29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. G. G. D. Scholes) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The 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Your petitioners therefore pray that the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest inconvenience and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 Enderby, Mr Lynch, Mr Anthony, Mr Gorton, Mr Bonnett, Mr Chipp, Mr Corbett, Mr Garrick, Dr Gun, Mr Jacobi, Mr Jarman, Mr Keogh, Mr Kerin, Mr Killen, Mr Lamb, Mr McKenzie, Mr McVeigh, Mr Macphee, Mr Martin, Mr Oldmeadow, Mr Eric Robinson, Mr Staley and Mr Willis.
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 marriage is an exclusive lifelong partnership between one woman and one man, which should not be dissolved at the will of one party after 12 months notice nor without a reasonable attempt at reconciliation and
That a husband should normally be responsible for maintaining his wife and children within marriage.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Family Law Bill 1 974 be amended:
To specify three objective tests for irretrievable breakdown, namely:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Stewart, Mr Anthony and Mr Martin
To the honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Enderby, Mr Morrison and Mr Fry.
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 marriage is an exclusive lifelong partnership between one woman and one man, which should not be dissolved at the will of one party after 12 months notice nor without a reasonable attempt at reconciliation and
That a husband should normally be responsible for maintaining his wife and children within marriage.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Family Law Bill be amended
To specify three objective tests for irretrievable breakdown, namely:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jacobi.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will do everything possible to promote and preserve the permanency of the married state, and not admit into the law of this land any provision for such easy divorce that threatens the stability of family life- for although the present divorce system has weaknesses, these will not be righted by an even weaker and more unjust ‘Family Law Bill ‘.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bonnett.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Family Law Bill 1974 would be an unjust law if passed since the innocent party could be divorced against his or her will after a year’s separation.
That the Bill does not only facilitate divorces but changes the nature of marriage and the husband-wife relationship. Legislation ought to reflect public opinion, not attempt to condition it. Gallup polls indicate 75 per cent of Australians are opposed to the concepts of the Family Law Bill. Therefore Parliament has no mandate from the people to ask such a far reaching change in the nature of our society.
That children need a stable emotional and psychological environment in which to grow up. This stability is upset by divorce. A high proportion of criminals come from broken homes. Consequently any law which makes divorce easier is harmful to society.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Parliament so vote as to defeat the Family Law Bill.
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. We the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Enderby.
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 increased price of the Hansard subscription will place it beyond the financial reach of most people;
That it is basic in a Parliamentary democracy that electors have easy access to records of the debates in their Parliament;
That making Hansard available only to an elite who can afford it is at odds with the concept of open government.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will reduce the cost of the Hansard subscription so that it is still available at a moderate price to any interested citizen.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrDrury.
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 Hodges.
To the Honourable the Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will move to: immediately revoke all whaling licences issued by the Australian Government and to reimpose a total ban on the importation of all whale products.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McKenzie.
I inform the House that earlier today His Excellency the Governor-General determined the appointment of the honourable Moss Cass as Minister for the Environment and Conservation and has directed and appointed Dr Cass to hold the office of Minister for Environment.
– Is the Treasurer concerned at the March consumer price index figures which represent the biggest March quarter increase since 1951? I ask the honourable gentleman what he intends to do about the matter.
– Today I issued a statement on the March consumer price index figures as follows:
The Consumer Price Index for the March quarter, released today, shows that inflation is stabilising. However, the March quarter is generally low and there is no indication in this quarter’s figures that inflation does not still remain the most significant economic problem for the nation. There is no sign yet that the nation and the community can diminish any efforts that can be made to reduce inflation. The figure for the March quarter is much influenced by the continuing moderation in increases in price of food, clothing and even housing. However, there is still an uncomfortably large increase in the price of most manufactured goods and in other goods with a high labour content. In the miscellaneous group the highest prices were among motoring services, cigarettes and tobacco and medical and hospital charges. It appears from this that State indirect taxes and increases in contribution rates to insurance funds have played a part.
I might say specifically in answer to the honourable gentleman’s question that the composition of the retail price index number analysed as I have done just now indicates that the content of inflation is not just a simple thing. It is quite complex and needs many lines and directions of policy in order to achieve results. I have pointed out that the role of the Government is directly concerned with the relationship between the amount of money it spends in the economy and the amount of money it collects- in other words, the deficit. It has been the purpose of the Government when stimulus was needed to the economy to adjust the deficit accordingly. I would say now that if the policy followed by the Government in the last 12 months to stimulate the economy and to reactivate the direction of movement of the economy had not been followed unemployment today would be well over 500 000. I challenge anyone here to say that he would not have followed a policy similar to that followed by the Government in the last 12 months.
The question is not what has happened in the past but what should happen in the future. I made it clear the other day that not one cent that was not fully justified would go into the Budget. The deficit in the coming Budget will be kept to the lowest possible figure. I have also mentioned that the rate of increase in wages and salaries is a most significant contributor to inflation when it exceeds 20 per cent a year. I have said that it will be the purpose of the Government to ensure that a fair deal is achieved for every wage and salary earner. We would not expect wage and salary earners to see their real standards diminish. We would not expect wage and salary earners whose salaries have not been increased, like some of those of the lower income levels, to have their salaries increased by even more than the cost of living, but unless we have and can make effective a reasonable wage policy we cannot deal with inflation.
Lastly, I refer to the increase in the money supply. During the course of the last couple of years we have seen some very violent fluctuations in the rate of increase of the money supply. We saw during 1972 a very rapid increase, rising to 26 per cent by the end of the year. That was unsound and contributed significantly to the inflation that came afterwards. It was done under the supervision of honourable members opposite. After that had occurred and after the economy found itself with a high level of inflation during 1973, a policy was followed under our Government which resulted in a very significant decline in the rate of increase in the money supply from about 26 per cent to about 0.7 per cent. I am prepared to look back over the events and say that that made a significant contribution to the shortage of working capital which has inhibited development in the economy since. We are now in a position where we have brought the money supply back to a level which was necessary to supply the economy with the funds that it needed. I wonder whether honourable members opposite will say that we should not have done that? Those who are in touch with industry all over the country will be told that for over 6 months industry has been short of working capital. That has had a significant influence on the rate of investment and the rate of employment. Are honourable members opposite going to say that we should have kept it like that or made it worse? Are they going to say that the money supply should not have been brought up to over 20 per cent? Are they going to say that the economy should not have had a money supply adequate for its needs? I do not think so.
-I rise to order.
-If the right honourable member wants to ask a question he should listen to the answer.
– You sit down and be disciplined. Mr Speaker, this is a speech and I request you to ask the Minister to table a paper so that it can be debated. You asked for relevance in answers to questions. This is not relevance but debating to justify the mistakes of the Labor Party when it came to office and the faults that it is now trying to correct.
– Order! That is not a point of order. The right honourable gentleman should have a look at the question. It was so broadly based that it would be almost impossible for the answer not to be relevant to the question.
-If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition want to ask questions which require me to say in answer what the Government is going to do to deal with inflation he will get the kind of answer that the questions calls for. If the honourable gentleman wants to ask a wide open queston which allows me to discuss all matters relative to inflation then he will get the answer that he asks for. The right honourable gentleman, who was very much responsible for some of the things I have just described, is no doubt feeling a bit touchy about it.
– Not at all; I am worried about you.
-Do not worry about me. We will discuss it afterwards. Finally, it would be a serious mistake if the rate of money supply in Australia today were suddenly cut back and reduced considerably. I would say that if the rate of money supply came back to 5 per cent or 8 per cent, in the space of 6 months, it is quite likely that unemployment would reach 500 000. 1 said the other day that I have no intention of doing that while I happen to be the Treasurer. I want to see a moderate reduction in the rate of money supply appropriate to the basic needs of the economy. I do not want to see any sudden declines or jumps in the money supply. That is my purpose. That is the substance of the discussions we have had with the Reserve Bank on the matter. I point out to the honourable gentleman that there is no disagreement whatever between the Government and the Reserve Bank on those important matters.
– I direct my question to the Special Minister of State in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. Is it a fact that certain insurance is considered by insurers to be too large or risky to be insurable under normal profit principles, such as in the case of earthquake or flood? Will the proposed Australian Government Insurance Office be able to offer any insurance to cover such events?
-I am informed by my colleague that the proposed Australian Government Insurance Office will offer the widest possible cover, including that suggested by the honourable member. It is true that in recent disasters which have taken place in Australia- particularly the floods in Queensland and the northwest of New South Wales- many people found that they had no insurance cover. The Australian Government made a contribution by way of grants amounting to in excess of $10Om. It would be far more appropriate if adequate cover were given to those people who seek insurance. The Australian Government Insurance Office will be competitive; it will offer a full comprehensive cover. We urge every Australian to avail himself of that opportunity.
(Mr Holten having addressed a question to the Deputy Prime Minister).
-Order! I rule the question out of order. I call the honourable member for Chifley.
– My question is directed to -
- Mr Speaker, on a point of order. May I and the House have your reasons for ruling the question out of order?
-Questions to Ministers may be asked only on matters for which the Ministers are responsible to this House. The matters which the honourable member has raised are not matters for which the Minister, as Treasurer or Deputy Prime Minister, is answerable to the House.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral’s attention been drawn to reports that following instructions by senior police authorities in New South Wales last year, the Australian Legal Aid Office at Blacktown was prevented from offering legal representation to many detained persons? Has his attention been drawn to reports that the Blacktown duty solicitor scheme was suspended when police regulations were changed to require that a prisoner awaiting a court appearance had to ask for the duty solicitor before that solicitor could approach him?
-Order! The honourable gentleman is giving a lot of information.
– Can the Minister advise the House of the implication of these decisions and what action can be taken to ensure that natural justice is available to all?
– I did read the reports that no doubt came to the attention of the honourable member. I think they appeared in the ‘National Times’ over the weekend. It is disturbing to read that decisions of that sort have been taken at times in the past by police officers in charge of people in custody. I think it should be said as well- this would be known to members of the profession in the House, particularly those who have practised criminal law in the past- that there has been a certain lack of enthusiasm sometimes on the part of prison officers and indeed police officers charged with the care of people in custody when lawyers wanting to speak to people in custody ask permission to do so. One assumes that the thinking of the police is that the lawyer might in some manner get in the way. I have noticed with some pleasure that in recent years that tendency on the part of police officers has diminished.
As far as the Blacktown Australian Legal Aid Office is concerned, it is correct that the duty lawyer service at the Blacktown Magistrates Court was suspended for some 2 months from August 1974 after police authorities strictly enforced a police instruction limiting access to the cells. However, the duty lawyer service has been operating satisfactorily since about October 1974 with the assistance of the presiding magistrate, who announces to unrepresented persons, particularly those in custody, that the duty lawyer is available to help them. The Blacktown police have co-operated in arranging for the duty lawyer to see persons in custody who seek the services of the duty lawyer, either by approaching the police or after the magistrate has drawn their attention to the duty lawyer service. The question of general access to prisoners in the cells remains to be resolved completely. The Director of the Australian Legal Aid Office has taken the matter up -
– A point of order, Mr Speaker. This matter and the answer to the question would seem to be in the category of policy decisions and would be more appropriate for a statement after question time. The Opposition would be prepared to grant leave for that purpose.
-Order! There is no point of order and the honourable gentleman is aware of that.
– The Minister is aware of the position but he is making a statement.
– Order! There is no point’ of order, therefore there is nothing for the Minister to be aware of.
-The Director of the Australian Legal Aid Office has taken the matter up with the New South Wales Commissioner for Legal Aid Services and the senior police prosecutors, but it does remain to be resolved completely.
– Is the Treasurer aware of the assessment by Professor Heinz Arndt that the rate of inflation in Australia could reach 35 per cent or 40 per cent by the end of the year? What weight does the Treasurer give to the views of Professor Arndt that the Government’s approach to the economy is incredibly irresponsible and that Australia is becoming one of the most rapidly inflating countries in the world?
-I am aware of the statement made by Professor Arndt. It is anyone’s guess- and it is not much more than a guesswhat the rate of inflation might happen to be in 12 months. It is not at all useful for anyone to talk about 30 per cent rates. The Government is well aware, as would be the Leader of the Opposition, of the factors that determine the rate of inflation. I have already said that everything that the Government can do to reduce inflation will be done but, in order to achieve that, I do not intend to follow any policy that would have a very serious impact upon the economy- shortening it of working capital, increasing unemployment, making business less profitable, denying sections of the economy the kind of assistance that they can reasonably be given. I do not think that Professor Arndt is in a position of responsibility to know the needs of the economy or to be responsible for those needs. It is quite easy for a professor of economics to make pronouncements, but he does not happen to share with the Government the responsibility that it has for people. The Government will undertake to safeguard the interests of those people in the maximum possible way and at the same time to deal with inflation just as quickly as it can.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Health. Can the Minister verify that as a result of negotiations between the Canberra Hospital Board and the Australian Medical Association the boycott of the hospital services scheme by salaried specialists has been called off?
– The Australian Capital Territory Medical Association undertook before the Trade Practices Tribunal that the boycott would be lifted. The President of the ACTMA has written to doctors in the Australian Capital Territory advising them that continuation of collective action would be unlawful. In practice some ostracism remains. Some doctors in private practice are still sending to Coventry their colleagues in salaried service. They are in breach of the Australian Medical Association’s own ethical standards, which require a doctor to communicate with a colleague his knowledge of the case when a patient exercises his AMAproclaimed right to choose his specialist attention. A breach of such ethical standards can be made the grounds for a complaint to medical registration boards, which have the power to deregister a doctor for such unethical behaviour. Some private doctors avoid referring patients to a salaried specialist even when that specialist may be the only practitioner in that specialty in the A.C.T. I hope that the AMA will take more decisive action to ensure that the black ban that those doctors have promoted is removed in practice as well as in precept.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Education. Is the Minister aware of the statement by the Director of Secondary Education in Victoria that more than 2000 students in Victoria alone have already transferred from non-government schools to state secondary schools this year? Does he realise that rising teacher salaries and costs have caused A category schools, such as Wesley College in Melbourne and other similar schools, to raise their basic fees- I stress the words ‘basic fees’- for senior students to $1,700 a year? Is he concerned that those schools are now becoming the province solely of the children of wealthy parents?
– In Australia there are 7600 State schools, 2700 Catholic schools, about 108 Anglican schools and fewer schools of the other denominations. The contribution of the schools that the honourable gentleman has mentioned towards being able to cope with the growing numbers of children in Australia is very slight indeed. I have had conversations recently with a number of the headmasters of grammar schools and they have attributed the downwards movement in their enrolments to rural depression. In view of the scarcity of applicants for their facilities they are putting up their fees. I draw the honourable gentleman’s attention to the fact that in December last we increased the grants to all non-government schools -
– And Karmel schools.
– … to the extent of $79m, while trying to maintain the purchasing power of the Karmel grants to all schools, as the honourable gentleman has said. The funding in relation to that scheme has been enacted by the Parliament for 2 years. The kind of issues the honourable gentleman has raised should now be raised with the Schools Commission, which will be making its recommendations to the Parliament shortly for funding over the next triennium. I doubt whether I will be able to carry out any changes at the present time. The honourable gentleman will recall that we raised the grants to schools from $1 12m in the last biennium of the McMahon Government to $780m in the present biennium. I doubt whether the grants will be increased much further. I agree with the honourable gentleman that there are those sorts of problems. I think that the bodies concerned should raise them with the Schools Commission. That is the kind of evidence it is now seeking.
-My question is directed to the Treasurer. Is the Treasurer aware of the cash liquidity shortage affecting Western Australian clothing manufacturers situated in the metropolitan area of Perth? Is he aware that the clothing industry employs 10 per cent to 12 per cent of all female workers engaged in manufacturing industry in Western Australia? Is the Treasurer aware that if the cash liquidity is not established it could lead to further retrenchments in this field? Can he give an assurance that the matter will be investigated with a view to giving assistance in order to prevent further unemployment in that industry?
– From time to time I have received a number of representations and reports about the situation of the clothing industry in Western Australia. These have been examined by the Department of Manufacturing Industry for which my colleague in another place, Senator James McClelland, is responsible. I think that the position of the industry in Western Australia is a little more difficult than that of the industry in general. It suffers partly from the overall shortage of working capital, which as I said in answer to a question a few minutes ago was partly a result of the reduction in the money supply last year and at the end of 1973 and which was picked up again by the change in policy and improvement in the money supply that took place after the third quarter of last year. Therefore, a good deal has been done directly to improve the money supply and the supply of working capital. The banks are now lending at rates which are a record compared with the rates which have been applying for quite some time. Most industries that are viable are receiving the capital they need.
In respect of the clothing industry in particular, for some time it has been believed and asserted that one of its main difficulties is imports. Imports have been quite severely controlled. Quantities have been applied in practically every area as a result of the Government’s recognition of the fact that imports were oversupplied. A great deal has been done to assist the industry directly. I think it is a very arguable question whether more should be done. The question of whether further assistance to the industry in Western Australia or to any other part of the industry could be justified would have to be preceded by an adequate inquiry by the Temporary Assistance Authority. Should this be the case, I assure the honourable member that the matter will be referred to the Department of Manufacturing Industry with a view to deciding whether reference to the Temporary Assistance Authority should be made.
– When does the Treasurer expect his policies to overcome the record unemployment in Australia? Has the Minister for Social Security distributed a paper which differs from the Treasurer’s analysis of the economic crisis and proposes different solutions? Finally, can he give the House an assurance that there is full agreement between the Government and the Reserve Bank on monetary policy?
-I have answered the latter part of the right honourable gentleman’s question three or four times in the last week. There is no disagreement at all between the Reserve Bank and the Government. Most of the right honourable gentleman’s questions are based on newspaper reports written by journalists who are trying to interpret my views and state what is happening but who have never made any reference to me. Mr Anderson of the ‘Sun Herald’ and Mr Haupt of the ‘Australian Financial Review’ have written page after page interpreting my views and saying what is happening in my vicinity but neither of those gentlemen has ever come to ask me one word about my policy, what is my interpretation of economics or what is happening in or around my office. None of them has ever asked me if there is any disagreement between me and the Minister for Social Security, but this has been given publicity. Consequently the right honourable gentleman asks a question based on that publicity.
I say that there is no difference of view between me and the Minister for Social Security. I am as conscious of the need to maintain the most rigorous control of Government spending as is the Minister or anyone else in the Cabinet, and I have been so continuously. I point out that what one should do is determined by the state of the economy. What the Government decided to do last year was valid. It has been followed, or was adopted at the- same time, by different countries around the world one after the other. The policy that the Government followed has diminished the significance of the impact of the world downturn on the Australian economy and has diminished the operation of the internal economic factors that were controlling it. When dealing with this Budget we shall deal with it according to the circumstances that prevail in the economy. There will be- as I hope there will be among Opposition parties- a realistic debate about what should be done, because what should be done is not just a simple matter that can be designed or derived from abstract macroeconomic theory. It requires a thorough examination of the structure of the economy and an appropriate policy arrived at must be a policy derived from structural factors.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Transport been drawn to week-end reports of statements by the Queensland Main Roads Minister, Mr Hinze, that the jobs of an estimated 2000 Queensland Government and State local authority employees mainly engaged on road works were in jeopardy as a result of Australian Government policies? Can the Minister say if this statement is correct, or has this Queensland Minister simply now reached the same peak of perfection in mishandling the truth as is so often displayed by the Queensland Premier and other National Party Ministers in that State?
-After the way that the Queensland Local Government Association and myself took this Minister apart in Brisbane just recently, for example, the circular letter that was put out by the President of the North Queensland Local Government Association which showed the distortion- I know you will not let me say ‘lies’, Mr Speaker- and untruths that were circulated by the Bjelke-Petersen
Government all of last year and again this year as to the amount of funds that were being provided for roads- I thought the Premier at least would have had enough sense to change his Ministers over. Let us look at the facts. If there is any lay off of labour in Queensland it will be brought about as the result of the policies of the Queensland Government- the QueenslandCountry Party or National Party Government.
The facts are that in 1973-74 the Australian Government made available $64.74m for roads. In this financial year the States are to receive altogether $77. lm; all told- an increase of $ 12.36m. But in the same period the Queensland Government’s own quota for roads has dropped from $37. lm to $36.3m. Our allocation for roads increased by almost $13m and the Queensland Government’s allocation dropped by $800,000. So when the Queensland Minister talks about there being a shortage of funds, that is perfectly true- a shortage of Queensland Government funds. Even at the Local Government Conference neither the Minister nor his Commissioner was prepared to advise the aldermen and councillors that were there just how the Queensland Government was allocating its funds. Great emphasis has been placed on the problems of the rural community in Queensland, but let us get down to the facts. For the last 3 years of the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement the allocation and the break-up of funds between rural and urban areas were 59 per cent to rural roads and 41 per cent to urban roads.
– Does that include national highways?
-Under the 3 years of operation of our Act, rural roads have been receiving an allocation of 76 per cent. The honourable member for Kennedy can shut up for a minute and drive those camels of Cameron’s. The position is that under our proposition 76 per cent of our allocation is going to rural roads, as against 59 per cent under the Act which the Liberal-Country Party Government brought down when last in office. Furthermore, prior to the meeting of the Premiers on 14 February this year, the Prime Minister wrote to all the Premiers and said: ‘Now, how much money do you need to take care of inflation, to retain all the men who are at present in employment with your road authorities, and to re-employ those displaced?’ The answer that came back from the Premiers was $30m, and that is what they received at the Premiers Conference. Queensland received $6.09m. An amount of $ 1.35m was allocated to local government, but what did the government of Queensland, this people’s government, do with it? It retained the $1.35m. Local government received none of it. The Queensland Government used it for its own roads. This is an indication of how it goes on. It endeavours to place the blame on the Australian Government for a shortage of funds in Queensland. It even laid men off on the pretext that we were withholding funds; yet I was able to establish at a meeting of local government authorities in Brisbane that only on 2 occasions had they had to wait for longer than -
- Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
-Don’t you like it?
- Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to the length of the Minister’s answer. You have already expressed to the House your attitude towards the length of both questions and answers. I suggest that you might remind the Minister of that direction.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order; the Deputy Leader of the Country Party is aware of that. I would suggest that he not take points of order of that nature in future. I am concerned about the length of answers, but every member of the House is aware that under the Standing Orders, which were established at the time when the honourable gentleman was in government, the Speaker has no authority over the length of answers. I will not have questions and answers continually interrupted and question time wasted with points of order that have no relevance at all.
– The Minister may make a policy statement after question time. That has been the practice in the past. Why should it not be the practice now?
-Order! He can do that if he wishes. He may answer a question in any manner he chooses. That is established under the Standing Orders.
– I raise a point of order. Mr Speaker, there is a responsibility on the Speaker of the House to try to maintain a calm atmosphere in this Parliament. It is something at which everybody is aiming. The Parliament has fallen into disrepute because of the noise that has emanated from it.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat. There is no suggestion of anything other than a calm atmosphere in this House. The right honourable gentleman’s rising in his place to try to create any atmosphere other than that is not in accordance with the Standing Orders or the practices of this
House. If the Minister’s answer is felt to be excessively long, I would hope that Ministers will take note of that; but there is nothing in the Standing Orders other than provisions as to relevance- I do not think the question of relevance has been broached- which enables me to do anything about the matter. If the right honourable gentleman wants to propose alterations to the Standing Orders I would suggest that he do so in the normal manner.
-Of course, the problem with the Deputy Leader of the Country Party -
-If the Minister starts answering anything other than the question I will ask him to sit down.
-The trouble with the Country Party here and the reason it is so toey and upset is that -
-Order! The Minister will answer the question and make no other comment.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker. The reason why the Country Party is so toey is that -
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that some South Vietnamese students in Australia sponsored by the Australian Government have wives, young children and other dependent relatives remaining in South Vietnam? Is it also a fact that the South Vietnamese Government has not allowed in the past wives and children to join their husbands sponsored for study overseas? In view of the genuine fear of reprisals in South Vietnam following military victories by the North Vietnamese and Vietcong forces will the Prime Minister, before he leaves for overseas this week, make urgent representations to the South Vietnamese Government to permit wives and young children of Vietnamese students in Australia to join their husbands? Will he also give assurances that the Australian Government will assist in this reunion of families?
– I believe that the answer to the first two questions is yes. I have been in touch with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and with the Provisional Revolutionary Government concerning the possibility of reprisals and urging magnanimity to their opponents over the years. The PRG issued a 10-point statement on 1 April and an earlier 7-point statement on 25 March setting out its policies towards the South Vietnamese in those areas which have recently come under PRG control. The terms of these two statements are encouraging.
– I address my question to the Treasurer. Did the honourable gentleman fly to Queensland some months ago to discuss with the Queensland Treasurer such additional financial assistance as would be necessary to maintain existing levels of State services and State Government employment? Has the Treasurer seen statements made by Mr Lee, the Queensland Works Minister, and other Ministers, that due to policies of the Australian Government a number of State and local authority employees would have their services terminated throughout most areas of the State? Knowing as I do the competence of my former colleagues in the Queensland Treasury, can the Treasurer explain whether these Queensland ministerial statements are factual?
-It is true that before the recent meeting of Premiers I did go to Queensland and I had a lengthy conference with Sir Gordon Chalk and his officers in Brisbane. He, together with his officers, put forward a submission detailing the requirements of the Government of Queensland to maintain employment in State services and with local authorities. I assured the Queensland Treasurer that it was the intention of the Australian Government to provide adequate finance to ensure that employment levels of State governments and local authorities would be maintained. The details given by Sir Gordon Chalk at the time indicated that he was submitting to me a full statement- a full requirement- to achieve those purposes.
At the Premiers’ Conference in Canberra on 14 February Queensland was granted $47.5m for the specific purpose of maintaining levels of employment as I have just mentioned. This was everything Queensland had asked for; in fact, it was more than Queensland had asked for. In proportion to population it was the most provided by the Australian Government to any State. Since then Queensland has received more than $20m in other specific employment-creating grants. I am aware of the statements made recently by Queensland Ministers, including Mr Lee and Mr Hinze. These statements indicate that the submissions made to me by Sir Gordon Chalk were not adequate, were inaccurate or were insufficient. I cannot believe that that is the case because the Queensland Treasurer was notified a fortnight before what we wanted from him and he had adequate time to provide it. He expressed his own complete satisfaction at the response of the Australian Government to what he had submitted.
I think that if there are now any jobs in jeopardy it should be the responsibility of Mr Lee, Mr Hinze and other Ministers to explain it to us directly and not to conduct a newspaper campaign which is, I think, their main purpose. If there are any deficiencies in Queensland or in any other State I would expect, as the Treasurer of this country, to receive notification of them first, not through a newspaper headline. It seems to me that the Queensland Ministers are mainly concerned with playing politics. I think there are some Ministers in the Queensland Government who do nothing else but play politics. They do not care what happens to the people involved as long as they get political advantage out of it. I think that the present outburst by these Queensland Ministers is an example of that.
-Has the Prime Minister approved categories of persons from South Vietnam to be admitted into Australia as refugees? Do those categories include those persons who face the prospect of execution at the hands of the North Vietnamese victors? Finally, will the Prime Minister ensure before his departure on Wednesday for overseas that he gives the same expedition to visa applications from approved categories of persons as was granted to persons admitted as refugees from Chile?
– There have been very few visa applications at all from South Vietnam. What was done in Chile is being done in South Vietnam. I have approved various proposals concerning diplomatic asylum. As regards refugees, there have been some categories which have been approved. I would point out, however, as I have pointed out before, that the Government of South Vietnam has for years discouraged the people from leaving the country, and it still does- for reasons of morale, obviously.
– My question, which is concerned with environmental impact statements on urban freeways, is directed to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. Is the Minister aware that the environmental impact inquiry being conducted into Victoria’s proposed F19 freeway does not allow proper evaluation of the upgrading of the Maroondah Highway, perhaps in conformity with the Olivero approach which the House of Representatives Select Committee on Road Safety has recommended? Is he aware of the serious worry and financial loss that residents of Ringwood will suffer if further studies are made into the studies which have already been conducted on this matter? Will he advise the Victorian Transport Minister that an inquiry which omitted a thorough exploration of the upgrading alternative to the freeway proposal would be incomplete and unacceptable to the Government? Will he ask that the inquiry be pursued with expedition?
– No funds have been requested this financial year for the F19 highway in Victoria, but funds have been made available to the Victorian Government to carry out an environmental impact study on the F19. In company with the honourable member for Casey I have personally inspected the Maroondah Highway which cuts through the honourable member’s electorate. I am concerned about the situation, particularly if the highway is to cut through the very delicate environmental area of the Mullum Mullum Valley or if it will affect the North Ringwood area where a large number of families would be involved. Frankly, I am in favour of upgrading the Maroondah Highway on exactly the course which it follows at present. I will speak with the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Environment about the possibility of looking at other alternatives, particularly in regard to the Olivero proposals put forward by the honourable member and by the Road Safety Committee. I shall take up this matter personally with the Minister for Transport who has a joint responsibility with me to deal with these aspects of urban arterial highways.
– I present for the information of honourable members a report on refrigerators, washing machines and clothes driers by the Temporary Assistance Authority.
– For the information of honourable members I present a Cities Commission report in 3 volumes, titled ‘River Murray in relation to Albury-Wodonga’. Due to the limited number available, reference copies of this report have been placed in the Parliamentary Library. Copies of a synopsis of the Report can be obtained from my office.
-For the information of honourable members I present a ministerial statement on the Australian ministerial mission to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I claim to have been misrepresented by the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones). I mentioned to the Minister that I would be raising this matter, but I notice that he has left the chamber. He pointed a menacing finger at me during his address and said: ‘Go back to your camels.’ Did he intend to suggest that I have some pecuniary interest in camels or is this intended to be a racist statement?
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
-Mr Speaker -
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The underhanded and cavalier manner which the Government is using to effect changes in the drug laws affecting the people of the Australian Capital Territory and the States.
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)
-With the full support of the Opposition I move the following as a discussion of a matter of public importance:
The underhanded and cavalier manner which the Government is using to effect changes in the drug laws affecting the people of the Australian Capital Territory and the States.
This concern spreads over the entire population of Australia as 1 hope to demonstrate. May I go through the extraordinary sequence of events which has led to this matter of public importance? In the middle of last year I received information that an instruction had been given by someone high in authority in the Government to the Australian Capital Territory Police not to prosecute any person found in possession of any products of the plant cannabis, that is, marihuana, hashish or liquid hashish. Rather than making a fuss I tried to do the right thing. Soon after Parliament resumed for the Budget session, on 23 August, I placed a question on notice to the then Attorney-General, now Mr Justice Murphy. I asked him:
That was not a difficult question. I do not ask many questions on notice. I think that is the only question on notice I have asked of the AttorneyGeneral who was then in another place. I would have thought that that was a question which could be answered in a matter of days. I did not get an answer until 3 April 1975, 7 months later. The answer came from the present AttorneyGeneral (Mr Enderby). After 7 months’ ingestion one would have thought that the answer would have been better than the one I got. It is a most extraordinary piece of literature. It states:
– … the practice in the Australian Capital Territory for some years -
I ask the House to note the phrase ‘for some years’- has been not to arrest a person in possession of marihuana unless the quantity in his possession indicates that he is trafficking in marihuana and that, where there are doubts, the person is not to be arrested but the matter is to be reported.
Now we come to a sentence by itself from the Attorney-General:
I see no reason to alter the practice.
Let me analyse the first part of his answer. He says that it has been the practice in the Australian Capital Territory for some years not to arrest anybody in possession of marihuana. That is an untruth. That is an inaccurate statement. According to his colleague in the Senate, Senator James McClelland, last Thursday- I shall refer to that in a moment- there was a prosecution as late as 1 November 1974, just 4½ months ago. So we have a situation in which a Minister in the Senate was saying in the Estimates debate that there was a prosecution 4 months ago, but then the Attorney-General was saying to me, in reply to a question on notice and after having 7 months to think about my question, that there had not been a prosecution for years. That is the first comment I wish to make. The second comment is that the Attorney-General said:
I see no reason to alter the practice.
He is saying there that there is a practice in the Australian Capital Territory not to arrest people in possession of marihuana. He says that he personally sees no reason to alter that practice. In other words, this Minister is saying that there is a law, that the police are not acting in accordance with the law by prosecuting users and that he, the Attorney-General and first law officer of the Commonwealth, sees no reason to alter that practice. To me that is an extraordinary situation. I cannot explain it and I would like the Minister when he rises to explain it. I still persist with the question I asked the Attorney-General: Was an instruction given? Here is the second extraordinary statement which the Attorney-General made in his answer:
No instructions have been issued -
That is, no instructions for the police not to prosecute- although I understand that the former Attorney-General discussed the matter briefly with the Commissioner, Australian Capital Territory Police Force.
What in the name of fortune does that mean? I have information that an instruction has been issued at the highest level. I asked the Minister was it issued and he replied:
No instructions have been issued although I understand that the former Attorney-General discussed the matter briefly with the Commissioner, Australian Capital Territory Police Force.
Did former Senator Murphy issue an instruction to the Police Force or to the Police Force chief? If he did not, why was it necessary to put this addendum to the answer: although I understand that the former Attorney-General discussed the matter briefly with the Commissioner, Australian Capital Territory Police Force.
What was discussed briefly? Did former Senator Murphy say ‘ Continue with your prosecutions ‘ or did he say not to prosecute? The House is still floundering for an explanation of this matter.
On about 4 April, early this month, the Attorney-General on behalf of the Labor Government said virtually: ‘I see no reason to alter this practice’. In other words, we were to have a change in the law in the Australian Capital Territory without any Bill being brought into this Parliament, without any ordinance being brought into this Parliament, but simply on an instruction from the chief legal officer or by practice of the police. The Attorney-General thought he could get away with that. He thought ‘That is fair enough; I am going to have a welling up of opinion in the Australian Capital Territory among all the pot smokers’; and that the rest of his friends would be saying ‘Good on you, Kep, this is sane government’. But that was not to be because on 10 April the newspaper in this city, the ‘Canberra Times’, had an article headed: ‘ Misleading reply on ACT drugs ‘. It said:
The Attorney-General, Mr Enderby, made a misleading statement in a written reply to a question on notice on Tuesday.
Then it said:
Sources in the Attorney-General’s Department said yesterday that a person possessing marihuana would be reported to the legal adjudication . . .
I would like to know with whom the AttorneyGeneral discussed the answer he gave to me before he gave it to the Clerk. Surely to goodness he discussed it with the Attorney-General’s Department. If he did, did the AttorneyGeneral’s Department disown him the next day or was this simply a statement the AttorneyGeneral made himself after discussing the matter with a few of his trendy friends in Cabinet. I do not think he did even that. With the regularity with which we find some of these trendy people in the Press gallery constantly in offices of Ministers, one wonders where the Minister is seeking his advice on such a matter. Then on 15 April the Minister himself burst into print and criticised me for becoming hysterical about it.
I certainly did not say the things about floodgates which the Press reported me as saying. I make this aside, Mr Speaker: It never ceases to amaze me how some of these people in the Press gallery ring us on the telephone asking for a quotation and, when we give it to them, put something in quotation marks, attributed to us, that never passed from our lips. However, I have not time to deal with that. The Attorney-General said:
The fact that no prosecutions have taken place here for some time probably would have gone unnoticed were it not for politicians like Mr Chipp trying to get on a bandwaggon and get their name in the papers.
I am terribly sorry; I apologise to the AttorneyGeneral. He was trying to bring about a change in the law in a sneaky, underhand way and in contempt of Parliament, and I found him out and brought it to the notice of the Parliament. I am terribly sorry. I am supposed to apologise for that. He operates to a set of standards, which I certainly do not accept. But the mere fact of having a law in the Australian Capital Territory different from the law enforced by the Customs
Department when people returned from overseas in possession of products of the plant cannabis, apparently escaped the AttorneyGeneral. Does he seriously want people to believe that he sees no reason to alter the practice in the Australian Capital Territory- that it is all right for people in Canberra to possess marihuana with immunity from prosecution? Will some poor devil who gets off a plane from Bali with 3 or 4 joints on him be arrested and prosecuted under the Customs Act? Will there be 2 standards under the one Government and within the one department? This is the absurd situation which has been reached.
My friend, the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) brought the matter to a head again last Thursday when he asked whether the Attorney-General knew some of the danger signals of marihuana. The Attorney-General gave a most extraordinary answer. On the front bench it is sometimes difficult to hear full answers given by Ministers. The Attorney-General is sometimes even a little more incoherent than some of his colleagues. Sometimes his answers are hard to pick up. I am indebted to a very astute journalist in the Press Gallery, Mr Laurie Oakes, who heard the Attorney-General’s answer on the microphone and brought it to my attention. When one reads the Hansard report what the Attorney-General said last Thursday was highly significant. He said he would do 2 things: He would introduce the International Convention on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances into this Parliament for ratification- I thought it was strange that he answered my friend, the honourable member for Kennedy, in that way and I missed his next few words- and he would change the laws in relation to marihuana and cannabis which would then have an over-riding effect on the States. To me this is an example of the most blackguardly impertinence I have ever heard from this Government. By introducing this Treaty ratification into the Parliament the Government could then, as I understand it, use the external affairs power to impact and improve its laws and regulations on to the States.
When I was Minister for Customs and Excise we had many conferences with the State Ministers of Health and their officers, with the State Attorney-General’s Departments and with every expert we could find to determine whether marihuana was a dangerous drug and what was the best thing to do for the people of Australia. Only after conferences did we reach agreement and decide on uniform drug laws. But this Ministerthis Government- is simply going to have this Parliament ratify this treaty and then pass some law decriminalising marihuana or legalising it, or making it an offence equal to selling sly grog and impact that on every State government. That law will apply to everybody in the country. If the Minister believes that pot should be decriminalised or that it is harmless- it is a respectable view but one with which I do not agree- and if he wants to change the law, why does he not come into this Parliament and introduce legislation and let it be debated? Why does he not seek expert advice from people in the field? As recently as a few months ago, there was not one police force in Australia and not one drug squad on any police force- I am including the Narcotics Bureau in addition to the 6 State police forces and the Commonwealth Police. Force- which would have recommended to the Minister the lowering of penalties in the way he proposes.
I have not time to go into all the clinical evidence. All I am saying is that cannabis sativa in its 3 forms- marihuana, the drug from the flower; hashish, the drug from the resin in the stem; and a third dangerous drug, liquid hashish or hashish oil which is an extract of hashish forty times stronger than marihuana and possessing a very high content of THC, tetrahydrocannabinol is a dangerous hallucinogenic drug. Does the Attorney-General mean to legalise that too or to reduce the penalties for possessing the drug? I ask him not to think that he can simply change the laws relating to use and possession without it having an effect on the pushers. If he makes the quantity for use 40 joints, then any pusher can come to Canberra or anywhere else and have 4000 joints in a hole in a garage or somewhere else, and as long as he does not have 40 joints on him at any one time he is immune from prosecution. All he could be charged with is that equivalent to a traffic offence. I have evidence from experts showing the danger signals about cannabis. I ask that the Minister think carefully before he proceeds.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp), who has associated himself with the continuing debate on marihuana for some years now, contributes to the inflammatory features -
– I do not apologise for that.
– I do not suggest that the honourable member apologise for being associated with the debate, because it is one that has been active in the community for many years and he has played a prominent part in it. What I suggest to the honourable member is that the emotion which he brings to bear on this occasion and over the last week is not warranted. He inflames the passions which are aroused when the emotional subject such as drugs and what should be done about drugs in a modern community is debated. By fanning the passions in that way, the honourable member also contributes to the hypocrisy and the double standards which exist in our community in relation to drugs. He criticised the answer I gave. He drew attention to the fact that the circumstances which were dealt with in that answer related not to the time when I was Attorney-General, but to a previous period- principally last year in 1 974.
But may I just correct the honourable member. There was nothing incorrect in the answer which I gave him. In reply to the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) the other day, I went into a great deal more detail about the matter. The simple facts are that for some time there has been a policy in the Australian Capital Territory by the police of the Australian Capital Territory not to arrest people who are found merely in possession of cannabis. As I have said in this House on previous occasions, there have been exceptions to this and a prosecution did take place, as I recollect it and on the advice given to me, in about October 1974. But that does not detract from the fact that the Australian Capital Territory Police on their own initiative, without any instructions, as I have said over and over again and I believe the facts are correct, did not arrest people when they found them in possession of cannabis and not trafficking in the substance.
– I do not believe it.
-The honourable member can say that he does not believe it. He keeps asserting a position and in doing so he is completely irresponsible and may I say hysterical. The facts are pretty clear. The honourable member should search the record. The Australian Capital Territory magistrates have not convicted people for the possession of marihuana. There is a defect in the law which relates to the definition of cannabis. The definition is defective and the Australian Capital Territory Police like many police forces throughout Australia face many such situations. They get sick and tired of wasting public money and their own time in prosecuting cases which they cannot win.
I have instanced in this House at least once before the situation in New South Wales with regard to the crime of abortion, which statutory crime continues to exist in New South Wales. New South Wales juries were acquitting people. They would not convict, perhaps because of changing social attitudes. This is a controversial matter. Whether it is an instruction from authorities in New South Wales or not, I do not know; it is not my concern, although of course it is a matter of interest. But the simple fact is that prosecutions do not take place and have not taken place for some time in New South Wales for that particular crime. They could not get convictions, and there is an interesting philosophical point involved because that is often a way in which the law tends to be changed. Juries- and indeed magistrates are as capable of it as juries- tend to make a certain finding on the facts and the law, and that throws the matter back into the lawmaker’s court. The lawmaker then decides either to change the law or not to change it, but in the course of this process reform takes place which is more in accord with changing social attitudes. Those are the simple facts of the situation in the Australian Capital Territory, and it has never been said otherwise by the honourable member for Hotham. The unsatisfactory state of the legislation in relation to the definition has made the enforcement in the Australian Capital Territory of the laws relating to marihuana a difficult task for police.
May I go on and talk about a wider issue, because the marihuana debate does continue. This Government does have international obligations on the subject, as the honourable member for Hotham has pointed out. Those obligations flow from the Convention on Narcotic Drugs and from the Convention on Psychotropic Substances. There is an obligation on the Government to give effect to those conventions and it is an obligation that the Government intends to honour. I draw attention to some of the defects that exist in the present situation. For example, does the honourable member appreciate the enormously diverse penalties that are imposed upon people who come before the courts on drug offences? These diverse penalties are imposed either because people appear before different magistrates, which is a circumstance difficult to change, or because they appear charged with offences under different laws- Australian laws being fragmented in this way. I have the task from time to time- it is a regular task of any Attorney-General- of deciding whether or not a person in custody should be released on either parole or licence. I am appalled when I read the facts that lead to some magistrates or some judges putting people in gaol for greatly differing periods of time or imposing greatly differing levels of penalty, pursuant to different laws. Surely this is a mischief that has to be put right in Australia in this overall context.
There is not time for me to go through all the cases but I can extract one or two to read to honourable members to illustrate the point that I have in mind. I will not use the names of the persons accused or convicted; most of them were young people, a feature of the situation that is disturbing in itself. Case A, for the importation of 151 grams of heroin- that is a hard drug- the penalty was a $500 good behaviour bond. I repeat that for the importation of 15 1 grams- a lot of heroin- a good behaviour bond was considered sufficient. In case B, for the importation of 34 grams of heroin another $500 good behaviour bond was the penalty. In case C, for the importation of 1 1 grams of heroin 6Vi years imprisonment with hard labour was imposed. In case D, for the importation of 374 1 grams of cannabis the so-called soft drug, the one that is often said to be less harmful than alcohol and certainly less harmful than nicotine- a fine of $500 was imposed. In the case of Miss E, for having in possession prohibited imports, 1537 grams of cannabis- again presumably for trafficking, but it is the soft drug, the one that is said to be harmless- 2 years 5 months imprisonment with hard labour was imposed on each charge, the sentences to be served concurrently. In the case of Miss F, for the importation of 1517 grams of cannabis, a fine of $300 was imposed, with a.stay of one month to pay; she was given time to pay. In the case of Mr G, for having in possession 7.9 grams of cannabis- an almost nominal amount- a fine of $1,000 was imposed, in default 6 months. In the case of Miss H, on 2 charges concerning the importation of 1673 grams of cannabis, the penalty was 2 years imprisonment on each charge, the sentences to be served concurrently.
I appreciate that when magistrates convict people for offences they take into account more than simply the amount and nature of the drug. They take into account any previous recordform, as lawyers call it- and other surrounding circumstances. They take into account the age of the accused and the general circumstances. One could go through the files on cases of this sortand honourable members will appreciate that I cannot put them all before the House- and find a remarkable degree of similarity in offences and find this enormous disparity in penalties- heavyhandedness on one side and complete softness of approach, leniency, turning a blind eye, on the other. I put to honourable members that there is a case to standardise and bring some degree of order into a chaotic situation. Indeed, one could go on and one must say that the whole approach of the community to drug taking should not be confined to seeing the problem through the eyes of the criminal law. Certainly in the case of users, certainly in the cases of dependent persons, the persons who are caught on a drug, as far as possible one should treat them as cases of sickness, as cases where medical and hospital attention is required rather than threats to put them in gaol, although one should bring to bear the full power of the criminal law against the trafficker, against the person who exploits somebody in a vulnerable situation of this sort. The honourable member for Hotham does no one any service at all when he recklessly alleges that the Government wants to decriminalise the laws relating to marihuana.
– You said that.
– I did not say that. I said to the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) the other day that there would be reduced penalties under the proposition that was being considered.
– You said it on 3 April in answer to me.
-I did not.
– It is on the record.
– I did not say it.
– Until you got found out.
– Dear me, one has to put up with this recklessness and this hysteria time and time again. The honourable member should read the statement again. The proposition finds support from the recommendation of the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse on the subject; it finds support from everyone who has ever considered the subject. Although there is a considerable body of opinion which says that marihuana users should not be subject to the criminal law- I may have stated that previously because I do believe there is a considerable body of opinion to that effect- the majority opinion in the community is that marihuana users should not be subjected to the same severity of the criminal law as the trafficker in heroin.
– No one is saying that they should be.
– Well, that is the way in which the honourable member seems to be trying to confuse the issue. The proposition that I mentioned the other day is a serious one. It attempts to take account of the difficulties that will always exist with the different State laws. This Government has an obligation to honour international conventions in that regard. This proposition that is under study and being discussed between the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) and myself- and I emphasise the Minister for Health because it is as much a matter for him as it is for a law enforcement officer or for anyone concerned with the criminal law- is to put the question of drugs on to a proper, rational basis. If the proposal comes to fruition there will be the hardest penalties imposed against the trafficker, against the exploiter of illicit drugs, particularly drugs of the hard kind.
– What about minimum penalty?
-The proposal is not in final form at this stage and I regret that I cannot put it to the right honourable member now. But yes, the minimum penalties will probably be extremely severe. The suggestion- and it is no more than a suggestion, although I do not mind giving it to the right honourable member- is for penalties of 25 years imprisonment and $100,000 fine. Indeed, there is even a suggestion that there be forfeiture of assets as well because we all know that on the international scene there are great business interests involved in the drug traffic business. Fortunes can be made out of it. When international business- some of the seedy aspects of business- puts its mind to the rewards that can be gained in that way the risks can be seen as little more than something that has to be insured against. So the penalties have to be extremely severe indeed. But there is a world of difference between that situation and the situation of a young person who believes- and it is to be hoped that he or she is correct- that smoking marihuana is not harmful. I have never smoked it myself; as I have said before, I do not know whether any of my friends smoke it or not. I do not have many trendy friends; most of my friends are old squares, it is often said. But some people do believe that they are not doing anything harmful to themselves or to anyone else, other than that they are breaking the law as it exists at the moment, when they smoke marihuana.
There is a great need to put the matter on to a more rational level. This Government has been party to a deep and prolonged study of the subject. Its mere determination to honour international obligations is recognition of that fact. The Senate Committee on the subject, as we all know, made strong recommendations that are consistent with what I have been saying in this House. Indeed, the other courses of study that the Government has had under way are consistent with the same proposition, consistent with what I have said to the honourable member for Hotham, consistent with the problems that the police face in the Australian Capital Territory and consistent with the proposals that I have described on two occasions now that concern the Minister for Health and me and that I hope will be brought into this House for the consideration of this House when they reach their final form, which will not be in the too distant future.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! The discussion is concluded.
Debate resumed from 9 April on motion by Mr Charles Jones:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The first suggestion that a Bill to re-establish the InterState Commission would be introduced in this month’s sitting of the Parliament appeared in a newspaper article on 3 April. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) made an announcement about it on 7 April and the Bill was introduced into this House on 9 April. Now- 12 days later- the Government has brought on this Bill for full debate through all of its stages. It is rushing the Bill through the Parliament.
As it stands this Bill represents the most blatant attempt that the Government had made to gain control over industry and trade in Australia. The Bill seeks to create a commission that will exercise supreme power in those areas. It embodies far reaching and sweeping changes not only in the field of transport but also over the entire range of industry and production in this country. Yet the Bill is being steamrolled through the Parliament before the public has an opportunity to learn of its contents. The Opposition believes that the measures contained in this Bill are too important to be rushed through the Parliament without proper scrutiny and public consideration. The Opposition wishes to defer the Bill until the next session because it is much wider than a Bill dealing only with transport matters.
I remind the House that in his Speech at the opening of Parliament the Governor-General stated that the Inter-State Commission would plan and provide means of communication between the States. The Commission which is proposed in this Bill deals not only with transport but also the whole range of trade and commerce in Australia. The draftsman’s skill has been taxed to its limit and the provisions of the Constitution have been stretched beyond their proper meaning in order to bring forth a piece of legislation which is horrendous in its scope and potentially ruinous in its effect on all trade and commerce in Australia. With the passage of this Bill the creeping octopus of socialism would no longer be limited in its advance but would be brought into the open and embodied in this institution which the Government is asking this Parliament to create. The Commission will be in reality a device by which complete Federal Government control may be brought about in this country. Section 101 of the Constitution states:
There shall be an Inter-State Commission, with such powers as the Parliament deems necessary for the execution and maintenance, within the Commonwealth, of the provisions of this Constitution relating to trade and commerce. . . .
Although under the Constitution the Commonwealth has been granted power over trade and commerce between the States, and with overseas countries, section 92 of the Constitution states that trade, commerce and intercourse among the States shall be absolutely free. Thus the Commonwealth’s power over trade does not extend to intra-State trade and may not be exercised in such a way as to impair the freedom of interstate trade. Section 92 has been a stumbling block for the repeated attempts to restrict, curtail or control interstate trade. It is the one section of the Constitution upon which private enterprise in Australia has been able to rely in order to resist the encroachments of governments, both State and Commonwealth. The attempt to nationalise the public banks in 1947 foundered on section 92.
In replying to a question asked of him in the House last week the Prime Minister compared the proposed Inter-State Commission with the American Inter-State Commerce Commission. It is clear that the present Bill has been modelled on the United States Commission. However it should be remembered that the United States Constitution contains no provision equivalent to our section 92. The Opposition is confident that the High Court of Australia will uphold the provisions of the Constitution relating to trade and commerce, especially the freedom of trade guaranteed by section 92. However, there is a danger that the High Court will be so snowed under with litigation that many of the actions of the Commission will go unchecked. Although the Opposition believes that the proper forum for determining questions of the validity of Commonwealth legislation is the High Court or the
Supreme Courts of the States with Federal jurisdiction it rejects the Government’s policy of pursuing legislation of questionable constitutional validity and leaving it to be challenged before the courts. That imposes an intolerable strain on the Constitution. It is part of the policy of the Government to undermine the whole constitutional framework of government as it exists in Australia.
One of the major ways in which the Bill would alter the constitutional balance of power is in its effect on the States. The Bill contains provisions which would undermine the authority of a State over transport within that State. The Bill would practically take control of road transport and the railways out of the hands of the States. Furthermore, the Bill would also create confusion as far as the Commonwealth is concerned. The Bill contains provisions which would mean that decisions or actions of the Inter-State Commission would override the decisions of all other statutory authorities, including the Prices Justification Tribunal and the Trade Practices Commission. What will be the status of the Airlines Agreement and what will be the position of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission? The Parliament is being asked to approve in haste and without proper consideration and debate extensive and fundamental amendments to many other Acts which it has already passed.
Although only short, this Bill would bring forth a monster. At one stroke it would alter the entire constitutional balance and, indeed, the whole structure of transport, trade and industry as they exist in Australia at the present time. The Government will not be permitted to push such a far-reaching piece of legislation through the Parliament without the public being informed. We know that this Bill is the brain-child of the Prime Minister. Why does the Prime Minister not come into the House and defend his own handiwork instead of sending in the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) as a front man? If this Commission were to proceed as proposed the Minister for Transport would be in charge of an adminstrative backwater in a Department with no policy capacity.
I would now like to turn to the Bill and to examine some of its provisions in detail. The definition of ‘goods’ as contained in clause 3(1) shows how the Government is attempting to control not only transport but also the whole area of trade and commerce. The definition includes not merely ships, aircraft and vehicles but also minerals, petroleum and gas. Transport is an integral part of trade, but the concept of trade is larger than only transport. It involves goods as well.
The reference in the definition to minerals and petroleum is an obvious attempt to use the InterState Commission to control the production and movement of those resources. Similarly the definitions of ‘inter-State transport’ and ‘overseas transport’ contain the phrase ‘transport of goods . . . that are the subject of such trade or commerce’. The meaning of those words is ambiguous, but it would appear that their intention is to enable the Commission to exercise powers of control over goods which are the subject of trade at every stage of their extraction, production and manufacture. The draftsman is clearly attempting to use the subject matter of transport as a means of reaching back to control every stage of the trading process. Such an attempt is clearly not permissible.
Clause 3 (2) of the Bill contains a definition of what is a service which is probably the most blatant example of the fact that this Commission is really intended to embrace much more. In clause 3 (2) a service is defined in such a way as would allow the Inter-State Commission to control all matters connected with transport, such as the ancillary services which are essential to transportation. Thus the repair and servicing of vehicles, ships and aeroplanes and even the provision of fuel supplies would be within the control of the Commission. The clause also permits the control of all facilities connected with transport, such as terminals, wharves, warehouses, depots and stations. Finally, clause 3 (2) allows the Commission to control the financial arrangements associated with the establishment of transport services. Thus it is within the power of the Commission to determine the question of whether a piece of machinery is hired, leased or purchased outright. The scope of this provision is breathtaking in its width. It would allow Government control not only of all transport in Australia but also of the facilities associated with it.
Another feature of this Bill is that nowhere does it distinguish between private transport and public transport. I use the phrase ‘private transport’ in the sense that every person who owns a motor car or other vehicle for personal or family transport will be subject to the Inter-State Commission. As it stands, the Bill does not prevent the Commission from controlling, if it wished to do so, any private citizen who drives his motor car from one State to another. There are other clauses in the Bill which are so wide that the Commission is permitted to exercise powers and undertake functions which Parliament has never permitted any other single body to have. I have already mentioned the power granted to the Commission in clause 13 (1) to override the determinations of other tribunals established by Acts of this Parliament. Clause 13 (1) also permits the Commission ‘to exercise all or any of the powers … of any authority . . . under any law of Australia’. In other words, the Commission may take over the functions of the Australian National Airlines Commission or operate an airline. This, in combination with the power granted to the Commission in clause 17 to prevent any person engaging in interstate transport without the licence or consent of the Commission, would mean effectively an end to the 2-airlines policy. The Commission has power under clause 13(1) to take over the operations of the Australian National Line.
There is no provision for the Commission in the exercise of its powers to be subject to the power of the Minister or even of Parliament. Once this legislation is passed, an all-powerful and supreme body will have been created which will exercise its wide powers without reference to the wishes of the Government of the day or of this Parliament. The powers vested in this Commission are wider than any which have been granted to another body in Australia. It is true that the Constitution provides for the existence of an interstate commission, but the Commission which this Bill proposes to establish is far beyond the spirit and intention of the Constitution. The Government is attempting to establish by indirect means a body which the Constitution never contemplated.
The Opposition believes that the need exists for a body which will have power to regulate transport in Australia within the limitations provided for in the Constitution. The Constitution gives the Commonwealth power over interstate and overseas transport, but the Commonwealth must not exercise its power over interstate trade in such a manner as would restrict, curtail or control interstate trade. There is a considerable amount of judicial authority to support the view that the Commonwealth has power to regulate interstate and overseas transport, and the extent of this power of regulation is quite adequate to permit the planned and co-ordinated development of transport services in Australia. The Opposition would support a Bill to create an interstate commission which was intended to be a regulatory body in the field of transport. It must be remembered that the Constitution contemplates as the functions of such a commission the execution and maintenance of the provisions relating to trade and commerce. Since the States have been left with control over intrastate trade and transport, a commission exercising power of regulation and advice would be a purely federal body in the sense that its functions would be to uphold the Constitutional provisions as they relate both to State and Commonwealth powers over transport. Such a commission would be in line with the spirit and intention of the Constitution.
The Commission proposed in this Bill is not a body which is truly federal in its nature. Rather, it is an attempt to use the Constitutional provisions to create a commission which will be an arm of the central Government in its conquest not only of the States but also of all transport and trading activity in Australia. If the Government wants to show its bona fides in its wish to create an interstate commission for which the Constitution provides and which will exercise regulatory power over transport in a manner which is truly in keeping with the federal nature of the Constitution, the Opposition will support such legislation. But this Bill departs in horrendous fashion from the words used in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that a commission would be for the purpose of providing a means of communication between the States. It endeavours to sneak in by the back door provisions that were tested previously before the High Court of Australia and negated by that court during the life of the Interstate Commmission from 1912 to 1920.
The Bill is a monster, and the Minister is being used as a dumb stalking horse for its introduction. The Bill in no way parallels the findings of the private seminar run by the Department of Transport late in September 1974. For these reasons the Opposition proposes to seek the agreement of the Government to allow the Bill to lie on the table until the Budget session. This will allow public discussion and debate and proper information to be circulated on this very important and vital Bill. Failing acceptance of its amendment, the Opposition will be forced to oppose the Bill as a measure of its dismay and horror at the pressure tactics of the Government on this important Bill. I will then seek to move a number of amendments in the Committee stage to bring some sense of reality and common sense to the measure. I make it clear that the amendments are not final and may be added to in another place, but they reflect the concern of the State governments which have made representations to me, the Road Transport Division which has made representations to me, and the shipping and airline companies in Australia and the other bodies that have made representations to me. I now move:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘the Bill be withdrawn and not proceeded with until after presentation of the Budget to enable the principles of the Bill to be more fully investigated’.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
-In the 2Vi years since December 1972 when I became a member of this Parliament I have heard the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) address himself to a number of Bills in this chamber. I have taken note of some of the phrases and cliches that he has used on many previous occasions. He has referred to ‘pressure tactics’, ‘blatant’, ‘horrendous’, ‘steam-rollered’, ‘octopus of socialism’, ‘monster’, ‘defer, defer, delay’. Surely those words could not have been applicable to all the legislation to which he has addressed himself. I put it to honourable members that this is again just the hackneyed, stereotyped delivery which is the general attitude of members of the Australian Country Party to legislation brought before this chamber.
The Inter-State Commission was first mooted in 1898-77 years ago. Surely that gave the Opposition some notice of the possibility of an interstate commission being created by this Government. In his policy speech last May the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said that in 1974 an interstate commission would be established. Just how much notice do we have to give to the Australian Country Party on these matters? It is obvious that that Party supports the inequities and the inadequacies of the hotch potch, present unplanned system of transport in this country. What the honourable member for Gippsland is really putting forward is a case for the march back to colonialism of the last century. If the fears which he expressed are well founded, why does he not take the matter to the High Court after the legislation is passed? The clear majority of the members of the High Court were appointed by his own Government, his predecessors. Or is he afraid, and is the Country Party afraid, of the impartiality of the High Court in these matters? Because of the vastness of our land and the relatively enormous distances between our population centres and between the location of resources and markets, transport costs are a vital factor in our national economic structure.
It is imperative to our development as a nation that we have not only an efficient transport system embracing the various modes of transport but that we have also a system that is coordinated, and that access on an equitable basis is available to all who require to use it. Since the era of coaches, river boats, bullock drays and the fledgling railway systems, when our Constitution was drafted and adopted by the 6 colonial States, we have seen the proliferation of differing means of transport, in many respects unco-ordinated, with discriminatory pricing and access in terms of trade, that have resulted in many unnecessary costs being built into our transport arrangements.
If we are to develop as a nation in the world of trade then, above all, we must have a coordinated, efficient and accessible transport. The Founding Fathers foresaw the need when they drew up the Constitution and they provided for it by means of sections 102, 103 and 104 of the Constitution, in addition to section 101. The interstate commission they envisaged was modelled largely on the commission created in the United Kingdom by the Railway and Canal Traffic Act of 1888, which was designed to prevent unjust charges and ensure rights of through traffic amongst private railway systems. They were also influenced by the United States Interstate Commerce Commission of 1887, which has been modified to the extent nowadays that it is now charged with the responsibility of developing, co-ordinating and preserving a national transport system by water, highway and rail, as well as by other means, adequate to meet the needs of the commerce of the United States, of the postal service and of the national defence.
The Bill before the House, the Inter-state Commission Bill 1975, seeks to re-establish the Inter-state Commission in accordance with the provision of the Constitution. As the Minister emphasised in his second reading speech, when presenting the Bill, it is the Australian Government ‘s intention that the Commission operate under its provisions solely in the field of transport. Section 10 1 of the Constitution states:
There shall be an Inter-State Commission, with such powers of adjudication and administration as the Parliament deems necessary for the execution and maintenance, within the Commonwealth, of the provisions of this Constitution relating to trade and commerce, and of all laws made thereunder.
Section 102 goes on to state:
The Parliament may by any law with respect to trade or commerce forbid, as to railways, any preference or discrimination by any State, or by any authority constituted under a State, if such preference or discrimination is undue or unreasonable, or unjust to any State; due regard being had to the financial responsibilities incurred by any State in connexion with the construction and maintenance of its railways. But no preference or discrimination shall, within the meaning of this section, be taken to be undue and unreasonable, or unjust to any State, unless so adjudged by the Inter-State Commission.
Section 103 of the Constitution prescribes the method of appointment and tenure of office of the Commissioners. Section 104, the other specific section relating to the establishment of the Commission, states:
Nothing in this Constitution shall render unlawful any rate for the carriage of goods upon a railway, the property of a State, if the rate is deemed by the Inter-State Commission to be necessary for the development of the territory of the State, and if the rate applies equally to goods within the State and to goods passing into the State from other States.
The attitude of the Australian Labor Party towards the establishment of an interstate commission is firm and clear. The Launceston Federal Conference of our Party resolved, in June 1971, that an Australian Labor Government would ‘establish the Inter-State Commission to co-ordinate all types of interstate transport in Australia including rail, road, air, water and pipelines and to regulate conditions of carriage’. In December 1972 a majority of Australians supported our campaign policy, and in that campaign the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said in his policy speech:
The Inter-State Commission was intended to end the centralisation fostered by all State governments through their railway systems. It should now provide not only for the coordination of our mainland railway systems and our major ports in the period before the Commonwealth, like other federal governments, inevitably takes responsibility for railways and ports; it is the ideal instrument for co-ordinating our major roads and airways and pipelines. A Federal Labor Government will promptly restore the machinery the Constitution intended and vest it with the Commonwealth’s full constitutional powers to plan and provide modern means of communication between the States.
In his policy speech in April 1974 the Prime Minister further stated: ‘The Government will reestablish the Commission this year’. This Bill is the fulfilment of those policy promises, albeit a little later than had been hoped initially. It is appropriate to recall that the Founding Fathers envisaged the future progress of the 6 States of Australia as along the course to a strong, independent, national outlook and possibly to the creation of more States within the federation as the population grew. I suppose it is understandable that in the years since Federation constituent States should tend towards State parochialism, but that in no way excuses the paranoia of the present non-Labor Premiers whose policies and endeavours fly in the face of the development of a strong, independent, national outlook. The continual tirade of abuse against this Federal Government that emanates particularly from Premier Court and Premier BjelkePetersen can only retard the progress of Australia. Their attitudes herald a march backwards to the isolationist, separatist policies of the 6 colonial States of the nineteenth century, whose governments realised the disadvantages of not having a co-ordinated national transport system for our vast island continent. The gallant, lone Liberal Prime Minister who strove to place the national and overall interests of Australia before the parochial State interests was hounded from office by his own party colleagues and their machinemen at State level, and the faceless men of private enterprise who support them. Those men of the State governments at the end of last century hoped that by enshrining sections 101 to 104 of the Federal Constitution they would ensure the creation of a continuing Inter-State Commission. The fact that the original Inter-State Commission was allowed to wither and die until the 1912 Act was finally abolished by the Menzies Government in 1950, resulted in unnecessary and incalculable costs being inflicted on our transport systems since 1920. However, in 1959-only 9 years after the abolition of the 1912 Act and during the administration of a later Menzies Government- the Constitutional Review Committee recommended the reestablishment of the Commission. The Committee recommended also that the Commonwealth Parliament should have an express power to make laws on restrictive trade practices found by the Commission to be contrary to public interest. More recently, in fact last year, the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce, backed by the Department of Economics at the Queensland University, in a submission to the Queensland Government advocated re-establishment of the Inter-State Commission to regulate transport, both interstate and intrastate, so as to overcome the anomalies and inefficiencies which existed in abundance as a result of State regulation of the transport sector. Subsequently, the Australian Chamber of Commerce, at its conference in May 1974, adopted unanimously the following resolution, following the discussion paper on the adverse effects of State regulation in transport industries:
Conference asks council of management to consider the desirability of setting up an Inter-State Commission, as provided for under section 101 of the Australian Constitution but only for the purpose of properly co-ordinating and regulating with the maximum economic efficiency the distributive service industries so far as they relate to land, sea and air transport.
The editorial of the ‘Australian Financial Review ‘ of 8 April 1975 refers to the need for an authority clothed with unqualified constitutional powers to correct the many anomalies of the present transport scene and makes particular reference to the chaotic development of our ports that has occurred. The Brisbane Chamber of Commerce was able to show in its submission that, as a result of intrastate taxes on road transport in Queensland and because there was no interstate road transport tax, freight rates from Adelaide to Mount Isa were cheaper than from Toowoomba to Mount Isa despite the fact that Toowoomba is 7 1 5 miles closer to Mount Isa than to Adelaide. What clearer case can there be than that for the co-ordination of an equitable, efficient system of transport facilities and rates on a basis of national interest and equity?
Another effect of the lack of a national, coordinated system of transport facilities can be seen in the Hunter region and the port of Newcastle. Because of the lack of adequate rail facilities to transport export coal from pit head to port, heavy congestion has been caused on major roads to the port by coal trucks running a shuttle service. In the communities through which coal trucks travel sharp division has been created for and against the use of coal trucks as opposed to the use of rail transport. Financial burdens have been placed on local councils whose roads are damaged by heavy coal carrying vehicles. I do not wish at this stage to enter that argument but rather to point out that the present problems could have been avoided had an authority been in existence in the past to investigate and report on the various modes of transport to the port of Newcastle. The port is the capital of the Hunter region or rather sub-State, and because of the facilities it provides to commerce its transport facilities ought to have been planned and developed based on the principles of regional efficiency, proper utilisation of the public investment in port facilities and equitable regional access to overseas markets. For instance, had an interstate commission existed during the period when the Opposition was in government, when ‘ Japanese importers were playing the Queensland coal industry off against the New South Wales coal industry, it could well have conducted an investigation into coal freight rates by either road or rail to the port as compared with coal freight rates to export ports in Queensland to see whether the New South Wales coal industry was in any way disadvantaged.
A few years ago the Yennora wool handling facility near Sydney was developed and initially resulted in a heavy reduction of utilisation of Newcastle shipping facilities for wool because of unco-ordinated State government decisions. It could well be that an interstate commission investigation would show that it would make better economic sense to make greater utilisation of the Newcastle port than to over-centralise commerce through the congested port of Sydney, and at the same time it could bring out into the open any preference being shown to certain clients of freight companies.
An investigation into comparative rail and road freight rates in the Hunter region may well show that it is against the public interest to be developing road transport when rail facilities could be better utilised, or vice versa, as the case may be. The point is that planning and coordination of transport are part and parcel of regional development and regional planning, and hence have an important influence on efficient public and private investment. If we move north up the coast, an interstate commission investigation of freight rates, both sea and road, could show that timber producers are disadvantaged by sea-road freights to and from other ports. The Minister has indicated that instances have been brought to his notice of differing charges being made to users for apparently the same service and of differing services being provided. I refer to matters such as preferential reservation of cargo space on ships, provision of the same service at different rates, and variations in the availability of equipment.
Under the terms of this Bill 3 means are provided to the Commission by which an investigation may be initiated so that the services and powers of the Commission are readily available. Firstly, it may launch an investigation on its own initiative or in response to a complaint. Secondly, arising from a direct request from a State it may in its judgment alone commence an investigation. Thirdly, the Minister may direct an investigtion to be conducted. Clause 18 of the Bill requires that detailed written notice of proposed investigations by the Commission be given to persons directly and specifically affected and that notice be published in the ‘Gazette’ and appropriate newspapers. This Bill is long overdue. It will provide the means by which the transport system of an interstate and overseas nature will be placed on a basis of national efficiency, free of disadvantage to users of the system. I commend the Bill to the House.
-This legislation has about it the elements of one of the most historic pieces of legislation that the Government has introduced since it was elected in December 1972- not historic, I believe, in the sense that it will go down on the statute books of this Parliament as having made a massive contribution to the resolution of interstate difficulties and difficulties between the States and the Commonwealth Government, but historic in the sense that never before in the period that the Government has been in office has an attempt been made to establish a body with such tremendous power under the cloak of such benign justification. The honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) and the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) in their apologia for this legislation have stressed that it relates to matters of transport. The honourable member for Shortland in his concluding remarks spoke of the contribution that it would make to problems in respect of transport. As the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) has already indicated, the Opposition would support proper legislation to provide a means of resolving problems in respect of transport matters, but the objection that the Opposition has to the legislation in its present form is that it is capable of establishing a fourth arm of government.
This Bill was given a first reading on 9 April 1975. It is now 21 April, a mere 12 days later, and the Government asks the House to pass this Bill through the second reading stage. It asks us to say to the people of Australia that we, as a responsible legislative body, have given proper consideration to everything that is involved in this legislation during a short period of 12 days. I really do not think that the people of Australia are going to accept that this is a serious endeavour by the Government to approach legislative decision by this Parliament in a sensible and responsible manner. It may well be that on proper further examination it will be possible for the Opposition to accommodate itself to acceptance of some of the clauses to which we have taken objection at this stage, but I would like the Minister and succeeding speakers on the Government side to explain to this House why it is so tearingly necessary for us in the short period of only 12 days to have to make a decision on this legislation.
We have heard the honourable member for Shortland and we have heard the Minister in his second reading speech say: ‘You have had all the time in the world to think about an interstate commission. It has been in the Constitution since 1 90 1 . The Prime Minister spoke about it in 1 972. The Australian Labor Party has passed resolutions about it at annual conferences over a period of years. You have had plenty of time to think about it’. I put it to members on the Government side and to the Minister in particular that if the idea has been around so long why is it that we have to make a final decision in 12 days on the form of the legislation? If it is so tremendously important, if it has been such a high priority in the Government’s legislative program, why was it not brought in earlier? Why are we not being given proper time to digest this legislation?
The legislation is argued for on the basis that it is going to resolve differences of opinion. The Government says that the Inter-State Commission will be a body to whom people can take complaints, a body to whom the man in the street- I think that is the expression used in the Minister’s second reading speech- can go along with the large corporations of the nation to have a problem resolved or adjudicated upon. I put it to the Minister that one way in which he can enlist the aid of the man in the street is by not confusing him. If there is one thing this Government is doing it is confusing the people with the plethora of commissions it is establishing. This is the second commission about which the Government has talked in a definitive form in the last 10 days. Last week reference was made to a consumer affairs commission. I might ask: What is to be the impact of this legislation on the Consumer Affairs Commission when it is established? As the honourable member for Gippsland asked: What is to be the impact of this legislation on the Trade Practices Commission? What is to be the impact of it on the Corporations and Securities Commission? The man in the street hardly has an opportunity to digest the relevance of each new commission as it is unveiled. So on the simple score of confusion to that poor old man in the street maybe the Government could consider allowing a little more time.
The commercial impact of this legislation is immense. I think that in fairness the commercial life of this country ought to be given a bit more time to consider the legislation. If some of the fears and the apprehensions that we on the Opposition side of the House have can be abated all the better. That ought to be the aim of a sane legislative process, instead of saying: ‘Here is the legislation. You have to pass it in 12 days. If you do not you are an obstructionist and you are adopting delaying tactics’. That is precisely the charge that was levelled against us by the honourable member for Shortland. This legislation has the potential to establish a fourth arm of government. Honourable members only have to look at the scope of clause 13 of the BUI and at the third paragraph of the second reading speech of the Minister for Transport to realise this. He said in his second reading speech:
Honourable members will note that the Constitution refers to the trade and commerce provisions and laws made thereunder. However it is not the Government’s intention at this time for the Inter-State Commission to operate under these provisions other than in the field of transport.
From that it is quite obvious that what the Government intends to do is to re-establish the Commission, to re-establish the bones of the mechanism, use if for transport purposes in the first instance and, as time goes by, gradually add to the functions and the power of the Commission in the light of what plans the Government may have. We have heard a great deal of reference by ‘ the honourable member for Shortland to the question of resolving constitutional doubts about the extent of the proposed Inter-State Commission’s powers. The honourable member for Shortland has advanced a remarkable argument today. It is an argument that is being advanced with increasing frequency by both Ministers and Government back bench members of Parliament. That proposition is that a government has absolutely no responsibility to make a value judgment as to whether a proposal of the Government is within power. All it has to do is to pass the legislation. I does not have to worry about whether there is any legal doubt regarding the constitutional scope of the legislation. They say the High Court of Australia can determine that. I argue that it is the responsibility of the Government to give some consideration to whether something is within power and that it is a gross breach by the executive arm of government for the attitude to be taken that if there is any problem it can be resolved by the High Court. I think that is an irresponsible attitude. It is an attitude which has come to be far too frequently displayed by members of the Government. I think that as a responsible Government it ought to give some responsible consideration to whether legislation it proposes is within power.
We have heard much reference during this debate, by both the Minister in his second reading speech and by the honourable member for Shortland to the historical antecedents of the Inter-State Commission. While I would be prepared to accept that the original idea of the InterState Commission may have had its genesis in an Act of the United Kingdom back in the 1 9th century, I think that for anyone to argue seriously that a useful analogy can be drawn between the circumstances that then existed and the circumstances which exist today in Australia is to be patently absurd. Every member of this House knows that many of the original concepts which led to the insertion of particular clauses into the Constitution have been altered by the passage of time. If there is one set of relations in Australia which have altered perhaps more than any other by the passage of time, it is the relations between the Federal Government and the States. Ideas and concepts which in the early part of this century were valid and had relevance in regard to the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States were no longer relevant. If we are ever to bring about a sensible resolution of areas of difference between the States and areas of difference between the Federal Government and the States it will not be by unilateral legislative confrontation on the part of the Federal Government. This legislation represents yet another piece of unilateral confrontation by the Federal Government towards the States without proper consideration of the attitude of the States and without proper consideration of the attitudes of industry and commerce.
Within a short period of 12 days we, as an Op: position, are being asked to give a blank cheque to what could constitute the introduction into Australia of a fourth arm of government. We have not proposed that the legislation be rejected at this time. We have asked that it be withdrawn and that its re-introduction be delayed until the introduction of the Budget and until the full ramifications of the legislation can be digested. It is a responsible attitude. It is not an obstructionist attitude. The onus lies on the Government to establish to the satisfaction of the people why it is so frantically necessary to have this legislation passed in such great haste and without adequate opportunity for consideration by those affected and by those interested, which, in this instance, means a very substantial section of the Australian community.
-We have heard a submission from the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) this afternoon which is typical of this indentikit Liberal, as he has been described by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly). He could be described as an identikit Liberal because what he said this afternoon is not new, even though he is a relatively new member of this House. It is the same sort of thing that has been trotted out on many occasions by members of the Liberal Party of Australia when this Government has attempted to do something positive to show some form of national leadership. We heard the same old diatribe again this afternoon from the members of the Australian Country Party. Earlier this afternoon the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) talked about this legislation establishing a fearful commission which will not be answerable to Parliament. The honourable member for Bennelong talked about the legislation establishing a fourth level of government.
Of course, the reason honourable members opposite hold these knee-shaking attitudes is because their Parties, when in government for about a quarter of a century, were never prepared to show national leadership. They were prepared to weave and wave at the whim and fancy of the various State governments. Of course, on many occasions particularly in recent years those State governments have been led by Premiers more powerful than the former government’s Prime Ministers. It is a little difficult for them to understand now that a united Australian Labor Party Government is in power which is prepared to put its policies into effect. This is a Government which has announced policies which have been accepted on 2 occasions in recent years by the people of Australia. Of course, when the legislation to put these policies into effect- legislation such as the Inter-State Commission Bill introduced by the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones)- is introduced into the Parliament honourable members opposite sit back in wonderment and amazement and say: ‘We are not really against the legislation but we would like to have it withdrawn to give us an opportunity to consider it further or to think about it to see whether it is the sort of legislation that we want to support’.
The honourable member for Bennelong talked about the unilateral confrontation that we are having with the States. I submit that the introduction of this legislation by no means represents unilateral confrontation with the States. Previously in their history the States have been part of an Inter-State Commission. The Minister for Transport when introducing this legislation said in his second reading speech that the Commission will be very limited in its powers at this stage. He went on to say in his introductory remarks:
However it is not the Government’s intention at this time for the Inter-State Commission to operate under those provisions other than in the field of transport.
During the debate this afternoon we have heard suggestions from Opposition speakers that this will be a fourth level of government and that it will be a level of government that will be unanswerable to Parliament. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. This legislation is set up under the provisions of the Constitution. It was envisaged quite clearly by the founding fathers in their deliberations and was made clear in the drafting of the Constitution that an InterState Commission would be established and that the role of the Commission would be complementary to that of the Parliament, the Executive and the judiciary. We need the existence of a body such as this with the wide powers it would have to deal with interstate transport problems in the interests of all parties. These problems in transport exist today to a much greater extent than they existed some 70 years ago. But in fact they have never been faced or tackled by previous governments except for the short period of 7 years between 1913 and 1920 when the previous Inter-Sate Commission operated.
I compliment the Minister on the introduction of the legislation. I think it is high time that such legislation was introduced. I suggest to members of the Opposition that they should have second thoughts about their attitude and that they should devote every effort possible to understanding what the legislation is about and to show some progressiveness as they are suggesting to the nation they intend to do under their recently elected leader, and support this progressive legislation that has been introduced by the Minister for Transport.
In 1912 powers were vested in the Commissioners of the Inter-State Commission which were of a judicial nature. It is well known that it was because of those powers and the challenge that subsequently was made to those powers as being in conflict with the Constitution, the Commission did not get very far in the 7 years in which it was in office and eventually lapsed. The challenge, of course, was that the Constitution provided that any appointment of a judicial nature should not be limited by years in office but should be for life. The previous Inter-State Commission was wound eventually on this technicality in 1920 on the completion of the original 7-year term.
I submit that it is not a new idea. Some 7 years after the original Inter-State Commission lapsed a royal commission was held in 1927. The royal commission made recommendations on the Constitution after hearing evidence and considering the revival of the Commission. Sir Robert Garran pointed out that the absence of the Commission prevented the Commonwealth from exercising its powers to regulate railway charges which section 102 of the Constitution made an exclusive prerogative of the Inter-State Commission. Reference was made to this very important function of the original Inter-State Commission by the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) this afternoon. The royal commission in 1927 recommended the reinstatement of the Inter-State Commission with judicial powers provided by constitutional alteration, but it pointed out that even without those judicial powers the Commission would provide a valuable service. It is quite apparent and obvious, of course- even, I am sure, to the Oppositionthat such an alteration to the Constitution would be most unlikely. Of course, the legislation which has now been introduced and which we are currently considering is proposed to operate without such judicial powers as were included in the original legislation and which led to the downfall of the previous Inter-State Commission.
Anyone who has considered the problems associated with any aspect of interstate transport today, whether it be by rail, road, sea, or air, would realise that the differences of the attitudes of the various States cannot be solved by the sort of approach that the Opposition has suggested we should be taking. It cannot be solved by simply getting a united effort from each of the States. Each State has its own attitude on these matters. None of the States will in the future be prepared to give up any of these attitudes, to compromise, to co-operate and to overcome the problems that exist in the various transport that I have named.
This legislation, when passed by the Parliament, will in fact put the Australian Government, through the Inter-State Commission, into a position where it can show the States the leadership which in the past has been lacking in these areas. The Australian Government will be able to show the leadership to the States that will bring them to accept the need for the cooperation and co-ordination of their efforts in these areas that previously has certainly been lacking. I again compliment the Minister for bringing forward this legislation. I suggest to honourable members opposite that they should step, even very briefly, out of the 1 8th century into the 19th century and realise that today’s problems in the transport field can be tackled and overcome only by the Inter-State Commission.
Finally, I remind honourable members opposite that if some of the men who represented the States in the preparation of the Constitution had the type of thinking that they are exhibiting Australia would still be made up of 6 separate States instead of being one nation. There is no doubt that Australia, under this Labor Government, will go forward as one nation provided that the Opposition does not put forward in the other place in this Parliament where it has the majority the negative thinking that has been put forward by it in this House, which would have the effect of blocking the passage of this legislation.
-The first thing I want to note is the absence of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) from this debate. We are discussing legislation which relates to the fourth body which was appointed by the Constitution in imperative terms. In those circumstances one would have thought that a Bill of this kind would have been introduced by the Prime Minister and that he would have been here to explain why it is necessary that this country should have such a body at this time. He is notably absent from the debate. May I say that it is a regrettable absence for the Prime Minister not to lend his debate to this Bill.
The Opposition has indicated that it does not at this stage see the necessity for a body such as this to be set up by this Parliament in such great haste. The honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) said that there are great problems in relation to interstate transport. Of course, anybody who has had anything to do with government would know that it is open to the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) at any time to bring to the attention of his Cabinet or of the Parliament matters or practices which are offensive and which need legislation to correct them. There is no reason why from day to day or from month to month matters of this description should not be brought before the Parliament for correction if they exist. If anybody should get to know of such practices, that person would be the Minister.
Many suggestions have been made about this body over the years but none of them, apart from the original body, actually went as far as does this Bill. If one goes back to the debates and to the evidence that was given before the Royal Commission on the Constitution in 1927 one will find that the emphasis there was on the investigatory nature of the Inter-state Commission. Sir Robert Garran, the then Solicitor-General said:
Amongst others, there is the function of acting as a Royal Commission to investigate matters- the principal function which the Commission actually exercised. I think that most of its time was spent in investigating matters relating to trade and so forth, which were referred to it by the Commonwealth Government.
That is a description of the Inter-State Commission as it existed in the years from 1912 to approximately 1920. Mr Nicholas, the counsel assisting the Commission, said: … the powers of the Commission, if properly exercised, might be made great instruments in carrying out the designs and desires of Parliament with reference to the maintenance and promotion of trade and commerce and commercial relations between the States and with other countries. The Commission would have authority, not only to prevent railway preferences and discriminations, but also to prevent any body or any combination of persons resorting to methods or expedients that might amount to restraint or obstruction of trade. The Commission would have absolute power to ascertain whether private individuals or corporations had entered into any agreement by which they might monopolise trade. The Commission would have full authority to apply the searchlights of inquiry to the inner workings of alleged trusts and combines.
Of course it does not take long to consider that statement and to realise that it is referring to functions which are now basically vested in the Trade Practices Commission. Honourable members have already referred to the report of the Constitutional Review Committee of 1959. In that document the purpose of the Commission is set out as follows:
The Committee believes that the Commission would be an appropriate authority to inquire and report to the Parliament whether a restrictive trade practice is contrary to the public interest.
Those suggestions in those references were to a body of an investigatory nature. It is not good enough to introduce a Bill into this House simply because it is part of the platform of the Labor Party to have a commission of this description. There has to be a good, sound, and viable reason for setting it up.
When one considers the terms of the Bill, one finds that the powers of the Commission go far beyond powers of investigation. The Commission is given great status. Its President is to have the same rank, status and precedence as a justice of the High Court of Australia. One would wonder why he should have that status. It is a matter for speculation whether the Government hopes to appoint somebody who at the end of 7 years would be an embarrassment to a later government which would then have to appoint him to the High Court to get rid of him. But at the moment I cannot see why clause 7 has any justification whatsoever. I cannot see why it is necessary to give such a person such status.
Clauses 9 and 10 of the Bill simply repeat in substance the provisions of section 102 of the Constitution but, of course, they emphasise what appears to have been the purpose of the InterState Commission when it was contemplated in the Constitution- basically, to deal with interstate transport in relation to railways. Clause 1 1 is a very broad provision. It reads:
The terms and conditions on which a service by way of or in relation to interstate transport is provided shall be reasonable and just.
Every term and every condition of interstate transport can be laid down by this body on the broad criteria of reasonableness and justice. I will come back to that point later. Clause 13 of the Bill reads:
The bodies referred to in this clause would include not only those which exercise power in relation to interstate trade and commerce but also those with power in relation to corporations because, so far as a law under the corporations power extends into trade and commerce, it is a law of the Constitution relating to trade and commerce. So clause 13 will enable the Commission, under regulations, to extend its activities into bodies such as the Trade Practices Commission, the Prices Justification Tribunal, the Industries Assistance Commission and other similar bodies. These commissions which have already been established by this Government are to have a Big Brother in the form of the Interstate Commission looking over their shoulder in order to inquire into these matters, to consider them and to report on them. In clause 13 of the Bill the potential to do that is extremely wide.
Clause 14 gives wide powers of investigation. Clause 14 ( 1 ) by itself might well be justified in terms of an existing need to know what is going on in relation to interstate trade and commerce. It may well be that there are areas that could stand investigation, and it may well be that there is a need for a body such as an interstate commission which could perform such a task and report to this Parliament so that this Parliament could decide whether there was a need to introduce legislation for the purpose. The powers of investigation, however, go far beyond that. Sub-clause (6) enables the Minister to extend the powers of inquiry. One finds in sub-clause (10) that the Commission is able to hold an investigation into the terms and conditions on which services by way of or in relation to interstate transport are provided, and that where the Commission has held such an investigation the recommendations that may be made by the Commission in its report should include recommendations specifying the terms and conditions that the Commission adjudges to be reasonable and just for the provision of those services, and that those terms and conditions shall be deemed for the purposes of proposed section 11 to be reasonable and just.
The effect of that sub-clause is that once the Commission decides that certain terms and conditions are unreasonable and unjust, or that certain terms and conditions are reasonable and just, then they become part of the law of this land. There are no indicia; no directions as to what is intended to be reasonable; no directions as to what is intended to be just and yet the Commission is to have the broad power to determine them. The ‘ reasonableness ‘ and ‘justice ‘ of terms and conditions are the very matters that this Parliament ought to be considering. It should not fall within the responsibility of a body even though set up with the high status and great powers of investigation to lay down the law on these matters for the future, without reference back to this Parliament. I know that their decisions may be amended by law, but it is an extremely wide power to give to such a body.
In clause 1 5 one finds an even wider provision. The Commission is given power to make orders requiring the observance of terms and conditions in relation to the provision of services by way of or in relation to interstate transport. Again as one reads the Bill one sees that clause 1 1 gradually emerges as the key provision in the Bill. It is the linchpin of the Bill. I shall come back to it later. Clause 17 contemplates even wider powers under other Acts of Parliament being vested in the Commission. Clause 34 emphasises points that I have already made in relation to the Trade Practices Commission and the Prices Justification Tribunal.
One might ask: What did the founding fathers intend? With respect, they certainly did not intend a Commission of this description. They did not intend one that extended into every area of trade and commerce, State and interstate. They called it an interstate commission and it was intended to deal basically with the interstate transport system in relation to railways. One can say with some confidence that that must have been their view. Over the years the meaning of the phrase ‘laws relating to trade and commerce’ under the Constitution has been extended by the High Court. As I have already indicated, laws under section 5 1 (xx) of the Constitution, relating to corporations, have been treated as provisions relating to trade and commerce. However, it was never the intention of the founding fathers that a commission of this description should be set up under the Constitution. If its activities were restricted to interstate trade and commerce then, of course, it might be able to stand consistent with constitutional history. So I would suggest that the proposed Commission goes far beyond what was originally intended.
One might also ask: Why is there such duplication? Why do we need another body to look over the shoulder of the Trade Practices Commission or to look over the shoulder of other investigatory bodies such as the Industries Assistance Commission? Why do we need it at a time when clearly the Government needs to reduce government expenditure? Why is there a need for yet another body with a multiplicity of public servants and bureaucrats? Why do we need it? These are the questions that have not been answered in the second reading speech of the Minister for Transport. I have read the Minister’s second reading speech and I can find in it no real justification for the setting up of this tribunal. All
I can find is a broad assertion.
I come back to what I said in the beginning: If there is any injustice, malpractice or anything of that description in interstate trade and commerce, then the Minister ought to bring it to the attention of his Cabinet or this Parliament so that we can do something about it.
The other matter is that this Bill seems to be erected upon the hope that its linchpin provisions will avoid section 92 of the Constitution. Clause
II of the Bill states:
The terms and conditions on which a service by way of or in relation to inter-State transport is provided shall be reasonable and just.,
The effect of the Bill is to give the power of determination to the Commission. I have taken the House through the Bill. I say to the Minister that it is extremely doubtful whether such a provision will survive the gamut of section 92 of the Constitution. The Minister ought to consider the Bill a bit more because although the words ‘reasonable and just’ sound grand words, greater indicia needs to be attached to them in order for such a provision to survive the gamut of section 92. It is not a question of whether it is good or bad to have such a provision: The question is whether such a provision is constitutional. If that is the linchpin of this Bill it ought to give honourable members serious concern whether that provision does not need amendment in order to give some greater direction to the Commission as to the types of matters which it should take into account in determining what is ‘reasonable and just’ and to show that, in terms of section 92 thinking, the provision is truly regulatory and not a burden on interstate trade and commerce. That is the point to which I am directing my mind at the moment. I suggest that the BUI comes before the House in a form which is not satisfactory.
Should there be a commission? It may well be that there are good and sufficient reasons for having a commission of some description. I have already conceded that. A commission which has wide investigatory powers to look into questions of malpractice and at ways of making interstate trade more efficient was the original and real intention of the Constitution. I suggest that that is the only justification for it today in view of what has happened since 1900 and in view of the fact that the Government has set up a new Trade Practices Commission with investigatory powers, a Prices Justification Tribunal in that area and an Industries Assistance Commission. It is intended that these bodies look into matters of interstate trade and commerce. I therefore suggest at this stage that the Government should think again about this measure with a view to cutting it down, to making it consistent with the Constitution and also making it consistent with the economic stringencies of this day. The Government should consider making it consistent with legislation which has already been debated and passed by the House and which already provides for wide investigatory procedures and for the making of orders which are intended to deal with malpractices.
-As previous speakers have said, the object of the Interstate Commission Bill is to etablish an interstate commission as provided for and expected under section 101 of the Constitution. Except for the period 1913-1 920 the Australian political system has acted without an interstate commission. The Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) in his second reading speech stated that its demise lies in the history of the wheat case and the decision of the High Court which later ruled that the Interstate Commission could not possess judicial powers. That commission was disbanded in 1950. This Bill avoids repetition of such a mistake. This Bill does not seek to cloak the ISC with curial or judicial powers. On the other hand it seeks to establish principles. As the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) stated:
A clearly developed and defined role for the commission will evolve over time and in the light of experience . . . one of the great anomalies of Australia’s post-federation history that the concept of the interstate Commission, for which the founders of our Constitution obviously envisaged a major role in Federal relationships, as, except for a brief period 6 decades ago, been ignored by Australian Governments.
After more than 2 years of careful planning the Government has now reached the stage where it can decide upon a role and structure for the commission. We believe this will enable the commission to function in a way which is consistent with its original conception. The powers of the Commission are set out in the Constitution, a section of which states: . . . adjudication and administration as the Parliament deems necessary.
The Constitution gives flexibility for the legislation to be changed as demands change which, in turn, create further changes. The provisions in the Bill are based on the interstate commission being given adjudicatory, investigatory, arbitration and administration functions in respect of which the Commission will be empowered to determine any necessary issues of fact. Its decisions would be appealable in matters of law to the High Court. I suppose any speech from the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon), in referring to any measure introduced by this Government, would be amiss and a little strange if it did not make some reference to a charge that our measures were socialist and centralist. But even the greatest opponents of socialism today could not have erected as great a barrier to the development of socialism suitable for Australia than did the fathers of our Constitution. They were hardly known for their love of socialism. In fact, the greatest barriers to the implementation of socialist platforms or policies in Australia can be directly tied to the Constitution. I am sure these fathers would be disappointed to know that the legislation, expected to provide for carrying out a clause in the Constitution, has been decried as socialist and centralist by the Australian Country Party.
If this is a socialist measure and a door to be opened then surely previous Labor governments since the Fisher Government- which established the commission- would have pursued the matter with greater vigour. If the honourable member for Gippsland still is not convinced and if he still wants recourse to change then I remind him of the words of his colleague the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) a few minutes ago. He said that remedies he in appeals to the High Court and in legislative change.
The honourable member for Wentworth was resplendent in his backing and filling today. He mentioned many reasons why there should be an interstate commission. On the same grounds and in the same rhetoric he removed them and decried them.
Since 1920 there has been a continuous stream of recommendations and expressions of support for the reconstitution of the Commission. This has been from royal commissions, State governments, Parliamentary joint committees, 3 Senate select committees, naturally the Australian Labor Government and, oddly enough, I believe at times from the Country Party. The honourable member for Gippsland complained that the only notice of this Bill he had was a mention in a newspaper 2 weeks ago. The formally stated intention of the Labor Government in regard to an interstate commission have been frequent and stem from the following sources: The Australian
Labor Party at its Launceston Conference, established in 1 97 1 as part of the Australian Labor Party platform:
Establish the Interstate Commission to co-ordinate all types of interstate transport in Australia including rail, road, air, water and pipelines and to regulate conditions of ‘carriage’.
The Prime Minister in his 1972 policy speech said:
The Interstate Commission was intended to end the centralisation fostered by all State governments through their railway systems. It should now provide not only for the coordination of our 6 mainland railway systems and our major ports in the period before the Commonwealth, like other Federal Governments, inevitably takes responsibility for railways and ports; it is also the ideal instrument for coordinating our major roads, and airlines and pipelines. A federal Labor Government will promptly restore the machinery the Constitution intended and vest it with the Commonwealth’s full constitutional powers to plan and provide modern means of communication between the States.
As recently as April last year, the Prime Minister in his policy speech stated:
The Government will re-establish the Commission this year.
We are still within 12 months of the time at which the Prime Minister said that. That promise will be upheld, at least in this House. Several issues have been mooted to be dealt with by the Interstate Commission. They are mainly in the first stages concerned with railway transport. The Commission should have the role of adjudication to examine, for instance, railway rates so that interstate trade is not disadvantaged when compared with intrastate trade and to ensure that all modes of transport are not isolated in planning or in operation but have a co-ordinated and coplanned relationship. The Inter-State Commission should have the powers of investigation which are absolutely necessary before adjudication can be made. It should have a role of arbitration and be a suitable body to arbitrate and enforce its decisions upon competing parties. It would be the ideal body for the transfer of State railways to Australian Government control, if offered by the many States. In the case of 2 States this has already partly happened. It should be an ideal body also to arbitrate on disputes between the railways of Australia and other carriers.
It is important to note how matters will be brought to the attention of the Commission. It will be quite open in its operations and accessible to individuals, companies or corporations, State or Australian statutory authorities. Matters can be initiated by the Inter-State Commission or it can operate under either its arbitratory. investigatory or adjudicatory roles at the direction of the Minister. I say that this is important because openness will contribute the same quality that has been injected into the field of subsidies and support schemes to industry under the Industries Assistance Commission. This Bill establishes the principles and, later, government could expand the Commission’s role or refine those principles. Expansion could be inevitable and quite proper. As the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) said, section 101 of the Constitution must be read in conjunction with sections 92 and 104 of the Constitution. Section 104 reads:
Nothing in this Constitution shall render unlawful any rate for the carriage of goods upon a railway, the property of a State, if the rate is deemed by the Inter-State Commission to be necessary for the development of the territory of the State, and if the rate applies equally to goods within the State and to goods passing into the State from other States.
I am sure that the honourable member for Wentworth overlooked section 104 of the Constitution when he objected to clause 1 1 of this Bill and argued that what appeared to be reasonable and just may not be so. I am sure that section 104 utterly dismisses his argument. In fact, his oversight is deplorable. On section 104 rests clause 10 of the Bill.
Further, if the Corporation’s power is wide enough to enable the Commonwealth to make price-fixing laws applicable to the prices of goods and services sold or supplied by foreign companies and Australian trading and financial companies, as it may be, the Commission could also act as a price-fixing authority, again, of courseand I stress this- in connection with the sale of goods or the supply of services interstate, subject to section 92 of the Constitution. I underline the relationship between the rest of the Constitution and the other bodies which have been set up by the Australian Government because it is on these considerations that part III of the Bill operates.
The honourable member for Wentworth decried the status that we have ascribed to the Commission in this Bill. It is important that if it is to operate successfully it have operations similar to the Grants Commission and have the status of the Arbitration Commission. This is what the Government set out to do. The absence of the Inter-State Commission has led to the establishment of many other bodies, such as the Tariff Board, the Industries Assistance Commission, the Grants Commission, the Prices Justification Tribunal and the Trade Practices Commission which have taken responsibility for areas that might well have been within the purview of the Inter-State Commission. It is because of the neglect by previous governments in not establishing such a Commission that these various bodies have needed to be established. The establishment of the Inter-State Commission by this Bill must be seen in the light of those bodies.
Australia is no longer a conglomeration of outpost empires, of colonies. Seventy-five years after our forefathers wrote the Constitution we have emerged from the horse and buggy days into a modern era. This Bill will enable the Constitution to have some flexibility in its interstate operations and relationships, to transform an outdated federalism into a working, modern, uptodate nation- a working federalism.
– There is one concept about the Inter-State Commission Bill 1975 with which we cannot argue, but this does not add any saving grace to the proposition before us. At least the Government indicated in its policy announcements and in the speech of the Governor-General on 27 February 1973 that it would establish an InterState Commission. This Bill gives expression in legislative form to the Government’s announced intention. One can question whether the Government ‘s original intention to plan and provide means of communication between the States has not been surpassed and bypassed by a Bill which has as its ultimate objective the complete throttling of the finances of the States’ service responsibilities and the harnessing of these to control by a body outside the scope of the Parliament, the Executive and the judiciary. One can be excused for advancing the argument that this Commission is another 2-pronged attack on the constitutional rights of the States and private enterprise. Firstly, there is the straightforward language of the Bill and, secondly, the insidious and implied threats to our privacy and independence which will become a reality when the net is finally cast and the catch unloaded. The Bill is, therefore, a further item in the long avalanche of legislation which seems somewhat straightforward at first glance but under the lamp of closer scrutiny has its flaws and deceits exposed.
One would gather from the second reading speech, which was entrusted, probably by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), to the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones), that the Bill deals primarily with transport, but this is far from the truth, as honourable members from this side of the House have conveyed to the Australian people. The corridors of Parliament House are buzzing with talk that the Prime Minister will not put the Minister for Transport in charge of the legislation if and when it receives the support and approval of the Senate and the House of Representatives. One can deplore this rather novice approach to a very important piece of legislation by the Prime Minister, this ‘Charlie’s marble came out this time’ approach -
-Order! The honourable member knows better than to mention the Minister by his Christian name.
– . . . to a matter that is of great and fundamental importance. The honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) drew the people’s attention to the fact that on this mammoth piece of legislation, vital and fundamental to the existence of our States, the Prime Minister has not seen fit to participate in the debate. It is a very important piece of legislation which has severe implications for the whole spectrum of Government activity in this nation. One would have hoped, and I make this statement in a pious way without any recrimination and without any intention of political gain, that this piece of legislation would have had a slot in the mainstream of ministerial responsibility. I ask: Does not the Prime Minister have confidence in the Minister who is sponsoring the Bill at this stage? Is the Minister on shaky ground and is he to go the way of other Ministers?
– He cannot negotiate.
– As the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) said, he cannot negotiate, and we are all concerned about whose responsibility this legislation is to be. We are worried about whether the Minister will be swallowed up in another earthquake emanating from the office of the Prime Minister. Possibly we could not quite say ‘It’s time’ but certainly time will tell.
It is not necessary for me to repeat the history of the previous Inter-State Commission and the constitutional basis of it. The present legislation has been amply spelt out and the path has been well trodden by previous speakers, but the point needs emphasising again and again that this Bill encompasses far wider aspects than mere transport. It is the structuring of an all powerful body which can override decisions of other statutory bodies without reference to the Minister or to the Parliament itself. This is the point of the debate- the overriding of the seat of responsibility by an all powerful commission whose area of responsibility is uncharted, uncontrolled and unchallengeable. This is a dangerous precedent to establish and we are not prepared to give this Bill, in its present form, our imprimatur. That is meant to be not an inflammatory expression but our unbridled and unaffected determination to see that right is done, come what may. As an Opposition we will not be recreant to the trust that has been placed in us; we will wear proudly the mantle of protection of people ‘s rights.
An example of how an industry can be sabotaged can be gained by giving practical examples. The Australian Wheat Board is a statutory authority which gains its legislative teeth from complementary and supplementary legislation by the State and Commonwealth Governments. The purpose for which it was established and for which it has had a continuing charter for many years was to bring an organised approach to the marketing, supply and handling of the Australian wheat crop whilst protecting the rights of the Australian consuming public. It has prospered because it has been firmly anchored to the base of industry control and private enterprise. It has been uniquely successful because the men who have controlled it over the years have been vitally interested in its success because they were the real owners, on behalf of the Australian farmers, of the product. Yet this legend of success can be interfered with by this Commission on the basis of trade and commerce- supreme power in the absolute sense. This is what we are opposed to. There has to be some shackling of control as advanced by the Australian Labor Party for otherwise the reins will be snapped from the hands of those who have the constitutional responsibility of holding them- the Parliament.
– Hear, hear.
– Hear, hear.
– I appreciate the support of that vital principle by the honourable member for Maranoa and the honourable member for Hume.
– Good men.
– As the honourable member for Kennedy says, they are good men; I agree with him. Many other statutory bodies can come under this ironclad fist of centralised control, such as the 2-airlines agreement, the Australian Meat Board and a host of similar bodies, all playing a vital part in a free enterprise economy. No wonder this type of legislation has seen the light of day. It was conceived with the idea of control and bom with the idea to destroy the States. I ask, and I know that the honourable member for Kennedy will be most interested in this: What part has the sinister hand of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) played in formulating this policy? Can this great architect of socialism foresee this Commission being a vital factor in his grand dream, fanned by a raging inferno of self-righteousness, of the socialisation of the production, distribution and consumption of oil and gas obtained from State natural resources? No doubt he has grasped the nettle and is swinging the branch in an endeavour to control coal exports from Queensland in the electorate of Kennedy. No doubt he is drawn to the idea that the Commission will examine oil, gas and coal policies so that no preference in these areas is accorded to one State as compared with any other State, simply because one State seems to have closer natural resources at hand. We are opposed to this type of what may be termed a socialised board of trades. I agree wholeheartedly with the amendments to be moved by my colleague, the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon). I share his very deep and sincere concern at the cavalier attitude towards the Parliament which is shown in the almost immoral haste with which the legislation is being rushed through this chamber. Adequate notice should have been given to the Opposition and sufficient time allowed to have an in-depth analysis made of all the details.
Much discussion has centred recently on the need to improve Commonwealth-State relations. Yet in one fell swoop the relations that have been built up by the hospitality of the non-Labor State Premiers have been destroyed because the Government did not see fit to consult the States in the matter before framing the legislation. True it is that the Government let fall a few statements here and there, but it did not have meaningful consultation with the States. I would have thought that a Bill bearing the name of ‘InterState Commission Bill’, should have had as its basis consultation with the States.
It has concerned me somewhat to find that in one area no mention is made of the item which was included in section 17 of the 1912 Act dealt with investigations of river questions. One would have thought that in a country which has a vast area of dry land and insufficient rainfall, the matter of utilising water which is now aimlessly and wastefully flowing to the sea, and bringing it to the use of the vast inland areas in the States should at least have found a place in the Bill. I want to conclude on this note. The exclusion of rivers and water usage surely indicates once again the complete and utter neglect of inland Australia by the centralised octopus in Canberra.
– I thank the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) for keeping his remarks brief. In the short time at my disposal, I shall speak to the Inter-State Commission Bill, but I am afraid that I shall not be able to match the beautiful mixed metaphors of the honourable member for Darling Downs. The Opposition is merely trying to delay this Bill. Opposition members are using a lot of colourful language about this being a ‘monster’, ‘insidious threats’, ‘sinister’, ‘a device to gain complete control ‘ and so on. But what the Opposition is doing is asking this Parliament to ignore the Constitution. It is rather ironic that Opposition members who have been defenders and upholders of the Constitution as it was formulated in 1901, for some reason or other want to ignore section 101 of it which states that there shall be an Inter-State Commission. They want to ignore that. I do not know whether the Tasmanian senator, Senator Wright, still supports it, but to his credit he has been a supporter of the reintroduction of the Inter-State Commission for which the Menzies Government repealed the Act in 1950 even though it was out of existence long before that.
The Opposition has described the Inter-State Commission as a socialist plot. Does it also say that the framers of the Constitution were preparing a socialist plot? The Opposition says that, yet it complains about what it calls the lack of ministerial control. The Opposition cannot have it both ways. The Commission is to be an independent body. I do not know why the Opposition has any fear about the Government of the day. In any case, as it has acknowledged, there is an appeal to the High Court on matters of law. That is what the High Court is there for- to interpret the Constitution. But the High Court cannot interpret in a vacuum. It has to look at legislation and deem whether it is in accordance with the Constitution and whether any judgments are in accordance with the Constitution. In any case, the Parliament still remains supreme. If the Parliament disagrees with any judgment of the Inter-State Commission, the Parliament can legislate against that decision. The Opposition has made wild assertions about absolute power, supreme power to the Inter-State Commission, the fourth legislative arm and so forth. But the Parliament still retains its supremacy. It can amend this Act after the Bill becomes an Act, the Parliament can introduce superseding legislation if it wishes. The Inter-State Commission is set up under an Act of Parliament.
The purpose of the legislation is protection of the people- protection of the small man, the small business, the small State, and the farmer in particular. The Opposition seems to be acting as a puppet for the large corporations in this country and their preferential position in trade and commerce. I wonder how many communications the Opposition has had from Sir Reginald Ansett in the last couple of weeks? The Opposition wants to delay the Bill so that it can whip up a frenzied and misleading opposition. It does not want to put itself in the position of giving actual opposition to the Bill because of its new form whereby it wants to appear not to be blocking legislation. But deferring a Bill which is as straightforward as this is as good as blocking it. It is a straightforward Bill; it repeats sections of the Constitution and merely gives expression to what the Constitution requires. Clauses 10 and 1 1 are perhaps the key provisions of the Bill. As the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) said, clause 1 1 is the linchpin- I think that is the way he described it. Clause 1 1 states:
The terms and conditions on which a service by way of or in relation to inter-State transport is provided shall be reasonable and just.
The Opposition has said that we do not need to have a system to provide that interstate transport shall be on conditions which are reasonable and just.
Clause 10 states:
It is unlawful, in respect of or so as to affect overseas transport or inter-State transport, or in or in connection with the provision of any service by way of or in relation to overseas transport or inter-State transport, to-
give any particular person, State, locality or class or kind of transport any preference or advantage; or
subject to any particular person, State, locality or class or kind of transport to any discrimination or disadvantage. that the Commission has adjudged to be undue and unreasonable.
Surely that is what we need to ensure, that the disadvantages which exist at the moment do not continue? The Commission can investigate; it can arbitrate- and that is an important power. It can arbitrate between people, between companies. Under clause 15 the Commission can, with the consent of the people involved, arbitrate on any matter relevant to or affected by the provisions of the Constitution relating to trade and commerce or of laws made thereunder.
I wish to refer briefly to this Bill as it affects Tasmania. It amazes me that the Opposition front bencher who speaks for the Opposition in this House on matters related to Tasmania- I refer to the honourable member for Wentworth spoke to the Inter-State Commission Bill without once mentioning Tasmania and the importance of the Inter-State Commission to that State. The people of Tasmania are waiting for this legislation. They have been waiting for it since 1972, if I can ignore the previous period. In 1972 the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) came to Hobart and promised that, if elected to government, the Australian Labor Party would reintroduce the Inter-State Commission. At the same time, he made some specific promises about ensuring equality of cost per ton mile for goods transport between Tasmania and the mainland when compared with transport costs between other points on the mainland, which is one specific way in which the Inter-State Commission can adjudicate. If an inter-State commission had been in existence this Government would never have had to set up the Nimmo Commission of Inquiry into Tasmania’s transport disadvantages, and I think that even the Opposition will acknowledge that Tasmania has been disadvantages in interstate transport. This Government has made great strides in attempting to overcome those disadvantages, but as far as Tasmania is concerned the Inter-State Commission will be a permanent royal commission into Tasmania’s transport disadvantages. It will be a protector of Tasmania’s interests, and the same can be said in relation to Western Australia, which is another small and very isolated State with particular transport disadvantages. As I said, if there had been an inter-State commission in existence there would have been no need for the Nimmo Commission because the Inter-State Commission would have had Tasmania’s interests already under control.
I should warn the Opposition that if it is concerned about its image in Tasmania it ought not to block this Bill. Support for the amendment foreshadowed by the Opposition will be a vote against the interests of Tasmania. I support the Bill and I hope that it has a speedy passage.
-I want to protest -
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
– Order! The honourable member for Kennedy will resume his seat.
- Mr Speaker, I should explain that I am paired.
-The honourable member may leave the chamber.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Nixon’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
-In the opening remarks of his second reading speech the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) had this to say:
The object of the Bill is to re-establish the Inter-State Commission in accordance with the provisions of section 10 1 of the Constitution, which states:
There shall be an Inter-State Commission, with such powers of adjudication -
I will not weary the House by reading the whole of the section. The Minister went on to say, and this is the part which concerns me:
Honourable members will note that the Constitution refers to the trade and commerce provisions and laws made thereunder. However it is not the Government’s intention at this time for the Inter-State Commission to operate under these provisions other than in the field of transport.
I submit to the Committee that the definition of goods is a much wider definition than is required if this Commission is to deal only with transport. Transport is obviously an integral part of trade, but the concept of trade is larger than just simply transport. It involves goods as well. The reference in the definition to minerals and petroleum is an obvious attempt to use the InterState Commission to control the production and movement of those resources right back to their base. Therefore, I move:
Omit the definition of goods ‘.
-The Government rejects the amendment moved by the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon). The definition of ‘ goods ‘ in the Bill includes:
These have been set out specifically because they are some of the things that the Government wants the Commission to investigate. It wants the Commission to investigate the manner in which ships, aircraft and vehicles shall operate. That is the whole crux of the Bill. The Government wants the Commission to investigate the practices applying in the operation of these vessels and the manner in which they are handling the carriage, of freight, passengers and the like. This is part and parcel of what the Bill sets out to do. I repeat that it sets out specifically that these are the matters the Government wants included. Therefore the Government rejects the amendment.
-The honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) has set out the Opposition’s case very explicitly and very well. Honourable members on this side of the chamber support him. In his speech the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) made it quite clear in nearly every paragraph that the intention of the legislation relates to transport, and transport alone. It is to be extended to cover one or two other areas but it relates predominantly to transport. So the definition of ‘goods’ which is contained in clause 3 is much wider than would be understood from the Minister’s speech or from the speeches of those who have been responsible for the Government’s introducing this legislation. After all, what is involved in the Commission is an enormous grant of power, and the Opposition is concerned to ensure that this power be utilised for the purposes for which the Government claims it wants the power. I refer to the statment by Sir John Quick in the debate on the original Inter-state Commission Bill in 1 9 12. He said:
I have always believed, and I still believe, that this grant of power to the Inter-State Commission is a very important grant of power, and that there is in these apparently simple words relating to trade and commerce an enormous grant of power, a reserve force of power, the magnitude and importance of which probably even the framers of the Constitution in launching it hardly realised. But these grants of power, when analysed from the juridical standpoint, are pregnant with meaning and potentiality.
All the Opposition is concerned to do is to ensure that these grants of power have relation to the purpose for which the Bill has been introduced into the House. I believe that that is an eminently reasonable line to take. After all, when a Minister makes a second reading speech in this House we understand that the Bill which follows the speech purports to put into operation what was stated in the speech. It is for that reason that the definition of ‘goods’ is proposed to be altered and deleted by the Opposition in accordance with the amendment moved by the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon). I believe that in moving this amendment the honourable member for Gippsland is holding to the precise terms under which the Bill has been proposed twice in public places and once in this House by the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones).
-The explanation of the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) is not satisfactory. I thank the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) for the additional information he has provided in this debate. But one is inclined to wonder when one reads the definition provided, which states: ‘Goods ‘includes-
One would assume, therefore, that the InterState Commission is wanting to control transport by those means; by ships, aircraft and vehicles. But then the next section reads:
I do not know whether the Minister is living in the horse and buggy age and thinks he is going to control the drays that go down a country road, or what. But to include fish really boggles the mind as to what the Minister might mean. If he does not mean that this new Inter-State Commission is going to invent some new transport form, or he is going to invent some new transport form whereby porpoises are going to tow Australia’s freight overseas, or something, or around the coast in the years ahead, he means the alternative, which is that he is going to control the transport of animals. The transport of livestock throughout Australia will be controlled under the definition of this measure and that will include fish. If the transport of livestock is included, what about the transport of other products? The inclusion of this reference really means control of trade and commerce throughout Australia. The Minister goes on to prove his own point by including under the definition of ‘goods’:
If these are to be included in the definition of ‘goods’, it means that the arrangements for the carriage of crude oil from Barrow Island can be upset by this Commission. All commercial negotiations and contracts in the field of trade and commerce are put to one side. The Minister does not even know what the Bill means. That is what he indicates when he gets up and talks as he has done. Therefore, the Opposition moves for the deletion of the word ‘goods’.
-Obviously, the Opposition is going to try to mislead the House about the whole matter of this Bill. The main point that must be made in answer to the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) is that if we are talking about goods or trade and commerce, or whatever, and if a particular arrangement is unfair, unreasonable, if it disadvantages or discriminates or gives too much of a preference or advantage, it ought to be adjudged as such. That is what the Bill is about. Surely that is what was intended by the Constitution in stating that the Inter-State Commission should have a trade and commerce power. That is what the Bill is providing.
– I am one of those people who believes that, as we have, under section 10 1 of the Australian Constitution, an actual responsibility to establish an InterState Commission with some or all of the powers that are mentioned in sections 101 and 51 (i) of the Constitution. A Bill of this sort ought to be brought down, provided I am convinced that there is solid ground on which any commission that is established can in fact ensure efficiency in our transport system and in our trade and commerce within the States and overseas. There we have the constitutional provisions.
I refer to Quick and Garran. I believe that initially when the Constitution was agreed to it was thought that when such powers of adjudication and administration were given they were judicial powers. If one looks at the ‘Oxford English Dictionary’ one sees that ‘adjudication’ has that meaning; it is to award judicially or to decide judicially. As complementary to this, when a person such as myself looks at section 5 1 (i) of the
Constitution, which states that the Commonwealth shall have power with regard to trade and commerce with other countries and among the States, I see the overall perspective in which we have to look at this legislation. Then I have to ask myself whether or not such a Bill is necessary.
One must remember that very nearly $5,000m last year was expended in capital and current expenditure for the transport industries of this country, let alone all the other ramifications relating to trade and commerce. Again, therefore, I have a predisposition to say that in a country with 6 States where, from the very beginning, there have been inefficiencies and a strange disposition to want to be different, even though it might cause costs to rise and transport and other facilities between the States to be obstructed in some way, there should be an interstate commission to ensure justice and reason. I also believe that the Bill is thoroughly consistent with the idea of federalism and a Commonwealth system of government. If one looks at Quick and Garran and reads that part of the ‘Law of the Constitution’ which relates to this clause, one sees that every State wanted an interstate commission. It was Mr Kingston, from one of the States, who moved the relevant part of this clause and ensured that the words ‘shall’ and ‘ goods ‘ came into it.
But the reason why I come to a different conclusion than the Constitution justifies as to the passage of this Government’s Bill is that I do not believe enough thought has been given to clauses 3 and 1 3 and the definition of the word ‘goods ‘. I do not believe that enough consideration has been given to the whole Bill. In the case like this, where a word like ‘goods’ is being defined- and for a long time it is difficult to find out in the Bill itself just where the word ‘goods’ in fact is used other than in the definition clause of interstate transport and clause 12- one knows it has been trumped up in order to divert power surreptitiously from the States to the Commonwealth Government if it can be done within the terms of sections 101 and 51 (i) of the Constitution. We do not want this kind of deception.
The Government has not consulted with the States and it has not consulted thoroughly with the business interests involved who have to run the transport industries unless, of course, those are to be taken over by a socialised government. I do not know if the Labor Party thinks that, but it should come out openly and honestly and state what its objectives are. But from my point of view, as I think there are acts of deceit involved here, the proposed powers are far too wide and we have not had the opportunity to research the matter in detail. So I have to reject, or do all I can to reject, the definition in clause 3(1) relating to goods. I shall also want to take similar action with regard to clause 13 and other clauses of both Parts III and IV relating to investigations and commissions.
– I support the amendment that has been moved by the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) to provide that the definition of goods be excluded from clause 3 of the Bill. I am confused as to what it really means. On a superficial reading it would appear that goods are defined for the purpose of identifying forms of transport, but quite clearly that is not so because transport is specially denned. If it was important to include ships, aircraft and vehicles they could have been provided in the definition of transport. Under the definition of goods the Government includes animals and minerals. I wonder whether it has forgotten to include vegetables. We know the old saying: ‘Guess what it is- animal, vegetable or mineral’. There is no mention of ‘vegetable’ in the Bill. However it mentions ‘gas’, ‘slurry’ and ‘minerals’. ‘Minerals’ is a word with a wide meaning. It even includes petroleum products. ‘Animals’ has an even wider meaning. It even includes fish. I presume it also includes birds and anything else that lives. Perhaps ‘animals’ also means ‘vegetables’.
It may be that the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) can give a clearer explanation of what is really intended. Is he saying that ‘goods’ relates to forms of transport, or does it relate to goods in trade and commerce? The suspicion on the Opposition side is that this Bill is to be allembracing and is to have control over not only transport between States but also the trading of goods and the pricing of goods. I think it is right that a much clearer explanation should be given to the Australian people before we agree to go on with the proposals mentioned by the Minister.
– One of the things which has surprised me about the discussion that has taken place up to date is the concern that the Opposition has expressed for the multi-national corporations, the large corporations, in this country. This is coming through very clearly and loudly here today. The Opposition is concerned that we should not under any circumstances interfere with all the rorts that are under way at the present time.
– What have fish to with multinational corporations?
– Fish are one of the things that can be transported.
– It is a red herring.
-It might be a red herring. I hope we might carry a few herring, tuna, mullett and fish of that type. What astounds me is that the whole aim of the free enterprise Opposition, which can always find something to be said about free enterprise and the desire for competition, has been to defer this Bill which will provide some true competition and get rid of the means whereby the large forwarders, the large corporations and the other people who, because of the amount of goods they are handling- I use the word ‘goods’ in its normal sense- and the amount of goods they want to have transported are able to stand over certain operators. In the field of commerce we know that the Trade Practices Act was amended to stop restrictive trade practices. The Inter-State Commission Bill will set out to make sure that the little man is protected. It astounds me that the Opposition should oppose this Bill when the small man is going to be protected by it.
I think it was the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) who said that the movement of animals- cattle and other stockaround this country could be investigated. Surely this is what the right honourable member would want to see. Farmer Brown can go along to the Inter-State Commission and say: ‘I am not satisfied with the freight rates that I am being charged by a certain freight forwarder, by certain road operators, by certain sea transport operators and by railways. I want you to conduct an inquiry into the matter’. The Commission can then have a look at the proposition that has been submitted to it by small Farmer Brown. He is one of the people the Leader of the Country Party is supposed to be protecting and representing in this place, but in reality the right honourable member is the mouthpiece of the oil companies and the multi-national corporations in this country which want increases in crude oil prices.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-The Committee is debating the amendment moved by the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) to omit the word ‘goods’ from clause 3 (1) of the Bill. Before the suspension of the sitting I was pointing out that the Inter-State Commission Bill had been introduced to set up the Inter-State Commission so that the people, small businessmen and small companies, could be protected. What astounds me is the attitude of members of the Australian Country Party. They are complaining that the transport of primary produce in some way or another will be hindered and that the matter should not be inquired into. The Government is saying that when goods are to be transported there should be some means whereby the farmer or the grazier- primary producers as a whole- will be in a position to challenge the freight rates that are being charged or challenge the protection that is afforded in one State as against that which applies in another State when primary produce is being transported within a State as part of an interstate or international movement of goods under terms and conditions which render a disadvantage to a farmer, or whoever it might be, in another State.
It may be that a group in one State is placed at a very great advantage relative to another group. The provisions of this Bill would allow the small man to bring to the attention of the Commission unfair and unreasonable practices. In that situation the Commission would be requested to conduct an inquiry. Arising out of that inquiry one of several things could happen: The inquiry could disclose that there was no discrimination or that unfair preference was not being given to one individual or group as against another individual or group. In such circumstances the Commission would decide not to act. But if it found that there was unreasonable and unfair treatment or assistance being provided it could direct that it cease. That is the objective of this legislation. For the life of me, I cannot understand the Country Party’s attitude to this Bill. In particular, I could not understand the attitude of the Leader of the Country Party when he made a strong plea on the matter before the suspension of the sitting and made reference to the fact that animals were to be taken into consideration. This was the point that he made. I repeat myself in concluding my remarks on this point by saying that I thought that he at least would support the points that I have just made.
The definition of the word ‘goods’ has been included in the Bill for explanatory purposes to clarify the situation for people who are reading and interpreting this proposed Act. Items are listed as specific items only to ensure that it is clear to people that they do come within the ambit of the legislation. For transport to take place some item has to be transported, whether it be goods or people. It is possible that at times the means of transport will have to be transportedfor example, ships to other locations- and that is why items such as ships, aircraft and vehicles have been specifically mentioned. Definition B, which specifies that animals come within the ambit of the legislation, has been included to ensure that livestock are covered by definition and that goods are not interpreted as referring to inanimate objects only. Fish have been listed for the purpose of clarity because they are not inanimate and some people might find it difficult to interpret the Bill without that clarification. That is why the definition of animals has been spelt out.
Again, minerals have been listed in the definitions so that the word ‘goods’ is not interpreted as meaning only processed secondary manufactures or primary products resulting from farming activities. Petroleum has been included in the definition of minerals because it is a liquid and some people might not think it is also a mineral. Slurry is the term used to describe the mixture used when solid matter as carried in suspension in pipelines. Gas has been included in the definitions because at times persons have great difficulty in knowing how to categorise it, because of its nature. By specifying that in definition D it becomes clear that its transportation by means of a pipeline is included within the ambit of the power of the Inter-State Commission. Therefore, we ensure that transportation in all its modes and manifestations is covered by the Bill.
The Government takes the view that it would be wrong to omit any area of transport from the ambit of the Commission. Honourable members have had a reasonable time to debate this first amendment moved by the Opposition. Therefore, I hope that they might be prepared to argue out the other points within a reasonable period and put the matters to a vote. For the reasons that I have outlined the Government cannot accept the amendment as moved by the honourable member for Gippsland.
-Mr Temporary Chairman -
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) put:
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr J. M. Berinson)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the definition proposed to be omitted (Mr Nixon’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr J. M. Berinson)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I declare that the Inter-State Commission Bill 1 975 is an urgent Bill.
-Order! The question is: ‘That the Bill be considered an urgent Bill’.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the time allotted in connection with the Inter-State Commission Bill 197S be as follows:
For the remainder of the Committee stage, until 9.20 p.m. this day.
For the remaining stages, until 9.30 p.m. this day.
The Government sought the co-operation of the Opposition in allowing adequate time for debate on the number of amendments that the Opposition proposed to move, but the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon), who led for the Opposition in the debate on this Bill and who thought more of being at the Country Party Conference at Warrnambool last week than being in this Parliament, was not prepared to accept that offer. The honourable member for Gippsland is well known in this Parliament as one who will never co-operate in making possible reasonable debate in this Parliament. We have the situation tonight of the Opposition, having voted to a man against a BUI which contains 41 clauses and saying that it does not want to have a bar of it, now endeavouring to stonewall the legislation by moving amendments to it in Committee. If the Opposition is opposed to the whole of the BUI why is it trying to amend the BUI in Committee? It is having a couple of bob each way. For once the Oxford graduates are in the background and the larrikin Country Party has taken over. As the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) said, the Liberals, like fawning dogs, are fawning at the feet of the Country Party, because today the larrikins are in control for a brief period. I want honourable members opposite to say why, if they are opposed to the BUI entirely, they want any time to debate it at aU in Committee. The only reason they want time is so that they can stonewall the BUI.
The Opposition Parties will obstruct and destroy this legislation in another place because they are opposed to any legislation which comes before this House and before the other place which is any good for the Australian people. The fact that they will not negotiate on this matter shows that they have not got an argument. The former Minister at the table is completely unprepared for the debate. In spite of what he was told by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) he does not think that his place is in the Parliament. He would rather be at the Country Party conference at Warrnambool in preference to being here and studying the legislation. Today he wants consideration of the legislation postponed because he said he had not had time to consider it. The honourable member’s place is in the Parliament. The new Oxford graduate Leader of the Opposition said so. You be sure to be here when the Parliament is meeting. Stay here and study the legislation and do not run all over the country when you ought to be in this House debating these measures. In view of the obstruction to this BUI of honourable members opposite, we have no alternative tonight to introducing a restriction on debate on this measure. We are not destroying any arguments because the Opposition has not any. If honourable members opposite are opposed to the whole BUI why are they seeking to amend legislation which they say is no good? It is simply because this is frustration de luxe. Even if we accepted these amendments here the Opposition in another place would obstruct just for the sake of obstruction. Tonight the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) got up. I heard him speaking in relation to the first clause. One would think from the way his speech was going that he was debating the whole BUI.
The Opposition is talking for the sake of talking. We on this side of the Parliament regret that these obstructionist tactics have caused us to take this step. We thought the Opposition would be well behaved on this occasion, but we find that it is back to its old form again- obstructing for obstruction ‘s sake. The Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) who is in charge of this Bill has put forward constructive suggestions. Considerable time has been given to debate this measure. Yet we find that there is no desire to do so on the Opposition side of the Parliament. For how long have we to look at the Liberal Party acting like fawning dogs, as the right honourable member for Higgins said. For how long will the Liberal Party kowtow behind the Country Party? Why do not members of the Liberal Party, this once great party, stand up and take their rightful place in the Parliament? When all is said and done there are only 20 members of the Country Party over there and shortly there will be fewer; so why should the Liberal Party, this once great party, kowtow to the Country Party and hold up the business of the Parliament? Tonight I have moved this motion with great reluctance. I hope it will be carried because only in this way can we carry out the forms of the House and give effect to this important legislation.
-This afternoon for one hour and 40 minutes we were given the luxury of debating the second reading of the Inter-State Commission Bill which is one of the most fundamental Bills which has been introduced by this Government into the Parliament. For one hour and 40 minutes we were allowed to debate the Bill and then the second reading debate was gagged. We have commenced our Committee stage debate and we have had a division in the Committee stage. Men who have worked and who have knowledge in the area, such as the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) who knows more about the Inter-State Commission and its history than almost any other man in this place, are denied the opportunity of speaking on the Bill. All the poppycock and nonsense which the buffoon from Grayndler has given us is a demonstration of his complete contempt for the Parliament.
Since this Parliament resumed after the Easter recess we on this side of the House have felt determined- in spite of the actions of the Government- to restore the Parliament to its proper status and dignity. The Government has completely frustrated that attempt in every way. There has been an abortion of Question Time when we have seen a repetition of long-winded answers and a repetition of policy statements. These tactics are all designed to avoid a proper examination of Government policies. Tonight we have seen another illustration with the introduction of a guillotine measure, not for the sake of allowing proper debate, not for the sake of enabling proper parliamentary practice to be executed but presumably for one of several reasons. Firstly, the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) who is at the table is incompetent or unable to give the scrutinising examination which the Bill needs. Secondly, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) who is intent on leaving the country as soon as possible, feels that if the debate were to be extended it might be necessary for debate to be carried on in his absence and it seems he has little confidence in those who will be here without him. Finally, perhaps it is because the Government in its desire to show that it has no recognition of the necessity for Parliament to function has decided there is no reason to permit an ordinary debate on matters of significant public importance; it is better for them to be eliminated.
They have learned from their colleagues in North Vietnam that where there is criticism and condemnation it is easier to eliminate that criticism and easier to avoid discussion of it than it is to sit down and permit a point of view to be examined and scrutinised. Tonight these partisans of open government have given us a fair example of what little truck they have for it. The Government, in initiating this guillotine motion has completely moved away from any opportunity for an open examination of one of the most fundamental Bills introduced into this House. Neither the Leader of the House nor the Minister for Transport can, by buffoonery or by their despicable negating of parliamentary debating time, avoid the criticism that there is a case to be answered. They have neither the wit nor the ability to sit and debate it. Obviously the conclusion of the Opposition must be that in the other place we must ensure there is an adequate opportunity to examine the Bill. We are taking our stand because we are concerned that the Bill should be properly scrutinised.
We cannot debate a matter which has as many clauses as this if we are given between 8.30 p.m. and 9.20 p.m. for the Committee stage. It is necessary that every one of the clauses be scrutinised. Honourable members on the Government side do not realise that they are setting up another body with greater power than even the Federal Parliament. They are happy to pass the power from the Parliament. They are happy to give to the fourth arm of government power to introduce through legislative and arbitrative processes decisions which affect the rights of every individual in the community. We in the Opposition will not stand for that. We are completely opposed to this guillotine motion. We intend to ensure that in other places and at other times the Bill will be properly scrutinised.
– We have heard another speech from the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Sinclair) in which he used pious comments such as: ‘This is one of the most fundamental Bills’. Let us have a look at what went on here today during the debate on the second reading of the Inter-State Commission Bill. If ever I saw an ill-prepared and ill-informed presentation of an argument from the Opposition, today was the day. What did the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) who led the debate for the Opposition have to contribute? If we take out of his speech the quotations from my second reading speech and the various clauses of the Bill which he read, he had nothing whatever to contribute. He had the right to speak in this place for half and hour. But what time did he take? He took 15 minutes. That indicated the extent to which the honourable member for Gippsland wanted to contribute to the Bill. If he really had anything to contribute to the Bill why did he not take the half hour that he is entitled to take as the honourable member leading on behalf of the Opposition? The reason why he did not was that he had nothing to contribute. Let us look at the amendment which was moved. It states:
That the Bill be withdrawn and not proceeded with until after presentation of the Budget to enable the principles of the Bill to be more fully investigated.
How much more time does the Opposition want to investigate it? There has been an agreement that the Bill was to be brought in one week and debated the next week. But what about these honourable members who have to be here all the time? What did the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) say when the Minister for Northern Development and the Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) wanted to go to Darwin to a most important meeting in the interests of the people of the Northern Territory? The Minister was not granted a pair. But that very day the honourable member for Gippsland went trotting off to Victoria to an Australian Country Party conference. Where is the Leader of the Opposition now? What about those pious remarks that we are getting paid to be in this place? Last Thursday why was not the honourable member for Gippsland here all day?
As far as the Leader of the Opposition is concerned, we are starting to see the humbug on his part and the phony policies which he has been outlining in relation to what members of the Opposition will do. He has said that they will be here every day and that the Government members should be here every day. That suits me. But let us have this arrangement on both sides of the House and not have honourable members sneaking off to Country Party meetings, not putting in their time to examine the Bill in detail. They have not on one occasion asked that officers of my Department be made available to them to explain the Bill. On previous occasions in this place when there have been Bills which the honourable member for Gippsland could not understand he has come to me and asked whether officers of my Department could be made available to explain the Bills to him and to members of his committee. That was something with which I agreed. I believe it should be the role of the Government to make available all the experts at its disposal to help honourable members on both sides of the House. The Opposition at no time had any intention of allowing this Bill to go through. As the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) stated, all it is wanting to do is stonewall. I spoke to the honourable member for Gippsland about what he was going to do in relation to his 14 amendments and he replied: ‘Divide and oppose all of them’. That means that there will be 14 divisions on the motion that the question be now put and a division on each of the 1 4 amendments moved. How much longer do honourable members opposite think this House will sit here dealing with phoney amendments which the Opposition puts up, amendments which honourable members opposite do not believe in? The whole set-up of the Opposition is a phoney.
What the Government is setting out to do by this legislation is to protect the little people in this country. We have heard from the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony)- and honourable members should bear in mind all the money that was put into his Party’s campaign funds for the last elections by the multinationals, the oil companies and the like- about how there should be a 40 per cent increase in fuel charges, despite the effect that that would have on prices for the community as a whole. This is how honourable members opposite protect the little people. All they are interested in are the large multi-national companies. They are out to protect them once again. This Bill sets out to make sure that the multi-nationals and the large companies are not in a position whereby they can crush the small private businessman and the small company. The Opposition is trying to protect its friends, the contributors to its election campaign funds. These are the people it is interested in, not the small people. Opposition members come in here talking about what the Country Party will do for the farmer and the grazier -
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Motion ( by Mr Nicholls ) proposed:
That the question be now put.
-The question is that the question be now put. Those of that opinion say ‘aye’, to the contrary ‘ no ‘. I think the ‘ ayes ‘ have it.
– The ‘noes’ have it. Divide.
– I rise to order. As you know, Mr Speaker, under our Standing Orders there is a prescribed time for debate on a motion similar to this, that is, to guillotine debate, and that time is 20 minutes. Only 15 minutes have passed. Unless a special resolution is passed I ask that you rule that the standing order be complied with.
-The motion that the question be now put can be moved at any time during any debate. The House will divide. Ring the bells. (Honourable members interjecting)
-A division was called for by the Opposition.
– A division is required.
– You are stonewalling again.
– I will put the question again.
– I rise to order. Mr Speaker, the bells are now ringing. I draw your attention to that fact.
– I declared for the ‘ayes’ and a division was called for.
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
-The question is that clause 3 be agreed to.
-The stupidity of this Government is no better shown than by the scenes we have just witnessed. This Bill has come before the House of Parliament for an hour and a half so far today and there have been 3 Opposition speakers. Now we are to be permitted the luxury of another 30 minutes debate in the Committee stages. The people of Australia will be aware of the blow that this is to parliamentary procedure. I must register my strong objections because I have 14 amendments to move to this most significant Bill.
The only real reason for the Government moving the gag at this time is that it wants to save the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) from a demonstration of absolute ignorance on this Bill. He proved, prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner, that he did not know what the Bill was about. During the suspension of the sitting he was locked up in his air-conditioned office with the air-conditioning turned down 10 degrees cooler so that he could stay cool. He was being briefed by officers who provided him with a typewritten script in support of the Bill. That just shows the level of debate which we have reached in this Parliament. Then we had the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) complaining about my absence last week because I was attending a Country Party conference. I told him on the telephone this morning in a private conservation that I was attending a Country Party conference. I asked him -
-Order! The question before the Committee is that clause 3 be agreed to. The honourable member is moving very far away from that and reverting to the previous guillotine debate. He cannot do that. I ask him to restrict his comments to clause 3 of the Bill.
– Indeed, Mr Chairman. I just say in passing that the Minister talked about a private conversation I had with him. In reply I have one sentence more to say about that.
– Order! I ask the honourable member for Gippsland not to give that additional sentence or I shall ask him to resume his seat. The question is that clause 3 be agreed to.
– I am afraid I did give the sentence, Mr Chairman. I apologise. But the Minister did answer yes in reply to me. I have a number of amendments to move and, having regard to the gag which has been applied so ruthlessly by the Government, I think the best thing I can do is to read them into the Hansard. They are:
Clause 3, page 2, lines 3 and 4, omit ‘or transport of goods - that are the subject of such trade or commerce ‘.
Clause 3, page 2, lines 10-13, omit the definition of ‘overseas transport’.
Clause 3, page 2, omit sub-clause (2 ).
After clause 5, page 2, insert the following new clause 5 A.
– Order! The honourable member must restrict himself to clause 3. 1 ask him whether he is proposing to move the amendments listed as Nos 2, 3 and 4 together?
-No, Mr Chairman, I am not. I am proposing to move each individual one. I am seeking to include the amendments in Hansard so that the world at large will know the perfidy of this Government by gagging the debate. I think a number of clauses should be debated. I think it only fair, having regard to the actions of the Government, that I should be allowed some tolerance from the Chair and from the Government in this regard.
– Order! It is not open to the Chair to be tolerant in this respect. We are dealing with clause 3 and the honourable member must restrict his remarks to that clause.
– It is not open to the Chair to be tolerant and it is not open to the Government to be tolerant in dealing with the most important Bill that we have had before this Parliament this session. I regret that, and the people of Australia will get to understand the gravity of the Government’s actions. This is not the last the Government Will hear of this matter. The reason for the exclusion of the words ‘or transport of goods that are the subject of such trade or commerce’ is that the Minister for Transport, in his second reading speech, unwittingly- I do not think he knows any better- said that this Bill has to do with transport. I do not believe that the transport of goods that are the subject of trade or commerce ought to be covered by such a back door legislative method. I think that if the Government wants to have this Commission dealing with trade and commerce which was outlawed by the Royal Commission at the time of the previous InterState Commission Act, it ought to have the courage to come into this Parliament and specifically lay down conditions and qualifications in respect of trade and commerce and not use the backdoor entrance- to use the ‘carriage of goods’ to control trade and commerce. Therefore I ask for the exclusion of those words in clause 3.
– I am afraid I did not hear the honourable member actually moving his amendment No. 2. Has he moved that amendment?
-Mr Chairman, I move:
In clause 3, omit the words ‘or transport of goods that are the subject of such trade or commerce ‘.
– Let us be clear on one thing- that this Parliament has clear power over trade and commerce in the States. That power exists not only with regard to transport directly constituting part of such trade and commerce, but also includes within its sweep the transport of goods which are the subject of such trade or commerce. The purpose of this definition is to take full advantage of this power. What we are talking about at the moment and what the Opposition is trying to do is to delete the words ‘or transport of goods that are the subject of such trade or commerce’. What these words mean is that the way the BUI is framed at present, it will be possible for the Commission to carry out an investigation into the movement of goods from the factory to the freight terminal, from the freight terminal probably to rail transport, enabling the investigation of that transport .section, and then from the rail terminal at the other end to the freight forwarders depot and from that point onwards.
If the Opposition’s amendment were agreed to the result would be that there would be a gap in the investigation of certain sections of the transport of goods. The Commission would be able to investigate so much of it, but other sections would be completely free of investigationfor example, from the factory to the freight forwarders terminal and from the terminal to the mode of transport. All of that and the warehousing are part and parcel of the transport of goods from point A to point B. If the Commission is in a position to investigate the main journey, that is OK. If one freight operator is being dealt with, he can carry on that portion of the journey according to the requirments of the Commission. It is then possible to load the whole operation in one of the other moves which are made- admittedly most of them are of short duration. The freight rate can be loaded in those operations and then the Commission has no rights of investigation, no power under the amendment proposed by the Opposition to issue any direction as to unfair and unreasonable competition. We are trying to eliminate the unfair and unreasonable conditions which are built into transport today in the trade and commerce fields. This is the whole set-up of this Bill. This is why I cannot make out- I keep on repeating this because it is important and something that I cannot understand- why this great bastion of free enterpise which calls itself the Oppostion the Liberal and Country Parties, is prepared to go out on a limb to protect the large combines which exist in this country. These large combines are able to screw and able to manoeuvre prices and conditions to the disadvantage of the small businessman.
If Opposition members are opposed to helping the small businessman, the private individual, whether he be in business or a person who is affected by the prices let them go on the way they are going at the present time; let them go on with the humbug of wasting time. We had an example earlier tonight where a division was called by the Opposition when the Leader of the House was prepared to let the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) speak on the matter. But no, honourable members opposite insisted on a division. This just shows the hypocrisy on the part of the Opposition. Honourable members opposite claim they want more time to examine the Bill. The real fact of the matter is that they have not done their homework and they do not know what the Bill is all about. They have not sat down and done their work on it. That is why they want to defer the Bill. The Government rejects the amendment moved by the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) because all it does is create holes in the legislation with regard to the right of the Commission to investigate all the movements of goods from point A to point B.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole.
– I have no option but to agree to this procedure, much as I dislike it and much as it is an abuse of the privilege of Parliament by the sheer jack boot dictatorship style of the Government of the day. It can be described as nothing more nor less. For the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) to describe the Opposition’s tactics as humbug is simple, sheer humbug in itself. It is a disappointment to me that the Minister should carry on in such a way. We are trying to debate a Bill that carries implications which affect every man in the street. For the Minister to say that all we are trying to do is wanting to protect the multinationals again is sheer humbug in itself. It is absolute arrant nonsense. Furthermore, I have found out that the reason he is forcing this Bill through today is that he wants to get off to Perth. That is why he is not prepared to let the Bill be properly debated over a period of time. He chides me for being out of the House last week when the Bill was not even under discussion.
– Order! I have to ask the honourable member for Gippsland, as I did before, not to revert to the earlier debate.
– I was stung to reply by the Minister’s own speech, Mr Chairman. I think you must show some tolerance in that regard.
– I have done so 3 times already.
– I was seeking to include in Hansard, so that the world might know of them, the amendments that the Opposition believes are necessary to bring this Bill into reasonable shape. I had got as far as proposed new clause 5a. The proposed new clause reads:
Nothing in this Act or in any regulations made in pursuance of this Act will affect or authorise action in connection with the obligation of any of the parties under or the provisions or purposes of-
-Order! I am sorry to interrupt the honourable member for Gippsland, but may I suggest to him that he seek leave to incorporate these amendments in Hansard rather than take time to read them.
-Thank you, Mr Chairman. I appreciate your action. I hope that the Minister is generous enough to agree to the suggestion you have made. I seek leave to have the amendments incorporated in Hansard.
– Is there any objection? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The amendments read as follows)-
That the amendments as circulated be agreed to.
Because other Opposition members wish to speak on the various amendments and because we have exactly 20 minutes left to do it, I will confine myself to speaking on only two or three of the amendments. Proposed clause 5a states:
Nothing in this Act or in any regulations made in pursuance of this Act will affect or authorise action in connection with the obligation of any of the parties under or the provisions or purposes of or the operations of the agreement referred to in sub-section 3 (4) of the Airlines Agreement Act 1952-1973 and the agreement referred to in section 3 (3) of that Act as affected by the foregoing agreement and the agreement referred to in section 3 (2) of that Act as affected by each of the foregoing agreements and the agreement referred to in section 3 ( 1 ) of that Act as affected by each of the foregoing agreements.
That is a very fundamental clause because this Parliament has debated an airlines agreement over a number of years. It seems to the Opposition that this Inter-State Commission is now going to have the right to overrule an Act of this Parliament, carried by a majority vote in this Parliament. If ever I have heard an example of the fourth arm of government, that is it. I hope therefore that the Government will see the sense of at least preventing this Inter-State Commission from becoming the commissar of all commissars and a dictator to the Parliament of the nation, overriding the authority not only of this Parliament but of the Parliaments of the States, and overriding the actions of the States. It is very important that the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) at least show some recognition of the problems that the Opposition is raising.
I want to turn specifically to clause 13. 1 have sought to omit the clause because the flimsy reasons put forward by the Minister in his second reading speech provide no justification, in the view of the Opposition, for the creation of such a monstrous instrument of bureaucracy. The Government already has powers to deal with the matters referred to by the Minister through the Prices Justification Tribunal, the Trade Practices Commission and other bodies. Its real motives are obviously undisclosed by the Government and this can only create further fear and uncertainty in a vital national industry. It has been put to me by the Victorian Government that the public will inevitably suffer increased fares and freight charges and a higher cost of living if this Bill is passed in its present form. The Constitution requires uniform freight charges throughout the nation. Victorian rail fares in particular have decreased in recent times, and this federal measure can mean only increased charges, fares and freight across the board. One has only to look at the price increases in recent times in respect of federally controlled concerns such as Trans-Australia Airlines, the Australian National Railways and the Australian National Line and compare them with the movement in State transport rates over the same period. On the same point, it is noted by the State of Victoria that decisions of the Commission in the pricing area will override those of the Prices Justification Tribunal. I have a telegram from the Premier of New South Wales who had this to say about the Bill:
Government’s haste with debate prevents complete examination of implications of Bill and is quite inappropriate for legislation of this importance vitally affecting interests of all
States. Proper course would have been to seek prior consulatation with States.
The Opposition believes that if there is going to be an interstate commission it ought to have on it State representation. That is what a federal body is all about. That is what the Opposition would seek to do if it were in government. It would not set up some commissar all by itself.
-That was decided in 1 898.
-When the honourable member can get more than 4 votes in his Caucus he will have a right to speak in that manner. Interstate and overseas transport are so interconnected that it would be virtually impossible for the Commission to operate without dictation to States on internal transport policies and operations. Transport charges are most important components of the States’ budgets and social policies and the Commission’s influence on these charges would be prejudicial to the States’ constitutional powers. The proposed power under clause 16(5) to make orders having the force of Commonwealth law could limit or alter the basic functions of State transport authorities. These are the realities that have been pointed out by the Premier of New South Wales in speaking of the wide effect of this Bill which has been so effectively gagged by this Government so that there can be no public debate on a major issue facing the nation.
In relation to the ministerial power of direction of the Commission, and reviewing the Bill as a whole, there is potential for a most dangerous concentration of political power, free of customary democratic checks and balances and quite contrary to the whole concept of federalism. In this area, and a whole host of related areas, the Victorian Government believes that the State will be denied the right to determine policy, for example, decentralisation policies, which may include incentives by way of reduced freight charges to private companies to relocate in rural areas, can be affected by this Commission. This is quite apart from inroads into State transport policy. For example, clause 9 presumably empowers the Commission to rule out of order any limitations placed on road or other transport under the transport policies of the State. The Federal Government justifies the Bill by reference to the unco-ordinated approach in relation to transport already apparent’ between the States; for example, rail gauges, the approach to road networks. The argument is invalid. These factors are largely historical and the trend now is towards co-ordination of the approaches and policies of the States. The proposed council of States and the appointment of federal affairs ministers reflects this trend, which will provide coordination and prevent the repetition of history without any need for federal interference.
I make the point again that there has been no attempt by this Government to seek the cooperation of the States on the matter of the InterState Commission Bill. This Bill runs far wider than the Bill which was proposed in either the Governor-General’s speech or the Minister’s second reading speech. It carries clauses that are much wider even than those referred to by the Minister for Transport, affecting trade and commerce and prices. The Minister now attacks the Opposition in the House, saying that it is not interested in the subject of prices. The simple truth is that had the Minister been honest in his approach to this Bill he would have laid down in his second reading speech all the aspects that the Bill will cover, including prices and including trade and commerce. The Opposition now has no option but to force debate for a longer time in another place so that the public may be made aware of the horrendous and horrific Bill that has been introduced by this Government. It is a Bill that is socialist in intent, without a doubt, and it is quite clear from methods adopted by the Government in gagging the debate tonight that it will stop at nothing to have this Bill passed in the form in which it wants it at this time.
– I rise to oppose specifically amendment No. 5 moved by the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon). Proposed new clause 5A seeks to negate the effect of clause 10 of the Bill as far as the 2- airlines agreement is concerned. I remind honourable members that clause 10 of the Bill states that it is unlawful to give any person, State, locality or class or kind of transport any preference or advantage. Of course, there is no question that under the 2-airIine agreement, brought in and sustained by previous Liberal Party governments, this sort of thing could not be upheld by an interstate commission and so the Opposition has tried specifically to defend its friend, Sir Reginald Ansett, in proposed new clause 5A, which seeks to exempt the Airlines Agreement Act from the powers of the InterState Commission. It was not enough for previous governments to try to insulate the 2-airline agreement against the election of a Labor Government. The Opposition is now trying to prevent this Government doing anything about trying to rescind it. I personally hope that the Inter-State Commission will be able to do something to overcome this iniquitous agreement entered into by previous Liberal Party governments in what must have been one of the most corrupt decisions of previous Liberal governments. About one month before the last election the 2-airline agreement was extended from 1977 to 1982.
I think that everybody ought to realise that unless the establishment of the Inter-State Commission has some effect on it then there is no other way that the 2-airline agreement can be rescinded before 1 982 at the very earliest. That is because of a condition contained in the Airlines Agreement Act of 1972. I have a copy of it in front of me. It is Mr William McMahon ‘s little monument to his standard of government. His signature appears with that of the 2 major airlines on an agreement in a Bill to which assent was given on 2 November 1972. The right honourable gentleman knew then that his government had had its day and that the election of a Labor government was inevitable. So he sought to insulate his friend, Sir Reginald Ansett, from the possibility of a Labor government seeking to end the utterly iniquitous and outrageous 2-airline agreement which had been sustained by successive governments.
Let us look at some of the provisions contained in the 2-airline agreement. I believe that the people of Australia ought to be made aware of some of the enormous amount of featherbedding that has been provided for Sir Reginald Ansett under successive 2-airline agreements. I think honourable members ought to realise that the present 2-aiiline agreement provides not just for the airlines side of Sir Reginald Ansett ‘s operations. The 2-airline agreement was made between the Government and Ansett Transport Industries, that is, the whole Ansett group. In other words, we have to underwrite the operations of the whole group- the television stations and the whole lot. If honourable members go further into the 2-airline agreement they will see what it seeks to do. It states:
Whereas one of the objects of the parties to this agreement is to secure and maintain-
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Chairman. The honourable member should be referring to the Bill. In this instance I believe that he may be in fact referring to the Airlines Agreement Act.
-That would certainly seem to be relevant to clause 5A as proposed by the honourable member for Gippsland.
– The 2-airline agreement states, among other things, that the purpose of the agreement is to secure a position in which there are 2 and not more than 2 operators of trunk route airline services. I notice that the honourable member for Gippsland has said that the Inter-State Commission Bill is a socialist Bill. Can honourable members imagine anything more inimical to private enterprise than the restriction of any further operators from entering into the field of civil aviation? But that is what has been done. I hope that the right honourable member for Lowe will enter into this debate and tell us something about the contributions of ATI to Liberal Party and Country Party funds during successive elections. What else does the agreement do? The agreement then goes on to say something about guaranteeing loans for the purchase of aircraft. Why not do that for all other forms of private enterprise in Australia?
Then we come to section 8 of the Airlines Agreement Act. In it there is a requirement to provide a reasonable return on capital to Ansett Transport Industries. That refers to a return on capital in relation not only to the airlines but also to Channel 0 in Melbourne and all the other branches of the group. What a fantastic amount of feather-bedding and protection of an individual company. That is not private enterprise; that is gross interference with it. Why does the right honourable member for Lowe not have something to say about that? The honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), the champion in this House of unfettered, laissezfaire, private enterprise capitalism, has remained completely silent about the utterly iniquitous amendment moved by the honourable member for Gippsland. I would like to see the Government do everything possible to try to undo the situation concerning the 2-airline agreement. I hope that the Inter-State Commission will be able to do something to override it.
I know, and I applaud, what the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) is doing in going ahead with his cost recovery program to try to recover the cost of civil aviation. He has been criticised for going ahead and trying to recover 80 per cent of the cost over a period of 5 years. I have perhaps one criticism to offer of the Minister’s actions in this respect. I do not think that he is going far enough. I would like to see all the costs recovered. I do not see why people who do not travel on airlines should have to pay for those who do. I think that we might perhaps be doing a service to those people in Australia who use the airlines if we were to do something to release the restraints imposed by the 2-airline agreement. Perhaps that might result in greater power being given to the Government airline, Trans-Australia Airlines. Who knows? A third airline or a fourth airline might come into the picture and be able to provide some genuine price competition which might result in the provision of some sort of deal to the consumers in the aviation industry, that is, the air travelling public. I do not see why the interests of those people should be overruled in the interests of one person who is seeking to be insulated from the market forces by an utterly iniquitous agreement in the 2-airline agreement that was consented to by the previous Parliament and cannot be rescinded by even the popularly elected Government. I certainly hope that the Committee will throw out unceremoniously the amendments moved by the honourable member for Gippsland.
- Mr Chairman -
– Oh, fair go. I rise to a point of order, Mr Chairman. Is it proper to give the Minister the call?
-No point of order is involved.
-The Government rejects the Opposition’s amendments- the remaining 10 of them. I would like to give some indication of the reasons in the time available to me. I refer firstly to Amendment No. 3, which concerns the deletion of the reference to overseas transport in clause 3. Interstate trade is just as important as overseas trade and vice versa. Therefore, to delete any reference to overseas transport is in my opinion to take away one of the important responsibilities of the Inter-State Commission because it would not then be in a position to investigate matters of importance to this country and ensure that our overseas trade is not being interfered with in any way by private individuals or for that matter by large companies for their own personal gain. That is what we are setting out to try to do. I turn to amendment No. 4 as moved by the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon). The effect of acceptance of that amendment would be to delete a very useful clarification of the Bill. The Government is of the view that all the aspects of the transport operations are relevant to the operations of the Commission. So we feel that the deletion of this portion of the operations would destroy the impact of the Bill.
I know that the honourable member for Gippsland would like me to comment on the proposed new clause 5a, which relates to the 2- airline agreement. Once again we see influence being exerted upon certain honourable members opposite. Whenever one mentions airlines one can rest assured that the Airlines Agreement Act will come into it and that the Opposition will come post-haste to the defence and support of certain people. We have already seen the airline agreement being extended for another 5 years under most favourable terms and conditions. It was hammered through this Parliament in the dying hours of the previous Liberal-Country Party Government. The then Prime Ministerthe right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon)- almost had a resignation on his hands from his then Minister for Civil Aviation because of the way in which he hammered it through his Cabinet.
– That is a lie. You are lying.
-Order! The right honourable gentlemen will withdraw that comment.
– I withdraw, Sir, but I think it is proper that I should -
– Order! If the right honourable member wishes to make a personal explanation at some later stage he will have the opportunity of doing so.
– The right honourable member is well known for his performances, Mr Chairman. As far as the airlines are concerned, why should the Commission be in a position in which it can investigate road operations, rail operations and sea traffic but cannot interfere in or investigate any of the sections of air transport? I am not contesting whether the 2- airline agreement is legal. This Parliament is the master of its own destiny. Even though the right honourable member for Lowe tied up this Parliament for a considerable time and, in doing so, wrote into the Airlines Agreement Act many unfair things as far as other people are concerned, there is no reason in the world why the Commission should not be free to investigate(Quorum formed.)
-Order! The time allotted for the Committee stage of the Bill has expired.
That the amendments (Mr Nixon’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr J. M. Berinson)
Question so resolved in the negative.
That the remainder of the Bill be agreed to and that the Bill be reported without amendment.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Mr J. M. Berinson)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
– The time allotted for the remaining stages of the Bill has expired. The question is:
That the report be adopted and the Bill be now read a third time.
Those in that opinion say ‘aye’, to the contrary no’ .
- Mr Speaker, I stood to speak. I notice -
-Order! The time allotted has expired.
- Sir, you were looking so downcast -
-Order! The right honourable member will resume his seat.
That the report be adopted and the Bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 16 April on motion by Mr Connor.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The fundamental purpose of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Power Bill is to make a simple amendment to . change the status of the Commissioner and Associate Commissioners of that Authority. As it stands the Act provides for a Commissioner and 2 Associate Commissioners to be appointed full time for a period of 7 years. The Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) has proposed that there be discretion to allow a Commissioner and Associate Commissioners to be appointed part time as well as discretion about appointing them for a period of 7 years. That proposal in itself appears to be simple. One wonders why the Minister is doing it, apart from his explanation in his second reading speech that the construction stage of the Snowy scheme is now finished and it is not essential to have a full time Commissioner as well as the 2 Associate Commissioners, nor is it necessary that the appointments be for 7 years. I question the wisdom of the Minister’s actions, although the Opposition will not vote against the
Bill. The Opposition believes that the Government has the right to make judgments as to how it will make these appointments, but the Opposition has a right at least to question why this is necessary.
I do not downgrade the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority as being something that has a rather minor role to play in the economy. It is an enormous organisation. It has an annual income of about $50m. It is employing about 450 personnel, most of them professional highly qualified people or very skilled tradesmen. It has the enormous responsibility of managing about 8 power stations as well as about 16 dams which have been constructed under this enormous scheme. The Opposition asks why the Minister wants to change the present arrangement. One could imagine that he is making the conditions easier so that if he wants to give a job to one of the boys around the place it will be quite easy to put such a person as a head and hope that the technical staff beneath him will continue to do the work and management. But I think it would be very wrong of the Government to appoint a person who has not the engineering qualifications that are necessary to manage an enormous project like this which ranks so highly in the general image of the Australian people.
The Snowy scheme has been Australia’s greatest engineering project. The credit for the development of the project goes to the LiberalCountry Party governments over a period of time. Those government’s ensured that it was built as efficiently as any project could be. It is true that the idea was launched by the Chifley Labor Government. All that it did was lay a foundation stone. The plans for the first Adaminaby Dam were not even drawn up. The foundation stone laying was political stunting at the time. We give the credit for commencing the scheme to the Chifley Government but the hard work of getting the program under way and getting it built was done by Liberal-Country Party governments over a period of 23 years. The success of the scheme was due to private tendering and contracting and getting the best skilled labour that was available from all over the world to help in the development of the project. Credit is due to Sir William Hudson, who was the Commissioner of that organisation for many years. He was replaced by Mr Dann, who was the Commissioner for a few years. But since then no-one has been appointed to the position of chairman.
Although the Commission has been expecting the Government to appoint one of the highly qualified personnel who have grown up with the project, this has not happened. All that has happened is that Mr Collins has been appointed Acting Director for the last two or three years. I believe there have been acting deputy commissioners. It seems strange that the Minister and the Government could not take the bold decision of appointing these people who are highly regarded, highly respected and have the qualifications necessary to do this sort of job. They are trained engineers, they have been brought up with the scheme, they understand its operations and they also have the qualities of leadership which are necessary for such a large organisation. I would be very sad indeed if some outside political figure were brought in and put into this position. The morale of the whole of the Authority would be downgraded if that were to happen. The Authority has always been headed by people of great talent who have been imbued with the spirit and the morale of the organisation. If this change is to be for nothing more than giving a job to one of the boys there will be great disappointment.
The other thing I question is whether the appointee will be anything more than a figurehead for the Minister- to carry out his directions and his authority. I ask that question and make that allegation because of the experience in 1973 when the Minister, at the behest of the Committee of Management for electrical workers in New South Wales, gave a direction to the Snowy Mountains Engineering Authority to abide by the instructions of that Committee in relation to the restricting of power to New South Wales. At the time this Committee was trying to break the New South Wales Government into agreeing to a 35-hour week for the power generation section of the electrical industry. What the Minister was doing then was handing over the Snowy Mountains Engineering Authority to worker control. In other words, the authority of the management of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Authority was being completely undermined. Is this amendment being made because the management expressed reservations? Is it because it was reluctant to obey the orders of the Minister to hand over to worker control? Is the reason that the Minister wants to change the Act so that the appointments of the Commissioner and the Associate Commissioners will be on only a part time basis- on a year to year basis- so that if they misbehave and question the Minister they can be assured that there will be no extension of their period of appointment? A great engineering undertaking such as this, which has cost $800m to date, which includes 16 dams, 6 major power stations, numerous roads, villages, aqueducts and all the rest of it will be handed over to a parttime chairman.
Surely an undertaking costing $800m and with an income of $50m a year needs a chairman who has a little permanency. I know of no electrical authority in Australia which is run by part-time commissioners or chairmen. Certainly, the New South Wales, Queensland and Victorian electrical authorities have not got part-time chairmen. I think that if we are to get good men of high calibre we must offer these people some assurance that there will be security of office, that they will not be employed on a year to year basis, that at least they will be there for a substantial period of time. Seven years was considered to be a fair and reasonable time for a person to occupy such an important position. So we wonder why this has been changed. The Minister has said, as I have said, that the construction stage is finished. That may be so. But it is still a big job managing an undertaking such as this.
The Minister talks only about the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority. He does not mention anything about the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation which is covered by a separate Act of Parliament. But up to this point of time there has been a common chairman or commissioner for both organisations. Mr Collins has been the acting chairman or commissionerfor both of these organisations. I suppose that now we will have 2 different heads for the 2 organisations. One of the great beauties about having a joint chairman for both organisations was that there was a chance for overlapping of employment, for knowing the personnel of both organisations and being able to capitalise on the experience and the knowledge of both organisations. But I gather now that we will have different personnel for different organisations.
But why does the Minister deal only with the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority? Why are we not also dealing with the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation? Is it because he wants to exercise more control over the electrical aspects of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority so that it will conform with his Committee of Management, with his left-wing group in New South Wales which is putting the screws on the New South Wales Government for more industrial benefits and conditions for workers in that State? Is this Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority simply going to come under worker control? Is this what the Government is aiming for? Perhaps the Minister could make some explanations of this when he is replying to me in the debate. But his second reading speech was so brief that it did not explain anything, other than to say that he wants part-time chairmen and that he wants to be able to appoint them for a period of less than 3 years if need be.
Do honourable members wonder why we question him? Do they wonder why that great Australian organisation, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority which was producing approximately 5000 kilowatt hours of peak load power, a vital key in our whole electrical grid in New South Wales and Victoria, should come under a person employed in a part-time capacity? This is an authority which is supplying about 2 500 000 cubic feet of water for the irrigation schemes along the River Murray Irrigation area. Yet we are told that the Authority should have a part-time chairman, perhaps employed on a year to year basis with part-time associate commissioners. It is very curious that this organisation should be threatened with being down-graded to that extent. The Opposition does not really see the need for this, although we will not resist it. But we genuinely question what is happening. Should this turn out to be nothing more than a plum for some of the supporters of the Australian Labor Party- a pay-off for some of the boys or for ex-members of the Parliament to get a nice fat juicy job- I can assure the Minister that we will not be silenced and that we will be strong in our criticism.
-The speech that we have just heard from the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) is completely irrelevant to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Bill which is being debated. The man obviously does not know that the Snowy Mountains Council has been split off from the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority. He obviously does not realise that the power generating function of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority has been transferred by an Act of Parliament to the Snowy Mountains Council whose chairman has been nominated already and who happens to be the secretary of the Department of Minerals and Energy. The members of the Council have been nominated already. They happen to come from the electricity commissions of the various States. The Snowy Mountains Council has the responsibility to generate the power and sell the power. The Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority has had most of its responsibilities shorn away. Not only has the Snowy Mountains Council been split off from the Snowy Mountains HydroElectric Authority, so too has the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation which does not come under the authority of the Minister for
Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) who is at the table. It comes under the authority of the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson).
The new director of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation has just been announced. He is Mr Price, who was an associate Commissioner of the Snowy Mountains HydroElectric Authority. If the appointment of Mr Price is an example of jobs for the boys I am sure, knowing him as well as I do, that he will be the most surprised person to hear the news. The Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority now is a shell of the organisation it once was. This is understandable because the job it was created to do has been done, and done magnificently. The Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority now has to manage the financial responsibilities that are residual to that operation. It has to undertake maintenance on the scheme, and there are some outstanding land issues which have to be settled.
Very few people would disagree with the spirit of this Bill. One might buy an argument as to whether a commissioner ought to stay in a position of full responsibility for, say, another year. But certainly there would not be many people who would support the proposition beyond that point. As for Mr Collins, the present Commissioner of the Snowy Mountains HydroElectric Authority, he has carried out an excellent task. I would like to pay a full tribute tonight to Mr Peter Collins who as Acting Commissioner has had a very difficult job during this transitional period involving the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority and the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation of having the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation follow certain guide lines. This is partly because obtaining a permanent Director of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation was held up by the Parliament not passing the Remuneration and Allowances Bill and thus the inability of this Government to offer a satisfactory salary to attract a Director to that position. I know that Mr Collins is in full agreement with the decisions that have been made by this Government. It is a tribute to this man’s humility that he recognises that these decisions have to be made and that he recognises that other people would have to take over these jobs. As I said before, I believe that we should pay a tribute to Mr Collins in this debate.
The Leader of the Australian Country Party has demonstrated for us that he failed to appreciate what this Bill is all about. This lack of appreciation is an acknowledgement of the fact that 2 organisations have been split off from the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority. The fact that all the positions created have been filled demonstrates the shallowness of the honourable member’s claim that this is a dodge to create jobs for the boys. As I read the Bill- perhaps there may be some subtlety to it- it will reduce jobs rather than increase them. Having said that, I think that we need to pick up one or two other points from history because, after all, this is a turning point. This is a turning point from a massive scheme which has received world acclaim, a turning point for organisations, one which was created to operate the scheme and the other to generate new business and new achievements for the engineers who built the project. In spite of what we heard from members of the Liberal and Country Parties, history shows that members of the Liberal Party boycotted the scheme when it was commenced in 1949 under the Chifley Government. Not one member of the Liberal Party was present at the opening of the scheme. Yet tonight we heard members of the Opposition claim credit for this scheme.
We also heard the proposition that there is an overlapping of employment between the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation and the Snowy Mountains Council. This proposition does not stand examination because the technicians operating the Snowy Mountains Councilthese are the people who are skilled in generating and delivering power- are not the engineers who are required to build new schemes. The skills and the type of challenges that were offered first by the Snowy Mountains Authority and now by the Snowy Mountains Council are quite different and quite separate. We now have an administering organisation. We have an organisation which is geared to sell power. The originality and innovation that were enshrined in the Snowy Mountains Authority have been peeled off and put into the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation. So different in fact are the functions of the two bodies that the division in functions, between the Minister for Minerals and Energy and the Minister for Housing and Construction is complete.
We as a country were able to launch the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation, which now draws business from many countries, on the achievements of the Snowy Mountains Authority. One of the very important things that the engineers of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation must grasp- and I say this as the Federal member representing the town of Cooma on which this whole complex is based- is that there is a great difference between having a captive job, as was the case in the scheme that has been constructed, and having to go out and find work. One of the new talents that is necessary in the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation is that of salesmanship and going out into the world and drumming up business. This is something that did not have to be done under the Snowy Mountains Authority.
This small Bill which seeks to amend the original Act proposes simply to bring into line the responsibilities of the Snowy Mountains Authority. It simply provides a directorate for the Snowy Mountains Authority which is commensurate with the reduced responsibilities that the Authority has. It is in every sense of the word a caretaker organisation, a shell of the great organisation which constructed the scheme that we know so well. The Snowy Mountains Council, on the other hand, is a strong and virile group which will exist as long as the organisation is generating power. Most of the comments that the Leader of the Australian Country Party directed at this legislation tonight should have been directed at the Snowy Mountains Council. This legislation has nothing at all to do with the operation of the scheme.
It is an acknowledgment of history and at this stage a development of the organisation. I believe, it is worthwhile just to ponder the significance of what is one of the finest achievements in engineering in the world. The Snowy Mountains scheme which was carried out by Australians is a tribute to those who worked on it, and a tribute to the Chifley Government which initiated the organisation. It is a tribute to the faith of that Prime Minister in Australians. Although it might appear that we are putting the Snowy Mountains Authority to rest, I believe that we are seeing the turning point between the Snowy Mountains Authority whose achievements have been discharged in Australia and the new organisation in SMEC which will see Australians demonstrate that they can carry this sort of achievement to overseas countries. I am extremely proud to represent these people as their Federal member. I can assure them that we will go from strength to strength provided that they themselves bring to bear under SMEC the same drive and innovation as they displayed under the Snowy Mountains Authority. I commend the Bill to the 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 Connor) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 16 April on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-This Bill is a most important piece of legislation and it affects a probably unique body in any federation in the world which exists to look after the financial fortunes of the constituent parts of that federation. In other words, the Grants Commission exists, and has existed for over 40 years, to look after the affairs, the services and the standards available to the citizens in each of the States within the Australian Federation. The Commonwealth Grants Commission is not repeated in any other pan of the world, nor has any body in any other part of the world attained the same expertise as the Grants Commission has developed in Australia. It is for that reason that I speak to this Bill.
The Bill is very short and seeks to amend the principal Act by appointing a new Chairman to the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The appointment of His Honour Mr Justice ElseMitchell as chairman of the Commission deserves one or two comments. One of those comments is of necessity a rather sad comment. Mr Justice Else-Mitchell is a lawyer. He was a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales for a considerable period. No doubt, he is an eminent lawyer. He has been appointed to the chairmanship of the most complex body dealing with complex inter-governmental financial relationships that exist in this country and I suggest that it is not appropriate that a person with the training of a lawyer be appointed to the Commission. Mr Justice Else-Mitchell succeeds as chairman of the Commonwealth Grants Commission Sir Leslie Melville who was an economist and banker of international repute. Sir Leslie has not been followed by a person of similar standing or training. In fact, if the same logic were used in regard to an appointment to the next vacancy on a Supreme Court or the High Court of Australia one might look to the profession of accountant. However, it is not my purpose tonight to pursue that line; I mention it only en passant.
What are the results of the operation of the Grants Commission? A sense of equality has been pursued and developed amongst the various States in Australia which has not been repeated anywhere else in the world. A monumental study some years ago by the famous economist Williams in Chicago pointed out that the diversity of standards, the dispersion of standards of living and of public services in Australia are less between one part of the country and another than in any other nation in the world. The work was a monumental tour de force which examined the great nations, the large federations of the world such as Canada and the United States of America, as well as some of the very small nations with their own distinct and distinctive regions. The existence of that equality and the lack of dispersion of standards in Australia can be ascribed very largely to the work of the Grants Commission, especially insofar as the work of the Commission involved the determination of grants as between the States. As we know, the Commission has determined over the last 2 years- it did so for the first time last year- that the standards that applied were to apply in respect of local government authorites. Even an attempt to pursue a measure of fiscal equalisation or a similar equalisation of standards between the local government authorities in Australia must fail because of its nature. It cannot be done.
I would suggest that no matter how many extra appointments are made to the Commission, it will not be able to fulfil in respect of local government authorities what it has been able to fulfil in respect of sovereign State governments. That point has almost been acknowledged, and it has been made quite clear in the first work undertaken by the Commission in relation to local government authorities. But if one would think for a moment that the work of the Commission is going to be a bed of roses, a little history would quickly dispel that proposition. For many years Tasmania had a very famous Treasurer by the name of Mr Dwyer Gray. Tasmania was one of the original mendicant States applying to the Grants Commission and, when the Commission did not make an appropriate grant for Tasmania, Mr Dwyer Gray said of the members of the Commission that he ‘would not care a straw if the Grants Commission were abolished, or if the members so took offence that they resigned in a body’. So the new Chairman, whatever his obligations and whatever his tasks, cannot and ought not necessarily to look forward to an easy life without any difficulties and without any trials and tribulations. Above all, insofar as the Commission would pursue and will pursue the aim of horizontal equality between the States of Australia, it ought to be retained and it ought not to be allowed to go out of existence.
It is in respect of that proposition that I must make my first comment on today’s events. The Inter-State Commission Bill has just been passed in this House. It has been stated that one of the functions that would apply to the Inter-State Commission would be for it to substitute itself for the Grants Commission. That point of view has been stated often by a number of authorities. I put this to the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) who is at the table: If the one remaining claimant State is induced to withdraw from the area of the Commission, will the Government ensure that the nature of the work of the Commission between the States is continued? There is only one claimant State left. Tasmania was induced to get out of the Commission for the time being -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! I draw the honourable member’s attention to the provisions of the Grants Commission Bill. I think he is moving a little wide of its provisions. In brief, the purpose of the Bill is to appoint a further full time member to the Commission to relieve the onerous physical burden placed on the existing members of the Commission, to amend the Act to enable the Chairman, who immediately before his appointment was a judge of a Federal or State court, to have the same designation, rank, status and precedence as a judge of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court, and also to incorporate machinery changes consequent on the existence of the Remuneration Tribunals Act. I would suggest that since it is a rather narrow Bill the honourable member should confine his remarks to its provisions and not carry on an allembracing debate dealing with the whole question of the Grants Commission.
-It is in relation to that, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I would draw to your attention that the title of the Bill allows for very wide discussion of the principal Act, which is the Grants Commission Act 1973. I have already had circulated an amendment with which I may or may not proceed at the appropriate time. Were it to be proceeded with, that amendment would apply in respect of the principal Act. In fact, the title of the Bill is very wide, and I think that would be immediately obvious on looking at the title itself.
-The Bill seeks to amend some comparatively quite minor sections of the principal Act; it does not allow for a general discussion on the whole range of provisions of the Grants Commission.
-As a matter of fact, I would suggest that it is so wide that it would allow even amendments to be proposed in respect of the principal Act. I wish to refer to the circumstances of the appointment.
-That would be in order. You can speak on matters that are covered in the Bill. The amendment to which you referred will be moved in the Committee stage and not at this stage during the second reading debate.
-I direct my remarks to the manner in which the Commission will function under the new Chairman, that is, I direct my remarks to the Grants Commission as it will exist under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Else Mitchell. In those circumstances, and looking forward only a few months, I have requested the Government to indicate what will be done to the Commission if, even within a few months, there were to be no claimant State. I am assured that the Minister at the table would be delighted to give an appropriate answer to that question when he replies to the second reading debate. I suggest that it would not be in the interests of Australia if the Grants Commission were to vanish or be induced to vanish by persuading the one remaining claimant State to cease being a claimant State.
My other proposition is concerned with the activities of the Commission within the next few months. In that regard I refer to a question that was asked of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) concerning the Grants Commission as it will exist under the chairman who has been appointed. My question to the Prime Minister was on 5 March 1975 and related to the funds which are due to be given to those States which negotiate a CommonwealthState hospitals agreement under what is euphemistically called Medibank. I asked the Prime Minister:
In the arrangements being negotiated with the States concerning the hospital- that is the government or public hospitalsaspects of Medibank are assurances included which would guarantee that any relief given to State budgets by a Commonwealth contribution would be disregarded so far as a claimant State’s application to the Grants Commission is concerned or, that a claimant State would not be penalised in its special grants due to the Government’s scheme. If necessary, to ensure that there is no penalty will the Prime Minister seek to bring about an appropriate amendment-
-Order! I must once again remind the honourable member that the Grants Commission Bill which we are discussing is very narrow in its provisions. It seeks only to amend 3 sections of the Act. The matters with which the honourable member is now dealing have no relationship whatsoever to this Bill. I
-Order! I must once again remind the honourable member that the Grants Commission Bill which we are discussing is very narrow in its provisions. It seeks only to amend 3 sections of the Act. The matters with which the honourable member is now dealing have no relationship whatsoever to this Bill. I must ask him to ensure that he confines his remarks to the provisions of this Bill, which seeks to make 3 amendments to the principal Act, and to the particular amendments for which the Bill provides. Otherwise I will have to ask him -
– That is correct, Mr Deputy Speaker. You will be aware, of course, if you have examined the second reading speech of the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen), that the Bill provides for the appointment of a further full-time member to the Grants Commission to relieve the onerous physical burden, stemming from the heavy work load and considerable travel, on the 4 existing full time members of the Local Government Division of the Commission. The second aspect of the Minister’s second reading speech deals with amending the Grants Commission Act to enable the Chairman, such as the present Chairman, to have a certain designation as the Chairman of the Commission. That being so, I would suggest to the Chair that it would be appropriate to ask what would be the attitude of the Chairman of that Commission in the circumstance that this Bill were passed by the House and in the circumstance that he assumed that designation, role and status as Chairman of the Grants Commission. I believe that that would be an appropriate question to put in relation to the Bill and in relation to the only claimant State which appears before the Grants Commission. The Prime Minister very generously in reply to that question stated:
I am very glad to give the assurance that the honourable gentleman seeks.
The honourable gentleman was myself. It is only in respect of those assurances that I put this proposition to the Minister. It is my calculation that one of the first actions of the Grants Commission under the new Chairman will be to determine the grant which applies in respect of my State of Queensland. It is also my concern that if the other standard States do not enter the public hospitals aspect of Medibank the one remaining State which appears before Mr Justice Else-Mitchell could well be disadvantaged. It is in relation to that disadvantage that I put a question to the Special Minister of State who is at the table. If those circumstances are brought about and if an amendment which will exclude from the consideration of the Commission under Mr Justice Else-Mitchell the payments made under the National Health Act is not proceeded with, what guarantees can be given so that the $ 10m to $30m- that is the amount of the various calculationsof the grant to the remaining claimant State will not be surrendered; in other words that the grant will not go into one pocket this year and be taken out of that pocket in 18 months time? That is a very important consideration. ‘
- Mr Deputy Speaker,’ I raise a point of order. I have listened to the honourable member for Lilley and I notice the points he is making in no way relate to the matter before the House. I want to reinforce what has been said. The purpose of this Bill is to appoint a further member to the Grants Commission, to give a designation to the Chairman and also to deal with remuneration. It does nothing else. The proposal about which the honourable member is talking is what the Grants Commission should do in its functioning. This amending Bill merely deals with the number on the Commission, the designation of the Chairman, and remuneration. I submit that the honourable member ought to confine his remarks to these matters.
-I uphold the point of order. I have already pointed out to the honourable member that he is going far beyond the ambit of the Bill. Unless he abides by my ruling in that respect I shall have to ask him to resume his seat. I take the point that the honourable member is trying to deal with a matter which stems virtually from the words ‘heavy workload ‘. He is carrying on from there to talk of a particular State, whether it comes within the ambit of the Bill and so on. That has no relationship to the Bill whatsoever. If the Bill sought to increase the number of fulltime members in order to do that work the honourable member could talk about that aspect. But the Bill does not do that. I must uphold the point of order. I ask the honourable member to stick to and refer to matters contained in the Bill. -
-Mr Deputy Speaker, you are quite correct in your assessment of what I was saying. I was dealing with the first part of a one paragraph second reading speech. I was speaking to the matter of the heavy work load which will cause appointments to be made and to the burden which this will lay upon the person to be appointed as is indicated in the second reading speech. It is in relation to the heavy work load that I raised certain matters which will lie within the province and consideration of the members of the Grants Commission. I shall finish in a moment. I think the Minister understands that I put one or two propositions which might require him to obtain from the Chairman of the Commission who is being appointed under this Bill a guarantee in respect of Queensland.
-Order! I have already pointed out to the honourable member that he is out of order if he pursues this line of argument. If he continues I shall ask him- this is the last time I will give him a warning- to resume his seat.
-Thank you, Mr Acting Speaker. I think you have been very fair and very indulgent.
-Too fair and far too indulgent.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, you do not know how much I appreciate that fact. I have spoken to the clauses of the Bill. It is in relation to the clauses of the Bill that I direct these remarks. I suggest that when the Committee stages of the Bill are considered one may be able to ask the questions more precisely.
Debate (on motion by Mr Thorburn) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Lionel Bowen) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
During the debate last Thursday night on Appropriation Bill (No. 5) an agreement was reached between the Government and the Opposition that we limit our time to 10 minutes each in order to allow as many speakers as possible to participate in that debate. I embarked on what I thought was constructive criticism of the Government’s attitude towards rural industries. Unfortunately, I did not have time to conclude my remarks. I take this opportunity to do so. Mr Speaker, as you will probably recall, I was dealing with the lower echelon of the farming community. I endeavoured to awaken an awareness within the Government of the dire straits in which this section finds itself. There is no doubt that it is in dire straits. Within my electorate there have been a number of forced sales of farms. Mr Speaker, I am sure you realise the effect forced sales have on farming lands because of the depressed conditions which we are going through today. A small property which, under realistic conditions, would be valued at $30,000 was almost sold for $8,000 a few days ago.
– It was nearly sold for $8,000. Fortunately, a real estate agent came to the rescue- he was a friend- and the land was eventually sold for $16,000. 1 admit that this is twice the amount of $8,000. But it is only a little over half the real value of the land. Under conditions like this who buys these properties? It is usually a person who has been completely obnoxious to the Australian Labor Party. It is usually the big wheeler dealer who comes in. He can afford to speculate for a few years. He can make an absolute and unrealistic profit out of the farming area and he can take his net gain after a period to the detriment of the original owner of the property.
Many measures have been suggested to the Government to relieve the current position. Last Thursday night I suggested that the Rural Reconstruction Authority charter should be changed. The main point I had time to make then was that the charter and the scope of the Rural Reconstruction Authority should be extended to enable it to assist farmers where longterm viability was not established but where operating expenses could be met in the short and medium term. In such cases total debts could be taken over and the loan could be repaid over 25 to 30 years at a nominal interest rate. I am afraid to say that the rate would have to be nominal because of the farmers’ position. This type of lending was conducted by the Commonwealth Development Bank for many of the Ord River farmers so it is nothing new. Total seasonal carryon requirements were provided year by year upon a crop lien and properly mortgaged security. The expansion of the Authority would require at least some degree of managed credit.
When the tide eventually changes and when prosperity reappears in the rural areas the farmer could either sell his property upon an improved land market or he could continue farming, possibly with a rearrangement of repayments. I would consider that managerial skills and ability would be imporatant criteria for lending. I mentioned earlier forced sales and what is occurring within certain sections of the rural community. I would like to see the charter of the Rural Reconstruction Authority expanded to permit the purchase of properties which could be subsequently sold to assisted or non-assisted buyers. This would be a provision similar to that contained in the Marginal Dairy Farms Agreements Act now in operation. If a buyer for the property could not be found immediately I have no doubt that the Authority could lease the property to nearby landowners. I am suggesting this because of the forced sale situation which has arisen. Many farmers are leaving their properties and for some it is after a lifetime of work. Small farmers have been caught in the squeeze and the endeavours of a lifetime are going down the drain. Surely these people should be able to leave with dignity.
I pointed out earlier that those who are in a position to snap up these forced sale farms will not in the main be people who are doing so to carry on the farming traditions. They are doing so to make a quick dollar. The average farmer is known to be very efficient. He posseses managerial skills and local experience that allow him to achieve worthwhile results. The present predicament he faces is brought about by political and external contrivance over which he has no control and of which he has little prior warning. I believe that the Rural Reconstruction Authority has demonstrated that it has the necessary expertise, particularly in Western Australia, and the flexibility to handle the existing scheme effectively. It is well within its capabilities to include for loan consideration those farmers who can meet their operating expenses so that their debts are bedded down over 25 to 30 years at low interest rates.
An infant industry principle could be applied to this type of farmer. When I say ‘this type of farmer’ I suppose I have in mind mainly the new land farmers of Western Australia, first generation farmers, who have developed their land within the last 15 to 20 years, some only recently. They have not had time to establish themselves. For most of them the major part of their existing structure would be loans from the Commonwealth Development Bank. Before they took out these loans they had to prove long term viability. The proving of viability at any time is awkward, for who can really say just what the price of a product will be in X years time? Within the last few years we have seen dramatic rises in the wool and beef industries, and such dramatic falls. To prove long term viability today when they are in dire straits is most difficult. Applying the infant industry principle to these farmers with a very low interest rate and bedding down their debts for a period of time would keep them on the land and keep them in production. I would also like to see some consideration given to keeping a certain section of the rural community on their farms. I speak here of older farmers who find themselves in a locked in position. If the other schemes I have mentioned do not work, I believe a pension scheme should be introduced to allow them, in addition to what they receive from their land, to enjoy a reasonable standard of living if they wish to stay on their farms. If they wish to move out with very little money, the cost of moving them and placing them in cities and towns, with the cost of servicing their needs and, if they are a bit younger, retraining them and trying to reemploy them adds up to a tremendous amount of money. It may be that a pension-type scheme, as 1 call it, could be worked out whereby such farmers could be kept on their land to continue production and to make a contibution to society and be happy in what they are doing.
– I rise tonight to talk about the attitude of the New South Wales Premier towards the funds that are being given to his Government by the Australian Government for local government activities. Recently three men were laid off by the Crookwell Shire Council on the grounds that it did not have funds to employ those men. This occurred about 2 months ago. It occurred at a time when the New South Wales Government received $76. 6m from the Australian Government in order to avoid the type of event that occurred in Crookwell. At the Premiers’ Conference in February the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) insisted that this money would be used by the States to avoid retrenchments in State and local government instrumentalities, yet when the Crookwell Shire Council approached the State Government it was informed that the State Government had no money because the Australian Government was starving it of funds. Not only did New South Wales get this grant of $76.6m as recently as February, but also it received from this Government record grants to discharge its responsibilities under both tied grants and general revenue grants.
Since the Government took office the States have received increases of nearly 60 per cent in funds allocated to them by the Australian Government. Yet we find this persistent statement being made by the Premier of New South Wales and his Ministers that they have no funds with which to discharge their responsibilities towards local government. The Crookwell Shire Council is one of a number that has flagged this particular problem. Each time they approach the State Governmrent they are told that the Australian Government is starving the State of funds. I believe that there are a number of questions raised. The first is the simple question: How much faith can we place in the State Government and its capacity to meet its commitments? Did the New South Wales Government really take seriously the statement made by the Treasurer when allocating the $76.6m to New South Wales for the purpose of avoiding retrenchments, or did it take that money under false pretences? Not only in Crookwell, although this is the most blatant example in my electorate, but right throughout my electorate the State Government has failed to deliver that money to avoid retrenchments in local government projects. Another point which needs to be considered in regard to the attitude that the States are displaying is whether other mechanisms need to be devised to make sure that local government is not starved of funds. In the roads grant the States were given $1,1 60m for roads.
– Not enough, we hear from the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland). If that was not enough then how much less could they expect from the Opposition if it were in government? Three years before, the LiberalCountry Party Government gave the States $840m. Since that time, our Government has given the States $1,1 60m plus adjustments- a massive increase. We took the full responsibility for the national highway system in New South Wales; an amount of $28m was budgeted for that highway system which included the Hume Highway and the New England Highway. It was supposed to go to local government bodies but they never saw it. That $2 8m has evaporated into the coffers of the New South Wales State Government. Where did that money go to? The question needs to be answered by the New South Wales State Government. It was all very well for Sir Charles Cutler in the Goulburn by-election to stand up and claim that his Government had spent $53m on the Hume Highway over 2 years. Yet 2 months later, such is his judgment of honesty, he claimed that his Government had not spent anything and in fact the commitment by the Australian Government to national highways had released no funds. It is great for Sir Charles Cutler to make such a claim on an election platform when it suits him to big-note his Government. It then seems possible for his Government to turn around and take exactly the opposite point of view 2 months later, when it suits him to cry poor mouth to the Australian Government.
I believe that this is something to which the electorate should have its attention drawn. No other federal government has given such large funds to the States. No other Federal Government has embarked upon so many community projects that involve the people at the grass roots level. Sir Charles Cutler goes to Braidwood and tells the people that the grants from the National Estate cannot be approved by the State Government. Why could they not be approved? He said that the States needed the responsibility for that money. He said that it was not proper for the Braidwood Historical Society to have the responsibility. Sir Charles Cutler, this man who condemns the Australian Government for being socialist in its nature, is not prepared to disseminate this money to the people at the grass roots level. The Liberal and Country Parties have no confidence in people to manage their own money in community affairs. The Braidwood Historical Society could not get the money from the National Estate because the State Government had no confidence in members of the Society as people to administer the money. This is on record. The State Government wants it all its own way. The moneys given to State governments for community projects is disseminated but we do not know where. The money is given to local groups, but the State Government objects because it believes that it and it alone has the authority and reponsibility to administer the funds.
– That is pathetic.
– What wonderful support I have just received from the honourable member for Curtin. He will now rush from this House and check out the facts, and I am sure that he will condemn the Premier of New South Wales. This is pathetic. We have just heard this from the honourable member for Curtin. Of course it is pathetic that a State should use these funds in these ways and not apply them at the grass roots level. Of course it is pathetic that the Crookwell Shire should retrench 3 men. Three men’s salaries are denied to Crookwell Shire because the State Government is not prepared to find some of the $76.6m given to it in February to avoid just that situation. Of course it is pathetic that this should take place. It is incredible that the people of New South Wales should tolerate this situation for as long as they have done. In many areas, the building of pre-schools has been held up in the electorate because the New South Wales Government has procrastinated and refused to allow the Australian Government program on education to be initiated. We need to take a good hard look at the inheritance in EdenMonaro when this Government took office. To take my lead from the honourable member for Curtin, the roads were just pathetic. After 23 years, we see roads called highways still unsealed. After 23 years, we see a road connecting the Australian Capital Territory with the coast, a 35-mile-an-hour road over bridges that are falling apart. This is the legacy which we are left from a Liberal-Country Party Federal Government, and a State Government that refused to accept its responsibilities. From a government which was prepared to allow $4 billion of overseas funds to come into this country, to buy the country and to create the base for inflation, this is the legacy that we are left. It has been well and truly perpetuated by the Premier of New South Wales by his denial of funds to local government authorities and grass root organisations such as the Braidwood Historical Society. We need to see an end to this and I believe that that electorate will make sure that that end is nigh.
-Today at question time I raised with the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) a statement which had been made by the Victorian Director of Secondary Education, Mr Roy Francis, that in Victoria alone to date this year more than 2,000 students had transferred from non-government schools to state secondary schools. I raise the matter again tonight because I am concerned that because of the present Government’s policies, the so-called A class schools are becoming purely the province of the children of wealthy parents. I believe this mass transfer of students from non-government schools to state schools, taken together with falling enrolments and the drying up or vanishing of waiting lists in independent schools, is a very disturbing trend in our present education system. Under previous Liberal-Country Party Governments, parents were assisted by a system of per capita grants to send their children to schools other than state schools if they so wished. Now however, a trend is clearly emerging that those parents who wish to send their children to independent schools are finding the fees too high and are either sending their children to government schools or deferring the enrolment of their children in non-government schools to a later stage of schooling.
The figure of 2000 given by the Director for Victoria thus grossly under-estimates the full gravity of the situation because it takes no account of those being held back, who under other circumstances would have been enrolled at an earlier stage. A number of parents defer the enrolment of their children and, instead of entering them at junior school level or even Form 1 level, they enter them at Form 3 or even later. This trend is noticeable in a large C class girls’ school in Melbourne, of which I have particular knowledge. There enrolments in the junior school have fallen, and quite noticeably boarding school enrolements have also fallen. Most non-government schools are in the same predicament. This trend of lowered enrolments of course does not lessen the running costs of the schools. Teachers’ salaries are rising steeply, costs are rising and of course inflation is taking its toll. However the drop in enrolments does cause a sharp fall in the schools’ income. So the vicious circle goes on. Fees must rise amd more parents find that they cannot meet those fees. It is all very sad.
A recent survey conducted by the Association of Independent Schools of Victoria showed that the average income of parents with children at independent schools was approximately $ 14,000 a year. It also showed that 44.8 per cent of mothers with children in high fee schools work to supplement their husbands’ incomes with the clear intention of putting their children through these schools. Surely these people cannot be called wealthy when their incomes are the result of 2 people working. Wesley College in Melbourne is currently charging basic fees for higher school certificate of $556 per term, a sum of $1,668 per annum before any extras are added. Trinity Grammar in Melbourne at the same level charges $417 per term or $1,251 per annum. Both are A class schools. The situation of rising fees is further exacerbated by the Australian Labor Government’s policy on per capita grants to so-called A class schools, and by the decision of this Government to reduce the allowable taxation deduction for education expenses from the long established $400 to $150. Is it any wonder that enrolments at non-government schools are falling away as has been revealed by the statement of the Director in Victoria. Is it any wonder that we hear such alarming figures from the Victorian Director of Secondary Education? Parents are not transferring their children from nongovernment schools by choice. The decision is being forced upon them by cold hard financial reality. This Government’s policy towards what it calls A class schools is not preventing the wealthy from sending their children to these schools. They have the resources and are in a better position than most to keep pace with inflation. It is the average to middle income group which is really being hurt. They are just not able to keep pace with inflation and the rise in fees which has become inevitable. These schoods are becoming purely the province of children of wealthy parents, and I believe that this is very wrong.
It is rather ludicrous that a government which claims to be against class distinction should be responsible for creating it in what it calls A class schools. Brother Noonan, the headmaster of St Leo’s Christian Brothers College in my electorate, stated last week that it is an undeniable fact that the whole independent school system is being placed in jeopardy, and yet St Leo’s is in a different position from the schools I have just mentioned. It is an F class school and it is keeping its fees at the lowest possible level- $80 per term or $240 per annum. Enrolments there have remained reasonably steady and the fees reasonable, mainly because a very much lower salary is paid to the brothers- $2,700 in comparison with the very much higher salaries of the independent and government school teachers. However, even this school feels that the quality of education offered is suffering because the school is not able to give what it considers is a comprehensive education. It is not able to offer a wide range of subjects. It feels that its curriculum is narrow when compared with that of high schools and other independent schools. This comes about because St Leo’s aims to keep its fees low so that education at that school may remain within the reach of the average Catholic parent who wishes to choose an education other than a State school education for his children. Clearly, more assistance and better grants are required, and it is vital that these schools receive more aid than they have received to date if they are to maintain and improve their standards.
I now turn briefly to another aspect of the Government’s education policy so far as it affects schools. This scheme has as its aim the provision of financial assistance to parents with limited financial resources to enable them to keep their children at school during forms 5 and 6- a commendable aim, I think we would all agree. The maximum allowance is $450, subject to a means test, and the full amount is payable when a family’s adjusted family income does not exeed $3,500 a year. For each $5 by which the adjusted family income exceeds this amount the allowance paid is reduced by $1. The figure of $3,500 is extremely low- approximately $73 weeklyand is far too low to benefit any but a few- a very few. Surely now that tertiary education is free, we should also endeavour to see that as many as possible children of parents on below average to low incomes should be assisted to remain at school in these vital years if they are to have equal opportunities with other children of proceeding to tertiary education. At $5,675 per annum of adjusted family income, the minimum allowance received is $15 per annum. That amount would be of little help to people in this or any other income bracket. Bearing in mind that this Government has reduced the amount of tax deduction allowed for education from $400 to $150 and the high rate of inflation, parents on adjusted incomes of $5,675 or higher clearly will be struggling to keep their children at school in these crucial years. I feel that the amount is quite unrealistic and clearly inadequate. I urge the Minister for Education to give his immediate attention to re-assessing this figure and bringing it up to a more adequate level so that more needy parents will be able to benefit from this scheme.
- Mr Speaker, last Tuesday night during the debate on the adjournment of the House the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), in speaking about the situation in Vietnam, indicated that tens of thousands of innocent people could be massacred as the Communist advance took place.
– That has happened, you know. Don’t you read the papers?
– In response to my interjection of ‘how do you know?’ in relation to reprisals the honourable member said:
Of course we do not know but we have heard reports from others at other times in other parts of Vietnam- for instance, when the communists took Hue. The evidence is there.
Mr Speaker, the evidence is not there. The evidence is quite to the contrary, and in this paper that I have here written by that respected scholar, Colin Mackerras, about the Hue massacre, he stated, among other things, that accounts of Hue: have conveniently forgotten the damage caused by American bombing, and one almost gains the impression that they believe that bombs and napalm do not kill people. Undoubtedly the Communists were responsible for some of the deaths, but very much fewer than Nixon and others would have us believe.
The Americans bombed Hue persistently and fiercely to re-assert control. One American official- American official, Mr Speaker- estimated at the time that at least 4000 of Hue’s residents had been killed in the cross-fire.
– What is his name?
– His name is Gene Roberts and he wrote this statement -
– What are his qualifications?
– This statement appeared in the ‘ New York Times ‘ on 7 March 1 968.
– I interviewed him on television.
-Order! The honourable member for Boothby will not make a speech while another honourable member is making a speech. I suggest that he remain silent. The honourable member for Diamond Valley will not answer interjections.
– Very well, Mr Speaker. They are not worth answering anyway.
– I know the man. Mr SPEAKER-Order! The honourable member for Boothby will remain silent.
– The highest estimates from American or North Vietnamese sources of the number of Hue residents killed is 5700. Stewart Harris of the London ‘Times’ quotes as the most conservative figures those of the Hue chief of police, Doan Cong Lap. The police chief in Hue is certainly not someone whom you would expect to be sympathetic to the communists. He stated that the communists were directly responsible for 200 deaths in the city, while civilian casualties due to bombing and cross-fire totalled 3776, with about 1900 wounded. As I said, the Hue chief of police can hardly be accused of having Viet Cong sympathies. Marc Riboud of ‘Le Monde’, a witness to the Hue fighting, has stated:
Every remark I overheard, every person I spoke to, blamed the Americans and their blind and systematic bombing. The bitterness, the resentment are deep and universal.
The honourable member for Gwydir has accepted the claim, without looking at more independent evidence, that the deaths at Hue were the responsibility of ‘the cruel communist aggressor, who seems to invest himself with the divine right to inflict the most inhuman savagery on the enemy’. Those are the words of the honourable member for Gwydir. He totally overlooked the massive and indiscriminate bombing by the Americans and the cross-fire during the offensive.
-I certainly do not deny that the Vietcong were responsible for deaths in Hue and no doubt they did execute people whom they regarded as collaborators. But it is quite dishonest to use arguments similar to the ones that the honourable member for Gwydir used in relation to Hue as evidence for his assertion that tens of thousands of innocent people would be slaughtered and murdered by the Vietcong if and when, as seems likely, the city of Saigon falls.
– Have you read this morning’s paper?
- Mr Speaker, there is additional evidence on what the situation is -
-Order! The honourable member for Boothby will remain silent.
– It is very difficult, Mr Speaker.
– I would suggest that if the honourable member wishes to make a speech he should put his name down in the same way as everybody else. Otherwise he will remain silent.
– It is very difficult, Mr Speaker.
– As I said before, the honourable member for Boothby just does not want to hear even a point of view, let alone the truth. In a program -
– I bet you were a colonel in the CPV
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Boothby. I have asked him to remain silent on 3 occasions. He does not appear to be able to do so. I suggest that he do so now.
– I am finding it difficult.
– On Sunday, 6 April, it is stated that ‘most refugees say they just wanted to escape the fighting. The only safe retreat was south.’ That statement appeared in a tape received from an Australian correspondent in that unhappy country. Arguments which raise fear and do not have regard for fact do nothing to help the situation. I should hope that members of this House would look at the facts, particularly in relation to such a specific thing as Hue, before they make those sorts of statements.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
On this basis, voluntary organisations who have been granted leases in Canberra for the purpose of federal headquarters are:-
The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust
The Returned Services League of Australia.
Bodies who have expressed interest in building a federal headquarters in Canberra but who for one reason or another have not yet been granted a lease are:-
The National Heart Foundation of Australia
A.C.T. Table Tennis Association
The Equestrian Association of the Australian Capital Territory
Australian Council for Overseas Aid
Australian American Educational Foundation.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I have delayed in replying to the honourable member’s question until this time as the manner in which private hospital insurance will be conducted after the introduction of Medibank on 1 July 1975 has not been clear. The Government proposed to introduce a special bill directed specifically to the supervision of private health insurance and, as a complementary measure, to repeal those parts of the National Health Act which are directed to the supervision of registered medical and hospital benefits organisations. The honourable member will be aware that the amending National Health Bills were rejected by the Senate. The rejection of the amending National Health Bills has meant that not only are some aspects of the Government’s policy in this matter, as set out in paragraphs 5.1 to 5.14 of the White Paper ‘The Australian Health Insurance Program’, not achievable immediately, but that other measures providing for the protection of the community have also been lost. For example, the defeat of the Bills means that the Government cannot take over the payment of nursing home benefits for non P.M.S. pensioners that are at present paid by hospital benefits funds, as was proposed in paragraph 5.4 of the White Paper, and also that any health insurance fund with inadequate reserves will not be able to be subsidised as proposed in paragraph 5.7 of the White Paper.
The answers to the honourable member’s specific questions are as follows: -
1 ) Yes, see paragraphs 5.5 of the White Paper.
In assessing revised contribution rates for hospital funds over the past months, the Government has proceeded on the basis that the future financial experience of the funds should be so structured as to leave the funds with reserves equivalent to three months contribution income (at current contribution income levels) at 1 July 1975.
The continuance of the National Health Act unamended will mean that the special account arrangements authorised by that Act will also continue so far as hospital benefits funds are concerned. However, special steps are being taken to ensure that special account subsidies are less ‘open ended’ so far as Government expenditure is concerned.
In practice, the special account machinery constitutes a ‘back door’ method of providing substantial hidden subsidies to the health benefits funds. I referred to this in my answer to the question asked by the honourable member for Prospect (Hansard 13 November 1974, page 3497), when I pointed out that Australian Government subsidies to the Hospitals Benefits Fund of the Queensland Branch of the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia, through the special account machinery, amount to almost 30% of the total fund benefits paid.
My Department has sent a circular to all registered medical and hospital benefits organizations explaining the manner in which private insurance will be conducted from 1 July 1975. 1 am sending a copy of the circular to the honourable member for his information.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
When will he answer my question No. 1553 which first appeared on the Notice Paper on 13 November 1974.
– The answer to the right honourable member ‘s question is as follows:
I refer the right honourable member’s attention to the answer provided to question No. 1553 (Hansard, pages 1655/6of 15 April 1975).
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
With reference to his answer to my question No. 433, is it a fact that the Commonwealth Brickworks will confine the sale of its products to the Canberra district, and not attempt to extend its sales to Albury-Wodonga.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The policy of the previous Liberal/Country Party Government in respect of Commonwealth Brickworks (Canberra) Ltd has not been changed. The Company is still required to operate on an entirely commercial basis and to compete in the market with other brickworks. It will continue to endeavour to sell its products wherever possible including Albury/Wodonga.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Minerals and Energy, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Special Minister of State, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
How much time was made available to broadcast election speeches or political advertisements in respect of each political party on each radio broadcasting station and television station in Australia in each of the last 10 years.
– The Minister for the Media has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
On the basis of information provided to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board by licensees of commercial broadcasting stations, commercial television stations and the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the following tables set out the position. It should be noted that, in regard to the Australian Broadcasting Commission stations, a summary is only available in respect of the 1972 House of Representatives election and the 1 974 double dissolution election. Information is not available for the previous elections in a form which would allow such a dissection.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 April 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1975/19750421_reps_29_hor94/>.