the private health insurance funds. It is a most insidious way of introducing through the back door the Government’s so-called Hayden health scheme. Several honourable members on this side of the House spoke. We asked questions of both the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) and the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham).
– Order! I ask honourable members to observe the Standing Orders and to take their seats. I ask them not to stand in the aisles and not to conduct conversations at such a high level that the honourable member for Hotham cannot be heard.
-As I have just said this Bill contains components which are fundamentally amendments to legislation which is proposed by the Minister for Social Security and by the Minister for Health. It is a dichotomised Bill. Several speakers spoke sincerely criticising those proposed amendments, expecting that we would get a responsible reply from both Ministers. The Government knew that there was only one, or at the most, two further speakers from this side of the House. The Government put up only one speaker throughout the whole of this important debate, the honourable member for Henty.
– He was good, though.
-He was Mrs Child. The Minister was not here.
– I was. I was in charge for an hour and a half. The honourable member for Prospect, Dr Klugman, spoke. There were 2 speakers.
Mr CHIPP Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask for your protection.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! On 3 occasions I have asked for the House to come to order. I will issue no further warnings. I will name the next honourable member who offends.
– We would have thought that at this relatively early hour in the evening -
– There are three or four honourable members standing over on that side of the House.
– I warn the honourable member for the Northern Territory.
– You must be joking.
– I name the honourable member for the Northern Territory.
– Before I move that the honourable member for the Northern Territory be suspended from the service of the House I wonder whether he desires to tender an apology?
- Mr Deputy Speaker, you were complaining about people standing in the House and talking in the aisles. The honourable members over there -
-Order! The honourable member for the Northern Territory will resume his seat. He knows that there was excessive noise. I warned him.
– I apologise.
– I then named the honourable member. If he follows the course which the Leader of the House has suggested, I will accept that.
– I apologise.
– I call the honourable member for Hotham.
-We on this side of the House have co-operated with the Government this week on the social security measures to the best of our ability. Tonight we thought that because it was only the honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley) and the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) from this side of the House who had their names down to speak, because it is so early and because this is such a fundamental Bill, those 2 honourable members would have been allowed to speak. The Minister for Social Security did not reply and was not in the House for most of the debate. I understand that there has been a panic meeting of the kitchen cabinet tonight on some extra panic measure introduced by the Government. There was no response from the Minister for Health. We believe that this sort of tactic is treating the Opposition with contempt after it has, in fact, tried to co-operate with the Government. All I say in relation to this third reading is that we deprecate these kinds of tactics. The questions asked during the second reading debate by the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes), the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) and myself will remain unanswered. We believe that we have been treated with a contempt that we do not deserve.
-This legislation is far reaching in its import. It is legislation-
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 2 October, on motion by Dr Cass:
That the BUI 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 States Grants (Nature Conservation) Bill, as they are related measures. Separate questions will of course be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 2 measures? As there is no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– I preface my comments on the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Bill and also the States Grants (Nature Conservation) Bill by thanking the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) for his frank and ready co-operation in an endeavour to reach consensus on a number of matters that have concerned the Opposition. One cannot help but commend the Minister for the initiatives he has taken. The Opposition has some criticisms of the drafting of the Bill and also of the means by which it seeks to achieve the objectives which the Minister sets out in his second reading speech. However, I do not have any reservations about the Minister’s sincerity or his concern. I also appreciate the readiness with which he has offered me his co-operation and that of the officers of his Department.
I am sure that the Minister agrees with the view that the environment does not belong to any one group or party or section of the community. It belongs to and embraces everyone. It evokes the past, it belongs to the future and it is the responsibility of the present. For that reason I would deplore any attempt to play party politics in dealing with a Bill of this nature. Co-operation rather than confrontation is certainly what I, speaking on behalf of the Opposition, will offer to the Government. We need co-operation amongst the members of this Parliament, amongst Federal, State and local government bodies, and amongst parties at all levels and the community at large. The people must know what we are seeking to achieve and how and why we will achieve it. It was an essentially practical politician, President Pompidou, who coined the phrase ‘environment ethic’. A French writer explained:
The need for such an ethic is only too obvious. It would be impossible to pin down all the factors that influence the quality of life and to reshape and codify them into a rule bookone that stood a ghost’s chance of being respected- without the general support of the public, or at least its benevolent neutrality. Each person who makes noise or otherwise contributes to polluting the environment -
Or, I would add, transgresses the regulations governing a national park- cannot be shadowed by a policeman 24 hours a day to keep him in line. In exercising his freedom the individual must respect the feedom of others. Hence the need for him to live by a set of rules that he himself has acquired more by education or by the example of his elders than by logic or morality.
I ask the Minister to accept the Opposition ‘s criticism of the Bill and the amendments which the Opposition proposes as being prompted by the wish to see a wider acceptance of this environment ethic, and to see this Bill becoming a potent force in securing that acceptance.
I wish to deal with the Bill as a whole, but not in detail. Other speakers from the Opposition will devote their attention to other aspects of the legislation. I understand that the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) will deal with some of the constitutional factors that arise from the Bill and the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) will deal with the powers of rangers, etc. My colleague and friend the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) will bring to the Minister’s attention some of the factors relating to wildlife conservation in the Northern Territory. The Minister, in his second reading speech, stated:
The Bill proposes the establishment of a professional service to enable the Australian Government, for the first time, to bring a co-ordinated approach to the management of nature conservation resources in areas under its direct control.
The Opposition is in broad agreement with this proposal, with the reservation that every effort must be made to ensure that in the Northern Territory, for instance, the local authorities are involved in both an advisory and administrative capacity. The Minister went on to say:
The Government will move quickly for the proclamation of a number of outstanding areas. Foremost is the proposed Kakadu National Park.
The Minister quoted the words of my predecessor as Minster for the Interior, the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon). I think it was in 1970, when indicating the former Government’s intention to survey and develop a park in the top end of the Northern Territory, that he said that the areas ‘could produce a great park for public interest and enjoyment as well as making a major contribution to conservation’. Naturally I agree with the view that he expressed then and the view that the Minister has expressed since. I approve of the avowed intention of the Minister. However, I do not consider that the announcement of the proposed proclamation is anything more than a declaration of good intent on the Minister’s part at this stage. The issue in the Northern Territory is a broader one than the mere proclamation of one national park, with the promise of more to follow. The future of all the 37 reserves under the control of the Northern Territory Reserves Board is the real point at issue. The Minister has very rightly sought the comments of the Board on the proposed legislation. The Chairman of the Board has sent me a copy of his comments and I think they deserve serious consideration. The main recommendations made by the Board are:
The Board resolved that it be suggested to the Minister Tor the Northern Territory that he recommit to Cabinet its decision concerning some of the functions allotted to the Department of Environment and Conservation, to enable it to take account of some aspects of this matter that may have been overlooked when its decision was made.
For example, the Board recommends that-
Responsibility for national parks and wildlife remain under local control.
b ) National parks and wildlife be combined
The controlling body be a statutory authority and not a branch of the Department of the Northern Territory.
) It be adequately staffed and better funded.
The Reserves Board be restructured.
The Board considers that the Department of the Environment and Conservation should act as a policy body and give assistance with finance, co-ordination etc., for all States and Territories.
I draw the Minister’s attention to the relevant portions of the report of the Committee of Inquiry into the National Estate. Chapter 3, paragraph 235 of the report states:
Perhaps of all the parks authorities in Australia, the Northern Territory Reserves Board stands out as one which exercises unequivocal control over its areas, subject to limitations of staff and finance.
It then quotes from the Reserves Board’s submission to the Committee, which states:
It is considered that a land use study should be conducted as a matter of urgency so that the land and resources of the Northern Territory can be used to the best adavan.tage . . . It is the Board’s opinion that unless this opportunity is seized by the Australian Government at an early date the extent and value of available land will deteriorate rapidly.
Knowing the Minister’s commitment to the cause which this Bill is intended to promote, I feel confident that he will appreciate the urgency of the situation and the importance of the views of the Northern Territory Board members and of the Committee of Inquiry into the National Estate. I feel confident that he will appreciate the opportunity presented to him of making the national park system in the Northern Territory a model of enlightened and far sighted cooperation at all levels of government. I ask him to consider the views of the newly elected members of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. I was asked to quote from a telegram I received on 18 November 1974 from Dr Goff Letts, who is the majority leader in the Legislative Assembly. It reads as follows:
National Parks and Wildlife Bill due further consideration this week will have greatest impact Northern Territory. There have been no public hearings or proper consultations as suggested in first principle of stated functions of Department of the Environment and Conservation. I have prepared statement for first meeting Legislative Assembly this week. Not opposed certain concepts in Bill, for example greater national co-ordination, facilities for training, consolidation existing statutes and organisations but must insist on local participation in control and management wildlife and national parks. Without any consultation the Canberra Bill will supersede local legislation. Minor amendments not enough. Recommend defer or withdraw Bill until (a) Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Northern Territory tables report, (b) Government considers executive role newly elected Assembly after studying above report, (c) Ministers for the Northern Territory and the Environment have discussions with Assembly representatives, (d) Northern Territory public properly consulted. Further passage Bill this week would show contempt Territory people and the new Assembly.
This matter was given due consideration, but the Opposition was not of the view that it should be deferred at this stage. It believes that the views of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly should be noted, considered and dealt with in a proper way by the Minister and his Department. For that reason I move the following amendment to the motion for the second reading:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘Whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, this House is of the opinion that the Legislative Assembly for the Northern Territory should not have been bypassed and that statutory authorities and voluntary environmental and conservation groups in the Territory should be directly and continuously involved in the preparation and review of the plans of management and the administration of parks, reserves and wilderness zones within the Northern Territory’.
The Minister stated that the second objective of establishing a national parks and wildlife service was to ‘facilitate co-operation with the States in the national nature conservation effort’. The States Grants (National Conservation) Bill, which provides $9m to the States for nature conservation purposes, is a highly desirable objective. I commend the Government and the Minister on this Bill and on the initiative that has been taken to assist the States in acquiring suitable additional areas for national parks, reserves, sanctuaries and wilderness areas within their own boundaries.
The Minister stated that the Council of Nature Conservation Ministers, set up on this Government’s initiative, will help in the development of a national approach to the conservation of our unique fauna and flora. Undoubtedly we all support the objective and the initiative of the Government in this regard. CommonwealthState co-operation in this area is essential. If a national approach is to develop the States will be looking to the Federal Government for reassurance. The first requirement will be that the Federal Govenment does not intend to take over State responsibilities for their proclaimed national parks and duplicate nature conservation programs in the States, and secondly, that it does not intend to override the States in regard to wildlife control. With regard to the former, I would like to remind the House that the achievement of some of the States and the Northern Territory Reserves Board in the declaration of national parks and State parks is outstanding. I have already mentioned that the Northern Territory Reserves Board has successfully developed 37 reserves during the past 1 8 years. The honourable member for the Northern Territory was for many years one of the driving forces in the Board’s achievements. Certainly the efforts of Colonel Rose, who I think has retired, have been monumental in the field of nature conservation in the Northern Territory. He was one of the great pioneers of conservation in the Territory.
In New South Wales declared park areas have more than doubled in the last 8 years and now total over 4 million acres. Few honourable members would be aware of the fact that within a radius of 72 miles of the centre of Sydney 18 per cent of the land is parkland- a figure matched by few other cities in the world. It would be the height of folly to disrupt or duplicate the efforts which the States have already exerted in this field. For that reason I propose to move an amendment to this Bill which is designed to prevent the Federal Government from taking over the States’ responsibilities in existing reserves unless requested to do so.
In the second area of concern- the preservation of the rights of the States in regard to wildlife control- the Minister expressed the hope that the Council of Nature Conservation Ministers would help to achieve co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States. I am afraid that this hope is some way from being realised. In its present form and in the present climate of opinion the Council is achieving and is likely to achieve very little. As the Minister will recall, this Council was established on 2 1 January 1 974 to replace a regular conference of national parks Ministers which was achieving considerable success in developing a national approach. The attitude of one of the State Ministers was expressed in these words:
The Council of Nature Conservation Ministers has been singularly unsuccessful in this regard, and this has been due to the present Government’s actions in respect of kangaroo conservation -
Another Minister’s comments were more trenchant. He wrote:
One of the first actions taken by Dr Cass was to promote the formation of a Council of Nature Conservation Ministers. So successful has this been in promoting Federal Government assistance and co-ordination that New South Wales has refused to join and the 2 meetings I have attended have been taken up with round-the-table wrangling on the kangaroo export ban. The difficulty is that the only Federal Minister with any constitutional power in this field is not even a member of the Council. I refer to Senator Murphy, who is using his Customs powers to implement major conservation policy. The situation is untenable.
The same Minister said of Senator Murphy’s intervention:
The action of Senator Murphy in banning kangaroo exports, taken unilaterally, not even on the advice of Dr Cass, but on the advice of Professor Harry Messel, a physics professor, and Marion Newman, a Washington housewife, has made the present Government a laughing stock in country areas. Reputable scientists in the States and CSIRO are astounded and dismayed that their advice was not sought prior to Senator Murphy taking this action.
I have quoted enough to show that something less than perfect confidence exists between the Federal and State governments on this issue. The House should bear this in mind when debating this Bill. Properly drafted, and enjoying support from all parties, it could be a major instrument for allaying the fears of the States and laying sure foundations for future co-operation.
So much for the Opposition’s general feelings about the Bill. Before looking at some of the clauses I want to make a few other comments. This Bill provides a broad framework for the Australian Government to establish and manage national parks, reserves, wilderness areas and sanctuaries anywhere in Australia or in the coastal seas. It would appear that the constitutional powers relied upon to enable the Australian Government to achieve its objectives in this Bill are to be found in clauses 5 and 6. Clause 5 states:
This Act binds the Crown in right of Australia or of a State.
Clause 6, however, is the key to the Bill. This clause purports to set out the objects of Part II of the Bill. It states that the heads of power relied upon are the appropriation power, the Territories power, the power with respect to Territorial water and the Continental Shelf, the external affairs power, and the trade and commerce power. However, I will leave matters relating to the constitutional aspects of this legislation to my colleague, the honourable member for Went.worth (Mr Ellicott)
I turn now to the clauses that have been of concern to the Opposition. Broadly, they can be summed up as follows: First, there appears to be provision for the Commonwealth to acquire existing areas proclaimed as reserves or wilderness areas in the States, I seek an assurance from the Minister that this is not the intention of the Australian Government. Secondly, it is clear that the Government has vested power in itself under the provisions of this Bill to proclaim any land in the States vested in the Commonwealth either as a national park, reseve or wilderness area, and place it under the control of the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. While I do not in” any way argue against the Australian Govenment exercising its powers in this regard in the interests of conservation, the Opposition is concerned that such actions could be taken without consultations with the States concerned. Moreover, I believe that if the Australian Government acquired and proclaimed any areas under its control in the States in the interests of nature and wildlife consevation. the management should be vested in the State wildlife services if the States express a wish to have it so. On the other hand, if a State felt that the Director of the Australian Government’s National Parks and Wildlife Service was better equipped, the Australian service should be able to undertake the management. Any other policy would lead to massive duplication of effort and ultimatley friction between the Australian service and the State services. Such confrontation should be avoided at all costs. It is not in the interests of conservation, of efficient usage of resources or cooperation. We want co-operation with the States, not confrontation.
The third area of contention is the mining section provided for in clause 10 of the Bill. Let us look at the best feature first. This clause is involved with the plan of management principle and the prohibition of mining in wilderness areas. I think they are excellent provisions. However, one wonders why clause 10 (2) is worded the way it is if private enterprise can mine in a park or reserve, provided such activity accords with a plan of management. I personally have some reservations about mining in national parks but I accept the view that came out of a report from the Advisory Committee to the Minister for National Resources on the revision of the Mining Act in Ontario- a view, I am sure, adhered to by the Minister and a great number of conservationists, that if mining in national parks is to be prevented the chances of getting national parks will be very remote indeed.
In spite of verbal assurances, it is doubtful whether clause 10 allows mining by the private sector. One also wonders why the Minister for Minerals and Energy is empowered to give approval. In any event why should not the GovernorGeneral make such an important decision instead of just the Minister for Minerals and Energy? Why should not the whole Cabinet do so? As clause 10 stands it appears that, if an exploration company found a viable mineral deposit within a park, it would then require the approval of the Director, the 2 Ministers and both Houses of Parliament before the company could begin development. Of course, it would have to meet all the stringent provisions of the plans of management before it could begin to operate. Indeed it should.
Fourthly clauses 11(2) and 11(10), as they were worded, were the cause of some concern because of the apparent lack of consultation with existing land owners, home owners etcetera who would be within the vicinity of an area to be proclaimed as a park or within the park itself. I am pleased to say that the Minister has taken measures, in the amendment circulated, to ensure that adequate public notice is given to all persons with an interest or involved in the area before a proclamation is made. I think that is terribly important. The fifth area of concern is clause 19, where it is clear that the Minister believes that his head of power under the external affairs provisions of the Constitution, as a result of having signed international agreements, is such that he has the power over all wildlife in Australia. Not only will the Director, subject to the Minister’s approval, have powers to manage parks and reserves in Commonwealth Territories but he will be empowered to control wildlife throughout Australia not necessarily on reserves, and will formulate and control culling and commercial harvesting of wildlife, again not necessarily on reserves. God forbid that such powers should be concentrated in Canberrra. This provision would create hostility, confusion and, in my view, very poor administration unless there is consultation and co-operation with the States. On behalf of the Opposition I will move to amend clause 19 to ensure that there is Commonwealth and State co-operation in such a program and to ensure that the States are not rendered powerless in this area. I could not imagine that a centralised service situated in Canberra could administer regulations relating to wildlife control in Western Australia any better than, or indeed as well as, a similar service situated in Perth. I hope the Minister will give very serious consideration to accepting the amendment.
The sixth area of concern is in the clause dealing with powers of wardens and rangers. I am pleased to say that the Minister agreed to modify some clauses after some discussions I had with him. The Opposition is concerned also about clause 65, the averment provision. My colleague, the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock), will be moving an amendment in regard to this matter. The other areas of deep concern rest in the regulation making powers and we will move to amend the clause in accordance with normal provisions and prudence. As I said earlier, the clause dealing with the Northern Territory is one of great concern and one to which I hope the Minister will give due consideration.
The Opposition supports the initiatives which the Government is taking with regard to the management of nature conservation resources in areas under its direct control. It is concerned, however, that this be done with the full cooperation of the people of the Northern Territory, its authorities, and also with the authorities and the people of the States. We particularly approve the suggestion made by the Board in its submission to the Committee of Inquiry into the National Estate. I mentioned that earlier. I believe also that the Commonwealth should set out in this Bill, indeed in all the other Bills relating to the care and the preservation of the environment, to seek the closest co-operation with all the governments and statutory authorities. Unless this is done, I do not think we will promote the sort of attitude in the public that will be necessary to achieve the targets that the Minister, the Government and others are seeking. The Opposition supports the State Grants (Nature Conservation) Bill without reservation. It moves an amendment to the motion for the second reading in regard to the Northern Territory and will also be moving amendments in accordance with the views that I have expressed in the course of my second reading speech.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– I express some regret that these 2 Bills are being discussed in cognate debate at this particular stage of the sittings of the House because I feel that they are far too significant in their content to be allowed only perfunctory debate. One of the problems is that with regard to national parks and wildlife conservation there seems to be a general attitude amongst legislators that only ‘eco nuts’ are interested in this sort of situation. Of course, closer examination reveals that there is far more to it than this. There is not only the matter of enjoyment of life and enjoyment of these factors by the community but there is on analysis, a very complex economic structure involved in these matters, and not just involved with preservation of the areas but involved with people who visit them and all the things that flow from them. I hope I will get a chance to expand on that a little later in the debate.
I have no quarrel with the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) when he says that Commonwealth-States co-operation will be essential. Of course it will be essential, but his approach seems predicated on the premise that the Commonwealth is already deeply involved in this field and has an overriding influence, and that of course no service established by the Commonwealth and administered centrally could be effective. May I remind the honourable member that in the United States of America the first national park was Yellowstone, which was established in 1872. Since then, through successive Congressional enactments a system has developed containing 250 parks in the 50 States and in Puerto Rico and in the Virgin Islands. Along with that there has developed also a system of State parks, and not only is the service well conducted at both levels but there is significant co-operation. We in fact are a very late starter in this field of national parks and their coordination. I think the honourable member has failed to realise that. The National Park Service in America, which operates on a national basis, has now been in existence for 58 years and we are just getting around to the same sort of organisation and to getting the same sort of pride in service as America has. If we are going to consider the question of national parks and wildlife conservation, I should like to quote from the foreword to a book titled ‘Criteria for Parklands ‘, which is published by the National Park Service of the United States. The foreword states:
One of the vital elements of conservation in any country in any time is the preservation of those places of beauty and history which give meaning amd substance to the national character.
This is neither antiquarianism nor barren pride in past glory or scenic wonders. ‘It is something that gives us deep assurance and a sense of destiny and a determination to hold on fast to the great things that have been done through valor and imagination by those who have gone before us.’
If, in our time, we are to conserve the great cultural and natural resources of this Nation, it will demand the combined efforts of Federal, State, and local governments, citizens’ organizations, and individuals.
It is that sort of national aspect that I want to emphasise. We must not overlook the fact that States already have established national parks. The Government is seeking to see that further areas are set aside in a proper national system. In his amendment the honourable member states that the Legislative Assembly for the Northern Territory was not consulted. I know that the honourable member, with his experience as a Minister, knows that legislation such as this is not produced in a couple of weeks; it takes some time. In fact, the truth of the matter is that in the Northern Territory on 6 November 1973 senior officers of the Department of the Environment and Conservation attended a meeting in Darwin of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. The Government leader in the Council at that time drew the Council’s attention to the availability of these officers to discuss the proposed National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Bill. Only 2 members of the Legislative Council took the opportunity to have these discussions with the officers. Discussions on this Bill took place with the Secretary of the Department of the Northern Territory and with the Reserves Board. Further, senior officers of the Department spoke at a public seminar in Darwin on 27 April of” this year. So I think it is drawing the long bow and aggravating the situation to suggest that there was lack of consultation. Legislation is not created overnight, and when we are already 50 years or more behind most of the developed countries of the world in this respect it is time to get a move on and get this legislation before the House.
In the period from 1969 to 1972 the Joint Committee on Wildlife Conservation made representations to the Parliament on this matter. The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) was a member of that Committee and will know the feelings that it expressed. It wished to see that a national policy be initiated and that we acquire such portion of the total land area of each State and Territory in the form of secure national parks and reserves to ensure that all habitat types will be preserved.
This is a co-existent matter, a matter not only of the national service but of the State or Territorial services as well. In particular, the Australian Government had a responsibility to get under its control such areas in its Territories- the A.C.T. and the Northern Territory. The States Grants (Nature Conservation) Bill is a Bill which will provide finance for the State governments to become further active in this area. To suggest that the Bills imply an antagonism to the established State parks and wildlife services is, I think, drawing the long bow in the extreme.
The question of land use generally arises along with this and with the recommendations of the Committee, and the honourable member for Gwydir made some mention of this. There is developing a system of land use authorities in the Territories and in the States, and here again I shall refer honourable members to the report for 1973-74 of the Australian Biological Resources Study Interim Council, which honourable members received last week. There are 2 sections in the report which concern land usage. The first section at page 4 is headed ‘Ecologically oriented studies’ and the second section at page 5 is headed ‘Relationship to Funding by the Department of Environment and Conservation’. The report points out that although the biological resources study has started -
-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 rise tonight to draw to the attention of the House the rapid and massive changes which are taking place in the relations between the industrialised countries and the developing world, so-called, and the implications for the long established objective, or the program, of aid, for developing countries. At the present time, the commitment to international aid and development is more, rather than less, critical than it has ever been for the political and economic stability of the world and, thereby, Australia. The reason for this is that the world has shrunk. Modern communications are so much faster and more effective and, I might add, there are new ways of bringing to bear the problems and aspirations of the under-privileged, economically and politically.
The fact is however that at this time it has to be reckoned that the developed countries have failed in the voluntary- albeit politically motivated to a significant degree- international aid and development programs as widely known and understood in the post World War II period. Proportionately, the international aid effort is less now than it was in the 1 950s and early 1 960s. We used to hear so much of the aid target of one per cent of gross national product. For official development aid the target was to be a minimum of 0.7 of one per cent of gross national product by 1975. What is Australia’s position? It is proposed in the Budget Papers which were distributed with the Budget:
To work towards the achievement of this target by Australia by the end of the current decade.
The United Nations target was 0.7 per cent of GNP by 1975! Meanwhile for 1973 the proportion of aid was 0.44 of one per cent.
– Point five per cent.
-The official figure is 0.44 of one per cent. That is a miserable performance, with Australia ranking eighth out of 17 donor countries. The table I have before me shows that the level of aid has fallen from 0.59 of one per cent in 1 970. 1 repeat that it is a miserable performance for a Government that made so much of this issue during the run up to the December 1972 Federal election and since that time. The only thing that can be said in our favour is that Australia is not alone in this trend. The average contribution, as is given in this table showing the donor countries, has fallen from 0.34 of one per cent of GNP in 1 970 to 0.3 of one per cent of GNP. So it can be said that the voluntary international aid program has failed.
Into this situation has sprung a new and powerful factor. It has always been a major objective or purpose of the developing countries, not just to receive aid directly, but also to achieve additional resources for development through international arrangements to stabilise and raise the prices of their commodity exports. This brings us right up to the moment. One group of predominantly developing countries, the members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries with the Arab countries in the dominant position, has taken hold of the situation. Beginning in the last quarter of 1973, just last year, they have deliberately and systematically increased the price of oil four to five fold. The significance of that for the whole world economic and social order is of massive, historic proportions. For one thing, the impact on the non-oil producing- the resources-poor among the developing countries- is difficult to the point of catastrophic.
We have to think in terms of 4 world groups today. There is the industrial West; there is Russia and the eastern bloc; and among the developing countries, a third world- the oil rich of the developing countries; and the fourth world, the non-oil producing developing countries. I repeat that the impact on the latter group is difficult to the point of catastrophic. Hence the recent United Nations General Assembly’s undertaking to provide a special $3 billion of aid at once to enable those countries hardest hit by the higher oil price to meet their bills for essential imports. As famine for many millions of people in these countries is not only their immediate situation but also a prospectively continuing one, we have the proposals which were put forward at the recent World Food Conference.
But of more direct concern to us is the impact on the industrial West. There is a problem, as I have said, of quite historic proportions which confronts these countries. It is not only an economic problem but also a social and political problem as well. Witness the leverage which the massive money deposits of Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries and specifically Arab money in some European countries, will enable to be brought to bear. I am thinking of the balance of power in the Middle East. But the immediate effect of the quintupling of oil prices is to create a situation in which the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries are accumulating an annual surplus, vis a vis the rest of the world, variously estimated at $60 billion to $80 billion annually, with a corresponding deficit by the oil importing countries, principally the industrialised West. In real terms, in contrast to money terms, what is involved is a potential massive transfer of resources from the developed world to the oil rich developing world.
One can illustrate it, dramatise it, by the report that at the time of the visit to this country of the Shah of Iran he had ordered from France some 5 nuclear power stations, half a dozen major plants or factories, including a steel plant, three or more railways, and so on. What I am saying is that that will amount to a massive transfer of real wealth, real goods, to Iran from the French whose standard of living will not grow over the next years as resources which would have produced things for them, produce these power stations, factories, and so on, for the Shah. There would perhaps be some poetic justice in it, were it not such a threat to the stability of the whole Western world. Whereas, as I said, the voluntary aid program could be said to have failed, now here we have a forced massive transfer to at least one group of the developing countries of a very large order.
As I said a moment ago, there is a ‘potential’ massive transfer. The process is of such massive proportions that there is no way in which the world can adjust overnight. Glib talk of recycling petro-dollars is a dangerous, not to say treacherous, over-simplification. But ways must be found in the interests of both sides of solving the problem. For the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, massive money deposits in Western countries will be more than worthless pieces of paper or book entries, only so long as the industrialised West remains viable and strong. Push the process of transfer too hard, too fast, and both sides will lose. There has to be mutual accommodation and one that embraces the other, the poor developing countries as wellwith United States food exports also a major factor in the balance. That is the task which confronts us. If some years back we could proceed in a relaxed way with international aid and development as a matter of little urgency, that has all changed. There is a new ball game. As the Economist’ of 16 November put it, with the Middle East situation very much in mind, ‘it is later than you think’. It is very much so if, as that sober and responsible journal also suggests, the issue of a fair oil price and the international economic adjustment to it is now tangled up with the issue of a fair Arab-Israeli settlement. It is fervently to be hoped that world good senseeconomic and political sense- will rise to the occasion. Let Australia’s voice, small though undoubtedly it is, and Australia’s resolve be directed to the devising of a viable and just world solution to this problem.
– I want to address the House for a short period this evening on the matter of the overseas visit of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam).There has probably never been a time when a Prime Minister of Australia has been subjected to such a pillorying by the media, nor has a Prime Minister been subjected to such a cheap, miserable attack by the Opposition. I want to say at the outset that the Prime Minister of Australia, irrespective of which person that happens to be at any given time, has an obligation to visit overseas nations. At this time there is a particular obligation on the Prime Minister to travel abroad.
Never since Federation has Australia needed to be represented abroad by a head of government so much as now and never has Australia been represented better than it is at present. Never since Federation has Australia needed more co-operation and understanding in international affairs than we need at present. Our economic dependence and the interdependence of nations throughout the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, throughout the so-called Western developed world, have never green greater than at present. In all those countries there is the twin problem of inflation and growing unemployment. It is useless to try to isolate the problem for cheap and narrow political advantage and to say that it is in some way confined within the borders of Australia.
– It is worse in some countries than in others.
– I would remind those who claim high academic qualifications to read a little once in a while and to come to grips with reality rather than to mouth useless high-sounding phrases in this Parliament from time to time. I am convinced and confident that Australia will have a bright economy next year, that by April or May there will be a completely different complexion on this economy. But it does to a large extent depend on Australia’s trading partners also experiencing a return to sound economic conditions.
Those who say that Australia is not dependent to a large extent on the economies of the United Kingdom, Europe, North America, Japan and New Zealand are either fools or liars. They can take their choice which hat they put on but one or the other is the proper description of persons who deny that basic principle.
Some criticism has been raised about the Prime Minister’s trip. I asked the Prime Minister a question about this yesterday. Some criticism has been made of the Prime Minister for daring to charter a Qantas aircraft to take him and his party on overseas visits. Two broad reasons have evolved from the discussions. Firstly, there is the question of cost. It has been illustrated cheaper than to go by ordinary commercial flight.
The second and more important reason is that of security. Surely no member of this House would deny that the Prime Minister of Australia would be a rich and prize target for hijackers and kidnappers. Any Head of State would make a very rich prize indeed. Of course there will be those who say: ‘It could not happen. It would not happen to the Prime Minister of Australia’. I ask honourable members to cast their minds back just a few years- to less than a decade ago, on 22 November 1963- when a young President of the United States of America refused to put a bubble top on a car and was driving through a cheering crowd when the crack of a rifle was heard and a light went out around the world.
It is of no use tempting fate and it is of no use saying: ‘It cannot happen’. We have seen week after week, year after year in recent times, aircraft being hijacked and people being arrested at gunpoint by criminals throughout the world and held to ransom. We should be very careful indeed not to subject any political leaders in Australiawhether from this side or from elsewhere, from this national Parliament or from any State- to undue risk. Those who represent a rich prize for those who would hold them to ransom .) should be fully protected irrespective of the cost. How much is the life of a Prime Minister worth? I ask the honourable gentleman opposite next time they stand up in criticism to answer the question: How much is it worth? How much is Australia’s national integrity worth to them and how much is it worth to the cheap campaign presently being organised by certain sections of the daily Press?
The Opposition and the Press say that the Prime Minister should stay at home. Which trip would they have eliminated in specific terms? He should stay at home, they say. That is what a fellow named Nero did while Rome burned. He stayed at home and played his fiddle while Rome burned to the ground.
I shall deal with Opposition members who are trying to interject in a minute and give their history to show what they did when they were in office. However, it is nice to know that some people have such confidence in our Prime Minister that they consider that he has such ability to steer the ship of state that, merely by staying in Australia, he would be able to correct the problems of inflation and unemployment. That is a very comforting but exaggerated view, in my opinion, of the capacity of any one man. I am sure that when members of the present Opposition were in government their overseas visits were all justified. They certainly were not reluctant to go. The former Prime Minister was always in London when there was a cricket test match on or when there was a royal christening. Now times have changed and Australia is largely on its own. It needs to stand on its own feet. We have a Prime Minister who has carried the flag of Australia around the world. He has had it hoisted to new heights and everywhere he has been he has received very great praise indeed.
Let us look at some of the leading lights of the Opposition and see what their form was like when they were in government. For example, the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) from May 1967 to September 1972 went overseas on no fewer than 10 separate occasions. In 5Vi years he was absent from Australia for 216 days. He was away from Australia on an average of 40 days a year, including a short stopover in Tahiti where I am sure he had a great deal of business to transact. Of course he is about to go now but he keeps changing his mind. He is not going and then he is going. He is then told to stay home. The leader through the valley of death is not frightened that those who are following him will follow. What he is concerned about is who is going to come out. He is a little scared that it may not be him. The right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon), a former Prime Minister, from September 1967 to June 1972 went overseas on 1 1 separate occasion. He spent 1 79 days outside Australia. He averaged 38 days per annum away from Australia. The right honourable Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) from 1 July 1968 to 22 June 1972 was overseas on 9 separate occasions. He was absent for 197 days- an average of only 49 days for each of those years. Of course, whilst on one of those trips he nicked up to Fiji for a little more than a week where I am sure he had important business to transact on behalf of the Australian Government. Of course the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) went overseas on several occasion. It was about 4 occasions. In fact, he went around the world 3 times in 15 or 16 months.
– He was the Minister for the Interior.
-He was the Minister for the Interior and the Minister for Shipping. Of course, it is possible to say that none of these visits were justified. I do not say that. I assume they were all justified. But what I object to is this carping, cheap criticism of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in travelling overseas, acting on behalf of the Australian community and the Australian people. Australia needs to be represented abroad more now than it has at any time in its history. It will need to be represented abroad more frequently in the next year than at any other time in its history. I would hope that this Parliament would start to grow up and that people would take a broader national view rather than try to score on cheap political points. I have just given them a taste of the ammunition that can be fired back in response if they want to play that sort of a game.
– I rise tonight to draw the attention of the House to the situation which is developing in the world concerning the shortage of food. The failure of the
United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation conference in Rome to arrive at a solution to this particular problem I think highlights the necessity to pursue the discussions even further and to ensure that Australia, for its part, does continue to play a leading role in seeing that the world food shortage is attacked in a serious and responsible manner. The global level analysis shows the population growth still generates most of the additional demand for food and expanding at about 2 per cent per annum world population will double in a little more than a generation. If growth does not slow dramatically merely maintaining current per capita consumption levels will require a doubling of food production over the next generation. Many of us in this chamber will be alive during that period of time. It is a frightening thought when we look at the state of technology that has been achieved in the world as we know it today, the amount of land that is under crop and the amount of protein that is being produced, and then to say that within 20 or 25 years we will have to increase that by the same amount again if we are to keep the world alive.
The conference in Rome did a lot of basic work on the problems and the concerns that arise from this shortage of food. The study which was prepared for that conference said that the steps needed to bring about an improvement in food production in developing countries are not startlingly new. But that paper put at US$5 billion the target for annual external assistance for agriculture in the developing countries alone as against the present flow of such assistance of about US$1.5 billion. So that in terms of the developing countries alone, and not taking any cognisance at this stage of the fact that developed countries will have to increase their output considerably just to take care of the finance that will be needed in the underdeveloped countries, we are talking about an increase in excess of 300 per cent in the amount of aid that will be necessary to those countries from external sources.
I was interested to hear the honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards) earlier this evening talking in terms of aid and the possible improvements that could be made in this situation. I am very pleased to be able to expand on an avenue of that argument. The ‘Canberra Times ‘ of a few weeks ago in commenting on this food shortage said:
The belief that the world food crisis is not a temporary aberration but a persistent and worsening problem which already has overtones of disaster must focus attention on the little time we have in which to work out a solution.
– What is the point you are trying to make?
-I will come to that. Population policies and the introduction of widespread changes in patterns of food production and distribution are of necessity slow acting programs. I think that brings home the point fairly well that something needs to be done fairly smartly because of the time that will be involved in bringing such programs into operation. The failure of the food conference of the United Nations on 1 6 November was, I think, saved to some extent by the fact that Australia was one of a few countries which were prepared to increase their aid commitments in the interests of the starving world. The Australian aid is now going to be, I understand, $20m which in terms of figures like US$5 billion just to finance agricultural development in underdeveloped countries is quite frightening. The USA and Canada together control a larger share of the world’s exportable supplies of grain than the Middle East does of oil, and this is something the importance of which should not go unnoticed in this House. My colleague the honourable member for Calare (Mr England) this morning at question time referred to the way in which consumption trends can be altered. The impact of rising affluence on the consumption of livestock products is evident in the US over the last generation. For example, the per capita consumption of beef climbed from 55 lb in 1940 to 1 17 lb in 1972- more than double. Poultry consumption rose from 18 lb to 51 lb during the same period.
There is a great deal of evidence that there are avenues which can be pursued to try to change the eating habits of these emerging countries with enormous populations. We may be witnessing a transformation of the world ‘s protein market from a buyer’s market to a seller’s market, just as the world’s energy market over the last few years also has been transformed. The world must have great awareness of the fact that this type of situation is developing, and that unless there is a responsible policy on a world-wide basis to ensure that the hungry countries, the starving millions, are not exploited by countries which are wealthy in the protein and grain products which those countries and people need.
Australia must take a more responsible position in encouraging its producers to play their part in this world crisis. The Australian Government has a responsibility to ensure that the primary industry sector of our economy does have the necessary incentive and the necessary willingness to expand production so that we can offer to play our part in this crisis. I suggest that this is a situation which is not going to ease. It is not a cyclical thing which will result in a glut of grain, for instance, on world markets in a few years, because the consumption of these products is rising so rapidly and the population is rising so rapidly that any surpluses will either be able to be consumed or be stored for such a period as may be necessary. The world is coming, but not fast enough, to the conclusion that these storages must be provided and that there must be stabilised control of the world’s grain and protein areas of production in particular if the needs of these developing countries are to be met. We must have from this Government positive action to encourage Australian producers to get on with the job of producing more.
The fertiliser bounty which is due to be removed at the end of December costs a miserable $56m a year. The effect of that on the production of Australian grains and protein is enormous but when we talk about the billions of dollars needed to boost agricultural production in other countries an Australian contribution of $56m in this significant crisis is chicken feed. We have got to see that payments to wheat growers in particular are such that they are encouraged to stay in the industry and increase production. I call on and urge the Government to look responsibly at this problem so that Australia cannot only be seen to be but also will be playing a positive part in the solution of the world ‘s food crisis.
– I rise tonight in support of the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) in his endeavour to rectify the unemployment situation throughout Australia at the present time. I regret that the Minister has just walked out of the chamber. However, I would like to put forward a suggestion to him and to the Government that all is not well in this field despite the endeavours of the Minister. Today I was informed that the applications from people for unemployment relief are not being handled as speedily as they should be.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m. the House stands adjourned until 12 noon tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Media has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
As the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits legislation introduced by him in 1973 included the recommendation that annual adjustments would be made to pensions received by members covered by the legislation to offset rises in cost of living, and as the scheme became effective as from 1 October 1972 and no adjustments have been made to date, when will the adjustments be made, and will they be retrospective.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits (Pension Increases) Bill 1 974 which has now been passed by both Houses of Parliament provides for adjustments of pensions granted under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948-1973 and under the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act 1 973- 1 974 with effect from and including the pension payday of 4 July 1 974.
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australian Institute of Marine Science (l)-(4) I refer the honourable member to the Report of the Council of the Institute for the year 1 973-74.
Within the framework of general principles approved by me, the research program is approved by the Council and the Director of the Institute.
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (l)-(4) I refer the honourable member to the Annual Report of the Oranization for the year 1973-74, and to reports of the Organization ‘s various Divisions.
Within the framework of general principles approved by me, specific research programs are approved by the Executive of the CSIRO and by the Chiefs of the Organization’s Divisions.
Department of Science
Analytical Services Branch
1 ) One hundred and thirty-one, for all or part of their time.
) Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart.
Development of analytical techniques, particularly in regard to food contaminants and drugs of abuse.
Melbourne, Hobart, Macquarie Island, Antarctica.
Research in upper atmosphere physics, cosmic ray physics, glaciology, biology and medical sciences.
$3.7m for research and essential support activities.
Bureau of Meteorology
1 ) One hundred and twenty-three, for all or part of their time.
) All State capital cities, Darwin and Canberra.
Research in atmospheric sciences.
Ionospheric Prediction Service
1 ) Thirty-six, for all or pan of their time.
Sydney, and 12 field stations in Australia, Papua New Guinea and Antarctica.
Improvement of methods for predicting the behaviour of the ionosphere and the sun.
Within the framework of general principles approved by me, specific research programs are approved by senior officers of the Department.
National Standards Commission
Development of methods for assessing the suitability for use in trade of weighing and measuring instruments.
Within the framework of general principles approved by me, specific programs are approved by the Commission.
Anglo-Australian Telescope Board
Canberra, Siding Spring, Sydney.
Commissioning of Anglo-Australian Telescope and development of instrumentation.
$280,000; this expenditure is shared equally by Australia and the United Kingdom.
Anglo-Australian Telescope Board, which is responsible to both the Australian and United Kingdom Governments, and the Telescope Director.
asked the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
– I am advised that the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Convention on the Political Rights of Women (Question No. 1277)
– The following information is supplementary to that contained in my answer on 2 December 1974 (Hansard p. 4405) to Mr Coates:
I was advised today (3 December 1974) by the Premier of Tasmania that his Government intends to amend the Public Service Act to remove the present provision which discriminates against the appointment of married women to the Public Service.
asked the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
and (2) The Working Environment Division of the Australian Department of Labor and Immigration conduce an ongoing program of research into personnel practices and issues affecting the quality of working life. The current program consists of 35 studies falling within the following broad areas of interest:
Specific projects in progress or recently completed relating to ‘conditions or employment ‘ include investigations into:
Patterns of working hours:
Profit sharing schemes;
Counselling and advisory services;
Medical centres and occupational health services:
Job enrichment programs.
The results of some of these studies have already been reported in the Personnel Practice Bulletin, published quarterly by my Department The findings of others will be published as they become available. Recently, the Productivity Promotion Council of Australia published a booklet entitled ‘Organisation Development in Action’ which reports a major study carried out by my Department in Australian industry on advanced organisational practices including job design and development and worker participation in decision making.
In addition to these specific projects, the Department is responsible for developing detailed guidance to Government Departments and other bodies on the application of a new ‘Code of General Principles for Occupational Health & Safety in Australian Government Employment’. This will require continuing research into current practice and standards in such areas as noise, lighting, machine guarding and fire precautions.
The Industrial Relations National Division of my Department is currently engaging in a program of research into a variety of topics relating to wage fixation, conditions of work and industrial organisations. The program will aim at providing informatioin which will assist in the development of government policy and which will be useful to unions, employers, academics and others who are involved in the industrial relations field.
In this connection I might add that I have asked my Department to review, as a matter of urgency, the effectiveness of the industrial information service it provides having regard particularly to the requirements of the parties I have mentioned.
Among papers prepared for special purposes have been a Departmental paper entitled ‘Wage Indexation’ and a limited first run of a publication on Standard Hours of WorkAustralia and Overseas. The latter publication is being revised to take account of more recent developments in Australia and overseas.
and registered agreements with the purpose of identifying possible discriminatory provisions on the basis of sex.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The applications sought assistance with a large number and variety of literary projects. ( Rural Vehicles: Safety (Question No. 1785)
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: ( 1 ), (2) and (3). The regulation of this type of equipment, except when operating on the roads, is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Labor and Immigration. I understand that Question 1 784 put to the Minister for Labor and Immigration is identical and he will no doubt reply in full to the honourable member.
Insofar as the operation of tractors and other rural vehicles on the roads is concerned, the Australian Transport Advisory Council has endorsed ‘on road ‘ standards for motor vehicles. By definition these vehicles when driven on a road are motor vehicles and must meet the same standards required of all road vehicles. Similarly, general road safety education programs would apply to these vehicles when driven on the roads.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
Can he say how many patrol frigates of the type which the Government proposes to order for the Royal Australian Navy have been ordered for the United States or other Navies.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The United States Navy plans to acquire a total of SO Patrol Frigates on an annual appropriation basis. To date the only firm order placed is for the lead ship although funds have been approved by the U.S. Congress for the acquisition of a further 3 vessels. No details have been released by the
U.S. Government of orders placed for Patrol Frigates by other countries.
asked the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
How many job vacancies are registered in the Geelong employment district.
– I am informed that the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The number of unfilled job vacancies registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service in the Geelong employment district at end-October was 49 1 .
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 December 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1974/19741203_reps_29_hor92/>.