29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. G. G. D. Scholes) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The 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 ail 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That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest inconvenience and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 Whitlam, Mr Gorton, Mr Bonnett, Mr Hodges, Mr Katter, Mr Lamb, Mr Nixon and Mr Eric Robinson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The Humble Petition of the undersigned, all being of or above the age of 18 years as follows:
Your Petitioners oppose and seek the deletion of those provisions of the Family Law Bill 1 974 which supplant the existing grounds by the introduction of the sole ground of irretrievable breakdown, which remove any consideration of fault, and which will weaken the family unit while causing more widespread injustice because:
Your Petitioners commend the divorce legislation introduced in Great Britain in 1973, which acknowledges the importance of the family unit, mirrors community requirements, secures justice for innocent people and establishes a realistic definition of irretrievable breakdown, and call for similar legislation to be provided in Australia.
Your Petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will make provision accordingly. 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:
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 1974 be amended.
To specify three objective tests for irretrievable breakdown, namely
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Reynolds and Mr Wallis.
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 produce.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McKenzie.
– Has the Prime Minister ordered inquiries to be made into the activities of 2 senior public servants in Canberra? Can the Prime Minister throw light on published reports that foreign governments have expressed their concern about security in Australia? Has information coming to Australia from British and American or other intelligence sources begun to dry up because of this situation?
Mr WHITLAM The answer to all 3 questions is no.
-Has the Attorney-General’s attention been drawn to the reaction of business to the fine of $100,000 imposed upon the Sharp Corporation for breaches of the Trade Practices Act relating to misleading advertising? Can the Attorney-General tell the House if business is cooperating in the implementation of this Act?
-There can be little doubt that industry has generally supported the decision of the court as an article in the ‘Financial Review’ this week made clear. There was a quote attributed to Mr Kevin Luscombe, the President of the Australian Association of National Advertisers. I think he summed up the position as well as it could be summed up in saying:
There are rules and if someone steps so clearly outside the rules, they’re to expect to have the chopper come down.
Whilst there’s a lot of nervousness about the size of the fine, the Act clearly specifies the severity of fines and we’ve to learn with it. I hope that AANA member companies read into it how serious the Trade Practices people are.
He went on to say:
The Act is a damn sight more realistic than trying to interpret guidelines.
Those companies which breach the rules can expect to be dealt with by the courts in an appropriate manner. The law is well known now and the Act makes it clear that heavy penalties may be imposed. As honourable members will recall, during 1974 there was a press campaign notifying consumers of their rights and educating them to the provisions of the Trade Practices Act. It clearly showed that from 1 October, the Government meant to rid the market place of undesirable practices in the interests of consumer protection. The Government will continue to expose offenders against the Act and, if appropriate, to launch prosecutions. The Attorney-General’s Department is currently considering further prosecutions under the Act and I anticipate that early action will be taken in some other matters.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. In recent days the Treasurer has indicated in strong terms his policy on the economy and has left no doubt that he intends to pursue an unrestricted approach. In view of the growing concern of the Australian people at the rising rate of inflation, does the Prime Minister agree with the attitude and course of action of the Treasurer and is that the Government’s approach, or does the Prime Minister have a contrary view? If so what is that view?
-The honourable gentleman completely misrepresents the Treasurer. The Treasurer does not have an unrestricted approach- far from it. I am in the position of conferring with him daily and I will certify to the fact that his approach is very far from being an unrestricted one. So is mine.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question. Can he say whether there is any substance in reports that a Soviet vessel last year installed or attempted to install an electronic bug on a coral reef in Australian waters?
– I was interested to read such a story in the ‘Canberra Times’, from the usual fantastic source. It is true that a Soviet vessel landed men on an Australian reef in the Pacific in April last year. Australian authorities were aware of this at the time. The Department of Foreign Affairs drew the attention of the Soviet authorities to the presence of the Soviet ship and asked that the ship leave the area. It .did. A subsequent visit by a Royal Australian Navy ship showed that the reef was in fact clear. It is not true that the RAN ship found any electronic monitoring devices implanted on the reef.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Now that meat prices are low, company profits are low, there is a slowdown in foreign capital, the multi-nationals are under control, there is a different Treasurer and Whitlam only cannot control inflation, where does the Prime Minister put the blame for the high inflation that is wrecking the Australian economy?
- Mr Speaker, I need notice of that question.
– I address a question to the Minister for Health. He would be aware that many Australians suffering from painful, incurable and terminal diseases are being defrauded of money- in some cases life savings- in paying for faith cures in the Philippines. These faith cures are definitely fakes. Will the Minister issue a statement warning Australian people against these fakers?
– I appreciate the importance of the question asked by the honourable member. I have seen a journalist’s report that, apparently to test the bona fides of the faith healer, he stated that he had a headache, whereupon followed the magical procedure of the extraction of clots and tissue from the patient’s forehead. He was then informed that his headache had been cured- a headache which he never had. I think this is the best objective evidence so far, if indeed it is a reliable report, that at least one of the faith healers concerned is a fake. Certainly there has been no objective evidence that the cult that has arisen in the Philippines of operating by hand without going through the skin, as it appears, or leaving no wound in the skin, is a very lucrative practice and one which works only if the patient believes that it does, but it apparently has no physical benefit at all. I am very happy to take this opportunity to warn people in Australia and elsewhere that they should not waste their life savings on this procedure, which is just a bit of magical showmanship.
-Did the Minister for Minerals and Energy receive authority from the Executive Council to borrow up to $4,000m overseas? Was the borrowing limit subsequently reduced to $2,000m by decision of the Executive Council signed by the Governor-General and the Minister himself? Why has this unprecedented authority been given to the Minister for Minerals and Energy? Finally, is it a fact that senior Treasury officials have been urging the Government to rescind this authority?
-The statement as to the amounts is correct. As I indicated to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on a former occasion, borrowing transactions are a matter of confidentiality and responsibility and will continue to be so treated.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Security and refers to the high cost of orthondontic treatment for children with a cleft palate or a Up condition. I ask: Is the Minister considering the inclusion of that treatment with respect to medical benefits? If so, what stage has been reached in that regard?
– I am well aware of the honourable member’s deep-seated concern about this problem. Indeed, following representations I have received from several sources but persistently from him, I directed the Department of Social Security to make inquiries overseas as to what provision for benefits is made in several countries. Information is coming back from those countries that we have contacted and is being subjected to analysis. When we have been able to consider the replies properly a proposal will be put forward in the usual way within the Government and hopefully we will be able to take steps at some later date to include this quite needy area within the provision of benefits.
-I ask the Prime Minister: As the names of other members of Parliament, including the President of the Senate, have been mentioned in regard to possible breaches of the Constitution, will the Government assure me that the same prompt action will be taken in these cases as was demonstrated in the case of Senator Webster?
– I believe that last night the Senate resolved unanimously to express the view that a judicial committee of inquiry should be appointed into all matters concerning the qualifications of members of Parliament. The Government will, I expect, act upon the point of view expressed by the Senate. The members of the Government Party in the Senate considered the addendum moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate to a motion moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate and decided to support it. I expect that the Cabinet will be considering the appointment of a judge or judges to carry out such an inquiry.
If a specific allegation is made concerning any member of the Parliament, as was made in the case of Senator Webster in newspaper articles and later in sworn evidence before a joint parliamentary committee, I would hope that without delay the House to which the member belongs would act as the Senate has acted in the case of Senator Webster. In that case the Government would act in the way in which it has acted in the case of Senator Webster, that is, it would ensure that he received legal representation of his choice at the public expense. The Government also would ensure if the member was an Opposition member- I trust that the Opposition would ensure if the member was a Government memberthat a pair was granted to the member until the matter was determined. The reason why a pair would be given is to ensure that the member would not be subjected to the constitutional fine in respect of sitting days. The Government yesterday sponsored a Bill which went through this House without opposition and which I trust will go through the Senate today.
– It has been passed by the Senate.
– It has gone through the Senate? At the suggestion of the Leader of the Australian Country Party, which suggestion I promptly and fully supported, the Government brought in a Bill and, as is known, both Houses passed that Bill last night to limit any retrospective fines to be imposed to the day on which the . originating summons was served on the member concerned. It would have been farcical and unjust if through the inattention of members of Parliament themselves a member sat for hundreds of day and became liable to a constitutional fine. I think in the present case, if it were established, the fine could have been about $150,000. That would be an injustice; it would be an absurdity. So if any specific case arose which seemed to be covered by the terms of the Constitution the Government would act, where it fell to the Government to do so, in the way that it has acted in the last couple of weeks, and I trust that the Opposition would act as the Government did in this case in regard to pairs.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Minerals and Energy. Can the Minister tell the House what work has been done by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission on uranium enrichment by gas centrifugation?
-It is generally known that I have appointed to a vacancy on the Australian Atomic Energy Commission Professor Harry Messel who is known throughout Australia for his ability and drive. Professor Messel has reported to me his pleasure at the progress that has been achieved by the Commission in the technology of centrifugation. In point of fact the developments have been quite remarkable. They are, of course, under the usual limitations as to availability for public information. Nevertheless it can be said that with Australia on the verge of not merely mining and milling uranium but also enriching it, we will be able to face and to match the consortiums overseas which are interested in selling us this type of technology. This applies also in respect of the Japanese. It is most encouraging because we will be able to use our own achievements in this field as a measuring rod for the rival technologies which may be offered to us.
– I ask the Acting Treasurer a question. Has the Government received a report from the Treasury which estimates that inflation could reach 30 per cent unless there is a tough Budget this year? Does the report contain warnings similar to those given by Professor Arndt on Sunday? What new measures will the Government take to prevent the reported predictions being realised?
-No report predicting the sort of inflation rate mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition has been given to me or to Cabinet.
– What about the Treasurer? Was it given to the Treasurer?
-No, it was not. No such report has been issued by Treasury to either the Treasurer or to me as Acting Treasurer. We are seeking advice from Treasury and other economic experts as to what can be done in the next Budget. We will be having our Budget Cabinet discussions during June and July and at that stage we will be adopting policies which will endeavour to curb the rate of inflation and reduce unemployment.
– Is the Minister for Housing and Construction aware of a company, MHLF Members Finance Ltd, which offers home loans at an interest rate of 2½ per cent and urges young people to ‘ rush this card today ‘ to an address in Sydney? Will he refer this and other misleading mutual society advertising to the Attorney-General for action by the Trade Practices Commissioner?
-I suppose the simple answer to the question is yes. In fact, I say yes, I will be very happy to hand the matter for investigation by my colleague the Attorney-General. It would be injudicious of me to say anything in regard to this company that might be derogatory or critical, without proper investigation; I would say that there have been companies in this field which have attracted a great deal of criticism and animosity. In fact, in Queensland, where such companies went under investigation, a number of them were disallowed and were prohibited for some time from continuing operations. A number of common complaints exist concerning similar companies They take the form that there are cases where preferential shares are held and the people holding those shares derive the early loans, so that others who are in a Starr Bowkett kind of situation have to wait in many instances some years- maybe even 10 years- or near the end of the lending period before they can attract any support for their housing aspiration. Also, a number of traps exist in some of these companies arrangements which involve forfeiture, so the unsuspecting investor loses his equity, often to very great disadvantage. I suggest that people who are interested in the subject could be well advised to read a series of articles published by my Department’s magazine, ‘Shelter’, where the case for and against has been effectively put. In general terms, people would be very well advised to look carefully before they avail themselves of these services. I might also add that the legislation governing such organisations is in the field of State rather than Federal administration.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Has the Government already expended or negotiated to expend large sums of money under the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Act? Do these moneys include amounts proposed to be borrowed from overseas by the Minister for Minerals and Energy? Is judgment on the validity of this Act currently reserved before the High Court? Has the Prime Minister heard, recalling a previous occasion, that the odds among learned counsel are in favour of the Act being declared invalid? Will the Prime Minister undertake to the House that no further amounts will be expended or contracted for expenditure until the validity of the Act is determined?
-The answers to the questions, seriatim, are: Yes, no, yes, yes, no.
-Can the Minister for Minerals and Energy give the House any examples of the distortion by premier pricing of shares issued to Australian investors wishing to invest in the residual interest available to them in majority foreign owned companies?
– Many outstanding examples exist of the problems that have been raised by the honourable member for Hunter. Notably, among the mining companies, are such firms as Hamersley, Comalco, Conzinc Riotinto of Australia and, of course, Utah. In 1970 the Utah company issued 50c shares in Australia at a premium of $1.35 each and the money so ra ised was in turn used to acquire 10c shares in Utah Development Company, the parent company, at a further premium of A$3.89. Hamersley, aided of course by the liberal leases that were granted by the then Government in Western Australia, has been able to impose premiums of as much as 500 per cent on the sale of minor portions of its equity to local investors. Conzinc Riotinto of Australia has issued 50c shares for premiums ranging as high as $ 1 3.50. Comalco took another and possibly more objectionable tack. It made a public issue of 50c shares at a premium of $2.25 in 1970. This was less than the market price at that time and is more than the current market price. The issue was partly placed on an unsolicited basis with potential friends of the company, for example, Queensland Cabinet Ministers, senior public servants and other individuals who were able to reap a windfall gain. I have heard mealy-mouthed advice by the Opposition as to what could be done in the way of buying back the farm and buying back the mine. This is typical of the treatment that Australians get when they attempt to acquire a legitimate share in their own birthright.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General and Minister for Police and Customs. I refer to the proposed formation of the Australia Police and the associated proposed legislation to come before this House. Has the Minister seen criticism of the report from Mr Carmody seeking access to taxation and Australian Security Intelligence Organisation data for the proposed police force? Has he seen criticism of the fact that Mr Carmody has offered ASIO access to the Australia Police’s proposed powerful new computer with the proposal that it will have its own key to that computer? Has he seen criticism from Mr Evans?
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member should ask his question. He is giving a lot of information.
-I am coming to the final part. In view of this criticism and the allegations that the present Department of Customs does not have a very good track record in civil liberties, will he give an undertaking that he will discuss the proposed legislation with the Council for Civil Liberties and similiar organisations before he introduces it into this House?
– I thank the honourable gentleman for the question. I thought he would never get the call. The honourable member’s reputation and record in the field of civil liberties are well known, and his interest is of long standing. May I say at the outset that I have seen some of the reports that he mentioned. I have not seen others. I can say quite firmly that the reports of criticism directed to Mr Carmody are completely untrue. The honourable gentleman also referred to some criticism from Mr Gareth Evans of the proposal for an Australia Police. The newspaper report I read was completely misleading. Within an hour or so of my reading it early yesterday morning I received a telegram from Mr Evans completely dissociating himself from it and saying that he was now satisfied with the civil liberties guarantees I had been giving publicly and that he had taken steps to write to the ‘ Australian Financial Review’ in those terms.
Whenever one considers the question of police and the relations of police with the community it naturally and understandably gives rise for concern. There can be no doubt that the individual policeman has capacity to exercise a great deal of power over an individual citizen on occasions when they perhaps confront each other. At the moment inquiries in the nature of royal commissions are operating throughout Australia on not unrelated matters. Inquiries are taking place in Western Australia, in the Northern Territory and in Victoria. The debate on the relationship between the police and the citizen has been continuing in New South Wales for many years. When the proposed legislation for an Australian police force is introduced into this House it will be the most advanced piece of legislation, from the point of view of protecting the citizen, that Australia has yet seen, and probably that the world has yet seen. For example, there will be -
-Order! I ask the Minister not to go into a second reading speech on the Bill.
-No, I will not make a second reading speech. Justiciable provisions will be written into the Act that will set minimum standards of behaviour for the police in relation to search and seizure, arrest, dealing with general warrants. It will set up an independent tribunal for investigation of complaints against the police. There will be a police council which will involve elected representatives of the people in the communities which the police serve. Prosecutions will be launched not by the police but by an independent prosecuting section.
Opposition members- Hurry up.
-If honourable members opposite do not want to hear this, so be it. The point I am making is that the Government attaches enormous importance to the fact that within a piece of legislation of this sort there is an opportunity to provide these safeguards, and they will be provided in a way in which they have never been provided in any other piece of police legislation in Australia.
– My question to the Prime Minister concerns the film shown last night by the Australian Broadcasting Commission of a serene and rather happy state of events in Da Nang. This was obviously a Hanoi propaganda film. Is the Prime Minister aware that similarly in 1968 a film was shown by the ABC of a happy and orderly life in Hue at the very time the dreadful Hue massacres were occurring? In view of this propaganda and the past record, will the Government, in the name of decency and a simply respect for humanity, seek to propose vigorous action with the North Vietnamese Governent and General Giap to implement the principles of the international convention for political asylum and to see that those conventions are carried out?
– I did not see the film last night. As far as I have been able to watch or hear Australian Broadcasting Commission programs, they have included very different and opposed points of view on events in Indo-China. The night before last I happened to see a television interview, which I thought was quite inflammatory and neurotic, on the other side. The ABC gives vent to views on both sides and I hope it continues to do so.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Has he noted reports that the Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak has called for a South East Asian neutral zone? Can he confirm these reports? Will he explain the Government’s attitude in relation to this concept?
– For some years now Tun Abdul Razak has been proposing such an area. He has done so consistently. He still does so. 1 am pleased to say that the present Australian Government has supported his efforts both bilaterally and in wider forums. I am very much looking forward next week to having an opportunity to exchange views with him on this subject.
-Can the Prime Minister assure the House that at least a nucleus of Australian personnel will be retained in the Embassy in Saigon to ensure the processing of those refugee applicants who fit within the categories he mentioned to the House yesterday? Will he also assure the House that those categories in no way exclude persons who might otherwise meet the criteria for eligibility of persons who would normally be admitted to Australia?
-The Australian Embassy and Consulate at Saigon are still operating. No decision has been made to close them. The overriding reason for closing them, if they are to be closed, will be the safety of the personnel. Obviously, what I or anybody acting in my position will have to bear in mind is whether it is worth jeopardising the safety of Australian personnel in the circumstances which obtain.
– Has the Minister for Transport seen reports that the New South Wales Premier and Cabinet will be approaching the Prime Minister objecting to an alleged instruction by the Minister that all- I repeat ‘all’- international air traffic should go to Tullamarine in Melbourne instead of to Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport at Mascot in Sydney and that the Premier will also advocate to the Prime Minister that a parallel north-south runway be built at Mascot.
– A second one?
– A second one. Was any such direction given by the Minister?
-I have seen reports that the Premier of New South Wales, Mr Lewis, will write to the Prime Minister. It would appear that that is to be a reply to a letter which the Prime Minister wrote to the Premier back on 1 1 December 1974. So apparently the State has finally got around to looking at the matter. One of the interesting points about the Prime Minister’s letter was an indication to the New South Wales Government that we were taking action to get the Australian domestic airlines to use larger aircraft; that we were negotiating with international air operators to bypass Sydney and operate into Melbourne; and, furthermore, that we were trying to get the domestic operators to bypass Sydney by using direct flights between some of the capital cities. This was being sought to reduce the noise level and the frequency of aircraft flying around and into Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport, to improve services and also to try to get some sense out of the New South Wales Government. I say this because every time that an Australian government, whether it be this Government or former governments, made any attempt to overcome the airport problems of Sydney the New South Wales Government would bring to light all sorts of propositions. Whatever proposition was put up from this Parliament, this Government or former Australian governments, the New South Wales Government set out to ridicule it.
– What about Galston?
-A11 right, Galston has been removed from the list for consideration.
– Is there a Cabinet decision on that?
-Order! The honourable member for Parramatta will ask questions only when he gets the call from the Chair and the Minister for Transport will answer only questions which are directed to him by those honourable members who have received the call from the Chair.
-Mr Speaker, I note your warning. The Premier of New South Wales has laid great stress on the fact that I have endeavoured to divert aircraft. It is perfectly true. In the case of the bilateral agreement with the Yugoslav airline the departmental officials who negotiated that agreement were directed by me to try to get that airline to operate through Tullamarine Airport at Melbourne in preference to Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. In the case of the Concorde aircraft there is an application for proving flights. At my instigation pressure was put on the applicant to route the flights through Melbourne and not Sydney. In the case of a charter operator who wants to operate a number of charter flights into Australia from the United States of America, at my direction pressure was put on the American charter operator to operate to Melbourne in preference to Sydney. This was all done to relieve the congestion and the noise around Sydney.
I wish the Premier would get his facts clear before he comes out and says that I have done things to obstruct. In the case of the charter operator which wanted to operate into Sydney recently, it submitted its final details on 7 March 1975 and they are the ones about which the Premier is talking. Approval was granted on 17 March. At the charter operator’s own initiative the commencing date has been pushed back another month from October to November. So the facts are that this Government is doing its damnedest to reduce the noise levels around Sydney airport and it is trying to get economic and reasonably efficient use of airports throughout Australia.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the conditions he announced yesterday in relation to family reunion of Vietnamese are narrower than those that apply under the normal immigration program? How many Vietnamese does the Prime Minister envisage coming to Australia under the guidelines announced yesterday? How many applications have been received for sponsorship by Vietnamese citizens? Is the Prime Minister aware of concern expressed that the guidelines announced contradict advice from the Department of Labor and Immigration that would have enabled the sponsorship of parents, brothers, sisters, nances and friends? Does the Prime Minister know that no such restriction as he has placed on Vietnamese was applied to refugees from Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Chile?
-The categories that I announced yesterday were in addition to those which applied beforehand, and, of course, which still apply. Some 1 15 Vietnamese have been approved for residence in Australia under the regulations which existed before the categories which I announced yesterday. That is, it has always been possible for Vietnamese to come here, as it has been for citizens or residents of any country, irrespective of some of the conditions which used to apply before the present Government was elected. There were 115 Vietnamese already approved before the categories which I announced yesterday came into effect.
-I draw the attention of the Minister for Health to my continuing interest in the Australian Government’s offer to finance the building of a major suburban hospital in the Brisbane suburb of Mount Gravatt and the prolonged negotiations with the Queensland Government. I ask the Minister whether he can report to me and to other honourable members any further progress in those negotiations.
– The Queensland Department of Health is planning a major hospital complex at Mount Gravatt adjacent to the Mitchell University, with a first stage of 200 obstetric beds. I understand that the authorities plan to call tenders for stage one early in 1976 and that completion of stage one is projected for early in 1979-80. The Australian Government announced in the 1974-75 Budget a 5-year program of capital assistance to the States for development of public hospitals and other inpatient institutions. Under the hospitals development program capital from the Australian and
State governments will represent a joint initiative to give this nation for the first time co-ordinated planning on a regional, State and national basis. The States have agreed to the principle of their hospital programs being reviewed by joint hospital works councils consisting of State officers and representatives of the Hospitals and Health Service Commission, one of whom is a nominee of the Australian Department of Health. On the basis of this examination the Commission recommends to me the extent of Australian Government grants to each State. A fundamental principle, however, is that national funds will be directed towards total State programs rather than individual projects.
During the 1974-75 year we provided more than $5m to Queensland for construction and improvement of hospitals in Queensland. Undoubtedly the availability of those funds has accelerated the development of this hospital. It is noteworthy that in other States- in New South Wales, for instance- the Labor Government’s determination to see a major hospital complex in under-serviced outer suburbs has led to an unprecedented acceleration of expert multinational planning. Melbourne has benefited similarly by our support of the community’s need for decentralised, major teaching hospital facilities.
-My question which is directed to the Prime Minister is supplementary to that asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The Minister for Minerals and Energy when answering a question confirmed that Government authority had been given for special overseas borrowings of up to $2,000m. I ask the Prime Minister: As this is a major departure from existing practice, whereby authority has rested with the Treasury, will the Government make a statement clarifying its position and its intent so that the House and the Australian people might know what the Government’s intentions are? Is it not a fact that the United States Securities and Exchange Commission requires full disclosure of proposed foreign borrowings in that country? If that is the case, why is it not good enough for the Australian people to know these facts?
– The Treasurer has been involved throughout this matter.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been drawn to a report in which it is alleged that the efficiency of his administration has been plagued by illness and that it suffers from a lack of good personal staff? What action can be taken to protect the Minister and his staff from such ill-founded allegations?
– I saw in the last edition of the ‘Bulletin’ the article written by Mr Peter Samuel. It was full of inaccuracies, contradictions and personal abuse. Any Minister, any member of the public or any journalist is entitled to criticise a Minister and the Minister expects to be criticised. But let me give the House 2 examples of the inaccuracies. In the first instance Mr Samuel gave the impression that he had seen the strategic bases document. In point of fact Mr Peter Samuel has not seen that document. Secondly, he made a claim that the- number of Nomad aircraft being built in Australia has been reduced. This Government has increased the number from 11 to 70. So much for the inaccuracies.
What I am not prepared to accept from this or from any other journalist is the personal abuse of my staff or, for that matter, reflections on myself. He gave the impression in the article that I had been plagued with illness. I have not missed a day from the Parliament or from my duties since this Government was elected to office in December 1972. So much for that type of malicious propaganda and statements which I think ought to be answered. Far worse than any of these- I understand the latest issue of the ‘Bulletin’ has retracted that statement, and I accept that- is the personal reference to and abuse of my staff. I want to examine this matter because there are 4 male members of my staff. First I refer to my principal private secretary, Mr Jim Brassil who has been with me for some years. He is a Bachelor of Arts with Honours, a Bachelor of Economics, he has a Diploma of Education, he is an Associate Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management and he formerly was a senior executive in education administration. He is a very valued officer, I turn to the next member. My private secretary, Mr Hugh Craft, is a Master of Arts from Cambridge, a Bachelor of Arts with Honours and formerly a foreign affairs career officer. His most recent post was a second secretary in Athens. These are the people referred to by Mr Peter Samuel as poor staffers. I respectfully suggest to him that he prints their records in the ‘Bulletin’ with his own qualifications alongside them.
I come to the other 2 male members, first of all Mr Derek Woolner who holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Sydney University. He was formerly research officer on defence and foreign affairs in the Parliamentary Library. He has provided invaluable assistance to me over the years, not only in Government but also when I was in Opposition. I think most members of this Parliament, particularly those who were formerly Ministers and those who are now Ministers, would appreciate that Mr Woolner is probably the most informed research officer in this Parliament. I come to the last of these poor staffers, Mr A. M. Koch, who is well known to honourable members in this Parliament. I turn to his record because he also is said to be a poor staffer. He served as a gunner officer in Bougainville and New Guinea, and is a graduate of the Army Staff College. He served with the Defence group of departments for 22 years and served with Ministers from the other side of the House when they were in government. His service includes 2 years in the Australian Embassy in Washington. He was awarded the Military Cross for bravery in New Guinea. I respectfully suggest to Mr Peter Samuel that he print his record of service along with that of Mr Koch. I do not think he will be prepared to do it.
The final reference I make to this article is to Mr Samuel’s reference to the Secretary of the Department of Defence, Sir Arthur Tange. It was not meant to be complimentary. Sir Arthur Tange was appointed by the previous government. He is probably the most experienced and one of the most respected secretaries of a department under this Government. He has served all governments with equal loyalty. I value his judgment and I value the opportunity to work with him. I can express only disgust and disappointment that a journalist would stoop to the tactics Mr Samuel used on this occasion.
– For the information of honourable members I present an Interdepartmental Committee report titled: Establishment of the Australian Government Insurance Office.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Committee of Inquiry into Government Procurement Policy.
– I present for the information of honourable members the reports on chain saws and chain saw engines and on certain plastic products of the Temporary Assistance Authority dated 11 March 1975 and 18 April 1975 respectively.
– For the information of honourable members I present a study by Philip Shrapnel and Co. Pty Ltd, titled: Townsville economic structure study. Due to the limited number available, reference copies of this study have been placed in the Parliamentary Library. Copies of a synopsis of this study are available from my office.
– For the information of honourable members I present an interim report by staff members of the Bureau of Meteorology titled: “Cyclone Tracy”.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Interim Board of the Australian Film Commission dated February 1975.
I seek leave to make a statement relating to defence.
-Is leave granted?
– Yes, most decidedly.
-There being no objection, leave is granted.
-The period in which the Labor Government has been in office has been marked by a reawakening of public interest in policy matters of real national importance. Such public discussion of government policies is welcome to this Government, both as a contribution to the solution of national problems, and as a means of revitalising the democratic processes which are so important to us. I am particularly pleased to present to the Parliament a statement on the Government’s defence policy. I believe it to be a sound policy.
Adequate provision for the security of Australia is a fundamental objective of the Government. The pursuit of this objective requires a clear definition of the future role that
Australia is to play in our strategic environment and of the requisite size and structure of the defence force. Shortly after taking office, the Government called for an assessment of the strategic prospects facing the nation. The principal findings of that review have been stated publicly many times; in short, it is assessed that our strategic situation is favourable, while recognising that uncertainties must be attached to the longer term.
Defence planning is based upon the maintenance of substantial defence forces and support that are adequate for present tasks and provide backing for. a more independent posture. They would be capable of further timely expansion to deter and if necessary counter any threats to the security of our national interests should the need arise. On this basis the Government has in the last 2 years made considerable progress in the reorganisation, restructuring and re-equipment of the defence force. Major investigations have been carried out into practically every aspect of defence planning and preparations.
Let me assure honourable members that adequate Australian defence preparedness is of considerable importance to my Government; it should be important to any government, to any people. It should never be the subject of uninformed comment, or misrepresentation which can damage the confidence of the community and the confidence of those charged with its implementation. There is nothing equivocal about the Government’s commitment to Australia’s national security. That commitment is part of the Labor Party’s platform- a living commitment to which the present realities of Australian defence policy bear witness.
Two major elements of the present Government’s defence policy, as I have emphasised in many speeches in Parliament and without, are firstly that we closely monitor the international situation and keep the threat assessment under regular review; and secondly, that notwithstanding the low threat assessment, we at all times keep a substantial defence force in being. It is the latter point to which I now address myself. Please note that the theme of my statement is ‘Australian Defence- the Reality’. I chose this theme deliberately. I wanted to make a clear distinction between the reality- the facts of Australian defence which I shall lay before you- and some of the misrepresentations and misconceptions which have been put about.
Following the recent leadership crisis in the Opposition, the newly appointed Shadow Minister for Defence said: ‘The fact of life . . . (is) that the Services are in extremely poor shape ‘. He has made other similar remarks. A former Minister for Defence and the newly elected Leader of the Opposition, (Mr Malcolm Fraser), has spoken of, ‘the virtual destruction of the defence forces’.
Now these are remarkable statementsremarkable because they have no relation to the facts. There is nothing secret about Australian Defence expenditure and force levels. Each year full details are given in the Estimates and Budget papers. At Budget time a booklet is produced called ‘Defence Report’. It has been published regularly for many years now. It is full of facts and figures, and as well, sets out some of the conceptual thinking underlying Australian defence. A few weeks ago, and to bring the picture up to’ date, I caused to be published another booklet called ‘Australian Defence’ which traces the major decisions taken since the present Government assumed office in December 1972. Apart from Parliamentary papers and statements, I have myself made many speeches up and down the country describing the achievements of our servicemen and servicewomen and the realities of Australian defence. If then the honourable members to whom I have referred spoke as they did because they were unaware of the facts, I find that difficult to understand. If, on the other hand, the Leader of the Opposition and the other occupants of the Opposition front bench spoke not from lack of awareness of the facts but with a deliberate intention to misrepresent, I find that a matter for concern. For on the great matter of Australian security there should be a degree of bi-partisanship in the Australian Parliament in which both sides accept some responsibility for at least a sober and correct presentation of the facts.
I come back to the actual words used. The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) has spoken of ‘ the extremely poor shape ‘ the Services are supposed to be in. The Leader of the Opposition spoke of the ‘virtual destruction of the defence forces’. From these utterances one might expect to find, for example, that the Australian defence force had been very greatly reduced in numbers.
At the end of March 1965, when the Liberal Government had been in office for 15 years, when Sir Robert Menzies was Prime Minister, when elements of the Australian forces were already actively committed in operations in Vietnam and in the confrontation situation in Malaysia, and when deeper military involvement was foreseen, the strength of the volunteer permanent forces was approximately 54000. By the end of March this year the strength of” the volunteer permanent forces was about 68 800. So we see that far from there having been any decline in the permanent volunteer defence force there has been an actual increase of some 27 per cent over the strength of 10 years ago.
Let me look at another time scale and make another comparison. At the end of December 1972, when Labor had just been returned to office, the strength of the volunteer permanent forces was 69 195. By 30 June this year the strength will be about 69 200. So the reality is that there has been no decline at all in the strength of the permanent volunteer forces since this Government took office. This may well surprise some people because of the process of deliberate and repeated misrepresentations to which I have referred. The only major difference between the strength maintained by our political opponents in 1972 and the strength maintained by us today is that national service has been abolished. I have not heard from the new shadow Minister for Defence whether he would be prepared to re-introduce national service, whether that is a calculated decision that he would want to make. I expect that he will say so during this debate. The Leader of the Opposition in a television interview 2 nights ago neither confirmed nor denied the Government’s policy in this respect. So, as I have just pointed out, the only difference is that when I became the Minister for Defence in 1972 I had to make a deliberate decision. That decision was based on Government policy- a policy that I believe the Australian people wanted to be implementedthat national service should be abolished. It was abolished within the first fortnight of this Government taking office. No Party represented in this Parliament is apparently in favour of restoring national service. The facts are that at 69 200 we have the largest volunteer defence force strength that this country has ever maintained in peace time. In addition, in 1973 the Cabinet authorised the strength of the Army to be increased from 31 500 at June 1975 to a level of 34 000. If the level of the defence forces is to be 69 200 at the end of June this year, and assuming, as we will, that the strength of the Navy and Air Force remains constant or increases slightly, by June 1976 the volunteer strength of the armed forces in Australia will be more than 73 000. 1 ask honourable members to compare that level with the level that Australia had when this Government came to power in 1972. It will be seen quite clearly that there has not been a reduction in the strengths of the armed forces. In actual fact, they have increased.
Let us take another possible measure of size and reality of Australian defence, namely, the annual defence budget. Here it is difficult to get direct comparisons because of changes in the value of money. But the figures are telling enough. In 1970-71, the year when Mr Fraser was Minister for Defence- before the leadership crisis in the Opposition in March 1 97 1 , as a result of which he left the Ministry and the Liberal Party removed from office the then Prime Minister, Mr Gorton- the defence expenditure was $1,1 38m. Honourable members ought to note that the new Leader of the Opposition was the Minister for Defence in that year and the proposed Budget expenditure for defence was $l,138m. In 1971-72, the last full year of Liberal Government, defence expenditure was $1,2 17m. This year I expect the amount spent on defenceincluding a one-time transaction of $70m for the transfer of defence assets to Papua New Guinea- to be approaching $ 1,800m. The precise figure is uncertain because additional estimates are yet to be passed through the House. Nevertheless, the broad picture is quite clear. From expenditure in the $ 1,200m bracket in 1970-71 and again in 1971-72 the expenditure this year has increased to be in the order of $ 1,800m. Notwithstanding changes in the value of money in the interim. I find here no evidence of the virtual destruction of the defence forces.
Just how much to spend on defence is always a difficult problem. To spend too little means to run unnecessary risks. To spend too much means to take resources away from other objectives of the Government such as education, social welfare, the building of new cities, or the renewal of old cities. Alternatively, there could be higher taxes and a larger government spending program as a whole, thereby transferring more resources from the private sector, either from individuals or companies. That is not a course of action which I understand is favoured by our political opponents. I believe that what the Government is providing this year for defence is a reasonable and prudent provision in all the circumstances. In defence spending the question always asked, and so difficult to answer, is: How much is enough? I believe $ 1,800m is enough this year. What will be necessary in future years will be determined after the same prudent and careful consideration of the whole situation in which we are placed.
Let me turn to equipment as a measure of Australian defence capabilities. The policy of this Government is to provide adequate, good, modern, conventional equipment for our defence forces. At any given time of course the forces have in service or coming into service a very large inventory of equipment. I need mention only, for example, the carrier ‘Melbourne’ with its Skyhawks and Tracker fixed wing aircraft and the new Sea-King helicopters coming in this year; the guided missile destroyers which are being re-equipped with the Standard missile and a modern combat data system; the River class ,frigates which are having their capabilities extensively improved; the Oberon submarines in service and the two more building in the United Kingdom; the oceanographic ship building in Australia. The Army has a wide range of combat, engineering, communications and related equipment which is being progressively updated. In the Air Force we have the Fill, the Mirage fighters, the Orions and Neptunes for long range maritime patrolling, the Hercules and Caribou transports, the Chinook and Iroquois helicopters. This is in total an impressive inventory of equipment and far ahead of anything else in our region.
The timing of new buys depends upon many factors- when the old equipment is obsolescent or worn out, when there is a quantum jump in technology which should be reflected in our forces, when the right equipment is available from overseas or local production and when there is a need. Each year decisions to purchase new equipment are taken by the Government as part of the Five Year Rolling Program in respect of defence. This is a good and efficient system of defence administration. It was introduced by our political opponents, as I freely acknowledge. I believe that the program has been further developed and improved in the 2 years since we came to office. At the moment there is a temporary dip in the level of spending on equipment. The reasons for that are not hard to find. It is well known that substantial spending on major equipment projects normally takes place 2 to 3 years after the decision is taken to order. After a series of major defence acquisitions in the middle and late 1960s- including such very costly items as the Fl 1 1 aircraft- no very large spending items of capital equipment were permitted in the first 2 or 3 years of the 1970s. If ever an example is needed by this House of how difficult is the time span involved when sophisticated equipment is ordered can be it is the case of the purchase of the Fill aircraft. We will not repeat that blunder. If criticism can be levelled at me because a decision is more carefully analysed before it is firmly made I intend to accept that criticism, but we will not repeat the unhappy performance in respect of the time that the Fl 1 1 aircraft took to reach this country. The period involved was 10 years. Some 9 Ministers for Defence preceded me before I received the first Fill aircraft in Australia and I think that there were no fewer than 3 Prime Ministers in that time. The primary reason for the present decline in spending on major equipment is that we are not able to spend today because of the lack of orders on the part of the previous Government. When this Government assumed office some of the projects previously planned proved on examination to be unwise or unrealistic. This applied particularly to the so-called light destroyer program- the DDL project. The DDL is by now well known to have been so risky- risky in terms of the very complex weapons integration task, risky in terms of likely cost over-runs- that it would have been most imprudent to have proceeded with it. At the time the project was put aside it had not advanced beyond the preliminary design stage. Detail design had not even begun. The Government took a decision on an alternative- the United States patrol frigate. It is backed by the vast resources of United States naval technology, ship building design competence and technology. Approximately $140m will be spent on defence research and development alone. The patrol frigate will have the same sophisticated air defence and surface to surface missile system and the same armed helicopters as is proposed for the DDL. It will be available before any of the present fleet destroyers go out of service; so there is no substance to any statement that there will be a decline in fleet destroyer strength. And above all, it will be available at far less risk and before any of the proposed DDLs would have been in service.
Even if we had proceeded with the DDL program we would have been using exactly the same equipment as will now be incorporated in the patrol frigate. If the patrol frigate fails for this reason, so would the DDL. The decision taken was taken, of course, to ensure that we had a destroyer which would be available for service before the destroyers now incorporated in the Royal Australian Navy had to be phased out. It was a deliberate decision and I think the correct decision. I am sure that the honourable member for Moreton, who is the shadow Minister for Defence and who is now sitting at the table, would not go back on that decision if he had the opportunity of doing so.
The Government took 2 further major decisions a year ago. It decided to purchase tanks for the Army and long range maritime patrol aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force. The tanks were needed to replace the obsolete Centurions, which themselves had been introduced by the Chifley Labor Government in the 1 940s. The choice was finely balanced between the American M60 and the German Leopard. In the event the Department of Defence recommended, and the Government approved, the purchase of the Leopard. We believe it to be quite simply the best medium tank available in the world today. It is contemplated that further tanks will be acquired in the near future.
The other major decision announced last year was the acquisition of 8 new long range maritime patrol aircraft for the RAAF. The choice lies between 2 aircraft, namely, the British Nimrod and the United States Orion. We already have one squadron of Orions based at Edinburgh in South Australia. Exhaustive evaluations are now being completed by the RAAF and the Department of Defence. The results will be presented to me later this month and I expect to announce a decision in May. Once again I have no hesitation in saying that the aircraft selected will be, in our judgment, the most suitable long range maritime patrol aircraft for our purposes. It will strengthen our capability for the maritime patrol and surveillance of the ocean surrounds of our continent.
The first set of major decisions made last year by this Government to which I have just referredpatrol frigates for the Navy, tanks for the Army and long range maritime patrol aircraft for the Air Force- will strongly reverse the downward trend which had become evident in capital spending. As part of the 5-year rolling program the Department of Defence is now completing work on projects proposed for decision in 1975. The results will be laid before me shortly. Decisions will be taken and announced in the context of total defence programming and overall Government spending. It would, therefore, be proper for me neither to anticipate the precise decisions which will be taken nor to prejudice future contractual negotiations. But I can and will indicate areas of particular interest.
We are looking closely at areas of our long range transport and mobility, both air and maritime. On the air side, the older squadron of Hercules will come to the end of its useful life towards the end of this decade and will need some replacement. In the maritime transport area Australia has not possessed for very many years a Service operated vessel with an overthebeach capability to provide for the ocean transportation of heavy military cargoes and any necessary force to undeveloped landing areas. I expect to make a decision soon on the construction of such a ship. This, together with the excellent capability of the heavy landing craft and other smaller craft already in service, will enable our forces to be supported at any point around our coastline and on our island territories.
An improvement program is under contemplation for our Oberon submarines. The Attack class patrol craft are doing fine work based at Cairns and Darwin, as well as carrying out their many fleet support duties in the southern States. But we need now to plan for the introduction of a new class. A great deal of work has been done on this. I expect to circulate next month the characteristics sought for the replacement class, with a widespread invitation to shipbuilders, in Australia and overseas, to register interest in design and construction. We shall be looking for improvement over the Attack class in the areas of range, speed and seakeeping. We have much in mind the importance of surveillance and protection in our maritime zone.
Some criticism has been offered of Australia’s patrol boats and the number that we have. I would not want to go over the ground that I covered yesterday, but the plain fact is that when I became Minister for Defence I asked whether a study had been undertaken to deal with Australia’s future requirements for patrol boats, and despite what had been said about patrol boats no study had been undertaken. I had to order a study to be made, and I asked for it to be expedited. I said that April of this year would be the deadline. There was no equivocation on that. I expected to be in a position to make a decision about new patrol boats for Australia no later than April this year. That study has now been completed and, as I have indicated to the House, a decision will be made in the near future. Work on the Australian designed and developed Mulloka sonar system which it is planned to fit in our river class frigates as part of their extensive modernisation decided on in 1973 is proceeding satisfactorily. Sea trials are now in progress.
Turning to the Army, we need to do something about its light anti-aircraft capability. Project evaluation of the replacement contemplated is nearing completion and an announcement will be made in due course. We need to make a start on the replacement of the Army’s fleet of quarterton and one-ton vehicles. Tenders have been called for project evaluation vehicles and the decision will be made shortly on those selected for trial by the Army.
In yet another area of defence, we plan to take further substantial steps for the modernising and replacement of the radars- both the air traffic control radars and the air defence radars- at our major RAAF bases, in continuation of what is already in hand. These are some of the equipment projects on which work is now being completed within the Department of Defence and on which I expect to take decisions in the coming months. Further decisions on major weapons systems are programmed for later years, and studies and investigations are proceeding. Decisions made and announced too early would prejudice our flexible response to any shifts in strategic estimates.
In all that I have been saying, honourable members will note a new emphasis on securing our own island continent, our Territories and the oceans and air spaces which surround us. This is a subject which has been unduly neglected in recent years when there was too much preoccupation with the commitment of Australian forces to campaigns in distant areas. Our primary responsibility must always be the security of our own territory, and, linked with this, the surveillance and patrol of surrounding maritime areas. We need to develop concepts and doctrines and acquire equipment which is relevant to our own primary defence concerns. We need to build up the self-reliance of our forces so that they have a better capability for independent action in our own neighbourhood. Nor have we neglected research and development; I need only mention such projects as the Barra sonobuoy, the Mulloka sonar and the Jindalee over-the-horizon radar. We need progressively, over the longer term, to look to the development of appropriate infrastructure.
At the same time, of course, we have in no way abandoned our continuing concern for the security of the south-east Asian area which must necessarily have a bearing on our own long-term security. We are engaged in a widening range of international exercises. We still have our 2 Mirage squadrons in Butterworth where they will continue to assist in the development of the air defence capability of Malaysia and Singapore. They will remain there as long as the governments concerned consider it desirable. We fully honour the Five-Power Defence Arrangement.
We have on-going programs of defence cooperation in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and of course Papua New Guinea.
I said something earlier about our political and strategic relations with the United States. I have heard it alleged that we have somehow impaired Australian, New Zealand and United StatesANZUS alliance or weakened the American defence relationship. Again let us look at the reality. We have put the United States installations in this country on a proper basis of joint control and operation with Australia. We could do no less if we have any regard for our own sovereignty. The United States is perfectly satisfied with the new arrangements.
Let me look more closely at ANZUS. My colleague, Senator Willesee, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, is in Washington this week attending one of the regular annual meetings of the ANZUS Council. As well as meetings of Foreign Ministers in the ANZUS Council, there are regular meetings of the ANZUS military representatives attended on Australia’s part by the Chairman of our Chiefs of Staff Committee, Admiral Sir Victor Smith. Further, for the first time since ANZUS was signed, 24 years ago, there are now regular 6-monthly meetings of military planning staffs of the 3 countries. The last meeting was held in Auckland on 1 to 4 December 1974. The next meeting will be held in Hawaii on 3 to 5 June 1975. Does that sound like the weakening of ANZUS?
Not the least valuable facet of the United States relationship is the access to United States science and technology which is given to us. By co-operative projects and information exchange we can maintain a high level of competence in advanced technology without a prohibitive cost burden. Our Chief Defence Scientist, Dr Farrands, attended a meeting with the chief defence scientists of the United States, Britain and Canada in Washington a month ago- one of a regular series of such meetings.
As to our ties at the highest levels with the United States Administration, let me just remind honourable members that I and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) had wide-ranging talks with the United States Deputy Secretary for Defence, Mr Clements, in Canberra a few weeks ago, and the Prime Minister will be meeting the United States President, Mr Ford in Washington on 7 May. This week I met the New Zealand Minister for Defence, Mr William Fraser, to discuss matters of mutual concern. I expect to visit New Zealand for further discussions later this year.
In making this statement I have endeavoured to give a sober, balanced and realistic assessment of the Australian defence situation. I believe that our policies are realistic, based as they are on a close analysis of the world as it is and on our best forecasts for the future. Our policies are prudent in that they make allowances for any uncertainties. Our policies are fundamentally sound and responsible in that they seek economies wherever they can be achieved through good management and business common sense. I can assure the House that the Government and I will continue to monitor the situation closely so that our defence capabilities, which are substantial, will be progressively developed and adapted to meet changes as the need arises.
I trust that the Opposition spokesmen on defence matters will take the opportunity to examine the achievements and objectives of this Government in the relatively short period it has been.in office. I do not object to criticism; I welcome it if it means our defence preparedness can be improved. However, I have to say that to the present time there has been a notable lack of informed criticism or even any tangible evidence that the Opposition has any real understanding of what Australian defence is all about.
I present the following paper:
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Motion (by Mr Daly)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Moreton speaking for a period not exceeding 35 minutes.
-May I begin, Mr Deputy Speaker, by thanking the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) for his courtesy and consideration. The speech made by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) today has done a great deal to vindicate the reputation that he holds in defence matters. I am bound to tell my honourable friend that it is a most unique reputation. His reputation in defence matters, as apprehended by the Services, is that he is living evidence of life after death, and his speech today at least gave an indication that at long last the honourable gentleman has sought to move. He spoke to us; yesterday he talked, he even laughed. We thought that for the first time the honourable gentleman had been persuaded to say something about defence matters. We thought that he had abandoned his reputation, indeed that he had perished through inanition. But today the honourable gentleman has put down a statement on defence which one must acknowledge for its massive modesty. Whether the honourable gentleman was the author of the statement or not would, of course, require some cross-examination and I would not seek to crossexamine the honourable gentleman, because that would be, I suspect, an exercise in futility. We would not find out whether he was indeed the author of the document or not. Nevertheless, he must answer to the House for the document.
Having received the document but a short time ago, I want to turn to some of the conspicuous features of it in the hope that the House, and possibly the country, may have a better understanding of the honourable gentleman’s assertion that all is well in this country as far as defence is concerned. At the beginning of his speech the honourable gentleman said: … the Government has in the last 2 years made considerable progress in the reorganisation, restructuring and re-equipment of the defence force.
I want to turn to the first part of that contentionthe reorganisation and the restructuring of the defence services. In November 1973 a report on the reorganisation of the defence group of departments was presented to the honourable gentleman. As yet this House has not had an opportunity to debate that report. I want to say something about the report. Admittedly my honourable and gallant friend from Barker (Dr Forbes) had an opportunity- albeit in a very perfunctory way- to say something about the report. But this Parliament has not had an opportunity of considering the report in detail. Surely the Minister understands that in the 3 Services today there is manifest unease and disquiet as to how this report is being implemented. If the honourable gentleman is not aware of that fact all I can say to him, with the candour of a very old friendship, is that people are not giving him the truth, and I hope that the honourable gentleman will take an early opportunity to consider all the implications of the implementation of this report.
The disquiet, as I find it, in the Services, is most significant. Admittedly, many aspects of the report are commendable, but a view exists- and I am bound to say that for my part, as presently minded, I share that view- that the organisation proposed would have to be scrapped in a time of conflict. I invite honourable gentlemen to give to the House and to the country at some appropriate time an answer to that contention. It is not made lightly by people who are uninformed in these matters; it is made by officers of very considerable professional expertise. Take for example the views expressed by a distinguished officer, Brigadier Hooton who retired in protest over this very matter. No answer was given to the contention of Brigadier Hooton, that with the amalgamation of the 3 Service departments under the Defence Department, civilian control of planning had reached a level where wrong information on Australia’s defence requirements was reaching the Government. I am not making that contention; the former Director of Military Intelligence has made it. He is a man with considerable professional training and background, and I invite the Minister to answer his criticism.
It is not that any serviceman complains about responding to civilian control. Indeed, I have never heard any serviceman say there should be anything other than civilian control. But control by the political executive, by the Government, is a different form of control to control by the civil service. This is precisely what is causing the distress and the unease in the country, and I hope that the honourable gentlemen will respond to my invitation. There has been no debate of any size on this report.
The second significant report which has been presented to this Parliament is the report on the Citizen Military Forces, commonly known as the Millar report. Dr T. B. Millar is one of the most respected academics in this country. He brings to a report of this nature a significant professional accomplishment. He has presented a report that surely would have justified the Parliament discussing it. But again it was left to my friend the honourable member for Barker, when the report was presented to Parliament, to take 10 or 15 minutes- the only time given to the honourable gentleman- to discuss a report which has far reaching implications for this country. When are we going to discuss the report?
It is all very kind of my honourable friend the Minister to say that he is making speeches on defence up and down the country. Today he has made a speech to the Parliament on defence, but I hope the House and the country will acknowledge the fact that there has not been one sustained debate on defence since this Government took office. There has not been one day’s debate on defence in the last 29 months. Yes, there have been 2-hour debates on urgency matters- again invariably initiated by the honourable member for Barker. There have been perfunctory and discursive debates on statements made by the Minister. But since when has the House had an opportunity of considering all the ramifications of defence? I hope that honourable members on both sides of the House will be given the opportunity today to consider the implications of the statement made by the Minister.
The Minister has referred in his speech to numbers. Indeed, he said that the number of the volunteer forces is five more than it was when his Government took office. I am prepared to acknowledge that. I am wondering if I can encourage the honourable gentleman, though, to acknowledge the fact that 10 per cent of the officers in the 3 Services have resigned since his Government took office; more than 1000 of the officer strength of the 3 forces in Australia have resigned. I ask the honourable gentleman how on earth is he going to replace the massive experience that those men represented by saying: ‘Well, we have five more on the volunteer side’? It is a matter of fact that some 70-odd per cent of the Citizen Military Forces today are under strength. It is a matter of notoriety that all of the 6 battalions in existence are approximately one company under strength. Does this not indicate the futility of the Government’s philosophy with respect to defence? The Government has not yet caught up with the fact that it is not merely numbers that count in this day and age; what is needed is equipment. When I get an opportunity, I shall turn to the question of equipment.
Moving on to some of the more conspicuous features of the Minister’s statement I wish to say something about defence expenditure, because the Minister sought to make great play of this. He has brushed aside with a gaiety that can only be described as breathtaking the fact that an inflation rate of 20 per cent has ravaged the Australian economy. He has dismissed that quite gaily. On the question of expenditure, let me remind him of that brave announcement that he made at a conference in Brisbane on 18 October 1971 when, with his leader, now Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), he declared: its -
That is the Labor Party ‘s- target for defence spending will not fall below the level of 3.2 to 3.5 per cent of the gross national product set by the Liberal-Country Party governments in recent years.
What has happened to that? Let me remind the honourable gentleman of the performance as against the promise. Defence spending in 1973 was 2.9 per cent of gross national product. The Government was going to spend 3.5 per cent, but in that year spending was down to 2.9 per cent. In 1974-75 it shrunk still further to 2.75 per cent. Is this a government of repudiation? Let the country assess that for itself. A clear, plain promise was made. There was no ambiguity about it.
The Government said: ‘We will not allow defence spending to fall below the level of 3.2 to 3.5 per cent’, and in the space of 2 years it has contrived to reduce it to 2.75 per cent. I ask the honourable gentleman: Is he satisfied that that is the fulfilment of a solemn undertaking given to the Australian electorate in the year 1971? Was he haunted by that undertaking when he made his statement here today, or was the sense of equanimity that consumes the honourable gentleman on defence matters even able to blot out the recall of that promise?
I move on further. When the honourable gentleman speaks about defence expenditure let me remind him that in 1970-7 1 the percentage of the defence vote spent on equipment was 12.7 per cent. What has he contrived to get it down to? He has brought it down to 6.7 per cent. In other words, he has halved it. Using any measuring stick whatsoever in relation to defence expenditure, we find the same pitiful story emerging. Defence outlays as a percentage of total Commonwealth Budget outlays in the last year of the kidney of government which I support, 1971-72, was 12.8 per cent. In 1973-74 it was down to 10.9 per cent and in 1974-75 it stands in prospect of being about 9.2 per cent. In relation to defence expenditure I say to the honourable gentleman: Yes, you can take hold of the aggregate figure. You can sweep to one side the consequences of the enormous ravages of inflation. You can say: ‘I am spending more than the last government spent; ergo, I am satisfied. What is more, the country should be satisfied. How dare you criticise me? I am making speeches up and down the country. I welcome criticism, but it must be informed’. Here I am offering the honourable gentleman not the figures of my conjuring, not the figures of my imagination; I am offering him the figures that are prepared by his own Treasury. Is he going to repudiate then today? Is he satisfied? Probably the honourable gentleman in the course of the next 2 weeks will be able to go up and down the countryside beating up goodwill and making speeches about defence Services whose morale has never been lower simply because there is no trust in the Government.
The honourable gentleman then turned to equipment. He spoke- I thought in rather harsh language- about the light destroyer program, the DDL project. He said that it was risky. It is always risky when the Government rejects it. Honourable members will recall the criticism voiced from the very spot where I stand today by none other than the Minister regarding the F 1 1 1 . If the Government had had its way the most significant piece of defence equipment we have in this country would have been abandoned. What does the honourable gentleman say to that? If the honourable gentleman spoke one word of criticism about the Fill project I am bound to tell him that my recollection is that he gushed forth a whole encyclopedia of criticism about the Fill project.
When he turned yesterday to the question of patrol boats I was interested to find that he had found an interest in history. My one regret is that the honourable gentleman has no capacity to absorb any of its lessons. He was able to produce some amusement. I take not the slightest exception to that. Laughter exhilarates me, even if I am the object of it, but the honourable gentleman’s preference is in another field. It is for tragedy. May I say to the honourable gentleman that it is a field in which he moves with ease and accomplishment because, as Minister of Defence, he has established himself as the most complete tragedy the nation has ever known.
I turn to the question of the Royal Australian Navy. When the arrangement was made by the former Prime Minister regarding the Indonesian defence agreement- I hope that is the correct description of the agreement- there was nothing in the Government’s consideration regarding the scrapping of the DDL project. It is all very fine for the honourable gentleman to come in here this morning -
– He has gone.
– Possibly he will come back. I take no objection. He is busy preparing speeches he will make up and down the country in the next couple of weeks. I invite the honourable gentleman to bear in mind that when the arrangement with Indonesia was made the Government was committed to the pursuit of the light destroyer program. What did the honourable gentleman say about it this morning? He referred to it as the ‘so-called light destroyer program’. I wonder who put together that collocation of language. He said:
The so-called light destroyer program . . . is by now well known to have been so risky- risky in terms of the very complex weapons integration task, risky in terms of likely cost over-runs, risky in terms of potential time over-runs-
Lord only knows what that language means in itself. The honourable gentleman did not pause. Possibly it is because of the deficiencies of my background, but I was not able to comprehend what is meant by ‘risky in terms of potential time over-runs’. That is gibberish and the honourable gentleman should accept it as such. What has he opted for today? The Government took a decision- when we heard a thundering noise the other night that was the Government taking another decision- on an alternative, the United States patrol frigate. Some criticism has been offered on that decision by people with a competence in the field. May I voice some of the criticism. If these ships are to be purchased- I will come to the question of whether or not they will be purchased- they are to be purchased from the United States of America. The United States Navy asked for 50 of the ships. That number was cut down to twelve. It has now been cut down to seven. One of the clauses in the option agreement which the Government has signed is that if the number falls below 12 it will give the Government an escape from taking up the options. I wonder why the honourable gentleman has not referred to that.
I want the Minister to take the earliest opportunity, either in a speech in this Parliament or one made up and down the country- he can make it in Cunnamulla as far as I am concernedto give us a clear statement as to whether or not 2 patrol frigates will be purchased from the United States of America. The difficulties that the Government faces with respect to them are these: Firstly, whether or not the United States itself will proceed with the construction of these frigates; secondly, if it does, whether they will be produced in sufficient numbers to enable this country to purchase them; and thirdly, whether there will be any resolution by the Government to purchase the equipment. They are 3 massive considerations as far as these ships are concerned. It is of no comfort to those who serve in the Royal Australian Navy for the Minister to say that the patrol frigate will be available before any of the present fleet destroyers go out of service. It is no comfort whatsoever to those who serve in the Royal Australian Navy.
May I turn to some of the informed criticism made of these vessels by officers with massive experience and singular competence to offer criticism. The first objection is that they are designed to operate with a large fleet. We do not have a large fleet. The second objection which is raised by those competents is that the vessel has a single screw and if that breaks down they have to put an outboard motor over it to limp it back to port. The third criticism which is made of the vessel is that it has no growth capacity; that is to say if some new technical development appears, the difficulties posed by installing it into the ship are significant. The vessel has a range which is limited and which is by no means comparable with the range of ships in the light destroyer program. Beyond that, the doubts remain as to whether or not the ships will be produced and whether or not the Government will take up the options. What happens if the Government does not take up the options? Will the honourable gentleman come along and offer us an apology? I am sure that an apology by him would impress and deter any aggressor.
I am delighted to find that the honourable gentleman has now discovered Pitt. Let me remind him of what another Pitt had to say: ‘You cannot wage war with a map’. I am glad that the honourable gentleman has been drawn backhowever reluctantly- into history. I admit that I made a minor error in an historical allusion. I never feel embarrassed in admitting to an error because to make an error indicates some form of activity. Honourable gentlemen opposite do not stand in any prospect of making any error whatsoever. Let me go on to the other great flourish of activity in the honourable gentleman’s speech. Let me turn to equipment as a measure of Australia’s defence capability. The extraordinary thing about it, I remind the House, is that he did not mention one piece of equipment that had not been ordered during the time of the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) as Minister for Defence or during the time of the honourable and gallant member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) as Minister for Defence. He mentioned Skyhawks, Trackers and the oceanographic ship. I remind the honourable gentleman that, as Minister for the Navy, I had a minor say in that. I would have thought that he could even have been encouraged to give some sort of commercial on the point. Of course, he put up a stoic defence against the purchase of the Fill aircraft. The Orions, the Neptunes, the Caribous, the helicopters- the whole box and dice- were ordered during the term of office of the 2 honourable gentlemen to whom I have referred.
The Minister then went on to say: ‘There is a temporary dip in the level of spending on equipment’. I suppose that there are still in existence those imaginative souls who contrive to find felicitous phrases such as that- ‘a temporary dip in the level of spending on equipment’. But then, having moved away from the frigates, the honourable gentleman got himself into the tank business. He did not tell the country that the order which has been placed is for 53 Leopard tanks.
– How many?
-Fifty-three of them. I nurse no grievance against my honourable friend whatsoever. We just happen to disagree politically. But there it is. The Minister is as much in my thoughts as is any other person in this House. I tell him that he is in a very secure place when he is in my thoughts. But I say this to him: ‘I would love immensely to meet the person who has made the decision to purchase 53 tanks’. Why fifty-three of them? What is so blessed about that number? I am told, again by people with competence in the field, that the minimum number to operate is sixty-four. I suppose the honourable gentleman went along to a meeting of Cabinetthat determined body of men- and put in his bid. He was told- they speak to each other in civilised fashion- ‘No, Lance, you cannot have this amount of money. How much does one cost? Divide that into the amount of money we say is available’. It probably came out to 53 te, but instead of bumping it up to 54 they thought: ‘ We will cut it down to 53 ‘. I would have thought that my friend, the Minister for Defence, would have given us some understanding of why 53 Leopard tanks had been ordered.
I come now to the next great decision. The other major decision announced last year was the acquisition of 8 new long range maritime patrol aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force. The Minister went on to say: ‘The choice lies between Nimrod and Orion’. He said that the decision will be announced, he hopes, later this month. I want to ask the honourable gentleman, again without any sense of grievance, why eight, because technical advice given to me by experienced RAAF officers- some of them former RAAF officers, admittedly- is that the minimum number which the RAAF could use is twelve. Why were we given no explanation on that point?
I think that I have culled out most of the brave assertions made by the honourable gentleman. I want to come back briefly, if I may, to the question of the Navy. I wonder whether the House realises that today this country stands in danger of losing the immense skills of our shipbuilding industry. I wonder whether the House realises that the Cockatoo Dockyard in Sydney is not engaged in any extension of shipbuilding at all. I wonder whether the House realises that it is undertaking commercial projects for a commercial building in Sydney, for a rotunda or something to go on the top. The skills of these men are being lost. It was in the intention of the previous Government in the light destroyer program to remodernise completely the whole of the Williamstown Dock and to keep going the expertise that we need in this country. That has been abandoned. This morning the Minister was silent as to why he and his Government had abandoned the project involving the fast support combat ship. I wonder why. I hoped that my honourable friend would have been persuaded to give to the House an explanation of why that had been done.
A few short days ago I asked the honourable gentleman whether or not an instruction had been issued concerning the cancellation of travel arrangements which involve expenditure on postings, on defence schools or on school cadets. I give the honourable gentleman full marks for his candid answer. He said, yes, that he had given such an instruction. The House may recall that the day before the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns), from his side- his Treasurer and his colleague in his Government- said to the House that he had given instructions that no money cuts were to be made at all. I wonder why the Government picked on school cadets. Let me tell the honourable gentleman a simple but very moving story of a young school cadet who wrote to me wanting to know why the cancellation had been made. He asked: ‘Would the Government be prepared to share the cost with us 50-50?’ This Government is destroying enthusiasm in the 3 Services. Enthusiasm is one of the great unseens in this world. Without enthusiasm the defence forces cannot operate. I invite the honourable gentleman and all his colleagues to consider the implications of the destruction of enthusiasm in the Australian armed forces today. It is destroying enthusiasm and morale. The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) attempts to interject with such rare purpose. If he were to discuss the matter with officers serving in the Services he would get an idea of the intensity of their misgiving and of their disquiet.
I do not wish to infringe upon the courtesy shown to me by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who is also the Leader of the House, or by the House and I do not wish to weary it. The last matter to which I refer is that the Government has not quite understood as of yet the tremendous and dramatic change of events in this world which has occurred during the time it has been in office. The Minister for Defence today referred to the strategic assessment which has been made. He said in the early part of his speech:
Adequate provision for the security of Australia is the fundamental objective of the Government.
He went on to say, dealing with the strategic assessment:
It is assessed that our strategic situation is favourable.
I wonder whether the Minister could be encouraged to abandon the no threat for 15 years doctrine to which he has succumbed? Until he has abandoned that doctrine the security of this country is not firm or secure and cannot be substantial. We must work on the clear understanding that we live in a very unsettled world and that it calls for resolution and purpose by us all to meet that situation.
– I am sure that all honourable members have become accustomed to the kind of speech made by our learned colleague, the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). He rather reminds me of the song about the French from the play ‘My Fair Lady’. The song goes that the French do not mind what they do as long as they pronounce it correctly. The honourable member for Moreton does not mind what he says as longs as it sounds good. I defy any honourable member who heard the speech of the honourable member for Moreton- the Opposition shadow Minister for Defence- to define for me what constitutes the Opposition Parties’ views on defence. Was there any glimmer during the 34 minutes in which the honourable member spoke of propositions being put forward by the Opposition in relation to a defence policy? I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has come to the table to join this debate. The only positive statements that he has made on defence have admitted his own mistakes. Let us recall that he was the last Minister for Defence of the former Liberal-Country Party Government. On the television show ‘Monday Conference’ which was broadcast last Monday night he admitted that he was wrong to insist as he did in a speech to the Western Australian branch of the Liberal Party of Australia in 1970 that conscription would have to be continued after the Vietnam conflict. He now says- at least this is one glimmer of hope and I compliment the honourable gentleman on it- that his Party would introduce conscription only in the case of a dire emergency and probably a clear and apparent threat to the mainland of Australia. How far has the Opposition come from the days of that extravagant attachment to a notion of forward defence? Five years ago he was prepared to continue a divisive policy of conscription claiming that it was essential to national security. Today he says that it is no longer necessary because- and I quote the honourable gentleman:
Circumstances have clearly changed.
Yet when he was asked what had changed, all he could say was:
Oh well, I am five years older and five years wiser.
This was said by the honourable gentleman who in the previous Government was the Minister for Defence. My colleague, the honourable member for Moreton, has indicated great activity in his speech. His own definition of great activity was that this also denoted grave errors. He quite blithely asserted that the relationship between defence and the gross domestic product, expressed in a percentage term, was 2.75 per cent. I would like to clarify this point and I hope that the honourable member for Moreton is listening.
-Yes, I am.
– Thank you. The actual percentage for the relationship between defence and GNP is 3 per cent. Is the honourable member really suggesting- I think that this is the proposition we have to examine- that the commitment on funds and the level of forces in the Australian defence area should be maintained at exactly the same level in peacetime as the level maintained in a period of war? We will not go into the argument about the commitment to Vietnam. My views and the views of the Government on this subject are well known and have been well known for 10 years. But let us examine what the level of expenditure on the defence forces were when the Opposition was in Government prior to the Vietnam commitment. In 1962-63 the level of expenditure on defence in relation to the gross domestic product was 2.6 per cent. In 1963-64 it was 2.9 per cent. The expenditure was increased with the involvement of Australian forces in Vietnam. What we are talking about is the comparative relationship between the Australian armed forces in a period of peace and in a period of war, irrespective of how we might regard the virtues for the justification of that war. I believe that this whole notion that has been put forward- it is only one of the very few notions that the Opposition has been able to put forward- is completely irrelevant. The size and structure of the armed forces depends upon our strategic considerations. I will deal with that aspect a little later.
The honourable member also made reference to the rate of resignations from the Services. I may say that there are more colonels and majors in the Army today than when we took control of the Government. But there have been a number of resignations for one reason. I think this reflects great credit upon the Minister for Defence who, in the period when he was in Opposition, placed great emphasis on the terms and conditions of members of the armed forces. For years there was a requirement from the military forces for an updating of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act. The previous Government did precisely nothing. This Government introduced the defence forces retirements benefits scheme which was effective back to October 1972. Previously, in most cases under the old scheme officers who resigned more than 3 years before their retirement for rank age forfeited completely their pension. Under the new arrangement an officer can retire after 20 years service. For instance, if an officer joined the Royal Military College at the age of 17 he can now retire at age 37 and still receive, in relation to calculations that have to be made, a fairly substantial pension.
I will give another example because I notice that we have some warriors present in the House today. A major who has had 20 years effective service can receive commutation of a sum of approximately $18,000 and also receive a residual pension of $4,000 a year at the age of thirty-seven. This was impossible under the previous Government. I do not think that members of the armed forces are not prepared to accept the possibility that their positions can be made much better by retiring at the age of 37 and getting a civil job. They would be fools to do otherwise if they believed they had better opportunities. We have not insisted on the matter. We have said that this is a volunteer defence force. There have been a number of resignations but the reasons for the resignations are very clear. They are financial ones. The proposition that has always been put forward by the Opposition is that such resignations show a lack of morale and that we are losing our best officers. I wish to quote to honourable members what was said by the Chief of Naval Personnel. He said:
Resignation by officers with good career prospects are not frequent. There is no large body of disgruntled officers.
What we are seeking to do is to build up a force in Australia that is capable of expansion in the event of any threat in the defence of Australia. Those people who believe that their profession or role lies in the Royal Australian Army are staying. Those people who have opportunities in civil life who believe they can make a way in civil life against the background of a reasonable pension can proceed to follow that course and that is quite acceptable to the Australian Government.
I want to indicate the sort of situation that we, as a government, inherited when we came to power. I quote from a document entitled ‘Australian Defence Review’. I think that the Leader of the Opposition would be well aware of this document because it was published when he was Minister for Defence. The document states:
The Vietnam deployment demonstrated our ability to sustain a force in the field over a protracted period, but it revealed also that we were dependant in many respects on logistic support from our allies.
We were incapable of fielding a task force that could also maintain its own logistic support. That is one of the problems that we have inherited and it is one of the problems that we have sought to rectify. I shall quote further from the document. At page 26 it states:
Opportunity to give greater weight to long term strategic considerations in the shaping of our forces has until recently been restricted by the immediate demands of our combat deployment in Vietnam. That opportunity is now restored.
What it is saying is that our involvement in Vietnam had in fact affected, distorted, our strategic considerations in the shaping of our forces. These are the problems- they are very real and very basic problems- that we as a government inherited as a result of the policies of the former Government. These are difficulties that we have overcome or are seeking to overcome.
I said that I would give some indications of our strategic considerations. There have been, as we all know, important changes in Australia’s strategic situation since the days of forward defence policy. There have been changes in the regional situation itself as well as in the attitudes of allies. There is no requirement, and certainly no regional demand, for forward Australian strategic deployment. The scope for Australian involvement in any regional situation, such as the conflict in Vietnam, has been largely eliminated by the withdrawal from the region of the major allies on whom Australia’s earlier involvement depended. Defence policy- I want to stress this point- is now focused primarily on the defence of Australia and Australia’s interests. The natural primary responsibility of any government is one that, in Australia’s long history of particpanon in military operations around the world, has until now received comparatively little attention.
The shift from a forward defence posture to a more national defence posture has very substantial implications. It means that we must now look to handle our defence affairs with greater independence and be more self-reliant in our defence effort. We must be prepared, first and fore-‘ most, for military commitment in the Australian environment rather than in the forward areas. We must examine and master our own national defence involvement. We must examine the implications of a defence posture based primarily on the defence of Australia, its Territories and the sea and the air space around us, for training, equipment and the deployment of our national forces. We must develop and practice an operational doctrine suited to this environment and to a national defence task. This amounts to a major change in emphasis in our national defence planning. Focus on these matters gives us different priorities for shaping our force structure. There must be a higher priority for development because the changed emphasis now tends, for example, to relate to surveillance. The orientation of the ground forces has been changed from a counter-insurgency role related to the jungles of South East Asia to roles more specifically related to the defence of Australia in the Australian environment. As I said, that has involved a radical change in the nature of equipment. As the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) has indicated, we have placed on order 2 patrol frigates, 8 long range maritime patrol aircraft, and the medium tanks.
– They are not on order.
-I notice that the Leader of the Opposition is interrupting again. He made a claim- this is one of the grave errors that is so obvious in the Opposition’s statements on defence -that by 1981 we will be able to deploy only 3 destroyers with operational capability. If the honourable gentleman was prepared to listen he would know- if he will make a note of it he will not make that same mistake again- that by 198 1 the Royal Australian Navy’s destroyer strength will be eleven, of which a minimum of two and a maximum of four will be undertaking refitting at any one time. Therefore the minimum operational deployment out of the 1 1 destroyers, allowing for their refits and so on, will be 7 destroyers.
But what concerns me is the extraordinary facility that the Opposition has for not putting a point of view but for putting a whole series of errors, and that is all that the Leader of the Opposition has done. I would be very happy to table the record of his interview on the television program ‘Monday Conference’. Time after time he hedged; time after time he refused to answer a question. From the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition and by the shadow Minister for Defence, nobody could even get the vaguest glimmer of what constitutes the defence policy of the Liberal and Country Parties. The statement made today by the Minister for Defence, the statements that he has made previously and the action that is being taken by the Australian Government revolve around one thing, and that is the responsibility that we as a government are prepared to undertake for what is the basic responsibility of any governmentthe defence of Australia.
– The Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) has tried to do what the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) thought irrelevant to a defence debate, and that is to give some indication that changed strategic circumstances could have some implications for defence policy in Australia. He pointed to changed strategic circumstances but he did not say what they were. He inaccurately said that there was no forward deployment of Australian forces, ignoring the existence of the air force contingent at Butterworth. He also ignored the existence of a Five Power Arrangement that could require a forward deployment under certain circumstances. He pointed to a changed role for the Army for the continental defence of Australia, but at the same time he did not say how the Army’s training manuals, training techniques and equipment were going to meet that changed role. There was no definition, no understanding, no knowledge of the changes that might be required. He tried to suggest that one statement I had made concerning the Navy’s capacity to deploy escorts at sea in the future was wrong. He said that of the 1 1 escorts which the Navy will have four will be in half-life refits, leaving 7 destroyer escorts available for sea duty. If a Navy has a force of 7 escorts the Minister might well find, if he asks, that the Navy will not be able to keep 7 ships permanently at sea at any one time and that the number permanently at sea on active duty out of a total force of seven would be about three or three and a half- I do not know where he wants to count the half. So that statement by me was entirely accurate.
The statement made by the Minister for Defence this morning is the first statement he has made in the period of about a year. But the Minister fell into the same error as did the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) when the Prime Minister made a statement about South East Asia which he tried to say yesterday was in fact a statement about foreign affairs. The Prime Minister’s statement was a narrow and restrictive one which looked backward and analysed past history of Vietnam, when what it ought to have been doing was to examine how current events in IndoChina affect South East Asia, the countries belonging to the Association of South East Asian Nations, the relationship with Asia and the United States, the impact of the Middle East and the impact of all of this upon Australia.
That was the Prime Minister’s error. The error of the Minister for Defence was just as great but of a different quality. His statement was a mere nuts and bolts statement which hardly even referred to strategic bases of any kind, snowing no comprehension of the changed world in which Australia is living. He did say that we live in a low threat environment. He did say that we live in a favourable environment. But those words hardly indicate an understanding of the strategic basis of Australia’s defence policy. It is hardly an explanation for the people of Australia. After 2V4 years in the job the Minister ought to be able to make some clear statement concerning at least the way in which he sees these particular matters. He did say that there was need for a clear definition of the role of Australia’s defence forces, but unfortunately he said nothing about that role- what it was or what it ought to be. One paragraph at the end of his speech indicated that he is following a policy more of continental defence than one that might indicate some regional responsibility, but he did so only in the vaguest and broadest of terms. He made no analysis of other events.
Any statement on defence, any statement on foreign policy, is inadequate unless there is an analysis of events surrounding Australia which impinge upon Australia’s own future and which have implications for us of a serious kind. Quite clearly what is happening in Indo-China at the present time does have an impact on other countries. I have said’, as others have said, that the domino theory and its logical necessity was never accurate and is old hat. But it is also equally clear that what is likely to happen in Indo-China over the next few days will have an impact on other countries. As a result there will be changes in policy in Thailand. There is the prospect- not the certainty- of increased support for guerrillas from 2 different countries, one to the north and the other to the north-east of Thailand. There is the prospect of increased support for the remnants of Ching Peng’s guerrillas in Malaysia. No one knows what reactions the Association of South East Asian Nations might have to the total situation.
We know that President Ford ‘s view of these events is totally different from that of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has said that these events are irrelevant as far as Australia is concerned. President Ford was sufficiently concerned to call into conference representatives of New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia and Singapore. I would hope that Malaysia and other countries might be added to that list. There is no indication in the speech of the Minister for Defence of the impact changed ASEAN attitudes may have on the strategic environment in which we live. If the Prime Minister had his way and if that organisation were embroidered, lengthened and expanded to include China and North Vietnam it would be dominated by those countries. Our policy ought to be to maintain the independence of that grouping and to see that it does not come under the domination of any major power. That ought to be an Australian objective. Is that one with which the Minister for Defence agrees? Does he not understand that these matters have defence implications for Australia.
But other events in the Middle East could have even greater implications for Australia’s defence than the immediate events in South East Asia. As a result of most unfortunate difficulties between the United States Congress and the Executive, the United States Executive is now and in the future will be in a weaker situation to negotiate a proper settlement in the Middle East. That could have serious implications. It has already been demonstrated that events in the Middle East have grave economic and defence implications around the world. When the Suez Canal is reopened in June or July the 2 Soviet navies will be able to link up. The Indian Ocean force will be reinforced and greatly strengthened. It is likely that there will be a much greater Soviet naval presence in the waters to our north and through the Strait of Malacca. Does not the Minister for Defence think that these things have any implications for Australia’s defence policy? Does the Prime Minister believe they are of no concern? I know he indicates a double standard by saying that the Pacific Ocean cannot be a neutral zone but persisting in the unreal view that the Indian Ocean can be. As a result of these changes- this comes not from an Opposition judgment but from judgments inside China- the Sino-Soviet dispute competition is likely to become more intense. The Chinese feel encircled by the Soviet Union. Depending upon the future alliance of the North Vietnamese regime or its degree of independence from Russia or China, there is a potential for adding to that feeling of encirclement. If North Vietnam stands aside from that dispute it might be a different matter, but hitherto the North Vietnamese have been closer to the Soviet Union than to China. China’s feeling of encirclement is very real indeed.
It is unfortunate that South East Asia and the waters to our north are the meeting and competition grounds for that Sino-Soviet competition. But the Minister believes that these matters have no implications at all. I suppose this leads to the policy not only of the double standards which I have indicated between the Indian and Pacific Oceans but also to the sort of view which ignores the strategic implications of an American base in Diego Garcia. This ought to be supported by Australia because Australia should conduct a foreign and defence policy in a manner which encourages sensible, reasonable and appropriate United States world involvement. The attitudes of the present Government have been designed to cause the United States to withdraw into herself. That leaves other countries most involved which have not always been Australia’s greatest friends but with which the present Government seems to have a particular love affair. It is not a matter of not seeking to open new relationships with different countries but, in that process, tried and, when necessary, true alliances- as even the Labor Party in earlier times recognised- ought not to be abused and old friendships ought to be preserved.
But the Government’s double standards in the Indian Ocean are all too apparent. There has been no criticism of Soviet Union bases and refuelling facilities around the Indian Ocean but there has been criticism of the United States, designed to prevent Diego Garcia from being established as a base of any kind. It is not only a radio communications link. If through other events the Azores become unavailable to the United States for the reinforcement of Israel the only other way to go to the Middle East would be via Diego Garcia, unless the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries were prepared to change their attitude. So I suggest that an American base in Diego Garcia is very directly linked to the survival of Israel. People say that this has no effect on Australia’s future. The Minister ignores it. He speaks of the nuts and bolts of defence. He does not understand that he is operating in a vacuum without relevance to the real situation. ‘ The Minister spoke of numbers in the forces but that is a false argument. The Defence Force Development Committee said that we should have an army of 34 000. Even in a period of high unemployment the Minister cannot attract that number. What is the total? Is it 3 1 000, or 3 1 500? Then the Minister spoke of dollars and said that this year we would spend $ 1,800m. In my last year as Minister for Defence we spent $ 1, 138m. I suggest the Minister do his sums. The amount of $1,1 38m translated into dollars of present day value works out, at the very minimum, to a little over $ 1,800m. Probably it is something over $ 1,850m. Let the Minister do his sums. In real terms the Government is spending less in real dollars than was spent in 1 970-7 1 . It is a mirage. It is an apparent increase but in fact, it is a decrease. It is worse than that because the funds are going to maintain the shell while the heart is being used up and it is running out of time. The Minister will not be able to deceive the Australian people on these matters. The Minister in his speech mentioned a number of items of equipment. Even the Fill aircraft got some praise. But those items of equipment were all ordered by our Government. What has the Minister done with 2 items? One squadron of Mirage aircraft has been put into mothballs and half the Chinook helicopters are in mothballs. At the rate of expenditure and the activities of the present Government we will have a mothball defence force. The lot could go into mothballs if the Minister stays where he is for too long. Every item of equipment of which he spoke with such pride- I thank him for the compliment- came out of decisions of previous Liberal-Country Party Governments.
The Minister said something about a dip in expenditure because there were no orders in the last year or two of the Liberal-Country Party Government. But he forgot the cancellation of the 3 DDL light destroyers which would be now being built at Williamstown. At least orders would have been placed and money would be flowing. He forgot the cancellation of the fast combat support ship. He forgot that he has run down our capacity by laying up HMAS ‘Sydney’. Has it been sold for scrap yet? This means that we now have no sea transport of any kind- only the aging Hercules which are inadequate for the transport tasks of the Services. Certainly the Minister ordered 2 patrol frigates. The United States may never build them. The hulls are too small. They cannot operate by themselves. They will not be able to take the half life refits and the modernisation of equipment which are highly likely to be necessary during a 30-year life. The best analogy in relation to these patrol frigates is in relation to previous equipment which we have bought when, on an earlier occasion, pilots were sent in Wirraways to fight against Zeros. Decisions have not been made concerning replacement of the Nimrod and the Orion aircraft except that 8 aircraft will be purchased. Decisions have not been made concerning transport aircraft. The Hercules and Caribou are old.
The defence industry is running to a standstill. We made a decision in our time that by 1977 the objective would be that 28 per cent of the defence vote would be spent on defence equipment. This year 6 per cent to 7 per cent has been spent on equipment and 10 per cent of officers have retired since the honourable member became the Minister. It is no wonder that they have. The Minister, the Government and the Prime Minister has spoken of independence in defence. They do not realise that independence in defence requires a greater effort, not a lesser effort; that if we have like-minded allies standing with us, our total defence requirement is less than if we have no allies. The Government has done what it can to see that we have no allies and at the same time it has done what it can to see that we have inadequate forces for Australian requirements. The statement which the Minister made is largely irrelevant in the circumstances of 1975. No decisions have been made about equipment; no relationship has been shown between the statement and the strategic circumstances in which we live- the dangerous, unsettled and unstable world in which we live. The Minister speaks of a favourable climate. I suggest that he ask some people in South-East Asia.
– We have just listened to two confused speeches from the Opposition, one noted for its attempt to combine humour with defence and the other noted for its fears, sums and erroneous claims. We have all heard some of these stories before. Surely we could argue that the tension between China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is a sign of peace for South-East Asia, for if these two great countries are in conflict how are they going to combine to subvert South-East Asia in a communist campaign? Rather, it could be just as well argued that it will allow the Association of South-East Asian Nations room to manoeuvre. We again heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) speaking about sums. He invited the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) to do more sums. Roughly, what the Minister for Defence has been saying is that in 1971-72 $ 1,200m was spent on defence and this year the figure was $ 1,800m, a 50 per cent increase since December 1972. In that time the increase in the consumer price index has been of the order of 36 per cent. They are the sums of the Minister for Defence.
Since the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) has been the shadow Minister for Defence I have listened with great interest to anything that he has said, to anything that could possibly be instructive, decisive, intelligent or inspired. Knowing his way of referring to historical events I did not really expect to get from him the lessons of Pearl Harbour. I expected to get the lessons of the Peloponnesian Wars, for example. Instead we got Pitt. We have been listening with interest, but I am afraid that all we on this side of the House have so far heard has been incoherent, innocuous or irrelevant. In fact I am disgusted at some of his comments which reflect on our armed forces today. I am just as disgusted to hear the comments of the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan). When the Minister for Defence said that he had been going up and down the country telling the Australian people of the virtues of our defence forces, the honourable member for Riverina replied: ‘That would not take you long’. That is a rather poor reflection on our defence services, particularly from a man who was a member of them. Where is the analysis from the honourable member for Moreton? Where are the facts? Where is the definition? Where is the coherence?
The Leader of the Opposition is very evasive every time he is questioned about how much he would spend on defence. He excuses himself from the necessity to increase expenditure on defence because by so doing he would really be admitting the failures of the Liberal-Country Party government in its last years in office. If it will be 5 to 8 years, as he claims, before any equipment that is ordered will appear in the defence vote, it must equally be the case that if expenditure is not in the defence vote at present it is the result of policies of 4 to 8 years ago. This is what has happened. The reason why the Government is not spending more on major capital equipment items at present is a direct result to the failure of the Liberal-Country Party government to place these orders 4 or 5 years ago. In March 1970 when he was Minister for Defence, the Leader of the Opposition presented to the Parliament a shopping list of defence items. This occurred directly as the result of the loss of support suffered by the Liberal-Country Party coalition in the 1969 elections and the threatened withdrawal of the support of the Australian Democratic Labor Party unless the government showed a tougher line on defence. Many items in this piece of window dressing never saw the tight of day. The DDL project was so badly handled that it was no longer practicable for Australia’s defence. Orders for light observation helicopters were trimmed and orders for utility helicopters were later slashed. The order for 1 1 helicopter gunships was cancelled outright. The order for the cargo logistics ship disappeared. This situation will soon be rectified by the Labor Government.
Obviously, from the vagueness of the statements made by the Opposition speakers, one has to look at the Opposition’s performance in government to see its real attitude to defence. In 1969, when the country was still embroiled in Vietnam, Mr Fairhall cut the defence vote by 5 per cent in real terms. Expenditure declined from $1,1 64m to $ 1,104m- and this was at the height of our Vietnam involvement. The then Minister for Defence had the hide to justify that cut by saying: ‘The forces are now better equipped than they have ever been in peace time. ‘ That was ‘peace time’, although we were embroiled in Vietnam. When looking for budget economies,
Liberal-Country Party governments have not been slow to choose the defence vote as their first target. In February 1971 the cut in Government expenditure as an anti-inflationary measure saw the defence vote receive the first and largest cut. From a total of $75.5m cut from Government expenditure, the defence vote cut was $2 1.5m. Can there be any doubt, in view of the vague and evasive defence policies being articulated, Particularly last Monday night by the Leader of the Opposition, where the burden again would fall under a Liberal-Country Party government program to reduce government expenditure? As I asked earlier with respect to the honourable member for Moreton, the shadow Minister for Defence, where was his analysis today? where were his facts?
I asked the Parliamentary Library for some Press clippings on the honourable member’s past glorious record when he was Minister for the Navy. I found a virtual Pandora’s Box. There was reference to Captain J. B. Stevenson, who had to resign from the Navy because the Minister would not defend him. We had his analysis of the Vietnam war in December 1970. A Press clipping I have here states:
The Vietcong were beaten and could no longer win the war, the Navy Minister, Mr Killen, said to today.
This was the opinion of both the military forces and the civilian population in South Vietnam- and he agreed.
Mr Killen returned to Brisbane today after spending Christmas with Allied servicemen in Vietnam.
The Allies are now on top of things, controlling and dictating the level of the enemy’s activity, he said.
The South Vietnamese are taking over more and more of the actual fighting.
These days whenever they meet the enemy they are beating him hands down.
This is the analysis of the greatest general since Ney. I will not go on to all the other clippings but get on to something a little more serious. Let us look at the naval construction and defence vote for 1968-69, 1969-70 and 1970-71. The amount going to naval construction in 1968-69 was $47m. In 1969-70 it was $33m. In 1970-71 when the honourable member for Moreton was Minister for the Navy it was $ 10m. Naval construction as a percentage of the total naval vote dropped from 20.3 per cent to 4.2 per cent with the honourable member for Moreton in control. The naval construction vote as a percentage of total allocation dropped from 4 per cent to 0.91 per cent when he was Minister for the Navy. Yet this is the man who now says that we have to spend a lot more on the Navy although he, given lead times, virtually sabotaged the Navy. Again today, the honourable member has shown that he is either not prepared to stick to the facts or he is sadly in ignorance of them. He made great play of the single screw United States patrol frigate we are buying. He simply fails to understand the methods of the United States Congress in supervising defence equipment purchases.
Although the United States Services must state the totals they expect to purchase under any equipment program, these figures are not financed in a single year. Appropriations for numbers of the equipment are set aside in each financial year. The request of the United States Navy for this financial year is for funds to purchase long lead items for the construction of 7 ships. Request for funds to purchase additional ships towards the United States Navy’s state of requirement of fifty will be made in sequence at an appropriate rate during the next three or four financial years. This future assessment will again be made by the United States Navy in September. There is no basis for the assertion of the honourable member for Moreton that the United States will not proceed with 7-plus foreign orders, including our own 2 ships. The Minister for Defence has met with the United States Defense Department Secretary, Mr Clements, and said today that he is satisfied with the progress of the patrol frigate program.
We had some statements today from the honourable member for Moreton with respect to 53 tanks. He asked: ‘Why 53 tanks?’ Why not 52; why not 54? The order for 53 tanks was the recommendation of our own experts in the Defence Department. They are the people in uniform and not the civilians who are so much despised by the Opposition. The order for 53 tanks is a first order only. Agreement was negotiated with Krauss-Maffai for a further order at the same price. As the Minister for Defence said today, there will be further orders. The order for 53 tanks was recommended by the Defence Forces Development Committee.
We also heard today from the honourable member for Moreton about the number of people who are retiring from the Services. They are retiring because we have actually done something about pay conditions and retirement benefits in the Armed Services. But of those retiring, over half are 55 years of age or more. In fact, they are retiring early. In my opinion, we need to have a closer look at this situation. If we look at the ratio of officers to other ranks and privates, we compare rather poorly with the situation in other nations. But as I have said, most of the officers who have retired- there have been some 10 per cent- have virtually retired early because of a large number of factors, not all of which relate to any dissatisfaction with the Armed Services. In fact, 72 per cent of Army majors and 63 per cent of Army lieutenant-colonels have recently retired at 45 years of age or more.
It is said that this means a loss of experience. In fact, there are more officers with the rank of colonel, lieutenant-colonel and major in the Army today than in June 1972, yet the average age of these people has barely declined. As I said, we need to look constantly at this ratio between the number of officers to the number in the other ranks. We need to look very closely at the opportunities for promotion within the Armed Services at any time, and particularly in peace time. I think that Vietnam showed that we can train a large portion of our army within 6 months. It should be recognised that there are many advantages in having officer resignations at certain periods. We also heard today from the honourable member for Moreton that the Williamstown dockyards update has been abandoned. I am assured by my colleague, the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) who is Chairman of the Public Works Committee that $5m was approved for this program last year and that the work is going ahead.
It is with no great relish that I centre most of my attack on the honourable member for Moreton, because I think all honourable members in this House are very concerned about the defence of this country. But I really do wish that he had provided us with a little more analysis. So far, his only contribution has consisted of criticism of the Government’s defence policies. He has presented no constructive ideas of his own. Recently in an interview on Channel 0-10, he refused to answer questions as to whether a LiberalCountry Party Government would commit troops overseas again as in the case of Vietnam. He refused to answer questions as to what level of gross domestic product a Liberal-Country Party government would spend on defence. In fact, he made no substantial points.
Despite the Opposition’s complaint this morning that it lacked the opportunity to debate the defence situation, the shadow Minister for Defence has shown precious little subject matter to contribute to such a debate. I see that he has a matter of public importance on the notice paper, so I assume he has something to offer, but I am afraid his only contribution to the defence debate has been carping criticism, most of which has not been factual.
He claimed that the Navy will reach a crisis with low destroyer strength in the 1980s. The
Navy now has 1 1 operational destroyers. In 1981 it will have eleven. In 1983 it will still have 1 1- the 2 Daring class ships being replaced by the patrol frigates. Under the plans of the previous Government, replacements for the Daring class ships would have been later and less dependable. As approved by the previous coalition Cabinet in 1972, delivery schedules for the DDL were DDL 01, June 1980; DDL 02, June. 1982 and DDL 03, May 1984. Given the completely new areas of technology involved in the design and construction of the DDL, it is extremely unlikely that even this schedule would have been met. The above dates already represent a slippage from a proposed in-service date of 1976. The program was first mooted in 1969. Under the memorandum that the Minister for Defence signed in Washington last August, the first patrol frigate will be delivered in the last quarter of 1981 and the second in the first quarter of 1982. The pace of production of United States shipyards is such that the real constraint on acceptance of these destroyers from the United States is the Royal Australian Navy’s ability to train crews to man the destroyers.
Turning to the matter of patrol boats, I think we can say the honourable member’s lack of information on this topic has now become notorious. It should be emphasised however that the only loss of significant operational capability in the patrol boat field has resulted from the unfortunate sinking of HMAS ‘Arrow’ during cyclone Tracy. I turn now to the honourable member’s remarks concerning the logistic cargo ship. The honourable member criticised the Government for retiring HMAS ‘Sydney’ before a replacement was ready. The facts are that in 1973 HMAS ‘Sydney* was due for a $500,000 refit. Yet under the planning of the previous Government, HMAS ‘Sydney’ was due for retirement before the end of 1974. The honourable member also mentioned the fast fleet supply ship. Critics have accused the Government of cancelling this project. In fact the Minister specifically stated in 1973 that the project was being re-submitted for further study.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I believe that this debate began, not with the statement made by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) entitled ‘Australian Defence- the Reality’ but more particularly with the answer which the Minister gave to a question without notice asked by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan). In this answer the Minister made a very spirited defence of his personal staff, and I commend him for that. But I was appalled to hear that only the last mentioned member of the Minister’s staff had any personal knowledge of defence- of war. I think a knowledge of war is very important because it is not gained with the achievement of a remarkable number of university degrees; it is not gained from a knowledge of what goes on in the research library of Parliament House. It is gained from having a complete knowledge of the management of violence; it is obtained by having a personal knowledge of what goes on in war. There can be only one way that that knowledge can be obtained. I believe that an analogy can be made with regard to the knowledge of surgeons. It is like a person saying that he had complete knowledge of what a surgeon does without being a surgeon. Here is where I think some of the Minister’s errors lie. The information at his fingertips at the moment is coming directly from his staff. I make no personal attack upon the Minister’s staff and thenability. But I do not believe that they are capable of giving sound advice on matters pertaining to the defence of this country. It is obvious that a lot of the advice has been wrong.
Let us consider the strategic assessment situation which on this occasion appears to be favourable. We have changed the tune. The Government is now saying that the situation is favourable and that there will be no threat to Australia within 10 to 15 years. Let us look again at the no-threat concept. I think it is interesting to look back over the past 5 years- a very short time when compared with the 10 or 15 years time span suggested by the Minister’s advisers. Let us compare the figures concerning military involvement and the interests in the Sea of Tranquilitythe Indian Ocean- of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), and the area roughly described as South-East Asia. Let us look at the situation from the years 1970 through to 1975. In 1970, United States involvement amounted to approximately 500 000 men in this theatre. They consisted of 6 divisions of troops with air force and Navy support. In 1970 the United Kingdom had 9 infantry battalions- a division of men deployed in SouthEast Asia. Australia was capable of deploying 4 infantry battalions in the field. It is interesting to note that in 1970 the Russians had 2 warships and 3 support ships in the Indian Ocean. In 1975 United States involvement has been reduced to 35,000 men with no fighting troops. The United
Kingdom now has 4 battalions. Australia is capable of providing less than 1 battalion for operations. At the same time, the Russian involvement in the Indian Ocean has risen to 12 warships and 17 support ships, an increase from five to 3 1 ships.
– That is 600 per cent.
– Yes, 600 per cent. This incredible reversal in the balance of power has taken only 5 short years, and we are observing right now in Indo-China the first consequence of this reversal. Cambodia has fallen to a communist-controlled army. Vietnam is about to fall to invading communist forces. Thailand, Burma and Malaya are all experiencing an increase in communist guerilla activity and communist forces build-up. That is the reality. It seems to me that there are some people who just do not see it or, worse, just will not see it. The domino theory is dead only in the minds of some of the impatient, gullible Western journalists, the unthinking observers and planners, and the deliberate fellow-travellers who would sell out this country in a most un-Australian way. Not one statement, suggestion or word has been spoken by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard), the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) or the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) about possible future events in this region. On 8 April the Prime Minister said:
Who rules in Saigon is not and never has been an ingredient in Australia’s security. Our strength, our security rests on factors and relationships ultimately unchanged by these events.
What utter naivete from a man who leads the Government of this country. Why make such a statement? The only possible reason is that the Prime Minister has neither the desire nor the stomach to face the facts. On 30 September 1974- only 7 months ago- this same man said in an address to the United Nations:
Nuclear brinkmanship, ideology, border disputes, race hate, religious bigotry, national ambitions, foreign exploitation all provide actual or potential sources of tension, conflict, bloodshed and war.
How those words must have rolled from the silver tongue of the Prime Minister. But the question must be: Did he mean them? If he did, then why has he become silent now about border disputes, national ambitions and foreign exploitations? The answer can only be, as I have said, that the Prime Minister has neither the desire nor the stomach to face the facts. Possibly he may even believe in the Asian proverb: ‘Feed the crocodile and he will not devour you. ‘ Of course, it is because of these unpleasant facts and the unpleasant scenario in South-East Asia, with its doubts, its ever-changing political events and its real dangers, that thinking people from practically every section of the Australian community question the wisdom of the present defence policy of this Government.
For the cynical, surely the proof that there is something drastically wrong can be found in the absolute silence of the communist elements working in this country at the present time. They must be delighted with the disintegration of Australia’s defence forces. This disintegration can be highlighted by the following events. First, there is the reduction in the capacity of the Army to mount field operations. From a capacity of a 4-battalion task force in 1972- and this was the capacity from 9 infantry battalions on the order of battle- we now have the capacity to field an under-strength, semi-trained battalion. This is the reality, and it is a tragedy when viewed against the situation as it was in 1972, when the retiring Chief of the General Staff, LieutenantGeneral Sir Thomas Daly, said, with justifiable pride, that the Australian Army then was the greatest it had ever been in peace time. What about the training of commanders for the future, with an Army that now cannot put into the field a complete battalion? How do we train the battalion commanders of the future, the task force commanders, the divisional commanders?
The second event is the drastic reduction in the experience level of officers and senior NCOs, leading to a serious drop in the professional capacity of the Services. Most of the 1000 officers who have left the Services have come from the middle ranks- the lieutenant-colonel, lieutenantcommander, wing-commander structure. The proportion of officers who have left the Services has been quoted as 1 0 per cent of officer strength. This figure is dramatic enough in itself but when it is analysed in terms of experience it means much more. Probably between 1 5 000 and 20 000 years of accumulated knowledge, skill, expertise and experience have been lost. This is irreplaceable. If this trend is not halted immediatelyand even now irreparable damage may have been done- the Australian armed Services will be incapable of defending anything, and the tongue-in-cheek reference by the shadow Minister for Defence may be closer to the truth than many people realise.
The third event is the current reorganisation of the defence organisation and planning staffs, which is achieving no more than dividing the Services, destroying the trust between servicemen and their civilian counterparts and lowering the morale of many servicemen who work in the Russell offices. Surely it is time that the Minister came to grips with this very serious situation. In general terms, the fault lies in vesting too much executive power in the Public Service and thereby emasculating the responsibility of the Service chiefs. History books are bulging with the folly of this philosophy, much as the proposition may appeal for use in peace time conditions. Soldiers are not engaged for peace and it will be too late when war comes to attempt to reorganise again to put the executive authority back where it belongs, and that is with the soldier. These 3 events, all attributable to the defence policies of this Government, have disintegrated Australia’s defence forces, and nothing the Minister said in his statement alters these harsh facts. This is the reality, and what was stated in the Minister’s statement is in fact the reverse of what really is now current in the defence structure of this country.
Let me now point to some further areas of concern in our present defence policy, matters which should be debated in this House. First let me refer to a document presented by the Minister referring to a tri-Service academy, and the appointment of a development council for the Australian Defence Force Academy. The Minister said:
I will recapitulate briefly the reasons why there should be such an academy.
There were 3 main advantages in changing from the present arrangements for officer education. The Minister stated:
Desirable though this may be - and he was referring to the fact that the existing colleges channel the zeal and enthusiasm of young officers towards loyalty for their own particular service-
Desirable as this may be, this early emphasis on individual Services adds to the difficulty of developing in later years the spirit of inter-Service co-operation that is essential in the prosecution of joint tasks. One academy will develop associations between young officers of each Service at the outset of their careers and this will facilitate inter-Service co-operation and understanding in later years.
That refers perhaps to the lower deck. Let us consider what happens currently on the upper deck and how we divide up the inadequate money for the 3 Services. To put it crudely, we throw it on the table and invite the chiefs of the Services to grab for it. Does one achieve interService co-operation by giving an inadequate amount of money and then demanding that 3 senior officers, by wit or by guile, grab for that money? The Minister spoke about overcoming this problem by having one single Service academy. The whole proposition points to a lack of adequate knowledge of exactly what goes on in the Services.
Let us consider another trend which is very important, and one which I think is very sad in this present day. I refer to the decline in numbers of servicemen wearing their uniforms in public. That is a rare sight these days, despite the fact that the Minister for Defence has said that there has been no significant drop in the number of servicemen. Why is it rare? Surely the answer is obvious. The pride to be derived from wearing such a uniform publicly is missing. Why does the Minister not investigate this matter in order to improve the image of servicemen generally and possibly make the serviceman feel that he is needed and that we, the citizens of this country, are proud of him? I am afraid that that is not what is happening today. We have denigrated the Services and the servicemen to the point where the servicemen no longer wear their uniforms in this country with pride. I believe that that is a disgrace. It is something for which the blame can be laid directly at the feet of the present Government. If one fattens a sheep dog one will get no work from it. If one does not train a racehorse one will not get from it a capacity to win races. That is exactly what the Government has done in relation to officers by giving them too much money and then not letting them do the job they are paid to do.
Sitting suspended from 1.1 to 2.15 p.m.
That the debate (motion by Mr Cross) be now adjourned.
The House divided.
-The question is: “That the debate be now adjourned. ‘ The ayes will pass to the right of the Chair, the noes will pass to the left of the Chair. I appoint the honourable member for Bonython and the honourable member for Scullin tellers for the ayes, the honourable member for Bendigo and the honourable member for Calare tellers for the noes. The honourable member for Hunter may not cross the chamber; he will return to the side of the chamber on which he was standing when the question was put.
- Mr Spealer, I was not seated. Do the Standing Orders not allow a member who is not seated to cross the chamber to his own side?
– No. If the House gives the honourable member leave I will allow him to leave the chamber, but he may not cross the chamber. Will the House give the honourable member leave? He may withdraw. (MrSpeaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I call the Minister for Transport.
- Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
– Just one moment; I call the Minister for Transport.
– For the information of honourable members, I present a paper entitled ‘Principles to Govern the Transfer of the Tasmanian Government Railway System to the Australian Government’.
- Mr Speaker, I desire to move a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders regarding the statement of the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard). I ask your indulgence, because other business has intervened between the debate on that matter and my desire to move for the suspension of Standing Orders.
– Irrespective of that, a motion to move for the suspension of Standing Orders is in order.
– I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the statement by the Minister for Defence being brought on immediately for debate.
The reason I desire to move that motion -
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the honourable member for Lyne be not further heard.
-Is the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders seconded? There being no seconder, the motion lapses.
– I move:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 13 May, at 2.15 p.m. unless Mr Speaker shall, by telegram addressed to each member of the House, fix an earlier day of meeting.
I point out to the House, as an indication of a motion that will come before the House later that, commencing on 19 May, the House will sit on Mondays at 2. 1 5 p.m. I also indicate that commencing on 16 May the House will probably sit on Fridays for a normal sitting day until such time as the legislative program is concluded. I indicate this program to the House in order that members will be aware of the possible sittings of the Parliament when making commitments. As indicated in the circular sent to honourable members some time ago it is proposed that the House will rise on Thursday, 29 May. The changes occasioned by Monday sittings are due to the Family Law Bill and I suggest to honourable members that they hold themselves in readiness to sit for a 5-day week from the commencement of the new sessional period until the end of the legislative program. I expect that will include a normal sitting day on Fridays, which means that the House may not adjourn until 1 1 p.m. on those Fridays.
-The Opposition is only too willing to be in the House at any time that the Government is prepared to meet. However, we do regret that, as the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), the Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns), the Foreign Minister (Senator Willesee) and so many others are out of the country, it is not possible for us to meet perhaps earlier than 13 May, the date which the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) has intimated. After all, a fortnight’s adjournment at this stage of the year, when it is not very long since we had a 4-week adjournment, seems more than is necessary to accommodate the overseas journeys of the Prime Minister. I think it is most . regrettable that the schedule of this Parliament seems to be set not according to the legislative requirements but according to the frequency with which the Prime Minister desires to view the ruins somewhere around the world. I think it is absolutely disgraceful that apparently the sittings of this House are scheduled around that event alone.
The Opposition, however, takes note of the intimation by the Leader of the House that we may well be meeting on Mondays and Fridays as full sitting days and we hope that, as a result, he might even accord to us adequate debating time for some of those measures which, even today, our attempts to debate have been aborted. I regard it as most regrettable that in the first defence debate that we have had an opportunity to have at any length we have found it impossible for the shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, for a former Minister for Defence, the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) and other members of the Opposition even to get a guernsey. For that reason we do not oppose the motion moved by the Leader of the House. But we believe that if there are to be these extended times of sitting Opposition members should be given a more adequate opportunity to speak on matters of importance.
– in reply- Briefly, I am pleased that the
Opposition will support the adjournment. The Government has no desire to avoid debating any issue. I am sorry we cannot give another 4 weeks adjournment to allow for another change of Leader of the Liberal Party. I know a fortnight hardly suits but, at the same time, at least it may give the Opposition time to change the Country Party Leader or for people to get used to the new name of the Party, or something to that effect. At the same time, there is no desire on the part of the Government to curtail debate. The previous adjournment of 4 weeks certainly gave the Liberal Party a chance to let the public know what a united party it was. It did not have to do it under the criticism of Parliament. We have no desire to embarrass the Opposition but we feel these adjournments are necessary in order that members may be able to visit their electorates and may be able to attend their normal duties. I have found there has been general satisfaction with the programming of this legislative program and members will have sat many more days in this sessional period by the time it is finished than in any other autumn sessional period.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
-Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I again crave your indulgence. I moved a motion and after I moved that motion both the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) and the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) were prepared to second the motion. The Leader of the House (Mr Daly) rose and moved that the honourable member be no longer heard. He is entitled to do that, but I ask whether that meant immediately that the motion which I moved was not to be put to the House. I did not raise this point when the Leader of the House rose to speak about the sittings of the House as, being a most orderly and wellbehaved member, I did not like to interrupt the Leader of the House when he was speaking. But I do take that point of order now and ask whether the motion I moved is still entitled to be put to the House.
-After the motion that the honourable member be no longer heard was moved, I put the motion and declared it carried. I then asked if there was any seconder for the member’s motion. I did not see any person rise.
If any honourable member did rise he did not attract my attention and certainly did not make much effort to attract my attention. I then called the Leader of the House, because I had not seen any honourable member rise to second the honourable member’s motion. I suggest that the honourable gentleman could have attracted my attention or taken a point of order, both of which courses were open to him but neither of which he took.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government to facilitate adequate Parliamentary debate on defence and to acknowledge and respond to Australia ‘s changing defence responsibilities.
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).
– I call the honourable member for Moreton.
Motion (by Mr Daly) put:
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Stewart, and read a first time.
– On behalf of the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen), I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the Bill is to provide the legislative authority for the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office. The proposal is new. It is entirely consistent with the Government’s determination to assist at all levels the day-to-day activities of all Australians. Insurance is, or should be, an essential concern for every citizen. Disasters in Brisbane and Darwin have demonstrated this in tragic and costly ways. The victims and the insurers are now harshly aware of this. The AGIO will be a factor in helping to alleviate similar situations in the future. The AGIO in the field of commercial insurance will encourage fair- and I stress ‘fair’ -competition and development of a superior service to the ordinary householder and home owner in Australia. It will assert an influence in insurance in the way in which the Commonwealth Banking Corporation has for years in its field. It is a long time since the Commonwealth Banking Corporation has been questioned or challenged by any member of any party in either chamber of the Australian Parliament. The advent of the AGIO will mean the widest possible range of insurance at the lowest possible premiums. The beneficiaries will be the Australian people.
Apart from activity in the normal fields covered by insurance companies now operating in Australia, the AGIO will be the agent for and adviser to the Australian Government on the provision of non-commercial insurance which is now not covered by any insurance office in Australia. In this role the AGIO will facilitate the provision of natural disasters coverage for all Australians. At the same time, the AGIO can open the way to the provision of more widespread insurance coverage against livestock and crop losses arising out of natural disasters. Risk estimation will undoubtedly require extensive study in which private insurers should be encouraged to participate and contribute. In this field the proposed Australian Government Insurance Office will not be operating on a normal commercial basis, nor will it be in competition with existing organisations. It will, for the first time, consider providing an essential and desirable public service to all Australians, and in particular to the man on the land and others who require special types of insurance cover not generally available in the existing insurance structure. Commercial companies have not answered this challenge or fundamental need in the long years of their operation.
In its general and life insurance business the AGIO will be structured and will operate on competitive and commercial lines. Any claim that it will be given an unfair advantage over its competitors is wrong. As with private companies, it will be subject to all Australian and State taxes. Similarly, if it is to receive concessional taxation treatment on its earnings, the AGIO will be required to observe the 30-20 rule. In other words, the Government’s objective is to place the Australian Government Insurance Office in activities other than national interest insurance on the same footing as commercial insurance companies.
It will provide to the people of Australia the same services at competitive rates as existing companies and in some instances services additional to those already available. There are some- and they belong to the industry rather than the millions whom the industry serviceswho claim that this proposal for the establishment of the AGIO is an intrusion into the private sector. Those critics, and many of the more thoughtless members of the Opposition who seem to have been convinced by them, should be reminded that the Australian Government over many years, not just under the Australian Labor Party, has been heavily involved in the insurance field. Private insurers are already dependent on the Australian Government for the continuing stability of their businesses. Despite a massive campaign directed at honourable members opposite, they are dissembling in failing to acknowledge this. One example only is the favourable taxation treatment ‘ afforded to the life insurance offices as compared with other financial institutions at the expense of the Australian taxpayer. They know that up to $ 1 ,200 of income is not taxable if paid into life insurance or superannuation. They have been to the doors of Ministers of this Government to ensure that that preference remains. This taxation inducement, worth an estimated $180m annually, has been one of the most significant factors responsible for the large increase in the numbers of policy holders in recent years.
The insurance offices have long held to the old myths and have refused to face new realities. Life offices have not adjusted to changing conditions in recent years. Some have not had a socially responsible investment policy- as is clearly evidenced by their concentration on office buildings and other real estate for development projects largely for speculative purposes. The annual reports of the Life Insurance Commissioner demonstrate this clearly. Investment of the statutory funds of life offices in property rose from 8 per cent in 1963 to 18 per cent in 1973. On the other hand, housing loans fell from 12 per cent in 1963 to 6 per cent in 1973. In fact, the incentives and protections provided by the Aus.tralian Government have built the insurers into a colossus, propped up and dependent on the Aus.tralian Government. The life offices seem not to appreciate, or perhaps appreciate all too well, their dependence on the Australian Government. As soon as the winds of change begin to blow, this colossus immediately complains of its illtreatment. Clearly, closer interaction between the insurance industry and Government is required, and within the next few weeks the first in a series of meetings between the Australian Government and the insurers will take place. These consultative committees, as they will be known, will be chaired by the Treasurer and will lead to a better understanding and appreciation of problems which need to be faced in relation to insurance in Australia. I hope this is so despite the fact that the alarmist and extravagant reaction of sections of the insurance industry to the establishment of the AGIO gives no confidence that there will be a cool and rational examination of the problem.
General insurance is regulated by the Insurance Act 1973 and the passage of the legislation was supported by the general insurance companies. Its purpose is to regulate the industry. One of its effects is to restrict the entry of new competitors into the field of general insurance, thereby assisting existing companies to remain viable. Government involvement in insurance is not new. Might I remind honourable members opposite that State government insurance offices have long been involved- profitably and effectivelyin the field of insurance. Policy holders have benefited and private insurers have been given salutary competition and have not suffered from this involvement. This is despite earlier claims- hysterical claims- that the establishment of State government offices would lead to a monopoly forcing private insurers out of business. I need not add that these predictions sound empty in retrospect. Two most successful government insurance offices, both providing general insurance and life insurance, are operating in Queensland and New South Wales- non-Labor States for many years. What State-operated offices have achieved has been the discouragement of management practices among private insurers which are to the financial detriment of their pOliCy holders. I refer to the expensive practice of obtaining business through agents, and reliance on competitive salesmanship rather than competitive premiums.
The next question is whether State government insurance offices provide an adequate system of insurance for all Australians. The answer varies from State to State. In New South Wales and Queensland all types of insurance, including life, are available. However, in the remaining States only general insurance is provided. In Victoria not even housing insurance is available. No State office currently provides adequate coverage for natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes. To the extent, therefore, that State government insurance offices engender a more competitive climate as regards premiums in their respective States, people may still be prejudiced because of their residence in a particular State where SGIO activities are not as comprehensive as elsewhere. Where services are lacking the AGIO will provide them. Its estabishment does not mean that private or State offices will disappear, or even decline. The situation is analogous to the foundation of the Commonwealth Bank in 1912. State banks have continued to grow and prosper in all States except Queensland. Even more, the Commonwealth Bank was able to meet the obligations of the New South Wales Government Savings Bank after it collapsed in 1931. Private banks have also grown strongly and diversified their activities. The situation should be no different with the Government’s insurance activities.
The Australian Government Insurance Office can go further than this. It can become a leader in its field in Australia- on behalf of the Aus.tralian people. While our present insurance system in some instances leads to the channelling of Australian money to foreign countries through overseas firms now dominant here, a vigorous Australian Government enterprise, through reciprocal activities in the re-insurance field, will attract foreign insurance business to Austalia’s advantage. As many honourable members are aware, a great deal of Australia’s re-insurance business is placed with large overseas companiesin Britain, Switzerland and Germany. It is true that in recent times some of these professional re-insurers overseas have deigned to establish locally incorporated companies. However, the foreign giants which dominate this specialised and highly active field of insurance in Australia have little interest in returning, through reciprocal business to Australia funds generated by their overseas parents.
The Australian Government will increase the reinsurance facilities within our own country. This will enable the AGIO to play a role at home- and overseas- similar to that of the European countries in the insurance field. It will help reduce the flow of funds out of Australia while at the same time providing the potential to increase the flow of funds into Australia. In the longer term, an AGIO operating in this way could well assist Australia’s balance of payments. The Australia-owned insurance companies will surely welcome the entry of the AGIO into the important re-insurance field. Australian people most certainly will.
Less than 2 years ago the level of foreign ownership of general insurance business conducted in Australia was nearly 46 per cent. The Aus.tralian share was bolstered by the activities of Government insurance enterprises which represented some 20 per cent of the general insurance business. Again, Australian-owned insurance companies must surely welcome a thriving AGIO. Why indeed should the entry of the AGIO be at their cost at all? Why should Australian-owned companies be vociferous about potential competition from the AGIO and silent about growing competition from foreign companies?
The Bill provides that the AGIO will be constituted as a statutory corporation managed by a Board of seven; five of these will be part-time members, one of whom will be Chairman. In this regard, the Government will be looking to the existing industry to recruit the most highly qualified staff available. Perhaps I can make the Government’s intention in this regard a little clearer by quoting an answer given in reply to a question on staffing of the AGIO. I refer honourable members to an answer by Senator Wheeldon, the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation, in the Senate on 15 April 1975 in which he said:
As far as the staff is concerned, there could well be a problem if the private insurance companies or, for that matter, the State insurance offices were to find themselves in any difficulties as a result of the implementation of the national compensation scheme, the establishment of an Australian Government insurance office or as a result of any other problems which they might have. I think we all know that some of the general insurance companies have had considerable problems over recent years. As a Labor Government, we are concerned about this. I have had many talks with representatives of the Australian Insurance Staffs Federation, which is the union which covers most of the administrative and clerical employees of the private insurance companies. I have given an undertaking to them that the Australian Government will do everything it conceivably can to ensure that there is no loss of employment amongst the people who work in the insurance industry.
The Australian Government Insurance Office will be an approved authority for the purpose of the Superannuation Act, and the Officers’ Rights Declaration Act will apply to those members of the staff of the office who formerly held office under other statutes or within the Public Service. Staff will be appointed by the Board of the AGIO. The terms and conditions will also be determined by the Board, subject to approval by the Public Service Board. The AGIO will do all things possible to foster the latest management techniques, consistent with humane principles, to achieve the greatest possible satisfaction for its staff, and for the policy holders which it serves.
The Bill specifies that the finance of the AGIO will be provided with an initial capital of $800,000 but it will also be entitled to an advance of $lm from the Treasury, subject to interest payable at a rate commensurate with the long term bond rate. The AGIO will not pay interest on the initial $800,000, but will be required under the terms of its Act to pay dividends to the Treasury in respect of the capital invested by the Australian Government. Some may think these amounts too small, but in setting them, the Government has acted in what it feels is in the best interests of financial prudence. Accounts of the AGIO are to be maintained as for any commercial entity and are to be subject to audit by the Auditor-General. The liabilities of the AGIO will be guaranteed by the Aus.tralian Government in the same way as the respective State governments guarantee State Government insurance activities.
The AGIO will be authorised to undertake all forms of insurance, both general and li fe including superannuation business, and re-insurance. It will be required to invest its reserves in the interests of is POliCy holders, and will not be subject to any Government direction in this regard. The Australian Government will not exercise controls over the AGIO ‘s investments. All investments will be made to ensure the best returns for pOliCy holders. This is the only criterion which will be observed by the AGIO in deciding its investment policy It will be empowered to own property. It will be able to lend, but borrowing W111 require the approval of the Treasurer. In other words, the investment policy of the AGIO will be determined independently of governmental or ministerial instruction.
In its commercial operations, I stress the Australian Government Insurance Office Will follow sound commercial principles. It will be free to determine the terms and conditions of its contracts, set premium rates and make such other commercial decisions as it deems necessary. In doing this it will operate exactly as do its competitors. It will be free of ministerial control in its commercial operations, but it will be required to keep the Minister informed on matters of policy. The AGIO W111 have power to enter into agency agreements, whether as principal or agent, and to conduct business outside of Australia.
The AGIO will have authority under the Act to acquire either the whole or a part of other insurance undertakings. This is in line with the intention of the Government that the Australian Government Insurance Office act as a commercial operation. If insurance against a particular class of risk cannot be made available on a commercial basis, and if the Government is of the opinion that such insurance should be available in the national interest, the Minister may prescribe that the Australian Government Insurance
Office provide it. The Government will guarantee any losses incurred in undertaking such national interest insurance.
In respect of business undertaken under national interest provisions, the Bill provides that such business should be treated on a noncommercial basis and, in respect of such business, the AGIO will not be liable to taxation. The Government proposes that the establishment of a special national interest division be examined immediately by the AGIO. This division will be authorised to undertake specific national interest insurance business of a non-commercial nature in such fields as crop and livestock insurance. Such operations would be entirely separate from the AGIO’S other activities. It would be quite unreasonable if the AGIO were to be limited to the non-commercial, national interest fields of insurance. The Australian Government could not tolerate a situation in which the profitable areas of insurance were the exclusive domain of the private insurance sector and the AGIO was restricted to the national interest field.
The establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office is in line with developments overseas. The governments of New Zealand, India, Israel and the United States of America, to name but a few, are already involved to varying degrees in providing insurance to their citizens, including natural disaster insurance. One of the objectives of the Government in setting up the Australian Government Insurance Office will be to seek a rationalisation of insurance business conducted by the Australian Government and Australian Government instrumentalities.
At present, we have mortgage loans insurance in respect of low cost housing provided by the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation under the Housing Loans Insurance Act; insurance in respect of defence service homes provided within the Defence Service Homes Act- shortly, of course, to be provided by the Australian Housing Corporation; insurance provided by the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation in respect of a highly specialised field covering Australian exports; and insurance provided by the Commonwealth Banking Corporation as a service for clients who are financing the purchase of their homes or other property through their Bank.
The Government does conceive that insurance presently provided under the Defence Service Homes Act could be brought under the Australian Government Insurance Office. The Bill as presented to the Parliament does not specifically include this aspect at the present stage, for as honourable members are aware the defence service homes scheme is being transferred to the Australian Housing Corporation and substantial changes are occurring. It is the Government’s intention that, while those changes are occurring, the full scheme, whereby the Australian Government Insurance Office will undertake the provision of insurance cover under the Defence Service Homes Act, will be developed and incorporated into the AGIO in due course. The present intention is that the AGIO will write this business, invest the reserves and generally provide cover in accordance with the general principles at present applying under the Defence Service Homes Act.
The Australian Housing Corporation service homes divisions will act as agent for the Australian Government Insurance Office and will collect premiums and handle inquiries and claims on behalf of the Office in just the same way as it now handles them directly. The clients- that is, those persons financing their home purchase through the defence service homes scheme- will not therefore in any way be affected, nor will their present method of communicating and obtaining their premiums and lodging their claims be changed in any way.
As to the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, it is the Government’s wish that the housing loans insurance scheme be retained in its present form. As honourable members are aware, this is a scheme whereby the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation provides insurance cover to lending institutions including banks, building societies, credit unions, and other organisations. This cover provides an insurance to the lending institutions against the risks and loss of the value of the loans made available by them. The Office assists people to obtain low deposit loans to acquire houses by insuring the repayment of housing loans of up to 95 per cent of the valuation of the property. The Office’s insurance means that lenders can make low deposit loans with exactly the same degree of safety as loans where borrowers provide substantial equities. I am sure that honourable members are aware of the degree of success of this Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. It is an eminently successful organisation, and I can assure them that it is the Government’s wish that this scheme should continue.
In relation to the housing loans insurance scheme, it is the Government’s wish that its administration be taken over by the AGIO in its present form. Legislation to this effect will be introduced separately. Since its establishment in 1965, it has been exempt from income tax and stamp duty, but has paid payroll tax and other levies in respect of its operations. This arrangement is to remain undisturbed. The amendment of the HLIC Act will leave intact those provisions which control the size and type of loan that may be issued. This will ensure that the special treatment accorded these housing loans will remain.
The Government is of the view that the insurance service provided by the Export Finance Insurance Corporation is a specialised service in a particular held and is integral to the Government’s export policies. It should therefore be undertaken as at present under the Export Finance Insurance Corporation Act. Continuance of the EFIC may be reviewed at a later date in the light of AGIO’S activities and developments. Similarly, the service provided by the Commonwealth Banking Corporation to its clients is to be left in the hands of the Corporation and conducted in its present form.
The Bill provides that it will take effect on a date to be proclaimed. There remains a great deal of further planning before the Australian Government Insurance Office can open its doors. Apart from appointments to the Board and staff there will be the general planning of operations strategies for the organisation and the further development of those special areas related to defence service homes and to the housing loans insurance scheme. The enactment of this legislation will enable this further planning to proceed with a view to the provision of additional services in both commercial and non-commercial fields to the benefit of Australia.
The safeguards contained in the Bill should reassure the insurance industry that there is nothing to fear from the Australian Government Insurance Office. As I outlined earlier, it will provide additional areas of insurance protection which presently the Australian insurance industry is unable to provide. As to those areas in the normal field of commercial insurance, I repeat that the Australian Government Insurance Office will be undertaking business in these areas on an equal footing with private insurers. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Howard) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Les Johnson, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to enable a grant of up to $200,000 to be made available to Victoria for the construction of urgently needed flood mitigation works at Whitehead’s Creek, Seymour, Victoria. This represents 40 per cent of the estimated cost of the works and the grant is conditional upon the State of Victoria providing the remainder of the expenditure required. When the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) visited Seymour during the 1974 flood he suggested immediate steps be taken to prevent floods hitting the town, and expressed a desire for a joint Australian Government and Victorian Government undertaking to enlarge the waterway capacity of the broad and standard gauge railway crossing at Whitehead’s Creek. Subsequently, the Victorian Government requested financial assistance from the Australian Government under the national water policy to carry out flood mitigation work at Whitehead ‘s Creek.
The town of Seymour was subject to disastrous floods from Whitehead’s Creek in 1973 and 1974, causing loss of life and considerable damage. Flash flooding from Whitehead’s Creek had not previously been known in the town, and these recent occurrences have caused considerable social distress, particularly among the older residents. The flood of February 1973 caused an urgent situation when the rail bridges of the Melbourne to Albury and Sydney lines at Whitehead’s Creek could not cope with flood waters, causing rapid back-up flooding in the older residential portion of Seymour, and breaching of the railway and the High Street road bridge. The flood mitigation works include provision of enlarged waterways through the existing railway embankment and at a number of road bridges and culverts plus some river improvement and flood protection works. Construction has commenced on the flood mitigation works which are estimated to cost about $500,000.
The Australian Government has considered that assistance for flood mitigation works for Seymour is a matter of urgency to greatly reduce the risk of disastrous flooding which might occur in the future. This Bill to provide financial assistance for these works is warranted, and this is in keeping with the Australian Government’s realistic and constructive approach towards flood mitigation. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Howard) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Daly)- by leave- agreed to:
1 ) That paragraph 1 2 of the resolution of appointment of the Joint Committee on the Pecuniary Interests of Members of Parliament be omitted and that the following paragraph be substituted: ‘(12) That the Committee report within the shortest reasonable period, not later than 30 September 197S, and that any member of the Committee have power to add a protest or dissent to any report. ‘
That a message be sent to the Senate requesting its concurrence.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Enderby, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to make it an offence for a person who is an officer, member or employee of an organisation registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to steal, fraudulently misappropriate or fraudulently convert to his own use any money or property belonging to the organisation. Seeing as Parliament has legislated in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to provide for the registration and incorporation of organisations to represent employers and employees and that such organisations may own property and are required to keep accounts of receipts from payments, funds and effects and to file records with the Registrar, it is appropriate that provision be made by Parliament for the offence proposed by this Bill.
Section 71 of the Crimes Act 1914-1973 contains a similar offence except that it relates to any person who steals or fraudulently misappropriates or fraudulently converts to his own use any property belonging to the Commonwealth or to any public authority under the Commonwealth. The penalty for this offence is a maximum period of imprisonment for 7 years and it is a same penalty that is proposed for the offence created by this Bill. Sub-section (2) of proposed new section 91 of the Crimes Act is designed to facilitate proof in proceedings where it is not possible to trace the individual items or to prove the conversion of individual property or money. The effect is that where the books of account are kept by the defendant and these books show a general deficiency, the books can be used as evidence of the stealing, misappropriation or conversion of the sum specified in the indictment. A similar provision is contained in section 71A of the Crimes Act and a provision along these lines is found in the legislation of the States. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Howard) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 6 March on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The purpose of the Bill is to establish the Australian Trade Union Training Authority consisting of representatives of the Australian Council for Union Training plus representatives from the 6 State Councils. I will have more to say about the actual constitution of those councils later. The Opposition supports the principle of trade union training. So that the House will be aware of our policy in this respect I read from our employment and industrial relations policy which states:
We support the concept of trade union training. We support the concept of a National Council for Trade Union Training.
We would seek to have established in appropriate educational institutions programs specifically designed to meet the needs of trade unionists. To assist in that purpose, we support the concept of a National Council of Trade Union Education whose task it would be to develop special relationships with the appropriate educational institutions to see that the content of courses specifically met the needs of trade unions. Training would be required in a wide veriety of subjects at different levels to assist unionists in the execution of their official union duties. Subjects would include, among other things: the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, its principles and purposes the function and duties of shop stewards the question of union rules how to run an office the relationship of branch and federal offices how to serve a log of claims how to seek variation of an award the provisions of workers compensation
We strongly believe that appropriate courses should be conducted as far as practicable in existing educational and training institutions. Trade union education and training should not be shut off from other forms of education. Where subject matters overlap, courses should be conducted jointly for unionists and industrial officers.
It will be seen from our policy that while the Government and the Opposition have a good deal in common in their objectives, we have very different ideas in how to achieve them. The Government clearly supports the separate approach. On the other hand, we on this side of the
House strongly believe that trade union training should not and indeed cannot be isolated from the existing educational institutions, particularly those already involved in industrial relations courses. But we accept the necessity of special courses directed specifically towards union officials and potential union officials to train them to cope with the increasing complex demands being made on them. However, we do not see the best results coming from the isolated approach. Consequently, in government we would tackle what we recognise as a problem which requires government assistance from a much broader viewpoint. The validity of our attitude is confirmed by the 1974 International Organisation Convention on paid educational leave which, in article 6, states:
The public authorities, employers’ and workers’ organisations, and institutions or bodies providing education and training shall be associated, in a manner appropriate to national conditions and practice, with the formulation and application of the policy for the promotion of paid educational leave.
We intend, in due course, to move some minor amendments to the Bill in the Committee stage. They will indicate greater support for article 6 of the ILO Convention. I am quite aware that article 6 is based on the assumption that paid educational leave has been adopted by all parties concerned. The Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) has outlined the growing acceptance of this concept in Australia. I have no doubt that the area of acceptance will grow. Therefore this legislation should take account of the changing circumstances. Nevertheless, the amendments which we intend moving recognise that paid educational leave is not mandatory in Australia at the present time. If it had been we would have moved for a truer tripartite approach with members of the Council coming from employer organisations as is foreshadowed in article 6 of the ILO Convention.
We believe that Parliament should be represented on the National Council as it is on the Council of the Australian National University with one member nominated by the Prime Minister and one member nominated by the Leader of the Opposition. In addition there should be one member appointed on the nomination of the Minister for Education. It seems strange to us, to say the least, that recognition has been given at State level to the role of educationalists in this field but as the Bill comes to us here no such recognition exists at the national level. It will be seen that even if our amendments are adopted- as I hope they will be- union representatives will maintain a large majority on the Council. We accept this as reasonable but equally we believe that a council, constituted in the manner outlined, would be better equipped to develop a balanced and progressive approach to the betterment of industrial relations in Australia in addition to its prime requirements of achieving a more competent body of union officials. As I am sure the Minister will acknowledge, there is considerable support within the union movement for a broader based approach to union training. There is concern that courses could be used to promote political ideologies rather than produce better union officers. Indeed, I believe that attempts have been made along these lines. As far as I can ascertain they have not been successful. The Opposition believes that under no circumstances should public money be used to run courses for single unions. Of course, many unions now run their own courses at their own expense and, while the principle of this is perfectly sound, it is unfortunate that some of the courses are largely devoted to ideological indoctrination. For those who doubt that statement I quote from an article by an officer of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union on the AMWU training program. The article appeared in one of its journals. The officer writes:
There is no doubt that it -
That is, the AMWU training program- has had quite an impact, as there are numbers of examples where previously docile workshops have become active, largely as a result of lessons and experiences taken away from schools.
Later he states:
There are pressures for combined worker/management courses which we, for example, won’t have a bar of.
Still speaking of trade union training programs, he says: it has had, and will continue to have, a radicalising effect on the unions . . . Union training can help widen and deepen the challenge to capitalism.
It is quite clear from these quotations that these courses are primarily directed towards, in the words used by the writer of the article, widening and deepening the gap between labor and management and not towards better industrial relations. They completely reject the concept of a partnership approach which would benefit all Australians, workers most of all. I suggest that the courses are based on old, outworn class warfare ideologies. Such courses have no place in modern Australia and especially should not be paid for by public money and run by the Authority established by this legislation. To ensure that Parliament and the public are kept fully informed on what is going on in the courses run under the auspices of the Authority, the Opposition proposes that the annual reports provided for in clause 57 of the Bill should include details of curricula and study undertaken. If the courses run reflect the rather constricted view put forward in the second reading speech by the Minister for Labor and Immigration, Australia would have lost a golden opportunity to provide a wider vision for union training.
The Opposition and significant elements in the union movement believe that there should be much more emphasis on overall training and a recognition that basic to aU industrial relations is a knowledge and understanding of human relations. This will be quite difficult, if not impossible, to achieve in the sort of separatist, isolated structure proposed by this legislation. An example of what can be done is provided by the courses run by the Department of Labor Relations and Consumer Affairs in Queensland. These courses are open to aU with a legitimate interest in industrial relations and utilise group discussion techniques as part of the training to enable trade union officials and industrial officers to gain an appreciation and an understanding of each other’s point of view. These courses have demonstrated their effectiveness and the Opposition wants an assurance from the Minister that there will be no attempt by this Authority to take over or eliminate such courses.
This raises an important point. Courses such as I have described have been run with great success by universities and colleges of advanced education and they must not be allowed to wither away just because students attending courses run by the Authority or the State councils will be paid to do so. I ask the Minister: Will the Authority be allotting some of its funds to enable existing institutions which have demonstrated their ability to run effective courses in union training and industrial relations to continue their valuable work. It seems to the Opposition that such courses, which provide some diversity and an alternative to those run by the Authority, should be encouraged.
However, in this context there would need to be clarification of the function outlined in clause 5 (c) of the Bill which refers to co-ordination of trade union training in Australia- I draw the attention of the Minister particularly to this aspect of it- ‘including that performed by bodies and institutions other than the colleges’ and trade union training centres. I ask the Minister: Could this give the Authority power to control future or existing training programs at universities and colleges of advanced education and technical colleges, such as I referred to a moment ago, which are conducting courses, even where the Authority had made no financial contribution to them? If this is so, it would create an intolerable situation whereby the Authority could interfere with autonomous educational institutions. I feel sure that this is not the intention of the legislation but we want the Minister to confirm that the Authority will not be permitted to operate in that way.
The Opposition recognises that there could be difficulties in providing all the necessary facilities in existing institutions. For example, in the early stages at least, a great majority of courses will presumably be of short duration, perhaps a week or two, or on a part-time basis. We recognise that longer courses could require residential accommodation. While existing institutions would probably find difficulty in incorporating such courses within their existing facilities, we consider that for the reasons given earlier the money which will be spent under this legislation, or at any rate a proportion of it, would be better spent expanding existing institutions to cope with the new responsibilities which they would incur in respect of trade union training. There are great opportunities and challenges facing Australia in this field. We could be taking a lead in providing courses in industrial relations for international students, such as is currently done by the Cornell and Harvard Universities in the United States of America.
It is sad to see, with this opportunity before us, the narrow isolative view of the legislation. With his long experience, both in the union movement and the Parliament, I would have expected a much wider appreciation by the Minister of the issues involved. As I said a moment ago, the Opposition recognises that special courses are required to improve the knowledge of union officials and potential union officials’ in areas such as the various industrial Acts, the tribunals -especially the working of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission- the preparation and presentation of cases, the conduct of negotiations, the role of the job delegate, how to run an office, the growing importance of women in the work force with the majority of them being married, and so on. However, the Opposition believes that nominations for courses should not be confined only to those coming from the trade union hierarchy. It should be the objective of courses to ensure a fair representation of, for example, the rank and file, and a fair representation of women. Would the Authority be free to fund courses to inform members of organisations who may not be entirely satisfied with the conduct of their organisations on how to seek redress through the rules of their organisation to the stage where they could, say, become legitimate challengers in union elections? These things are just a start and it would be a tragedy if in concentrating on the grass roots aspects, important as they are, we did not see the wood for the trees.
The ability and competence of trade union officials bears a direct relationship not only to stability on the job but also to the stability of national industrial relations. This has not been recognised in this legislation. Unless there is evidence of a wider appreciation of all the issues involved there inevitably will be a strong suspicion on the part of employer organisations about the motives of trade union training. Most employers and their organisations are on record as supporting the principle of trade union training but, understandably, they have reservations about this legislation. In the past there have been occasions when they have co-operated with the union movement by granting leave to employees, sometimes with pay, to attend training courses ostensibly designed to improve thenknowledge and ability in trade union matters, only to find that the participants in these courses had been bombarded with anti-employer propaganda.
In those circumstances it is understandable that employers would resent paying employees for time lost attending training courses and meeting the cost of replacing them for the duration of the course, only to find that an employee, upon returning to the firm, had become dedicated to destroying the partnership approach to industrial relations. If trade union officials attending these courses come back with this sort of attitude, it will set back the cause of trade union training by years and accentuate, instead of allay, old antagonisms. I recognise, and the Opposition recognises, that it is probably impossible, by legislation, to insure against this happening. But the authority will be judged by its performance and its output as are all educational and training institutions. It therefore bears a particularly heavy responsibility in its early stages to ensure that the results of its operations are seen to make a positive contribution to a better industrial climate in Australia. Otherwise there is a real danger that antagonisms could be increased rather than reduced. One way in which such a possibility could be minimised is to enable anyone with a legitimate interest in industrial relations I use that phrase in the way it is used in the Queensland courses- to be given the opportunity to participate in the courses without discrimination. I draw that point to the attention of the Minister for Labor and Immigration, perhaps for his comment. There are some other aspects of the legislation which require the Minister’s comment in due course.
One aspect concerns the administration of the legislation rather than a particular clause. If the authority is to do its job properly, even in the narrow way in which it is structured, it will require the best people in its councils- both national and State- and on its staff. Any attempt to make this authority yet another vehicle for jobs for the boys- a well known technique of this Government- will be self-defeating. This authority and the organisations comprising it must not become a repository for defeated Austalian Labor Party candidates or politicians. I give notice that we will be watching this aspect closely. Another doubtful provision is that relating to the tenure of office of members of the National Council and the State councils.
I note that most members hold office until they retire or have their appointments terminated. I recognise the fact that these people are presumably representing the views of organisations and are continually personally involved. I make it quite clear that I am not casting any personal aspersions against individuals, but in these circumstances their continual personal involvement could lead to unnecessary inhibitions or restrictions upon the adoption of new training ideas or programs. It seems to me that in assessing this legislation, the question which must be asked is: Does this Bill deal in the best way possible with the training of trade union leadership, bearing in mind the needs of the Australian community? The Opposition has grave doubts as to whether it does.
In our view communication, understanding and an adequate standard of objectivity in individual relations cannot be achieved by separating the major parties involved. The parties themselves recognise this as is seen from their own training courses. Trade union leaders are frequent speakers at employer courses and employers or officers of their associations often attend trade union organised activities. Far from stimulating these encouraging developments, this legislation will tend to inhibit them. Trade unionists seeking training will go to the courses run by the national and State councils but fewer will be going to them with a broad base. This will inevitably lead to an increasingly introspective attitude in the union movement and who, apart from the left wing militant unions, believe that that will be an improvement. If the Minister is genuinely concerned about achieving better industrial relations by increasing the competence and expertise of the participants of the courses, I think he should be talking about raising the levels all round- not just for one section.
I suggest that it is nonsense for the Minister to say that the framework which he is setting up is to redress an alleged imbalance because of the substantial Government contribution to the Aus.tralian School of Management. I remind him that graduates from this school are just as available to the union movement and to government as they are to private industry. We are seeing an encouraging development whereby more and more graduates are taking up positions with the trade union movement. It is no longer true to say that university education benefits only the private sector. The Minister should compare like with like in this context. That would mean comparing facilities for trade union training with facilities for training officers of employer organisations who are, after all, the opposite numbers of trade unions in the industrial relations area. The Opposition would welcome an indication from the Minister that he is aware of this need, and that he is consistent in his attitude to training in the industrial relations field. If he were consistent, he would set up a proper industrial relations training program suited to the needs of the Australian situation and recognising that the major institutional framework for handling industrial relations in this country is built around the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Such a program should cater for the education and research needs of aU organisations engaged in the field of industrial relations. I suggest that consideration could be given to providing a consultative service for organisations, enterprises and individuals who need advice on sources of information and methods of handling particular problems.
Industrial relations should not be a party political plaything to be dealt with according to the attitude of which political party happens to be in power. The Opposition believes it desirable that a bi-partisan approach should be aimed at to sweep away outdated notions about the balance of industrial power and the need to reduce the supposed advantage held by employers. The facts are that the trade unions and trade union confederations now wield tremendous power in the community. Many trade unions have greater resources and facilities than employer associations, and in almost aU cases of confrontation between a trade union and an enterprise, it is the community, the public interest, which suffers from any imbalance of power. To put it in another way, trade union training and industrial relations educational training generally at institutional level are something from which the whole community should benefit and in the conduct of which the whole community should participate.
The Opposition considers that regrettably the likely result of this legislation will be that the attitude of ‘we’ and ‘them’ which has so bedevilled industrial relations in Australia may be perpetuated and reinforced. As I have already indicated in this speech, the Opposition strongly supports the principle of trade union training and the establishment of a national authority to ensure that its continuity is properly protected by legislation. For this reason, and although if in government we would adopt a different approach, we will be moving only minimum amendments to this Bill, as I foreshadowed earlier in my speech, for the sake of establishing a broader base on which to build and to enable the objectives of this legislation to be achieved, and on which both sides of the Parliament agree. I hope that the amendments will be acceptable to the Government.
– It is a pleasure for me to rise in support of this measure which has been introduced by the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron). It is something in which we know he has had a very deep interest for very many years. It should not be difficult in a society such as ours to mount a case for an institution such as the Trade Union Training Authority. Our community is somewhat obsessed with the belief that all education is good, that the more education we give our children the better citizens they will be, the longer and more intensive the courses for medical students the better doctors they will become, the more intensive and the longer the courses for lawyers the better legal practitioners they will turn out. However, it is not on that basis that I choose to support this measure. I think we are beginning to see the fallacy of that argument and to realise that so many doctors who are turned out into the community are quite unable to cope with socio-economic problems of the kind which confront so many people in our community, so many lawyers enter into the field of legal practice without having any real understanding of the sorts of problems that can confront lower income people when they are challenged by the law, which so many of them do not understand.
This Bill seeks to introduce a new educational philosophy which is rapidly gaining support throughout the country. The Government is responding with this measure to the needs of the community. It is establishing an educational authority which will be responsive to those needs and therefore will be substantially controlled by the people whom it seeks to serve. I think that that is one of the pitfalls into which the Opposition has fallen, and I do not want to be excessive in my criticism of the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) because I think that, by and large, his contribution to the debate was a well reasoned one. But it seems to me though that the Opposition may be primarily concerned to turn out good functionaries as trade union officers. It is interested primarily in people who can get up in court as good advocates. It is interested primarily in people who can successfully and efficiently run a union office. I do not want to under-estimate at all the need for that objective, but I think we have to see the role of this Authority as being much more broadly based. Trade unions are becoming increasingly involved in welfare services for their members, in credit unions and in travel schemes. They are becoming increasingly involved in areas which are non-traditional in an industrial sense. They are more and more trying to lobby for such things as child minding centres for women workers and so on.
There is another area where this Authority can make a substantial contribution and that is in the field of raising the consciousness of the rank and file members of the unions. I think it is important for the future of the trade union movement that democracy within those organisations sould be extended as far as possible. If more and more trade union members were aware of what their unions are doing and what their elected officials are doing, I think the performance of the unions as a whole would improve substantially. It would also mean that there would be greater encouragement for potential union leaders and greater encouragement for those people who now play such an important role in an entirely voluntary capacity in union management. If that were the case, it might be argued that there is an ideological bias in the sort of program that is going to be developed. I think that is wrong, because the only assumption that is being made in this Bill is that there is a useful role and a very important role for trade unions and trade unionists to play in the community. It is not intendedindeed, it would be counter-productive- that this authority should become the focal point for militancy within the trade union movement. That is not to say that there may not be a role- in fact, I believe that there is a role- for the trade union movement to be involved in militant action, to be involved in challenging the sort of economic structure that exists in this and many other countries. But I think it is quite inappropriate to suggest that this Authority will become the focal point for that sort of action.
The honourable member for Corangamite mentioned the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union and the fact that they run their own education courses. To the best of my knowledge, those courses, at least in Western Australia, are financed by a levy struck on the membership. It is not unreasonable that, if the membership wants to strike a levy on themselves, they should not run precisely the sorts of courses that they want. To bring that sort of argument into a debate of this kind I think is to mislead people and perhaps to miss the point entirely.
– I said that the Authority should not run courses for single unions. I never contested the right of a union to run its own courses.
– Who runs the courses for the farmers ‘union?
– Without getting involved in an across-the-House debate, I think it is important that there should be a variety of roles for the unions to play in the field of education and training and I think it is important to ensure that the Authority takes as neutral a role as possible in the circumstances. I am not saying that it is only the Opposition which raises this criticism. Whilst the Opposition says that the Authority might be too ideological, there are some unions who might say that the authority is not nearly ideological enough. It seems to me that both sets of people miss the point entirely. If there is a role for that sort of activity, and I believe there is, then it is certainly not to use this Authority as a vehicle.
The other question to which I wish to refer and to which the honourable member for Corangamite paid particular attention is the use of existing facilities to organise a trade union training program. If it can be argued that there is no ideological bias in the intentions of the Government or in the intentions of the proposed Authority, then presumably it can be argued that there is no reason why existing educational institutions should not be used. I wish to say that it would be excellent- in fact I would applaud it- if it were possible to use existing educational institutions. If educational institutions such as colleges of advanced education, universities and technical and further education colleges were concerned about this area then I would applaud it, but the lamentable fact is that they have shown an inability and a lack of action in this area. To try to superimpose a program of this kind on to existing institutions would lead to great difficulties. It is true that many of the existing educational institutions are just not geared for the sorts of courses that are intended to be run by this Authority, and must be run if the Authority is to succeed. We all know that universities and colleges of advanced education are primarily concerned with long courses, career oriented, mainly for full time young students. Most of the courses that will be run by this Authority will be quite the opposite. They will be mainly short intensive courses for adults who may or may not have been exposed to very much formal education. I might mention in passing that there is a suspicion about universities among some workers. They have had very little to do with universities and colleges of advanced education, and to expect those institutions to be the focal point for this sort of education I think would be a threat to the success of the whole scheme.
The other aspect I wish to point out is that many of the staff at colleges of advanced education and universities have just not been exposed to the sorts of problems that will be the prime object of this Trade Union Training Authority. In general terms and in theoretical terms they may know about some of the questions involved in industrial relations, but they are quite wrongly placed in terms of trying to get down to the nitty-gritty of the day to day problems that face a trade union official or a rank and file member. This is not to say that there is no possibility for great and increasing co-operation between existing educational institutions and the proposed Authority. I think there can be a great transfer of resources, both physical and human. The trade union training scheme that is already operating draws very heavily on lecturers and tutors and so on from some of these educational institutions, and that is to be applauded and encouraged. As well, I think many of the courses that have been run have been conducted within existing facilities provided by colleges of advanced education and universities, and I hope that this will continue for as long as it is appropriate. I do not think that it is true to say, as the honourable member for Corangamite has suggested, that this institution will be quite separate- antiseptically separated- from the existing educational institutions. On the contrary, what is being attempted is to provide a focal point and an organisation through which there can be even greater co-operation. With the expanding facilities for further education one would hope that the opportunities available for co-operation would increase.
I think that there is one direct way in which the Government can contribute to the existing educational institutions and that is by the provision of more money and more encouragement not only for the development of industrial relations courses in their own right but also to upgrade and expand the industrial relations components of related courses. There are very few if any courses in Australian universities and colleges of advanced education that lead specifically to a degree in industrial relations. That is a great weakness because on the other side of the coin there are very many courses which lead to a bachelor of commerce degree or a diploma in management studies. There is a need to redress the balance, as it were, even though that has been denied by the Opposition. Time is short, so I will not go on any further except to say that I have spoken as one who has participated in a fledgling trade union training scheme, both as a student and as a participating discussion leader, and I think that the program that has been developed in Western Australia, which began partly because of the encouragement given by the Tonkin Government when it was in office, has been an excellent program. I think that the progress that has been made in that State through the introduction of that scheme will lead everybody to believe that the expansion of that program to a national level and in a bigger way will only be of benefit to the whole community.
– I wish to answer the only 2 criticisms that the honourable member for Tangney (Mr Dawkins) made of the speech of the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street). Firstly, on the subject of an ideological bias all the member for Corangamite was doing was warning that in the eyes of some people the Trade Union Training Authority might have an ideological bias because some of those trade unions which have been conducting their own programs most clearly have had an ideological bias. The honourable member for Corangamite was also warning the House that the Authority ought not to be used for courses for one trade union. The honourable member for Tangney suggested that we want good functionaries merely for court appearances and in negotiations. That is not all that the Opposition wants to see. That was very unjust criticism. The honourable member for Corangamite made it clear that we certainly wanted that, but, as the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) said in his second reading speech, we also want a great deal more.
We do indeed welcome the definition of ‘trade union training’ in clause 3 of the BUI. Paragraph
It is important that this Parliament has the opportunity of reviewing annually the syllabus which is in fact operative in the Trade Union Training Authority. We can then see whether it is going far enough for trade union training and whether it has any type of bias. I believe that in this fashion there will be non-intervention, noninterference, by the Parliament and there will be the opportunity for the Parliament to see what progress is being made because, amongst other things, whilst trade union training has been adopted overseas, as the Minister well knows the 1974 International Labour Organisation convention embraced a much broader interpretation of paid educational leave than has been so far contemplated in the rest of the Bill.. This, indeed, could be contemplated within paragraph (b) of the definition of ‘Trade Union Training’ in clause 3.
As the Minister well knows as he did attend some of the sessions of the Paid Educational Leave Committee- I had the opportunity of being there for the month of the conference in 1973 and of attending the sessions of that Committee during that time- the concept of paid educational leave and trade union training embraces not merely the presentation of demands but also the acquisition of higher skills. It is my hope that in time the Trade Union Training Authority will have a role in retraining and improving the skills of the work force. For too long the situation has existed in which people served apprenticeships and believed that that had qualified them for life. There is not one person in Australia who has not had to undergo some form of retraining. It is usually on-the-job retraining. But too often there are people with apprenticeship tickets who say: ‘That is it. I am qualified for life’. There has been a reluctance on the part of the trade union movement itself to recognise the value of and the need for retraining. When these courses are operative and when it is understood by the work force as well as by management that there is a need to improve the level of job training and retraining we will improve our productivity and we will improve our standard of living.
That goes hand in hand with teaching trade union officials how to gain real improvements in wages and conditions for their members. It is not merely enough, as we all know here, for trade unions to be getting increased money amounts in wages. They need to get real wage increases. They will get those better if the syllabus of the Trade Union Training Authority is wide enough to enable them to have a fundamental grasp of economics and not just a concentrated antipathy and antagonism towards the employers. There are those in the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union and in one or two other areas where the extreme left is in control who want to destroy industry and to destroy the system, but this Bill will certainly apply to the vast majority of rank and file trade unionists who wish to benefit from the system and who wish to improve the quality of life generally.
The Minister well knows also that the Paid Educational Leave Convention contemplates eventually a tripartite administration. This matter was referred to partly by the honourable member for Corangamite. It is one we would applaud, irrespective of whether paid educational leave becomes mandatory, when the concept of paid educational leave becomes sufficiently universal on a voluntary basis; sufficiently widespread that it is appropriate for the employers and government as well as for the trade unions to be in charge of the administration of the program of paid educational leave. We have noted also that the ILO convention contemplates the participation of the lower ranks of management in programs. It is important to note the important distinction that the honourable member for Corangamite has made that, although the Government has indeed funded management schools it has funded them for commercial purposes; that is, there are not many courses available to management which concentrate on industrial relations.
It is a fact which we must all deplore that, with the exception of ones like the Administrative Staff College which enable management and trade union representatives to get training in some of these very fundamental areas, most management programs have concentrated on commercial factors and the improvement of the wellbeing of a company from a purely commercial point of view and have neglected, to the cost of the community and the company, the industrial relations program. So it is not sufficient for the Government to say, merely because it has funded a commercial management program, that therefore management has been taken care of.
The lower ranks of management- I think particularly of the foremen and the supervisorsmost desperately need the sort of program contemplated by the Trade Union Training Authority. It is a fact that the elected shop stewards usually have demonstrated a greater social awareness and a greater social conscience than have the promoted foremen and supervisors. The most conservative influence in the work place is very often at that level, and the better intentions of higher management are very often misplaced and not applied because of this. It is therefore essential that we have integrated programs for the foremen and the supervisors with the shop stewards when that is appropriate. It will not always be appropriate, but there will be occasions when it will do them good to get together with more senior management and realise that they need to devise methods of communicating with each other at the work place which are appropriate to that work place, so that they can better prevent industrial disputes arising and settle industrial disputes when they arise. It is therefore most important that these lower ranks of management which have been neglected by management programs as well as by Government programs should be catered for.
It is important also that these programs of the Training Authority have regard to industrial safety. There is a need to create a greater consciousness of industrial safety, the need for safety, the cost in both human and monetary terms of a lack of safety. The larger companies are well aware of it and their programs are basically good, but the vast number of employees in Australia are employed by small companies whose safety awareness is nowhere near as great as it might be despite the efforts of the National Safety Council of Australia.
We have also as a proper matter of concern eventually for the Training Authority considerations of job restructuring, job enrichment, job design or whatever one cares to term it. It is important that we recognise that in Australia today many of the wage demands that are made stem from the dullness of the jobs which people are doing. Management has been to blame in this but so too has the trade union movement, often in not offering suggestions or still more often in resisting changes. Sometimes the changes to the system of work are not properly communicated by management, but it is important that for trade union training programs possibilities of job restructuring, possibilities of ideas coming from the work force to management be considered so that much of the job dullness can be eliminated, the unnecessary and undesirable level of job turnover can be eliminated and the number of ‘sickies’ that people take to go fishing because they just cannot stand going to work may be reduced. These cause a serious loss of productivity improvement in Australia. There is a tremendous lack of imagination and creativity on the part of the work force. We are not using our resources- human or financial- well enough and it is important that these matters be discussed. Many strikes and many industrial disputes which arise are not, as is commonly thought, the result of some weird left-wing plot. They are very often as a result of poor communication with the work force and poor job conditions in terms of job satisfaction. Often there has been on the part of management too much preoccupation with improvements of a computer kind and not enough with technological advances at the place of work, and the trade union movement has not welcomed or encouraged them any more then it has encouraged retraining.
Too many union secretaries have been concerned with making sure that they did not lose members from their union because of retraining. Too many of them also have been concerned to prevent others who had been retrained coming into their work force in case they became unemployed when there was an economic downturn and those union secretaries then had an unemployment problem on their hands which would make more work for them. I hope that as a result of some of the trade union training programs under this legislation we will find more rank and file awareness of the shortcomings of some of the paid union officials and that they would at the appropriate time, at the ballot box, show their awareness and change and smarten up some of their trade union leaders so as to overcome some of these prejudices and some of the shortcomings. This would certainly in my view overcome much of the industrial disruption, much of the loss of production through man-days lost, through absenteeism, through job turnover and wasteful approaches to the work place. There is a lot of frustration at the work place and I believe that much of it can be overcome by the broader measures which are contemplated in this Bill.
I think that it would be important for the Minister to indicate to us just what view the Government takes about courses for foremen and supervisors if the Minister does not see the way clear for an integration of some courses. I know that he is well aware of the problem to which I have referred, of the shortcomings of foremen and supervisors generally. We would be in a catastrophic situation if we found that senior management had gradually increased its awareness of the problem, as had shop stewards and other union persons at the work place, but that those in the middle had been neglected, and this is so often the case. How many times do we know that in fact a delegation goes from the shop floor to the factory manager, who communicates with the members of the delegation, promises them something, says he will communicate it down the line and then he takes a telephone call from interstate or overseas or runs out to attend an important meeting, and of course the work force knows about it before the foreman or the supervisors and there is a fair amount of resistance? If they can get into the habit of working together and if they can do some of the integrated courseswhich should be possible- of the very fundamental kind, in what productivity means, what better communications means, what dispute settling procedures mean, then we will have indeed taken a major step in improving industrial relations and in improving our safety consciousness and our acquisition of new skills.
As the honourable member for Corangamite said, we must overcome the ‘them’ and ‘us’ or the ‘we’ and ‘they’ mentality which prevails too much. The fault for this lies on both sides. We are not talking here about fault. We are talking about eliminating something which we all recognise as a fact. I believe that if programs are implemented in the constructive way in which we have foreshadowed- we do not expect miracles overnight but we do think Parliament can review the performance of the Authority annually- it will be a major step towards the improvement of industrial relations in this country.
– I would like to congratulate the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) on the Bill which he has introduced into the House. I think that we on this side of the House will fully support it because we feel that it does fill a very great need in the Australian community for proper trade union development. This recognition that there is a very great need to be filled is belated. The unions have never in the past been able to take their proper place in society, but under this Government and as a result of actions taken by the present Minister for Labor and Immigration the unions will certainly get the recognition to which they are entitled in this society. The unions themselves are part and parcel of our arbitration system. When the first Conciliation and Arbitration Act was passed in 1904, the place of the union was recognised in that Act, and I think that there was a recognition of the need to try to bring unions into the arbitration system and also to encourage people to become members of unions because for our arbitration and conciliation system to function it is essential that people be encouraged to join unions.
Depite the more liberal approaches of the 2 previous speakers on the Opposition side, the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee) and the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), I cannot say that the Liberal and Country Party record in this field in the past has been one which would give the trade unions much cause to be very pleased with the attitudes adopted by those parties. Despite what the 2 honourable members I just mentioned have said, the record of the Liberal-Country Party government, over the years has been one of an anti-working class government and the legislation which was introduced was anti-union legislation. If we look back over the history of the last 60 or 70 years we will find that Governments of a similar nature have always adopted an antiworking class line. It is not all that long since the penal provisions were removed from the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. In the 1960s we did see the use of the big stick, the imposition of fines and so forth to try to coerce unions into doing something which the rank and file were not prepared to do. The unions did resist this and as we are all aware there was quite a lot of industrial disputation at that time, but finally the confrontation did come in 1969 when I think that the then Liberal Government realised that it was going to get nowhere by using the big stick against the unions. From that time on we have seen the easing of the penal provisions until they were finally done away with.
In those days there was a lack of emphasis on the conciliatory provisions in the Act. Practically all disputes were referred to arbitration. The unions either accepted what was brought down or they took the consequences. With the move these days towards a more enlightened approach to arbitration and conciliation matters we find that conciliation takes a much greater part in negotiations than it did previously. I think that more conciliation and collective bargaining calls for a greater degree of skill by the trade union officials and that the improvement of these skills by trade union officials should be one of the benefits derived from this Bill.
In these days of increased collective bargaining and conciliation it is essential that the trade union official be an extremely competent person and be able to put forward the views of his union members fully so that he can do the job for which they have elected him. It is a fact that most trade union officials have learned by experience. In Australia we have a history of trade union officials who have come up through the ranks. Of course, some have entered this Parliament and some have even led this country- Ben Chifley is the prime example and there are many others. I think the Minister mentioned some of those people in his second reading speech- people who have a niche in Australian history.
I mentioned that most trade union officials in Australia attain their positions through experience. Mostly they learn on the job and move up through the ranks. They probably start off as ordinary workmen in industry; they become interested in union affairs; they take a union delegate ‘s job; possibly they move from there to a position of regional delegate or State delegate of the council of their union; then to branch secretary, and so forth, and then into the federal field. I mentioned earlier that although these people have performed well in the past, we are reaching an age when, because of technological changes and the more complex nature of conciliation and arbitration, possibly more is required than that background of just job experience, although that experience is still extremely important.
In most industrial disputes that arise in Australia most of the discussions are held at rank and file level. An honourable member mentioned the small shops a while ago, and we know that in most cases where there is a union delegate most discussions are about matters such as the honourable member mentioned- safety and provision of amenities. Most of these discussions are carried out at the job level and by the rank and file unionists; the chaps who work on the job and take on the responsibility of the union work in that particular job. It is only when the matter becomes a bit broader, probably a bit deeper and’ more important, that a full time official assists that part time official. Of course, one of the most important issues is the matter of safety. With respect to job safety, in my experience I have seen many jobs where, unless there was union activity- and in many cases that meant stoppages of work and so forth- the employer would not care if the employee broke his neck or his leg, or whatever happened to him. In most cases pressure had to be put on the employer to ensure that he applied proper safety procedures.
I think that aU these factors indicate that there is a greater need for union education of the ordinary rank and file members of the union. I think this is one of the things this Bill will achieve, because I think it states specifically that it will get into this field. A lot is made of the fact that sometimes unions are controlled by their officials and there is not much rank and file participation. I think one of the objectives of this Bill is to increase rank and file participation; to give the man at the grass roots level the chance to further his trade union education and to give him education in a much broader field so that he is a lot more competent to carry out the job for which his members have elected him. Of course, this grounding could possibly enable him to move up the ladder to where he can take on more responsible jobs.
Although trade union education has been an ideal for quite some time it is only lately, in the last ten or twenty years, that we have seen it carried out to any degree. I know that in South Australia the Workers Education Association was set up. Although it has existed for many years I think it is only in the last 10 years that it has expanded its activities to include trade union courses to instruct trade union officials. I have found these courses very helpful. They were carried out by competent people and were of great help to all those trade union officials who were able to take advantage of the facilities offered by the Workers Education Association. The types of courses they ran were on the arbitration system, basic economics for the man in the street and the like. They have received full support, particularly from the South Australian Labor Government since it came into power.
Some unions also have been interested in trade union education. But there are problems with some unions because, as the Minister mentioned in his second reading speech, there are over 300 unions in Australia and most of them are very small. Because they lack the resources they are not in a position to run trade union courses for their own members and, as a result, their members are disadvantaged. Of course, there are some larger unions, and I refer to the union that was mentioned in this House a few times today, the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union. Since the amalgamation of the various metal unions the AMWU has become a fairly large union and because it is fairly large it probably has greater resources and can make much more use of those resources. But since the amalgamation this union has initiated courses mainly for delegates on the shop floor, the ordinary shop delegate and interested rank and file members.
Much has been said about indoctrination and taking an ideological line and so forth. The regular schools which are run by this particular union are not confined to the capital cities. I know that in the industrial areas I represent this union runs regular courses for its shop delegates and interested trade unionists. I took the trouble to find out what some of its courses are about and I mention a few: The history of the trade union movement, organisational structure and how the union is run, decision making process from the shop floor upwards, duties and responsibilities of the officials and members, negotiating techniques and the development of arguments and the presentation of cases, public speaking, relationship between the unions and the community -I think that is a very important matter- workmen ‘s compensation, with emphasis, of course, on the procedures to be adopted in relation to that. There is another one which I consider to be very important, and that is the problems of groups such as migrants, women, apprentices and other such groups in the community. I do not think any honourable member could say any of those subjects is ideological. They are very important in assisting a trade unionist to take a full place in the Australian society.
However, despite what the AMWU is doing and what the WEA in South Australia is doing, most plans to carry out this trade union education have been restricted by lack of finance. This, of course, is one of the reasons for this Bill. The Bill will certainly take a lot of the responsibility away from organisations. Although I know they will still be full participants in trade union education I do feel this Bill will allow them to get away from just one particular union group. The education scheme will be much broader and will allow all those people who are in organisations that cannot afford to run such activities to take a much fuller part.
When I say that I support this Bill I can, I think, speak from experience as a rank and file trade union official and as a shop floor union official. Also, as I said earlier, I did have the opportunity of taking part in the Workers Educational Association courses in South Australia. As a part time union official I felt these courses were of great assistance to me and to all those people with whom I associated and who shared the same concern for the trade union .movement as I did. I mentioned earlier that one of the problems involved if we are to make full use of this educational scheme is the prolific number of unions we have in Australia- over 300 unionswith their small financial resources. We would hope that this Bill will allow these people to be catered for in a decent trade union training scheme. I fully support this Bill. It is a big advance for Australian trade unionists- one of which I am sure they will take every advantage and one which will allow the trade unions to take their rightful place in Australian society.
– Initially in this debate one cannot but comment on the second reading speech of the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron). It was most refreshing to hear his comments. He said:
I can say to the House now that there is no absolute need to bring down legislation on this subject. The Bill is therefore an expression Of the Government’s intention that what it is already doing will be the subject of continuing parliamentary scrutiny.
One must respond to statements such as these which indicate that even in the Australian Labor Party there is some appreciation of the role of Parliament and that the Caucus in the final analysis has to face the scrutiny of the national forum. At a time when the acid corrosion of a socialist welfare state is staining the idea of a responsible society and cluttering up the money printing presses, it is to be hoped that this initiative of the Minister will act as a catalyst to other Ministers to come out from behind the barricades of officialdom and allow the eyes of the nation to be focused on their actions. We congratulate the Minister therefore on allowing the national Parliament the opportunity to keep a watching brief on trade union training. I hope that the Minister can educate some of the other Ministers to follow his very fine example. Action is needed because of the uncertainties prevalent among the electorate, which is disillusioned and dismayed at the manoeuvres of the Australian Government, which can be best described as counterfeit- counterfeit in the sense that the trends that result from the growth in the scale and size of this Government’s expenditure, and the way it is used to socialise and nationalise -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The honourable member is mistaken. He has the wrong Bill. He is talking about something entirely different from the Bill under discussion. He is not talking about a trade union training college.
-I ask the honourable member to relate his remarks to the Bill before the House.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I point out that I quoted from the Minister’s second reading speech; I cannot get any closer to the Bill than that. I suggest that if the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) wants to sleep he do it at home rather than in the national Parliament. The way in which Government spending is used to socialise and nationalise correspondingly increases the Government’s control over our lives. A tendency to make one’s Government popular at someone else’s expense has tended to drive our economic trust into an expanding Government sector, and as a natural corollary a dwindling private sector becomes the order of the day.
We of the Opposition agree with the proposition that trade union leadership in this country is in urgent need of a course in not only education but also responsibility. Too often we have heard the heartless platitudes of Hawke, Carmichael, Halfpenny and others who quite apparently have grown up in an environment where those who supply the capital, take the risks, and create employment and security are to be opposed for the sake of opposing and to be pursued relentlessly with a devilish attitude of squeezing the last drops of juice out of private enterprise. Quite obviously these purveyors of hostile attitudes are in need of education, and that is why we support the Bill; but it is a false premise to advance the argument that supplying millions of dollars for a purpose will correct its basic fundamental ideas of disruption and trouble. You cannot legislate for attitudes. The leaders of the trade union movement in some instances need a realignment of their policies and a cementing of their attitudes based on a sound knowledge and appreciation of their responsibilities to society. Trade union leaders who condone and encourage wildcat strikes have to be made to realise that they should have a conscience.
– Put them in gaol!
– I hope Hansard records that a member of the Labor Party suggested that trade union leaders be put in gaol. What a scathing indictment of the Government’s concern for the trade union movement. Trade union leaders have to have a deep personal appreciation of the effects their decisions have on other sections of the community. I instance the traveller caught miles from home, the motorist stranded through insufficient fuel, the housewife unable to warm the baby’s bottle on account of a power strike -
– How about the milk in the cow?
-We are getting on to that. I instance also the farmers whose incomes and markets have been destroyed by the refusal of people to load wheat on to ships because they do not agree with the politics of the country to which the wheat is being shipped. One could comment of course that they are well coached in subversive leadership by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) himself, who weeks ago, according to Press reports, sent a cable to Prince Norodom Sihanouk saying he would have diplomatic relations with him when Khmer Rouge guerrillas reached Phnom Penh and were in control of the capital of Cambodia. He is overtly associating with the great subverters.
We support the need for trade union training as outlined by the Minister on account of the bottomless pit into which leadership of the trade union movement has degenerated. Even though the Minister has been accused of falsifying unemployment figures- I do not infer that, because I do not think he would; I merely state that he has been accused of it- he can neither deny nor distort the records of industrial disputes for the year 1 974. 1 am making the point that on account of the huge increase in unemployment it is absolutely essential that we educate the trade union leaders in the need to exercise responsibility. I am developing that point for your information, Mr Deputy Speaker. These statistics are imprinted indelibly on the records of the Australian Bureau of Statistics- reference No. 6.27. They cannot be erased, and they paint a very dull picture.
I will give the figures for the information of Hansard. For the year 1974, industrial dispute statistics were the highest recorded since official statistics began in 1913. Here we have a government which has its basis in the trade union movement being unable to exercise authority over its own environment. Obviously it has no political muscle whatsoever when asked to give leadership. It is a worrying state of affairs that there is a lack of appreciation within the Government of the effects industrial unrest has on employment, inflation and loss of productivity. The suggested legislation is not a neat conclusion but rather a certain admission of despair and defeat. I submit that there is no great finding in legislation which in effect says that football is likely to be played on a football field or oval.
Let me give the vital statistics for 1974. There were 2,809 disputes. The previous high was in 1970, when there were 2,738 disputes. In 1974, 2 million workers were involved. In 1970 the number was 1.4 million. A total of 6.3 million working days were lost. The previous high of 4.7 million was recorded in 1970. A total of $128m was lost in wages. Major disputes in 1974 included 2.4 million days lost by metal workers making claims for increased wages, etc., 470 000 days lost by building workers claiming a national award, 350 000 days lost by transport workers in support of claims for increased wages, and 325 000 days lost by meat workers claiming increased wages. The average number of days lost per worker in 1974 was 3.1. The loss in wages of $ 128m in 1974 was 4 times greater than the loss of $32m in 1972, the last year of the Liberal-Country Party Government. These are shattering figures which are cause for the deepest concern and obviously indicate that the trade union movement is in drastic need of education.
Quite obviously, the present trade union training has not been good enough. The Opposition compliments the Minister for his initiative in this regard. I applaud the previous speaker, the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis), who, with some practical experience, was able to indicate to the House the channels through which trade union officials usually emerge to positions of responsibility within their unions. He said that no great emphasis has been given to fitting a union official for the job of responsibility and leadership in that union. The Opposition submits that, in a period when industrial relations are becoming increasingly complex, it is of vital importance that the large numbers involved on both sides of industry should be given the opportunity to study the problems and acquire the necessary techniques.
The study of industrial relations by management is equally important. There was a thread running through the Minister’s second reading speech which seemed to indicate that this side of the problem was of no great moment. He said:
Thus the conduct of courses cannot be a joint responsibility of unions and leaders.
I would have thought that the rubbing together of shoulders would be excellent and should be encouraged. One has to create a climate of mutual respect for each other’s point of view. Training alone will not suffice in the modern era.
I firmly believe that, in the interests of overcoming the great problems that are created in commerce and industry, trade unionists should have access to directorships of companies and that they should be positively encouraged to seek these positions. Additionally, workers should have as a deliberate instrument of their policy objectives the aim to be shareholders, in their own right and with their own money, in the various companies in which they work. In this way they will have a sense of belonging, and that is the best form of education.
Some disappointment has to be expressed at the idea that had been planted that State councils will have autonomy in setting their syllabuses and selecting students. This could lead to chaos. If we are to encourage an ideal of uniformity in approach and desire, it would appear to be a plausible argument to advance that there should be sound ground rules for admission to the colleges. Obviously, normal matriculation requirements cannot apply but there should be consistency as to rules of thumb which would indicate whether a person can cope, whether there are to be concurrent courses or now long these courses are to run. The honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) touched on the changing emphasis in courses as time elapses. It is to be hoped that there will be a variety of courses available, and it is the responsibility of the Parliament to ensure that the best possible use is made of the money funded through the Parliament from the general reservoir of taxpayers’ money. Research into industrial relations should go hand in hand with the teaching of the subject.
There can be no argument that some strikes could have been solved without need to resort to the extreme step of strike action if those involved had displayed more tolerance and a greater faith in the process of conciliation. That is what research is all about- finding out the areas that are causing or will cause friction and, these having been established, making positive moves to cushion the effects. One has only to analyse the history of recent stoppages and one comes to the conclusion that it is not always demarcation disputes, conditions or hardships which lead to unrest. One can debate that Australia’s rapid inflation rate was one of the main reasons for the fabric of industrial peace being torn to pieces last year. Trade unions obviously need re-equipping, on account of the disastrous and soul destroying tactics they adopt at the present time, to meet the challenge of the coming decades. Education is the tool to achieve this. The coming decades will require the trade unions to grapple with the problems of rapid socio-economic changes.
Technoligical change, accelerated economic growth, new concepts of urbanisation and the use of leisure time, worker participation in management, recurrent education and paid study leave, and a work force which contains 40 per cent to 50 per cent women- the majority being married- will all form part of the trade union official’s world in addition to his present responsibilities. This area of education obviously must be a participator in the general education programs and the Opposition submits that it should not be treated in isolation.
I want to use this occasion also to pass some general comments on a few points raised in the Minister’s speech. I refer to his generalised statement that it is crucial to better labour relations that those who do business on behalf of organised labour know and are able to articulate the views of those whom they represent. This Bill may overcome the first part of the difficulty. But what have we achieved if those who become articulate become so artful and deceitful that they do not express rightly the views of those whom they represent? This is a matter that concerns me greatly. How do we establish what is the will of the group? What safeguards do we have? Does the Minister want to develop great orators who will meddle with the truth and convey the wrong message, or does he want to develop fair dinkum trade union leaders who are alive to their responsibilities, to themselves, to their union and to society as a whole? The Minister is an ex-shearer. Unlike some of the other dandies who are trying to interrupt, he would know what I mean when I say that he is pulling the wool over his eyes. I ask, in a spirit of offering something concrete: What have we achieved if we have not based our sense of achievement on decency and honesty?
If there were such a thing as a secret court controlled ballot of all members before a strike took place there would be some ray of hope in what is obviously a barren situation. The Minister has also commented that union fees are too low. I hate to say this because the Minister is a rather amiable sort of fellow, but I believe that he has grown away from the people he represents. He is out of touch. On many occasions I hear utterances that union fees are far too high for the services rendered. Yet the Minister says that they are too low. People object even to having to be members of a union in certain circumstances. They become emotionally and physically upset when they realise that part of their subscription goes, against their will, to bolster up the sagging funds of the Australia Labor Party. They object to having to give funds to a party which has let them down by destroying the will of private enterprise to create and maintain jobs.
We hear suggestions that governments can help in decentralisation. I ask the Minister to let us know whether it is intended to establish the National College of Trade Union Training in a centre other than Canberra and, similarly, whether the State bodies are to be in areas other than the State capitals. I leave this thought with him: We do not want the cities to get bigger and worse, but the country areas would be most receptive to any new enterprise in their vicinity. One is somewhat dismayed that there has been a lack of co-operation and consultation with the employers in this whole matter of trade union education. Previous speakers from this side of the House placed great emphasis on the fact that, in the final analysis, there has to be a three-way partnership- between labour, management and the general public
Too many strikes and disputes are caused by a breakdown in communication between workers and their bosses, between workers and their union, and between unions and the bosses. We neither want, nor can we tolerate, a state of affairs which causes maximum inconvenience without actually bringing a State to a standstill. Workers cannot be allowed to be pushed and shunted from pillar to post while seeking decisions on their various demands. Solutions can be found only by restraint and co-operation, not by the vicious bludgeon and hammer of selfinterest and disregard for the common good. I sincerely hope that this Bill- the brainchild of the Minister for Labor and Immigration- when it is finally implemented can help by educating all members of society in restraint and co-operation. If that is done, this type of legislation will be a hallmark in developing in Australia a sense of decency, honesty and integrity in relations between employers and employees.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has at last expired. I call the honourable member for Burke.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, unlike the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) it is my intention to speak to the Trade Union Training Authority Bill.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to take a point of order. I ask you whether you showed due decorum to the position of the Chair in your remarks to me at the conclusion of my speech.
– I thought that the honourable member’s time had expired.
– I thought that what you said was a personal reflection on me and I ask you to withdraw it.
– If the honourable member feels that it was a personal reflection on him, I think that he is being a little over-sensitive. If he feels that way I give him as assurance that what I said was not a personal reflection on him.
– I ask you to withdraw it unequivocally.
-No, it is not a matter of withdrawing.
– I ask you to withdraw it.
-The honourable member’s time had expired.
– You did not say that -
-Order! The honourable member took exception to what I said. I think that he may be a little over-sensitive. No reflection on him was intended. If he feels that way I certainly apologise that he should feel that way. But under no circumstances was that intended to be the case. I think that he is being over-sensitive. I call the honourable member for Burke.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, he is not only being over-sensitive but also in addition to speaking for 20 minutes of the time allowed for his speech he has already gobbled up 2 minutes of my speaking time. The honourable member quite often reminds me of a Daniel Boone of Queensland. Somebody mentions trade unions and he comes out of the thicket with his musket at the shoulder ready to fire. An interjection was made from this side of the House about gaoling trade union officials. The honourable member might not have been around as a parliamentarian at the time when this incident took place, but I remind him that it was the previous government that gaoled the Secretary of the Tramway and Motor Omnibus Employees’ Association, Mr Clarrie O’Shea. It was not this Government which did that.
I remember earlier today an honourable member from the Australian Country Party- the same Party to which the honourable member for Darling Downs belongs- saying that it is dangerous for a person to speak about surgery unless he is a surgeon. I suggest to the honourable member that just stringing together the cliches that he has strung together today and calling that a speech does not make a speech. Before he again makes outrageous statements such as those he has made today about the trade union movement in Australia it would do him no harm to associate with some trade union officials.
– He is an expert on mushrooms.
-Yes, as my friend, the honourable member for Phillip says, he is an expert on mushrooms. The statistics that he cited do not seem to prove very much. There is an old saying to the effect that there are lies, there are damned lies and there are statistics. The honourable member did not bother to explain how many days’ work have been lost because of industrial accidents or men stopping work because their employer refused to make a job safe for them. I gathered from the general tone of the remarks of the honourable member that he would not be very much averse to forcing men to go into positions that are unsafe if it meant that not doing so would be a detriment to the profit of the employer.
In his closing remarks- I point out that only about 3 sentences of his speech related to the Bill- he set himself up as the Caesar or judge to decide what would be good training and what would be bad training for the trade union officials. I seriously ask honourable members and those people who may have been listening to him: Could we really rely on this Daniel Boone from Queensland with his muzzle loader at the ready to be the final judge of what ought to be taught and what ought not to be taught to trade union officials? This is an area in which the honourable member has had no experience and an area in which he has no knowledge whatsoever. He proved his lack of knowledge of the subject during his 20-minute address to this House.
The Bill is certainly a step in the right direction. It seems that a very conciliatory attitude has been adopted by the House towards this Bill. It seems that with one small exception the Opposition accepts the measure. The amendment, as I have knowledge of it, that the Opposition intends to move does not find disfavour in the eyes of the Government. It neither adds to nor subtracts from the Bill or changes it materially in any way. I doubt that the Opposition will find any resistance to it. However, the conciliatory approach shown by the Opposition is something that I regard with the rather jaundiced eye that I imagine the housewives of Boston regarded door-to-door salesmen at the time the Boston strangler was on the loose. I do not know how long this attitude will last. The Opposition’s history in this area has not been good. At least it has now recognised that the trade unions of this country are an integral pan of the whole economic structure and an important and integral part of our society. Should the Opposition maintain the approach it has adopted today I for one will be delighted. I rather feel that with the coming of the spring the snow will melt and that will be the end of that delightful romance.
– You are a pessimist.
-I am not sure whether I am a pessimist; I think that I am probably a realist. Suggestions have been made in the debate by speakers from the Opposition that there ought to be a tripartite approach to this problem; that the whole question of the trade union movement ought to be in some way or other integrated with management, the community as whole and the Parliament.
– You try to do it with this Bill.
-We are not trying to do it with this Bill. The Bill sets out to establish a training authority so that trade union officials can be taught their tasks in the same way as doctors, lawyers and other professional people are taught their tasks. Certainly, I reject the proposition that there ought to be this integration in the community. It would be ridiculous if, in this House, we all sat on the one side of the chamber and there were no conflict across the chamber. If that were the case, there would be no vigour in the Parliament. If there were no conflict of views in the community, there would be no vigour in our community. If a wedding were arranged between the trade unions and the employers- that is, the representatives of the employees and the representatives of the employers- again there would be no vigour in that area; that very important area of our community, society and economy. Therefore, I do not go along with the proposition of the tripartite idea that has been floated. There should not be any effort to make the trade union part of a system. There should not be any effort to make the trade unions and the employers buddy-buddies. That will achieve nothing but distrust. Before very long we would find that there would be another employees’ organisation in existence because the workers would want to feel that the organisation of which they held membership did not have a blood relationship with those who were employing the working man.
– What happened to worker participation?
– That is defeatist. You know, that really is defeatist.
-Every time I get up to speak on a trade union matter somebody leaves the barn door open and I can hear the asses braying. The Australian Government is to be congratulated by all sections of the community for its endeavours and success in providing opportunities for training and re-training diverse groups in the community. Adults no longer are denied the chance to learn new skills to be applied for the betterment of the acquirer and, of course, of society generally. Young people no longer are denied the opportunity of” a higher education because of their lack of money or their parents’ lack of money. Education encouragement is given to young people wishing to learn skills through apprenticeships. Our tertiary learning institutions- universities, colleges of advanced education and institutions of technologyprovide a wide range of courses to provide society with the doctors, lawyers, chemists, pharmacists, engineers, teachers and the other professional people needed. These institutions, operated at full community expense, also provide courses on a regular basis for management training. In fact, when one looks at our society and the integral components one finds that there is only one significant group which has been lamentably overlooked. I refer to the various trade unions. Training is available for trade union officials, as has been indicated, but only through schools that are run by the trade union movement itself.
One such example is the National School of Industrial and Labor Studies which was initiated in 1967 by the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations. Since 1970 the 8-day residential school has been run by the 3 peak union councils- the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations and the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations. Approximately 140 students have taken part in each of the schools which, more recently, have offered 4 courses for full time and part time officers and officials from a wide range of unions. These courses deal with changing factors likely to affect the union movement, techniques of case presentation in arbitration and bargaining, economic policies affecting union objectives, and women in the union movement. My own son has had the opportunity to be a participant, and he is a much better trade union official for it. The fact that the courses have continued for 8 years and have had to be restricted to only 140 students per course clearly indicates the need for this type of education. The fact that classes are restricted clearly establishes a need to broaden the activities and widen the scope of the courses. The passage of this Bill will enable these established needs to be satisfied. The financial resources of the trade unions are severely limited and must, as a first priority, be applied to the solution of the immediate bread and butter issues in which the members are involved. Trade unions have come to be regarded as more than just the custodians of wage claims and working conditions of their members.
Let us look at the history of our present trade unions. They began as mutual benefit societies and primarily concerned themselves with caring for their members when they were off work because of sickness. There was no paid sick leave then and employers did not exactly rush forward to make arrangements for their employees to be paid when they were too sick to work. That benefit was won only after years of struggle. It was natural that poor and miserly pay and abhorrent and dangerous working conditions should attract the attention of courageous and intelligent people who encouraged their fellowworkers to fight. Governments- conservative, of course- fought on the side of the employers and used the forces of the state to imprison and deport these courageous people. We hear today the same cry by the direct descendants of the Tories of previous times. Because every action by organised groups such as government, industry, trade and commerce affects the community, an unorganised group, the trade unions, has filled the gap by providing the organisation so sorely needed.
By no stretch of the imagination can anybody say that trade unions are unimportant. We all know that the actions of trade unions affect the community as much as the organisations already mentioned. However, as I have pointed out, those in the former group- government, industry, trade and commerce- are educated to their task at community expense. That is not so in the case of the latter group, the unions. Therefore I see no immorality in those people being educated to their task also at community expense. Undoubtedly we will hear about the power of the unions being misused. In fact, we have already heard that. The power of the unions will be misused only when there are those who are not given the opportunity to understand what their proper role and function is. The Bill before the House, when passed, will establish the facilities to provide that sort of training but, I repeat, that it must be independent training and not at the behest of this Parliament, nor at the behest of the employers, nor at the behest of anybody except those people who already have experience in the trade union movement and who are well aware and have demonstrated that they are aware of the areas in which their members should receive training.
The honourable member for Balaclava (Mr MacPhee) said that greater trade union training for the rank and file would mean greater awareness of how the union officials are shaping up, and that the rank and file would then have the opportunity to change the leadership at the ballot box if they are fully aware of what is going on. In discussing the contributions of the 2 previous speakers from the Opposition side I am far more lenient with the honourable member for Balaclava because he does have a higher degree of social awareness than do his colleagues. But certainly the honourable member for Darling Downs spent his time in pretending that the rank and file members of the trade unions are stood over by their leaders, are completely unaware of what is going on in their unions and are not very interested. Again I would say to the honourable member for the Darling Downs in particular that he should take the time and the trouble- it is not difficult- to walk into any one of the trade halls around the city, to talk to any trade union official and to spend time with the trade unionists. If he does so he will find that he is wrong in denigrating them in the way that he did. In fact, trade union members do keep themselves informed and the unions keep their members informed.
However, as I have said, and as I will repeat, I compliment the Government and the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) on the introduction of this measure. It is going to fill a long-felt want in our Australian community, but I would regard it as being only the first step. The sort of attitude which is being exhibited by the Government will make itself more manifest in the community as time goes on. I clearly and unequivocally commend the Bill to the House.
– I commend the Minister for Labor and Immigration for introducing this legislation into the House. As the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), who is the shadow Minister for Labor and Immigration, has said, if we were initiating trade union training we would have done it in a somewhat different fashion, in consultation with the trade union movement. Nevertheless, in our own policy we do support the proposal for a national council for trade union training, and we recognise the need for widely based courses at a number of different levels. I have no hesitation in admitting that in our time in government- I do not exempt myself from responsibility in this- we should have given more attention to trade union training. A great deal of attention was given to the expansion of tertiary institutions, universities and colleges of advanced education, and trade union training was something that should not have been overlooked. I do not know for how long it has been actively in the pol- . icy of the Australian Labor Party, but I would like to think that if such proposals had been made by the Labor Party when in Opposition for trade union training in a positive and practical sense that we in government might have picked up those proposals. Nevertheless, these matters are now supported in broad terms by both the Government and the Opposition.
There are 2 different concepts or approaches possible in relation to trade union training. The Minister has, for reasons that I can understand, chosen one approach. I think that if we had been in government we would have chosen the alternative approach. The Minister has chosen the approach of establishing a separate institution where the course, under the guidance of the national council, will be devised. The alternative approach would have been to have the national council establish special relationships with bodies such as the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, which has always had a close and useful link with the trade union movement. The secretary of the Trades and Labor Council in Melbourne still lectures at the Institute on a regular basis. There has been a long and continuing and useful link between that organisation and the trade union movement in Victoria.
Our concept would have been to blend the courses on to bodies such as that or the University of New South Wales so that trade union training could become part of the general educational stream. I think it is worth noting that the Vehicle Builders Employees Federation of Australia pays the University of New South Wales to run trade union courses for that union. That shows that in some unions at least there is no antipathy to having courses run or organised as part of a larger tertiary institution. I hope that later other courses may be developed at levels at which people from both management and labour can participate, at least for part of the course, thus bringing the 2 sides together not in a sense of trying to create tame-cat union officials but in trying to create the circumstances in which both management and labour can have an understanding of each other’s problems and a recognition that the true interests of both really revolve around getting to sensible solutions to problems, disputes and difficulties that can so often occur.
Having said that and having said that that would have been our preferred approach, I can recognise the need for, to some degree, a separate institution under the circumstances that exist. A person might have left school at the age of fifteen and became an apprentice for three or four years- in older days it might have been 5 years- and then at a later time he might become a shop steward or union delegate and might have to participate in the drawing up of a log of claims as well as trying to understand the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, how to run an office, how to maintain properly the union rules, how to understand the relationship between the federal and branch offices, and many other matters of that kind which might appear to be mundane to honourable members in this House. But that can present a real difficulty and challenge in the first instance to somebody with the background I have described. I remember speaking to a trade union official. The first job he had with his union was to look after compensation cases. Nothing is more involved and complex than making sure that a person gets what is due to him in a compensation situation. This person without any training or any real guidance had to do the work on his own account or by using whatever resources his union could make available to him. So the need for training is very real. I can understand the difficulties of the sorts of people I have mentioned who might have left school at the age of 15, gone through an apprenticeship, had union responsibility and then at a later time, without any training, found themselves in a negotiating position with people who may have university degrees or who, at least, will have taken their education to a further point.
I can see difficulties in blending people, who in earlier times would have left school at 15 or 16, into an educational institution where the minimum entry requirement for other purposes is matriculation and where people are doing courses on a different basis. So at a certain level there is an argument for carrying out separate courses. At a later level, in trade union training, I think there are very strong arguments for trying to run courses which, at least in part, service the needs both of the trade union movement and of management and industrial officers of companies. I repeat that this is not to establish any kind of tame cat situation but to establish a situation of understanding of each other’s problems which will lead hopefully to more logical solutions and conclusions on both counts.
I recognise the arguments which the Minister for Labor and Immigration has put and which I think he needed to put in the early days. The Commonwealth and State governments spend large sums in suport of education and training at different levels but they have not spent anything really in suport of trade union training. So the fact that this is a charge on the public account is a proper point to make and it is one that ought to be supported. I hope that under these provisions we will be able to catch up with the circumstances which prevail overseas where trade union training is much more advanced than it is in Australia. I have mentioned the disadvantage under which trade union officials can be when they are faced with trained representatives of employers. I hope that this situation can be overcome. I hope that improved training over a period will improve the climate of industrial relations.
I have mentioned that Australia has lagged behind. I hope now that that will be overcome. I think it needs to be pointed out that some sections of the trade union movement have had some concern about the chosen path which the Minister has taken in introducing trade union training. I do not say this involves a majority, but some unions would have preferred that the training be undertaken in the manner which I have indicated would be the preferred choice of the Opposition: But we support in principle what has been done. We want to see how this operates in practice. In a couple of years’ time when there is an election and a change of government we hope to build on and to improve what the Minister has begun.
I commend to the Minister the amendments which the shadow Minister will be moving in the name of the Opposition. The first amendment suggests that a member of Parliament from each side of the House be on the national council. I hope the Minister will feel that that is a proper principle and that members of Parliament should be interested and concerned in what is done. That might lead to a better understanding and a better debate in this place, with more reason and less passion than is sometimes the case. I know it is the objective of the Minister to have industrial relations debates in this place with reason, less passion and more understanding than there has been at some times in the past. I also think there is some merit in the suggestion that one member ought to be appointed on the nomination of the Commonwealth Minister for Education. This would leave the control of the curricula clearly in the hands of those who have an intimate knowledge of the needs of trade union training but at the same time would broaden the basis of the council in a way which I believe the Australian Council of Trade Unions and other members of the council will not find offensive.
The second amendment just expands, to some extent, the nature of the report which might come to Parliament on an annual basis. I think this is a sensible amendment which will lead to a wider understanding of these matters. I am glad the Minister has introduced this legislation. I hope he will look at our amendments with an open mind and that this will lead to their acceptance. Like the Minister I commend the legislation to the House.
– It is very difficult, as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to be dispassionate about a subject which centres on the trade union movement because between 1949 and 1972 the movement fared very badly under legislation presented to the House by the Government formed by the conservative Parties. Great credit must be given to the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) because he has done so much to bring our labour legislation into line with that which exists in other parts of the world and also in line with the International Labor Organisation Convention. It has been suggested by a number of trade union officials from my State of South Australia- not the least of whom is the secretary of the Minister’s old union, the Australian Workers’ Union, Mr Jim Dumford- that the college should be named after the Minister in order to recognise the role which he has played in establishing these forums throughout Australia.
I think it is important- this matter was raised by the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee)- that we have a look at the interpretation of trade union training. These matters have changed a great deal but this has not been accepted, certainly by spokesmen on behalf of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party throughout Australia, nor by much of management throughout Australia. Trading union training, as defined in the Bill, means:
educational, technical or practical training- *
educational, technical and practical training for members of trade unions in any other fields approved by the Australian Council;
Obviously that means that the training of trade union officials should take in almost every aspect of Australian life and society. There are two or three points which have to be accepted by everybody in Australia. They are still being fought by some sections but they have to be accepted as fact. Firstly, Australia is one of the most highly unionised countries in the western world. That is a matter of fact which is unlikely to change. Secondly, the trade unions are here to stay and no legislation introduced into this or into any other Parliament is likely to alter that fact. Any such move would mean retaliation by the force of the trade union movement which would negate any attempt to put it out of business. We are looking at one of the largest social forces in the community. It is a permanent and growing social force. We are asking here in government and in the national parliament of Australia what should be done about.
I do not share with some honourable members on this side of the House the glee with which they greet the proposed amendments to be moved by the Oppostion. I for one have always voiced my opposition to government interference in trade unions. I think that much of what I have said over the years is exemplified in the industrial relations which exist in countries like Sweden where the government keeps its nose out of union business. I think that to have 3 members of Parliament on the council would be something which in later years we may regret. It seems to me that in that way we may interfere with the proper conduct of the College and with the proper setting of the syllabus for those people who attend the trade union college. One can imagine if the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) were placed on the Council as a representative of the Opposition how shocked and horrified he would be if the name Karl Marx appeared on the syllabus to be presented to any class of the trade union college which is to be set up. I do not altogether share the views that parliamentarians ought to sit on that council.
A point was made by the Leader of the Opposition and it was also voiced earlier by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) about having joint training. This view is not shared by the trade union movement. We are in the infancy of trade union training in Australia. A lot of people have done a great deal to assist trade unionists to begin trade union training and much has been done in the running of minor schools throughout the years. Honourable members from the Liberal and Country Parties opposite might have seen on numerous occasions members of the Labor Party taking these delegates to dinner when they visit Parliament House while attending schools at the Aus.tralian National University. I have never seen them going to dinner with members of the Opposition Parties. I think this reflects the views which are held by the trade unionists. At the moment they do not intend to sit down with representatives of industry or with representatives of their opponents to try to do a joint course in what we might call ‘sleeping beautifully with capitalism’, or something like that. They are attending these courses now because they have not had the benefit of training to enable them to understand the complex mechanisms of industrial relations in Australia and to a very large extent they have not had a reintroduction to study.
One of the basic ingredients of trade union training overseas is the first step of reintroducing people who have been in industry and in factories to the mode of study which is necessary in order for them to understand all the subjects that may be placed before them. Of course, this is not something which would apply to our opponents or to the opponents of the trade unionists attending these schools. So for the time being, and I think it will be permanent so far as the trade unions are concerned, they do not want to attend training or schools with other than trade union or wage and salary representatives. The training that they will go through Will affect every aspect of Australian society.
Someone has said that perhaps we could build into trade union training the use of some of the colleges of advanced education and other tertiary institutions, that this would be the way in which trade union training ought to be done and it would not be necessary to have a separate college. Many facts have been laid before all honourable members in relation to the difficulty of having trade union training built into these institutions. For instance, the propositions would completely alter the character and work of the Authority under which the trade union training would be done and would inhibit the volume of its activities. The propositions show a lack of understanding of the kind of training proposed. Colleges of Advanced Education are demonstrably not engaged in trade union training and have shown no willingness or ability to be so involved in spite of a number of opportunities over the years. Let me give a specific case.
Could anyone imagine a college of advanced education being interested in the highly interesting industrial case which is being undertaken by the metal workers union in South Australia at the moment? This is a case which quite honestly could be put forward as a test case or a case that ought to be studied by any college of trade union training. It concerns the actions taken by General Motors-Holden’s in sacking a shop steward. Let us look at the turn of events that has taken place in relation to the sacking of this shop steward on 20 November last year. For 5 months GMH has refused to discuss the matter. It has refused to speak to State officials. It has refused to speak to federal officials. It has refused to go to arbitration. It has opposed the assistance of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It has had 5 months of very obstinate opposition to any negotiation over the dismissal of a shop steward. Can honourable members envisage a tertiary institution, such as a college of advanced education, saying to its students: ‘Here is something for you to understand; here is something to go into your curriculum; here is something you should have before you’? Obviously it is a matter which ought to be specifically directed towards trade union training.
Of course, the institutions to which I refer are built for and administered in respect of three and 4-year courses. Their requirements are quite different from those of the one to 8-week courses such as those prepared by trade unions or the Australian Council of Trade Unions education office. Short courses work intensively, often for 12 hours a day, and class rooms are in constant and exclusive use, unlike rooms in tertiary institutions which may be used for a variety of classes in any given day. For this reason the ACTU has found that it cannot obtain classrooms in these other tertiary institutions when it requires them. The most difficult schools that the ACTU has run were those held at the Canberra College of Advanced Education in January and February of 1975. The arrangement of the buildings, the services and the character of the college are quite unsuited to short, intensive course work. To operate there would require the erection of a special and separate set of buildings on the campus. Those people who are experienced in trade union training are saying that one would have to accept the establishment of a separate institution.
The point I wish to conclude on, because so many other people want to speak on the subject, is the question of leave, that is, people being paid to attend these trade union courses. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a list of those companies and semi-governmental operations which now pay their employees to attend these trade union courses.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows)-
Companies and government departments mainly in South Australia which have given time off with pay to attend trade ‘union education courses:
Advertiser Newspaper Ltd
The News Ltd
Cruickshanks Pty Ltd
Government Printing Department
South Australian College of External Studies
The Griffin Press
National Paper Vuepak Pty Ltd
Messenger Press Pty Ltd
Torrens College of Advanced Education
A.C.I. Fibre Packages Co.
United Packages (S.A.) Pty Ltd (Berri)
South Australian Paper and Bay Co. Ltd Stock Journal Publishers Pty Ltd Thornquest Press Pty Ltd
South Australian Government Tourist Bureau Bennet and Fisher Ltd Elder Smith Goldsborough Mort Ltd Australian Wool Testing Authority Commonwealth Railways (Port Augusta) Alcoa Pty Ltd
Southern Farmers Co-op Ltd Lloyd Aust. Pty Ltd Reid Bros Ltd Furness Ltd Malleys Ltd
Ford Motors Co. of Aust. Ltd Chrysler Australia Ltd
Wooldumpers (S.A.) Ltd Hammersley Iron Ore Pty Ltd Bougainville Copper Pty Ltd
Turners Pry Ltd Butchers & Frozen Foods Brush Ltd
– Leave is also an important aspect of trade union training because if there is to be a confrontation between State governments, industry and other semi-governmental operations against trade union training and if they are to fight all the way down the line against paying their employees to go to these trade union courses, it will be a long uphill battle. This method of training ought to be accepted by Aus.tralian society as being an imperative part of our society. I commend the Bill to the House.
-It is my pleasure to be able to make a small contribution to this important debate. I am pleased also to follow the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) who made a most memorable speech. I am sure that we will all remember his contribution when we see the name on the new college building- Cameron College. I dare say that we can all appreciate that honourable members who make contributions similar to that made by the honourable member for Port Adelaide will go a long way. I was particularly interested in the honourable member’s suggestion that members of the Government were opposed to interference in trade union affairs. He was speaking in relation to the amendment that has been proposed by the Opposition seeking parliamentary representatives of both the Government and the Opposition on the Australian Council for Union Training. I am somewhat surprised at the honourable member’s opposition to that proposed amendment because it it well known that the Australian Labor Party in its history of involvement with the trade union movement has not been reticent to become involved in that area. If it were to become a general principle, I dare say that all honourable members on this side would welcome the withdrawal of the ALP from its position of influence on the trade union movement.
I would like also to comment on the remarks of the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) who indicated that I had made a rather inane comment by way of interjection when I suggested that worker participation was in fact an involvement by the trade union movement with employers. He was not prepared to accept the proposition that the trade union movement could benefit from the employers’ contribution, but is quite prepared to accept the contrary proposition. The comment I made was worthwhile, should have been made and I would have liked the honourable member to have answered it. I think that his comment that the gaoling of Mr O’Shea was the responsibility of the previous Government needs to be mentioned because all honourable members would know that Mr O’Shea was not gaoled by the previous Government but by the courts for contempt and failure to pay fines. For that reason he was gaoled. He was not gaoled by the Government of the day.
It is important to look at the contributions that have been made to this debate. I have been persuaded that it is very desirable to have a trade union training authority. I have certainly not been persuaded by the sort of threats contained in the speech by the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) when he introduced this Bill. He said:
The Bill has been carefully drafted so as to be appropriate to the involvement of public funds in the activities that the Bill encompasses. I can say to the House now that there is no absolute need to bring down legislation on this subject. The Bill is therefore an expression of the Government’s intention that what it is already doing will be the subject of continuing parliamentary scrutiny.
I am very regretful that comments of that type were made to indicate that if the Opposition did not give the Government the sort of” Bill that it wants on the terms and conditions that it wants, the Government would go ahead and do what it wanted to do anyway because it has the money- it is sitting on the treasury bench and it does not matter what the Parliament says or thinks. When legislation is justified and we accept that it is justified, I do not believe there is need for threatening comments of that sort. I do not believe such conciliatory comments ought to come from the Government if it wants to get support for important legislation.
I was particularly impressed by an article I read by D. J. Murphy. I think he put the case very well in 1972 for a trade union college. I shall read certain paragraphs from an article which he wrote for the ‘Australian Quarterly’. He said:
There is dearly a need for something more ambitious in trade union education and that is the establishment of a national trade union college which would be both a teaching and research college offering full-time, in-depth courses to unionists and union officials. It should be financed by the Commonwealth Government as a legitimate pan of Australian tertiary education and should, in time, be extended so that there will be several trade union colleges throughout Australia.
There are 2 principal grounds why such a college should be founded-
the present and future needs of the trade union movement and industrial relations in Australia;
the justice of public money being spent in the interests of labour and the unions as it is presently spent in the interest of capital and management.
He goes on to say in relation to unions in particularhe speaks of the special needs of the trade unionists which I accept because I think they are very apt comments:
The present areas of advanced and tertiary education open to future administrators and business executives are, in the main, not open to trade union officials.
I accept that. He continues:
In the first place, to become a paid official of a union, a man or woman in effect has to change his occupation. Instead of being a boilermaker, a bank officer, a waterside worker or a shop assistant, he now becomes an administrator, a negotiator, a research officer, an office manager and often a Press officer. These occupations require different skills and therefore different training from that by which he previously earned his living. There is no institution where he can conveniently learn these new skills and continue to acquire new knowledge in his field.
I think those comments are correct. Certainly I believe that people who undertake new tasks and positions ought to have a means whereby they can be trained to carry out those functions properly. I am not as readily persuaded by the comments of the Minister for Labor and Immigration. The Minister, in his second reading speech, raised certain matters about which I have doubts. He said:
It is crucial to better labour relations that those who do business on behalf of organised labour know and are able to articulate the views of those whom they represent.
I personally doubt whether that is the type of training that we want. I think we want training whereby people are better able to perform the many varied tasks on behalf of those people who elected them to the positions. I do not think we ought to be trying to push people into a situation where they are better able to bulldoze and better able to adopt a stand-off position which we often see. The Minister has suggested that the industrial relations scheme is more complex because of collective bargaining. I think that that envisages a conflict situation. There is a need to teach people more about the responsible way in which they can participate in negotiations through the proper use of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. In an article published in the ‘Journal of Industrial Relations’ we see an indication of the sorts of programs that the Australian Council of Trade Unions, its branches and affiliated unions see as being necessary. The article mentions the following:
So the article goes on. I am somewhat concerned at the very narrow range of topics that are mentioned by that body. For this reason I very much support the amendments proposed by the Opposition which require educational experts to participate in the framing of courses. The definition of ‘trade union training’ as contained in clause 3 (b) of the definitions section of the Bill defines it to include: educational, technical and practical training for members of trade unions in any other fields approved by the Australian Council;
That provision envisages that it is not the State Councils on which there will be representatives of education nominated by the Minister, but in fact the Australian Council, the central Council, which will consider whether trade union training will include educational courses in other fields. I think that is the reason why particularly the clause which constitutes the membership of the Australian Council ought to be widened. That is why the Opposition suggests that on the Australian Council there should be one member of this Parliament appointed by the Prime Minister, one member of this Parliament appointed by the Leader of the Opposition and one member nominated by the Minister for Education.
Paragraphs (c), (d), (e) and (0 of clause 14 ( 1 ) provide for the nomination of 1 1 members of the trade union movement to the Australian Council. I think it is important for us to note that this is the Council which will consider the wider educational ramifications. This is the Council that will develop the programs and specify the syllabuses and the curricula which will be studied in the colleges. I think it is important that the Council should have the benefit of wider experience if it is to offer more than has ben indicated in the summary which was developed by the Australian Council of Trade Unions and which was recorded in the article in the ‘Journal of Industrial Relations’ from which I quoted.
In the short time left to me I wish to raise a number of other matters. Some 41 unionists are eligible to be appointed to positions on the councils that we are creating- the Australian Council and the various State councils. In his remarks the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) mentioned that we did not wish to see this become a jobs for the boys situation. It is clear that we need on those councils people with the widest experience and not necessarily a limited range of people. As some 41 positions are being created, it is difficult to imagine how it will become other than a jobs for the boys situation.
It is a pity that perhaps more detail is not given in clause 25 of the Bill as to the basis on which the remuneration of members of these councils will be paid. It is noted that the Remuneration Tribunal will set the fees to be paid, but in fact each of these 41 officials will become a paid member of these councils. I wish now to refer to a matter that concerns me greatly, not only just in relation to this Bill. I make this preamble to what I am about to say because the Bill itself deals with trade union training. The comments that I am about to make in relation to clauses 28 and 29 of the Bill are comments that might apply to any authority, council or statutory commission. In fact, recently in this House I made similar comments in relation to the Road Safety and Standards Authority Bill which contained similar clauses. It is no reflection on trade unionists that I am raising this matter now; I make that point very clearly.
I am concerned, as all other members are concerned, about the matters related to the pecuniary interests of parliamentarians that have been disclosed of late. I am concerned that in relation to statutory authorities similarly proper provisions should apply, thus requiring the highest possible standards to be observed by people appointed to statutory authorities. I note that clause 29, in particular, is different from other clauses contained in Bills that recently have been introduced into the Parliament. In particular, I compare the Bill that we have before us with the Children’s Commission Bill which is presently before the Parliament. Clause 15 (3) of that Bill states:
A member who has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in a matter being considered or about to be considered by the Commission . . . shall . . . disclose the nature of his interest at a meeting of the Commission.
The provision in the Bill that we are discussing is limited because it relates only to those Council members who are interested in contracts made or proposed to be made by the authority. I ask the Minister to consider an amendment in this regard. I also ask him to consider a number of other matters to have general operation, not particularly in relation to this Bm but in relation to statutory authorities covered by other legislation that comes before us in the future. I ask him to consider what penalties will apply if people who have pecuniary interests fail to disclose them to the committee. There is no method in clause 28 by which a person who has failed to make a disclosure to the Authority would forfeit his position or be asked to resign. That is a matter that ought to be considered not only in relation to the Authority but also in relation to wider areas. In relation to a minor breach where a person fails to disclose to the Authority a matter or a contract in which he has a pecuniary interest, there is no method by which he can be subjected to a penalty. I ask that that matter be considered both in relation to this Bill and in relation to statutory authorities in general. I believe that these disclosure provisions, where disclosure is made only to the authority concerned, are inadequate. There ought to be a method by which we as parliamentarians or perhaps some other authority, can be made aware of situations where disclosures like this are made; there ought to be perhaps some authority to which disclosures are in fact made. Here it might be simply recorded in the minutes and not noted for any other purpose.
I am developing my comments in relation to statutory authorities generally. I have presented them as an initial contribution, but I hope that when further Bills come before the Parliament relating to statutory authorities I can give a more complete exposition of the sorts of reforms that I think ought to be made in this area. I ask the Minister to consider in relation to this Bill the immediate drafting problems that I have mentioned where this Ba conflicts with others and to consider the wider implications of how members of councils, authorities and statutory organisations can be made accountable for their interests, which very often bring them into conflict and influence the decisions that they are making and for which they are in a very minor way responsible through the sort of legislation that is before the Parliament at the moment.
– I was very interested to notice the participation of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in this debate. I gained the impression that perhaps he wants to keep his hand in in case there is another change of leadership. It was more than interesting for him to confess, as he did, that some attention should have been given to trade union training by the previous LiberalCountry Party Government. His excuse sounded very hollow indeed when he said that no proposal for such trade union training was made by the then Opposition. He ignored the fact that a number of individual unions did in fact ask Government representatives at various stages to introduce such a scheme. He also supported the proposition that trade union training should be catered for through the normal tertiary education institutions. Of course, he pointed to the fact that the Vehicle Builders Employees Federation of Australia presently conducts courses through universities or other tertiary institutions. For his information, several other unions do likewise. The reason for that is that at the present time there is no alternative, and although they are very valuable courses and have made a very valuable contribution to the education of trade union officials at all levels, they are nonetheless not the most desirable form of trade union training. This scheme is designed to provide trade union training at a very desirable level.
I think it is important to realise that Australia has a unique system of industrial regulation. It is a complex system. Many people shy away from it because they do not understand it; others reject it because of their ignorance. I do not believe that it serves any useful purpose in debates of this kind to stray from the point. All of us ought to be concerned to make some realistic contribution to what we are trying to correct. In Australia we have built up this mystique about arbitration, many times forgetting that conciliation precedes arbitration, both in the Constitution and in the statute. We are also inclined to overlook the fact that there is a dichotomy of power between the State parliaments and the national Parliament. The Australian Parliament can legislate only in respect of interstate disputes, and then only to establish means for the settlement of industrial disputes that extend beyond the limits of any one State. We should recognise that by way of practice the various State legislatures have had a monopoly in the fields of workers’ compensation, safety procedures- in the main- and, to some extent, long service leave. This situation creates difficulties in that an employee, a shop steward, a junior trade union official and even a senior trade union official have to look at 2 sets of statutes, State and national, in order to ascertain the rights and obligations of the union and its members.
In the arbitration field we have built up a system which relies very heavily on precedent and which has certain procedures that change and are different as between various arbitration tribunals. All of this creates great difficulties in understanding, and many trade unionists fail to comprehend what the system is all about. In their failure to understand it, they more often than not reject it as a lot of mumbo jumbo which is tied up with legalisms that are designed really to frustrate the best interests and legitimate aspirations of the worker and his union. This new system of colleges that is proposed in the legislation will help to overcome the difficulties to which I have referred.
In the short time available to me I wish to refer to another quite separate difficulty, namely, that of new settlers who come to Australia from far away places, such as the United Kingdom, western, southern and eastern Europe, and parts of Asia. In every one of those places there is a vastly different system of industrial regulation. When Opposition members, and perhaps Government members, want to condemn as irresponsible the activities of shop stewards and want to say that such activities are a derogation of union authority- as they clearly are when so-called wild-cat strikes occur- let them understand that some of the responsibility for such activities rests on this Parliament and its members. People who come to Australia from the United Kingdom, where the system is such that the shop steward is a power unto himself on the factory floor, fail to understand why some person, whether a trade union official or an employer organisation representative, who is very far removed from the work place, should be able to dictate to them what they should do.
When one talks about arbitration tribunals one is speaking almost in a foreign tongue to shop stewards from Great Britain who have come to Australia to make it their home. These people need to be given the opportunity, at least, to understand our system. The present Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) will not have to confess to a future parliament, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had to confess this afternoon, his inadequacy and neglect in this very important field, because the Minister and this Government have taken the initiative to try to cure some of these ills. New settlers also have enormous difficulties in understanding the language, the idiom and the legal form in which awards and industrial agreements are written.
It is essential that those who negotiate agreements or appear before industrial tribunals be trained to a standard of equal efficiency to enable them to exploit their equal ability and to be as well informed as those who appear against them. Well-trained negotiators on both sides are essential to good industrial relations. It is equally essential, hi my view, to have rank and file trade unionists trained in the procedures that this Parliament has laid down over the years. The Australian community spends large sums of money in training people in industrial relations by means of various courses conducted at the universities in various Australian cities. But most of those people go to individual companies, employer organisations or government. Very few of those who have had the benefit of community expenditure on training in the field of industrial relations go into the trade union movement. This situation has all of the essential ingredients for a complete breakdown in the system of industrial regulation as we know it.
There must be no competence gap, if you like, between employee and employer representatives in conciliation and arbitration proceedings and negotiations. It is in the public interest that both sides be represented with equal ability and by persons with equal training. The fact that the Australian Government spends $2m on a graduate school of management at the University of New South Wales is alone sufficient justification for the introduction of this Bill. I put it that that course at that institution has no greater value to the community than the trade union college proposed in this legislation would have. I support the proposition put forward by the Minister for Labor and Immigration. I sincerely hope that it will not only be carried by this House but also receive a speedy passage through this Parliament
Successive Opposition speakers have emphasised the fact that the Opposition is supporting the principle enunciated in this legislation although, as has been pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser), we would have approached it from perhaps a slightly different point of view. We have questioned, for example, the need for separate training. Our policy always has been that specific and appropriate courses need to be conducted in the existing educational and training institutions to enable trade union education and training to be of the highest level possible and carried out on a parallel basis with all other aspects of education within our community.
The Minister for Labour and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) has quite rightly pointed out in his second reading speech that 53 per cent of the wage and salary earners in Australia belong to trade unions. There can be no doubt whatsoever that in the national interest it is to the benefit of aU Australians that trade unionists in particular be given every opportunity possible to advance their training in their own specific fields to equip them to carry out a specific role within the trade union movement. The relationship in effective industrial relations between capital and labour is something with which we have for too long shilly-shallied around and which we have not been prepared to face straight on. It is perhaps one of the major problems facing the continuity and the development of a sound industrial structure in Australia. For that reason, above all else, the Opposition favours any attempt which is made on a sensible basis to improve the standard of education of trade unionists and their training within Australia
It is worth pointing out also that the present Government, which came to power with the clarion call that it understood the trade union movement and therefore would bring to Australia a greater degree of continuity, less industrial violence and so forth, has been proved in the last 2Vi years to have been speaking absolute rot. The working days lost in 1972, for example, were just over 2 million. By 1974 the figure had climbed to an incredible record of 6.292 million days. What about the wages lost? Over the same period there was an increase from $32m in 1972 to $128.3m in 1974. What greater evidence do we need to prove that the industrial base of Australia today and in recent months has shown a greater degree of chaos than this nation has ever known?
In this legislation it is being proposed for the first time that the taxpayer- Consolidated Revenue- should pay for trade union training. I would like to point out to the House, however, that in other countries- particularly socialist European countries- such as Sweden and Britian as well as Canada and the United States the trend has in fact been for large trade unions to fund their own forms of education. Let us take a few examples. The largest trade union in Sweden, the TLO- namely, the Swedish Central Organisation of Salaried Employees- spends almost as much on education programs as does the Swedish Government. Other unions that are less influential than the TLO also spend substantial amounts. In Great Britain, for example, the Trade Union Congress spends 20 per cent of its annual £stg lm budget on education and is erecting its own college at a cost of another £stg2m. The General and Municipal Workers Union spends over f stg 100,000 on education and has 2 colleges of its own. The ASTMS- the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs- is also opening a college to train its personnel. There are three other trade union colleges being built in Great Britain at a cost in excess of £stg2.5m, paid for out of union funds, not out of the Exchequer. In Canada there is a similar situation with the Labor College of Canada initially set up by 2 universities and which now offers 5 university level subjects. The Canadian Labor Congress also has scholarships to attend such courses offered by Labor unions, industry and governments. Provincial labour federations and councils in the United States have the AFL-CIO, which has established a college for full time degree courses in the Labour Studies Centre in Washington. Scholarships are also made available for poorer unions to send students there, and tuition and other educational expenses at the Centre are paid for by the AFL-CIO.
In my opinion unions in Australia should make a more substantial contribution than they probably have in the past towards improving the educational standards of their members. However, in this particular case it has been suggested that the unions should not have to pay anything and that the Treasury shall carry the entire cost. Be that as it may, one of the major problems we must face with this question is the danger that the trade unions will become too centralised in the sense that if all courses are to be run through this Authority, there is a very real danger, of which no doubt the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) is aware, that if certain ideological sections of the community set out to gain control of this Authority, and in particular control of its syllabus, the implications for the settlement of industrial disputes in Australia is very serious indeed.
For that reason it is essential, as suggested in the amendment foreshadowed by the Opposition, that we broaden the basis for the Council so that there are representatives of the Federal Parliament from both the Government and the Opposition sides, as well as a representative of the Minister for Education. At least this will be one way in which we can supervise what will be a vital area of industrial relations in Australia to ensure that the courses given, the personnel employed as lecturers and so forth will have as their primary interest the subjects which they are teaching, not merely an attempt to build for themselves an ideological base for later control of certain sections of the industrial community. These are extremely important matters.
In this context I should like to quote the comments made by Max Ogden, a gentleman very well known in Victorian circles for his rather extreme views on industrial relations. In relation to shop steward schools run by the Victorian Branch of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, he said:
There is no doubt that it has had quite an impact, as there are numbers of examples where previously docile workers have become active, largely as a result of lessons and experiences taken away from schools.
He also stated that union education without doubt had had and will continue to have a radicalising effect on the unions. He said:
Having made the start, our task is to make sure that it expands and, in particular, that union training can help widen and develop the challenge to capitalism.
We have heard in this House and elsewhere leaders of the Government pointing out on many occasions that the present basis of our economic ills is related to the system under which we are living. But unfortunately we have people like Mr Ogden who makes it quite clear that he regards trade union training not as a means of improving the standard of education of the members of the union, not as a means of encouraging them to participate in industrial development, but simply as a challenge to capitalism. In other words, change the system at all costs. If that requires industrial unrest on a mammoth scale, as we have seen in Australia in the last 12 months- at a record level, in fact- we surely must examine the proposals enunciated in the Trade Union Training Authority Bill specifically in those terms.
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time
Clauses 1 to 13- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
( 1 ) The Australian Council shall consist of the following part-time members:-
– I move:
– The Government accepts the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 15 to 56- by leave- taken together and agreed to.
Clause 57. 57. (1) The Australian Council shall, as soon as practicable after 30 June in each year, prepare and furnish to the Minister a report of the operations of the Authority during that year, together with financial statements in respect of that year in such form as the Treasurer approves.
– I move:
After sub-clause ( 1 ) insert the following sub-clause: ( lA) A report referred to in sub-section (1) shall include details of the syllabuses and study undertaken at the College and at each of the Trade Union Training Centres. ‘.
– The Government accepts the amendment moved by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) which seeks to amend clause 57 so that after sub-clause (1) the new proposed sub-clause is inserted.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Motion (by Mr Clyde Cameron)- by leaveproposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
-Just very briefly, on behalf of the Opposition I should like to thank the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) for his cooperation in making this a better Bill.
– in reply- I regret that time did not permit me to answer the specific questions that were directed to me by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) and by other honourable members opposite. I will write a letter to the honourable gentlemen setting out in specific terms the replies to the questions which were raised during the debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
-I present the Sixth Report of the Publications Committee.
Report- by leave- adopted.
Debate resumed from 6 March on motion by Mr Enderby:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– May I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I should like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Customs Bill as they are associated measures. Separate questions may of course be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Speaker that you permit the subject matter of the 2 Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 2 measures? There being no objection, I shall allow that course to be followed.
-The Opposition has no wish to delay the passage of these Bills, namely, the Customs Tariff (AntiDumping) Bill and the Customs Bill. The Bills implement the decision to adopt the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade anti-dumping code. Time has not permitted us to explore fully all the views of those interests that might be affected by these Bills. Sometimes certain problems are not immediately evident, but we have had no indication from the industry that there are major problems associated with the Bills. In discussing the Bills with persons associated with various aspects of importing interests, that is, the persons who are affected, it is generally accepted that the adoption of the GATT anti-dumping code is a welcome development and should eliminate some of the more extreme actions taken in the name of anti-dumping.
Section 8, which is definitive, describes the conditions and the circumstances in which the anti-dumping procedures would normally be invoked, and they are in line with the Department of Customs and Excise dumping questionnaire, which provides that the need for dumping duty must be based on the facts that there is dumping, that there is injury, and that the injury is caused by the dumping. Broadly the situation will indicate dumping if the . price at which the goods are exported to Australia is lower than the normal value and, by reason to that, material injury would be caused to an Australian industry or that the establishment of an Australian industry would be materially hindered. That is really what the first Bill is all about. The anti-dumping duty charged would be the difference between the normal value and the export price, which removes the advantage which would accrue to an importer who had sought to obtain goods at dumping prices or removes the advantage to an exporter seeking to dump his product on the Australian market.
The usual type of exemptions appear in the Bill, mainly as to goods which are not offered for sale in Australia or competitive with goods so offered and also goods by way of sample. These are the main exemptions in the Bill, and where goods are so exempted the Bill requires that notification be published in the ‘Gazette’. The Bill also covers the other usual matters such as third country dumping duties which provide broadly that, where the export price is below normal value and this results in material injury to producers or manufacturers of a third country, the Government of that country can ask the Australian Minister to apply this legislation to those sales and the Minister may so apply it. The operative word is ‘may’. That would indicate to me that the decision is his and not one mandatory imposed by any other country. I do not criticise that provision because we would also be able to seek protection from any anti-dumping activity by expecting the same opportunity to make similar representations to other countries adopting the GATT anti-dumping code where our legitimate markets and trade are threatened by dumping practices from competitors within industries in this country.
Clause 10 deals with the procedures relating to countervailing duties designed to protect Australian industry against imports which are cheaper because of subsidy or bounty support in the country of origin. I see no real virtue or need in exploring all of these comments exhaustively. They are covered in the Bill and they have been covered in the Minister’s second reading speech. They are clear and what we would normally anticipate as necessary in a Bill of this nature.
I shall make one brief comment on which the Minister may now or at some later time make some comment. Article VI of the GATT antidumping code in some detail makes definite provision for foreign suppliers and other interested parties to be given ample opportunity to present in writing all evidence they consider useful and to be able to see all information that is relevant to the presentation of their cases. I am not suggesting that this legislation or any other legislation should necessarily deal with all the procedural matters, but the present Bill- I will mention this aspect briefly later- makes one significant alteration to previous legislation in that the Minister will be able to impose dumping duty without prior inquiry and report by the Industries Assistance Commission. The fact that there was previously this type of inquiry and report would give the sort of person to whom I have referred opportunity to make certain submissions and to put his case before the dumping duties were so imposed. I am sure that this could have some importance to a number of importing industries. I hope that the Minister will tell us the procedure to be taken in these cases so that it can be more clearly indicated or defined so we will know how this situation will be covered.
As I mentioned, a significant change has been made in this Bill. Previously the prior inquiry and report from the Tariff Board were necessary before dumping duties could be imposed. This caused delay, inconvenience and unwarranted costs. Reference was made to this, as the Minister suggested, in 1965 by the Chairman of the Tariff Board. The change is that the Minister will be empowered to impose a dumping duty without prior inquiry and report by the Industries Assistance Commission. He can take the decision and impose the dumping duties. However, the Bill provides that if the Minister feels that he needs more information or more guidance on which to make a decision he can refer a dumping question to the Industries Assistance Commission if he so wishes. We have also noted that if he gazettes a dumping duty and there is an appeal against his decision he is required to refer the appeal to the Industries Assistance Commission.
The Opposition agrees that this procedure could have considerable advantage. It would remove the objectionable aspects raised in the comments of the Chairman of the Tariff Board and raised in the report from Sir John Crawford and Mr Rattigan on that same issue. It will enable the Minister, if an investigation into the imposition of dumping duties seems warranted, to institute that sort of inquiry. He has that course available to him to ask for a full inquiry by the
Industries Assistance Commission. That protection is there; that is the main thing. There is a right of appeal and there is an appointed body to consider that appeal against ministerial decision to impose dumping duties. The Bill requires the Minister not to adjudicate on his own decision but to refer it to the appropriate commission for such adjudication. To my knowledge there is no disquiet, nor do I immediately see that there should be any disquiet, among importing interests about that alteration. It is significant, as the Minister said, but nevertheless it could well streamline procedures and be an improvement on the situation that has existed.
Much of the rest of the Bill deals with administrative machinery items such as currency, exchange, method of specification, powers of delegation, gazetting and revoking of notices. We do not need to discuss any of these matters at any length. I have studied the Bill and I have perused the GATT anti-dumping code, a document of some 12 articles. I have examined the dumping questionnaire of the Department of Customs and Excise, as it then was, about which we have spoken already, and I have had a look at the Minister’s second reading presentation and explanatory notes on the clauses. The Minister’s speech appears to be a fair exposition of these Bills, to explain the purpose of their introduction and to indicate changes of any significance from previous legislation concerned with antidumping. His speech was short and I will try to keep mine likewise.
I do not criticise but I hope the Minister will take note of that one question which was asked. There is another question which we ask. Would the Minister comment, now or at some later time, on clause 5 (5) (c) of the Bill. The last paragraph of that sub-clause states:
That price paid for like goods is to be taken to be that price paid adjusted in accordance with directions by the Minister so that those differences would not affect its comparison with that export price.
That seems to be fairly vague. I am not quite sure that I fully understand its import when I compare it with the words used in the GATT antidumping code. The GATT anti-dumping code uses the words:
Due allowance shall be made in each case for differences in conditions and terms of sale, for differences in taxation and for other differences affecting price comparability.
It seems that the whole of clause 5 is vaguer than the words used in the GATT code. It could well be that the clause widens the powers and discretion of the Minister. I would appreciate his comments on the reason for the difference in wording and the import of the words against those that are used in the GATT anti-dumping code. We do not oppose these Bills and we do not intend to engage in unnecessarily long debate. There seems no reason to unduly impede their speedy passage through the House. I hope that the Minister, in his reply, is able to give us some advice on the 2 issues raised by the Opposition.
-As my colleague the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) has said, the Customs Tariff (Anti-Dumping) Bill arises from the decision of the Government to adopt the anti-dumping code drawn up under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The decision was announced by the Government in 1973. Because the existing anti-dumping legislation is out of line in some respects with the requirements of the GATT code, this Bill is intended to rectify the position and establish legislation which conforms to the GATT code and also embrace elements in the existing Australian law, such as provisions for freight dumping and countervailing duties not inconsistent with practices permitted under the GATT code.
The Government’s decision to adopt the code followed a review of the question by an interdepartmental committee. The knowledge that this committee was at work was brought to light to some extent, I think, by questioning by my colleague in the other place, Senator Margaret Guilfoyle. It did cause considerable concern to persons in industry at that time, as well it might. It was at the time that this Government was hell bent on opening up the Australian economy to competition from imports as never before. There was the July 1973 across-the-board tariff cut, an arbitrary ill advised move flying in the face of long established tariff- making procedure in Australia. Apart from its adverse direct effect on a wide range of Australian industries it dealt a lasting blow to business confidence and the long term forward planning on which the thrust of economic growth so much depends.
Again in 1973, at the time this legislation was contemplated, there was- in 3 large doses- the unduly prolonged revaluation of the Australian dollar which opened up a price differential in favour of competitive imports from some countries of as much as 30 per cent. That meant that a $10 import was reduced to $7. Now we have a situation- the Minister for Police and Customs (Mr Enderby) having discovered more than that ‘imports traditionally come from overseas’- in which all of these policies are in full reverse, and more. There are indeed direct import restraints on a wide range of goods, from sunglasses to steel sheets. The Minister and his Government are undoubtedly a chastened and wiser lot today.
I take this opportunity to stress that these restrictions now being imposed seem to be running into considerable administrative difficulties. Inequities, delays, uncertainties and unnecessary disruption seem to be the order of the day. In a great variety of industries, from sunglasses to shoes and steel sheets, the whole gamut of industry subject to these restrictions and being referred to the Temporary Assistance Authority, if there is not soon some easing of the administrative hold-ups there will be a considerable slowing down in the channels of trade. Also questions arise here of the time being made available to industries to put their case to the Temporary Assistance Authority. That is perhaps somewhat incidental to the present Bill.
I think what I have said well explains the concern, at the time this legislation was first mooted, on the part of industry. However, the report of the interdepartmental committee in recommending the adoption of the GATT code undoubtedly sought to meet the concerns expressed by the industry. The general theme of the report, having examined the changes to be made, was that these changes need not prevent the Government from taking effective anti-dumping action, thus avoiding damage to Australian industry. The Bill before the House appears to have been drafted to achieve this purpose. It is a proper purpose. Dumping is universally regarded as an improper, unacceptable practice, and proper powers are essential to combat it. But there are some questions that need to be asked and answered in addition to those raised by my colleagues.
There is the question of flexibility of interpretation which the interdepartmental committee suggested is available to such a degree that the Government’s ability effectively to counter dumping would not be impaired despite differences between the long standing Australian legislation- the existing Act- and the GATT code. I think that finding by the committee is an accurate statement if the will is there to make it such. The direction taken in the flexibility of interpretation is, in dealing with dumping, probably more important in many ways than the actual terms of the legislation. There is great administrative scope in this area. The plain truth is that it is possible for a Customs department effectively to counter dumping even though the legislation is weak. Conversely, an administrative attitude tending towards undue leniency for dumped imports can render strong legislation quite ineffective. There is a widespread view in industry which has some merit, that dumping administration is something of a pendulum which periodically swings too far, say, in favour of the importer and then is brought back into the other course by the protests of local industry. That is not how it should be. The responsibility of government is to ensure that Australian industry is not damaged by dumping. As I have said, dumping is universally recognised as an unacceptable practice. The Government’s responsibility in this matter is to the producers in Australia and to the people they employ. I stress that point. I hope that the Minister will assure the House that the appropriate administrative intent will be there in relation to this legislation.
There is one apparent point of difference between the existing legislation and the present Bill to which I invite a response from the Minister. In clause 8 and in other corresponding clauses the Bill requires that injury shall be ‘material ‘ before action is taken, whereas the existing legislation speaks of it as being ‘not insubstantial’. Thus, section 11 of the existing Act states that a reference in the relevant sections of the existing Act to ‘injury’ does not ‘include a reference to an insubstantial injury’. Will the Minister assure the House in this respect that, in the terms of the Bill, the reference to ‘material injury’ is not different in import from the provision in the existing Act which, as I said, refers to ‘injury’ and in a subsequent clause says that the reference to an injury does not ‘include a reference to an insubstantial injury’.
Let me deal with another point. As my colleague has noted, the Bill renders a significant change in the present system in that it empowers the Minister to take anti-dumping action without the prior requirement of a reference to the Industries Assistance Commission and a recommendation from the IAC that dumping and injury are occurring. This, as my colleague has suggested, is a sensible improvement. As I think he also said, the Tariff Board in its 1964-65 report recommended that this change be made. It has taken this time, the timing difficulties which the GATT code otherwise would have created, a report from Sir John Crawford and the Chairman of the IAC to bring it about.
What the Tariff Board said in effect in 1 964-65 was that its inquiries produced little or nothing additional to the information already on Department of Customs and Excise files and that the matters could therefore as well be determined by the Minister. It did recommend that there be appeal provisions and such are now included, properly, in the Bill. As I suggested, this change is, I believe, a sensible move and an improvement. I only express the hope that departmental zeal will not spoil the effect. The statement by the Tariff Board clearly implied that the information asked for by the Board in connection with its dumping inquiries, to the extent that they exceeded that which was gathered in by the Department of Customs and Excise, was in fact unnecessary, though the rigidity of the system has naturally meant that, even so, the Tariff Board and its successor, the LAC have gone on asking for this considerable mass of information even up to this day.
What one would hope is that the change incorporated in the Bill, that such a reference to the LAC is no longer necessary, might remove from industry the burden of furnishing all the information asked for by the LAC, formerly by the Tariff Board. If the Department of Customs and Excise could do the job in 1964 and subsequently with considerably less information than the Tariff Board and subsequently the LAC have asked for, it could be expected that the present Department could operate under the proposed new legislation with the same amount of information. But that does not seem to be the case. The Department is now issuing a questionnaire on dumping cases which asks for about the same mass of information as the LAC did until recently.
The earlier Customs Department questionnaire was a comparatively thin document which contained 15 questions under headings such as description of goods, price information, information on injury, details of Australian consumption, some brief details on capacity, production and sales. It was not a greatly complicated questionnaire and completing it was not an unreasonable burden to place on the applicant. But the new questionnaire asks for that information and also looks for an enormous amount of additional information including a statement on manufacturing, trading and profit and loss over a 4-year period, return on total assets employed, and detailed statements of funds employed. I have copies of the questionnaires here, I was going to suggest that they be incorporated in Hansard but together as they are rather long I will table them for the information of honourable members who may be interested in this matter.
I seriously ask the Attorney-General to look into this question and I urge him to take action to ease yet another burden in time and cost which otherwise will be imposed on industry for no good reason. I repeat that if the Department of Customs could do such a job with the information it required previously from industry and the Tariff Board itself declared its inquiry to be unnecessary, the Department should be able to go on doing the same job with the same information.
There is one other aspect in regard to the questionnaire that I would like to mention. It has always been accepted in these matters that the threat of injury from dumping justifies antidumping action as much as if injury has actually taken place. I believe that common sense would seem to suggest that the Government should discharge its responsibilities to local industry if possible before, to use a term currently popular among departmental people, ‘the blood is flowing strongly’. The second paragraph in the foreword to this new questionnaire states:
It will be appreciated that there can be no imposition of dumping duty unless the facts show that: there is dumping; there is injury; the injury is caused by the dumping.
I raise the question of a threat of injury. Admittedly one of the questions in the questionnaire refers to the threat of injury, but the foreword does seem to require, to use the phrase that is current today, that the blood should be actually flowing?
As my colleague the honourable member for Fisher, has said, the Opposition does not oppose this legislation. It supports it essentially on the basis of the views of the interdepartmental committee stated in the section of its report entitled ‘Major differences between the GATT Code and the Dumping and Subsidies Act’. This part of the report refers to the Committee’s examination of other signatories’ national legislation and observation at first hand of ‘the practical operation of the Code’. The Committee’s formed view is that overseas experience suggests that: within limits, flexibility of practice is acceptable under the Code and the salient and desirable features of Australia’s present anti-dumping system would be permissible under the Code.
The Committee goes on to state in paragraph 14:
The Committee noted that the Code attempts to spell out in some detail (more so than the Dumping and Subsidies Act) the conditions necessary before anti-dumping action should be taken. This specification was mentioned tn some representations to the Committee as limiting, to the detriment of Australian industry, the application of dumping duties. In the Committee’s view, these specifications should be regarded as endeavouring to ensure that the interests of all parties including importers and consumers of imports are recognised, and that official action is only taken when material injury (or the threat thereof) due to dumped imports is clearly and reasonably demonstrated.
I trust that the Government confirms these views and that it intends that the new legislation will be administered in comformity with these views.
-I do not oppose this legislation. But I want to point out some of the queer effects of past legislation and I wonder whether the Attorney-General and Minister for Police and Customs (Mr Enderby) would advise me whether this legislation before the House will solve the case I put to him. I shall quote directly from a rather modest article that appeared some time ago in the ‘Financial Review’. It spells out, rather succinctly I think, one of the effects of the legislation that we are repealing. It states:
But in many cases the system - that is our previous dumping legislation- encourages our importers to pay unnecessarily high prices for imports. Let me give an example. The price of paper is fixed in Scandinavia by the big manufacturers; the arrangement is called the ‘Scanfin Convention’ and it is a truly restrictive trade practice arrangement. There is no doubt that the domestic price in Sweden is held artificially high in this way.
Now if a manufacturer in Sweden quotes paper to us at $90 a ton instead of $100 a ton (the price fixed by the price ring) a dumping duty of $ 1 0 a ton would be imposed -
It would be imposed under the previous legislation; I wonder whether is will be imposed under this legislation- because the price was $10 lower than the domestic price in Sweden, i.e. the restrictive trade practice price.
Suppose a keen Australian marchant goes to Sweden and finds a man who is prepared to sell him paper at $10 a ton cheaper than the cartel price. When they start to talk business he realises that he might as well pay $ 100 a ton, it will cost him the same in the end; the dumping duty would bring it up to $100 anyway. And after the deal is closed, the Swedish merchant would, I hope, take the Australian to dinner to spend some of this $10 a ton he has unexpectedly received as a gift from Australia. It would be a pretty lavish meal I guess. But you can imagine the poor Australian trying to puzzle out why, if restrictive trade practices are bad in Australia, we should deliberately encourage them overseas, and why it is thought good for Australia to have to pay the fixed ‘ price, when it could be obtained for less. This seems a queer way of helping Australia, although I can easliy see how it would help the Swedes.
That spells out the other side of the problem, namely that in many cases the dumping duties that used to be fixed under the previous legislation were a direct product of restrictive trade practices legislation which, because of the administration of the previous Act, we were deliberately encouraging. I go back to the meal in Sweden. I understand that meals in Sweden, when an expense account has the carriage of the meal, are pretty lavish and pretty intimate occasions. It seems funny that the exporter who has been encouraged to seek $10 a ton more for goods, because of the previous legislation and because of the existence of the restrictive trade practices legislation, should be able to take people out to an expense account meal- I hesitate to use the words I was going to use- of considerable elegance.
I should like to raise several matters with the Minister. I should like to get his attention. The matters I intend to raise go not to the principle of the Bill but to the details of the Bill. I know that the Minister always has an interest in constructive suggestions. I should like to make one or two suggestions in particular. The honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) has raised the question of like goods. I know that the Minister has received representations on this matter directly from the people who raised it with me. It is quite obvious that we should compare like with like as best we can. But it would be wrong not to make allowance for quantity. If there are large quantities one would expect the price to be lower. That is common throughout the whole of the commercial world. I know that that is a commercial stance of which the Minister would approve, so I do not think he will argue that there ought to be an allowance for quantity as well as for similarity of the goods.
I have had some anxiety in going through the Bill. I keep seeing the words ‘like goods’. Clause 5 (5) reads:
Where the normal value of goods exported to Australia is “ the price paid for like goods and that price and the export price of the goods exported-
are modified in different ways by taxes or the terms or circumstances of the sales to which they relate. . . .
The honourable member for Fisher quoted something which appears both in Article VI of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and in the code. It states:
Due allowance shall be made in each case for differences in conditions and terms of sale, for differences in taxation and for other differences affecting price comparability.
The honourable member for Fisher asked the Minister to state why the GATT and the code phrasing was not used in the Bill instead of the rather difficult to understand phrase to which I have referred. The Opposition will be interested to hear the Minister’s reply. I think the Minister will agree that it is generally of benefit to set out things clearly. I do not pretend to have a very great understanding of legal phraseology but, to my layman’s mind, the code and GATT express the position much more clearly than does this rather loosely worded paragraph (c) of clause 5(5) which I have quoted. I would like the Minister to tell us the reason the wording of the code and GATT, which is the basis for all of this legislation which we do not oppose, has not been used because it seems a much more easily understandable way of expressing maybe the same thing. Perhaps the Minister, when he comes to explain it, could spell out with his usual exemplary logic why that phrase is used in the Bill instead of the wording in the GATT antidumping code and Article VI of GATT.
There is another matter I wish to mention. Perhaps it should not have a place in legislation but it is the kind of thing that should be mentionedI hope it will be- by the Minister when he replies. The GATT code says quite clearly that importers should be given an ample opportunity to present in writing the case that they hope to present. That is pretty important; much more important in fact than most people realise. I have noticed what I would call a glaring example of people not being given such ample opportunity, and I think it should be brought to the notice of the House. Only yesterday a reference was made by the Minister to the Temporary Assistance Authority on kitchen and table glassware, and the evidence has to be ready by Tuesday. The Minister will be able to see the significance of that. What hope have people in the industry of preparing a case opposing that reference to the Temporary Assistance Authority if it is to bring down its recommendations on Wednesday? It is an impossible situation when we consider that people in the industry have only Thursday and Friday- which is Anzac Day- of this week and Monday and Tuesday of next week to prepare a case. I would like the Minister’s assurance that, to guard against this, the importers will be given an opportunity to present their case in writing. The GATT code goes on to say that all information so presented should be available to people contesting one side or the other. Maybe this is not a proper provision to put into the legislation, but I would be gratified if the Minister could assure me that in the interests of proper understanding of the problem an opportunity will be given for a full and open exposition of the case.
I am not contesting the legislation. I want to point out that I think in this case it is a better piece of legislation and certainly it will be better to administer. It will cut out some of the legalism that surrounds the present situation. It is not often that I welcome non-reference to the Industries Assistance Commission. I recognise that the LAC should not be burdened with the work load of considering references for usual dumping cases, most of which follow departmental submissions. I am glad that the legislation has been introduced. However, I would be grateful if the
Minister would respond to the specific recommendations I have made.
– The honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), who just concluded his speech, made his usual interesting, entertaining and valuable contribution. May I say in response to the honourable member that he poses in very succinct form the basic problem that exists and underlies the laws, regulations and machinery that relate to protection for Austalian industry. As I see it, the difficulty is one of adjusting a number of competing claims and achieving a satisfactory compromise without disadvantage to any particular claim. There is also the very important question of ensuring that a rational system operates that avoids the excesses of ad hockery where people, Ministers and governments react time and again to a crisis situation, a situation that just calls for some remedial action. It is often not easy to adjust to 2 claims. As the honourable member for Wakefield indicates by his smile, he is in agreement with me.
This Government, perhaps more than any government, began in 1973 with a firm determination to introduce system into the question of protection for Australian industry, system that would not only be fair to industry and the people employed in industry but fair also to customers and consumers, to the people who have to use goods whether those goods be motor cars, shirts, shoes or whatever they happen to be. Of course, industry is a consumer as well as a manufacturer. History has recorded the difficulties that we ran into.
The honourable member also drew attention to the other element that must not be forgotten, and the Government certainly does not forget it, namely, the element of what lawyers call natural justice. The honourable member drew attention to this when he talked of the need to ensure that, in the adjustment of the other two competing interests, account also is taken of the interests of the importer who wants to have his voice heard and to make representations. Often the greater interest, or another great interest, demands that time be short. This is a great problem for any government to deal with.
I believe that this legislation makes a significant step forward in adjusting those competing interests. The legislation has to be flexible, and yet it should not be so flexible that it avoids certainty. It has to be certain to give assurance yet it has to be flexible so that it can be administered in such a way that it is capable of adjustment and being kept up to date with changing circumstances. With all the temptations to be political to which the Opposition is subject, at least the indications of support for the measure show that in the Opposition’s view the Government has succeeded in part in its endeavours. I shall come back to the honourable member for Wakefield later on if I may.
The honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards) will forgive me if I say, with the most charitable of motives, that it did not strike me that he contributed a great deal to the debate. He went back to 1973 and tried to be political- I say this to him as an old friend- about the 25 per cent tariff cuts, revaluation and matters of that sort. I can hardly imagine him saying things like that were he now to be addressing a student class such as he would have once upon a time as a professor of economics. As I recall the overall situation in 1973 when the Government took those measures, they were universally applauded by all concerned. They were also applauded with reluctance by the honourable member because his own economic expertise told him that they were proper measures to adopt at the time. Subsequently, for political reasons which one who is a politician has to understand, he tries to back away from this attitude. But it seemed to me he raised little in his discussion apart from the remarks which he directed to the operation of clause 5 (5) (c) of the Bill. Indeed, that was touched upon by the honourable member for Wakefield and the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) in the contributions which they made to the debate.
The simple explanation is that there has been a choice of language which departs from the language in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade for the simple reason which I put to the honourable member for Wakefield. One has to avoid rigidity. In the interests of flexibility one has to move and give a large degree of ministerial discretion. The language does that very thing. I read it to honourable members to remind them. Of course, the operative part is the final section of paragraph (c) which states: . . . that price paid for like goods is to be taken to be that price paid adjusted in accordance with directions by the Minister. . . .
Here is a situation where one can say that the Minister’s decision is as long as the Minister’s foot; it will vary from Minister to Minister. It is a change from the old jibe of a decision varying as much as the Chancellor’s foot. But unfortunately that is in the nature of modern legislation. I say quite sincerely that it is unfortunate because there can be little certainty in some ways about an expression which is used in legislation like this. Yet the nature of anti-dumping legislation requires that this be so. I see that the honourable member for Berowra nods his head. Certainty as opposed to flexibility is a continually perplexing problem. Laws cannot be made and unmade every day of the week. Someone has to be given discretion. Politicians on one side of the fence or the other say: ‘You will exercise your discretion for base motives’. In my experience that hardly ever happens. I do not care whether the Minister is a member of the Liberal Party, the Australian Country Party or the Australian Labor Party; it is rare for that sort of thing to happen. In fact, it is almost unheard of. So that is the reason for the choice of language there.
Honourable members on both sides know that the Government proposes to introduce at the Committee stage some amendments which reflect the difficulties posed by the very subject matter. When the Bill was being prepared great care was taken in relation to arriving at an export price where the device, the trade practice, exists in this country, in a country like Sweden or in any other country as described by the honourable member for Wakefield. This is a continuing thing because as one makes a law here one day some practice overseas changes tomorrow. We have to give discretion. We ran into difficulty in the definiton clause, as honourable members know, when we put the definition in clause 4 paragraph (c) which states ‘in any other case’. In any event, it is a wide general description to take care of a consignment transaction. We had to provide for ministerial discretion. On closer study, we found that the definition of importer, read one way, in an overseas context could include not only importers but also exporters because the transfer of property from the exporter to the importer occurred only when the importer or his agent effected a sale in this country. So we must move now to put it right, even after the lapse of such a short time between the introduction of this Bill into the House and the resumption of the second reading debate to day.
I think they are the principal points to which I wish to reply. One point was raised by the honourable member for Fisher about Article 6 of GATT. Our obligations there will be honoured. I can tell him that. I hope that is all he required. That was the gist of his question. There should be no difficulty. We give that assurance.
– What about the public disclosure of evidence and the availability of evidence for perusal?
– Is the honourable member directing his question to the matter of the Minister making a decision rather than the decision having been made by the Industries Assistance Commission?
– I suggest that the honourable member for Wakefield raise these matters in Committee.
– It might be easier. I thank you, Mr Speaker. I think they are the only matters on which I wish to say a few words.
– It is a question of the interpretation of material.
-Perhaps we could deal with that matter in Committee. As all honourable members would appreciate, the question of antidumping legislation is extremely important. In a world which is resorting increasingly to trading blocs because of an increased degree of competitionalmost trade wars in some areas- one can expect and must expect increasing resort to dumping measures, whether they be hidden dumping or dumping of a more overt kind. The task for any potential recipient country is to adapt continually and to change its machinery to take account of the changing devices in overseas countries which, for one reason or anotherbalance of payments reasons, this and that- are more and more in need of finding an outlet for their goods in competition with the other exporting members of the international community.
I tell honourable members of one experience which is known to me. It relates to the world of motor cars. The Department of Customs was suspicious that a certain form of dumping was taking place. I will not be too particular, if honourable members do not mind. The dumping was in the area of motor cars coming into Australia from one country. By the ordinary old fashioned manual methods there was no way to discover and reveal the form of dumping that was taking place. Yet it was working to the detriment of Australian manufacturing industry. It could be argued that it was working to the advantage of the Australian buyers of motor cars because they were getting their cars cheaper than what might otherwise have been the case, but perhaps at the risk of exposing other Australians employed in the motor car industry to the possibility of losing their jobs. After a very deep and detailed study using the most modern systems of computer analysis, examination of sales, comparison of prices being asked for at sales, cost insurance freight figures and f.o.b. figures, the hidden dumping was revealed and the matter was put right. Even at the lower level of measuring the advantage of it being put right in terms of what it meant to the Australian Government in lost duties, it was about $250,000 in a very short period.
I put to honourable members that the problem is a continuing one. This measure is a significant step forward. We thank members of the Opposition for supporting it. We welcome their questions. This measure, apart from its means of protecting Australian industry and of doing the right thing for Australian consumers, gives effect to a very important principle by which this Government stands. That principle is adhering, accepting and honouring our obligations as a member of the international community and that is why we subscribe to this General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Doing so minimises resistance by those countries which are conducting dumping inquiries within their territories and by acceding to it as a code we become a member of the International Committee on Anti-Dumping Practices which subscribes to and takes further the international comity of nations and gives us advantages as well.
Dr EDWARDS (Berowra)-I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I hesitate to respond once again to the charge by the AttorneyGeneral and Minister for Police and Customs (Mr Enderby) but at the time of the 25 per cent tariff cut I did oppose the measure, not least on the ground of its adverse effect on business confidence and on long term planning by industry. I saw it as one of a series of cumulative measures by this Government that has undermined both the confidence and capacity of industry to invest which is at the core of the present malaise of this nation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
-There are circulated amendments and it might suit the convenience of the Committee for the 4 amendments to be taken together. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The amendments circulated in my name relate to clauses 4 and 1 5, which read in part:
1 ) In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears- export price’, in relation to goods exported to Australia, means-
the profit, if any, on the sale to that person or, where the Minister so directs, the amount calculated in accordance with such rate as the Minister, having regard to all the circumstances of the sale, specifies, in writing, as the rate that, for the purposes of this Act, is to be regarded as the rate of profit on the sale; or
Perhaps I need not say a great deal about the amendments. I understand that officers from the Department have been available to honourable members opposite to explain the reasoning.
– They have not been available to me.
-The honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) came into the debate late. I touched on the reasons in the words I uttered at the conclusion of the second reading debate. If honourable members peruse the interpretation clause, clause 4, they will see that the final paragraph refers to commodity consignment transactions in any case other than those mentioned previously in the clause. There is a reference to importer’- I say this for the benefit of the honourable member for Wakefield- and the definition of ‘importer’ is as follows: in relation to goods exported to Australia, means the beneficial owner of the goods at the time of their arrival within the limits of the port or airport in Australia at which they are landed.
In practice the Government accepts that the transference of property as a matter of law passes from the exporter in some overseas country to a person in Australia only when the exporter’s agent in Australia effects the sale. We could get a situation using that definition of importer’ whereby the importer is also the exporter, so it is necessary to include certain words in the earlier part of the definition. The words we seek to have inserted are: have been so exported otherwise than by the importer and ‘
That takes account of the fact that we could get a situation where the importer argued that he was the exporter. When it came to the Minister’s job of determining an expert price the Minister could hardly do it with the importer saying: ‘I am also the exporter’. The amendment draws attention to an ambiguity which on closer study has been revealed. The amendment to clause 15 is simply to correct a typographical error.
– I have listened to the explanation given by the AttorneyGeneral and Minister for Police and Customs (Mr Enderby) and he is not quite right. We hope in the future that it will not happen in this way. We trust the Minister implicitly. He is a benign and friendly man and we have accepted his explanation, but he said that honourable members of this side of the House knew. I did not know about this until I got a call fairly late this afternoon. I could not absorb in those few minutes the import of the amendments. I know sometimes that it is not possible, but if the Minister for
Police and Customs (Mr Enderby) wants us to consider amendments such as these that involve definition- I am not talking about the fourth one, the typographical one, with which we agree wholeheartedly- I would hope that we could have a closer look at them. If we consider this matter in retrospect and look at it more deeply there could sometimes be a need to discuss it amongst ourselves and to make some other amendment in the other place. We do not intend to do that. We have tried to offer our co-‘ operation fully in respect of this and all such Bills. I think the Minister will know that I have done that. I hope that in the future the Minister will do what he can to make sure that we receive more adequate notice because we did not know of or understand completely the amendments until they were put on the table while I was making my second reading speech. I think the Minister will realise that probably we can co-operate more if the system is streamlined a little bit in the way that he has streamlined things in this Bill.
Mr Speaker did suggest that we could deal with a couple of matters at the Committee stage. The question that I asked, and the question that the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) asked and the Minister did not fully cover, related to Article VI of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade anti-dumping code. We pointed out that there is not only the situation of making submissions but also an opportunity to see all information that is relevant to the presentation of their cases. That is the matter we raised. We are not trying to be difficult. We are just asking the Minister whether he can give us some indication, in the light of the fact that there is not be to an Industries Assistance Commission investigation beforehand, of what is in practice the machinery for fulfilling the second part of the question which we asked. That is the matter with which I am not quite conversant yet. I did not quite follow the argument of the Minister. I do not think he dealt with that aspect and I raise that matter again now.
– I want to come back to the question which I raised and on which I did not receive an assurance from the Minister for Police and Customs (Mr Enderby). I will spell it out. An example of the problem can be seen in clause 5 (7) (b), which states:
That is an example of the responsibility of the Minister. I am not denying that it is a proper responsibility that the Minister ought to carry. But the problem is briefly that previously in all such dumping references there was an Industries Assistance Commission or Tariff Board report in which the problems were spelt out in public and in which the parties had the opportunity to hear and contest the case put forward by the opposing side. The Minister has said, I think quite wisely, that it should not be done in this way and that it should be done more or less by a departmental inquiry followed by ministerial decision. At the second reading stage I mentioned the problem that is spelt out in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade which states that the people affected should have an opportunity to present their cases. I spelt out a rather frightening example that there could be a Temporary Assistance Authority reference yesterday and an expectation that a reasonable case could be presented on Tuesday with Anzac Day intervening. I spelt that out as an example to show that the system must not be allowed to exist. That is why under the GATT code it was made obligatory that a person have an opportunity of spelling out his case. That having been done, it was obligatory that the opposing side have an opportunity to look at the evidence that had been presented. If the Government is to take away, as I think it should, the obligation for an LAC reference, I think there is an additional obligation on the Government to ensure that the opposing side sees the case that has been presented and has an opportunity to answer it. I can see the Minister nodding. All I am asking for now is an assurance from him that he will ensure that the legislation, when it is enacted, will be administered in this way.
– I give the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) the assurance that he seeks- consistent of course, with reasonableness, because one cannot foresee every circumstance. As I thought I indicated to him in my reply to the second reading debate, that is our intent. Consistent with the maintenance of confidentiality, one has to make known or to publish representations so that, as I said earlier, the principle of natural justice can be followed. I also draw the honourable member’s attention to clause 14 of the Bill, which is consistent with what I have said. With your leave, Mr Chairman, I will depart a little from what would be the normal course to be followed in a debate at the Committee stage. Clause 14 reads:
The Minister shall not cause a notice to be published under any provision of this Act unless he is satisfied that the publication of the notice is not inconsistent with the obligations of Australia under any international agreement relating to traiffs or trade.
I hope that that satisfies the honourable members for Wakefield.
-During the second reading debate I referred to one apparent point of difference between the present Act and this Bill. As I pointed out, the Bill requires that injury shall be ‘material’ before action is taken, whereas the present Act speaks, in effect, of the injury being ‘not insubstantial’. The interdepartmental committee was of the view that these qualifications or terms are synonomous and that no change in the present attitude or administration would be required. I am asking, as I asked during the second reading debate, that the Minister confirm this to the Committee on behalf of the Government.
– I have been advised of a piece of interesting history. It goes back into the history of the Parliamentary Counsel. I need not mention the honourable gentleman’s name, but I am advised that the use of the word ‘material’ was objected to in earlier days because it was said not to be able to qualify and to act as an adjective, but rather related to a piece of material. For that reason, largely, the other expressions were used. That is said just in passing. Obviously, by way of a serious note, the 2 terms ‘not insubstantial’ and material ‘ mean the same thing.
Amendments agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Enderby)- by leaveread a third time.
Consideration resumed from 6 March on motion by Mr Enderby:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Enderby) read a third time.
Bill reported from the Senate with amendments.
Motion (by Mr Charles Jones) agreed to:
That the amendments be taken into consideration in Committee of the whole House forthwith.
Consideration of Senate’s amendments.
Senate’s amendment No. 1-
In sub-clause (1), leave out ‘is directly or indirectly interested in a contract made or proposed to be made’, insert has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in a matter being considered or about to be considered ‘.
Senate ‘s amendment No. 2-
In sub-clause ( 1 ), after ‘persons ‘, insert ‘ and of which he is not a director’.
– I move:
That the amendments be agreed to.
These amendments arise from a suggestion made during the debate on the Bill in this House last week. The original wording of sub-clause 15 (1) follows that of the corresponding provisions in the Acts relating to other statutory authorities within the Transport portfolio. During the debate in this House the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) asked me to consider amendments to sub-clause 15(1) to require disclosure of an interest by a member when that member is a director of the company involved, even though his interest is in common with 25 or more other persons. Such an amendment would bring the wording more into line with the corresponding provisions in the Children’s Commission Bill. I felt there was some merit in the honourable member’s suggestion, and indeed I felt there would be merit in amending sub-clause 15 (1) to bring it fully into line with the wider provisions of the Children’s Commission Bill, which refer to a matter rather than to a contract. These amendments were sponsored in the Senate by the Government and I commend them to the House.
– I welcome the amendments made in response to my suggestion in the debate in this House on the Road Safety and Standards Authority Bill. Honourable members will be aware that in speaking to a number of Bills that have been before the House, and more recently the Bill today concerning the Trade Union Training Authority, I have made similar suggestions. I have asked that in the clauses dealing with the requirement to disclose interests by members of corporations -in this case the Road Safety and Standards Authority and, in the case of the Trade Union Training Authority Bill, the authority that was being established under that Bill- the appropriate persons be required to reveal wider interests than those originally proposed. As the Minister said, that restriction originally did not include companies of which a member of a commission or authority might be a director, but included cases where such a member was a shareholder of a company which had fewer than 25 shareholders. I believe that this provision is desirable because it will make those people who will form the boards or authorities more responsible. I do not think that pecuniary interest clauses yet accommodate all of the propositions that I would like to suggest in the long term in relation to statutory authorities in order to make members of such authorities responsible, but I believe that this uniformity is desirable. For my part, therefore, I welcome the amendments and I know of no objection that the Opposition would have to them.
Amendments agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 9 April on motion by Dr Patterson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Dried Fruits Levy Bill, as they are related measures. Of course, separate questions will be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. Therefore, I suggest, Mr Deputy
Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering both Bills? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-The Opposition welcomes the introduction of these 2 Bills. The Dried Fruits Export Charges Bill is designed to seek approval of the House for the conversion to metric measure of the maximum permissible rates of charge on export dried fruits. At a superficial glance, this is a very simple matter. In his second reading speech the Minister states that numerous Australian industries have already converted to metric measurement, and many others are well advanced in that program of conversion. In fact, the dried vine fruits industry converted to metric measurement with the commencement of the present season on 1 March. Therefore, the industry has recommended to the Government the changes that are now put into effect by this Bill. The second variation proposed in this Bill is that the maximum rate of charge that may be applied will be altered. I will not refer to the fractions that the Minister has already mentioned in his speech as being part of the metric conversion. The Minister then said that this proposal was simply a substitution of the nearest rational metric equivalent of the previous rate, although it incidentally resulted in an increase of 5.8 per cent in the maximum rate of charge. I do not object to that proposal. I am quite sure the Opposition does not object to it but, as I hope to explain in a little while, the change has certain implications in relation to the costs of the end product and the return to the producers.
The Dried Fruits Levy Bill 1975, which is the second of the 2 Bills we are considering, also aims to convert to metric measurement the maximum permissible rates of levy on dried fruits received at packing houses. As he pointed out in relation to the other Bill, in his second reading speech on this Bill the Minister says that the industry recommends, and the Government favours, the type of Bill that is now before the House. The first amendment simply proposes to substitute the metric unit, the tonne, for the imperial unit, the ton, on which the levies are based. A second proposed amendment provides that the maximum rate of levy which may be applied will be altered from $1 per ton to $1 per tonne, and so on, throughout the rest of the legislation as amended by this Bill.
In this case again, it is simply a substitution of the nearest rational metric equivalents of the previous rates, and incidentally it results in an increase of 1.6 per cent in the maximum rates of levy. The first thing that I had better explain in tying up my remarks to the two points to which I have referred in the case of each Bill is that the changes have a direct relationship with the economics of the industry. I do not intend to belabour this point more than is necessary. In a few minutes, I hope to get leave to table a chart showing the volume of production in this industry in this country, as against price increases due to a world shortage of dried vine fruit products.
When I do that, the first thing that will be discernible to honourable members in relation to this matter is that, in a situation of low supply that is due primarily to frosts in California and one or two other reasons, there are many growers in Australia today in all States who do not see an awful lot of sense in the exercise of raising, by way of levies within the industry, funds for either promotion to be done by the Australian Dried Fruits Association or for research to be carried out as a result of the implications of the 2 Bills before the House. This is a matter of some concern to the growers. I hope I have established with you, Mr Deputy Speaker, the point of connection between the 2 Bills before the House and my remarks in this respect. I repeat that there are very many growers of dried vine fruits in Australia who cannot see the sense of obtaining promotion funds or of imposing promotion levies and research levies in the current situation of a short supply on the Australian market, a short supply on the export markets of the world and high prices and when in effect the industry does not have- at this point in time at any rate- the volume necessary to supply either of those 2 markets.
Having made that point straight away, Mr Deputy Speaker, I hope that I will be able to tie in my remarks directly with the provisions of these 2 Bills. If the economics of the industry, which I feel I have directly connected with the provisions of these 2 Bills, are to be applied the neatest way in which I can get to the core of the problem without wasting the time of this House is to seek to have incorporated in Hansard many of the historical and statistical facts in relation to the stabilisation schemes that have operated for the benefit of the dried vine fruits industry over a period of years. There have been 2 separate dried vine fruits stabilisation schemes. Between them there was a gap of 2 years when the dried vine fruits stabilisation scheme did not apply as a result of a direct vote of the growers. I am not quite sure how much of the documentation in front of me I have shown to the Minister, but I have certainly shown him 2 tables provided by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. The first table deals with world production and Australian production between 1969 and 1973. The second table has been taken from another paper produced for me by the Parliamentary Library and concerns a summary of the operations of the 1964-68 stabilisation scheme. It shows the effect of a stabilisation scheme on an industry such as this one. The third table I wish to have incorporated is a summary of the operations of the 1971-75 stabilisation scheme.
Although the matter that the honourable member is mentioning is of very great interest and importance to the industry, the Bills themselves deal mainly with conversion to the metric system and the making of arrangements to cover that conversion. The legislation does not provide for a general debate on the industry as such. If the honourable member were to read the second reading speeches of the Minister I think he would note that they are practically confined to conversion to the metric system.
-With the greatest deference Mr Deputy Speaker, I spent some minutes in the initial stages of my speech quoting from the second reading speeches of the Minister on these Bills in order to establish the fact that the Bills provide for a consequential increase in the levies imposed on the producers. That will have an effect upon the incomes of the producers. The incomes of producers is directly involved in the operations of the stabilisation schemes over two 5-year periods. I am sure that a look at Hansard will show you, Mr Deputy Speaker, precisely how I have tied in my remarks.
– If the honourable member continues to relate his remarks to that aspect he will be in order.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. To save time, having shown these 3 sets of figures to the Minister, I seek the permission of the House to have them incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows)-
– Having had the figures for the periods of the 2 stabilisation schemes incorporated in Hansard, I will be able to finalise my remarks in a few minutes. The industry has suffered quite considerably during the period of the last 5-year stabilisation scheme. I hope that I have tied in to your satisfaction, Mr Deputy Speaker, the connection between my remarks in that respect and the effects on the industry of the increased levies provided for in these Bills. The industry has been adversely affected by currency revaluations, the withdrawal of preferential marketing arrangements, the British entry into the European Economic Community, increased labour difficulties and increasing input costs in Australia. One could say also that it has been helped by other movements in currencies, particularly the per cent devaluation of sterling. In that respect I pause to point out that by and large the industry, thanks to high prices on the overseas markets, has ridden this particular storm very well. Traditionally the dried fruit industry has exported two-thirds of its production and only one-third has been used internally. The industry has been able to overcome difficulties because of its productivity on the one hand and, on the other hand, because of high export realisations that have occurred over the last 2 years.
I shall try to save the time of the House by not going through the reasons for the establishment of a stabilisation scheme, the implications of which can be read clearly from the incorporated charts. I comment finally on the owner operator’s allowance in relation to the stabilisation scheme. Some months ago I put a series of questions on this matter to the Minister for Northern Development. The answers I received I suppose could be referred to as satisfactory. I can show no more enthusiasm than that. But I now make the direct statement that the owner operator’s allowance represents the value of the operator’s labour and only his labour. It is equal in value only to the wages of a leading hand as specified by the dried fruit industry award. While some allowance was made for the owner operator’s labour in determining the original base price in the last stabilisation scheme in 1971, no account has been taken of the adjustments required to the allowance since 1971 in that base price. Movements in the operator’s allowance, along with other non-cash costs, are not included in the index used for adjustment because any benefit flowing from the scheme tends to become capitalised into the items represented by non-cash costs and this, therefore, has a spiralling effect. In effect what I am saying quite simply is: The industry takes part in a stabilisation scheme because- I use the words of the industry and not the Government; it was our Government, not the present Government which introduced the scheme- it had to accept the package deal. The owner-operator costs were written in in 1971 when costs were totally irrelevant to the rising costs today. So we have the rather ridiculous situation applying in quite a proportion of my electorate where an owner-operator pays 1 Vi times or twice the rate of wage to a top hand that he gets himself as owner-operator costs as written into the 5-year stabilisation scheme that started in 1971.
There is an area of discontent with the implications of these 2 Bills in relation to this matter because rightly or wrongly- I think the owner-operators have some merit in their casethey feel themselves squeezed down by the stabilisation scheme to which they as an industry agreed. On the other hand, under the provisions of these 2 Bills the increased levies of 1 .6 per cent and 5.8 per cent are net outgoings from their wages. If anything establishes the relevance of my remarks it is that point. The 2 aspects are interwoven. Whether the Chair considers they are legitimately interwoven is immaterial from the point of view of the growers.
-I think the Chair has been infinitely patient.
– The Chair always has been irrespective of who occupies it. I am pointing out that there is in the minds of growers a direct relationship between the implications of the levies as set out in these 2 Bills and what they feel is a higher levy when they are being squeezed in relation to owner-operator costs in the way I have just mentioned. I have not had time or opportunity to explain the full implications of the 3 charts which I have had incorporated in Hansard. I have only touched on some of the implications which are involved. I repeat again that the Opposition welcomes the 2 Bills and I think justifiably I have dealt with an area in which there is a little bit of difficulty in relation to this legislation.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (9.31)-The honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) mentioned the fact that some of the growers have questioned the benefits to be obtained from the levies referred to in the legislation because of the volume of supply of dried fruits. I would think that anyone connected with the dried fruits industry would be very shortsighted if he questioned the value of the levy for that reason because we all know that even over the last few years there has been a wide fluctuation in the supply of dried fruits. In any case if honourable members study the reports they will find that the dried fruits levy is more concerned with the quality of the fruit than it is with the quantity.
I support the Dried Fruits Levy Bill 1975 and the Dried Fruits Export Charges Bill 1975. I point out that although the purpose of the Dried Fruits Levy Bill is to seek the approval of the Parliament for conversion to metric measure of the maximum permissible rates of levy on dried fruits received at packing houses, as provided in the Dried Fruits Levy Act 1971, this can be done only by changing the maximum rate of levy from 50c per ton to 50c per tonne for dried vine fruits and by changing the rate from $2.50 per ton to $2.50 per tonne for dried tree fruits. Like all changes to metric measure this change brings about a small increase in the charge, but I want to point out that there is a great difference in this case. I believe that it represents one of the best examples of cost control that one could find in any area of commerce today because it represents an increase only in the maximum permissible rates of levy of 1.6 per cent but as the levy is now operating at only half the maximum permissible rate the increase is less than 1 per cent- it is 0.8 per cent. I believe that this is to the credit of the co-operation of the Government and the Dried Fruits Research Committee. I think that it is an even more satisfactory position if one remembers when the original Dried Fuits Bill was introduced in this House. I recall the member for New England (Mr Sinclair) saying:
The amount of the levy will be recoverable from growers returns. On average levels of production the levy on currants, sultanas and raisins is expected to raise some $45,000 annually from the industry. Levies on dried fruit trees are expected to yield some SI 5,000 per annum. These amounts together with matching funds from the Commonwealth should provide approximately $120,000 annually.
I found that there was a great resentment in the dried fruit area when the first report of the Dried Fruits Research Committee was issued because, in that, we find that the industry collection from the dried fruit levy amounted to $46,238.85 and the Commonwealth contribution in that year to June 1972 amounted to only $11,752.74. If we look at the next year’s report, that for the year ended 30 June 1973, we find a slightly better performance: The levy collection amounted to $69,839.82 and the Commonwealth contribution was $35,519.86. Therefore we must go to the more recent report, which is only an interim report, concerning the Dried Fruits Research Committee trust account, which shows that the levy collection amounted to $43,810.26 and the Commonwealth contribution amounted to $32,442.61.
The point I wish to make is that the impression was given that the Government would match the levy collection. The total amount contributed by the growers to the trust account was $149,888.93, but the Government contributed in this period only $79,715.21, or about one-half of what the growers contributed. Admittedly, this is in accordance with the Act, but the impression was given that the Government would pay onehalf of the total amount but, of course, the balance of the money is still in the trust account. I come now to the point that is worrying growers in the area. The growers and others connected with the industry are concerned that if the credit balance in the fund is allowed to build up to a high level some future government might take the attitude that there was no reason for the Government to subsidise approved research projects from the fund. It could say, ‘As the fund has enough money itself, why should it be subsidised?’ When one inquires a little deeper into the reason for this fear of the growers they say: ‘Well you have the Country Party and the Liberal Party saying that they will cut down on Government spending. ‘ I believe that the Liberal Party and the Country Party are putting fear into rural industry. I think it is time that the Country Party at least, if not the Liberal Party, came out and said openly where it would cut down on government spending.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! I ask that the honourable member try to relate his remarks to the context of the BUI.
-I am trying to point out the concern of the growers in that area regarding the levy, to which the BiN refers.
– I have allowed a good deal of latitude.
– I am speaking about the levy, which is referred to in the BUI, and trying to point out that any such course of reducing the rate of the levy would be inflationary, not antiinflationary. I believe that the Opposition should make a clear statement on this matter so that people who are planning for the future will know just what they can do. The fruitgrowers in the area I represent, the Wentworth area, waited for 35 years under a Liberal-Country Government which made no attempt to reduce the salinity in the waters of the Murray River which vastly affects the economic position of the dried fruit industry. They have had to wait just as long for the Victorian and New South Wales Liberal Party State Governments to decide the location of a new bridge over the river. Mr Deputy Speaker, I do not want to cross any further over the bridge because I know you would not allow me. In any case, we have enough problems, after 23 years of Liberal-Country Party Government on the New South Wales side of the river.
All I want to say in conclusion on the Dried Fruits Levy Bill is that any reduction in Government spending on research projects would be tragic. I have had the opportunity to see the beneficial result of some of the research projects. One such project which comes to mind which the honourable member for Angus would know about just as well as I would is the trellis cutting of the fruit bearing canes to trellis dry the grapes. After the recent storm damage this saved a large proportion of the crop. For that reason alone, without all the other projects mentioned in the reports of the Dried Fruits Research Committee, this levy is well justified.
Before entering Parliament I had a wide experience in trust accounts. I feel that the dried fruits committee that handles the trust account mentioned in the Bill should be congratulated for the capable way it has handled the fund. It can be sure that while I am a member of this Parliament my voice will be raised to see that the full benefits of its efficiency in handling this trust account are appreciated and protected.
I also want to say a few words about the Dried Fruits Export Charges Bill. Although I have some doubts about the overall benefit of metric measurement, I believe at this point of time it would be foolish to try to turn the clock back. The conversion to metric measurement is well on its way, and of course we cannot stop industries from changing over. As a matter of fact, as the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) has said and as the honourable member for Angas has reminded us, the dried fruit industry converted to metric measurement with the commencement of the present season on 1 March 1975. It is very pleasing for me as a representative of a large area of dried fruit growers to know that the Government is very keen to support the desires of the industry. For that reason I support the 2 Bills before the House.
-The 2 Bills that we are debating, the Dried Fruits Levy Bill and the Dried Fruits Export Charges Bill, are both primarily concerned with conversion to metric measurement. In the Dried Fruits Levy Bill there are 2 proposed amendments. Firstly, the metric unit, the tonne, is substituted for the Imperial unit, the ton. The second amendment provides that the maximum rate of levy which can be applied will change from $ 1 per ton to $ 1 per tonne for dried vine fruits and from $5 per ton to $5 per tonne for dried tree fruits. This change, as has already been pointed out, has the effect of increasing by 1.6 per cent the maximum rate of the levy. While I believe the industry organisation at large has no complaint with this incidental increase, there is a disquiet amongst individual growers at the fact that this will necessarily increase their overall costs.
Most of the funds raised by this levy are directed towards the financing of the Dried Fruits Research Committee, which is responsible to the Government for scientific, technical and economic research in connection with the production, processing or packing of dried fruits. It probably is true to say that no other industry in Australia has pursued research programs with such fervour and success. Continued improvements in quality and, as a result, world acceptance of the industry’s products have been of considerable assistance to the Australian Dried Fruits Control Board in planning export market programs. The industry’s products are required by buyers all over the world, and it is without doubt that an industry backed by sound research into processing, packing, marketing and promotional procedures will retain the buyers ‘ interest.
Additional research into new end uses and byproducts is expected to increase considerably in the near future. These additional avenues of research should result in the development of products to increase the per capita consumption of dried fruits not only in Australia but also overseas. As the honourable member for Darling (Mr FitzPatrick) pointed out one aspect of the research that is being carried out, I think it is fair for me to mention some of the other research projects for 1973 and 1974. These include processing and quality control of dried vine fruits and the long term effects of summer pruning of sultanas. Of course, new products are being researched and investigated. One example is the research into prunes. The promotional activities initiated by the Australian Dried Fruits Association during last week include a $450,000 plan to boost sales. Media advertising is to be used in an endeavour to gain more dried fruit consumers and so to increase sales on a permanent basis. Surveys carried out by the Australian Dried Fruits Association have shown that there are 2 relatively untapped sections of consumers which are open for development. An adequate crop of sultanas this season will provide an opportunity to promote dried fruit products to school children aged between 8 and 14 years and housewives aged between 24 and 35 years. A large response to this campaign is anticipated by planned marketing research.
The second Bill with which we are dealing, the Dried Fruits Export Charges Bill, also contains 2 variations to previous legislation. The first substitutes the kilogram for the lb on which the charge on exports of dried fruit is based. The other variation alters the charge from three-tenths of a cent for each lb to seven-tenths of a cent for each kilogram. Once again this increases- this time by 5.8 per cent- the maximum charge rate. This charge, as pointed out already in connection with the Dried Fruits Levy Bill, has the agreement of the industry and therefore receives my support. But once again I must mention that this must, in a fashion, add to the costs of the growers. Funds raised under the Dried Fruits Export Charges
Act are used by the Australian Dried Fruits Control Board in the control, sale and distribution after export of Australian dried currants, sultanas and raisins. Last season the rate of the levy applicable amounted to $3.36 a ton and the total raised was $132,589. It must be emphasised at this point that the operations of the Control Board form no charge on the Consolidated Revenue of the Australian Government.
The Australian dried fruits industry has proved that it has the organisation to manage competently the production and marketing of its product in a most efficient and economic manner. The Parliament Will be aware that a reference has been made to the Industries Assistance Commission. The Commission is inquiring into and reporting on the need or otherwise for a stabilisation plan for the dried vine fruits industry. The present plan was accepted by the previous Government in 1971 and it expires this year. I think it is fair to point out, in relation to the comments of the honourable member for Darling, that the scheme was introduced by the former Government and I believe that at the end of the previous 5-year plan a credit was returned to the growers. If any concern is being expressed throughout the dried fruits area about the future of our scheme, I think it must be concern that the scheme may be changed as a result of the change of government.
This industry is small in comparison with others but it has made valuable contributions to Australia ‘s export earnings in the past. In terms of world production, Australia ranks fourth behind only the United States of America, Turkey and Greece. The industry is almost totally confined to a compact region of the Murray River. The 3 honourable members who have spoken on this BUI tonight probably represent well over 90 per cent of the dried fruits industry. This industry has been responsible for a stable and successful example of decentralisation. Much new development and diversification have taken place, and are taking place, in our region but the dependence of the region on the industry is of major import- ance. It is of importance that the Industries Assistance Commission take considerable account not only of the economic importance but also of the social effects of any report based purely on economies if applied to the total Aus.tralian situation.
These 2 Bills give effect to a decision for metrification as it applies to this industry. The report by the LAC and further Government action relating to this valuable industry will determine the course the industry is to take in the future. We expect this report to be tabled about the middle of September. The value of the dried fruit crop, in terms of total Australian industry, is not great but in terms of importance to this region of Australia the effect of any increase or decrease in the viability of the industry is enormous. For instance, this year the crop is estimated to yield about 62 000 tons. Prices at the present time are quite attractive, as was pointed out by the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles). The demand appears to be good. But costs have risen alarmingly up to and beyond 25 per cent over the past year. This can be attributed directly to Government policies. Perhaps no other rural industry in Australia is so susceptible to Government policies.
Trade agreements originally developed are gradually disappearing. Currency fluctuations as manipulated by the Government have had a major effect upon the economies of the growers. The Bill dealing with export charges is of notable importance. The industry is dependent on export income for the present and future living standards of its producers. I will be looking to this Government to take many initiatives on behalf of my constituents, particularly in securing on a world basis international agreement for the stabilisation of marketing. Adjustment assistance by the Government is necessary when revaluations of the dollar occur. Steps should be taken to assist the industry with shipping difficulties such as when variations in freight rates are to be considered or negotiated.
The dried fruits industry makes a valuable contribution to our national income. It provides employment opportunities for many thousands of rural and ancillary workers. It helps to maintain a reasonable standard of living in rural areas where grape crops are grown. The industry has been fully co-operative with the Government during recent investigations by the IAC. Large amounts of money have been spent by the ADFA on behalf of the growers in preparing detailed and professional submissions. However, the rural community is dismayed by policies that have been carried out by the Government, and the changes that have been effected in the structure and operations of agricultural production and marketing without prior reference to parties affected in their past decisions. I look to the Government’s good intentions in this reference to the IAC to remove the apprehensions that so obviously exist in the dried fruits industry at the moment. As already mentioned, this Bill is a simple Bm dealing with the metrification of the industry. As such, the Opposition has no hesitation in giving support to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr Patterson) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 9 April on motion by Dr Patterson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr Patterson) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 15 April on motion by Dr J. F. Cairns:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The House is debating the Loans (Australian Shipping Commission) Bill 1975, the purposes of which was set out in the speech delivered by the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns). The Bill seeks approval of the Parliament to borrowings by Australia not exceeding the equivalent of US$68m-$A50m- to assist the Australian Shipping Commission, that is, the Australian National Line, in financing the purchase of 2 bulk ore carriers from the Gotaverken shipyards in Sweden at an estimated cost of approximately 286 million Swedish kroners, that is, $A54m. The vessels are due for delivery in July 1 976 and May 1977. The 2 vessels, each of 120,000 tons, are being purchased for the Western AustralianJapan iron ore trade under arrangements with Nippon Steel. These are not the first bulk ships ordered for the trade. Two such ships were ordered previously from the Blominvos yards at Hamburg, each of 1 40 000 tons.
The proposed loans for the 2 vessels just mentioned were paid for out of Consolidated Revenue in the last Budget. One is inclined to wonder why a different approach is taken by the Government in respect of these 2 ships. Can it be that the dislike of the Government for foreign money has now disappeared, or is it the record
Budget deficit facing the Government that has caused the Treasurer to change his approach. In his second reading speech, the Treasurer said:
This is the first occasion on which Parliament has been asked to approve borrowings on behalf of the ANL.
Yet, it has been common in the past for Parliament to approve loans of this type for Qantas or Trans-Australia Airlines. One must express astonishment at the general funding methods of the Government. This morning the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) exposed the fact that the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) has the right to borrow $4,000m from overseas. I understand that this amount has been reduced to $2,000m. No statement of intention or purpose was given to the Parliament on that proposal. So, the nation must wonder at the extraordinary methods of financing that this Government adopts. Compared with the situation in which the Minister for Minerals and Energy is permitted to roam overseas and find $4,000m is the position of the Federal Treasurer who is seeking the approval of the Parliament to go overseas and to find a mere $50m for the purchase of these 2 ships. The Treasury has long held responsibility for the raising of Australian monetary requirements overseas. I am staggered that the Government would allow 2 authorities of the one Government to be competing overseas for funds in this way. It seems quite extraordinary that the Government would allow the Minister for Minerals and Energy to be roaming overseas in competition with the Australian Treasurer and Treasury seeking funds.
The Bill, as is usual with such Bills, does not state what interest rate is required of ANL. The terms and conditions, according to the second reading speech are, firstly, that there is to be a 5 -year to 7-year loan and, secondly, arrangements for the loan will be similar to those approved by the Parliament for previous loans for Qantas and TAA in recent years. In particular, the Government will be the borrower in the first place and the proceeds will be made available to the ANL on terms and conditions to be determined pursuant to clause 7 of the Bill. These terms and conditions will be identical with those under which Australia itself borrows the money. The ANL will be required to meet all charges under the loan agreements. This position calls to mind the Australian Shipping Commission Bill debated in October last year. The House will recall that that Bill, until amended, proposed that the Australian National Line might have the right to borrow money interest free. This would have placed the ANL in a quite unfair position compared with its competitors. So that Bill was properly amended.
The Opposition supports this Bill. We welcome the growth of the use of Australian ships in the overseas trade in conditions which are economically sensible and economically viable. Over months past we have heard claims that great store is placed on the need for efficiency and economy in transport by the Minister for Transport. We are seeing the Government sending general aviation in Australia to the wall in adopting that argument. The Minister has said that general aviation has to provide the costs of its whole operations. These are costs over which it has no control and very often they are caused only by departmental growth. But worse Still is the purchasing overseas of a ship for the purpose of carrying superphosphate for the Christmas Island to Australia trade. The Minister told the House a few months ago that early last year he had decided not to renew the exemption of this trade from the coasting provisions of the Navigation Act. Such an exemption had been granted by the previous Government, the effect of which was to enable the use of a foreign flag vessel for carrying phosphate from Christmas Island to Australia.
The Minister said that he had asked the Australian National Line to seek suitable tonnage on the world market to ensure that sufficient Aus.tralian manned tonnage was available to handle the total trade. There are 2 million tonnes of rock imported from Christmas Island and it has been estimated that rock carted in Australian manned ships would cost an extra $1.50 to $2 per tonne. In other words, the Minister for Transport will force up the price of basic phosphate rock by another $3m to $4m. The estimates from the Minister himself claim that the extra cost would be only $1.5m. However, the lie has been put to that. The British Phosphate Commission went before the Industries Assistance Commission and, from the Commission’s evidence, it is quite plain that the extra cost of Australia having an Australian manned ship in the superphosphate trade will be $6.5m to superphosphate users throughout Australia. There is no justification, need or call for the banning of foreign owned ships from carrying rock phosphate from Christmas Island.
No one can argue that this is in the national interest that it is necessary or that it is making the best use of resources. Forcing up the cost of phosphate to farmers again is not in the national interest. Honourable members ought to recall to mind that it is only some months ago that the bounty on superphosphate was lifted totally making the product already more expensive for the farmers. This later pOliCy can have the effect only of further escalating costs and prices. I have to say that I find this typical of the Government. It is a practice of double standards. It talks about the proper use of resources but practises this policy very selectively.
No effort has been made by the Minister to explain the effect on costs of the cartage of iron ore by the use of Australian ships in this trade. One would believe that cost increases could be minimal as this trade involves extremely large tonnages being carried over extremely long distances with constant crewing costs. For instance, a ship from Hamburg would have a 140 000 tonne capacity and a ship from Gotaverken would have a capacity of 120 000 tonnes. So in this trade there may well be some economic justification for the reasons which have been given. But this contrasts with the effect on the cost of the carriage of phosphate. Quite clearly, the decision in relation to that trade was taken simply to featherbed the Seamen’s Union of Australia.
One question that should be asked of the Minister is why he has not permitted private Aus.tralian shipowners to enter the trade. In the Minister’s discussions with the oil industry he has proposed that Australian shipowners should have half of the tankers that are to carry the Australian flag into the oU trade. Why have not the Australian shipowners been given an opportunity in this trade? The Minister has claimed many times to me that he has a very evenhanded approach to these matters. His evenhandedness has been shown to be very far away on this occasion. Again there is an apparent inconsistency in the Government’s claim that the best use of resources is one of the main criteria upon which its judgments are made. In Une with the policy effected by this Bill the Government has announced that 40 per cent of the oil trade will be carried in Australian manned ships. Yet it has been estimated that the oil tanker policy will cost the Australian motorist approximately another $15m a year for fuel. This is at a time when 80 per cent of Australia’s requirements come from local sources. Clearly after 1980 the cost of Australian manned tankers will be almost prohibitive. More importantly, of course, the general question as to whether the pOliCy is in breach of the Trade Practices Act is a serious one. The Minister should make a statement in this House on that matter alone.
Finally I want to ask a question about the replacement of these ships with Australian built ships. As I understood it the Labor Party, when it came into office, had a commitment for Australian buildings to replace all imported ships. That commitment, like many others of the Labor Government, seems to have gone out the window. There has been no definitive statement by the Government for months in respect of its shipbuilding policy. The shipbuilding industry is in total despair. It is time the Government laid down clear guidelines as to what the industry can expect in respect of a shipbuilding policy.
I know that a draft proposal is floating around somewhere. The industry is being asked for its attitude; but the industry is in total despair at the Government’s lackadaisical approach to shipbuilding policy. There are now probably more imported ships on the Australian coast than ever before in our history. There has been no clear statement by the Government as to what it proposes to do about the replacement of those ships with Australian buildings. In the meantime several yards, I think at least 3 or 4 -
– Evans Deakin, Walkers and Adelaide Ship Constructions.
– There is a young man who takes a keen interest. He can name each of the companies that have gone completely out of business since Labor came to office. Just as the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) has presided over the greatest unemployment in history and just as the Federal Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) has presided over the greatest inflation rate in the history of this nation, so the Minister for Transport has presided over the greatest destruction ever of the shipbuilding industry in this nation. The Government really has nothing to be proud of at all in its total approach to the problems of the nation. The Opposition supports this Bill.
– I wish to refer to a speech made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on 2 October 1972 at the shipyards of Evans Deakins Industries Limited, as it was then. I shall read an extract in the light of what the previous speaker, the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) who is the shadow Minister for Transport, has said and in light of the fact that the Government is on this occasion placing orders for ships outside this country. I shall read the last part of the Prime Minister’s speech to the assembled workers at the yard. He said:
I thank you very much for turning out in such numbers and being so attentive while I have been able to talk to you before this House of Representatives election at the biggest company, the biggest employer, the biggest works in Brisbane.
I do ask you, not only to yourselves, but if people know you work for Evans Deakin, they know that a great deal of the future of this city, of secondary industry in this city, for apprentices and skills, the future of people interested in industry in Queensland, in Brisbane, depends on the future of this the largest employer in Queensland except Mt Isa Mines themselves.
He went on, and this is the crunch:
You ought to have a future here. Only the Australian Labor Party offers a future to you. I believe if people know you work here and you tell them in the pub or at the football or whatever one does in summer up here what the future is here, what a difference it makes to you and this company. . . .
So he goes on and on and urges them to vote for such historic names as Eddie Foat, Joe McDonald, Len Keogh in Bowman, etc. He was imploring the workers of Evans Deakin to vote Labor in 1972 because if they did so they would be guaranteed a good deal under the Labor Party as far as shipping was concerned. At that time I think we had approximately 6 shipbuilding yards in Australia.
– That is right.
– We had six at that time, and since that time the Adelaide Ship Construction company has closed down, Walkers Ltd in Queensland has closed down and Evans Deakin was forced to make an announcement that because of the economic policies of the present Government it could no longer continue constructing ships. The great promise!
-Shameful, as the honourable member for Mallee interjects. We are today supporting this Bill not out of expediency but out of necessity to allow the Australian National Line to borrow some US$68m to enable it to pay for 2 bulk ore carrier vessels which are due for delivery in 1976 and 1977. The Opposition has already stated that it will support the Bill but, through you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I tell the Acting Treasurer (Mr Stewart), who is at the table and who fortunately is not like the rest of the ministry, that it is high time the present Government recognises that slowly but surely it is tearing the Australian shipbuilding industry apart. The tragedy is that as each shipbuilding yard closes this nation loses a capacity in the event of war and in peacetime to construct ships. The world’s largest island is lacking the capacity to produce its own vessels, and that situation has been created by the policies of the Government of which the Minister is a member.
That situation is upon us because of the inept attitude which the Government and the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) have taken. I know that the Minister’s idea is to placate the
Seamen’s Union of Australia by getting as many ships as possible carrying the Australian flag around the Australian coastline. It creates a great feeling of nationalism. We see in our harbours and our rivers in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane ships which have painted on their sterns not ‘Amsterdam’ or some other place but ‘Sydney’, ‘Melbourne’ or ‘Brisbane’. That is tremendous and it creates great pride. But the Government in its policies completely contradicts because while it is building up the number of ships in our waters it is tearing down something else.
I clearly recall an incident which occurred prior to the 1974 election when I was in the company of Sir Charles Court, the Premier of Western Australia. We were walking through the Evans Deakin shipyards and the men who were left in those shipyards were saying: ‘AH we want is work’. Since then we have seen a number of orders placed outside this country. To my mind the Government is totally inconsistent in its application of principles. As I said earlier, the Government is trying to build something up on the one hand and is tearing it apart on the other.
As the Treasurer said in his second reading speech, this is the fist occasion on which the Austrlian National Line has had to go overseas to borrow money to finance the purchase of a vessel. Those of us who pay attention to the proceedings in this House and are aware of what is going on outside know that at this very moment the Army has been told to stop spending because there is no money left. We know that if a person goes to borrow his entitlement under the Defence Service Homes Act for what is commonly known as a war service home, he will be told to go to a bank or a building society to borrow the money and the Government will guarantee to pay back the loan when it is able to do so. This illustrates another area of bankruptcy in the Government.
We are being forced today to give our approval to a Bill which will entitle the Government on behalf of the ANL to negotiate for the loan of $68m simply to purchase 2 vessels, it is a disgrace that in 2lh years this country has been run down to a stage where we are forced to embark on this kind of measure. We are to borrow overseas to finance the purchase of ships because we do not have the money to pay for them and at the same time we talk about compensation schemes which will cost at least $ 1,500m and other schemes which will in total cost another $2,000m on top of the expenditure that this nation is already endeavouring to meet. Where is it going to end?
The Opposition supports this BUI but it does not let the opportunity pass to protest at the fact that the Australian shipbuilding industry is but a shadow of what it was yesteryear. The Opposition further protests at the eventual high cost to the Australian consumer of this high altruistic sense of nationalism. It is time that the Government stopped in its tracks and looked at what is happening to the shipping industry in the world. At this very time several very large tankers are tied up around the world with no work to do. The oil crisis or the sudden rise in oU prices has meant that consumption, particularly in Europe, has fallen by I think about 8 per cent. Where a tanker would cost up to even $1 lm for a voyage only a few months ago owners are now ready to contract to carry a load at even $800,000. It would appear that we are fast reaching the stage where the world will possess an excess tonnage of shipping. Something that the socialists do not understand is the rule of supply and demand. If there is an excess tonnage in the world the cost of shipping and the cost of transporting goods to or from the world’s largest island Will drop dramatically. But these facts are of little interest to a Government which is hell bent, in the name of nationalism, on tearing to pieces some of the stability which this nation previously enjoyed.
– I am immensely pleased that the Opposition is not opposing this Loans (Australian Shipping Commission) Bill. The statements which have been made by the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) and the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) suggest that they want to keep a shipbuilding industry in Australia. I shall endeavour to have answered the serious questions which they asked during the course of their speeches. But as both honourable members became political during their speeches and as they suggested that the Government is a government of double standards, let me deal with their political statements. Day after day in this House we are told that we are using the printing press to such a dreadful extent that we will go broke. In this BUI we are trying to do something for the shipbuilding industry. Let me suggest what we have done already for the rural industries. Nothing less than $670m in direct assistance has been granted to agriculture and pastoral industries. Wool marketing assistance has totalled $380m which includes no less than $357m for wool stock. Honourable members opposite talk about us destroying the shipbuilding industry. They say that we should be putting more money into it. On the other hand they say we are spending too much. Do they want us to spend $40m to $50m on rural reconstruction and $46m on fertiliser bounty?
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. Is it in order for the Minister to discuss assistance to rural pursuits in a debate on a shipping Bill?
-I point out to the Minister that I am finding it hard to connect his present comments with the contents of the Bill. I ask him to restrict himself further than he is doing.
-I am making comparisons. The 2 Opposition speakers said that we should be bolstering the shipbuilding industry. At least one of those speakers said that we were hell bent in the name of nationalism on destroying the economy. The purpose of this Bill is to try to help the shipbuilding industry. They asked 2 questions about bolstering the shipbuilding industry. They said: ‘You have to help the shipbuilding industry in Australia ‘.
– By buying ships from overseas?
-That is what they said we should be doing. On the other hand, they say that we are spending too much money and that we should have more efficient industries in Australia.
– They want it both ways.
-They want it both ways. I think I am entitled to make comparisons if they say that we are destroying the shipbuilding industry by buying ships overseas. The firms of Walkers Ltd, Evans Deakin Industries Ltd -
– The Adelaide Ship Construction company.
-. . . and the Adelaide Ship Construction company were in trouble before we were elected to office. I think I am entitled to make comparisons. Honourable members opposite complain about socialism. The Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) was the first to speak about the printing press running vigorously. I put these figures to the House: Advances to the Commonwealth Bank for rural lending, $20m; irrigation, $18m; dairy farm reconstruction, $12m. Honourable members opposite accuse us of having double standards and of being too nationalistic from their point of view. I would sooner be nationalistic and Australian than a person of double standards. They complain that we are downgrading the shipbuilding industry and also that we are spending too much money on education, health and social security. Look at what we have spent on the rural industries. Look at what we have spent on community services in the electorates. Look at what we have spent on providing better services for the people of Australia. For heavens sake do not say that we are people of double standards when the honourable member for Gippsland and the honourable member for Griffith make such double standard speeches as they made tonight.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Stewart) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Stewart) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I rise in the adjournment debate tonight to express my concern at the conflicting roles exercised now by the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Enderby) in his positions of Attorney-General and Minister for Police and Customs. The matter is not a new one, in that some of these functions have been exercised by the Attorney-General since this Government came to office in 1972. It is certainly, by the administrative changes that have taken place in relation to the Australian Capital Territory Police, the Northern Territory Police and the Commonwealth Police, a matter of current importance. Honourable members will be aware that the Attorney-General is regarded as the chief law enforcement officer of a State or nation and the legal adviser to the Chief Executive. This is a common function that is exercised by him in almost every legal system where the common law has managed to be implanted. He advises Government departments on matters of law, he fulfils a wide range of duties in relation to the courts and generally he has control of public prosecutions of one form or another. However, he has another function, a special function, in relation to certain offences which can be prosecuted only with his consent. He also has a right, very often exercising his role as AttorneyGeneral, to withdraw proceedings or to withhold prosecutions in certain cases.
Recently in a judgment in the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, His Honour Mr Justice Fox made some comments on this matter which I think are pertinent. They were in relation to the challenge to the legal aid system in the Australian Capital Territory, the case of ex parte Hartstein v. Marcus Kessel Bannister in the manner of the Legal Practitioners Ordinance 1 970-75. His Honour said:
That notice of motion drew attention to the fact that the Department of which Mr Bannister and the other members of the Legal Aid Office are part, namely the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, as well as being responsible for criminal prosecutions, is responsible for administering the police force of the Territory, and the Australian police force.
He went on to say:
The public defenders and the duty solicitor would naturally spend much or most of their time in representing, or offering assistance to, persons who are being prosecuted by the Attorney-General or by police officers. This situation only exacerbates the position. That the concentration of power involved is constitutionally unsound, and inimical to the proper administration of justice is, I think, beyond question. Certainly it weakens the reliance the Court should be able to place on the independence of persons representative of the diverse interests involved.
That was a direct indication by His Honour that the situation we have now of the AttorneyGeneral exercising police functions under his separate title of Minister for Police and Customs is undesirable. I went to the trouble to look at the situation in each of the States of Australia as revealed by the various Year Books of the States. I note that in South Australia the power over police is exercised by the Chief Secretary; the Attorney-General is a separate Minister. In Western Australia the power over police is exercised by the Minister for Police; the role, of AttorneyGeneral is exercised by the Minister for Justice. In Victoria the person who administers the police is the Chief Secretary; there is a separate Attorney-General. In Tasmania the Deputy Premier at the time of publication of the Tasmanian Year Book 1974-1 think he is now the Premier- was also Attorney-General; there is a separate Minister for Tourism, Police and Licensing. In New South Wales the AttorneyGeneral is also the Minister for Justice; there is a separate Minister for Police. In Queensland, that alleged backward place we often hear about from honourable members opposite, the role of Attorney-General and Minister for Justice is one; there is a separate Minister for Police.
The Carmody report has been tabled and I do not intend to look at the matter with which the report deals in general and which will be covered by legislation. However, the report deals generally though not specifically with this matter. I regret that that gentleman did not make any specific recommendations other than that the role of police ought to be merged with the role of customs and did not offer any view- I do not suppose it would have been proper for him to offer a view- as to whether those roles ought to be exercised concurrently by the Attorney-General. He indicated that in a number of different places with different judicial systems these offices are separate. He referred to Canada. On page 3 of his report he stated:
Since 1966 the RCMP has come under the control of the Solicitor-General who also controls the prisons and parole systems. It is of interest that Canada has separated the functions of Solicitor-General and Attorney-General- both of whom are Ministers.
He covered the United Kingdom where the situation is very difficult to pinpoint, but most of the responsibilities for police are exercised by the Home Office which is separate from the Attorney-General. In New Zealand the Commissioner of Police is directly responsible to the Minister for Police, a separate Minister. I think the following words are important. On page 5, in paragraph 4 of his report, Mr Carmody said:
There is a great tendency to amalgamate or at least to coordinate police and Customs activities. In Canada, the RCMP is responsible for investigating important Customs offences. In New Zealand, the 2 Departments have been placed under the one Minister.
So he goes on. But he does not indicate that these are functions that ought to be exercised by the Attorney-General. I note that there has been comment in the Press on this matter, particularly in the Australian Capital Territory in some editorials that have been written in the ‘Canberra Times’. I think there is growing public concern, not because the Minister himself is in any way guilty of impropriety or is lacking in dealing with these matters properly, but that the functions ought to be exercised by separate Ministers. It may well be that the Government has this in mind. But I believe that any steps to separate the function of controlling the police and the functions of the Attorney-General ought to be taken quickly and ought to be dealt with promptly.
I note that in evidence given before Estimates Committee F Mr Carmody indicated that action had been taken recently by the Government. It is this action which perturbs me. Mr Carmody said:
The action taken by the Government in setting up the Department of Police and Customs was an action to amend the Administrative Arrangements Order by which the control of what was the Commonwealth police, the Australian Capital Territory Police and the Northern Territory Police, was transferred to the Minister for Police and Customs, and that is the only action, apart from necessary amendments to regulations and ordinances to complete that decision, taken by the Government.
I referred back to the legislation that was introduced in 1957 delaing with the establishment of the Commonwealth Police. Honourable members will be aware that prior to that time the police in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory were administered by the Department of the Interior, as it was then. When this Government came to office there was a change which brought into the AttorneyGeneral’s area responsibility for the police forces of the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and Norfolk Island. I wish to refer to the Commonwealth Police Bill 1957 which was introduced by the then honourable member for Bennelong and Minister for the Army, Mr Cramer. Mention was made that the Commonwealth Police were to be responsible to the Attorney-General. I am not in any way excusing my colleagues then because I believe it was undesirable to leave that responsibility in the hands of the Attorney-General. But right through that debate, which can be found in the Hansard for 1957 commencing at page 1574, there is little mention of the fact that the AttorneyGeneral was to exercise these dual responsibilities. The closest comment I could find was some criticism made by Dr Evatt, the then Leader of the Opposition, who offered some comment on the fact that the Attorney-General had responsibility for appointing police officers. He was critical of that.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I would like to express concern this evening over the Victorian Minister of Education using Karmel funds to construct some sub-standard primary school libraries for Government schools in Victoria. Honourable members will be aware that the Primary Schools Library Advisory Committee and the Secondary Schools Library Advisory Committee, associated with the Schools Commission, have laid down standards which should be observed in the construction of libraries with Karmel funds. In the case of non-government schools, these standards are mandatory under the States Grants (Schools) Act 1973, but in the case of State Departments of Education it is left to the discretion of individual Ministers for Education to decide whether or not the standards are observed.
It will be remembered that in the course of the Federal election campaign in May last year there came to light a document which revealed that the Victorian Minister for Education, Mr Lindsay Thompson, had decided to construct an overwhelming majority of the primary school libraries in Victoria each a grade lower in size or standard than had been recommended by the Schools Commission committees. This was recommended on advice from the Victorian Education Department itself. At the time the matter generated considerable controversy and Mr Thompson retreated. He gave assurances that all libraries built in Victoria with Karmel funds would be built to the full Australian Government specifications. One of the libraries which had been designed for sub-standard construction was at the Croydon North primary school in my own electorate. After the controversy had passed the State member who was responsible for this area was quoted in the local Press as follows:
I am happy to announce that the Victorian Minister for Education, Mr Thompson, has approved the largest appropriate Commonwealth plan for a library of 2714 squares for the Croydon North school.
This assurance was confirmed by Mr Lacy in writing in a letter to the school committee. It was confirmed again by Mr Thompson orally- he did not put his thoughts in writing- when he visited the school. But in the last week it has emerged that Mr Lacy and Mr Thompson have gone back on their word and that this library, together no doubt with many others, is again to be reduced in size.
You, Mr Speaker, would appreciate that this is a very serious departure from the whole principle of the Karmel report which was directed at ensuring that all Australian children get an equal opportunity to develop their capacities and have similar educational facilities at their disposal, irrespective of the sorts of schools they attend, the sorts of incomes their parents receive, the places they go to church, the areas in which they live or any other factor. If this decision on the part of the Victorian Education Minister is carried through it can lead only to a situation where libraries constructed from the same source of funds, from the Australian Government Karmel funds, are of one standard in non-government schools and of an inferior standard in government schools- in size particularly but no doubt in other respects as well.
It seems that this development springs from 2 factors. On the one hand, there is a desire on the part of the Victorian Government to make the Australian Government bear the full cost of implementing Premier Hamer’s election undertaking of 1 973 to build a library in every primary school of significant size. On the other hand, this situation seems to arise from a quite extraordinary incompetence in the spending of Karmel funds on the part of the Victorian school building authorities. This is brought out by some figures that I have obtained in the last week. The Torquay primary school and the Pyramid Hill higher elementary school are building 15 square libraries for $28,000 and $23,000 respectively because they have been able to deal directly with builders of their own choice, but the cost of the 15 square library which is being built at Keilor primary school under the auspices of the Victorian Public Works Department is $64,000. Fawkner North parish school is building its 15 square library for $32,900, but the cost of the Public Works Department’s libraries of the same size at Monbulk primary school, Antonio Park primary school and Hamilton primary school is $44,000, $48,700 and $78,000 respectively. It is ‘ simply not possible to explain away, to brush aside, discrepancies of that order with the explanation that there are differences in the site or structure from school to school. We have a position in which a library built for a primary school in Victoria is costing roughly twice as much when the Public Works Department lets the contract as when the school itself is able independently to choose a builder and make its arrangements with him.
I think it must be a matter of serious concern to this House, particularly when it leads to the intentions of the States Grants (Schools) Act 1973 being undercut, as they are when smaller, sub-standard libraries, are built in government schools by comparison with the libraries which are being built to mandatory standards in nongovernment schools. When the States Grants (Schools) Bill 1975 comes before this House, I believe it will be necessary to give serious consideration to making building standards and other standards mandatory for State departments of education as they were made mandatory in the 1973 legislation for non-government school authorities.
-With some sadness I rise to make what will probably be my last comments on the South Vietnamese refugees. I do not wish to discuss political polemics, about who was right and who was wrong? I merely ask those who wish to listen to consider the fact we have been observing for some years, and more particularly in recent weeks, perhaps one of the most immense human tragedies that has befallen mankind in the last 25 years- a period of history which undoubtedly will be remembered for its numerous tragedies. Perhaps this will be the greatest tragedy because never before, at least since the Second World War, have so many men and women been led to hope in others, expected the assistance of others, been naive enough to believe in the unity of common goal and believed that ultimately our destinies were inter-related. Despite their beliefs and perhaps naivety, we see in South Vietnam today many millions of people who feel lost, deserted and dismayed because the nations and the people from whom they expected assistance have gone out of their way to give the absolute minimum. In these last moments of their independence when, to use a phrase, the wolf is knocking at the door, they have called out to us as have their nationals who are among us as Colombo Plan students and as private students and have received so little in return.
It is for those people that I want to go on record in a small attempt to show my respect for their endeavours as human beings and my detestation at the reaction which has been totally lacking in any real sense from the present Government of Austalia. I would like to read into Hansard a letter from a Vietnamese lawyer. He is not a public servant; he is a man of little note, a middle class gentleman living in Hue. One of his children is a student in Australia. His letter states:
I am very happy and specially touched when reading your letter. It gave me some kind of reassurance when I am in need. My nation, my family, my beloved children are drowning . . . Things are getting worse very fast- and nobody can act adequately. … In a few days to come when the U.S. say No to Ford’s request the morale of troops will be collapsed- and chaos will totally drown this nation of S.V.N, so far severely weakened, and rottened by corruption and bad organisation. This nation needs a revolution, but the Communists are too cruel, barbaric. They will kill the whole mass of people who have served this government without any discrimination of corrupted or not corrupted people. They did it in the 1968 offensive in my home town (Hue). That’s bad! That’s terrible! Hatred, vengeance, of the fanatics. Here, we keep on praying . . . for all.
He went on to say that his brother’s family, who left Da Nang in a boat, perished at sea from starvation and thirst. It is easy for us in Australia, thinking we are so far away, that we can close the doors and ignore the realities of the times. The seas around us are indeed rough, and the future which this nation faces will not be easy. Perhaps we are the lucky country, but that situation cannot last for ever.
In future days historians will perhaps give Vietnam only a few sentences in their books, but today let us remember that these suffering people are human beings, sharing in the destiny of a common world. I speak with sorrow when I see so little feeling of compassion, especially from the Government, for these people, our fellow human beings and allies in war. Now they are disgraced because they failed. It is a sad fact of history that failure in the battlefield is something that democracies do not like, because there are no votes in failure. There will be no speeches, no triumphal arches, and no war cemeteries. There is only Anzac Day, which we celebrate in 2 days time.
What are we to tell the parents of the Australian men who went to Vietnam because they thought they were doing their duty? This Government believes that their lives were wasted and lost because they were fighting a so-called civil war. For the sake of their parents and friends, I hope that we are men and women of enough honour and integrity to stand up and say, when people fight wars for principles that are right and just, regardless of the consequences and the outcome: ‘You did your duty. ‘ If we as a nation are prepared to proceed finding excuses for whatever we do, regardless of the reasons , I believe that this nation does not have a long or pleasant future, because we will lack the qualities of intestinal fortitude- others would simply call it guts- to face the realities of the world and not turn away from them.
I spent a considerable amount of time 3 weeks ago trying to help a number of Vietnamese university students who wanted to get their relatives out of Vietnam. In fact, this Government received a submission to the Prime Minister on Friday, 4 April, giving him various proposals for the criteria that could be considered. Members of this House will be aware that we finally received the details of those criteria on 23 April. I asked a question of the Prime Minister on 10 April and received no satisfactory answer. In other words, we have lost 3 weeks of other people’s lives. If one man, one woman or one child dies because of the weakness of this Government, through its inept and incredible belief in doing nothing to upset the victor of tomorrow, we will have let ourselves down badly and we will have committed our own crime against humanity.
What of tomorrow? Let us all hope that the South Vietnamese authorities will come to a settlement with the invaders from the North and with the Vietcong and that Saigon will be handed over intact without a battle, and that at least the administration can change with a minimum of bloodshed. But let us not delude ourselves. There will be thousands of decent, honest people whose only crime was to serve their government as civil servants, as village chiefs, as soldiers and so on, who will be regarded forever as being enemies to the cause of communism. Those people can expect no sympathy from the victor.
What are we going to do for them? Can any of them expect from this Government an attitude similar to that it adopted to the political prisoners of Chile? The Fascist Government in Chile was prepared to allow some of its political prisoners to have a second chance in Australia regardless of their political beliefs. Can any of the Vietnamese people expect a similar chance? That will be the test that this House and our nation will have to observe. We have heard for too long- for years in fact- from various members of the Press and from others how inhumanity was for some extraordinary reason limited entirely to the South while the North proceeded with its lily-white policy of destruction, hatred and despair. Very soon we will know the truth. We will know what it really means when and if our Government tries to help the people who remain in Saigon, and we will see whether or not those who run North Vietnam will heed our words of humanity.
– I am very pleased that the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) is present tonight because I wish to refer to a statement he made in the House on 15 April when speaking to the Curriculum Development Centre Bill. At page 1607 of Hansard he is reported as having said:
Recently I visited some schools out in the Green Valley and Mt Druitt areas and spoke to some teachers. To my horror the situation was substantially worse than I had expected. Most -
I emphasise the word ‘most’- of the teachers were prepared to say that no more than 10 per cent of their students at the junior secondary level were fully literate in terms of the standards one would expect of somebody capable of participating fully in the community.
As the member of Parliament who represents the area I resent a statement like that being made. It was a very foolish statement. It is typical, unfortunately of that section of people, the North Shore type, whose popular pastime it is today to go around denigrating those who are not as affluent as they are. Of course, the honourable member is now walking out of the chamber. He does not want to stay and hear just what it is all about. The fact of the matter is that such people do not realise the damage they do when they make statements like that.
If one gives a dog a bad name it sticks to it. Statements to the effect- naming areas and referring to people in those areas- that young students in that area have a 10 per cent literacy rate is rubbish. If the honourable member were only to get to know the area and its people he would know that it is rubbish. Most of the teachers in the area are young but very welltrained teachers. If the honourable member is telling the truth it is obvious that there are some who are mischief makers or else fools who do not realise the damage that they are doing to the very students they teach. The type of remark that the honourable member for Bradfield made will stick to those kids for the rest of their lives. For that reason I challenge the honourable member for Bradfield to name the teachers and name the schools so that in future we, the residents of that area in the outer western suburbs of Sydney, can take it up with the teachers concerned.
-The House stands adjourned until Tuesday, 13 May at 15 minutes past 2 p.m., unless the Speaker shall by telegram addressed to each member of the House fix an earlier date of meeting.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Transport upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
When will he answer my question No. 293 which first appeared on the Notice Paper on 1 6 July 1974.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The answer to question No. 293 appeared in Hansard on 10 April 197S.
asked the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1)1 shall be issuing shortly a detailed report to me by my Department on the first three months operation of the
National Employment and Training System (NEAT). I think the honourable member will find that the answers to his question will be provided by that report but if, on reading it, he wants further elaboration I shall do what I can to provide it for him.
NEAT is not intended to provide: training which is clearly the responsibility of an employer; assistance for initial full-time education; training for skills which are not intended to be used in the workforce; and training which will not contribute to the achievement of an employment goal.
Subject to the above, efforts are made to ensure that persons seeking entry to NEAT are dealt with as they apply and as the need for assistance is established.
In this connection, however, and bearing in mind that NEAT was introduced at a time of rising unemployment, priorities have had to be established. They are-
It is not intended these priorities will remain as a permanent feature of NEAT and they will be relaxed as soon as pressures of work on CES permit.
This is a broad summary of the basic essential features of the guidelines that have been given to CES.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
When does the Government intend to abolish the means test for pensioners aged 63 and over.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Government’s program for abolishing the means test on age pensions for men and women aged 65 and over is being implemented in three stages.
The first stage involved people over 75 years and was effected in the Spring of 1973. As already announced, legislation to effect the second stage, which will involve people aged 70 to 74 years, is to be introduced into Parliament during the current sittings. In the third and final stage the means test will be abolished for people aged 65 to 69 years. An announcement concerning the implementation of this stage will be made at the appropriate time.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
When does the Government intend to abolish the means test for pensioners aged 70 years and over.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to the answer to House of Representatives Question No. 2235.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The aim of the scheme is to provide free dental treatment to all primary school children by 1980 and then further expand the program so that all children under fifteen years of age would be covered by 1985.
The Australian Government, in co-operation with the States, has already established seven training schools and has agreed to provide funds for four others.
The School Dental Scheme will provide a level of dental care, prevention and dental health education in Australia which has hitherto been unavailable.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 April 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1975/19750423_reps_29_hor94/>.