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 Minister.
To the Honourable the speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Canberra respectfully showeth that:
Firstly to Section 21(3) which in effect requires that all dogs must at all times and throughout the length and breadth of the Territory be under direct physical controlthat is, on a leash of the keeper. The only exception is that the dog may be at large on privately occupied land but on privately occupied land other than on the dog owners own land the dog can be seized and impounded at the request of the occupier. In other words if the owner of a household dog wishes it to run free for the exercise an active dog requires he must exercise it on his own (normally small) plot or on the land of some friendly proprietor of land or go interstate. To require a dog to be on leash among the hills or empty spaces unused and unoccupied by man where it can do no harm is a provision so wide as to be absurd. It is submitted that while dogs should not be at large, household dog owners should be permitted to run their dogs in their company and under their control- though not direct physical control- in any unoccupied and unused area save where for good reason this is specifically forbidden. To insist on dogs being on a leash on roads streets and built up areas is reasonable and would be accepted by your petitioners. To require dogs to be on a leash in the wild hills brings law into disrespect by its absurdity.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that for these reasons the Parliament will exercise their power to either disallow the Ordinance or permit amendments to be made so that other and better legislation for control of dogs in the A.C.T. may be enacted.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Gorton, Mr Armitage, Mr Fry, Mr Jarman, Mr Kelly and Mr Killen.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned electors of the Division of Bendigo respectfully showeth:-
That we strongly oppose the increased postal and telephone charges effective from September 1, 1975.
These charges will create an added burden to the whole community and will increase inflation.
These charges will only add to the inflationary spiral and increase unemployment.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take steps to reduce these charges.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petitions received. by Mr Bourchier and Mr Lucock. Petitions received.
To the Honourable the Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:-
That the proposed increases in postal and telephone charges is unjustifiable;
That they would place an intolerable burden on many sections of the community;
That the Government has a responsibility to take into account current economic and social factors.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will not implement the proposals.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received. by Mr Drury Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we wish to protest most vigorously at the proposed increases in postal and telephone charges.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to:
Diminish the size of the increase or, if possible, leave charges as they are.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Kelly. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of the undersigned Citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Insurance industry is already coping with
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Bungey. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Connolly. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Hyde. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received. by Mr Mcleay Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned employees and agents of the Australian insurance industry respectfully showeth:
6 ) That the insurance industry is already coping with
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Macphee. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker of the. House of Representatives and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled the Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the decisions of the Australian Government:
Your petitioners are impelled by these facts to call upon the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to review the abovementioned decisions (a) and (b), and to determine
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received. by Mr Riordan Petition received.
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 Technical and Further Education is a vital factor in maintaining the economic and social welfare of a large number of individual citizens as well as of the Australian society as a whole.
That for many years Technical and Further Education has suffered from grossly inadequate financial resources, which is evidenced by the many outmoded buildings and inadequate facilities utilized by technical and further education authorities, by the inability of the authorities to satisfy legitimate demands from citizens, and by the lack of adequate resources for learning resource centres, staff development and curriculum preparation.
That there is a continuing need for the fullest support for Technical and Further Education from the Australian Government.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Government adopt the recommendations of the Australian Committee on Technical and Further Education in its second report and that the Government take urgent steps to provide the funds required to implement fully those recommendations. - And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Bennett Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas the natural environment of Fraser Island is so outstanding that it should be identified as part of the
World Natural Heritage, and whereas the Island should be conserved for the enjoyment of this and future generations.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members, in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
That the Australian Government uses its constitutional powers to prohibit the export of any mineral sands from Fraser Island, and;
That the Australian Government uses its constitutional authority to assist the Queensland Government and any other properly constituted body to develop and conserve the recreational, educational and scientific potentials of the natural environment of Fraser Island for the long term benefit of the people of Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mrs Child. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The . humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the increased price of the Hansard subscription will place it beyond the financial reach of most people.
That it is basic in a Parliamentary democracy that electors have easy access to records of the debates in their Parliament
That making Hansard available only to an elite who can afford it is at odds with the concept of open government.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will reduce the cost of the Hansard subscription so that it is still available at a moderate price to any interested citizen.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received. by Mr Drury Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country is causing and will cause widespread inconvenience, confusion, expense and distress.
That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.
That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.
Your petitioners therefor 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,
Petition received. by Mr Jarman. Petition received.
Increase in the Allowance to Isolated Children
To the Honourable the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assemble. The humble petition of the citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth.
That we, citizens of the Commonwealth, earnestly request our Government to: increase the allowance to Isolated Chil.dren “B” Benefits.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Kelly. Petition received.
To the Speaker of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of residents of Australia respectfully shows:
That we believe the plight of the World’s great whales to be desperate; that we are convinced that they need conservation now, and that exploitation should cease; that we agree with Dr Sidney Holt of F.A.O., who says that a complete re-assessment of all scientific data on whales is needed; and we further submit that substitutes to all whale products are available, and could, with Government encouragement, be made in Australia. We are convinced that the great whales, as a significant part of the World’s Wildlife Heritage, and being on the verge of extinction, now need our complete and wholehearted protection.
We, your petitioners, therefore humbly pray that you will:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Oldmeadow. Petition received.
To the Honourable, the Speaker, and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will move to immediately revoke all whaling licenses issued by the Australian Government and to reimpose a total ban on the importation of all whale produce.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Oldmeadow. Petition received.
– I ask the Minister for Minerals and Energy a question. Why, when the Minister had such serious doubts about the honesty and legitimacy of the ACTU-Solo oil deal did he move to approve the deal with, what was for him, such unaccustomed haste by agreeing to it only 8 days after he received documentation about the deal? Did the Minister or his Department speak to Mr Souter or anyone in ACTU-Solo after the documentation was received?
-Would the Leader of the Opposition repeat the question? I am just a little baffled by his pseudo-Oxford accent.
– If the Minister wants more time to think -
-I do not want that either. I cannot hear your comments.
-Order! I ask the Minister to remain silent. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to repeat his question.
– I am delighted to meet the Minister’s request and to repeat the question. It is to the Minister for Minerals and Energy. Why, when the Minister had such serious doubts about the honesty and legitimacy of the ACTU-Solo oil deal did he move to approve the deal with, what was for him, such unaccustomed haste by agreeing to it only 8 days after he received documentation about it? Did he or his Department speak to Mr Souter or anyone in ACTU-Solo after the documentation was received but before the approval was given 8 days later?
-I had no doubts as to the nature of the transaction. From as early as December of last year both the respective litigants in a case in the Supreme Court of Victoria had been endeavouring to flog off their respective rights, or what they claimed to be their rights, to this crude at $5 per barrel. There had been letters sent out by Allied Petrochemical Pry Ltd in May, immediately after it had won the case, to every major oil company offering it to them and it was in all cases rejected. It was a natural thing for me immediately when approached first on the matter and before receiving any documentation specifically to raise the point that it was this same crude. I had no doubt, and I insisted, that it should be an orthodox transaction and nothing beyond that. It was not necessary for me to do other than process the matter in the terms I did and in the light of the information that I received. Of course the matter was discussed fully between myself and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. I received a proper assurance on it.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. The honourable gentleman will have noted that the leaders of the Opposition parties in their Budget speeches promised nothing by way of government handouts to the mining industry despite their violent criticisms of the Government’s mining policy. I ask: Has the Prime Minister had any proposals for the dropping of the coal export levy? Also, will the Government hold firm to its policy objectives in the mining area and disregard any future calls by the Leader of the Opposition or the Leader of the National Country Party of Australia for the reintroduction of taxation benefits and subsidies to this very healthy area of the economy?
– I have had occasion earlier this week and during last week to express appreciation of the support which leading spokesmen for the Opposition have been giving to the Government’s Budget. I had been waiting for the Leader of the National Country Party to propose yet again some of his bounties, subsidies and largesse at the expense of the taxpayers for the advantage of the mining companies. He refrained from doing so. I was expecting a withering blast about the coal export provisions in the Budget It did not come. All the things for which the Government was criticised in the first reaction to the Budget evaporated on longer consideration. I do not think -
– Wait a while and you will find you are mistaken.
-The still small voice from the past! But the National Country Party also was statesmanlike in its approach to the Budget. It accepted the main thrust of the Budget. I think honourable members on the other side, particularly the best placed of them, are coming to realise that there is no advantage in blasting or even criticising the provisions of the Budget on the ground that it has removed many of those provisions from which they were typical beneficiaries in the past The higher your income the more you benefited at the expense of the taxpayer under the old system of deductions. The larger your production the more you benefited at the expense of the taxpayer in respect of all these subsidies. It is very interesting to notice that the leaders of the Opposition- the Liberal Party and the National Country Party- are supporting all the significant features of the Budget.
-My question is directed to the Acting Treasurer. Is he aware that the rebate system as proposed, as compared with the old deduction system, works very strongly against a taxpayer who is on the averaging system but who has a low average? Will the Minister look at this anomaly which appears to attack the basic concept of averaging, that is, to assist in overcoming fluctuations in income?
– The Government is certainly prepared to have a look at this matter, but I will have to treat the question as a question on notice because it requires a fairly detailed reply. I think there has been some misunderstanding. A question was asked the other day by the honourable member for Fisher. If the honourable member will put his question on notice I will give him a detailed reply. I think that would be a better basis for subsequent discussion.
– My question which is addressed to the Minister for Health is supplementary to questions which he answered last week. As it has been reported that customers of Fawnmac Industries Pty Ltd have been directing their business elsewhere in protest against the Australian Government’s decision to purchase the company, can the Minister assure the House that Fawnmac Industries is operating satisfactorily?
– The management of Fawnmac Industries Pry Ltd has told the Department of Health that there is no evidence that private enterprise customers of its tablet manufacturing subsidiary are taking their business elsewhere. It was reported in some quarters that this was being done as a protest against the Government’s entry into the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry. There is no substance in the report. The changeover to Government ownership is proceeding smoothly. Trading results for July and August, which are the 2 trading months since the proposed purchase by the Government was announced, have been good. I believe that the fact that these rumours have been circulated is a measure of the effectiveness of the Government’s policy in this matter. It is only the competitors of Fawnmac who can hope to gain from peddling falsehoods in an attempt to discredit the policies of the Government. It is one more front on which certain commercial interests, which operated with impunity under the previous Government, have adopted dishonest tactics. Presumably we can expect the vested interests which feel threatened to clothe their commercial concern with political rhetoric as their campaign develops.
– I ask the Minister for Minerals and Energy the following question: At any time before last Friday was he aware of a profitsharing agreement between ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd and Allied Petrochemicals Pty Ltd? Was there any mention of profitsharing agreements in his discussions with the Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions?
– No, I was not aware prior to last Friday of the existence of this profit-sharing agreement nor of a second agreement. I had an assurance that the agreement that was put before me was one that conformed strictly with the policy on indigenous crude pricing which the Government inherited from the previous Government and which was formulated by honourable members opposite when in office. Over the last 2 years I have quite consistently seen to it that that policy was strictly enforced. I have had repeated representations, for example in respect of another individual, Mr Roach, of Independent Oil Company Ltd. In all cases they have been told that there would be no windfall profits and the major oil companies themselves were well aware of it.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. I refer to claims that growth centres are invalid because there is no growth. Is that a correct assessment of the present rate of growth in the growth centres? What impact have the growth centres had on excessive rates of growth in our major cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne?
-The statement by the Leader of the Opposition that there is no growth in growth centres is completely false. The growth of Albury-Wodonga has been 3.1 per cent per annum in the last 3 years. In fact, its growth has been 9 times greater than the growth in similar rural areas in Victoria. The growth in BathurstOrange is about 3 per cent per annum. The fact is that there is an expected growth in BathurstOrange this year of 4 per cent.
The question to be determined is whether honourable members opposite support policies of decentralisation. When decentralisation was first mooted in the dying days of the McMahon Government, there was a bipartisan agreement on both sides of the House that we had to stop the rot and had to establish a formula to introduce a decent decentralisation policy. We supported that move. We criticised the Government of the day because when it was in office it allowed a movement which resulted in a decline in the rural population. In 1947, just prior to the former Government taking power, 3 1 per cent of the Australian population resided in rural areas. By 1970, that had fallen to 14.7 per cent.
The decision was made- and it was generally agreed by both parties- that a selected decentralisation program should be determined. The three major areas that have been designated are Albury-Wodonga, Bathurst-Orange and, we hope in the near future, Geelong. Now, either the Leader of the Opposition supports the overcentralisation of Sydney and Melbourne or he supports a rational decentralisation policy. The only aspect to the credit of the former Government was the planning and development of Canberra. It is the only area in Australia which will be able to take rational growth, to slow the growth of Sydney and Melbourne, until the growth centres of Bathurst-Orange, AlburyWodonga and Geelong get off the ground.
It seems to me that the Leader of the Opposition in his shortsighted, hasty, off the top of his head decision, is determined to destroy the major growth centres of Albury-Wodonga, BathurstOrange and Geelong. I would like to know his views of his State colleagues. I would like to know what the Leader of the National Country Party has to say. Why is his head down? Does he support growth centres such as Bathurst-Orange, or has he reneged on the selected growth centre policy?
– Is the Minister for Minerals and Energy saying that he and the Government were misled by ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd, by Mr Hawke and by Mr Souter? Is he saying that he has been taken for a ride by the ACTU
– My transactions in this matter were exclusively with Mr Souter, not with Mr Hawke. I was not taken for a ride. I knew specifically that this oil had been flogged around and was continuing to be flogged around. For that reason alone, I was very emphatic that the indigenous oil price was to be the sole price paid and that was to be the final terms of the transaction.
– But that is not what happened.
-It is not what happened, and we were in fact misinformed.
– Order! I draw the attention of honourable members to the fact that questions which name persons and can be taken as being to the disadvantage of a person named are out of order and must be placed on notice. There have been a couple of questions today which fall into this category. Questions which reflect on or refer to discernible persons are out of order. I draw attention to that fact now while no question is before the House.
– Has the Minister for Transport seen claims by some State Transport Ministers that the crisis in State public transport systems is the fault of the Australian Government? Are these claims correct? Is the Australian Government still prepared to accept the transfer of these systems?
-I plead not guilty to the allegations contained in the honourable member’s question. The fact of the matter is that in the last 3 years the Australian Government has negotiated programs with the State governments totalling some $207m of which our commitment was $138m. The details in rounded figures are that in the first year of the program, 1973-74, we allocated $31m to the States and they spent $12m, while in the following year, 1974-75, we allocated $66m of which they spent only $32m, leaving a surplus for that year of $34m. Knowing that this year budgeting would be tight, officers of my Department had discussions with each of the State departments and as a result of those discussions the States informed us that they could spend only $43m this year on approved programs. Honourable members are aware that in this year’s Budget a sum of $43m is provided for the upgrading of urban public transport.
So we come back to the old question: For 23 years there was a Liberal-Country Party Government which did not give one cent to the States for their public transport systems. Apparently that created no crisis. In the 2h years we have been in office we have made money available to the States in the sums I have just mentioned and apparently that creates a crisis. This shows the humbug that this Government has to put up with from State Ministers. Last Friday in Sydney I met State Ministers and said to them that if they were having problems with regard to the expenditure of the $43m allocated they should put together a program showing where we could reallocate that money on a one off basis and I would be prepared to have a reasonable and sensible look at it and, if need be, take it back to the Cabinet and ask the Cabinet to review the whole position. This is the situation at the moment. It seems that if we give the States nothing we have no problems but if we commit ourselves to large expenditure, as we have done, then we have problems.
At the same time we have rolling stock manufacturers talking about having to lay off people. For 23 years the Liberal-Country Party Government gave nothing for rolling stock. Last year we allocated enough money to build 500 high speed bogie wagons. This year there will be money for 800 wagons. Apparently this creates a problem, whereas if we do nothing there are no problems. It is the old story of whenever there is a problem blame the Feds. This is what is taking place at present. I challenge the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the National Country Party to stand in this place today or on any other day and say that they will increase the amount we have already, allocated to the States for public transport. Let them say straight out: ‘Yes, we will increase that’. Last Friday I said to gentlemen from the same parties: ‘You have 2 policies, a State policy which is to blow it up and spend all you can and a Federal policy which is not to spend anything’.
-I ask the Minister for Minerals and Energy: In view of his answers to questions in the Parliament yesterday and today to the effect that apparently the Government has been misled by ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd, or at least that the assurances given by members of ACTU-Solo to the Government have not been fulfilled, what attitude will the Government now adopt to future applications by ACTU-Solo for further fuel allocations?
-I will be guided in this matter by the advising that I will receive from the Attorney-General’s Department and that in turn will be based upon the evidence elicited at the Royal Commission. I can assure the House of one thing: Just as my predecessors in office administered this indigenous crude oil policy with great integrity, so will I.
-Can the Prime Minister say whether an appointment has yet been made to the Senate vacancy arising from the death of Senator Milliner? Has he any information about the circumstances in which this appointment has been delayed?
– I do not know what the particular power play is in the Queensland Government at the moment or between the coalition parties which form that Government. I notice that Liberals in this Parliament have supported the principle that there should be appointed in succession to Senator Milliner not only a member of the Australian Labor Party but a member that the Australian Labor Party itself has proposed. I notice also that Senator Bonner, a Liberal Senator from Queensland, has recalled that when he was appointed to fill a casual vacancy caused by the appointment of Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin, another Liberal, to a diplomatic post the Premier of Queensland- the same Premier as at the moment- asked the Liberal Party of Queensland to put forward one name. The Liberal Party put forward only one name, Senator Bonner, and without any equivocation at all everybody in the Queensland Parliamentmembers of the Liberal Party, the Country Party and the Labor Party- unanimously voted for Senator Bonner to be appointed. The same principle should apply again.
- Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Standing order 144 says in part that questions cannot anticipate discussion upon an order of the day or another matter. The blue business sheet for today lists under Government Business No. 1 this very matter.
-Order! The question is in order. It asks what the current situation is.
– I have been impressed by the unanimity of the Press, which does not usually support the Labor Party federally or in Queensland, in urging the Queensland Government to sponsor a candidate nominated by the Labor Party to succeed the late Labor senator, Senator Milliner. This is not only the case with southern papers- the Age, for instance, wrote an editorial headed ‘Queensland Guttersnipes’but it has also been the attitude of Queensland papers too. I notice, for instance, that the Courier-Mail of Brisbane urges that the Queensland Government should abandon its absurd and immoral position. I notice that the Daily Bulletin of Townsville also says that it is an unreasonable attitude. It says:
Sheer cussedness appears to lie behind the attitude of the Premier and most Government members on the Senate vacancy issue.
– By golly, he twists your tail, does he not?
– The Queensland Times similarly says:
Mr Bjelke-Petersen is waging a lone war and one doomed to inevitable defeat just as his ridiculous stand on Medibank was doomed to defeat.
I notice that while I have been speaking the only person who has demurred in any way is the Leader of the National Country Party of Australia in this Parliament. He is finding himself increasingly isolated on political as on economic issues, because not only has the Leader of the Opposition said the right thing on this occasion- his predecessor did too, but the present Leader of the Opposition is a bit more forceful on it- Liberals also have said it in the Senate. The present Liberal Leader in Queensland, the Deputy Premier in the Queensland Government, has said it also. So one would hope that at last, however unwillingly however ungraciously, the Premier of Queensland will be forced to do the right thing.
‘WOMEN AND POLITICS’ CONFERENCE
– I ask the Minister representing the Special Minister of State: What was the original estimated cost of the Women and POlitiCS Conference in Canberra? If the actual cost exceeds the estimated cost does this mean that other planned International Women’s Year activities will suffer, or will the Government make good the difference out of general revenue?
-I think an amount of $2m was appropriated in the previous Budget for International Women’s Year activities and an amount less than that was appropriated in this Budget. I am not certain from which financial year the present Conference was arranged, but I assume that it would have been arranged from the previous Budget allocation. I would be surprised if the cost exceeded anything like the sum I have mentioned. In fact it would be only a relatively small amount. A committee composed of citizens was appointed by the Prime Minister some time ago to supervise functions of this type. This Conference would have been arranged as a result of that committee’s agreeing to who should participate in it.
At the moment I cannot remember the names of personnel on the committee but they represent a wide ranging number of interests in Australia. I have no doubt that the committee considered that the Women and Politics Conference would be beneficial to the women of Australia. Women from all over the world were invited to take part in the seminar and the conference has taken place. That is the present position. Of course it does attract attention when people disagree at a conference or want to raise certain political issues, but the real merit of the conference lies in the fact that women have a role to play in the political spectrum. They are playing it very well in Australia. This Conference adds to that role and it should not be denigrated by some misguided people who are trying to highlight their individual views.
-Has the Minister for Transport heard of claims that Avis Rent-A-Car System Pty Ltd is receiving preferential treatment at airports from this Government? Are these reports true?
-I have seen claims and I have also seen very expensive Press advertisements by Budget Rent A Car Systems Pty Ltd claiming that Avis Rent-A-Car has been receiving preferential treatment at the hands of this Government. The facts are that in 1969 the former Liberal-Country Party Government accepted a tender on a 10-year basis because of the large capital outlay that was necessary -
– It is an Australian company.
– Order! The right honourable member for Lowe will desist from asking questions in a sitting position when he does not have the call. The Minister will not answer questions directed in that manner.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker.
– The right honourable member for Lowe spent all his time in Dunk Island after that agreement.
– I suggest that the Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs not answer questions from a sitting position.
-Did the Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs say that the right honourable member for Lowe spent all his time at Dunk Island after that agreement? As I was saying, in 1969 the former Liberal-Country Party Government sought tenders from hire car people to service all the airports. Three companies tendered. Avis put in a tender of $2.05m, Hertz Rent-A-Car put in a tender of $ 1 .07m and Kays Rent-A-Car submitted a tender of $lm. Naturally the former Government allocated the contract to Avis Rent-A-Car at a price of $2.05m. That was just the base contract. Last year, based on the percentage of business transacted, Avis paid to my Department a figure in excess of $300,000. The business transacted is running at the rate of about $3m a year. I made inquiries about this matter when I became Minister for Transport. All that the present Government did was inherit a contract which was negotiated by the former Government and which I believe and have been advised is legal and binding on this Government.
This agreement is similar to the 2-airline agreement. This is a case of the Ansetts being at loggerheads. Sir Reginald wants to retain the 2- airline agreement; his son wants the hire-car agreement torn up. When contracts suit the Ansetts they want to retain them, but when long term contracts are to the disadvantage of the Ansetts they want them torn up and got rid of. But the ironical part about it all is that Budget Rent-A-Car was part of the Mcilree empire. Ansett was the general manager of Budget RentACar. From the time he purchased it in 1974 -
– That is Bob.
-That is Bob Ansett. From the time of purchase he was well and truly aware of the conditions under which he was buying the company. This is just a humbug advertising campaign instituted by this gentleman at the present time. In fact, a representative of one of the unsuccessful tenderers, Kays Rent-A-Car telephoned my office to say that that company dissociates itself completely from the Budget Rent-A-Car campaign that is being waged at the moment.
One other important thing has come out of all this. This is a further example of the need for an inter-State commission. Ansett, for example, could take a complaint to an inter-State commission or some such independent body to determine whether there was something unfair in a total contract. Day by day the need for an interState commission clearly must become evident and the great need for it must become more obvious to members of the Opposition.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Manufacturing Industry, refers to the Industries Assistance Commission inquiry relating to the multilateral trade negotiation discussions to be held under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in the near future. Is he aware that there is considerable disquiet throughout manufacturing industry in Australia about the wording of the reference to the IAC, it having been described as confusing, vague and contradictory? Will he consult with representatives of Australian manufacturing industry with a view to amending the terms of reference? Finally, is it a fact that the IAC’s report on this matter will not be available for discussion before the multilateral trade negotiations take place?
– Discussions have been taking place on the multilateral trade negotiations. I think that Mr Warwick Smith is our representative at those discussions. As I understand the present position, certain specific proposals have been put before the conference, particularly by the United States of America on a general tariff reduction and also specific recommendations by Canada in regard to selective tariff reductions. Accordingly, it is proper that the Australian representative should be advised as to what would be the proper attitude to take on behalf of Australia. The Prime Minister took the proper course in suggesting that the Industries Assistance Commission advise the Government as to what would be a proper course. Of course, in sending a matter to the Commission the terms of reference are designated by the Prime Minister.
I have no objection to seeing representatives of industry who I think are concerned that there might be a general tariff reduction recommended now. It is not envisaged that the results of the present multilateral trade negotiations will be implemented until 1980, so I think that industry is becoming a little supersensitive as to what is the position. It would be quite wrong to think that we would have our representatives at the negotiations without the benefit of an investigation into industry in Australia in relation to the specific proposals to be put by the United States or Canada, which countries are urging for some sort of tariff reductions. We made it clear when we were at the negotiating table that the 25 per cent tariff reduction in Australia in 1973 must be taken into consideration. In respect of what might be the recommendations of the IAC, I point out that it could take some time for the Commission to bring forward its report. But what has been done is in accordance with practice; that is, that anybody representing Australia should be fully briefed and informed. Further, the Government itself should have the opportunity to advise its negotiator on what stand to adopt.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister in his capacity as Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. Can he inform the House of any United Nations conventions against discrimination between the sexes, particularly as they apply to sport? How do the contrasting actions of the usual captains of the parliamentary cricket team and the parliamentary Press gallery cricket team in relation to the participation of a female senator in this traditional cricket match accord with the spirit of any such UN conventions?
-For some time there have been United Nations conventions dealing with discrimination against women. Nothing was done to ratify those conventions before my Government was elected. It was left to my Government to ratify the 1953 Convention on the Political Rights of Women, the 1951 International Labour Organisation Equal Remuneration Convention and the 1958 Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention. I regret to say that none of these conventions dealt with discrimination in sport as regards sportswomen or sportsmen. There are other resolutions of the United Nations dealing with discrimination in sport on racial grounds; there are none dealing with discrimination in sport on the grounds of sex. I am not aware of discrimination on the grounds of sex being raised in any United Nations forum. The matter has been constantly raised at meetings of the Commonwealth heads of Government because it is mainly among the member nations of the Commonwealth that cricket, in which the honourable gentleman is particularly interested at the moment, is played.
I hesitate to pursue the honourable gentleman’s question because my good friend the honourable member for Hotham has been in a deal of trouble for some time over his varied pronouncements. He is finding it very difficult to adjust to the changed power structure in the Liberal Party. I pay tribute to him because for years he has initiated the annual cricket match between the Parliament and the Press Gallery. That is the only occasion on which members of Parliament have been able to express their views, in appropriate language, about the Press Gallery. Unfortunately, the honourable member for Hotham did not realise that there are now women in the Senate. Accordingly, he circulated the usual round robin. Robin, of course, is a nonsexist term. It can be applied to men or women. He sent the usual round robin to all members of this House and of the Senate. One member of the Senate is Senator Cole-person. I do not want to embarrass Messrs Cad-person, Jar-person, Klugperson or New-person.
Senator Coleman is not only a feminist but also she is admirably feminine. She accepted this approach from the honourable member for Hotham. I am told that he has received very few rebuffs in his life from any lady. Nobody presents so forceful a macho image on commercial television as does the honourable member. I am assured that on this occasion he himself drafted a response to Senator Coleman. It was not like yesterday when he had to draft a statement at his Party meeting and issue it afterwards. The response to Senator Coleman was all his own work, and it was fully published in the newspapers.
All I say in conclusion is that the honourable gentleman went in to bat for the doctors on Saturday. It was the worst innings of his career. His captain sent him off yesterday. The honourable member was caught out over Medibank and now he has been bowled out of the parliamentary eleven. But at least he has one century to his credit: He is 100 years behind the times.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister and has rather a distant relationship to the one he has just answered. I refer to the welcome initiative by the Australian representative to the United Nations last year concerning the proposed convention on diplomatic asylum. Was the Australian representative, Mr Brennan, correct in reflecting the views of his Government when he said that Australia was of the view that the person seeking protection derived his rights merely from his quality as a person in need of protection and from nothing else?’ As it was further made clear that this proposed convention was seeking to apply the same principles as followed in connection with the rights of territorial asylum and the convention on the rights of refugees, I ask the Prime Minister: Because of the need to at least appear to be truthful to the rest of the world will he withdraw the quite un-Australian shackles that he has placed on a number of Vietnamese refugees which still prevent them from pursuing in this country their full political rights?
-This matter was debated yesterday. Two Ministers pointed out that the restrictions were placed on half a dozen diplomats and 3 senior Army officers who had been associated with the late Government in South Vietman. The word that these people had to give was similar to the word which many countries require from people similarly situated and was, of course, similar to the requirement of the preceding Australian Government in respect of some 500 people from West Irian who went to Papua New Guinea and nearly 1000, 1 think it was, Colombo Plan students who have come to Australia. My Government quietly cancelled the requirement in respect of Colombo Plan students a few months ago. But I understand the frustration of the honourable gentleman and of other honourable gentlemen who raised this issue. They are under some compulsion to justify what they did in South Vietnam. They want to keep this issue alive.
The fact is that the Australian Government does not believe that Australia’s hospitality should be abused by people who might want to create difficulties in our relations with other countries. This is a perfectly prudent requirement. After aU, it could be said that we have suffered from the activities of a great number of migrants to Australia who have used Australia as a launching pad for abuse and sometimes for incursions against other countries with which we have correct and proper relations. Guests in a country should not use that country to make bad relations between it and other countries. My Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Willesee, has taken initiatives in the United Nations- he did so at the last General Assembly meeting- to expand the international laws concerning territorial and diplomatic asylum. We have answered questions on notice on this matter in recent months. This Australian initiative will make it very much easier for people to take refuge from regimes which would not tolerate them in their own countries.
Australia is one of the very few countries in our region which have adopted the existing United Nations conventions. I believe New Zealand is the only other country for thousands of kilometres around which in fact has adopted the United Nations refugee conventions. We have applied them scrupulously. I point out that there are already in Australia over 1000 adult refugees from Vietnam and over 2000 refugees from Portuguese Timor, none of whom could have entered Australia under the racist policies which the Government of the honourable member for Lilley, our predecessors, used to apply.
-( Cunningham-Minister for Minerals and Energy)- For the information of honourable members I present papers containing the special environmental provisions applying to mineral leases Nos. 95 and 102 on Fraser Island. Due to the limited number available reference copies of these papers have been placed in the Parliamentary Library.
-(Reid-Minister for Urban and Regional Development)- For the information of honourable members I present a communique by the Albury-Wodonga Ministerial Council meeting of 14 August 1975.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Discussion of Matter of Public Importance
– Order! I have received a letter from the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government’s total indifference to the unemployment situation in Australia.
I, therefore, call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in thenplaces. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in thenplaces)
-This matter of public importance, ‘the Government’s total indifference to the unemployment situation in Australia,’ was prompted to be raised for discussion by one of the most careless remarks I have ever heard made by a Minister in this
House. But it was the underlying significance of this remark which was really important. It revealed what the Minister and the Government actually thought about unemployment and it explained a lot. The remark was made by the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Riordan), representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration in this House. In answer to a question he said that there were about 95 000 unemployed when Labor came to power. But his comment on the present situation was almost unbelievable. I quote from the Hansard record of 19 August, page 11: … we are, therefore, looking at something less than 150 000 extra.
That was an extraordinary statement. It is extraordinary by any standards, but when it is made by a Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration, and a Labor Party Minister at that, one has to look for a deeper significance. The significance, of course, is that the Minister unwittingly let the House know, let the people of Australia know, that this Government considers an extra 150 000 unemployed of little consequence. Compared with what I believe will be the eventual results of the Government’s policy even an extra 150 000 unemployed will be dwarfed by the unemployment problem which is now starting to appear. The problem will emerge as the school leavers join the ranks of the unemployed. It will expand as the lack of business confidence continues to eat away and erode employment prospects. It could well reach such proportions that it swamps this disastrous Government.
The whole of Australia wants to see an end to the Government, but what a price to pay in human terms; what a price to pay in lost production which can never be made up. Yet in the mind of the Minister for Housing and Construction, clearly reflecting the opinion of his Government, we have only an extra 150 000 unemployed. What hope is there of recovery if that is the attitude of the Government? How can we expect any resurgence of economic activity? This Government set off on the road to high unemployment when it let inflation get out of control in Australia. At the start of 1972 the rate of inflation was about 7te per cent. It sounds like paradise now but it was very high by the standard set by years of responsible Liberal and Australian Country Party government. But by the end of 1972 the rate of inflation was less than 5 per cent. Then in came this Government of enthusiastic spendthrift amateurs. What a combination to have to try to govern a country. The results were predictable.
We pointed out what would happen and it did happen. The tragedy is that the situation will continue to get worse in the absence of positive stimulation and incentive to industry from the Government. There was no such stimulation and incentive in the Budget, least of all to the union movement. One would have thought that having come under constant attack from the union movement for having created unprecedentedly high unemployment the Government would have made some effort to implement policies on which the unions put high priority. But not a bit of it. Ignoring the unions’ No. 1 priority, that is, indexation of personal income tax, the Government stuck with its discredited ideology. Wage earners know, and the Mathews Committee confirmed, that the ever-increasing proportion of wages going in tax is one of the most powerful influences in generating high wage demands. The Liberal and National Country Parties have recognised this. We have announced that we would introduce indexation of personal income tax over 3 years.
Even this Government has finally come to the brilliant conclusion, which everybody else has known since inflation took off in 1973, that excessive wage demands greatly in excess of productivity increases were the major cause of inflation. And yet when presented with the opportunity to reduce the source of this dangerous inflationary pressure the Government refused to take it. Even the fact that its own industrial wing had supported the indexation of personal income tax was not enough to divert this Government from its chosen path. It is now quite obvious that this chosen path is not directed towards improving job prospects. It is directed towards the Government getting a bigger and bigger share of the national income through huge increases in tax on personal incomes. Pay as you earn tax this year will go up by no less than 43 per centdouble the rise that even the Government expects in average weekly earnings. The Government has quite deliberately chosen to take more of what people earn rather than give back to individuals a greater share of what they gained by their own efforts. The reason, I suggest, is not hard to find. Socialist governments refuse to believe that people know better than governments how to spend their money. Because of this blind ideological commitment the Government has cynically condemned this country to higher inflation and higher unemployment.
If the Government had been willing to forgo some revenue and put some more money back into people’s pockets by adopting the principles of income tax indexation it could have made a major contribution towards moderating wage demands. By rejecting the tax indexation principle, by turning its back on the support of the union movement for this principle, the Government has virtually guaranteed a continuation of inflationary pressures. It seems determined to break the record that uncharacteristically, it has been reluctant to claim- the record unemployment that it has created. The signs that this record is almost certain to be broken are to be found in the Budget papers. Even assuming an increase in gross domestic product of 5 per cent, and the Treasury is obviously having serious doubts about whether this figure can be achieved, the increase in employment is expected to be only one per cent. In view of the Treasury comment, this must be regarded as a very optimistic figure.
Since it is expected that there will be a 2 per cent increase in the workforce, about 60 000 more people will be added to the 250 000 now unemployed. But that is not the end of the story. We must not forget the 32 000 people who are now in temporary jobs under the Regional Employment Development scheme. They will be coming back on to the labour market as funds run out. There are now still more people completing their training under the National Employment and Training Scheme, but training for what? They will have new and worthwhile skills but that will be no consolation if there are no job opportunities for them. These extra unemployed- that is what they really are; they are not in permanent, productive employment and the statistics should acknowledge that factwill swell the number to about 350,000 unless they can be absorbed into private industry.
The Government seems determined to make things even worse. It is now busily engaged in an exercise deliberately to fragment the motor vehicle industry even more than it is fragmented now. Against all the advice from all quarters, including the unions concerned, the Government will try to form another company to make 4- cylinder engines in South Australia. As I have emphasised time and again, the result will not be more employment in the industry. It may shift employment from one area to another, although that is doubtful, but it will cause enormous social disruption where there are existing factories, and thousands of jobs will be put at risk.
– Where are they?
– Geelong is one such area. The eventual result will be to add to the disillusionment of car manufacturers in Australia. There will be a real danger that they will take their operations elsewhere. What will happen to areas like Geelong and Broadmeadows in these circumstances? A lot of people in the electorate of Corio will be questioning just what a Labor government means to them. Only this morning we had another reminder of what a combination of a Labor government and high inflation means. Three hundred workers are to be retrenched from the Commonwealth Engineering (New South Wales) Pty Ltd plant at Granville in New South Wales. The reason for this is that the company’s contract for rollingstock cannot now be proceeded with because the Federal Government cannot provide the finance. There could be no clearer illustration of what inflation does to a country. When its effects start to bite- they are biting now in Australia- a government is prevented from providing for its citizens the services which in other circumstances it could provide and which its citizens have a right to expect. It pulls down living standards for everyone. But that probably will not worry the Minister for Housing and Construction, who is at the table. He is already on record as saying that Australians should give up trying to build themselves a 10-square house; they should start off by building a 6-square or 7-square house. That is a reduction in living standards. What an achievement when, after 3 years of Labor Government, all the advice home builders can get is to cut their expectations by 40 per cent!
The Labor Government’s failure to tackle the unemployment problem is not confined to its attacks on the larger companies. Perhaps even more significant are the effects of Labor government on small businesses in Australia. This is nothing short of catastrophic. Small businesses are estimated to employ over 40 per cent of our total work force and over 90 per cent of the work force in country areas. Yet at least 3000 businessessome large, some small- have closed this year alone. In Victoria 1179 companies have been removed from the register so far this year compared with 1156 for the whole of last year. In New South Wales 878 companies have been wound up, and the Premier claims that record numbers of people are going bankrupt. In Queensland 719 companies have closed. There has been a threefold increase in resignations from the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce in the last 12 months. These figures disclose a frightening situation to everybody except apparently the Government.
The question must be asked: Is this situation deliberately contrived? Is this the result of a policy of a government with declared socialist objectives? I suggest that it may well be. A socialist government is not too concerned about big business. Big companies do not have a vote and they can be controlled to a large extent by legislation if a government makes up its mind to do so. But small businesses and independent operators are a very different proposition. They are much harder to deal with. They do have a vote, and there are hundreds of thousands of them. They are in fact the greatest single barrier to achieving a socialist form of government. What could be more natural than that a government with such aims should set about to get rid of them? Once put out of business, once dependent on government they are no longer an obstacle. That is what this Government is in the process of doing right now.
By a combination of ever-increasing taxation associated with high inflation, the Government is making it impossible for thousands of people to carry on their own business, whether it be in farming or in anything else. Unfortunately, the figures show that the Government is succeeding to a dangerous degree. But it will not succeed altogether, because long before it puts every small businessman to the wall the people of Australia Will have thrown this Government out of office. They Will have thrown it out so comprehensively that it will be a long time before the Australian Labor Party gets another chance to ruin the economy and create the highest unemployment since the Depression. The damage already done will take time, energy and skill in government to repair. This Government cannot do it. The Budget is a blueprint for further unemployment taking off from a disastrously high and still rising base. The Opposition’s alternative Budget has shown the way for economic recovery in Australia. The sooner it is put into practice, the better for the prospects of hundreds of thousands of job seekers all over this once prosperous country.
– This is another matter of public importance which has been based on a completely false premise. The honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) has based his argument on 2 assertions which are miserably false and are widely away from the truth. I challenge him now to show one shred of evidence where I advocated that Australians should be content to reduce from a 10-square house to a 6- square house.
– I have a transcript of it.
– I challenge the honourable member for Hotham also, as a matter of honour, to illustrate where I have said that the Australian home seeker should be content with a 6-square home and that it should be reduced from 10 squares to 6 squares. I say that the statement is false. As a matter of integrity and honour I expect the honourable member to check his facts. The matter is on record and I expect him later this day to withdraw that quite untrue statement.
– If you did not say it I will withdraw.
– I did not say it. It is quite untrue. It is quite false and improper to allege that I said it. What I did say was that expectations were growing higher, that Australian families were growing smaller, that houses were growing larger and I thought that costs were such that there would have to be some reductions.
– I will tell the honourable member why. It is not a question of a reduction from 10 squares to six, as he miserably represented it this morning, but it is a question of the average size of a house in Australia having risen to 16 squares. It is that cost structure- and that is what the building industry is producingwhich is making it so difficult. I expect the honourable member to withdraw his miserably untrue statement.
The other false premise on which he based his argument- I hope that he will not try to wriggle out of it and that he will deal with it as a matter of honour and integrity, as expected of every member of this House- is that on 19 August I in some way brushed aside the fact that there had been a net increase of 150 000 in the unemployment figure. I took up an interjection by the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) and said that the Government regarded very seriously -
– That was afterwards.
– I was drawing attention to a simple fact. It was that unemployment did not start this year. I say to the honourable member for Corangamite that whereas in previous times unemployment was induced by previous governments, on this occasion it was not. The honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) laughs. I will refer to what was stated by the previous Minister for Labor and immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) when he quoted from a Treasury minute in the year 1971-72. He said that the Budget of 1971-72 was designed to induce unemployment in this country and it succeeded. The former Leader of the Opposition boasted about its success. That is the significant difference between the Opposition’s policy and this Government’s policy. Anybody would think from listening to the honourable gentleman that Australia was the only country that had this difficulty. In fact Denmark, the United States of America, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom- I could go on and on- all have similar problems. Every other comparable country in the world faces the problem of unemployment at this time. The reason is that the whole of what I might call the so-called Western nations are going through a period of economic downturn. Where facts are available, it will be seen that the United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium and France have a problem relating to unemployment, just as Australia has.
The honourable gentleman then sought to assert that tax indexation would bring about a moderation hi wage demands. What is his real authority for making that claim? He believes it to be the case. It may be a legitimate view. But that is not the only way in which a moderation in wage demands can be achieved. In the current Budget, the Government has brought about a restructuring of the tax scale.
– What sort of restructuring?
– The Government has introduced the commencement of a restructuring of tax scales which, I believe, will have a better effect on wage restraint than the suggestion which the honourable member puts forward.
– There is a 43 per cent increase in tax receipts.
-That action is consistent with the recommendations in the Mathews Committee report. I believe that there is some trade union responsibility left in this country. I know that the honourable gentleman does not. I know that he is committed to the campaign of union bashing being conducted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser).
– That is nonsense.
– I know the honourable member is committed to that manifesto. I know that he thinks he has all the answers to industrial disputes. The Opposition says that it will solve the problem; it is going to strengthen the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. There are a number of people I can recall who had all the answers to industrial disputes. The first was Henry Ford. He engaged the underworld, the thugs and the bashers, and he failed.
-What has this to do with unemployment?
– Then we had a gentleman named Hitler. He put union leaders and strike leaders in concentration camps. He failed.
– I rise to take a point of order. The Minister has strayed completely from the terms of the matter of public importance proposed for discussion.
-No point of order arises.
– The third person who, I can recall, had a simple answer and an easy solution to industrial disputes was Stalin. He used the Red Army. He used soldiers with rifles and bayonets, and men in tanks with machine guns. He failed. The honourable gentleman from Corangamite and his Leader have a solution. I am waiting with interest to see what it is. It must be better than the methods adopted by the 3 persons to whom I have referred. Perhaps it is a combination of their methods. I do not know. We are yet to hear it.
There is no question that industrial disputes were partly responsible for the high unemployment figures released last month. The building disputes in Victoria undoubtedly played a significant part in those figures. I said that at the time; I repeat it now. I say further that there is a need for union responsibility. In fact, the trade union movement is based on the premise that individual unions will not take strike action without consulting the central trade union body if a proposed strike action would affect the livelihood or the employment of other trade unionists. I hope that this principle will be more closely followed in future months than it has been in recent years. I well recall the time when it was followed to the letter. I believe that there is a heavy responsibility on trade union leadership today, more so than at any time in the last decade, to act responsibly in the national interest and in the long term interest of the members of trade unions.
Of course wage restraint has some problems. Of course wage indexation principles present problems in respect of individual employees. But we are seeking to convince the trade union movement of the worth of wage indexation. We are putting our views frankly and forcefully before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. This is more than the Government of which the honourable member for Corangamite was a member ever did. It is much more than he did when he was the Minister Assisting the Minister for Labor and National Service. That Government adopted a vacillating approach before the arbitration tribunals. It lacked the courage to do what needed to be done.
– We intervened.
– Of course you intervened; and as often as not you sat on the fence and tried to do your business through the back door. The honourable gentleman knows that that is true. Yet the honourable gentleman has the audacity to criticise this Government in respect of the National Employment and Training schemethe NEAT scheme. Training for what, the honourable gentleman asked. Fancy him, of all people in this Parliament, saying that. He and the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) were in charge of training under the previous Government. The result was that they trained a few cleaners and lift drivers, and practically nobody else.
-That is not right.
-You did not seriously undertake -
– That is not right. There were thousands.
– Thousands! What were they- sausage makers and candlestick makers? You trained nobody. What is more, you made absolutely no attempt whatsoever to develop a manpower policy It was the present Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs (Mr Clyde Cameron) who initiated the first serious examination of a manpower policy
– It was not necessary.
– I take the intelligent comment from my friend on the opposite side! You are a brilliant interjector. Of course it was necessary. You Will know, if you look back through the figures when your Party was in government -
-Order! The Minister will address his remarks to the Chair.
– The honourable gentleman will see, if he looks at the figures, that every time when there was unemployment in this country it was mainly in the unskilled worker classification and that at any time when there was not unemployment there was an acute shortage of skilled employees.
What has this Government done? What is this indifference about which the honourable gentleman speaks? It is indifference which saw the commencement of the NEAT scheme, a training program without precedent in this country. It is indifference which saw the introduction of a scheme known as the Regional Employment Development scheme on which in 1974-75, $60.4m was spent and on which, in 1975-76, $135m will be spent. What about the rural unemployment scheme which the honourable member for Corangamite holds up as being of some use? What was it in fact? It was a grass cutting, weed chipping operation- that is all that it was- to keep the unemployed usefully occupied. For that work they received a pittance.
This Government has attacked the problem seriously. Large numbers of people have been employed under the RED scheme. The criterion of the scheme is that at least 50 per cent of money supplied through the RED scheme must be spent on persons registered as unemployed. I expect that the 1975-76 allocation will considerably increase the opportunities for employment further above those provided in 1974-75. The allocation for this financial year is based on the premise that the employment level will substantially improve.
– What if it does not?
– If it does not, the Government will have to review its position. But what Opposition members are trying to do in this debate and in other debates is to knock the economy. I suggest that they ought to start putting the national interest before their own grubby political advantage.
– Does that mean a mini-Budget? Does it mean another Budget?
– Honourable gentlemen opposite want to engage in debates on their experience. Yet every time they speak they seek to spread doom and gloom. They seek to undermine confidence. They ignore overseas experience. At every possible opportunity they overstate every defect in our economy. I do not wish to say here this morning that the Australian economy is about to burst forth in a new boom and that there is bright sunlight just above the horizon. But I do say this: There has already been a moderation in the rate of increases in wages. There has already been some improvement in profit in significant areas of industry. There has already been indication of a further rundown in stock.
– Retail sales are up.
– All of these factors point, as does the increase in retail sales, to an increase in consumer spending. These factors point to an improvement in the employment situation. Honourable members will not hear from this Government any statement such as was made in April 1971 to this effect:
Every country which has created or permitted unemployment as a weapon against inflation has failed miserably. We take full employment as a cardinal act of political faith and will not resort to unemployment to achieve our objective.
That was stated by the former Leader of the Opposition, the right honourable member for Bruce (Mr Snedden), in April 1971. On 22 January 1972, after the 1971-72 Budget, the right honourable gentleman, as the then Treasurer, said:
We have achieved what we set out to do in that we have created an environment in which over-award payments are depressed.
In other words, having said on the one hand in April 1971 that the former Government would never use unemployment as an anti-inflationary weapon, in January 1972 the boast was that unemployment had been created and that this was having a significant effect on the demand for over-award payments. I invite honourable members to note the duplicity shown in those statements. Such is not the policy of this Government, but it was the policy of the previous Government, as enunciated by the right honourable member , for Bruce in his capacity as Leader of the Opposition at that time. This is another example of the crass hypocrisy of the Opposition. It says one thing but it means another. It says one thing when it suits it to do so but finds no problem at all in denying its own proposition in almost the same breath. Unemployment benefits are paid at a record level.
– They sure are.
– I note the honourable member’s interjection.
– There are three times as many.
– I said that the unemployment benefit is at a record level. The honourable member obviously disagrees with the current level. He would go back, I presume, to his own standards which applied previously. The State governments are not playing the game in attempting to overcome the unemployment problem. They are using it as a weapon with which to bludgeon more funds out of the Government. In conclusion, there was a slight rise in unfilled vacancies in the previous month as shown by the latest figures available, particularly in the textile trade.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
-After having listened for the last 15 minutes to the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Riordan) making a rather lamentably poor rebuttal of the arguments raised by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), I am doubly enthusiastic in supporting the raising of this matter of public importance. There was a time in this country when every citizen, even the humble sausage maker and candle-stick maker, had 2 fundamental rights- to own his own home and to have a job. But these rights and their associated hopes have been splintered through the schemes and policies of the Labor Government. The nation is faced with the prospect of half a million unemployed at the end of June next year, a figure suggested by the leader of the trade union movement in this country, Mr Bob Hawke. This proves once and for all that the socialistic excesses of the Labor Government have led us to ruin. The raising of this matter of public importance by the honourable member for Corangamite shows our concern at the dim prospects facing our people and particularly our school leavers, our concern and sincere desire to rectify the position by the positive policies we have proposed contrasts sharply with the parcels of idle gossip which the Government hands out with such off-handed remarks as ‘It is a world-wide problem’, which was one of the remarks of the Minister for Housing and Construction who also said in answer to a question in this House: ‘We are looking at something less than 150 000 extra’. This type of flippant dismissal of the catastrophe of record unemployment depicts a minimum veneer of concern and proves conclusively that the Government does not care at all about the men and women who cannot obtain employment.
-As the honourable member for Riverina quite rightly says, it is terrible. The Government shows no compassion for suffering and deprived families.
– Callous disregard.
-I am indebted to the honourable member for Wakefield. The Government does not feel for the thousands who wearily and depressingly trudge the streets of the cities and towns searching for jobs that no longer exist. No wonder the nation’s mood is ugly, as was reflected in the recent Bass by-election results and in public opinion polls. The nation is searching for stability and security as practised by the Liberal-Country Party governments over the years, which we will again translate into action after the next election. Whenever there is the slightest upheaval in political avenues it is greeted by the unjust and illogical cry by various Ministers: ‘This is the result of 23 years of Liberal-Country Party government’. No longer can the Government hide behind this facade and I hope the Minister is listening now. The Government cannot use that as an excuse any more.
Equally it cannot use the weak excuse which the Minister used in his reply to the intelligent argument advanced by the honourable member for Corangamite. The Minister said: ‘What can we do about it? It is world-wide. There is a whole host of countries with an unemployment problem like we have in Australia ‘.
The responsibility for unemployment in Australia rests fairly and squarely with the policies, social and otherwise, of the Australian Labor Party. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the policies of other countries. It is this Government’s responsibility and it is trying to slither away from its responsibility, showing no concern for the people of Australia. At this stage it is quite pertinent to point out that 287 000 people are unemployed- 4.8 per cent of the work force- and we have only 30 462 unfilled vacancies. This situation, with the staggering prospect of further upward movements, is due to the economic policies of the Government. In effect, they are the wounds from policies which were aimless, are still aimless, and are based on false premises. When the Labor Government came to office and initiated many of its economic policies, we on this side of the House told the Government what would happen and we have been proved to be right. In the final analysis the Government policies have brought the wheels of industry, the great employers and suppliers of jobs, grinding to a halt.
The Government should be honest and not endeavour to slither out of its responsibilities because its economic policies have led to this situation. Let us retrace our steps in order to have the situation accurately spelt out. The Government’s manoeuvres were transparent to everyone except the Labor Party. The underlying causes of the situation we find ourselves in are the Government’s economic policies; the establishment of the Prices Justification Tribunal; unemployment schemes like the Regional Employment Development scheme, the Structural Adjustment scheme and the National Employment and Training scheme; increased unemployment benefits and the easing of requirements relating to a person’s refusal to accept a job in a specific category; and inability to control the trade union movement. These were all deliberate Government decisions calculated to carry out the grand dream of socialism but they angered the people and outraged acceptable standards.
Let us examine some of the economic policies in detail. The Government blundered in its credit squeeze policies in early and mid- 1973. The results of these policies did not filter through until mid- 1974 when the floodgates of unemployment were opened and many thousands of people were seeking employment benefits. We had such decisions as the increase in interest rates in May 1973, the raising of statutory reserve deposits, currency revaluations resulting in less money for our exports and greater competition from cheap imports in certain industries such as the textile and clothing industries. These decisions resulted in great hardship in certain areas. The Government obviously does not understand what confidence means in overall economic planning. Its economic thrust has been proved to be astray and misguided. The Prices Justification Tribunal has served no usual purpose whatsoever. It has squeezed profits and has created an environment in which private industry cannot plan for the future because it has no confidence in what will happen. The Tribunal has not allowed just profits to be made and no industry can function unless its future is safeguarded by the prospect of a decent return on capital invested.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has said where the Prices Justification Tribunal will go when we get back into power, and that is out the door which is the best place for it. Unemployment schemes have not been able to take up the slack. They have been a relative failure in a general way although they have given relief in some cases. The RED scheme, the purchase of the Leyland site, the development of the NEAT scheme and the structural adjustment scheme have been largely misplaced because they have not created one permanent job. They have had as their basis temporary employment which is not the type of employment which we on this side advocate. The number of people receiving unemployment benefits has jumped from 32 009 in June 1974 to 162 000 in June 1975, and the sum of money now allocated in a full year for unemployment benefits, unemployment relief and employment-creating schemes is $638,427,000. This is a disaster and is featherbedding to bums and slackers in our society. These people are abhorred by all thinking Australians. We on the Opposition side of the House are totally opposed to paying benefits to people who will not accept employment when they are physically capable of doing the job and a job is offered to them. This money would be better spent in giving to our mothers an increased endowment payment to improve the quality of life of the greatest people in this country than it would be when given as handouts to people who will not work.
The trade union movement also stands condemned in its attitudes. Its policies, which have been policies of deliberate intent to destroy private industry and to create greater payments for less work, have been approved and have been inflamed by the Australian Labor Party. It has adopted a policy by fair means or foul of trying to get more wages for less work. In the time remaining to me I want to take up a few of the remarks of the Minister.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In the rhetoric to which we have just been subjected by the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) I suppose it is just as well that he did not spoil his speech by introducing facts into it. On one occasion I heard him say that the unemployment figure in Australia was too high, and almost in the same breath he said the figure was inflated, overstated. I am still trying to sort out what he really meant. I do not think he is really sure himself. He and the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) both made exactly the same mistake. They started to compare the unemployment situation in Australia today with the unemployment situation as it was in 1971-72. The fundamental error that they made was that they overlooked the fact that you cannot compare things that are alike. The only thread running through their speeches was the word ‘unemployment’!
In the late 1960s and early 1970s the world suffered a great commodity shortage, and everybody who cared to make anything was assured of a market to sell it. Therefore to find unemployment at all in that period was sinful because, as I said, there was a worldwide commodity shortage. In the world today, because of the cessation o f the Vietnam war and the turning of resources to peaceful manufacture rather than manufacture for war, there is a glut of commodities, so manufacturers are laying off people. To illustrate this point a little bit further and show just how callous was the action of those who sit opposite, in the 1971 Budget it is acknowledged by everybody that the previous Government set out deliberately to create unemployment when there was no need for it. Let me read a minute dated 15 September 1971 to the Minister for Labour and National Service, as he was then known, from his Department In part it said:
We argued, therefore, in our minute that unless the Budget provided a sizeable stimulus to the economy it would lead to an increase in unemployment. … As you are aware, the Government in fact introduced a significantly deflationary Budget Our original assessment of its impact is unchanged. We believe it will lead to an appreciable increase in unemployment. If the Government wanted to make certain there was no significant increase in unemployment it should have adopted an expansionary or at least a neutral Budget. It has not done so and therefore must accept responsibility for the increase in unemployment. If the Government’s policy of trading a little less inflation for a little more unemployment does succeed it will be ipso facto at the cost of some increase in unemployment. It will be specious -
That is a deliberate indictment of a government that set out to create unemployment in a time when there was no need to do it. It was warned by the Department of Labour and National Service not to do it. We saw the end result of that in the 1972 Budget. The previous Government knew that it was losing office so it feverishly set about drawing up a Budget that introduced inflation into Australia at a higher rate than it ever was and left the Australian Labor Party with the job of trying to dampen it down.
– Some job you have done.
-The honourable member interjects and says: ‘Some job you have done’. May I be permitted to hypothesise on that a hide bit. I would lie awake of a night time and almost have nightmares thinking about the state of the nation if those who sit opposite were in charge of it. It would be so bad that it would be intolerable, because it would not be their country. The country would belong to their masters, the multinational corporations. It stands out like Aunt Sarah’s sore thumb. There is a deliberate campaign by those who sit opposite to denigrate this great country of ours.
– They are un-Australian.
-They are unAustralian to the extreme. As I have been wanting to call them in this House before, they are traitors in the true sense of the word. Honourable members who sit opposite and their cohorts in the various conservative State parliaments around this country set out to give the impression that everything is wrong. There is not a country with which we compare ourselves which is not suffering the same ills as we are. When the honourable member for Darling Downs denies that he is deluding himself. If he thinks Australia can stand in isolation in that sort of situation then, as I say, he deludes himself. It is pretty clear why honourable members opposite engage in their denigration. I believe their lust for power is exceeded only by the desire to rape the country of those who control them, the multinational corporations. The only group of people that stands in the way of the rape of this nation by the multinational corporations is the Australian Labor Party. So it is clear that a contract has been let to get the Australian Labor Party at all costs. I am quite sure that the people of Australia are not going to be fooled by that sort of stupid argument.
A number of measures have been incorporated in the present Budget to combat unemployment. No Labor Government is proud of the fact that there is unemployment. However, as I said, it would be double the level at which it stands now if those who sit opposite were in government.
– Give us the facts.
-Order! The honourable member for Darling Downs was treated generously during his speech. I suggest that he desist from interjecting.
-Actually there was nothing in his speech to interject on. The Government has cut down on immigration so as not to add to the level of the unemployed, and for doing that we are criticised. We are criticised for cutting back on the migration quota for a year. Clearly if there are people unemployed and there are not enough jobs for the people who are already here we must add to the problem if we then bring into the country more people who are going to seek jobs without any commensurate investment by those in the business sector- and they seem to be very loath to do that. If they had been workmen and withdrawn their labour it would have been called a strike. Because they are capitalists who have withdrawn their dollars it is just a matter of their exercising their right to do what they want to do with their money. Let the workman try to do what he wants to do with his labour.
Something that is probably very near and dear to the heart of the honourable member for Darling Downs is the National Employment and Training scheme. One of the aims of this scheme recently introduced by the Government is to provide training in certain circumstances for people suffering from employment difficulties. In other words, as technology has changed and more technicians than labourers have been needed past governments have just left labourers lie, so they have no skills which they can use in another area. This Government has done something about resolving that. It has undertaken to train people who never had the opportunity when they were younger because we had in this country Liberal-Country Party governments who did not spend much money on education to train people. They trained them up to the standard of being a labourer. Anything they did above that they did at their own expense. Past governments left a surplus of people who had no skills. This Government is setting out to rectify that. The national apprenticeship training scheme was another excellent scheme introduced by the Labor Government. It was designed to encourage young people to enter into trades and to train themselves and for industry to go to the trouble of training apprentices. This is something that industry never did while the previous Government was in power because it was always cheaper to import skilled tradesmen than to train apprentices in Australia. That has always been the attitude of the Opposition.
I think I heard the honourable member for Corangamite say that we were paying too much to each individual receiving unemployment benefits. The amount is too high, he said. I was speaking to a very old man the other day who lived through the last Depression. We were talking about people unemployed and the current recession and the great Depression. He said: ‘There is a great difference, me boy’. He is a very old man; he calls me ‘me boy’. He said: ‘There is a big difference. Nobody in Australia today is hungry. There are no soup kitchens and nobody is on the bread line, so the community collectively is wealthy enough to look after those who are unfortunate enough not to find employment. ‘ The honourable member would go back to the 19th Century and leave those people to starve, pay them no money at all and set up soup kitchens. That is his whole attitude and philosophy, and it is reflected by the Party which he purports to represent in this House.
-The discussion is concluded.
Representation of the State of Queensland
– I move:
I desire to deal with this matter today in, I hope, a non-partisan way. It is of considerable importance to the people of this country. When the proportional system of Senate voting was introduced the question of casual vacancies was naturally of considerable importance. It was decided by agreement and convention that vacancies, in the case of death or appointment as the case might be, in the Senate would be filled by the State Parliament concerned in accordance with the Constitution and in accordance with the motion I have moved. The vacancy would be filled by a person of the same political faith as the person who left the Senate. In passing let me say that the motion I have moved is similar in substance to a motion that was endorsed, supported and passed by the Senate in February.
The method of filling casual vacancies in the Senate in 24 of the 26 occasions when vacancies have occurred has been in accordance with convention and the person appointed has been of the same political faith as the person who left the Senate. Only in 2 cases has there been a departure from this convention. One was in New South Wales this year and the other relates to the motion I have moved today. To all the political parties and all governments in the States over the years I pay my tribute for their efforts in maintaining this convention in the face of what was sometimes no doubt a great temptation to depart from it. Therefore it makes it more important than ever today that we see that this practice is maintained.
It is necessary to retain the representation of the Senate by electing a person from the same political party as the senator who has died or left. The reason for filling the vacancy in this way is to prevent unexpected and unendorsed changes in the composition of the Senate between elections; in other words, to preserve the status quo. This is done to maintain the basis of the representation of the States. For instance, if the practice is departed from, the principle not endorsed and the convention not followed, in the event of a death by accident, in a plane crash or otherwise the representation of the Senate could change against the wishes of the State.
The question of State representation is important. It is a fundamental right of every political party also to say who shall represent it in the Parliament. Therefore the choice of the candidate undoubtedly is the responsibility and the right of the political party which is involved in respect of the filling of the vacancy. This fundamental of the party system has been accepted and given effect to. I doubt that the National Country Party would suggest that a Labor Premier select its candidate for any vacancy, any more than the Liberal Party would want the Labor Party to select its candidate. As the Labor Party rightly says, it does not want the Queensland Country Party Premier to select its candidate to fill this vacancy. I believe aU parties must adhere to this fundamental right. This convention was accepted by State Governments of aU political faiths until the recent appointment of Senator Murphy to the High Court, and now by the action of the Premier in Queensland. I point out to the Parliament that the breaking of this convention has very grave dangers for the Australian parliamentary system. AU honourable members should subscribe to this motion. As I mentioned earlier it is somewhat similar in sentiment and expression to that passed in another place on the occasion of the New South Wales crisis.
Let me relate the situation that we are dealing with today. Senator Milliner, a very respected Labor senator, passed away on 1 July. In accordance with well established practice his replacement should come from the Australian Labor Party. When this was suggested the Premier of Queensland asked that the Labor Party submit a panel of 3 Labor Party nominees- not one, but three. This is something that has not been asked for to my knowledge in any other case regarding this type of filling of a vacancy. The Labor Party subsequently elected Dr Mai Colston, who twice ran for the Senate in Queensland and narrowly missed by only 5000 votes on the last occasion. The Queensland Par.liament rejected his nomination by 62 votes to 1 5 votes. Consequently the Queensland Premier has asked for 3 nominations from the Labor Party.
Why the 3 nominations in this case? On the death of Mr Max Poulter in Queensland the Legislative Assembly rejected the nomination of Mr Arnell of the Labor Party and another member, Senator George Whiteside, was elected. At that time there was great resentment at the action of the Queensland Parliament. On the death of Senator Sherrington, a Liberal, only one nomination was asked for by the Queensland Parliament. Senator Sherrington was replaced by a Liberal senator. Dame Annabelle Rankin- a distinguished woman- did not die. She was appointed to a high position in New Zealand. Senator Neville Bonner was elected to the vacancy. Only one nomination was asked for. Why the difference in standards? Why demand from the Labor Party 3 nominees when from the Liberal and National Country Parties only one is required? It is because of the dangerous precedent that has been created on this occasion that we believe this House should state its attitude to this matter.
Honourable members will recall that not only was the nomination of our candidate in Queensland rejected- I say this somewhat unfortunately in a debate of this kind- but also one member conducted a shameful and cowardly character assassination on a defenceless victim who had, until that time, been considered perfectly acceptable to hold senior positions in the Queensland State Public Service. Honourable members may be aware also that the Premier of Queensland had asked the Labor Party to submit to Parliament, as I mentioned, 3 names for consideration. This broke completely with the precedent the same Premier set as recently as 1971 on the occasion of the resignation from the Senate of Dame Annabelle Rankin. In a letter the Premier wrote to Mr Jack Houston, the Leader of the Queensland Opposition at the time, the Premier said:
I have asked the Queensland division of the Liberal Party of Australia -
The Liberal Party, mind you- to advise me, as quickly as possible, of the name of the person they wish to nominate on this particular occasion. As soon as I am in receipt of the name of this nominee, I shall advise you accordingly . . .
Honourable members will notice that the Premier in aU cases used the singular- person, name and nominee. But when on 17 July this year the same Premier wrote to the present Opposition Leader in Queensland he said:
I should appreciate your advising me as soon as possible the names of 3 persons whom your Party would be prepared to nominate for the election of one of them by the Parliament to fill the present casual Senate vacancy.
There is one law for the Labor Party and another law for the Liberal Party. I believe that following the rejection of the nomination of Dr Colston the Premier has asked the Australian Labor Party to submit another name for consideration by the Parliament. In other words, he seeks to select the Australian Labor Party nominee to be elected to the Senate in a casual vacancy, irrespective of the support that candidate might have within the Labor Party in Queensland. Not only does he wish to deny the people of Queensland the Labor representation of a man elected by the vote of the people, but also he seeks to deny the Australian Labor Party the right to select its candidate to take the place of a former distinguished Labor senator. Nothing could be more undemocratic and nothing could represent a greater breaking of the convention that has been established. In similar circumstances, I would expect the Leader of the National Country Party of Australia (Mr Anthony) and the Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to make a speech similar to the speech I am making today and to say that they demand the right to say who shall represent their parties in this Parliament. I believe that at the same time they would say that if a member of their Party resigned or died, as the case might be, that member should be replaced by a person of similar political persuasion.
I do not criticise all members of this Parliament on this question. The Senate has unanimously endorsed a motion containing broadly the sentiments I am expressing today. Criticism on this matter has come from some very highly placed members of the Parliament They include the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), a distinguished member of the Opposition front bench, and Senator Bonner. Practically every newspaper in Australia has condemned the action of the Premier of Queensland in this case and before that, on an earlier occasion, the action of the Premier of New South Wales. The Liberal Party State executive in Queensland, to its credit, has endorsed the convention of which I spoke a moment ago. It has given its members a free vote on the matter. Sir Gordon Chalk, the Leader of the Liberals in Queensland and the Deputy Premier has stated that he will support the Labor Party nominee. No doubt, he does not Uke the Labor nominee, but he supports the convention. The 4 Liberal Party members who previously supported the convention have stated that they in turn will support the candidate of the Labor Party.
I suggest to honourable members that we in this Parliament should not stand by and watch while the Premier of Queensland plays politics with what should be a serious and responsible constitutional function, hold the Senate and, for that matter, the Australian Labor Party to ransom and deny to the people of Queensland the legitimate representation which they voted for only 15 months ago. In order that honourable members may know the attitude of some members opposite, I quote what was said by the honourable member for Moreton. He wrote in the Melbourne Herald of 2 September 1975:
In our smug way we can be convinced that this nation can be spared the ugly excesses of human activity. Oh, how wrong we can be.
Take but for example, the mean, shabby and quite disgraceful proceeding with respect to the appointment of a casual senator for the State of Queensland.
On the basis of suspicion a man’s character is impaled.
Did Pym and Hampden stand up against the tyranny of Stuart authority for no purpose?
The march to tyranny need not be long but its consequences can be utterly exhausting.
The remarks of Senator Bonner, an honourable senator who entered the Senate on the same basis that we now seek for Dr Mai Colston, are reported in the Age newspaper of 30 August 1975 as follows:
Senator Neville Bonner also accused State Liberals of an ‘unwarranted, unfair and unjust’ attack on Dr Colston’s character.
He went on to say:
I’m not happy with what happened. I’m disenchanted with the stand taken by my State colleagues -
Senator Bonner went on to say: … the Queensland Government was breaking an unwritten convention by insisting on a panel of names. . . . When I was appointed to Parliament, after the resignation of Dame Annabelle Rankin, my Party did not have to submit a panel.
It is completely wrong that they’ve required a panel in this case.
Senator Bonner said there was ‘nothing to substantiate’ Mr Byrne’s claim that Dr Colston was a prime suspect in the school fires.
I make no criticism of anything that has been said in those newspaper articles at this stage. It is good to know that in this House and in another place there are people who will stand by these conventions. As I have said, if we in this House and the members in another place do not insist that these conventions be accepted, in view of the Senate voting system there could be a complete change in the pattern of politics in this country in the case of an accident or some other event causing a member of Parliament to leave the Parliament.
Practically every journal in Australia has condemned the action of the Premier of Queensland. The Queensland newspapers from which I am about to quote are not exactly the ones that we would expect to support the Australian Labor Party. The Queensland Times in Ipswich said:
Mr Bjelke-Petersen is waging a lone war and one doomed to inevitable defeat, just as his ridiculous stand on Medibank was doomed to defeat.
The Maryborough Chronicle called the Premier’s action a ‘disgusting performance’. The Townsville Daily Bulletin stated:
Sheer cussedness appears to lie behind the attitude of the Premier and most Government members.
The newspaper went on to say:
It almost suggests that the Premier and his Government, carried away by the immensity of their parliamentary majority, are taunting the numerically tiny Labor Opposition.
The Toowoomba Chronicle said that it was regrettable and disrespectful that politics were being played on the grave of a man such as Senator Milliner. The Rockhampton Bulletin called for the vote to be reversed. I am sure that the remarks of these newspapers typify the feelings of all Queenslanders, indeed all Australians, who must be sickened to see how blind political opportunism can so degrade a simple democratic convention.
The Adelaide Advertiser of 1 September 1975 stated: ‘Mr Bjelke-Petersen’s action is contemptible’. The editorial of the Age newspaper of 29 August 1975- that newspaper has not fallen over backwards, in recent times at least, to support the Australian Labor Party- under the heading ‘Queensland Guttersnipes’ stated:
Guttersnipe politics and partisan pettiness this week lowered its reputation to a depth that is in starker than usual contrast to the lofty moral pretensions of its Premier.
The Australian newspaper of 29 August 1975 stated under the heading ‘ALP man must be returned’:
State governments adopted the convention of filling Senate vacancies from the same party as the previous incumbent for good reason. The practice is meant to preserve the political balance- as decided by the voters- of the Senate. . . . For the sake of Queensland’s proper representation in the Senate, the Premier should ask the Parliament to elect Dr Colston.
The Queensland Courier-Mail has written a number of scathing articles in respect of this matter. I do not wish to take up the time of the House by quoting all that has been said on the matter, but the comments are there for honourable members to see. After a long time in politics I have found from experience that expedience does not pay. If what is being done in Queensland at this stage is allowed to proceed, some time, some place, somewhere some people will take advantage of this precedent and may well change the whole pattern of constitutional history in this country. No member of Parliament who believes in Senate representation and who believes in the established method of filling casual vacancies can stand by and see these things occur in a State Parliament without having some qualms as to what the future holds.
That is why today, as non-politically as possible, I bring home to honourable members the need for this Parliament to endorse a resolution already broadly accepted in sentiment and spirit by honourable senators early in February and to those on both sides of the political fence in Queensland the need to obey this convention in the interests of the Parliament in which we serve and in the interests of all Australians. If the complexion of a parliament can be changed by unfortunate events such as accidents and other things it is a waste of time in many respects having elections, particularly when it happens that reputable persons such as those I have mentioned pass on unexpectedly and people do not know what will follow.
In addition to that, I state that no member of this Parliament can subscribe to any member of another political Party picking the candidate who shall represent that Party in a parliament, be it in Federal, State or municipal politics. It is the fundamental political right of every political Party in this country to pick its candidate. We have chosen our man in Dr Colston and it is not for others to cast reflections on his character. They are matters for the Party that endorse him to stand up to if and when the time comes. We on this side of the House know that he is a man of unblemished character. Like Senator Neville Bonner and others who have represented their parties in elections and have been beaten on occasions, Dr Colston has now been chosen to take his place in the Parliament.
No doubt other honourable members wish to say some words on this matter. I finish my remarks on this note: I say to members of this Parliament that for the sake of democracy we cannot sit here and allow our State premiers blatantly to destroy the conventions of Australian parliamentary democracy. These conventions, until this year, have been accepted and endorsed by Australian and State governments of all political complexions. They are fundamental to the concept of parliamentary representation and the system of Australian politics. The people of Queensland are entitled to the Senate representation for which they voted in May 1974. No individual has the right to deny the people their proper political representation in the Australian Parliament. No individual or body of individuals has the right to pick another Party’s candidates for vacancies of this kind. This House should express without any reservation, as the Senate has done, its belief in and support of the principles and conventions of filling casual Senate vacancies in the interest of democracy and the parliamentary system. I sincerely urge all members of this House to support the motion and hope they will do so.
-We have listened to the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) give a very high sounding, high principled speech. Those of us who know him know that these are pious and, in many cases, hypocritical remarks. The motion before the House is really a complete sham. It is a waste of this Parliament’s valuable time. The motion is designed to attack the Premier of Queensland. The Minister charges that there are reports that the Queensland Parliament might not appoint an Australian Labor Party replacement for the late Senator Milliner. But the Premier of Queensland has made it quite clear in public statements that Senator Milliner will be replaced by a new Labor Party senator. A Press statement which was put out last Thursday, 28 August, states:
The Queensland Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, reaffirmed today that the Queensland Parliament would follow convention and appoint an Australian Labor Party man to replace the late Senator Bertie Milliner.
This is an issue for the Queensland Government. It will determine the method and the procedure of replacing the late Senator Milliner It has made it quite clear that convention will be followed by the appointment of a person from the same political party as the late senator. There is an argument going on in Queensland over the Government’s requirement that the Labor Party, in conformity with precedent established by the Labor Party on an earlier occasion, submit a panel of names from which a new senator will be chosen. I am told that on every previous occasion when any kind of vacancy has had to be Med the Labor Party in Queensland has demanded that there be a choice of names. On this occasion when a Labor Party nominee is to be appointed the Labor Party refuses to follow its own attitudes. It refuses to offer a panel of names from which the new senator can be chosen. The new senator will be a Labor Party man. That is where the Government is trying to bring forward a red herring today. There is simply no substance in this motion at all which is based on a report that the replacement might not be a Labor Party man. I suppose this is not surprising when we look at the Minister who moved the motion.
He has been the master of furphies around this place for a long time. Because the Premier of Queensland is such a master at outwitting and outsmarting this inept and bumblefooted Government this Minister is taking an opportunity to try to strike back at the Premier of Queensland. The Labor Party has been utterly decimated by the Queensland people at recent elections. It is the Premier of Queensland, of course, who has led public opinion against this Government. The results Will be the same when we have another election. The people of Queensland know this Government for what it is. They Will see this motion for the sham it is. Let us have a look at it. The first clause asks the House to express the opinion that the choice of a replacement senator is the responsibility of the State Government or of the State Governor if the State Parliament is not sitting. What a stupid proposition to put in a motion before this House. Everyone accepts that this is the manner in which a casual vacancy is fined. Yet the Minister comes in here with this sham motion and asks the House to express an opinion on a perfectly obvious and uncontested proposition.
Next thing we will have the Minister coming into this House wanting to move a motion that the House is of the opinion that today is Wednesday. That is just about how stupid and unnecessary this motion is. What is the next clause in the motion? It asks us to commend to the State par- liaments the practice of filling casual Senate vacancies with a person from the same political party as the senator who died or resigned. Here again I think aU of us in this House will agree with that proposition. I have said publicly time and time again that I believe this convention should be followed when a casual vacancy occurs in the normal and accepted sense of that term. That is what should happen in the present situation. The Queensland Government stated that that is what will happen. I have also said- I say it again now- that when we have a contrived, politically motivated and engineered casual vacancy occurring then it is a different ball game. Who can truthfully claim that the appointment of Senator Murphy to the High Court was a normal, ordinary, casual vacancy in the morally accepted sense of the word? It was not casual at all. It was a deliberately planned and executed political manoeuvre.
Yet we have the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) whingeing and whining about the actions of the New South Wales Premier when the plotting of the Prime Minister, for his own political ends, backfired on him. I repeat that I believe that when a normal casual vacancy occurs, as with the unfortunate death of Senator Milliner, the normal practice should be followed. The Premier of Queensland has said that it will be followed in this case. So why is the Minister wasting the time of the Parliament with this unnecessary and stupid motion? Then we come to the third clause, which is really a ripper. It asks the House to view with concern reports- I emphasise the word ‘reports ‘-that the long established convention may not be followed by Queensland in replacing Senator Milliner. Can anyone imagine anything more hypocritical, more ludicrous and more laughable than this Government talking about upholding convention? This Whitlam Government is piously talking about the need to observe convention. No government in our history has done more to destroy, to break, to smash convention, custom and tradition than the Whitlam Government has done. We all remember seeing the Prime Minister one night on television declaiming with all the artificial statesmanship he could command that when violence is done to an important convention, a well established custom, then violence is done to democracy itself.
This is the Prime Minister who has bulldozed down and trampled on more conventions, customs and traditions than any national leader we have ever had. Let us look at the record of the Prime Minister and of his Government in following convention. Is it a breach of convention for the Prime Minister to try to stack the High Court? Of course it is. Does not our whole political system and national administration rest on the coventions and practices of federalism- the system which the Prime Minister constantly tries to break down. Is not this the Prime Minister who, despite our long adherence to the federal system, pursues the ideal of unitary government? Was it not this Prime Minister who tried to run this country for a while with a 2-man government? Is it not this Government whose Ministers appoint their sons, mates, political friends and defeated candidates to their staffs, their departments or authorities under their control? Is it not this Prime Minister who has completely destroyed the traditions of an apolitical public service by appointing his own personal aides and political advisers to very high positions in the Public Service? I refer to such persons as Spigelman, Wilenski and Menadue. Is not this the Prime Minister who in 1973 made the most shameful personal attack- both inside and outside the House- on a member of this Parliament? The tradition has been upheld by British Parliaments for 200 years that that is a grave breach of the privileges of Parliament.
Is it not this same Prime Minister who, having made such a scurrilous attack, used the weight of numbers in the Government to prevent the matter from being referred to the Privileges Committee? Who are these people to talk about upholding convention? But that is only the start of it. Was it not a most serious and underhand breach of convention for the Prime Minister and the then Attorney-General to try to rig the numbers in the Senate to help the Labor Party? Was it not a breach of convention and an act of outright dishonesty and deception to allow a man to sit and vote in the Senate knowing that he was no longer a member of the Senate? That is the high principled and moral Government that we have whose members are espousing great words here today. This is the Government that embarks upon an electoral redistribution while the legislation covering it is under challenge in the High Court.
This is the Government that allowed an authority- the Petroleum and Minerals Authorityto operate while it was under challenge as to its legality; a challenge that succeeded and showed that this Government was acting illegally. This is the Government that can have a Minister subjected to a vote of no confidence in the Senate and yet that Minister ignores all convention and stays in office. This is the Prime Minister, we all remember, who recommended to serving soldiers that they should refuse to obey orders- in other words, they should mutiny. This is the Prime Minister who lets his colleagues, like the present Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr Crean), suffer for weeks in the knowledge that the Prime Minister has his knife into him but is just delaying and the Minister knows full well that he is going to be pushed out. This is the Prime Minister who publicly rebukes departmental heads; who pours scorn on the work of members of the Industries Assistance Commission for his own political purposes; and who prejudices the outcome of inquiries such as the one we had on the Hobart Bridge disaster.
This is the Prime Minister who destroyed the former Speaker of this House in the most violent and vicious attack on the Parliament that has ever been seen in this country or in any parliamentary democracy. This is the Government whose Ministers are prepared to poke around the back streets and alleys of the international finance world looking for money outside the normal and traditional sources of overseas fund raising. This is the Prime Minister who publicly blames the Public Service for the economic mess into which his own incompetence has brought us. This is the Government that changes the national anthem and changes the name of the Government itself without any reference to the wishes of the people or without proper regard for the Constitution. Who does the Prime Minister think he is to talk about upholding convention and custom and tradition? What is he doing in sending his Minister into the House to espouse these pious remarks today on convention when his Government has a record like that? One could go on and on if time were to permit. Yet this motion is put before us asking us to view with great concern reports that convention might not be followed in filling the Senate vacancy in
Queensland. Those reports are not true, as I have stated.
Mr Deputy Speaker, we will support this motion because we find nothing in it which is contrary to our views even though it is patently clear that it is a waste of time. If the Minister would like to bring in another motion asking us to express the opinion that today is Wednesday then we will support that too. Such a motion would be just as unnecessary and useless. However, I move the following amendment to the last paragraph of the motion in order to make the matter quite clear:
That the following words be added at the end of paragraph (3): , but notes that a statement has been made by the Premier on behalf of the Queensland Government that it will recommend to the Queensland Parliament that the vacancy be filled by a member of the same political party as the late Senator Milliner, that is the Australian Labor Party.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion, Mr Deputy Speaker, and reserve my right to speak later.
– I listened with great interest, as did other members on this side of the House, to the speech made by the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony). He sought to belittle the motion which is before us by pouring scorn on the way in which it was set out and by claiming that it was a waste of time and a pious motion. He sought to belittle the actions of this Government insofar as its support of well established conventions are concerned. In the first place, I think one should draw his attention to the fact that the motion before us at the moment is copied from a motion moved in the Senate on 12 February this year by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Withers, and accepted by the Senate. Senator Withers moved that motion in precisely the same terms as the first 2 paragraphs of the motion before us today. So the Leader of the National Country Party is condemning a motion moved by one of his colleagues on a previous occasion and he regards it as a waste of time. That motion appears on page 505 of the Journals of the Senate for 12 February 1975-1 am not sure whether it was a Wednesday or not.
The Leader of the National Country Party raised a number of other questions. For example, he said that the Queensland Premier had reaffirmed his decision to appoint a member of the Australian Labor Party to the Senate. But the most important point is that he did not say that whoever he proposes to appoint will be a person of his choice and not necessarily the choice of the Australian Labor Party. The Leader of the National Country Party said that the Labor Party had demanded a panel of nominees on previous occasions. I have gone through the record contained in Australian Senate Practice and have found that I have been in the Parliament on every occasion since 1949 when a replacement of a senator from Queensland has taken place.
The first was caused by the death of Senator Max Poulter on 19 September 1962, as I recall. On that occasion the Government of Queensland rejected the Labor nominee, Mr Arnell. A second nominee was put forward, Mr Whiteside. He was accepted and became Senator Whiteside. The next occasion when a Senate vacancy occurred in Queensland would have been when Senator Sherrington died. He was replaced by a Liberal senator, the Liberal Party being asked for one nominee, which they submitted. The third occasion was when Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin resigned to take up a diplomatic post. She was replaced by the present Senator Neville Bonner. The Liberal Party was asked for one nomination, it submitted one nomination and that was accepted.
It was said by the former Leader of the Opposition in the Queensland Parliament during debate that if the Queensland Government were to be consistent, having asked for a panel of nominees on a previous appointment of a Labor senator, it should have asked for a panel of nominees when a Liberal appointment was sought. But the Labor Party said that it accepted the fact that the precedent of a single nomination had been honoured when Senator Sherrington died and was replaced by Senator Heatley and, consequently, every Labor member in the House voted for the Liberal Party appointee.
The Leader of the National Country Party raised the matter of Senator Murphy’s resignation and he defended the quite disgraceful attitude and actions of Mr Lewis, the Premier of New South Wales. The Leader of the National Country Party said that Senator Murphy’s resignation was a different situation. He said that the vacancy in the Senate was not caused by death but by an appointment designed to advantage the Australian Labor Party. There are precedents for that and, after all, that is what this debate is about today. It is about the question of precedent and how important it is that this convention be upheld. It is not so many years ago that the former Senator Gorton retired from the Senate in order that he might contest a vacancy to enter this place to become the Liberal Prime Minister of Australia. He was replaced- I concede that it was by a non-Labor government- by Senator Ivor Greenwood.
If honourable members are going to argue that Senator Murphy’s resignation was to advantage the Australian Labor Party, surely they should argue, in fairness, that Senator Gorton’s resignation was to advantage the Liberal Party. The Victorian Government of that time supported the convention. If that proposition is advanced it means that in the future no senator who wants to offer himself as a candidate for the House of Representatives, or as Prime Minister, for example, if he came from a State governed by a government of the opposite persuasion to his own, would be able to be a candidate because the convention would be broken. The House, the Parliament. the people of Australia could be robbed of the services of a person of great talent, and that is really what it is all about.
We are not looking only at the situation of today. That is important to us. Of course it is important to us. It is not a matter of life and death in the Senate at the moment. The Labor Government does not have a majority in the Senate. The previous Government for many years did not have a majority in the Senate either. But there are occasions- this is the importance of this motion- and there could be occasions when the political balance in Australia, the wishes of the people as expressed on the last occasion at the ballot box, could be subverted by a decision of a State government. That is surely an important question. In my time here the Government with the smallest majority was the Menzies Government elected in December 1961. It had a small majority in this House. There could have been an accident involving the death of several senators. I put it to honourable members that we all travel in substantial numbers in aeroplanes, perhaps not quite in the same standing as we used to have. A plane crash on a Friday morning would create this situation in many parts of Australia. It could be an issue for any Government in the future. If a Labor government following the 1961 Federal election had decided to be malicious in such circumstances it could have tipped the political balance against the wishes of the people. That is a very serious situation.
There have been 26 occasions since 1949 when casual vacancies have occurred in the Senate. On 9 occasions since 1949 State governments of the opposite political persuasion to the Federal Government in power have had to make that decision. Until the precedent created by Mr Lewis, the Liberal Premier of New South Wales, early this year, there was never any doubt that the State governments would accept the nominee of the political party from which the deceased, retired or resigned senator came. I shall deal with some of the cases which are worth consideration where a different decision could have been made. Take for example the death of Senator Hannaford, a much respected Liberal senator from South Australia. In 1967 there was a Labor State Government in South Australia. Senator Hannaford was replaced by Senator Condor Laucke. This occurred not long after the 1966 elections when the Vietnam war was a great issue. The nation was divided as probably it has not been divided before. Senator Hannaford was out of step with the views of his political party on the Vietnam war. I think we aU admired his personal courage in indicating that he did not support his political party in some of these matters. The opportunity was there for the Labor Government in South Australia had it so chosen, not to replace Senator Hannaford with a Liberal senator. On the contrary, the Labor Government of South Australia upheld the convention and appointed Senator Laucke.
A second example is the one that I have dealt with already, that is, the appointment of Senator Greenwood in place of Senator Gorton. That was an appointment of a Liberal senator made by a Liberal government. The point I want to make in this case is the point I wanted to make before, that this involved a resignation made very much to advantage the Liberal Party in this place. The next appointment that I wish to raise is the appointment of Senator Bonner. I do that by making the same comparison. Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin resigned and the Queensland non-Labor Government appointed Senator Bonner. Of course New South Wales always upheld this convention until quite recently. When Senator Jim Ormonde died early in 1970 he was replaced by Senator Jim McClelland. That replacement was approved by a non-Labor government.
It is easy to say that this is a pious motion, that it does not mean anything. We will know the validity of what Mr Bjelke-Petersen and his Government in Queensland propose to do when the votes are counted some time later today. It has been reported that some of Mr BjelkePetersen ‘s colleagues have been canvassing former members of the Australian Labor Party, defeated candidates from the last State election and the like in the hope of being able to get one of these people to accept nomination by the Queensland Parliament to come here as a senator. There is a clear principle in this, that a person who comes here as the representative of a political party can only be a person who has the current endorsement of his political party for that position.
Consider what would have happened in the South Australian situation if the Labor Government of the day had appointed a member of the Liberal Movement to take a seat in this Parliament, a person who had a former record of association with the Liberal-Country League in South Australia, a person who may have been a Minister of the Crown in South Australia. If such a person had been appointed in those circumstances, would the Liberal Party members have admitted him or her to their Party meetings? Every honourable member in this place knows that the answer is no. This is a debate very much about what democracy is all about. We have in our Constitution certain requirements laid down in law, quite inflexible, with which every Australian Parliament and government must conform. We are also the heirs to the British tradition. If honourable members look at the table they will see that there is a copy of May ‘s Parliamentary Practice lying on the table. We follow the precedent that was created by the Liberal governments in the early days of this century when they curbed the power of the House of Lords on money Bills. Such a provision is not written in the Constitution precisely, although it is written that money Bills can originate only in this House. It is a convention that has been upheld until quite recently- last year- when it was broken by the Opposition, that the fate of a Budget or money Bui is determined in the House of Representatives.
The issue before us today is very important. I hope that honourable members will look at it on a non-partisan basis. Next time there is a death of a member of Parliament it could be on the Opposition side, it could be of a senator who comes from a Labor held State. That Labor government I have no doubt would uphold the convention. The fact that action taken earlier this year in New South Wales and under consideration again in Queensland could bring that convention into question is a serious matter for all members of this Parliament.
-The motion of the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) is meaningless despite what the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) has said.
- Senator Withers said.
-Well, meaningless in the context of today’s debate and that is the context in which I am speaking. There is no argument with paragraphs (1) and (2) of the Minister’s motion. However, the Leader of the National Country Party of Australia (Mr Anthony) has moved an amendment to paragraph (3) because this paragraph in its present form is mischievous and is designed not to have a debate on democracy but to have a debate on party politics in the hope that the Labor Government can pick up a little ground in Queensland. The paragraph refers to reports only, and that is all there has been. From the day after Senator Milliner died it has been made perfectly clear by the Premier of Queensland that the Queensland Government would replace Senator Milliner with a member of the Australian Labor Party. That has not been in doubt from the day after Senator Milliner’s death. Let us be fair to the Premier of Queensland, and honourable members will know that I have differed in organisational matters with him in days gone by. But the Premier spoke with the authority of a Cabinet meeting and the authority of the joint parties- he was speaking for the Government and for Government supporters- when he said that he believes it is desirable for the Parliament to have a choice. This is a question of the prerogative of the Queensland Parliament. If the Queensland Parliament requires a choice that is its decision and it will be judged, and I am certain it will be happy to be judged, on the attitude that it takes.
Both the Minister and the honourable member for Brisbane referred to the death of Mr Poulter and the fact that in 1962 the then Nicklin Government would not accept the nominee who was presented by the Australian Labor Party. Subsequently Senator Whiteside was selected. The Minister for Services and Property said that there was uproar and concern within Queensland about the appointment. Senator Whiteside lost at the next election so I cannot imagine that there was any great concern as to the attitude -
– I made the point about the action of the Government in asking for two nominees.
-Well, if people were concerned about the action of the Government one would have thought they would have supported Senator Whiteside at the next election. In fact he lost his seat in the Senate at the subsequent election. The Minister says that he is not aware of a request for a choice. If he checks State Hansard he will find that on each occasion- on the death of Senator Sherrington, when the late Mr Heatley was put into the Senate, and on the resignation of Senator Dame Annabel Rankin when Senator Bonner was selected- the Labor Party in the State demanded a choice. Of course, eventually it went along with the State Government’s nominee. If the Minister refers to Hansard he will see that this is what happened. Of course the Labor Party went along with the appointments. One would have wondered what the Labor Party would have done in governmentit was in Opposition and it did not have the numbers in any case to force its viewbecause it set out quite clearly in the State Parlia.ment that it believed a choice was desirable. When the Premier says on this occasion ‘Let us have a choice’ the Labor Party runs away from that attitude and position.
The choice of a candidate is a matter for the Queensland Parliament alone. Practice will be followed. I am quite sure in my mind that a member of the Australian Labor Party will be selected for the position of senator at the meeting of Parliament in Queensland this afternoon. It is not a question of personalities. The Liberal Executive has expressed a view, and it has a right to do so. There was no direction to the parliamentary members of the Government parties. I sat beside Sir Gordon Chalk at an Executive meeting the other night. He has a view. If I were in Queensland I would have no personal objection in voting for Dr Colston. But my view or anybody else’s view is irrelevant. It is a matter for the State Parliament.
This Government has much to blame itself for in the present problems because it has made the States so sensitive as a result of its attitude on many issues. The Senate is so critical to the States that obviously they want to have the best men to represent them. I thought that the Leader of the National Country Party presented a magnificent catalogue of deception, a magnificent catalogue of the number of conventions and practices that this Government has broken. The idea of coming into the House and piously trying to express concern about some attitude of the Queensland Parliament in this matter will not sell. The nation will not forget the Government’s attempt to circumvent the Senate by the appointment of Senator Gair to Ireland. Of course, the Government probably never got over the fact that on that occasion the Premier, with the aid of Senator Wood, outmanoeuvred it completely and made that Utile move quite unsuccessful. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has made it perfectly clear that he believes convention should be followed and will be followed and that a Labor man will be selected. The Leader of the Opposition is in no way in conflict with the
Premier of Queensland about this. But the Leader of the House came in, said that he wanted to talk about this matter in a nonpartisan way and then he turned the debate into a personal attack on the Premier of Queensland. Of course there are very good reasons for this because Queensland is one of the real trouble spots for this Government. It does not surprise me that the honourable member for Brisbane has spoken in this debate and that the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) appears as though he will do so because they are well aware of the difficult climate they may have to face in Queensland. They are well aware that so successful have been the Liberal and National Country Parties in that State, that if the figures in the State election were transposed to a federal election they would not hold their seats and the Opposition would have four of the six senators at the next Senate election.
The whole motion is a sham. There is no need for it. It is simply designed to try to embarrass the Premier who has outmanoeuvred the Government and has been such a superior tactician in politics for a number of years. The Government’s move will not work. It is probably designed as well to try to force some sort of division between the Liberal and National Country Parties in that State. That Will not work either. A meeting of the Government parties is to take place today, a Cabinet meeting is probably going on in Brisbane at this very moment and the Parliament will meet this afternoon when the matter will be resolved, and I am certain resolved to the satisfaction of the Queensland electorate. I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the National Country Party.
– I must say that I was not surprised to hear the attitude taken by the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Eric Robinson). I know that he has always taken a fairly responsible attitude in these matters. I know that he has been doing everything possible to influence his Liberal colleagues in the State Parliament to take an equally responsible attitude on this issue. I was delighted to see that two of the Liberal members- Mr Hewitt, the member for Chatsworth and Mr Kaus, the member for Mansfield- who represent State electorates in my electorate were men of principle who had the decency last week to support the attitude that the man to be endorsed for the casual vacancy in the Senate should be Dr Colston, the Labor nominee. They were two of the three Liberals who indicated such support. It has been suggested by the Leader of the National Country Party of Australia (Mr Anthony) today that this motion is a waste of the time of the House. I would say that it is not a waste of the time of the House. It is a pity, of course, to think that the need existed for such a motion as the one before us to be debated in the House today. This motion seeks to give honourable members the opportunity to endorse a fundamental principle of our democracy, to support our Constitution and the accepted convention which has in recent times been rejected by one State Premier and now stands threatened by another.
Today honourable members will be given the opportunity to support the principle that casual Senate vacancies should be filled by a person of the same political party as the late or ex-senator whose seat is vacant. It conforms basically to a similar resolution debated in the Senate on 12 and 13 February of this year following the disgraceful decision of the Liberal Premier of New South Wales to appoint what he falsely tagged as a ‘political neuter’ to replace retired Labor senator, now Mr Justice Murphy, who was appointed to the High Court On that occasion the Senate carried the resolution unanimously. I hope, and I would believe from what has been said here today, that this chamber will do likewise.
The fact that there has been a need to debate this matter in the Parliament is regrettable. However, it is vitally necessary to do so because of the political and biased attitudes that have been stated publicly by the Premier of Queensland in the latest of his paranoid rantings and because later today the Queensland Parliament for the second time will consider the filling of the casual vacancy caused by the sudden death of Senator Bert Milliner, my late colleague on 30 June. The often quoted but nevertheless valid words uttered by William Pitt in the House of Lords in 1770 that ‘power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ are significantly true of the situation in Queensland today. There is no doubt that because of the evil influence of the Premier of Queensland the situation exists whereby unless the Labor nominee, Dr Mai Colston, is endorsed by the Parliament this afternoon a non-Labor senator will be sent to represent Queensland in this Parliament
To summarise the attitude taken by the power drunk Queensland Premier, it is important to reflect that within hours of Senator Milliner’s death he took the attitude that he would keep his options open. In his first public statement he clearly equivocated in regard to the replacement of the Labor senator by a new Labor senator from Queensland. The double standard that he has adopted in this matter can be clearly illustrated from 2 letters, copies of which I have in my possession and which were quoted by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) today. I will quote them again to make it abundantly clear that the Queensland Premier takes a different attitude when it is a Labor vacancy from the attitude which he adopts when the vacancy occurs within the ranks of the coalition parties in Queensland.
– He might have good reason.
– He might have good reason, but it is up to him to illustrate that reason clearly and to show why he adopts this double standard. Perhaps his only reason is that that is the type of man he is. We cannot trust him in issues such as this. When honesty and decency are called for it is left to the Leader of the Liberal Party to show that he is prepared to take a decent and honest approach. But that is not the case with the Premier. Perhaps that is his reason. It is for turn to answer. I refer to 2 letters written by the Premier, the first to the then Leader of the Opposition in the Queensland Parliament. The letter, dated 3 1 May 1971, was signed by the Premier and was addressed to Mr Houston. It said:
As you know, the accepted practice when a casual vacancy of this nature occurs is for the new senator to be of the same political party as his predecessor and I have asked the Queensland Division of the Liberal Party of Australia to advise me, as quickly as possible, of the name of the person they wish to nominate on this particular occasion.
The double standard is shown in 1975 when a Labor man is required to fill the casual vacancy in the Senate. On 17 July the Premier wrote to the present Leader of the Opposition, Mr Bums, and said:
The generally accepted practice when a vacancy of this nature occurs is for the new senator to be of the same political party as his predecessor.
That point has been made today. It has been suggested that that obligation and undertaking will be fulfilled this afternoon. But I will illustrate in a few moments that that cannot possibly be so unless the Labor nominee is appointed by the Queensland Parliament In that letter of 17 July Mr Bjelke-Petersen went on to say:
To this end therefore, I should appreciate your advising me as soon as possible the names of 3 persons whom your Party would be prepared to nominate for the election of one of them by the Parliament to fill the present casual Senate vacancy.
For the benefit of honourable members, in accordance with what I believe to be the ready agreement of the honourable member for McPherson, I seek leave to have the full text of these letters incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows)-
His Excellency the Governor was formally advised by His Excellency the Governor-General on 25th May, 1971, that, on 24th May, 1971, Senator the Honourable Dame Annabelle Jane Mary Rankin, D.B.E., a Senator for the State of Queensland, resigned her place in the Senate, in accordance with the provisions of Section 19 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, and that place thereupon became vacant. Dame Annabelle Rankin’s term of service had been due to expire on 30th June, 1 974.
As you know, the accepted practice when a casual vacancy of this nature occurs is for the new Senator to be of the same political party as his predecessor and I have asked the Queensland Division of the Liberal Party of Australia to advise me, as quickly as possible, of the name of the person they wish to nominate on this particular occasion.
As soon as I am in receipt of the name of this nominee, I shall advise you accordingly and, at the same time, the necessary constitutional procedure for the filling of this casual Senate vacancy brought about by Dame Annabelle ‘s resignation will be set in train.
Mr J. W. Houston, M.L.A., Leader of the Opposition, Parliament House, BRISBANE.
On 1st July, 1975, His Excellency the Governor was formally advised by the President of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia of the Senate vacancy which had resulted from the death of Senator Bertie Richard Milliner on 30th June, 1975.
The question now arises of having that vacancy filled. As you are aware Section 15 of the Commonwealth Constitution provides that when the State Parliament is not in Session the Governor in Council of the State concerned may appoint a person to hold the Senate place until the expiry of fourteen days from the beginning of the next Session of the said Parliament. When the Parliament does meet, it must then proceed within fourteen days to the election of a person to hold the late Senator’s place in the Senate. Section 1 5 also states that “If the place of a Senator becomes vacant before the expiration of his term of service, the Houses of Parliament of the State for which he was chosen shall, sitting and voting together, choose a person to hold the place until the expiration of the term . . .”
The Queensland Parliament is not presently in Session but today His Excellency the Governor has summoned the Parliament to meet on Tuesday, 19th August, 1975. In view of the provisions of Section 15 of the Constitution and the imminent commencement of the Second Session of the Forty-First Parliament of Queensland, it would be appropriate if the constitutional action involved for the filling of the casual Senate vacancy were undertaken by the Parliament following the commencement of the Second Session.
The generally accepted practice when a vacancy of this nature occurs is for the new Senator to be of the same political Party as his predecessor.
To this end therefore, I should appreciate your advising me as soon as possible the names of three persons whom your Party would be prepared to nominate for the election of one of them by the Parliament to fill the present casual Senate vacancy.
In this regard I refer you also to the provisions of Standing Order 331 (e) of the Legislative Assembly as expressed in that Standing Order and the relevant Schedule.
– There is no doubt that the present attitude of the Queensland Premier, his demand that the Labor Party submit more than one name for the vacancy, is part of a double standard warranting the most severe condemnation by this House. This motion seeks to give all honourable members the opportunity to do that. It seeks to give members of the Liberal Party an opportunity to support the stand taken by the State President of the Liberal Party, Mr Moore, who said yesterday, and I quote from the Brisbane Telegraph of yesterday afternoon: . . . the Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, was damaging the coalition parties over the Colston affair.
The motion gives him an opportunity to show his concern for the damage to his Party and to the coalition Party in Queensland. It gives the Liberal and National Country parties an opportunity to disown the attitude taken by the Premier of Queensland who seeks to create the impression that it is his intention to recommend that a Labor senator replace the late Senator Milliner in this Parliament and yet who puts upon the Labor Party and the Parliament such conditions which, if met, would mean that only one man could come here as a Labor senator.
It gives the Liberal Party here, and particularly its members from Queensland, an opportunity to support the Liberal Leader in the State Parliament and Deputy Premier of Queensland, Sir Gordon Chalk. I congratulate him on his clearly stated attitude right from the time when the first public statement was made by the Premier of Queensland who, as I have illustrated, left his options and the options of his Party open. Sir Gordon Chalk was prepared to say right from the start that he believed that convention should be followed and that a Labor nominee should be appointed to fill the casual Senate vacancy. Whilst I pay tribute to Sir Gordon Chalk, I believe that he should have gone a lot further than he has been prepared to go. He has given his Party members a free vote on this issue but he should have been prepared to show the quality of leadership that we could have expected from him at one time before he became completely subdued by the Premier. He should have ensured that there was a Party vote from the Liberal
Party in the State Parliament to support the decent attitude that he has declared publicly he intends to adopt.
Time does not permit me to mention the disgraceful performance of a young Liberal member in the Queensland Parliament who abused parliamentary privilege. In the debate in the Queensland Parliament last week he took the opportunity, being in possession of lettersperhaps he came by them in an underhand or illegal fashion- to assassinate the character and perhaps to destroy the political future of Dr Colston. It is worth while mentioning that the only notable State politician who has been prepared to support him has been the Premier of Queensland. He has not been supported by his own leader, understandably enough. This morning it was stated on the radio that the Premier of Queensland thought that Mr Byrne, the Liberal member for Belmont, had taken a correct stand last week and was to be commended. He said that he had the utmost respect for Mr Byrne. I am afraid that not many of his colleagues share that respect. I am sure that Mr Byrne, young as he is, will ultimately realise the damage he has done to his own political career.
It must be clearly understood by aU honourable members before they vote on this issue today that, if they intend to stick by the principle that has been expounded by the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony), who suggested that the Queensland Premier wishes to send a Labor senator to replace the late Senator Milliner in this Parliament that can be done only by members in the State Parliament and by themselves here today supporting the election of Dr Mai Colston. I will explain it this way: Only one Labor senator can come to this Parliament to replace the late Senator Milliner. No other Labor member or ex-Labor member can be endorsed by the Queensland Parliament to come to this Parliament as a Labor senator. Even though anybody who may be endorsed by the Queensland Parliament may have been a member of the Labor Party, even though he or she may currently be a member of the Labor Party, every member of that Party in Queensland knows- as does every member, I am sure, of the Queensland Parliament as enough publicity was given to the decision when it was made- that no genuine Labor person can accept nomination against the choice of the Labor Party, in this case Dr Colston.
Furthermore, the Party has made it quite clear that should any person be forced or persuaded by the Queensland Premier to do so, that person would no longer be considered to be a Party member; that person would be automatically expelled from the Party and would cease to be a member of the Party. That would occur simply by the acceptance of the offer to put the name of that person forward in the Queensland Parliament. So, at the time when such a nomination was being considered by the Queensland Parliament, the person nominated would have ceased to be a member of the Australian Labor Party and could not then come to this Parliament as a Labor senator.
There is no doubt about that fact. Let it be made perfectly clear. Let it be understood by all members here that that situation cannot exist. No person other than Dr Mai Colston can be selected by the Queensland Parliament as a Labor senator to replace the late Labor senator, Bert Milliner. With that in mind, I suggest that honourable members will see the situation with clarity, Will note how ridiculous is the amendment moved by the Leader of the National Country Party and Will take the opportunity to show that they are men of principle by supporting the motion moved by the Leader of the House.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Government is guilty of two serious errors in this matter. The first is in the motion that it has put before the House; it is about to make the second. The first error was made when paragraph (3) was included in the motion moved in the House by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly). Those of us who thought that the Government may have had some addiction to the truth in respect of these matters or some addiction to propriety or to convention, had that immediately swept away when we read the sense, the substance and the emphasis of paragraph (3) of the motion moved by the Leader of the House. I will deal with that aspect a little later. The second error to which I refer is an error that I believe the Government is about to commit by voting against the truth and substance of the amendment moved by the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony). Not one word of that amendment is incorrect. Not one word of that amendment is out of order. To propose that we follow convention and practice to seek to defeat an amendment which is in all cases true and correct is an exercise in hypocrisy and it deserves to be exposed.
Today I have heard a turgid recount of history, particularly by the last speaker, the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh). His speech was unconvincing. He certainly does not convince himself. What is most difficult to take is the unctuous piety without parallel with which the sacred principle is proposed but which the honourable member himself does not even understand. I put it to the House: How will the Government vote in respect of the amendment of substance, moved by the Leader of the National Country Party and seconded by me, which reflects the truth of the situation? After all, this is a firm proposition and a firm question to ask: What is a convention? A convention is basically a respected practice based upon tradition. No matter how one defines the convention under consideration, that convention does not require any State parliament to accept without question and without regard to past practice any nomination for the Senate.
I rely on 2 bases for looking at the convention. Obviously the Constitution itself has a part in developing the convention. The Constitution itself in respect of these matters is quite clear. I read one sentence from section 15 of the Constitution:
If the place of a senator becomes vacant before the expiration of his term of service, the Houses of Parliament of the State for which he was chosen, shall, sitting and voting together, choose a person to hold the place until the expiration of the term . . .
The important words are that the Parliament shall choose a person. Not only has that choice been stated and exercised by the Queensland Parliament in the past but also has it been advocated by leading members of the Australian Labor Party in that Parliament. It has been advocated by a former Leader of the Opposition in the Queensland Parliament who said that his Party wanted a choice.
We take the meaning of ‘convention’ as being a respected practice based upon tradition. The Government has quoted from Odger’s Australian Senate Practice to seek some support for its argument. I quote from page 58 of Odgers:
In the choice of a senator to fill a casual vacancy the members of the Houses of a Parliament of a State are free to choose whom they may.
That is the statement from Odgers. Now, the Queensland Government -
– What happened with Senator Bonner? Was there a choice? Did they have a choice?
– That is right. Senator Bonner was not rejected when nominated. A choice was not called for. That is the statement made by Sir Gordon Chalk at the time. It is in the Hansard of the Queensland Parliament. I will refresh the memory of the honourable member with respect to that Hansard report in a few moments. Insofar as the convention is based upon some kind of history and some kind of past practice, both the Constitution and Odgers ‘s Australian Senate Practice support the Government. I do not go so far as to say that a member should be chosen by a State contrary to, opposite to or other than from the party to which the retired senator, the defeated senator or the senator whose resignation has occurred, belonged. I do not go so far as to say that. But I say that the Parliament has a right of choice in the matter of the replacement senator.
I am reinforced most strongly in my views by former officials, leading members and front bench members of the Australian Labor Party in Queensland. I refer honourable members to the Queensland Hansard of 1 1 June 1971. There are some delightful words here. Mr P. Wood, who was a front bench member of the Opposition on that occasion- the occasion concerned the appointment of a person to fill the vacancy caused by the retirement of Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin- had certain things to say. I understand that Mr Wood is now the endorsed Labor candidate for the Federal seat of Leichhardt. I am informed by my colleagues that in fact the endorsed candidate is the twin brother of Mr P. Wood. That is close enough for me. Mr P. Wood is a former front bench member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly and on the occasion in question he was a shadow Minister. On this occasion, he said:
Well, why didn’t you give us a choice?
He wanted a choice. On another occasion, the then Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party who was later Leader of the Party, Mr Perc Tucker, had this to say -
– This is the Leader of the Labor Party?
– This man became Leader of the Labor Party in Queensland. He said:
Without detracting in any way from Mr Bonner’s nomination, I should like to refer again to the words of Premier Nicklin when Mr Arnell was nominated to take the place of the late Dr Poluter. Premier Nicklin, a very great Premier of this State, is reported at page 604, volume 233, of Hansard in these words -
Former Premier Nicklin was praised. That quotation from Hansard reads:
It is evident that pressure has been brought to bear on the Parliamentary Labor Party by the all-powerful QCE to nominate only one person -
I will leave that aspect of politics out of it: . . . thereby depriving Parliament of its right of a choice. The Parliament is not going to be denied the right of a choice.
– Who said that?
- Mr Tucker, later to be Leader of the Labor Party in Queensland. Later in the debate, he had this to say:
In making the case over and over again, Mr Tucker had a greater sense of history and a more perceptive sense of what the convention was about. He knew that the convention was as to choice. It was not as to the imposition of a choice. The Parliament itself could decide.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.1 5 p.m.
– The debate on the motion moved by the Leader of the House is about the convention concerning the choice by a State Parliament of a representative to sit in the Senate. The convention is simply that there be a choice of people from a Party, not a choice imposed by a Party. There is a world of difference between each of those situations. It has been shown incontestably that the convention as determined by the Constitution and as determined even by practice of the Senate, as interpreted by Odgers, is much narrower than the Opposition is putting it. So I put to the Government that it ought to acknowledge what the convention is, what the practice is and what are the rules of tradition that ought to be followed by a State Parliament. There are no poll.tics in this whatever. The clear rule is what the convention is and what it has been in the past.
It has also been shown that the leaders of the Labor Party in Queensland propose that the same kind of practice as is involved in the amendment to the motion moved by the Opposition be followed. The same principles have been proposed by them. I find it a little difficult to see how a government can attempt to escape that position. The process is a little like the Moscow Circus, if I may put it that way. It is a great feat when the actors perform a loop-the-loop and land on their feet. The crowd is happy and the crowd applauds. But when they do the looptheloop and land on their faces the crowd is sad and is hurt. Here the Opposition is sad and hurt because the Government has landed on its face. It has misunderstood completely what the convention is. It has ended up being something different from what it began in the Government’s mind. We are hurt because the convention is not even recognised by the Government. So we invite the Government to support the amendment that has been moved. Not one word of the amendment has been exposed to be incorrect or untruthful. Not one word of the amendment can be shown to be other than a reflection of the statements that have been made by the leaders of the Government and by members of the Executive Council in Queensland.
– Why did you choose the Moscow Circus as an illustration?
– The honourable member for Maranoa can use his imagination. There was a great racehorse called Manaroa which I backed for years but it never came in. The Opposition says ‘no more loops, no more falls’. We invite the Government to support the amendment which reads:
That the following words be added at the end of paragraph (3): ‘, but notes that a statment has been made by the Premier on behalf of the Queensland Government that it will recommend to the Queensland Parliament that the vacancy be filled by a member of the same political party as the late Senator Milliner, that is the Australian Labor Party’.
Nothing is clearer than that. Nothing is more in line with the statements made by the Australian Labor Party Leader of the Opposition in Queensland 4 years ago. We invite the Government to support the amendment because of those facts and those facts alone.
– I rise briefly to say that the Government rejects the amendment. If honourable members opposite will be patient I Will explain why. Significantly the amendment merely says ‘that is the Australian Labor Party’, but it does not say ‘the selected and endorsed candidate of the Australian Labor Party’. What the amendment means is the Labor candidate selected by Mr Bjelke-Petersen and the National Party and their taggers along in the Liberal Party in Queensland. The person selected under that process would not be a Labor representative because, as the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) said, immediately he accepts nomination he is no longer a member of the Labor Party because he is acting contrary to the rules of the Australian Labor Party. I venture to suggest that he would be acting contrary to the rules of every political party represented in this Parliament. What is wanted by Mr Bjelke-Petersen, the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony), those half baked Liberals who sit in Queensland and, evidently, the so-called Liberals in this Parliament is a Labor candidate of the National Party’s choice. That is just not acceptable to this Parliament
All the ballyhoo in the world from the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) a moment ago to try to explain and apologise for his attitude on this matter cannot hide the fact that never in the Queensland Parliament or in any other parliament has a choice been asked for or made by those who are voting in the Parliament. This is trie first time in history that this has been done and we find that Liberal Party in this Parliament- the so-called Liberal Party- accepting this practice. Thank God there is in Queensland at least one Liberal- Sir Gordon Chalk- but he must be ashamed of a few of his colleagues who sit here. And thank heavens there is a Killen in this Parliament who has the courage of his convictions.
Honourable members could take this amendment as a precedent, and precedents have an unfortunate habit of being followed. What this amendment could lead to is this: If there were a plane crash and the Party in power in a State decided to change the complexion of the Senate there would be nothing to stop it from filling the Senate with people from that Party, irrespective of the political complexion of those whom these appointments would be replacing. I might not be here to see it but some honourable members here will live to see things like that happening at the hands of some unscrupulous Premier Uke Mr Bjelke-Petersen and people like him. Therefore, when they consider this question today they should remember that.
The Leader of the National Country Party raised a few other matters including the employment of wives and daughters. I did not raise it. He should have a good look at some who sit in possum paddock. They were not above putting their wives and daughters on their staffs when they were able to appoint secretaries. So let him go back to his own backyard and stop throwing stones at the Labor Party. One honourable member from his Party gave the money back because he was so ashamed of his act in the end. The Leader of the National Country Party raised this matter and, if he likes to continue with it, I do not mind giving the names of those involved. If he is going to bring this kind of dirt into the House we should let the people know what these appointments were rather than have the blame put on this side of the House alone.
– They were temporary.
– Temporary! They would have been there still if there had not been an outcry in the newspapers. Those honourable members involved ran for cover like rats when it broke in the
Press and that is the only reason the practice was not continued.
– It would not have been new.
– I did not bring it up; the Leader of the Country Party did. Let us look at these appointments, these jobs for the boys. Have honourable members ever heard of Sir Garfield Barwick, Sir John Spicer, Mr Justice Joske, Sir w’illiam Gunn? They were appointed by honourable members opposite. Have honourable members ever heard of a man named Ian Allan who represented the electorate of Gwydir? He received a very lucrative appointment as Secretary-General and Director of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Have honourable members ever heard of Mr Arthur, the former member for Barton? He was appointed by honourable members opposite. Honourable members would have heard of Sir Howard Beale, the honourable Don Cameron of Queensland, the honourable F. C. Chaney, Mr F. J. Davis, Mr Roger Dean, Sir Alexander Downer, Sir Josiah Francis, the honourable Gordon Freith, Mr H. B. Gullett, Sir Eric Harrison, Sir Paul Hasluck, Mr J. B. Howse, Dame Enid Lyons, Mr MacKinnon, Sir Hubert Opperman, the honourable Hugh Roberton, Sir Percy Spender, the honourable Sir Thomas White, Sir William Anderson, Mr E. J. Cameron, Sir Charles McGrath- the Commissioner of the Australian National Airlines Commission- Mr L. Moore, Sir John Pagan,- former President of the Liberal Party- Mr J. Serisier, the late Sir Donald Cleland, Sir Denham Henty- a former Liberal senator- Sir Alister McMullin, Dame Annabelle Rankin and Dame Ivy Wedgwood. I have not time to read the other 4 pages of appointments and jobs for the boys that the Opposition handed out.
What a lot of rot the Leader of the Country Party talks. There was patronage unlimited under the Opposition when it was in office. Now the Opposition wants to tear up every convention in the country. What is more, the Leader of the Country Party said that the first 2 paragraphs of the motion were a lot of rot. Does he know who wrote them? It was the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Withers, and honourable members opposite know they are in trouble over there because the Leader of” the Country Party has said that he is writing rot all the time. Have honourable members ever seen anything like it? The first 2 paragraphs worked out by that great legal brain that leads the Opposition in another place have been described by the Leader of the Country Party as a whole lot of rot. Do honourable members in the Country Party corner agree?
What does possum paddock say about it now? Let us have a few words on it. Quite frankly, I admit that the most sensible paragraph is the third one, which I wrote myself. I admit that because that paragraph goes to the substance of the matter. It puts the Liberal and Country Parties on the line as betraying every principle of democratic government that we have ever heard of in this country.
Some time in the future when we get some unscrupulous individual in charge of a State, somebody who uses the tactics of a Bjelke-Petersen, and the whole complexion of the Senate changes because of an air crash or some other accident, remember that it can be laid at the door of those who represent the National Country Party in this Parliament today and those who support the actions of the Queensland Premier.
One significant absentee from this debate today is the supposed new Prime Minister of this country, the Honourable Malcolm Fraser. He is as silent as the grave. Even Billy Snedden stood up in the Parliament and looked at us. The present Leader of the Opposition is not even game to come into the debate on this issue. Where is this great leader, this great outspoken man and the new Australia he is going to lead us to? Like all Liberals he is scared stiff of the half baked collection masquerading as country members who go under the guise of the National Country Party in this Parliament I will give the National Country Party credit for one thing: A look from a National Country Party member scares the wits out of any Liberal here, in Queensland or anywhere else. I give Country Party members credit for that. Good luck to them. They must be fierce to look at because their performance is absolutely rotten, but still they have frightened heU out of the Liberals. The day the Country Party worries me wE be the day.
I thought I would wind up the debate in the spirit in which the Leader of the National Country Party decided he would start. I remind him of the appointment of his own members, relatives and others. I remind him of the jobs for the boys under his government, and I remind him also that the government side of the Parliament will not accept Labor candidates selected by BjelkePetersen because we believe that people who represent the Labor Party ought to have nothing to do with individuals Uke him. We reject the amendment for the reason I have mentioned. It does not say: ‘Selected and endorsed Labor candidate’. It does not say: ‘Member of the Labor Party’. What it does say is that
Queensland Will give to the Australian Parliament under the guise of a replacement a BjelkePetersen Labor candidate who has no place in the ranks of the Australian Labor Party.
That the words proposed to be added (Mr Anthony’s amendment) be added.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Australian National University Bill 197S. Canberra College of Advanced Education Bill 1 975.
Debate resumed from 28 August 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 suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, the Customs Tariff (Coal Export Duty) Bill and the Customs Bill (No. 2) as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, 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 3 Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering these 3 Bills? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-These Bills, the Excise Tariff Bill, the Customs Tariff (Coal Export Duty) Bill and the Customs Bill (No. 2) will be given passage in this House, but not because we approve of them. We do not. We do not oppose them because to do so would be to increase the massive deficit which we believe is already very much understated. We have to accept that reality. These Bills are necessary only because of the shocking economic shambles imposed on this nation by the Government. We have to give them passage. If we were in government there would have been no necessity to come to this sorry pass. Labor has said that the egg cannot be unscrambled. That, unfortunately, is not without some truth because so deep and so considerable is the damage and the hurt that this Government has inflicted that it may not end on the day the Government- a day not very far hence- is sacked from office. Although we will not oppose these Bills let honourable members be assured that when we are elected to govern we will clean up the mess, redress the injustice and get Australia back again onto a sound, sure, solid and economic foundation. That day, happily, is not far away.
Let us see what the Government is putting before the House today in these 3 Bills. That the Government can introduce these Bills without a blush indicates that it is willing to sacrifice principles, if it ever had any, for political expediency and that election platforms and policy speeches in the eyes of members of the Government do not constitute any sort of contract at all with the electors. Indeed if the Government so truculently claims to have a mandate to implement virtually any whim or dogma, surely it should accept that it has a mandate or contract to keep its word and to keep faith with the Australian people whose vote it courted. It was this Government particularly through its main spokesman, the man who pro tem is the Prime Minister and head of Government when he is in Australia, which made unwarranted, unsubstantiated and untrue claims, in relation to these matters, about our coalition parties. In 1972 and in 1974 when we contracted to ease the burden of taxation, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) blustered that we were seeking to delude the electorate. He claimed that we would take the reprehensible course of reducing direct income tax but in fact would effectively increase taxation by increasing indirect taxation. He assured us then that Labor would not take such a course. Yet since December 1972 that course has been pursued by this Government on an unbelievable scale and today it culminates in Bills like this.
For while the Government advances the untenable contention that it has reduced taxation it brings in, in an act of unbelievable dishonesty and hypocrisy, these Bills to increase excise and this in 1975-76 to net on beer not less than $234m; on potable spirits, $12m; on tobacco products, $75m; on crude petroleum, a massive sum of $280m. The coal export duty will return in 1975-76 a sum of $120m. I make no mention of postal and telecommunication charge increases, which also are of massive proportions and which are made on top of all these increases. So, as stated in the Budget Speech, these Bills will increase taxation by at least $72 lm in 1975-76 and considerably more in a full year. Additionally, of course, these imposts are now operative, while the so-called tax cuts have been deferred until next year. That is the record of this Government- one dishonest act which compounds a multitude of dishonest acts preceding it.
It is not good enough for members of this Government to attempt to escape condemnation and justify these sorts of Bills by burbling on about what they speciously imagine we might have done or would do in Government. It is not good enough to spread their hands and blame overseas economic conditions for our dilemma, for the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) has been forced to admit in the Budget Papers, in recounting conditions operating overseas, that Australia was relatively insulated from the predominant inflationary influence in other countries, that is, the rise in oil prices. He was forced to admit that the downturn in world activity was reflected in only muted fashion in the demand for Australian exports. The Government then cannot excuse these Bills and these actions by the further nonsensical tirades of blaming everyone else. No less a man than the Treasurer has exploded and dismissed that discredited theme and no less a man than the Treasurer has virtually admitted that the present disasters constitute a mess of the Government’s own making stemming from its complete incompetence and incapacity to govern.
Members of the Government stand without valid excuse, exposed by their own 1972 and 1974 policy speeches and condemned by their own words. Now, in an act of complete and reprehensible dishonesty, they bring in these Bills- a thing they said they would never do. These Bills are nothing more nor less than a massive increase in taxation and are implemented in the most underhand method of them all. While telling the people of Australia that they are reducing taxation Government members talk about easing the tax burden on the most disadvantaged; yet these Bills have no regard for circumstances or disadvantage. They savagely affect every person in the country. I doubt whether even a pensioner who does not smoke, is a teetotal Rechabite and rides about naked on a push bike can escape the avaraciousness of this Government. My first criticism of these Bills is that they are a dishonest abrogation of Labor promises and a betrayal of the Aus.tralian people who put Labor into office.
The next criticism is also of uncontestable validity. These Bills are extensively and directly inflationary and thus make a mockery of the Government’s statement that it was launching an attack on inflation. These measures constitute a direct increase in the price of commodities which will be reflected immediately in the increase in the consumer price index. They therefore represent another direct attack on wage indexation and reveal the Government’s complete lack of sincerity in its ostensible support for wage indexation. But perhaps even more important is the ongoing or snowballing effect because increases in fuel prices will have to be passed on in the form of further price rises on virtually every commodity. Freight and transport costs will increase. So the price of all commodities will rise. Let there be no mistake; the pensioners, the unemployed, the poor and the disadvantaged Will face these same increases. There are no exemptions for the underprivileged. Power generation and fares will increase. But this Government has the effrontery to claim that it is acting against inflation.
Of course, these Bills are inflationary and provide the fuel for inflation to take an upward impetus. But these Bills must be criticised on yet another ground. While the Government dishonestly juggles figures and claims to have exempted 500 000 people from paying taxation, these Bills in fact extend the range and intensity of taxation. It is all very well to claim that the pensioners, the unemployed and the underprivileged have had the burden eased. But pensioners, the unemployed and the underprivileged if they are then to have that burden eased must be denied their glass of beer. They must be prohibited from their occasional cigarette and they must not pay a fare or travel anywhere. This is a Government that says it cares for peoplebut not these people, apparently. It reminds one of the historical pronouncement during the days preceding the French revolution when the complaint was made that the people had no bread. Back came the royal retort: ‘Well, let them eat cake’. Apparently, this Government believes that these people must be treated with contempt. No one will suffer more under these vicious imposts than they Will. Scrooge-like this Government merely says, ‘If they Uke to die, let them die and reduce the surplus population ‘.
These measures not only represent a savage increase in taxation. They also widen the net from which the tax will be grabbed. They show a complete ignorance of the cumulative effects which will accrue and a complete lack of concern as to whom they will hurt. There is another valid criticism of the measures, namely, that they represent a betrayal of the trade union movement, the workers, and are an abrogation of all the assurances given to them by this Government. These measures, combined with the postal and telecommunication increases, will thrust upward the consumer price index by perhaps 2 per cent or more in the December quarter and even more as a result of a snowballing effect subsequently. Yet the Treasurer tells us that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, for the purposes of wage indexation procedures, should ignore these effects on the consumer price index. That is, wages must not be adjusted to take account of these rises. The Government tells us that they are sincere about wage indexation. What poppycock! There are 3 reasons why this statement is so much nonsense: First, it is of doubtful validity whether the Government can lay such a condition on the Commission; second, the unions will not accept it; and third, the Commission cannot possibly accept it. Where then is the sincerity and the honesty of this Government? It never had any and it has none now.
These Bills arrogantly represent a thumb on the nose attitude to the trade union movement and every worker in Australia. They are a massive and inexcusable confidence trick and give the lie to every assurance this Government gave to them when it asked them to accept wage indexation. Has the Government considered what these excise tariff proposals will do to small businesses and the disastrous effect that they could have? Already tottering, multitudes failed or failing, the increase excise on petroleum products will be a body blow of mammoth proportions. We well remember the way in which the words of the Leader of the National Country Party of Australia, (Mr Anthony) were twisted, distorted and quoted dishonestly and completely out of context by the media and by this Government. Now, with petrol prices already at astronomical levels, we find that they will escalate further by between 6c to 10c a gallon. Already in remote areas petrol costs over $1 a gallon. If honourable members want verification of that, they can ask my friend, the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter). That reflects too -
– It costs 79c a gallon in Mount Isa.
– It costs more than that as you travel towards the border. I would think that that reflects the attitude of this Government to rural people and primary industry. The Government has set out deliberately in a vindictive attack on rural people and primary industry. As previously shown in my comments, these additional increases will snowball, multiply and escalate the price of virtually every good and service. Let the Government deny that if it can. The least able to cope, the least able to adapt and the least able to survive will be the struggling small businesses. This Government has ensured by way of huge increases in another area that they will not even be able to afford to post a letter or to make a telephone call to complain about it. After the Government’s pious denunciations of my Party and its allegations about fuel prices, it is a wonder that it does not choke on the words of this Bill.
Then, incomprehensibly and unbelievably, in another of these Bills the Government aims to kill off about the only goose left capable of laying the golden egg. In our shattered economy and in our absolute gloom there was one bright star left in the economy. The one bright star that remained was the coal mining export industry. To the Government this was unforgivable. It just could not be permitted. So we have the unique warped conception dreamed up of an export tax on coal. What a tax it is. It will be $6 a tonne on high quality coking coal and $2 a tonne on coal of other quality. Indeed, it would seem that a number of mining companies are operating on a profit margin less than the level of this new tax. It is reiterated in the second reading speech of the Customs Bill (No. 2) that the Treasurer does not wish the export duty to be passed on to overseas buyers who have recently agreed to pay higher prices. He also withdraws the provision for increasing contract prices to take account of the new duty. What an economic wizard this Treasurer is. How on earth can he confront workers in the coal mining industry, already engrossed in industrial disputes seeking more money, and justify this measure? He is saying that this tax must not be passed on to overseas buyers. It must be directly ripped off profits if there are, indeed, enough profits to absorb it. If that renders mines no longer viable and if it puts miners out of work in large numbers, as it well could, what concern is that of his? If it is passed on is extra charges to the users of electricity- that is every Australian, because power generating plants do use coal sometimes- what does that matter to him?
I thought that controlling inflation meant keeping prices and service costs down, not finding every available means to push them up. How on earth the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), that sad countenanced gentleman- is it any wonder- can allow this Bill to be produced without a murmur or whimper really astounds me. Has not he any communication with the coal mining industry and the workers in employment in that industry? He might do well to talk to them and hear what their reaction is to this latest act Is there yet a promise of this Government that has not been dishonoured? Does its mandate include this sort of economic madness? Is there yet an assurance that it has given that is worth a crumpet? Is this its loudly trumpeted tax reform of which the Treasurer made such a song and dance? Is this what it means by reducing and restructuring taxes? I know what the Government will do. The Prime Minister and other Ministers will attempt to misconstrue what I have said. They are already claiming that the Opposition endorses the various Budget principles because we have not covered every last cent of the Estimates in detail. Of course, they will attempt to read into these statements their own distorted imaginations. They will cry: ‘What will you do if you get back into office? Will you remove them?’ That is a negative and wishy-washy course. They are virtually pleading with us to get them out of the sorry mess they have caused. Our carefully costed, clearly defined Budget enumerated by the Leader of the Opposition does just that. It was an open, honest blueprint to get Australia back on the road to recovery. The Government knows that much of the mess cannot be instantaneously rectified. We accept the reality of the situation. Unfortunately we have to accept reality We believe that these Bills were introduced because of the disastrous course the Government has pursued. These Bills are here because of the point at which we have arrived under the guidance of this so-called Government. The problems cannot be instantaneously rectified. We accept the reality of that. We have said so. What I say about these Bills today is that they are the inevitable result of mismanagement by this Government. They would never have been necessary had our earlier warnings been heeded. They would not have arisen but for the behaviour of this Government which has gyrated about like a beheaded rooster. They arose from no policy speech. In fact, they directly contradict and negate every assurance given in the Labor Party policy speeches. What the Government tried to construct as Australia’s course and motive it has, despite all promises, surpassed beyond all belief
These Bills must be lined up against those promises because that is the basis of the Government’s oft claimed mandate. It said: ‘We will cut taxes ‘. These Bills represent a massive increase in taxes. The Government said: ‘We Will not increase indirect taxes as would the LiberalCountry Parties’. Yet, in these Bills alone, we have something like a $72 lm increase in indirect taxes. The Government said: ‘We Will take the tax burden from the disadvantaged and those least able to pay’. By these Bills the Government has laid an immense impost on those for whom they purport to have some sympathy and pity. It said: “The Country Party will make petrol dearer, but we will never allow that’. These Bills will make petrol dearer than anyone would have dared to imagine. It said: ‘We will get export sales for minerals. We Will get decent prices. We will strengthen and develop the mining industry and its profitability: These Bills impose an export tax which has the coal industry stunned and staggering and which could, in fact, close mines. The Government said: ‘We will guarantee full employment’. Because of the effects I have detailed, these Bills will contribute perhaps to more unemployment. The Government says that beer is the worker’s drink and his pleasure. I will let the workers tell the Government what they think of this Bill as they sip their sarsaparilla, because ale is now the drink of the wealthy.
It is no longer sense for the Government to ask: ‘What would you do?’ In these Bills we see what the Government has done. It can be likened to a pavement artist sitting sadly among his chalks with the big sign displayed: ‘AU my own work’. This Budget is the Government’s own work. It is the ultimate disintegration of any credibility which it may yet have retained. These Bills are a negation of every promise the Government has ever made. They are the epitaph of a government shortly to be consigned to the more unpleasant and unsavoury memory of history. This Government promised the world but delivered up hell. The Government can have its Bills- they belong to the Government. It conceived and drafted them. We will not oppose them. They are the Government’s creation. They are necessitated by the Government’s mismanagement. May it have with its Bills the full odium of its broken promises and shattered assurances when it again goes to the people and asks them for their trust. The Government should have no doubt of the people’s answer and of the intensity of their rejection. In this place we cannot and will not defeat the Bills. We know, sadly, that they are an integral part of the Budget. We know that their rejection could increase considerably a deficit which we believe is totally understated. We charge the Government with blatant dishonesty and a betrayal of its promises and socalled mandate. I believe that this dishonesty and betrayal is in these Bills for the whole of Australia and the world to see.
-I support the Excise Tariff Bill, the Customs Tariff (Coal Export Duty) BUI and the Customs Bill (No. 2). I shall confine my remarks to the second Bill, that is, the Customs Tariff (Coal Export Duty) BUI. The honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) spoke against the Bills then he said he would not oppose them and, undoubtedly, will support them. Like the rest of the hypocritical, carping Opposition, he will not remove these measures if his Party becomes the government. The people of this nation have a right to demand the maximum return from the exploration or exploitation of their vast non-renewable natural resources. It ought to be realised that at present the only controls we have used over mining are tax policies, that is, royalties or export licences. The measures before the House are a constructive attempt by which we can endeavour to maximise our people’s just share of their national assets. People and governments- State and Federal- irrespective of their position, progressively are challenging the rights of large corporations in this country to control and manipulate resources on which the people’s standard of living depends and to which our economy is both extremely sensitive and vulnerable. The return from these measures will enable the Government to co-ordinate, identify, quantify, and plan the most economic and efficient use of our vast coal resources.
What is the current situation? If one takes the level of foreign control based on estimated production in the area of black coal alone in this country one sees a frightening situation. In New South Wales it is 24 per cent but in Queensland it is 88 per cent. For the interest of honourable members I point out that our black coal reserves in Australia which can be recovered amount to about 100 000 million tonnes. I ask: Just how important is the coal in this country?
-It is 200 000 million tonnes.
-It is 100 000 million tonnes. The honourable member for Lilley had better do a little more research.
– That is recoverable.
-Yes, that is recoverable. The honourable member for Lilley would not understand the difference. Coal is a complex form of fossilised sunlight. Until solar energy in some form or other can be commanded by the world, coal remains the principal source of solar energy available in a controlled and economically amenable form. Coal is one of the most precious resources available to Australia. Because of its versatility it is exceptionally important as a source of energy in a complex, technological world. It is of course true that until the November 1973 price rise imposed by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries the world, for whatever reason, had people been living in a state of unreality so far as energy resources were concerned. Until then the world was not conscious of the malaise from which it was suffering and it had no intention of finding a solution. Clearly, the test of profitability of the day has caused us to condone and, in fact, to justify policies for which our children and our children’s children may well condemn us. The
Shockwave is still being felt throughout the world because of a scramble for alternative energy resources. It is now recognised that our black coal has a great and growing role to perform so far as energy is concerned.
World reserves are vast. Three nations seem to have super-economic power. They are the United States, Russia and China. Russia produces about 500 million tonnes annually and has known reserves for about 1000 years. Japan has substantial reserves of some types but these are far from adequate to meet its needs. Honourable members on the other side of the House often forget that the Japanese are extremely selective in the importation of their coal because they want it to blend with their indigenous coal deposits. Western Europe, including the European Economic Community has large coalbearing lands. But these have been worked for hundreds of years. Because of no balanced conservation policy it is very doubtful whether their reserves will make more than a limited contribution. Japan and Western Europe will continue to be the large-scale importers from either Poland, Canada, the United States of America, Russia or Australia.
However, not all these countries will be willing to make their resources an export factor. This situation is already emerging in the United States. Likewise, a similar question mark hangs over the Russian deposits. There is doubt whether they will consummate exports of large scale orders of Siberian coal through their Pacific ports.
It is incontrovertible that all countries will find a pressure of events which will require them to look with great care at the use to which their resources of coal are put. That applies equally to Australia. This pressure is being manifested already through intensified research in the sphere of coal conversion techniques. Let us look at some examples of this. The Agreement of Cooperation was signed in June last year between the United States and the United Kingdom to exchange information involving the whole range of coal technology. The National Coal Board in the United Kingdom announced its ambitious coal conversion research program, the largest in its history. It is a 5-year program involving $A70m. West Germany embarked on a 5-year program of liquefaction and gasification research in respect of both brown and black coal. They are going to expend $A180m. The United States has the largest program of all. Over a period of 10 years it will expend $20 billion.
I ask the Opposition: If we have the necessity to follow a similar pattern in this nation’s interest, from where will the finance come? Will it come from profits or from the taxpayer? If the Opposition has any influence on the matter the finance will come from the taxpayer. We believe it ought to come from profits. Each working day the Australian coal mining industry has the task of moving more than a quarter of a million tonnes of coal from the coal face. Australia 9 largest and best deposits of black coal are concentrated in 2 great Permian areas- the Bowen Basin in Queensland and the main coal province in New South Wales.
– The honourable member has never heard of the Gallilee basin.
-We ought to be proud of what we have achieved in this country since 1960. 1 do not deny that. In 1960 we produced 23 million tons of black coal- 18 million tons from New South Wales, 3 million tons from Queensland and 2 million tons from the four other States. Of this we exported only 2 million tons during that period. In 1974 we produced 56 million tons, half of which was exported. The local market for coal in the year 2000 will be about 100 million tonnes per year. By 1980 this figure could reach 50 million tonnes with a good half of that being exported, particularly from New South Wales.
The oil situation as it developed at the end of 1973 had a significant effect on world prices, despite what the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) said, and has had a sudden emergence in the field of coal, particularly coking coal. At that time Australia’s capacity failed to meet demand. The demand for coking coal has increased. However, the largest demand has been, beyond any question, for steaming coal. The export pricing policies that were being followed by the coal mining industry were condoned, supported and endorsed by the previous Government. These policies were totally inadequate and hopelessly fragmented. It is because of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) that we have formulated a central, co-ordinated control of export price levels. This control was imposed against the wishes of the Opposition. The export pricing policy was rationalised and Australian coal ceased to be exported at low prices compared with prices being obtained by comparable overseas coal producers.
Let us look at the achievements of the Minister for Minerals and Energy and the Government since 1972. 1 shall quote figures on a US$ per ton free on board basis in respect of the 4 main leases in Queensland- Blackwater, Goonyella, Peak Downs and Moura-Kianga. The figures indicate the increase in the price of coal from 30 April 1972 to 1 June 1975. In respect of Blackwater the price at 30 April 1972 per ton was $12.62 and at 1 June 1975 $48.50 per ton; at Goonyella the price increased from $13.34 to $48.50; at Peak Downs from $12.77 to $48.50; and at MouraKianga from $13.1 to $50.50. Those figures represent a four-fold increase in prices since 1972. Surely this reflects itself in revenue and profit levels.
I shan elaborate a little further on the Queensland position and on why the impost is justified. The latest estimates of the Queensland Department of Mines in respect of reserves gives the total of measured and indicated in situ reserves of coking coal in that State as 7929 million tons and non-coking coal as 5383 million tons. Assuming that 90 per cent of the open cut coal and 50 per cent of the underground coal are extracted, calculating a yield figure of 75 per cent after washing, one arrives at a reserve coking coal figure of 3766 million tons and a reserve non-coking coal figure of 37 1 3 million tons.
Published estimates of the reserves at the four leases held by Central Queensland Coal Associates and the Utah Development Corporation are in excess of 6000 million tons. It is possible to determine from a number of reliable sources that at these 4 leases- Goonyella, Peak Downs, Saraji, Norwich Park and Daunia- there are about 3000 million tons of coking coal in situ. The Utah Development Corporation has coking coal reserves of at least 700 million tons at its Blackwater lease. This means that there is in excess of 3700 million tons of coking coal in Utah’s 5 leases and about 2,500 million tons of steaming coal. Under the lease conditions for Blackwater UDC is restricted to exporting 100 million tons of coking coal, which is about 14 per cent of their reserves. From the northern leases COCA take 150 million tons and they take a further 150 million tons of the total, which is less than 30 per cent of their reserves. They are allowed 300 million tons, which amounts to 10 per cent of their reserves.
Let us look at the cake, at who has and will continue to take the largest portion of it, and at just why the impost is justified. UDC obtained a net income profit after tax of $8,237m in 1970 and in 1974 it rose to $48,750m. For the first half of this year the figure is $42,233m. Assuming the production level continues at 1 million tons per month UDC’s profit for this year will be well over$ 100m.
I conclude by extrapolating the long term returns to these large corporations and showing why we have a right to capitalise and to maximise our people’s share of the natural resources. Honourable members opposite need to do a little more homework. Under agreements with the Queensland Government, UDC still has 385.5 million tons to take out of their leases. On present after tax profits this will return just over $A3,000m to the Utah-Mitsubishi consortium. A new government in Queensland could modify the Utah coal leases and the CQCA agreements to allow these companies to remove the maximum amount of coal from their leases. There are at least 3700 million tons of coking coal in the 5 leases of Utah-COCA. On the assumption that it is all recoverable by open cut techniques, sale of the recoverable reserves by the 2 companies will yield $A28,000m at today’s prices. This Government has an obligation on behalf of the people of this nation as a whole to maximise its return. Quite clearly Queensland governments over some 20 years, either conservative or Labor, have done virtually nothing to get a reasonable return from the resources that belong to the people of this country, including the people of Queensland.
– That is absolute rubbish.
– Is it? Then let us consider some of the figures which the honourable member’s party in Queensland tabled on royalty payments. I said in the House on 29 October last year- and it is clearly indicative of the support that large corporations get in Queensland from conservative governments:
In Queensland last year the value of minerals output increased by 77 per cent over the previous year to a total of $5 15m. Royalty payments to the State’s Consolidated Revenue Fund for that year totalled $4m, and because of increased coal production and a substantial increase in the profitability of Mt Isa Mines Ltd the royalty, on the old basis, for 1974-75 was expected to be $9m. However, on the new royalty rates the return in 1974-75 will be $37m, an increase of $33m on the 1973-74 payments and an increase of $28m on what would have been received in 1974-75 at the old rates.
That is an indictment of the Queensland Government. It was an indictment that stood for nearly 16 years before there was any variation of royalty rates. The people in Australia have a right to gain some advantage when profits reach an extortionate level as have those of the UDC and which will continue as long as the escalation in coal prices occurs internationally. We have a responsibility to the people to maximise the return to them as a whole and to use that money in a constructive fashion to ensure that Australia in the long term is safe and secure in its energy and mineral deposits. I commend the Bill to the House.
-The honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) devoted his speech to the defence of the coal export tax. I propose to leave the debate on that subject to my colleagues who are to follow. But, believe me, there is no way that that measure will not be reviewed by this Opposition when in government. Notwithstanding all the statistics and the spleen of the honourable member for Hawker, what a measure to introduce at this time when the private sector- Australian business large and small- that employs 75 per cent of Australian wage and salary earners is in such deep trouble.
– The tax will put 200 coal workers out of work at Gunnedah.
-Indeed it will. That is the sort of effect that will flow from this measure. This is not a moment for levity but I cannot resist referring to the suggestion that those who have been advising this Labor Government on economic matters since it came to office should be put in a submarine and taken down to a great depth in the ocean, the idea being to find out whether deep down they are as stupid as they appear on the surface.
Here is the economy with the private sector sapped of the initiative, the incentive, the very capacity to invest and develop. One of the few bright spots we have is in coal exporting, a sector moving forward. So what does the Government do? In this sector where, according to one of the favourite slogans of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), resources are being allocated to good advantage, the Government moves in to inhibit that development. The Government pays out in other cases, for instance to Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd in Tasmania to continue to produce not of its own choice unwanted stocks of paper, but on the other side it seeks to slug the coal exporters who are meeting an important and growing demand. However, the following speakers in this debate will take up that matter.
In the time available to me I want to deal with the increases in excise being authorised by the Excise Tariff Bill now before the House. The Bill provides for a 6c increase in the price of a packet of cigarettes, a 4c increase in the price of a 10 oz glass of beer and a 6c to 10c increase- the precise figure we will know at the end of the week- on a gallon of petrol. We should also not forget the postal charge increases which are not opposed by this Government. The honourable member for Hawker is trying to shout me down with his conversation so that people cannot hear about the slugs that the Government is imposing on the average Australian. Even with a pretty moderate indulgence in these everyday pleasures it will cost Australians something upwards of $3 to $4 more a week. In total the take from these measures- these additional taxes on cigarettes, beer and petrol and postal charges- -will be upwards of $ 1 ,000m in this coming year.
These increases have to be added to the increase in the personal income tax take. There seems to be an impression around that ordinary personal taxes will somehow be reduced. I stress that the total increase will be another $2,600m on top of the $ 1,000m to which I have just referred. That extra personal tax is an increase of 43 per cent. I remind people that average incomes are anticipated to increase by 22 per cent. Up go the charges, these indirect taxes now before the House, and up goes the direct tax in this massive amount of $2,600m. So the total of taxation paid by individuals will increase from the sum of $4,000m in 1972-73 to the order of the anticipated $ 10,300m in 1975-76-an increase of Vh. times. True, Incomes will have gone up but taxes will have risen twice as fast.
Apart from the direct hurt to the typical Aus.tralian the tragedy of these tax increases is that they put the future of wage indexation in jeopardy. Inflation stems from a complex of causes. It comes from excessive government spending and the massive deficit of last year with its associated high rate of increase in the money supply. It stems too from excessive increases in wages and salaries. No one is opposed to adequate increases in wages and salaries, but excessive increases in wages and salaries have been a prime cause of our current inflationary difficulties. The main thrust against inflation stemming from those causes is wage indexation. That is the main thrust of POliCy in that area. The understanding with the Australian Council of Trade Unions- I trust that the Government did have some sort of understanding in this area for consultation and some meeting of minds between Government and the unions is essential for progress in this area- the understanding was that in return for the ACTU using its good offices to encourage compliance with the wage indexation guidelines, the Government would initiate tax indexation.
The Opposition has undertaken to do that, but what has the Government done? Not only has it not proceeded to implement tax indexation but there is also this proposed fraud- it is nothing else- in the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) that the Government will take the Une that the price increases inevitably to flow from these indirect tax increases now before the Parliament should be netted out of the consumer price index when adjusting wages in the wage indexation context. Who does the Government think it is fooling in this manner? The objective of wage indexation is to preserve the real purchasing power of wages and thereby to take a major element of potential heat out of wage negotiations. A price increase is a price increase whatever the cause. There is no way in which the union movement will or should accept such a proposal.
One is set to wondering: What is the Government’s strategy in this context? One thing is toning down some excessive wage claims even now. I refer to unemployment which now involves half a million people and more, if one recognises the extent to which the unemployed are being temporarily mopped up by various schemes such as the Regional Employment Development scheme and so on. So we have nearer to 5 per cent or 6 per cent unemployment. Is that the strategy? I do not think there is any real doubt that this Budget will lead, as argued this morning, to higher unemployment. Is that the strategy? The Government may thumb its nose at wage indexation which is the rational way of attempting to combat cost inflation while minimising unemployment, and rely on increasing unemployment. If that is not the conscious approach it is the effective approach which the Government is adopting by these measures.
The truth is that the Government is locked in. It is locked in by its past mistakes, by its existing and new spending commitments and by its Labor ideology. That is the essence of the answer to the taunts directed at this side of the House as to why we have not categorically rejected these indirect tax increases. The Government is locked in by its past and new spending commitments. The Government’s spending had a fantastic head of steam last year. Last year Government spending increased 46 per cent. It is so easy to say ‘forty-six per cent’. But we have to get a picture of how spending has increased gradually over the period from Federation until the present time. By 30 June 1974 total Government spending had arrived at a certain level- total Government spending built up gradually from Federation to 30 June 1974. Then in one year, on top of that total development, the Government increased spending by 46 per cent- nearly half as much again. That is a fantastic increase. That relates to the Government’s existing commitments. In addition, of course, there are new ones, Medibank in particular. Notwithstanding the efforts over the weekend to distort the views of my colleague the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp), Medibank is a fact of life and the Opposition accepts that.
-I remind the honourable member that the Bill before the House at the moment is not the National Health Bill. The House is discussing in a cognate debate the Excise Tariff Bill, the Customs Tariff (Coal Export Duty) Bill and the Customs Bill (No. 2). The honourable member seems to be wandering a little astray from the subject.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the measures before the House are related to the financing of the spending to which I am referring. One cannot be discussed separately from the other. I will keep to the point but with your indulgence I make these observations in passing. What I stress, in this context, is that Medibank is a fact of life and the Opposition accepts that. But there is no way in which the Opposition parties, in government, would have been involved in the open slather with public revenue that the Government has accepted in that context. That is the first constraint- the great head of steam in the Government’s spending that would require a St George greater than a fledgling new Treasurer to combat and to rein in.
The Government is locked in in other ways. The deficit proposed in the Budget for 1974-75 was $570m. It turned out to be $2,567m. The Government would have been running away to an even greater deficit this year had not a genuine concensus of informed pre-Budget discussion acted to restrain the Government in that area. The Government is locked in by the inflation that is set running and the need to moderate that inflation on the cost side particularly, as I have suggested, through the policy of wage indexation requiring significant reductions in the impact of personal taxation. That was something that should have been met by this Budget.
The Government has engineered, through a variety of measures, a low state of corporate profitability. Something had to be done in that area to stop the bleeding. The proposals of the Mathews Committee just had to be implemented, so any rational person would have said. With all these contraints plus the Government’s socialist anti-business ideology the Government is, as I have said, locked in. As a mathematician would say, the situation was over-determined. It was a ball game of the
Government’s own making. I want to stress that point. It is a different ball game from what we would have been coping with, and that is at the core of the answer as to the Opposition’s stance in respect of the indirect tax increases.
Given the corner that the Government has backed Australia into and given what the Government has already done, the alternative Budget we put before the House is the only one feasible. It gives a high priority to personal tax indexation. It gives a high priority, as I said a moment ago, to stopping, by the implementation of the Mathews Committee report, the bleeding of the profitability of the corporate sector. Above all, we would not be in this game of trying to perpetrate this fraud on the Australian worker, compounding the mischief of these indirect tax increases before the House by the device of proposing to exclude their effect from the price index to be used for wage indexation purposes. It is there that the final blow is dealt to the attempt to make wage indexation work; it is there that we have the final undermining of this major initiative effectively to combat inflation stemming from soaring costs. So we have these increases. The Government proposes to compound the mischief by this approach. All I can say is that the Government is mad in this situation where the necessity to combat inflation is so important.
As a final footnote one might point out that another alternative the Government could have contemplated, and a means by which these tax increases could have been avoided, would have been a larger deficit. But again the Government is hit by the constraints. After one massive deficit of $2,500m stemming from the Government’s profligate spending last year there is no way in which it could move on to an even bigger one this year. Yet I would express the personal view, and I stress that it is personal, that if all else had failed the cancelling of these increases in excise taxes and charges would take more from the inflation rate than the increased deficit in which this might have resulted would have put on the inflation rate via its monetary effects- and it need not necessarily have produced an increased deficit with proper restraint on spending.
The excise tax changes before the House are an integral part of a Budget which, as I argued in the Budget debate, will in the coming months be found wanting. It will do little or nothing for inflation and unemployment, unhappily, is likely to get worse. Unhappy Australia under this incompetent Labor Government!
-The speech that we have just heard from the honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards) sounded more like a Budget speech than a speech on customs tariff proposals.
– There is a relevance.
– it was mostly an irrelevancy. I would like to deal primarily with the Customs Tariff (Coal Export Duty) Bill but I would like just to devote a couple of moments to what was said by the previous speaker. The honourable member said a lot about deficits and the money supply. It might be worth recounting to the honourable member that it was through the irresponsibility of the Liberal Party in allowing the Country Party to pressure it to leave the Australian dollar undervalued that a massive increase in the money supply took off in 1 97 1 -72. The honourable member well knows that that was the root cause of inflation in 1973-74. Perhaps there was some compounding of that situation by the deficit that the Government was forced to run, but who would say that the Government should not have covered the cost of Darwin or that it should not have tried to do something for the unemployment situation by the introduction of the Regional Employment Development scheme? That is where the deficit came up.
The honourable member spoke about indirect raisings of finance to cover government spending. He well knows that the Government cannot go onto the Australian bond market and raise money. There is nothing wrong with government spending providing the money is properly financed. If we are to reduce public holdings of funds in return for money which we collect by a tax and which we push out by way of government expenditure, that is not an inflationary situation. The different characteristic of this situation is that we are not able to reduce the public’s holdings because we cannot make Commonwealth bonds attractive enough for investment. To make them attractive enough for investment we would have to raise the Commonwealth bond rate by about 2Vi per cent or 3 per cent, and this would drive interest rates across the whole private sector of the economy through the roof. At the moment treasury notes are offering 8.7 per cent interest. The Government purposely followed that policy to keep money moving towards the private sector and away from the government sector. The honourable gentleman knows that. If we could finance this deficit we would not have to worry about indirect taxes or reducing government spending; we could finance it correctly and properly. But that situation cannot come about today. There is no way in which the Government could raise that money and reduce the public’s holdings. The deficit is financed from the liquid and government securities- from the non-lendable sector of the liquid assets of the trading banks, the savings banks and the insurance companies. The honourable gentleman knows that and it does not need to be recounted.
His other dishonesty concerned income tax raising. In the second half of last year the Government returned $700m by way of reductions in income tax. This year it will return $205m directly by way of reductions in income tax. On top of that is Medibank. Because the Opposition in the Senate would not pass the Supply Bill the Government had to finance Medibank out of income tax. It has meant about $5 a week that the average man does not now have to find. Specifically, it is not income tax but it is money which he does not have to find. So there is another $5 a week which is virtually an income tax reduction for him.
The honourable member talked about tax indexation. There are a lot of advocates of tax indexation throughout the Parliament. I have made a speech here in support of it. Why did the honourable gentleman not happen to mention the booklet which accompanied the Budget which shows that the Government has indexed income tax at 35c in the $1 for incomes between $5,000 and $10,000? According to the marginal rates for last year, income tax on $5,000 was at the rate of 32c, on $6,000 at the rate of 38c, on $7,000 at 44c, on $8,000 at 48c and on $10,000 at 52c. The Government has indexed the lot at 35c in the $1. What the Opposition would like to do with indexation across the board is to index the top end and give those people a break. The Government is indexing the section in which we find the majority of Australians in the work force. As usual, the Opposition is looking for a quiet fiddle.
Why did the honourable gentleman not say in respect of the management of the money supply in 1971-72 that the previous Government failed and that in the last 3 years the seeds of inflation were sown because- of the dishonesty of the Country Party and because the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) pressured Treasurer Snedden and Prime Minister McMahon into leaving the Australian currency undervalued? That was the start of the trouble with inflation in Australia.
I would like to deal specifically with the Customs Tariff (Coal Export Duty) Bill. Since this Government took office there have been dramatic increases particularly in the price of coking coal. The honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) outlined a number of these increases and I will recount them. At the Blackwater mine in Queensland the price was $12.62 a ton when we took office and it is now $48 a ton. At Goonyella it was $ 13.44 and is now $38.50. At Peak Downs it was $12.77 a ton and it is now $48.50. The price of high quality hard coking coal rose by 200 percent.
– It would have been more only for your interference.
-It would not have been more. As the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) mentioned the right honourable gentleman went to Japan to try to sink the Minister’s efforts, slinking over there without any authority and acting in his usual un-Australian manner. High quality coking coal has risen in price by 200 per cent since we took office and other coal by about 150 per cent. These increases occurred specifically because the previous administration did absolutely nothing to enter into collusive tendering with the Japanese- our major buyer of coal- and the export prices from the Australian coalmines were at bargain basement level. The Japanese were picking off our producers one after the other. There was absolutely no cohesion or continuity in Australia’s approach.
The Minister for Minerals and Energy, through the auspices of the Australian Government, brought about a massive increase in price. The increase was not just to cover the higher costs associated with coal production but also to close the gap between the prices that we were getting and the prices that other countries were getting. The companies and the Opposition believe that this windfall which came to the companies by virtue of the Government’s actions, remains with the companies. If the Government of Australia is successful in achieving a windfall profit for the companies and if the produce of the companies belongs to aU Australians, is it not reasonable that some of the largesse should be spread around? The gross profits in respect of black coal to the end of the last financial year amounted to $166m and the gross profits for the industry amounted to $544m. Honourable members should comprehend that figure. That is the most successful and profitable area of Australian commerce. Yet the Opposition argues that the industry is unable to sustain a levy of $6 a tonne in respect of coking coal and $2 a tonne in respect of steaming coal. That is just a lot of hogwash.
In these Bills we seek to raise a total levy of about $ 120m on a gross profit for the industry of $544m. After the application of company tax at 42.5c in the $1 the companies are asked to provide a net additional amount of $69m. So it is a net additional amount of only $69m out of a gross profit of $544m. Who could argue that there was injustice in that? To its credit, I suppose, the Australian Coal Association, on behalf of its members, has objected on a number of specific grounds, but none of them really stands up. It said that the levy should not discriminate. It does discriminate because companies in some areas are in a more fortunate position. In some of the easily won areas where there is open-cut mining and where the coal grades are very high, the profitability is much higher and the company is therefore able to sustain a higher rate of tax. In that respect the levy takes profitability into account. The Australian Coal Association also said that it believed that the levy would stop development. The tax is only a very minor portion of the profits coming to the industry and the levels of profitability at which the companies are now operating would have been unthinkable at the time when this Government came to office. Those levels have been achieved specifically because of the policies of the Government. In that respect I cannot see any cogent argument which would lead anyone to the conclusion that the levy of $2 a tonne on steaming coal and $6 a tonne on coking coal would impede any future development in the coal industry in Australia
The Government admits that steaming coal is not as lucrative as coking coal. In the past couple of years the major price increases have been in coking coals. But at the same time there is discrimination in the weight of the tax- $2 a tonne on steaming coal as against $6 a tonne on coking coal. If one looks at the position of steaming coal and if one considers the adjustment in company tax one finds that the $2 represents about $ 1 . 1 5 a tonne in all. So I think that the companies producing steaming coal have been treated fairly. Some companies are tied up in fixed contracts, and that is an anomaly which is recognised. In the event that companies engaged in fixed contracts find that the levy of $1.15 a tonne is too much of a burden, they can make out a case to the Minister for Minerals and Energy who will refer the matter to the Treasurer.
– Where is that provided in the legislation?
– The matter can be looked at, if hardship can be substantiated. In many cases in which it is suggested that hardship is present it is not. But if hardship can be substantiated, I think the Government would look favourably upon making some sort of adjustment to the obligation to pay that duty.
The other areas in which perhaps there may be some need for action because an anomaly arises is in relation to the high content coals, the 85 per cent coals, which are found in some parts of the country where the grades are that high but which are still classified as steaming coal and not as high grade coking coal. Perhaps in that case the levy can be adjusted so that the duty of $2 a tonne instead of the duty of $6 a tonne applies. I think the Government is prepared to do something about the weight with which the duty applies to companies and, as much as it is possible, to consider the lot of each company. But the point still remains that the profitability levels in respect of these companies is enormous.
My colleague the honourable member for Hawker raised a very telling point in respect of the royalty payments in Queensland, the State where there has been a massive increase in coal exports and where, particularly in respect of coking coal, the heights reached by prices have been astronomical. The honourable member pointed to the almost unbelievable fact that royalty payments in Queensland in 1974 from the extractive industries was only $4m. The total value of minerals sold in that year in Queensland was $5 1 5m. Those are the figures. As the honourable member for Hawker points out to me now, they were tabled by the Queensland Minister responsible for mining matters. They are not figures from the Federal Government; they are figures provided by the Queensland Government. Royalties totalling only $4m were paid on total mineral earnings of $5 15m.
The argument in respect of such low royalties is that the railways are subsidised by the freights which are paid to the Queensland Government for the carriage of the minerals. But half of those railways would not need to exist if the mines concerned were not operating there. That claim cannot be used as a cogent argument. It does not matter how we look at those royalties. The fact is that those royalties represent an infinitesimal, proportion of profits from the extractive industries in this country. I remind honourable members of the report which was compiled only 18 months ago by Mr Fitzgerald, and the illustration which he gave in relation to the extractive industries. The net return received by the Australian Government from the extractive industries in the 10 years to the time when the collation of that report was concluded was nil. In fact, the Australian Government paid to those industries $25m to be here. That was the net yield of the rorts and tax subsidies which the previous Government allowed those industries.
It is interesting to note in this respect, as I raised by way of question with the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) today, that not once in the Budget speeches delivered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) or by the Leader of the National Country Party did those gentlemen utter any reference to the reintroduction of all the lurks and perks that they established under section 77 in relation to C and D subsidies, income tax concessions under section 78 or in fact direct subsidies. There was not one mention of those. What was not mentioned also was the fact that the Opposition proposed to accept the legislation in relation to imposing levy charges on export coal. They did not say that the Opposition would remove these charges in the event that it became the Government. That was not said in those speeches. But the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) had to slink in here 3 days later with a document to say that the Leader of the Opposition had not made it clear that the Opposition would accept the legislation imposing the levy on export coal and all that that meant with respect to the revenue. So, the Opposition at no stage has ever indicated in the course of the debate on the current Budget that it is going to give the mining industry any go at all.
Let people in that industry start to think where the current prices have come from. They have come from the Minister for Minerals and Energy. That is the case in the iron ore area. Who achieved the revaluation compensation for the iron ore miners of 18 per cent and later the additional 4 per cent for those miners? It was the Minister for Minerals and Energy. Who restored the profitability of the Western Australian iron ore miners? Who achieved an increase from Japan in respect of coal exports? Who forced the uranium companies to negotiate contracts at a reasonable price? It was the same Minister.
This is the whole picture in relation to the dealings of this Government with the extractive industries. We have gone out of our way to indicate that when the Government secures higher prices and profitability for the extractive industries the sum of the rake-off comes to the Australian people. Under the export control power, these measures were achieved. By this legislation, some of the money paid in levies will be returned to the Australian people, where it belongs. The rip-offs will not be the property of American companies such as the Utah organisation or the Thiess Peabody Mitsui group. They belong to the Australian people. Such windfalls are not to be regarded as largesse for the multinationals. Some of it must come back to the Australian people. That is what these indirect taxes are achieving. These taxes are not taxes imposed on aU Australians, as the honourable member for Berowra tried to suggest. These taxes are imposed on specific corporations operating in an ultra-profitable area. That is why these taxes are imposed.
Let me deal with this matter in another sense. As my speech is nearing its end, let me depart for a moment from this question of the coal export levy and pick up another point raised by the honourable member for Berowra who referred to what he called the shocking imposition of excise on beer and potable spirits. I would remind the honourable gentleman that the last time that the duty on beer was changed -
– When was that?
– In 1 965, by your Government -
– That is 10 years ago.
– You will be like Chipp soon, with your foot in your mouth. Just keep it cool, son. I will just outline these facts to you. In the Sydney metropolitan area, the duty on a 10 oz. glass of beer as a percentage of the price of that glass of beer was 50 per cent. On a bottle of beer costing 36c, the duty was 53 per cent. That was the duty that the Government of which the right honourable member for Richmond was a member put on beer in 1965. By comparison, the duty at present as a percentage of the price of a 10 oz. glass of beer is 37 per cent. On a bottle costing 67c, the duty is 43 per cent. I compare those respective duties of 37 per cent and 43 per cent at present with the duties of 50 per cent and 53 per cent respectively. That washes up that argument. A pretty good try, but honourable members opposite are exposed once again for their phoneyness. They are not prepared to say that they will defeat these Bills or that when in government they would repeal them.
Honourable members opposite have not been prepared to say in their Budget speeches which are covered in the media what promises they would make to the extractive industries. Instead, they come in when we are debating these ancillary Bills and make a big noise about what they will do. I do not think anybody takes any notice of them any more; nor should they. If honourable members opposite think that big Mai will get them into office without earning his freight or without any of them earning their freight, I think they should think again. They will be in the
Opposition benches for a lot longer if this is the standard of their argument. Let the Australian people be the judges. The judgment will be the same as it was in 1974. Opposition members will find that they have been judged and found wanting once again.
– I have listened to the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). I think we can dismiss most of his speech as a lot of poppycock in which he tried to justify the pretty desperate position in which the Government finds itself in respect of these new tax measures. But there was one part of his speech which I could not dismiss lightly. That is the part where the honourable member delibera.tely misled the coal mining industry. He said that, if certain coal miners had long term contracts and they found that they were in a difficult financial position, the levy or tax would be reviewed. That is completely misleading. If it were to be done, it would be illegal and corrupt to do so.
There is no provision in the legislation for this discretionary power to be given to the Minister for Minerals and Energy or to the Government. There is a discretionary power relating to high quality coking coal. But that is the only discretionary power that there is and it relates to whether the charge is $6 a tonne or $2 a tonne. But to talk in terms of eliminating the levy is quite wrong. This just demonstrates the desperate level which Government members have reached when they come into the national Parliament and make such statements.
In this cognate debate I wish to concentrate on two of the 3 bills now before the House. The 2 Bills on which I wish to speak are the Excise Tariff Bill and the Customs Tariff (Coal Export Duty) Bill. The Opposition is opposed to the manner in which the oil levy is being applied. It is purely a revenue measure imposed without any consideration of the effect on oil exploration and production. The levy is also a method of obtaining more revenue for the Commonwealth at the expense of the States, and it has surprised me that the States have been so slow to react, particularly Victoria which obtains very large revenue from the production of oU. The system is that the States get somewhere between 10 per cent and 2Vi per cent by way of royalty from the price of crude oU. In this case they will not get any increase. The whole amount Will go to the Commonwealth in the form of tax. If the price were to be increased instead of a tax being applied it would mean that the States would get more and if there were any direct profitability, which there would be in the case of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Ltd, the company would have to pay 14te per cent company tax. All told there would be something like 55 per cent of any price increase taken up in the form of royalties and taxes.
The Commonwealth is applying this levy so that it gets the whole amount itself In effect the levy doubles the price of crude oil from $2.08 a barrel to $4.08 a barrel. It seems that the Government has moved away from the position to which the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) has adhered for the past Vh years in relation to the pricing of oil. However, although the Government has made a move it has not moved the right way. This levy will be applied on all oil production in Australia irrespective of the size of the field or the costs of production. It will not give any incentive at all to companies to look for more oil in the knowledge that they will receive a higher price if there are any new discoveries. The Government could apply a variable levy on oil produced from new fields with the result that smaller fields would become economic and considerable encouragement would be given to explore for oil in Australia.
The folly of the oil pricing policy of the present Government is that the development of fields with known reserves is being discouraged, not to say anything about looking for more oil. There are hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil which we know exist in small fields such as Moonie, Barrow Island and in Bass Strait but the cost of recovery is greater than the price such oil would fetch in Australia. The result is that we have to import Middle East oil at $9 a barrel which has to be paid out of our very valuable overseas exchange. That is the worst proposition we could have- to use Australia’s national earnings to import oil when we have got oil in this country but it is just not profitable looking for it. If, for example, we paid $9 a barrel to Australian producers the Government would obtain revenue from the taxation of profits and the costs involved in recovering that oil would be spent in Australia. It would also provide jobs for Australians.
There can be no more shortsighted policy than a general refusal to raise the price of the local product which we have and so prevent production and yet import oil from overseas at a much higher price. It is inevitable that the price of oil will rise to Australian consumers. We have no choice because our own reserves are limited and the only alternative is to import expensive $9 a barrel oil from overseas. The only issue involved is whether the rise begins now or occurs gradually or occurs in 5 years’ time with a much greater impact. The effect which a sudden jump in oil prices would cause would lead to severe dislocation in industry and throughout the whole economy. The effect of an unrealistically low domestic price is to destroy any incentive to explore for oil in Australia. The huge costs now involved in oil exploration and new development would probably mean that there is little profitability in oil production under a price of about $6 a barrel. If a field the size of the largest fields in the Middle East were found off Australia it would still cost about $5 a barrel to land that oil on shore.
The statistics for oil exploration tell the story of the effects of our oil pricing policy and other policies of the Government on exploration activity. In 1972 there were 80 000 miles of seismic line testing. In 1973 the figure dropped to 8500 miles. In 1974 it dropped to 7000 miles and this year there has been none at all since the last survey vessel left Australia. A similar position exists with regard to wells drilled. In 1970 there were 121 exploration wells drilled. In 1973 this fell to 69 wells and to 55 in 1974 and in the first 6 months of this year it has fallen to only 14 wells. A more disturbing aspect of this question of oil production is that we are now in a position to say that in 5 years ‘ time Australia will face its own oil crisis. The reason we can say this is that it takes at least 5 years to bring oil into production from the time it is discovered. If we found more oil tomorrow it would be 5 years before it came on tap but in the next 5 years Australia’s oil production from existing fields will fall off dramatically. By 1980 we will be only 40 per cent self-sufficient in oil. That means that we will have to import 1.7m barrels of oil a year at a cost in present day terms of $ 1,500m. These figures assume that we can find oil tomorrow but, as I pointed out, we are not even looking for oil at the moment.
The search for oil in Australia has come to a standstill. It would take at least 2 years to discover oil in Australia with the downturn which has occurred in oil exploration. That means that we are looking at a minimum of 7 years before we can produce more of our own oil. By 1982 Australia will by producing approximately 100 million barrels of oil a year. Measured against an estimated consumption of 300 million barrels it means that we will be only 30 per cent selfsufficient by 1982 and imports will cost over $2 ,000m in a year at the present price of oil. This is a frightening picture. This Government through its inaction and through the disastrous policies of the Minister for Minerals and Energy will leave a terrible legacy to this country. The whole national economy will be placed at risk because of the necessity to meet a huge bill for the importation of oil and we will also be placed at the mercy of other countries.
All this has occurred because of the ideological obsession of the Minister for Minerals and Energy to gain complete control over oil production in Australia. The much vaunted Petroleum and Minerals Authority was to be the vehicle for his grand design. Unfortunately its design did not prove adequate to the Minister’s ambitions. The Minister could obtain control of oil production in Australia only by forcing out those who were exploring for oil and held the most attractive leases. The withdrawal of the search subsidy, the ban on overseas investment and his insistence that there would be no change in the price of oU were all part of a campaign to denigrate further exploration. The Minister thought that he could then step in and have the whole field to himself. This grand scheme has cost Australia nearly 3 years of oU exploration activity and the chance of discovering any new major field. The oU exploration industry has been virtually forced out of Australia and I fear that it will not return until there has been a change of government in this country.
I would also like to deal with the iniquitous coal tax. The Opposition is opposed to this levy on coal exports. We wa review it when we are returned to office. It is a retrograde, irresponsible and shortsighted measure. It has no bearing on a company’s economics and the level of a company’s profitability. In an effort to shore up the bulging deficit which is the result of its own extravagance and incompetence the Government is prepared to extract revenue from any source it can find irrespective of the harm which that tax has caused to the industry involved. The Australian Coal Association sent a message to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) requesting a meeting to review the coal tax levy. I am told that it has taken 10 days to receive even an acknowledgment of that message but that the Prime Minister Still refuses to see the coal exporters. The industry has requested the Government to abandon the levy or to defer this legislation pending a reference to the Industries Assistance Commission, which is presently inquiring into the taxation of the mining industry.
This tax represents the second time in as many months that the coal industry has suffered at the hands of the present Government. In July the Minister for Minerals and Energy, by his interference in the price negotiations for Australian coal exports, made a deal with the Japanese steel mills which cost the Australian coal producers over $100m in this year alone. This tax on coal exports is a classic example of the desperate measures a government is forced to take when it finds itself caught in a deficit financing situation. This tax will cause immeasurable harm to the Australian coal industry. It will put a halt to much of the investment and to the huge expansion programs which are now being planned, in some cases almost under way. It Will prevent new jobs from being created and threaten existing jobs. It is a thoroughly irresponsible measure.
Of aU the many harmful and shortsighted policies which this Government has pursued in the minerals and energy field, this is amongst its most damaging. This tax will fall on all coking and steaming coal exports. For prime coking coal with an ash-free carbon content of 85 per cent or more the levy will be $6. For other coals the levy Will be $2. The effect of the levy on steaming coal producers will be quite disastrous. At present Australia exports about 3 million tons of steaming coal, and as a result of this tax many exporters will be operating at a loss on existing contracts. The $2 levy takes up the entire profit margin for some of the producers, and for the rest it reduces profitability to almost nothing.
The western coal fields centred around Lithgow will be dealt a very heavy blow by this tax. In the western coal fields, Austen and Butta, Coalex and Clutha are just entering into the export business. Some of their contract arrangements extending into the 1980s have now been placed in very serious jeopardy. Plans were under way to expand production from 2 million to 4 million tons. I know that in the Hunter Valley, which the honourable member for Paterson (Mr 0 ‘Keefe) represents, there are very ambitious plans to open up whole new coal areas, but this will all now be shelved and put aside. The situation has been so disastrously altered by the new tax that either the margin of profitability Will be very small, making expansion unattractive, or in some cases there will be a loss situation, meaning that mine operations will have to be curtailed. At a time when country towns such as Lithgow need aU the encouragement and help they can get to boost their commercial activities, one could hardly imagine a more stupid thing than imposing this tax on coal exports.
The effect of the $6 levy on coking coal exports will also be disastrous. For the south coast producers of New South Wales it will cut profitability by half, and for the large Queensland producers the profit margin will also be affected. The most serious consequences of the tax will be on the new developments which have been planned in Queensland and in New South Wales. This House may not be aware of the tremendous potential which exists for expanding Australian coal production to meet the very favourable overseas market which will open up in the next 5 to 10 years. It has been estimated that the world steel production will increase by 45 per cent by 1985. To meet this increased production, an extra 200 million tons of coking coal will be required. The scope for expansion of coking coal production is limited. Australia is one of the few countries which will be able or should be able to meet this increased demand. But to meet this demand, a massive investment in new mines and facilities will be required.
At present Australia produces 26 million tons of coking coal for export, of which 14 million tons comes from Queensland. To increase production by a further 20 million tons will require an investment of nearly $2,000m in the next 5 to 8 years. New South Wales producers will have to spend $140m on upgrading port facilities at Newcastle and Port Kembla and in building a new port at Botany Bay. In Queensland plans are at an advanced stage for the development of new mines at Nebo, Norwich Park and Hail Creek. In addition to the huge cost involved in opening up a mine, building towns and providing water facilities the coal producers must also construct new railways and port faculties. It is estimated that the cost of constructing a new railway at Goonyella and of installing additional port facilities at Hay Point in Queensland will cost in the order of $ 1,200m. Although the investment required to bring new mines into production is massive, the benefit to Australia is equally large.
An extra 20 million tons of coking coal exported will earn $ 1,000m a year in export revenue. It will provide the State governments with tens of millions of dollars in royalties and in additional freight rates, and will provide the Commonwealth Government with hundreds of millions in company tax and income tax. Yet much of this new development will be brought to a halt by the imposition of the $6 a tonne levy on coking coal exports. The profit to the companies after paying the tax will not be sufficient to enable them to fund the development of these huge new projects. In order to be able to undertake such massive financial commitments, companies must be assured that they will be able to fund their loans out of their cash flow in the early years of the project. (Extension of time granted). I thank the Minister for Minerals and Energy and I thank the House for its indulgence. To do this they will require a very high level of earnings. At present they receive virtually no financial incentive from the Government to make these investments. Depreciation on the infrastructure is over a 20-year period. There is no investment allowance which will enable a large proportion of the investment to be written off in the early years of the life of the project. Therefore companies must look to their own earnings to finance development.
By imposing this tax, a short-sighted and incompetent Government has effectively brought to a halt plans for development which could bring in an extra $ 1,000m a year in export revenue in 5 years time. It is all the more surprising, because you could hardly imagine the Treasury advising the Government to do this when it has the potential for gaining so much more revenue from increased tax. However it seems that once a government falls into the grip of deficit financing and inflation it begins to lose control of its own ability to plan and to have competent national policies. In the mad scramble to hold its own finances together the Government is caught in a deficit finance situation and must grab anything it can from whatever source it can irrespective of the consequences.
This type of export tax will kill investment and gradually destroy this great productive industry. These are the implications of this tax, which the Opposition believes is a retrograde measure. It will destroy any chance of investment in one of the few sectors of the economy where there was real scope for expansion and encouragement for investment. The tax is contrary to the Government’s own stated policy in the Budget of assisting the private sector. This retrograde tax only demonstrates how little the Government is interested in the private sector. The tax destroys the possibility of thousands of new jobs being created in electorates which are at present represented by 3 Ministers of the Government and by three more Labor Party members. Employment opportunities in Mackay and district will be affected, as they will be affected in New.castle and Wollongong. In addition, the electorates of Hunter, Macquarie and Macarthur will be severely affected.
It is also a bad principle to tax exports. This is one of the most disturbing features of this tax. We all know that this Government does not give any thought at all to the vital role our exports play in this nation’s economic welfare. Eighteen months ago ‘exports’ was a dirty word with this Government. Earnings from exports represent really the only true source of national growth and national improvement. Without the income which is derived from exports we cannot purchase anything abroad. Australia would be a backward, second rate nation today if it were not for the capacity to purchase a wide range of goods, services and technology from overseas. Australia is one of the largest exporting nations in the world. Our exports are the sheet anchor of our economy and the corner stone of our economic development. The previous government regarded one of its highest priorities as ensuring that every assistance and incentive was given to Australian exporters. We encourage primary producers to be more productive and to obtain markets overseas for their products.
We were so successful in promoting Australia’s exports and building up a sound and broadly based economy that this Government has now taken for granted aU the good work that was done previously. Now it seems that the Government is setting about destroying those benefits by adopting policies which will oppress export industries and which will lead to a falling off in Australia’s export earnings. Primary producers are being forced into bankruptcy by rising costs and falling income. AU of our export industries are finding their profitability eroded by rising costs. In the coal industry wages rose 50 per cent last year. Total costs for an underground operator rose by a staggering figure of 70 per cent, while incomes, after all duties and taxes, rose by only 40 per cent.
Let it be a warning that this tax sets a precedent for taxing any export commodity which might experience a boom price. It takes no account of the poor years which an industry must go through and surely the Minister for Minerals and Energy must know of the difficulties that the coal mining industry has been through for so many years. Tomorrow it could be the sugar, wool, copper or iron ore industry which is affected by such a policy. Another aspect of this tax which disturbs me is its effect on our main trading partner, Japan. At present Australia exports 60 per cent of its coal production and over 80 per cent of these exports go to Japan. Japan imports a total of 60 million tons of coking coal a year, and it is estimated that by 1985 this requirement Will rise to 100 million tons. The Japanese are desperate to obtain assured supplies of coking coal for their future expanding production.
The Minister for Minerals and Energy promised the Japanese an extra 20 million tons of coal by 1980. This tax will now make that almost impossible to achieve. The Japanese, I am informed, feel they have been betrayed by the
Government. The steel mills agreed to a substantial price increase for Australian coal exports in the belief that the higher price would enable new developments and expanded production to occur. They never considered that half the increase that they offered would go straight back into the coffers of this Government. What of the escalation clause which was in the coal contracts and which everybody accepted as being a very important provision of those contracts? The Minister for Minerals and Energy has stopped the companies from passing this tax on to their customers, as they were entitled to do under the contracts.
The Minister has deceived the Japanese and placed in jeopardy Japan’s future plans for her steel industry. This must now accelerate Japan’s desire to try to find other sources of coal around the world. As is common knowledge 3 groups from Japan have tried to find other sources of coal. One group went to South Africa, one to India and one to North America. Certainly the Japanese Will be encouraged to look even more seriously at these areas. This also harms our iron ore exports, which will be seriously affected if the expansion of Japanese steel production is to be curtailed. This tax is only another indication to the Japanese that they cannot rely on Australia as a secure and trustworthy trading partner. The Japanese already have had their confidence shaken and jolted by the interference of the Minister in price negotiations. When I visited Japan in June I found great concern being expressed by some leading Japanese businessmen and by Government officials. There was criticism of the trading relationship between Australia and Japan. If there is one lesson which the Japanese have learned from their experience after the Arab oU price rise it is that they must seek alternative and more reliable sources for the supply of vital raw materials.
The action of the Australian Government in imposing this tax on coal exports is precisely the same as the action of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries in gaining more revenue from oU by raising the price of oil exports. The Japanese steel mills regard the action of the Australian Government as being in the same category as the action taken by the Arab countries in December 1973. This Government is fast destroying the goodwill which remains between Australian and Japan. It must be most disturbing, and certainly was during my visit to Japan, to find that the Japanese Atomic Energy Commission is undertaking an intensive program of research into steel making by nuclear methods. This project has been given the highest priority. Once the Japanese achieve a break through which can be applied commercially the Australian coking coal industry Will have no market worth speaking of. Our present known reserves of coal in Australia will last 600 years. It is probable that in 20 years’ time alternative technologies -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) is up to his usual trick of rubbishing Australia. Everything that possibly could be done to destroy the confidence of our Japanese customers- and they are our best- is being done and said right here and now by this gentleman. He has been up to the same tricks previously. When I was in Japan in early July the Japanese expressed to me their contempt for him. If there is one tiling that you can give the Japanese credit for it is being loyal to their own country. They hit as one. They talk together. They act together. For this gentleman to go to a foreign land and to rubbish his own land and its Government which was duly and democratically elected is to plumb the very depths of indecency.
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am being completely misrepresented by the Minister. I made a personal explanation in the House once before in relation to what the Minister said. He deliberately misrepresented me.
-Order! As the right honourable member would know, that is not a point of order. If he wishes to make a personal explanation, he is entitled to do so at a later stage.
-I have the text of the right honourable member’s statement made in Japan.
– Quote it.
-I will not waste the time of the House at the moment. I Will present him with an autographed copy later. This Government has placed the coal industry in the position where it is Australia’s best export earner. I repeat that the coal industry is Australia’s best export earner. We inherited a situation that was nothing short of a rabble as between the rival producers within each of the States and between the States themselves. The Labor Government, which, according to our opponents, is supposed to know nothing about business, was able to do what the former businessmen’s government could not do.
It introduced rationality and organised marketing on the same basis as the people with whom we are dealing. The Nippon Steel Corporation speaks for the 15 or 16 Japanese steel mills. They decide what they want, the price they will pay and the quality and the terms of delivery. We have imitated them. Perhaps imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But it has been most effective in our case and the Japanese respect this Government because it can speak in terms of Australia
I know that in my constituency in the mid-1960s when the Japanese coal buyers first came there they played one colliery off against another. It was quite open for them to do it. After the Japanese had left, 5 or 6 of the collieries compared notes and discovered that if they had stuck together they could have received $3 or $4 a ton more. But now the Japanese know that they are dealing with a national government which speaks in national terms. It is proud of Australia and it is respected by these people. The Japanese know that they are dealing with a government which knows what is a fair and reasonable price, which is prepared to give continuity of supply and which keeps and honours its undertakings to the letter. Need I remind the House that when we came to power we said that we would honour some of the indifferent and very poor contracts in relation to uranium which were rushed through by the then Government in its declining days of office. (Quorum formed.) The Leader of the National Country Party speaks in very optimistic terms about the future of the steel industry. In point of fact, for the next 3 or 4 years the prospects are for a decline in the annual production of steel throughout the world. That being so, when we renegotiated in July the prices that were to be paid for the leading types of hard coking coal exported from Australia- incidentally, we obtained an increase in orders of 71 per cent- at the same time we took steps to ensure that not only would we hold our market but also that we would have an opportunity to increase it. I have produced to this House an undertaking from the Chairman of Nippon Steel Corporation that that Corporation would be prepared to increase progressively its intake of coal from Australia, despite the fact that their prospects were of a decrease in their imports from other countries.
We have secured the future of the coal industry. As the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) has said, profits in the coal mining industry for the forthcoming year will be of the order of $A544m. In the previous year the coal industry made gross profits of $A166m. We have more than trebled the actual profits of that industry. We hear screams of agony because the Government of Australia has chosen to take a share of that windfall in the coal industry. It so happens that the calculated yield from this tax on coal exports will be $A120m. But in the lodgment of their company tax returns, the coal exporting companies will be claiming that as a permissable tax deduction. The actual yield to the Australian Government and through it to the Australian people, will be an estimated $69m. We will take $69m out of an estimated increase in the profit of the coal industry of about $3 80m. Yet Opposition members speak in terms of ruin, desolation and destruction. It is absurd but it is typical of them.
If we examine the actual position, we find that the deduction on a tax of $6 a tonne of high quality coking coal will be $3.45 when we take into account the concession of 42 !6 per cent company tax. In respect of the $2 a tonne tax on other coal, the deduction will be $ 1 . 1 5. It is a pity that these figures were not mentioned in their correct perspective, because that is the truth. That being so, no one will be ruined. There may be a few individual cases of hardship. Even in respect of the steaming coal producers, I have met with their representatives and I have yet to hear of a case of hardship. I have asked them to produce their figures to show what disadvantage they are incurring. There may be -
– What about new development?
-We will come to that. In the case of newly developing industries, the coal industry is still a rip off. It so happens that in the forthcoming year the Utah Development Co. which will export 13% million tonnes of coal out of the planned export of 30V4 million tonnes of coal for next year will make a profit of $A160m. That is a record profit, exceeding that made by even the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. These are the people for whom the Opposition is crying poor mouth. As a matter of fact, it is just one of the interesting sidelights of the whole situation. The Utah Development Co. never had escalation clauses in its contracts. It is thanks to the representations and the arguments advanced by the Australian Labor Government that it has been able to receive increases comparable to those increases received by the other coal producers. So much for the hardship that is being inflicted on the Utah Development Co.
Let us have a look again at the true position of the industry and the position that we inherited from the Opposition. Less than 10 per cent of the shares in the Utah company are owned by Australians. In respect of the industry as a whole, 81 or 82 per cent of the coal industry in Queensland is owned and controlled by foreign companies. Over 82 per cent of the production of coal in that State is obtained from open cut mines. That is the cheapest and quickest form of extracting coal. I repeat that 81 to 82 per cent of the coal is obtained in that way. The figures almost correspond with those in relation to overseas ownership and control. In New South Wales 85 per cent of the black coal industry is owned or controlled by Australians. In New South Wales only some 1 7 per cent of the coal is extracted by open cut methods. In respect of the open cut areas and areas where there is the greatest potential for expansion today, the companies are well able to handle the situation. When we look at the labour content in the price of coal- I am citing figures given to me by the Joint Coal Board- we find that the labour cost in open cut production is only one-third of that of underground production.
We have planned carefully. We have tried to plan scientifically. We want to see neither overproduction nor under-production of coal. A lot of the figures bandied about by the Leader of the National Country Party of Australia had no relevance to the present world situation. The worst thing we could do would be to overproduce coal. We should aim, and we have aimed, at getting a proper margin of production to deal with emergencies. But there are industrial and geological problems. Having done that we look to the future because coal today, as never before, is the key industry in the world energy crisis. For example, in Australia our energy content in terms of black coal is 160 times that of the known recoverable oil resources. Right through the world today people in all countries in their energy planning are moving back to the concept of coal, particularly for generating electricity, for heating and for industrial processes.
While we in Australia have quite a substantial amount of natural gas it is coal which is and which will continue to be the sheet anchor. The position is different in certain States of Australia. For example, for Western Australia there is a 76 per cent dependence on liquid hydrocarbons. In other words, Western Australia depends heavily on imported crude oil. In New South Wales the figure is down to around 41 per cent. In Queensland it is at the 56 per cent mark. As for the future of the coal industry, for the next 2 generations the world will depend very heavily on coal and its application to the energy requirements of mankind. That being so, we are in a unique position in this country. Australia is one of the few countries in the world which, in terms of our aggregate energy resources, can look to the future with confidence. The Japanese are our best trading partners. There is much that we can still do. I have for the first time persuaded the Japanese that they can abandon their old policy which was to never be over-dependent on one country. Japan realises that Australia is a stable, sound and well governed country. It is a country which honours its contracts. It is decent and honours the old concept of British commercial integrity. We are a people worth while dealing with. It is on that basis that we plan our future in the energy industry and in the coal industry, in particular, with Japan.
Next Tuesday we Will have a visit from company representatives of the Nippon Steel Corporation and its associated companies to specifically discuss with us the availability of steaming coal for their requirements. Japan for the future must move away from fuel oU and its high cost. In fact, 80 per cent of the traffic in the world today is in oU in some form or another being transported from producing to consuming countries. Japan realises that it Will also need to cut down its import bill. We need to do the same thing in Australia. I come now to the other side of the equation. A lot of reference has been made to what could, should and has been done in relation to oU exploration. I shall give to the House some figures from the Shell Company of Australia Ltd which were given in connection with the company’s submission on indigenous crude pricing policy The figures are remarkable. In respect of on-shore oU exploration in Australia since it was first inaugurated- this is going back to the Rough Range days- 1 184 wells were drilled in Australia on-shore. The total number of fields which have been discovered are six alone. At the present time we would have about 2300 million barrels of crude oil. Most of that is off-shore oU. On-shore, there is a little less than 3 million barrels in Moonie. I shall come to Moonie in a moment. There would be a matter of 60 million barrels recoverable in the Cooper Basin and somewhere around 40 million barrels in Mereenie. In the latter 2 cases no liquid line is currently avail.able for that oU to be taken to the sea coast.
In addition to that we have very substantial reserves of condensate and liquid petroleum gas. Today there would be approximately another 1400 million barrels. It is not as readily available as the crude oil because it is associated with the production of natural gas. It has to come out and be used in proportion to the natural gas. Fortunately, on the North- West Shelf there is a very wet type of natural gas with between 45 and 65 barrels of liquids which are chemical cousins of motor spirit. That Will be available. In respect of off-shore oU exploration the figure is a little better. But even here it is mainly confined, and 90 per cent of our crude oU production is coming from the Gippsland Basin field. In that field there are some very fine reservoirs. In two of them the pressure drop is practically nil. The production which is occurring is phenomenal. There are also some areas where the production is marginal only. I am speaking in economic terms. In respect of Barrow Island, about 10 per cent of our oil is still available. We will soon be encountering problems of secondary production. But off-shore as a whole the discoveries of oU, with the exception of the Gippsland Basin, have been very limited
I cite the case of Western Australia where between the years 1965 and 1975 only about 12 natural gas producing wells were discovered. In 76 wells only 14 million barrels of crude oU were found. Again, that corresponds with the forecast of Lewis Weeks, the man who advised Esso-BHP group where to go to drill in Bass Strait. (Extension of time granted) The grim truth is- again I am quoting no less a group of companies than the Shell Company of Australia, Esso Australia Ltd and Hematite Petroleum Pty Ltd- that in all cases in their submission they say that the prospect for on-shore oU discovery is practically nil. For off-shore discovery it Will be in deeper water, beyond the depth of the continental shelf. The Shell people are prepared to venture into that field which is an area known as the Exmouth Plateau beyond 200 metres deep. I cite the authority of Lewis Weeks who stated that undoubtedly flow oU is available but it will be produced at a price. (Quorum formed) In other words, the prospects of finding flow oil in Australia are in deeper water than that of the continental shelf. I suppose the current example of that would be the Kapuku field in the Gippsland Basin where, I am informed, the well is drilled in water of over 1,200 feet in depth. It is on the north-west shelf and beyond that there Will be production at prices approaching those of imported crude.
One of the tragedies of exploration in the North- West Shelf is that the Western Australian Government is in breach of the terms of the NonJusticiable Agreement that was entered into in the late 1960s and has repeatedly refused to impose proper drilling obligations. The drilling obligations are that 36 wells are to be drilled over a period of 5 years. The obligation imposed would be sufficient to keep one drilling vessel only in operation. We hope to have in the very near future a favourable decision from the High Court of Australia. I say, with due respect to that Court, that the time is approaching when in the national interest its judgment needs to be given. It ought to be given. I say that with due respect for the judiciary of one of the most eminent benches in the world today. We are entitled to know just where the future sovereignty stands.
In conclusion, I say that energy and food are the key issues of the next 2 generations. Australia is uniquely blessed in respect of both these commodities. No country in the world can expect on average more than 30 years supply of crude oil. That is the generally accepted figure. In our case, with what we can do by way of improvising with the liquids associated with natural gas, we would appear to have about 14 years supply. If new flow oil is to be found it will be found largely in the deeper water of the continental plateau. For the rest of our energy requirements we will have to turn to alternative fuel forms, the most obvious one being natural gas. Natural gas now meets only 6 per cent of our energy requirements. Comparable countries in the Western Worldthe advanced industrial countries- use natural gas for about 22 per cent of their energy requirements. In the United States the figure is as high as 32 per cent.
Fortunately we are well endowed with suitable highly volatile coals from which crude oil can be distilled. It is in that field and possibly at a later stage in the field of uranium also that we will be able to meet Australia’s future energy requirements. We have our plans. They are good plans and sound plans. I commend the legislation to the House. There is no reason for the panic that the Opposition is trying to create. This is quite a reasonable impost in terms of the fantastic windfall gains that have come to the Australian coal industry.
-Mr Speaker -
Motion ( by Mr Nicholls) put:
That the question be now put. Question putThe House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
No Member shall be entitled to vote in any division unless, when the tellers are appointed, he is within the seats allotted to Members.
Standing order 202 states:
On the tellers being appointed, every Member within the seats allotted to Members shall vote and no Member may move from his place until the result of the division is announced.
The honourable member for Chifley clearly moved from the Speaker’s chair over to the front bench on the Government side.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I am alittle puzzled at the way in which the rates in the Schedule are described, particularly the difference between beer and spirits. The duty on beer is so much per litre but the duty on spirits is so much per litre of alcohol. When one does the calculations it would appear that the duty on alcohol in beer is about four or five times as great as the duty on alcohol in spirits. Why is there this discrimination?
In this Budget the excise on beer has gone up by 56 per cent whereas the excise on spirits has gone up by only 14 per cent. Is the Government directly attacking the working man’s drink or is this one of the things which the Government has simply forgotten and the Government has not done its sums? It does not realise that it is putting a much heavier proportion of duty on beer than on spirits. This is a matter of some importance because it is related to the great problem of inflation in the economy.
Motion ( by Mr Nicholls) put:
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Dr H. A. Jenkins)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr Lionel Bowen)- by leaveproposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I make just one short comment on the petroleum duties’.
The Minister was no fool,
He’d learned from the ALP school.
So he knew what to do
When the ACTU
Fiddled bids for the oil in the Pool.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 28 August 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 Lionel Bowen) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 28 August on motion by Mr Enderby:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to clause 4 of the Bill relating to the duties of the Collector. I pose one or two questions to the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Lionel Bowen) which seem to me to be questions of common sense. I hope that he will indicate how they will be resolved. It is quite clear that the export duty will apply to cokes of higher than 85 per cent ash content, but I appreciate that the determination of the ash content of the mineral involves a very large degree of error. I understand that this occurs under the ultimate analysis characteristic. There is a margin of error of plus or minus 5 per cent to 10 per cent. Mineralogists, metallurgists and mining engineers all indicate that the ultimate analysis involves a large degree of error. So I ask the Minister, if the publication Survey of Eastern Australian Coal of Coking Potential is to be used- this was a survey conducted by the Joint Coal Board and the Queensland Coal Board- on what basis would that indicate that a product with an ash content of 84.71 per cent would escape the levy and yet one with a content of 85.02 per cent would attract the levy. There will be a degree of accuracy in imposing and accepting certain of these products for levies which is quite out of character with what occurs in fact.
In the Kianga-Moura mine one lot of coal has an ash content of just over 85 per cent and the other of 84.71 per cent. How will a judgment be made with any semblance of justice? How can the Government exclude from the levy the product with the 84.7 1 per cent content? This is a very important matter. In tables 5, 6 and 7 of this publication one finds a whole list of the carbon contents of the coal or the coke. Which ones are to be accepted and which ones are to attract the penalty? The matter deserves to be looked at. There are anthracite coals which have an ash content of over 90 per cent. Are they to be accepted or will they attract the levy? What is to happen? There is a list of fifty or sixty different kinds of products on which it is appropriate for the Minister to make a statement. After all, the whole problem with this industry now is that there is very great uncertainty. For the first time an effective export tax is to be levied. In an economic sense it is an appalling thing to do. In terms of the allocation of resources in Australia it will have very deleterious effects on any industry which is oriented towards export markets and on any industry whose export markets might improve. It will have very deleterious effects on those parts of Australia where people are in employment, where people have a certain standard of living and where people have jobs, because of the ripple and the feedback effects of export industries. The Minister’s attention ought to be directed to the uncertainty that will apply in this area. Something has to be done for the future.
– Will you take it off when you get into office?
-I think that any significant new expansion should have an exemption from export duty which could be written off over the time it takes to write off the original investment. There ought to be an inspection of the procedures appropriate to that which would be more rigorous than those that applied to Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd in relation to the Bougainville operation. Mr Chairman, I see that the honourable member is becoming excited. You will appreciate that I was induced to make that comment.
-I allowed the honourable member the latitude of answering a disorderly interjection but I invite him to return to the matter before the Committee.
– Having dealt with the matter of uncertainty I now deal with the other matter which is affected by clause 4 of the Bill. It is the matter of blending. It is well known that some coals have a higher content than 85 per cent. The Bill enables coals of less than 85 per cent content to be exported. The blending process can be applied here. In terms of applying clause 4, has the Minister considered what effect it will have on those minerals which have a content of less than 85 per cent? Will their export capacities be disadvantaged? In other words I am asking whether in the past blending has enabled some products to be exported which would otherwise not be exported and what will be done by the Collector to see that those areas, many of which are in New South Wales, will not be disadvantaged.
I think I have said enough, Mr Chairman. There are no more interjections. Obviously the honourable member for Wilmot is delighted with the answers he has received. I await the Minister’s response with as much anticipation as I can possibly muster.
– The points made by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) are valid and they well warrant the consideration of the Committee and the Government. I stress first the technical point that he made, that it is sometimes very difficult to distinguish between the various coals. There is a tremendous gap between the levy of $2 a tonne and $6 a tonne which is quite arbitrary. It would be far better, if the Government really wanted to do something in this field, for it to have done it not in this clumsy way but in one of the better ways which were open to it. If the Government really felt- I do not entirely agree with this feeling- that it had to slug the exporters, why did it not put the excise on the value of the exported coal at such and such a rate? That would have met the technical points which were so well put and so cogently raised by the honourable member for Lilley. It would have been possible to have done this in a way which did not involve the horrid arbitrariness of the present very clumsy device which the Government is putting forward.
I do not at this moment address myself to the question as to whether or not there should be a levy. I address myself to the technical question as to how, if there is a levy, it should be put on. I am afraid that I must come to the conclusion that the method of applying the levy which the Government has chosen is clumsy and bad and will result in all sorts of economic dislocations and inequities.
– I thank the honourable gentlemen for giving me the chance to reply. I know that they are very keen about coal production. They know all about ash content. They have been in the industry for years. Accordingly, I say that, if they had known all that, they would have known that the industry itself can readily ascertain an ash content of 85 per cent without any difficulty at all. If there is any area of objection, as there could be under clause 4 of the Bill, this would be the subject of laboratory tests. At the moment, those people interested in the industry can well ascertain whether the ash content of a specific high quality coal is 85 per cent or greater. If there is to be any blending of a high quality coal with a low quality coal, it will be less than 85 per cent in content and attract a duty of only $2 a tonne. I trust that that satisfies the complainants.
Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar)-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. I am afraid that the Minister has entirely failed to understand the point at issue. It is -
– Order! In the course of a debate, an honourable member is able to use a personal explanation only to explain where he had been misunderstood or misrepresented.
-Of course. He misrepresented what I have said.
– Well, make a personal explanation.
– I did not say that it was difficult to ascertain whether there was an 85 per cent carbon content. I do not say that for one moment. I said that the carbon content of 85 per cent plus or minus was not an adequate instrument to use. I happen to know a great deal more about the coal industry than the Minister does.
– Order! The honourable member shall not debate the subject.
-In 3 sentences, the case that I put in respect of this clause was that having a cut-off point of 85 per cent did not allow for the fact that the margin of error on the ultimate analysis of the ash content of the coal was plus or minus 5 per cent or 10 per cent. Those people skilled in the industry all say this; and they know it. The people who deal with coal know it too. Does this mean, therefore, that some coal which, as set out in the publication which I mentioned earlier- I am sure that it would be used- happens to draw 84.71 per cent or 84.9 per cent, is immediately exempt and is not considered; but that coal with a content from 85.1 per cent, as there are some in this document, attracts the export levy? I ask the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Lionel Bowen): Does he consider that this difference, given a margin of error of 5 per cent to 1 0 per cent, is any real basis on which to send a big enterprise into a position where it cannot expand or enable jobs to be secured? That is the ultimate argument.
This comes from a Party which has introduced, after a lot of consideration, a new taxation system. What this legislation proposes is an indirect tax which is regressive and which is inaccurate in its application. It will have very bad economic effects. I am looking for the precision not appropriate to a man with legal training, but the precision which is told to the Minister by those people who, I presume, have technical training in the field. In this House no answer has been given which has gone even close to answering the proposition which I put to the Minister. I believe that the Parliament desires and deserves an answer. I am concerned at the inaccuracy of the determination, its uncertainty and the justice between those on 84.8 per cent or so, which is just below the margin, and those who are just above the margin. Also, the proposition concerning the blending of the coals has not been dealt with. It has not been made clear at what spot, when, and how often, the ash content is to be determined. The Minister cannot ignore these propositions.
– My honourable friend from Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), with his dental qualifications, now decides to take over the debate. Let me say this: The error is not 5 per cent or 10 per cent; it is one-tenth of one per cent. That shows how little the honourable member knows about the error. I am assured- and I assume that the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) who led for the Opposition in this matter would appreciate this fact- that if there is any objection which could be made by the industry to the Collector, a test is made.
– Is it above or below 85 per cent as determined in that book?
-It is made on the basis of the objection, whether it is above or below 85 per cent.
– So one with 84.95 per cent is in the position -
-Look, we will have this discussion in the corridor later, if the honourable member wishes. It is on the basis that this is standard practice in the industry, which knows the content. If there were an objection which it could properly make on the basis that the coal would attract the lesser rate of tax, industry would be the first to make it.
– It could be made on 84.9 per cent plus?
-It can be made in respect of any objection which is made.
– The Minister knows that it will not.
-I do not know that. The way we are going, we will all end up not knowing what we are doing. My honourable friend is so worried that he asks whether a company with an 84.9 per cent content will be overtaxed. I am assured that a test case can be made and it would be made and that it is within that accuracy that the validity or otherwise of the tax is guaranteed.
– I again say that the Minister for Manufacturing Industry has entirely misunderstood the point at issue. The point is not whether the determination is accurate. Even if the determination is accurately made, the point is that the results will be arbitrary and quite out of accordance with economic criteria.
– There is no justification for that claim.
-This is the point: The Minister just has not understood the matter at all.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, report adopted.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen)- by leave- read a third time.
Debate resumed from 2 September on motion by Mr Hayden:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Fraser had moved by way of amendment-
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘the House condemns the Budget because it does not provide an adequate program to defeat inflation and relieve unemployment nor does it restore confidence in the private sector of the economy’.
-Last night, when the debate on the Budget was interrupted, I was drawing attention to the great threat which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) represented to Australia’s social security system and in fact to the whole range of services which governments normally provide. I was pointing out that it was quite absurd for the Leader of the Opposition to say that it should be the prime objective of governments to maximise people’s disposable income simply by reducing the incidence of taxation. Of course it is necessary to ensure that taxpayers are not forced to pay greater proportions of their income in tax simply as a result of rising money incomes which may or may not be accompanied by rising real incomes. Indeed, the new tax scales go a great way towards achieving that goal. This has been done by reducing the number of steps in the progressive rise in marginal rates with the result that the bulk of wage and salary earners will, despite rising money incomes, remain in the same tax bracket with a constant marginal rate. That is not to say that average tax rates will not increase- of course they will- but the proportion of any extra dollars earned which will be paid in tax will remain constant. That in itself is a great improvement.
The Leader of the Opposition, however, goes much further and endorses the concept of total taxation indexation. There are some very good reasons for supporting taxation indexation. The main reason is to avoid the automatic increases in taxation which occur in times of inflation without governments taking any action to adjust the tax scales. That is to say, in times of inflation, the revenue collected by governments will increase without governments taking any action. I subscribe to the view that governments ought to have to support increases in revenue when they are necessary and that governments simply should not rely on the invisible action of the progressive tax scales to provide that extra revenue. As well, taxation indexation is a great benefit in that it attempts to maintain the real after-tax earnings of wage and salary earners. This is not the motivation of the Leader of the Opposition for supporting taxation indexation. He specifically said in his speech that tax indexation: . . . would prevent future governments from using the silent tax of inflation to transfer resources from individuals to the government.
In other words, he is not supporting taxation indexation because it maintains after tax real earnings or because it removes the disincentive to earn more but simply because he is opposed to Government spending, particularly increased Government spending. In the debate which has raged around this Budget there has been a general condemnation by most people of the concept of public spending and it has usually been in the context of the size of the deficit. It is important to point out, however, that there is nothing wrong in the right circumstances with deficit financing and simply to condemn deficit financing out of hand is quite incorrect and can lead to great problems in the economy. As well, there is nothing wrong with public spending if governments are prepared to raise the necessary revenue. There are no inflationary consequences necessarily flowing from a government spending money which it collects from taxpayers. The only time when it can be disadvantageous to the economy is when it causes a misallocation of resources or draws on resources to a greater extent than they exist in the economy.
So one needs to stress at a time when the Government is conscious of the necessity to draw back on public expenditure and not to expand the deficit, that there is no condemnation so far as the Government is concerned in respect of the general question of deficit financing or the general question of public expenditure. However, the Leader of the Opposition is opposed to public expenditure and is opposed to Government intervention in the provision of welfare services. So here we have the real substance of the man who dresses up his opposition to public expenditure by saying that he is in favour of freedom of choice and that the provision of services by a government is in some way inimical to freedom of choice. I have said already that a substantial proportion of the population, probably 20 per cent, have no choice at all due to the inadequate incomes on which they live and also to the inadequacy of the services provided. (Quorum formed). The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) has just made one of his puerile contributions.
Here we see the real substance of the Leader of the Opposition and the Opposition itself. The Leader dresses up his opposition to public expenditure by saying that in some way it impinges on freedom of choice. In fact, a very significant proportion of the population has no choice at all. The only real freedom of choice those people have or which the Leader of the Opposition would preserve for them is the freedom to starve and the freedom to remain poor. Does anyone really question that this wealthy country can afford to eliminate poverty even though the Leader of the Opposition is effectively saying that we should not? He says that we should not increase public expenditure. Since no one but governments can eliminate poverty, he is effectively saying that we should not be interested in the plight of the needy, we should not eliminate poverty in Australia
I understand why the Leader of the Opposition and many of his colleagues would have no idea at aU of the conditions of the urban poor. That is apparent from the lack of concern they show for them. However, they do not even show concern for the rural poor, who are among the people they are supposed to represent. How often have we heard National Country Party members expressing concern about the plight of the rural poor? AU they talk about here are superphosphate bounties, tax incentives and subsidies for farmers. Everybody knows that those sorts of subsidies provide no support for the poor in rural areas ana no support for small farmers who. experience a great deal of poverty, as was revealed by the poverty inquiry. If the Country Party was really concerned about the needs of the rural poor, whether they be black or white, it would be concerned to spend the $30m, which they would like to see spent on the superphosphate bounty, in supporting the needs of the poor which exist within their own electorates. If that is the way they demonstrate their concern for the poor in their own electorates I shudder to think of the implications to the urban poor if they were ever to come to office again. Australia can afford to be more generous with its needy and it has an obligation to be more generous. All political parties, instead of arguing for a return to this selfish acquisitiveness and eUtist values of the Leader of the Opposition, ought to be asking instead for an increased commitment to the poor in Australia and an increased commitment to the onslaught against poverty.
– He is funny.
– I hear the honourable member for Wakefield giggling again. My time has run out. AU I can do is urge the House to support the Budget.
-During the Budget debate on Wednesday of last week I took extremely strong exception to some remarks made by the honourable member for Burke (Mr
Keith Johnson) concerning soldiers and their role in the community. He said:
I know, honourable members know and those who are listening to this debate know, what is the role of a soldier. So it is not surprising that the honourable member should object that money should be spent out of the national Budget on such things as culture and recreation. What do soldiers know about culture? What do soldiers know about quality of life? It is the role of a soldier to kill people rather than to make sure that they have a good life. If someone can show me that the role of any soldier in history was to preserve life I would be pleased to hear about it.
– Who said that?
-The honourable member for Burke who, I believe, is 46 years of age and would have been a teenager during the Second World War and should have been quite old enough to realise the magnitude of the debt that the country owed to the soldiers who helped to keep it safe from foreign invasion at that time.
– Where is he now?
– I informed him I was going to talk about this. If the honourable member lived in an area which contained a number of servicemen and their famines he would know that their contribution to the quality of life is great indeed. He would find them active members of Parents and Citizens Associations, youth organisations and kindergarten associations. In fact, he would find them on any committee designed to improve community living.
– What about Legacy?
– And certainly Legacy, as my colleague reminds me. It might also amaze the honourable member for Burke to know that there are many soldiers who do appreciate the arts and if it came to a showdown about the knowledge of culture and the arts he would be left for dead. If the honourable member had taken the trouble during his adult life to study history, especially our own, he would have found that there were many soldiers who contributed greatly to the culture of their country. If he had studied defence matters more seriously and in depth he would know that the primary role of the soldier is the protection of his country and its people. To achieve this he is taught to kill, among other things, because without this skill his role as a protector is as nothing.
I am not talking of those armies whose governments give them licence to butcher unarmed and innocent people. I am talking of those armies of soldiers similar to our own who, at the request of the government of the day, offer themselves in combat to protect their country and its people from a foreign control- and that includes the protection of the honourable member and his family. The profession of arms is an honourable one. The members of that profession are not morons or mongrel dogs, as the honourable member appears to suggest. If he were to study military history and matters of defence as I have suggested, I am sure he would regard the role of our soldiers in a different and far more understanding light. If the honourable member for Burke spoke in ignorance or the heat of the moment, I can forgive him for his outburst. If he did not, I cannot forgive him his castigation of our soldiers. I have spent some time in the period allotted to me in this Budget debate in answering the honourable gentleman, but as far as I am concerned it had to be said.
The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) and other Government Ministers and supporters who have spoken in this debate so far have really gone to great lengths to convince everybody that this Budget they introduced will be the cure for our economic illnesses. They claim that if everybody pulls with it everything will be rosy once again, just the same as it was before they took over the reins of administration, when inflation was low, unemployment figures were low, our dollar had real value, and the business world was operating with confidence. We in the Opposition and members of the business community and economists know better.
Members of the Government, from the Prime Minister down, are trying desperately to sell this Budget to the people as the only way to regain economic stability. Politically they cannot afford to produce yet another disastrous Budget. We in the Opposition would be failing in our duty to the people if we did not explain to them that there is another way and a better way to regain stability. The Government is insistent that everybody take note of what it claims to be the good measures in the Budget and the excellence of the tax reforms that it has introduced, and it stresses the cut that it has made in Government spending as if it were some tremendous personal sacrifice; but what it has played in a very low key- in fact I have not heard a note played yet- is the tremendous increase in the outlay to cover unemployment benefits. This is a situation which it has brought about itself through its own mismanagement, which created record unemployment in the first place. This increase is shown in the 1974-75 auunal report of the Department of Social Security.
In 1972, the year this Government took office, payments for unemployment benefits were $25,996,506. In 1973, when the Government was happily displaying the ring of confidence as far as the unemployment situation was concerned, payments jumped to a record $46,552,939, the highest since 1956. Then in 1974, when the Government was still saying unemployment would be a thing of the past, payments jumped to $58,245,85 1. At the end of the 1974-75 financial year the depth of the Government’s mismanagement of the economy was really highlighted. Payments for unemployment benefits increased to $251,740,069. For a Government that boasts how keen it is on making records, it should be really proud of this one. It is a whizzer and a record it can claim all for its very own. No other government since Federation has come within a bull’s roar of this record. But the tragic part of it all is that this expenditure of approximately $5m a week is unproductive. It is a dead weight around the neck of the taxpayer which will get heavier as the results of this Budget are felt and unemployment increases.
I notice, too, that the Regional Employment Development scheme which the Government so proudly presented as the great relief for unemployment, is to get the axe. In present circumstances no new payments are being approved, but we are told that $ 135m is earmarked to meet schemes already approved. Only because of the RED scheme the unemployment figures would have been frightening before this, and at least the outlay on this scheme has been productivework for money received. But it is still only temporary relief, even though local government authorities have benefited from it.
Speaking of local government authorities, I see that our generous Government is providing unconditional financial assistance to local authorities totalling $79.9m. The Treasurer must have been scratching around the bottom of the purse for this one. It is a pity he could not find $100,000 tucked in a corner to make it the round $80m. But this may have resulted in the Prime Minister having to forego one of his sight-seeing tours overseas, and that he would not tolerate; or we might not have been able to afford to purchase another painting, and that would not be tolerated either. The whole community benefits from assistance to local government, and that is what makes it so tremendously important. Every man, woman and child in the community benefits from it, and it is necessary that problems of local government be studied seriously and that realistic decisions regarding assistance be made. If I remember correctly, there are 900-odd local government authorities in Australia. If they all sought a share of the $80m, that share could not be considered as excessive. So we are still in the same old position of local authorities having to slug the community through increased rate charges to maintain and provide essential services. There is a limit to what the community can pay in rate charges and many, if not all, local authorities are finding it extremely difficult to remain reasonably solvent.
In the Budget Speech the Treasurer proudly said that since coming to office the Government had taken a great stride forward in the field of social security and welfare and that now it must take stock of its progress and consolidate its gains. Heaven help the country if it consolidates its mismanagement and its record for increasing inflation and unemployment. There is a way the Government could improve the situation if it were game enough to have a go, a mover that would earn it a pat on the back instead of a kick in the tail of the community, a chance for the media to praise it instead of criticising it.
The Government has granted $80m for financial assistance to local authorities, which is insufficient to meet their needs, but at least the outlay will be productive. There is $135m in the bin for the RED scheme, most of which I hope will be allocated to local government projects. This outlay also will be productive. I do not think there is any chance that the payments for unemployment benefits will be less than the $25 1 .75m paid out last financial year. If the Government sticks to its record-breaking run, much more will be paid out; but let us be charitable and keep the anticipated payments to a round figure of $250m. This outlay is unproductive. It buys us the reputation of being a country where a great number of our people can live reasonably without working. This is a reputation we have no cause to be proud of. Many of our unemployed people want to work, they need work but unfortunately there is a great number who are content to drift along as they are. While they receive money to live on for nothing, they will continue to be so.
The Government is outlaying $80m which will be productive, and over three times as much which will be unproductive. So why not give the $250m to local authorities and allow them to take up the slack of unemployment on necessary community projects? This would make a sum of $330m provided to local authorities, and if the Government wished to include the $135m earmarked for the RED scheme it would make a total of $465m being distributed to local authorities, the amounts being distributed according to the number of unemployed people in the areaand every dollar productive. I have no doubts about local governments, the Commonwealth Employment Service and the Department of
Social Security being able to co-operate and make such a scheme workable. In fact I am sure it will be welcomed. I know local governments would welcome such a move. It would ensure continuity of necessary local works without having continually to borrow money for this purpose. It would ease the burden on the ratepayer. The taxpayer would be happy knowing this money was productive. The community would benefit considerably and the genuinely unemployed person would feel happier earning his benefits instead of receiving a handout. For those who did not want to work there would be no handout.
The suggestion I have made no doubt will conflict with the ambition of the Government to create a welfare State where the majority of the people are dependent on handouts from a socialist government. As I said previously, if the Government is game enough to have a go it would be applauded for doing so. It may not be another record, but it certainly would be an achievement of some note. Speaking of achievements reminds me of the burst the Prime Minister gives us at the end of a session on the achievements of his Government over the period. He has consistently claimed records of achievements, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that there are a number of records credited to his Government, under his leadership, which are the greatest ever in our history but which he is not game to claim. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has mentioned these and I should like to emphasise them, especially as this Budget probably will add to the Government’s record-breaking run. The Prime Minister; can claim the record for the greatest number of unemployed under one government in Australia’s history. Since he has been in control he holds the record for the highest inflation rate we have experienced. He holds the record for the highest interest rates ever imposed on our people.
– This is the Prime Minister. A record number of small companies and businesses have gone bankrupt under Government policies. Members of the Government have given us a record Budget deficit to overcome. They have paid a record amount of Australian taxpayer’s money for the purchase of a painting. The Prime Minister can claim to have had a greater number of overseas jaunts at the taxpayers’ expense in 2Vi years than any other Australian Prime Minister. The Government wm receive a record amount of money drained from the taxpayers in one financial year since Federation. It has had a record number of Treasurers in Vh years of government. I am very pleased that I am not playing in the Government team, even thought it is the greatest record-breaker we have ever seen.
If the Government feels that the reforms it has introduced balance the records it has established it is living in the dreamtime and it is time it came back to reality. Members of the Government through their mismanagement have made themselves extremely unpopular with the business community. They have made themselves unpopular with a number of trade unions which they profess to represent. They have made themselves unpopular with our financial institutions because of their desire to control them. They have made themselves unpopular with all branches of industry. They have made themselves unpopular with our defence Services because of their attitude to defence. When their tax reforms take effect they will have made themselves unpopular with all our taxpayers.
For the final crunch, the crunch that really puts them in the slot marked ‘unwanted’, thousands upon thousands of secondary school students hate them, as far as a youngster is able to hate, because of their foolish, narrow-minded decision to disband the Army cadet corps. There is movement in every State through the whole of the country’s cadet corps to stop this. If the Government has not yet realised that this Budget will do nothing towards its being recognised as a responsible government I would suggest that members of the Government switch on, for the message is there, loud and clear, for them all to hear: Get out before you make a bigger mess of this wonderful country. I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-I am pleased to support this Budget because for the first time in over 20 years some justice is being afforded under the new personal taxation system to the young married couples with families to raise and to educate. The Budget has been hailed as one of the most sweeping reforms of personal taxation ever undertaken in Australia and has been described as one of the greatest social reforms introduced by the Whitlam Labor Government. The new tax system substantially lowers the tax burden on the lower and middle income family man and exempts 500 000 current taxpayers from paying any tax at all because it will lift substantially minimum taxable income levels. A taxpayer with a dependent wife and 2 dependent student children in receipt of an income of less than $5,372 a year will now pay no tax. The increase in family allowances are far greater than in any previous Budget so that the average earner’s tax saving for a dependent wife is more than doubled and his saving for dependent children is increased by 50 per cent or more.
To give an example, a taxpayer with a dependent wife and 2 children who earns $160 a week will receive a tax saving of $7 a week. If he were receipt of a salary of $200 a week, the tax saving would be more than $ 10 a week. The present concessional allowances for dependants are replaced by more generous rebates providing for $400 for a spouse, $200 for the first child under age 1 6 and student child and $ 1 50 for other children. I am especially pleased to see the introduction of a separate additional rebate of $200 known as the sole parent rebate for parents without partners. This will provide relief for one parent families. I know of several of these families in my electorate and I appreciate the difficulties they experience. This new rebate is a recognition by this Government of the difficulties facing this section of the community. Throughout Australia, about 100 000 supporting parents will benefit from this.
I am very pleased also that concessions for educational expenses which were previously set at $150 will now be increased to $250 per student child. The new tax system, as the Age newspaper pointed out, has much to recommend it in terms of equity. It removes serious defects from the old structure and it provides positive benefits for the overwhelming bulk of taxpayers. The Government’s policy of adjusting pensions in the autumn and spring has been continued with an increase of $2.75 in the single rate pension and $4.50 for married couples. Under the repatriation proposals, the total and permanent incapacity pension rate is increased $6 a week to $74.10 a week with commensurate increases in other war pension rates. The TPI rate is to be increased a further $6 in the autumn of 1 976 and the other rates will be then further increased in line with the consumer price index.
The education allocation which has almost quadrupled in the last 2 years will be increased by $237m to a new total of $ 1,904m. Our opponents say that there is nothing in this Budget for Tasmania. But I point out that the Government hopes to spend about $3m on the Devonport Technical College and on the development of student residences at the Burnie Technical College. The impetus of the improvements which have come about under the Labor Government will be maintained and recurrent expenditure continued so that existing standards and staffstudent ratios are maintained. The Minister for
Education (Mr Beazley) has been to my electorate twice already this year and has arranged for the Schools Commission to prepare a special report on the needs of Catholic schools on the north-west and west coasts of Tasmania. Professor P. D. Tannock, Mr D. M. Bennett and Mr A. D. Wood visited the areas from 22 to 24 July. We look forward with interest to getting the report and I commend the Minister on behalf of everyone associated with government and nongovernment schools for the great work that he is doing in the administration of this important portfolio.
In the last year in my electorate- this answers criticism that nothing is being done for Tasmania- and I emphasise that I speak only for my electorate, government schools benefited by $6 1 6,000, non-government schools by $3 1 1 ,000, disadvantaged government schools by $1 17,000 and the teachers centre in Burnie by $75,000. Of course, we draw the comparison of what happened during the 23 years of the previous government when nothing was given to us. These amounts, together with Australian Government funds provided under Labor for the technical schools in the area, approximate $1.3m. This Australian Labor Government places great emphasis on social security, education and health. An amount of $ 102.4m is contained in the Budget for grants to the States for health programs. This amount represents a substantial increase on the amount provided last year. The total figure for the programs then was $66.6m of which Tasmania received $2.9m. This year, as I say, the total amount provided has increased to $ 102.4m of which Tasmania receives $4.5m. Grants to Tasmania include the provision of money for the following purposes: Community health facilities, $1.8m; tuberculosis control, $305,000; school dental schemes, which of course are an innovation under this Government, $2.1m; health education campaigns, $51,000; blood transfusion services, $85,000; recurrent expenditure by health planning agencies, $20,000; home dialysis supplies and equipment, $114,000.
I turn now to one part of the Budget which is of particular interest to people in Tasmania. The statements on page 42 of Budget Paper No. 9 which deal with urban and regional development in 1975-76 confirm the financial commitment for the north-west Tasmanian regional water supply scheme which was announced in last year’s Budget. The document states:
Assistance will be available towards the cost of the northwest Tasmania regional water supply scheme which will replace the existing practice whereby urban settlements have separate water supplies. The scheme is expected to cost $ 10m over a 7-year period. The Australian Government will contribute 60 per cent of the cost, including $840,000 in 1975-76.
We welcome the financial support given in this Budget because the new scheme is designed to give people in the 8 municipalities of that region an assured supply of clean water until the year 2000. The important meeting of the 8 municipalities will be held at the end of this week. I sincerely hope that after many months of discussion they will now be able to reach some unanimity and go ahead with the scheme to use this $840,000 which is provided in the Budget for this purpose.
In the debate on Tasmanian shipping last week I outlined freight increases that had occurred under the last Liberal-Country Party Government. Despite the pleas from Tasmanians, that Government provided nothing in the form of a subsidy to assist us with the tourist industry and to assist Tasmanian industries in their struggle to compete with their counterparts on the mainland of Australia. This Budget provides an amount of almost $5m in subsidy payments to assist Tasmania. As from 1 July 1973, an amount of $ lm was provided to stabilise passenger fares on the Empress of Australia. This payment has continued this year and will assist towards offsetting the $2.7m loss experienced in the passenger trade on the Empress of Australia and the Australian Trader. Last September, the Government gave us a subsidy of $2m on northbound freight from Tasmania when the Australian National Line sought to increase the freight rates by 25 per cent. This has the effect of maintaining the freight rate at the 1972 level before we came to Government and is of great assistance to Tasmanian industry in exporting its products to the markets on the mainland. With subsequent rises, this subsidy has now been increased to $3.9m and it is very pleasing to note that the freight rates on this service are being maintained at the present levels pending the receipt of the report of the Nimmo Committee of inquiry into Tasmanian freight rates. This financial support gives the lie to the claim that Tasmania has received nothing from this Government when, in effect, it was the previous Government which gave no financial assistance for our shipping services. As a result of the subsidies Tasmanian shippers are currently paying only 60 per cent of the sea freight that applied in 1959. At the same time, the cost of living in Australia has more than doubled and average weekly earnings have increased Vh times.
Taking into account the Australian Government’s freight and passenger subsidies, the $1.7m subsidy on wheat freight and another $1.7m for the Australian National Line’s loss on passenger services this financial year, Tasmania’s benefit from government sponsored schemes Will now amount to some $9m this financial year. This amounts to $22.50 for each person living In Tasmania or over $80 for each tasmanian household. I repeat that nothing was given to Tasmania in the 23 years of the previous Liberal-Country Party Government despite the fact that freight rates increased by 30 per cent.
We often hear the propaganda claims from members of the Liberal Party that the Government is out to destroy the 4-port concept for Tasmania and to concentrate on the one-port concept. These malicious rumours were dispelled by the comments of the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) in a debate last week and by the policy statement of Premier Bm Neilson last weekend. The port of Burnie alone has increased its volume of revenue from $ 1.25m to $2. 33m in the past 7 years. In that period the total cargo volume has almost doubled to 1.5 million tons. Fifty per cent of the cargoes, both overseas and interstate, are bulk cargoes and therefore it would be unthinkable to have to transport and ship those goods from other ports. We also hear the claim that costs have increased in Tasmania because of the policies of this Labor Government. But the percentage increase in the consumer price index of the Australian Statistician is less for our capital city of Hobart than is the percentage increase for the average of the 6 capital cities over the period from December 1972 to June this year. This does not mean that Hobart ‘s prices are lower but it does show that Tasmania ‘s prices on items in the index have not risen as fast as for all the capitals taken together since this Labor Government came to office.
Terminal faculties, moreover, especially in Melbourne, Devonport and Bell Bay also have been greatly improved last year. A continuing development is going on which Will provide us with a speedier turn-around of shipping and so improve our service. This is a much different state of affairs when compared with what happened under the previous Government. The rundown in port facilities which was allowed to happen under the previous Government was the main cause for many of the backlogs of cargo which used to build up to the detriment of the economy of Tasmania. I place on record also the expressions of thanks which we have received from local government because of the attitude of the Labor Administration in assisting local municipal councils with direct grants from the Grants Commission. I know the councils in my area are most appreciative of the grants that are made without any strings attached. In 1974 the 12 municipalities in my electorate received an amount of $500,000. This amount has been increased by recent allocations to $605,000 for this year. The 2 larger municipalities of Burnie and Devonport received $100,000 each. If we add to that amount the $400,000 provided for sewerage, it can be seen that local government has benefited by almost $lm in the financial assistance received from the Australian Government. The councils are appreciative of this type of support because they received nothing from previous governments. It is a recognition of the work they do.
I refer to a couple of letters which have been received from councils. One of the letters states:
Council is very pleased with such continued assistance by the Australian Government and would be grateful if you would convey to Senator Douglas McClelland the Special Minister of State this Council ‘s appreciation.
Another council on the north-west coast in a letter states:
The Council places on record its appreciation of the assistance given by the Australian Government by way of the abovementioned Grants Commission Grant, which will materially assist in maintaining a reasonable municipal rating structure within the Municipality for the ensuing financial year.
The Council would like to express sincere thanks to you and members of the Government for the funds made available in the above respect.
They are typical of other letters received. That shows that local municipalities welcome very much and are appreciative of the money they receive from the Grants Commission without strings attached. The grant is a recognition of the work being done throughout Australia by this third tier of government.
Apart from this, local councils in my area have also benefited greatly from the Regional Employment Development scheme projects. I place on record my appreciation of the wonderful work done by the former Minister for Labor and Immigration, Mr Clyde Cameron, in introducing the RED scheme and for taking such a wonderful, personal interest as he did in following the progress of the various schemes in the country districts especially. My electorate benefited by $4.6m under the scheme. We have seen very many worthwhile community projects which, in their way, are living monuments to Clyde Cameron. They would never have got off the ground but for the scheme which he introduced. I need only quote from a letter received from the
Leven District of the Boy Scouts Association in which they state that they would like: … to make known to you and the Australian Government that our particular project has been extremely successful both from the point of view of employment and at the same time contributing to the welfare of the young people in this Municipality, not only for the present generation but for generations to come.
The committee of the Association goes on to point out that its project has put the district years ahead in its program of scouting and that good value for money has been realised in their project. The letter concludes:
We feel the Regional Employment Development Scheme can be successful in a two-fold manner. Firstly, it allows organisations, particularly those such as ourselves who are voluntary, to improve their position in the community without reliance on the Local Council or leaving them with a maintenance bill for years, and secondly it certainly helps the unemployment position in the local area.
In the past year the Australian Government has financially assisted many other organisations in the electorate of Braddon.
I recall grants of $145,000 under the Aged Persons Homes Act for 4 projects at Smithton and Ulverstone; $8,200 for environment and conservation; $253,000 for community health and school dental services; $206,000 for tourism and recreation grants; $100,000 for child care centre grants; $12,000 towards the Australian Assistance Plan for salaries; and $91,000 for road safety improvements. The Budget provides for an estimated expenditure this financial year of $542,000 towards the estimated cost of $2.5m for the first stage of a 7 kilometre dual carriageway and bypass at Ulverstone, including a new bridge over the Leven River. It also provides for an expenditure of $795,000 this financial year for the new dual carriageway between Victoria Bridge, over the Mersey River at Devonport, and the Don township. The route bypasses the commercial centre of Devonport.
Tasmania benefits greatly from the transport policies initiated by the Australian Government. On 1 July this year the Australian Government took over the control of the State railways. The immediate advantage to Tasmania will be a net financial benefit to the State’s revenue account of $5m. In addition, Tasmania will receive an adjustment of $3.3m in its financial assistance base which represents a permanent and increased budget gain to the State. Tasmania will be relieved of capital debts standing against the railways. as agreed between the Australian Government and the State Government. The State will also be relieved of railways operating losses which are estimated to be $ 1 4m for the last financial year. In addition to the financial assistance of the transfer, the Australian Government is committed to a program of railway upgrading aimed at improving the standard of the Tasmanian railways.
The Budget makes provision for the establishment of 28 new regional legal aid offices this financial year. I know that the hundreds of people who have benefited from the advice given by this service Will certainly view with concern the POliCy of the Liberal Party to abolish the service. A legal aid office was opened in the electorate of Burnie in May last year and the statistics that have been provided to me for the first 5 months of this year indicate what a valuable service is being provided. There were 862 personal interviews, 8 10 telephone advisings and assisted referrals to the private profession amounted to 229. The Burnie office caters not only for Burnie but for the whole of the north-west and west coast of Tasmania. I support the Budget.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is rather amazing listening to the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) elucidating all the wonderful goodies that the Labor Party- the socialist party- has given Tasmania over the past 2lh years. One wonders at the enormous shock he must have received when he heard the results of the Bass by-election. How could anybody possibly vote against such a wonderful government if it performed so well? Of course the real truth was that the socialist Government introduced another couple of measures that did not please the people in Tasmania nor did it please the people in the rest of Australia. I refer to the great achievements that have been mentioned so often in this debate, that is inflation and unemployment
Let us look at a little of the background of inflation and unemployment before we get on to the Budget. Unlike the previous speaker I intend to talk about the Budget in terms of the future and not the past. With respect to inflation, the cost of living has gone up in 2¥i years by 41 per cent. That is not a bad sort of rise. I am sure the people of Tasmania remembered that when they voted in the Bass by-election. The official rate of unemployment has trebled from 1.5 per cent of the work force to 4.5 per cent of the work force, or approximately 270 000 people officially unemployed. We underline the words ‘officially unemployed’ because we think that something Uke another 40 000 unemployed are hidden in various schemes that the Government has dreamed up. Of course, one such scheme was the Regional Employment Development Scheme mentioned by the honourable member for Braddon. Whilst he lauded the former Minister who got the sack because of his efforts in bringing in the RED scheme, he must be very sorry about his Party chopping out the scheme that was supposedly doing so much good for his territory. In fact, it is quite possible that the honourable member for Braddon might even contemplate stepping down and letting us try another by-election and see how we go in Braddon. We would welcome the opportunity.
– What about Bendigo?
Mr Bourchier Yes. We shall certainly try there in the near future. When introducing the Budget the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) mentioned that the business sector was recovering. I think he mentioned that there were early signs of a recovery, that business inventories were falling, that the home building industry was strengthening and that retail sales were improving. What he forgot to mention was that one needed a microscope with rose coloured glasses to ascertain any sign of improvement at all. The number of firms in Australia, both large and small, which closed down during 1975 reached 3000. I refer to an article which appeared in the Australian recently headed ‘Slump puts shutters on 3000 firms’. The article states:
In Victoria 1 179 companies have been removed from the State Corporate Affairs Commission Register this year compared with 1 1 56 for the whole of last year.
– Do not believe it.
Mr Bourchier It is true. Unfortunately honourable members opposite just do not want to believe it. That is exactly the problem. They have not yet learned to understand what economics is all about. But never mind, they will find out at the next election. Let us consider the situation. The reason that these industries closed down was the impact of across the board tariff cuts on manufacturing, especially in the textile industry. That was a great achievement. The Government wiped out half of those companies. This occurred because of the inability of these companies to pass on the cost rises they had to take up with wages and other rising costs, industrial disputes and the high cost of trying to raise finance which was all brought about by this socialist Government.
Let us consider a few of the facts of the Budget. It outlays an amount of $22,000m, which is approximately equal to $1,398 for each man, woman and child in Australia. Pay-as-you-earn taxation has increased from $450 to $637 per head which is equal to a 41.6 per cent rise over the last year. Public Service salaries and other services will cost $502 per head.
– What did Eskimo Nell cost?
– Probably a fair share of that $502 per head. That figure of $502 per head may be compared with $350 per head for the previous year and represents the biggest single cost of running Australia- an even greater amount of money than that provided to the State governments by this Federal Government. Yet honourable members opposite still want to increase the Public Service and they complain because we talk about zero growth. Indirect taxation has increased by 31 per cent from $214 to $280 per head following the price increases for cigarettes and beer. These facts are contained in Budget Paper No. 4. Honourable members have all read that paper although most honourable members opposite wish to ignore it. All these facts underline the deception of this Government when it talks of advantages to the taxpayer. In real terms the advantages are disadvantages.
The taxation proposed by the Treasurer is a complete duplicity. He mentioned proudly in his Budget Speech that he has increased the allowance for education expenses from $150 to $250. Let us analyse that figure. He brings in a rebate system which does away with that type of expense as a tax deduction. In other words, unless education expenses exceed approximately $1,350 people can claim a rebate of $540, which eliminates the right to claim as tax deductions such things as education expenses. So it is only duplicity to say that the Government is putting this up or that up. If one bothers to analyse the situation even further one finds that the amount one is allowed to claim under the rebate system for expenditure of more than $1,350 is 40 per cent of the amount of such expenditure. If one calculates 40 per cent of $250 one finds oneself claiming $ 100 for education expenses. That is the fact of the matter. The Government is allowing the people $ 100 and not $250.
Taxation increased on 1 July. One of the things the Treasurer did not mention and which apparently many people have overlooked, although I am sure when they look at their pay packets at the end of the year they will realise, is the fact that taxation was increased from 1 July this year. It was increased by an amount that will be even greater in the long term by January next year than the amount of reduction that is proposed. Honourable members opposite can say that that is a lot of rot because the reduction on 1 January is going up by 5 per cent, or something to that effect. But let us look at the real facts of the case. If wages increase- and they will surely increase from 1 July to 1 January- even at the rate of 30 per cent at which they increased over the last 9 months, then we are going to find that average weekly earnings will be around $180 a week, despite the contradiction by the Treasurer. We are going to find that the 500 000 people that he talks about as being free from taxation are in fact going to move up the wages scale so that they will be in a tax fork. This will happen before the new taxation scheme even comes in.
Apart from that, by moving up in the wages scale they will draw to themselves a higher rate of taxation. In doing so the increase they suffered on 1 July will not be compensated for by any reduction in taxation. It is a complete duplicity. The Government is merely giving back on 1 January what it has already imposed on 1 July. It has increased its income on pay as your earn taxation by many thousands of millions of dollars in the meantime. There is some vague hope among the business sector that the increased after tax pay- the take home pay, if you like to call it that -for the work force will find some of its way to the retail industries which badly need it. Let us face it, I am not talking about making great profits. The retail industries are the ones that are closing. They are the ones which keep peoplethe shop workers- employed, which keep the small factories open and so on. They are hoping that some of this take home pay increase will find its way into the tills of those retail firms. But that will happen only- and I stress the word only- if the increased prices for beer, cigarettes, petrol, postage and telegraph services do not absorb far more than the small increases that the work force is likely to get in its take home pay. Let us have a look at page 26 of the Budget Speech. The Treasurer stated:
The combined effect of the taxation measures I have outlined and of the more accurate PA YE deductions which they make possible will be a substantial reduction in PA YE tax instalments for most taxpayers from the beginning of 1976.
As I pointed out to honourable members, logically that is untrue and the people will find this out. One of the points that the Treasurer did not mention- I want to mention it here; it is only a small point but it is relevant- is that the socialist party forgets the fact that the average working person it keeps talking about usually has many commitments that use up most of his pay. So in order to have his holiday at the end of the year or in order to purchase another car, change his old one over or buy something that he wants for his house, he makes sure there is always a nice little surplus in his taxation deductions. He likes his tax refund cheque. This is a fact of life. Anybody who has had anything to do with employees is aware that many employees like to pay that little extra tax, by not claiming for one dependant so that they have some refund coming to them.
The Treasurer intends by adjusting the new tax scheme to provide that there will be hardly any taxation refunds. This has not quite sunk in to the working people of this country but it will sink in some time after June next year when they do not get any refund cheques, when in fact some of them will probably have to pay some money. But be that as it may. I am not trying to instil that sort of thought. What I am saying- I honestly believe this- is that many working people dwell on receiving a taxation refund cheque to take the family away on their annual holidays, which are 4 weeks now. Now under the Budget, as the Treasurer proudly said, the new tax scales will do away with that. I think he is doing a harm. It is not a good thing. I know that one can logically and economically say that really these people are lending the Government money without interest. So what? The point is that if the people have the extra money in their pay packets most of them will not save it. They will not save the money that they hope to get through their refund cheques. The Government will find this out to its sorrow.
I turn now to housing. This is an area that concerns many people in Australia. In fact, I believe it is one of the most important items because it controls one of the largest work forces in the country, apart from the Public Service. The State housing grants are down $20m in the Budget this year. In 1974-75 the Budget allocated $345m to the States for housing. In the 1975-76 Budget this allocation dropped to $365m. But let us look at the realistic figures. First of all we must allow for 20 per cent inflation over the 12 months. This would require a further $73m on last year’s expenditure to provide exactly the same amount of housing, providing there are no further increases in prices. That means that there will be in total a $93m drop in the funds going into housing. The actual increase in home construction costs over the 12 months has been averaged out at about 30 per cent. So in fact my figure of 20 percent is quite moderate. The price increases make the gap even larger.
The situation is that the State housing which is basically designed to provide for low income earners, whether they purchase the homes or rent them, is the area that will suffer. The people who want to get into those homes, already many months behind, will find it even more difficult to get a home. In other words the builders will not be able to erect the homes. There will be a further cut back in employment. But of course the Treasurer is quite prepared to accept that. The larger building companies that build ordinary villa homes have for the last couple of years been forced to change their policy of 60/40 erection, meaning 60 per cent for private sale and 40 per cent for government contracts to a system of 40 per cent private and 60 per cent government. This has been forced on them by the Government’s high interest rates over the last 2 years which have made the building companies accept government contracts for 60 per cent of their work to keep their men employed. The result of the Government’s moves now means that that 60 per cent will not be available and the Government will find increased numbers of builders on the unemployment lists.
I now refer to the promises of the present Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Riordan) given on 20 July, that advances to the States will not be less than in the previous financial year. It did not take him long to be told that he was totally out of order. On 9 July whilst addressing the Real Estate Institute of New South Wales the Minister said that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) had also indicated to the States that the Government would maintain at least the same level of expenditure in 1975-76 as in 1974-75. This is just another one of the Government’s back pedals on a promise, another let down. Commencements in the housing industry average 10 000 a month. This is 4000 a month below the figure for the previous 2 years and with the actions taken in this Budget that figure will drop even further. The result will be that we will have an even greater setback in the amount of housing available. The young people cannot afford the homes.
When in power we introduced a scheme to provide housing under a home savings grant scheme which was pooh-poohed by this Government which set about dismantling it. The scheme was to run out this year. The Government in its stupidity- that is all it is- has set aside $10m to provide the funding of these grants. It has not had the nous to realise that one cannot build a house to a limit of $22,500 including land. Where can a young couple build a home for that amount these days? In other words, that $10m will not be used. It is impossible to use it. So why not put that money somewhere else. The Government is only kidding itself in providing that amount in the Budget. It should wake up to itself and do something positive for the young people and raise that limit to $30,000 or more. It should not worry about providing larger grants but should enable the money to be used. In that way it would be helping the people who need it. I hope that as soon as we are returned to government we will reintroduce a promising scheme that was well received by all sections of the community for those who were prepared to save some money.
I turn to nursing home benefits. Here I think we see one of the tragedies of this Budget. I say this knowing that the Government did feel the need for restraint. However, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) pointed out, there are areas in which we could cut the Budget expenditure further in the non-productive areas without affecting the welfare of the country. I should like to see the welfare services of the country extended to cover nursing home benefits. At present the government subsidy has been extended from $100.10 to $1 10.90 a week. To that is added the pension payment of $38.75 a week. That means that $149.65 is the amount that can be paid to the nursing home.’ Yet under this Government nursing homes have now been authorised and told to charge a patient $169 a week. Who pays the additional $19.35 per week? Only if the people in those homes have relatives who can afford the extra amount will the charge be met. In my electorate I have a number of these homes. Already the people are coming to me complaining that they cannot afford to pay the extra $19.35 a week. What are they going to do? They cannot take the elderly people out of the nursing homes. These are very old people and their relatives cannot get them settled into government homes. This is one area to which I would ask the Minister for Social Security (Senator Wheeldon) to give very serious attention.
Let us have a look quickly at the situation with pensions. It has been proposed that there will be 2 increases per year from now on to be based on the consumer price index instead of on average weekly earnings. This proposal was designed to overcome another one of the vague promises made by this Government. The Government gave an undertaking that the pension would be raised to 25 per cent of average weekly earningsa promise it has never been able to keep because quite logically when the pension is raised the figure for average weekly earnings is based on the earnings several months prior to the time when the increase is made, as will be the case when the next increase is paid in November. By then the average weekly earnings will have gone way up. So the Government could not keep that promise. It has ducked out of it by taking this other option. Despite what the people opposite say about our not being interested in welfare my Party will introduce a system of automatic increases on a twice-a-year basis fixed on a proper system so that there will be no way that the people will miss out on the amount they are entitled to get as a pension.
The Leader of the Opposition introduced a positive alternative to this Government’s fiddly little Budget. The further cuts that he advocated would provide funding for development. Development does not mean, as the socialists opposite seem to think, only something in the pockets of the rich man or the businessman. Unless the businessman makes his profits, unless a business is viable, we do not have employment. The sooner Government supporters realise that one can spend a dollar only once and the Government cannot go spending millions of dollars on all sorts of things without having some strong private sector enterprise, the sooner they will understand the way to manage the economy of Australia. Under the leadership of the soontobePrime Minister of Australia. Malcolm Fraser, we will introduce a Budget that will make this country economical, viable, and progressive forever more. I have very much pleasure in supporting the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
-It is rather amazing to find that the Liberal Party after 23 years in government and a few years in opposition has now suddenly come forward with ideas such as those that were put forward by the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) who has just resumed his seat. The twice yearly increase in the pension according to movements in the consumer price index mentioned by the honourable member is certainly something new so far as the Liberals are concerned. They had their opportunity for 23 years to show that they were concerned about the less fortunate people in society and they did not take that option. In fact the Henderson report that has come out in the last few days is an indictment of the Liberals because it deals mainly with the period during which that Party was in government.
I rise to support the Budget and to oppose the amendment. The Budget is introduced in a set of economic circumstances that we on this side of the House do not like. But the fact is that we are facing circumstances that are facing every western nation. We are facing the 2 grave problems of inflation and unemployment. The general strategy of this Budget is to try to overcome those 2 problems. The course taken by the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) proposes that there shall be no excesses either way. I am sure that the Treasurer hopes that by steering that middle course he will be successful and that we will see a return to stability in Australia and, we would hope, throughout the world so that the ideas and P9h.cies of the Labor Government can be carried forth and not be restricted as they have been this year.
As I have said, the aim of the Budget is to bring Australia back to an even keel in conjunction with the other western nations. It aims to ensure that we maintain all the gains that have been made. There have been many gains in the 3 years that this Government has been in power. There have been gains in the approach to the payment of pensions and payments to the less fortunate in society. The Government has taken away some of the moral penalties that existed in regard to unmarried mothers. It has also taken away some of the moral penalties affecting Class A, Class B and Class C widows. It has done away with what were actually moral penalties. It has endeavoured to do away with the discriminations that exist. It has certainly tried to assist the less fortunate in the community
Among the first items that we attacked on coming to government were the problems that had faced outback children for many years. We introduced the isolated children’s scholarship. This was something which the previous Government had rejected completely in the many years it was in power. On coming to power we altered the priorities. We hope that with the return to stability that will result from this Budget we will be able to continue with these priorities. I am sure that people who have read even an outline of the Henderson report on poverty which has been released in the last few days will realise that the priorities set by this Government are in the correct order. I think in some ways our policies have pre-empted some of the matters mentioned in the Henderson report. We certainly hope that as a result of a study of the report and bearing in mind our own humanitarian aims we can give effect to much of what is contained in the report.
There are a very many other areas in which this Government can take a great deal of pride. One is the field of education. When we came to power I think the allocation for education was just over $200m a year. This financial year it will increase to $ 1,908m, an increase of $263m over last year. Whilst the Government will not be able to give effect this year to its triennium plans, sufficient money has been allocated to ensure that the progress that has been made in education will continue. The various education commissions have been established in the period that we have been in office and they have made recommendations. The Government has taken some extremely positive steps to put those recommendations into operation. We hope that our program will continue in this way. These initiatives in the education field have enabled the provision of a greatly increased number of buildings, greater facilities, better staffing in schools and a general uplifting in the whole area of education. Education is certainly one of the main goals of this Government. Despite the restrictions that had to be imposed by the Budget, the Government has been able to increase its allocation and to keep moving towards an achievement of its aims. We know that all the problems of education will not be solved this year, but we know that as a result of the policies laid down by the Government we will be moving towards those solutions. It is a fact that capital expenditure on education will be limited in this financial year, but the recurrent expenditure will be kept at its real value so that our aims can be achieved.
One area in which there has been a big advance by this Government is in the care and education of young children in our society. There has been an allocation of $74m in the Budget for this purpose. We have shown the previous Government what can be done in this area. I know that in my own area allocations of finance have been made towards the establishment of child care centres. There is a child care centre now in the course of construction in the town in which I live. We hope that in a few months time we will be able to see it in operation. There are also a number of kindergartens in the area, many of which have received assistance through the cooperation of the State committees that have been set up. The funding for these institutions is coming from the Federal Government. A number of the kindergartens are awaiting the outcome of this Budget to ascertain whether they would receive some assistance so that they could provide for the younger people in the society the education that has been lacking for so long. This, of course, is another example of the priorities that this Government sets in its objectives.
Much has been said about Medibank. I know that I am probably only repeating what has been said many times over, but it is a fact that this Government is allocating this year $ 1,445m towards the cost of Medibank. I have seen some criticism that this is a waste. I read an editorial in one of my papers not so long ago to which I replied. I pointed out that in stating that the money spent on Medibank was wasteful they were forgetting that if the old scheme was still in operation the Government would be up for $ 1,000m, in addition to which the vast majority of people would be contributing to private insurance funds. They are now relieved of that liability. I suppose that a family man would save about $5 a week.
One area that has again received some attentionthis is another of the new priorities set by this Government- is assistance to community health centres. The Budget allocates $65 m under the community health program. Of course this program has significance in my electorate because I represent some of the more remote areas of South Australia. I am very pleased that the Australian Government, which is providing most of the finance, in conjunction with the South Australian Government has been able to establish community health centres in areas where previously health care services were either practically non-existent or left much to be desired. One area in which we would anticipate the official opening of a community health centre soon is the opal mining centre of Coober Pedy which is an isolated community with a population of up to 4000 people situated about 600 miles north-west of Adelaide. Previously this town was serviced by a small hospital run by quite dedicated sisters of the Australian Inland Mission and the Flying Doctor Service. It is impossible to expect these nursing sisters to handle the medical problems in a centre of that size. The Government in conjunction with the State Government provided a community health centre in this area. The building is finished and I would hope that we would have the pleasure of having the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) to perform the opening in the near future.
Another area of need is Ceduna which is the last stop-off place for motorists travelling on the Eyre Highway to Western Australia. This town which has a population of just under 3000 people is the last point for about 600 miles where medical attention is available. A hospital was established there but the Australian Government, again in conjunction with the State Government, will provide the bulk of the finance to establish a community health centre in that area. It is a very impressive set up. It was opened by the Federal Minister for Health about 2 months ago and it should help to overcome the health needs of that community. It does more than look after the people in the immediate vicinity of Ceduna. There are 2 groups of Aboriginal people in the area- one about 20 miles out and the other about 180 miles out. The centre has a mobile servicing unit attached to it which will be able to visit the areas a bit further out in order to give the people in those areas a decent health service. Also it acts as the normal community welfare office and provides most of the community needs of the people in the area.
In addition to those 2 centres there is a larger centre being built at Port Lincoln and smaller centres in a number of other country towns in the area. The $65m contained in the Budget will allow this very worthy aim of the Labor Government to continue to provide these medical services and to ensure that the medical needs of the people in the more remote areas are catered for. Also included in the Budget is an amount of $108m for the hospitals development program. We know that with Medibank certain agreements were reached between the Australian Government and the States about assistance for the States’ hospital programs. The States’ hospital programs will benefit from this $108m. The figures for social security have been mentioned over and over again. We aU know that this is the sixth time that the age pension has risen since this Government came to office. Despite what the previous speaker, the honourable member for Bendigo, said, it is in line with what the Government promised. The Government promised 2 rises every year until the pension reached 25 per cent of the average weekly wage. It is very close to it at the present time, as anyone who works it out will find. The Government has not only increased the standard rate of pensions and unemployment benefits but it has also increased the amount allowed for children. Repatriation benefits have also been increased, as I think the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) mentioned.
I would like to refer to my own area again. My electorate has benefited greatly since the Labor Government came to office in 1972. I keep records of all types of grants that are made within my electorate. I hope that I have noted them aU but no doubt there are a few that I have missed. The grants total $10,561,000. Of course, they are spread over various areas in the electorate. First of aU there are grants for area improvement programs. The untied grant to the councils from the Grants Commission last year amounted to $750,000 and this year, on the passing of the Budget, will amount to $980,000. The grants include area improvement program grants, Grants Commission grants, Regional Employment Development scheme grants and grants for the construction of old folks homes. Previous governments provided a subsidy of $2 for $1 for these types of homes. Since the Labor Government came to power the subsidy has been increased to $4 for $1. Grants have been made for tourism and recreation. There has been an allocation from the Australian Government for community health centres and there have been some educational grants.
The money has gone to town and district counCils I have not broken down the figures for the district councils but there were RED grants to various State government departments- to sporting bodies, to schools, to historical societies, to agricultural show organisations and to similar organisations. Let me refer to the four main provincial cities in my electorate. In Whyalla the total of all types of grants received was $2,576,000, in Port Pirie $3,055,000, in Port Lincoln $1,637,000 and in Port Augusta $1,657,000. In addition an amount was allocated to the small district councils in the rural areas. The total comes to over $10.5m. Most of these grants, with the possible exception of grants to the old folks homes, would be new initiatives taken by this Government. The people of the electorate of Grey have much for which to thank this Government. It has helped many of these organisations to do things that they would otherwise have been unable to do. It has certainly helped the town corporations and district coun.Cils to carry out projects that they would not have been able to carry out using their own resources. It is a fact that in a number of areas the amount received in these grants is Vh. to 2 times the amount of their general rate revenue. So in my particular area the local government bodies, the sporting bodies and the various other bodies that make up the community have much for which to thank the Labor Government.
I turn now to the question of road transport. My electorate plays an important part in transport because at the present time the main link between west and east and the main link between north and south go through the electorate. Since the establishment of the national roads program by this Government the Australian Government has taken the financial responsibility for completing those 2 main roads. I heard some criticism the other night from the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). When my Party was in Opposition I asked the then Minister for Transport on a number of occasions about these 2 roads and he said that South Australia received so much and that it could set its own priorities. What he really meant was that South Australia had to build the roads for all the people of the Northern Territory and all the people of Western Australia because it has been proved that most of the people who use those 2 roads do not emanate from South Australia. Since the Australian Government took over responsibility for the national roads program great progress has been made on the Eyre Highway, and we hope very shortly to see progress on the Stuart Highway.
An amount of $ 138m has been allocated to the States under the urban road transport assistance agreement. The allocation for shipping includes $lm towards the operation of the Empress of Australia to Tasmania. A total of $445m is allocated this year for roads. In addition to the allocations in the Budget for upgrading our present transport system there is assistance to the rural industries. This Government introduced the minimum reserve price plan for wool, providing 250c per clean kilo for 2 1 micron wool. It has allocated an amount of $80m to help the Australian Wool Corporation carry cany this scheme out. I know that the Government has been criticised for the situation in the beef industry, but the Government is providing $ 19.6m for the joint Australian and State government scheme for carry-on finance at concessional rates of interest, with an extra $8m available if required. A total of $50m has been allocated for rural reconstruction.
I have just touched on a few of the points contained in the Budget. I believe that the problems which this Government is facing are similar to the problems faced by the governments of all the western nations. The Treasurer has endeavoured to steer a middle course- one that does not go to excesses one way or the other. He has not tried to bring down inflation in one jump or to send it sky high in one jump. He is trying to take the middle course so that the programs built into the Budget will be allowed to take their course. We hope that in 6 months time we will see an improvement in the present conditions. We have seen indications in a couple of industries that they are getting back on their feet. I read an article the other day on the textile industry. Mention was made also of the building industry. These 2 industries are starting to get back on their feet. We would hope that this upturn will continue and that in a few months time, by the beginning of next year, we will see a reduction in the number of persons unemployed, a slowing down in the rate of inflation and a return to the stable conditions which the Australian people want. I feel that the aim of this Budget is to achieve those ends and, for that fact alone, it deserves the support of all members of this House. I urge honourable members to support the Budget and to reject the amendment.
-This Budget certainly will not receive my support. If dishonesty and platitudes were discounted, the 75 minute speech by the Treasurer (Mr Hayden), the third Treasurer of this Government in 2Vi years, could have been delivered in almost negative time. His parrot-like reiteration of patronising but rather lumpy opaque references to the performances, philosophies and policies of the Government proves conclusively once and for all to listening Australia that the Labor Party’s initiatives are both suffocatingly narrow and a recipe for lowering the quality of life of the Australian people.
The Budget speeches delivered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) on the other hand were impeccable demonstrations of the responsibility and the restraint that the Opposition believes are necessary if the twin associated problems of inflation and unemployment are to be conquered.
– Very accurately said.
-I thank the honourable member for Riverina for his pertinent interjection. In clear unequivocal statements, the Leaders from our side of the House detailed the paths that we will take to restore Australia and the Australian people to the dignity and credibility that Australia had until December 1972 both within this country and overseas.
We on this side of the House have fully recognised the part that private industry, with its employment of three out of four of the work force, plays in our economic activity. Our plans are positive plans and not arguable propositions which cannot predict with any certainty that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the unions will accept that indirect taxes should be excluded from the consumer price index. In the Treasurer’s Budget, the working man has been slugged with indirect taxes to pay for Medibank. He is slugged 4c extra for every glass of beer. As my colleague, the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) said earlier today, the beer drinker, the worker in this country, will have to drink sarsaparilla because of the imposts on him by the Labor Government. The working man will have to pay 6c more for a packet of cigarettes and 10c a gallon more for his petrol. Make no mistake; Medibank is not free. Everyone including you, Mr Deputy Speaker, will have to pay for it.
We are strongly and resolutely opposed to the Labor Party’s preference for social welfare and wealth redistribution instead of production and productivity, and to its preference for irresponsible Government spending instead of the meaningful and rewarding jobs which we plan to give to the Australian people. We have spelt out in chapter and verse that the Budget is a sharpshooters’ Budget which glorifies inactivity and inertia and, in effect, has lumbago in its bones.
We of the Opposition do not share the blame for the fiscal errors of the Government. These errors are flowing on from the basic philosophy of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) who said, when delivering the Chifley Memorial Lecture 1975:
We are not going to reduce expenditure.
Obviously we must have economic recession, high interest rates and high unemployment if this is to be the starting point for framing the Budget. The Prime Minister stands condemned for making a virtue of irresponsibility inflation and unemployment. The policies of which he and the Treasurer are the principal architects are ill designed and ill equipped in this time of great national disaster.
The most meaningful words uttered by the Treasurer in his speech- I found it very difficult to find anything of sense or value in his speechwere:
There must be a community will to combat inflation.
But he did nothing in the Budget to encourage this community will. His speech therefore was a paradox. He forgets, or due to his socialist philosophies he does not know, that community win is a tender flower that needs fertilising and encouragement, which we of the Opposition will give to it. Community will is not a stone to be crushed by the sledgehammer blows of socialistic ideologies. The sledgehammer of increased PayAsYouEarn contributions this year of 43 per cent, or more than double the rate of 5 years ago, Will mean for example that the young office manual worker will have more taken out of his or her pay to pay for the pipedream of the socialists The major beneficiary under the new tax schedules will be the Government with more tax being paid by fewer taxpayers.
– That is what the Government calls restructuring taxation.
– The honourable member for Fisher makes an intelligent interjection.
-I remind the honourable gentleman that while interjections may be intelligent they are also disorderly.
– The Budget has as its aim the destruction of the Will of the people to work and to develop. It has rewards for those who do not seek to increase productivity. It gives no incentive to private industry to take risks to get the heart of the nation- which is business, primary and secondary- pulsating with energy and drive, because it denies the reward for these efforts which is the improvement of one’s economic environment. It is no wonder disciples of the Labor movement like the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns)- I do not know whether the Labor Party still claims him as a member of its movement- and Mr Bob Hawke have said that there will be another Budget in a short period and that unemployment will be of the order of half a million at the middle of next year.
– -Will we get another Treasurer too?
– I am not worried so much about the new Treasurer because he will be from our side of the House. I am more worried about the school leavers who at the end of this year will not have a job to go to. We on this side of the House have highlighted some of the specific areas of neglect in the Budget. Unfortunately, we do not have 6 months to enumerate all those areas of neglect. No effort has been expended whatsoever in this Budget to contain costs. Costs of production will rise in all areas, across the board as it were, because of the flow-on increase in fuel prices following the levy of $2 a barrel on crude oU, the increase of 80 per cent in postal charges and telephone calls, and the abolition of the petrol prices equalisation scheme. The Labor Government has not heard the plaintive pleas of the workers of the outback towns and country areas whose basic food and household costs have increased due to the savage rise in petrol prices since 2 December 1972. My Leader, the right honourable member for Richmond, gave details last week of the basic price of petrol in capital cities which for workers in rural towns and rural areas as for people everywhere else has increased by 16c a gallon since December 1972, making petrol prices a major factor in transport costs to and from the inland. This has added $40 a year to the cost to workers in rural areas of running their cars.
It is appropriate to include in Hansard that petrol prices in Mt Isa have increased over and above the 16c a gallon mentioned by my Leader, by another 5.7c a gallon. At Birdsville the price of petrol a gallon has increased by an additional 24.8c. This follows the abolition of the petrol prices equalisation scheme.
We express concern that no longer are established procedures and practices to be continued. We accuse the Labor Government of taking the easy way out and of hiding its responsibilities behind the barricades of statutory authorities to shield it from the just demands of the public. The Government has created monsters which have no concern for service and which forever are concerned only with balance sheets. Where will this end? Already the drums of the Postal Commission are rumbling that a rise in the price of an ordinary postage stamp to 20c will not be unreasonable because of the amount of money that that Commission will lose if unions do not cooperate. Trade unions, many of which are irresponsible, are the fourth arm of government in Australia since December 1972. It is unreasonable to divorce the just demands of a service factor in postal and telecommunications matters. The Government has a solemn duty to fund part of any communications deficit because those who pay taxes and live outside the metropolitan areas can in all justice expect the national government to contribute to their welfare.
There was no need for these mammoth increases in postal charges. They will be a contributor to economic hardship for businesses and professions and will strike right at the heart of the rural dweller who has to have his newspaper posted to him, who has to pay his accounts by mail and who has to ring up his orders. He is not like the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope) who can ride around his electorate before breakfast on a push bike. The rural area is being victimised and throttled. However, we hope that time is on the side of the rural dweller and that before bis position is beyond saving we will have a change of government which will have its priorities right. The latest public opinion poll figures prove beyond doubt that the Government is not trusted. It has caused the greatest gloom in the political history of this country. It has glazed the truth. We, the ordinary citizens, are left to lament the nation’s economic excesses after decades of economic ease and public sanity.
In the Budget the Government had a glorious opportunity to remove the festering suspicions permeating the nation but it did not grasp the nettle It has become the herald of despair. What we term small business has not even rated a mention. The Government has done nothing to remove the iniquitous tax on the retained profit of small business. It has paid lip service to company taxation with a reduction of 2Vi per cent at a time when companies have all time low profits and are paying very little, if any, tax anyway. We believe in private enterprise, the owner-driver concept, which has been the real developing thrust in Australia’s progress up the economic ladder. Overhead costs with wages ever spiralling, postal and telecommunication charges and fuel and freight costs increasing have made the earning of adequate reward almost impossible. Obviously this is all part of the grand dream, the sinister plot.
The socialist planners realise that their iniquitous philosophies have no appeal to the level headed Australian who is interested in developing this country and improving the quality of life. Consequently they have resorted to artful and deceitful devices to strangle the people into submission by throttling their financial bloodstream, and small business is the bloodstream of economic activity in this country- not socialisation. Indirect taxes in the Budget plus increased postal and telephone charges are estimated to add 17 per cent to overall consumer prices in the December quarter of 1975. No wonder we on this side of the House are worried; no wonder we are concerned about the future of Australian society. No doubt these increases will have a continuing effect on the wage price spiral if wage earners receive savage increases based on increases in the raw consumer price index, including the effects of indirect tax increases. If this is the case, the CPI increase will lead through wage indexation to wage increases which will add to costs at a time when business profits are already low and will tend to be passed on in higher prices. This will lead back to higher wages through wage indexation and so the spiral will continue. No brake is applied anywhere in the system.
Small business which will bear the full force of cost increases must be encouraged for social and economic reasons. Probably the two most important functions performed by small business are providing a means of entry into business for new industries and new entrepreneurial talent and providing the basis for new large companies which will grow to challenge and stimulate established large firms.
– And 42 per cent of Australian jobs.
– Yes, 42 per cent of the Australian work force is engaged in this field. We believe in freedom within the free enterprise system, although the honourable member for Sydney who is interjecting would not know what that meant. Small business creates more jobs for more Australians. It is estimated that unemployment at June 1975 will be 5.5 per cent of the work force or half a million people. To this we can add the high number of unemployed school leavers who will be unable to obtain jobs due to the unhealthy economic climate created by the Government. We must remember that school leavers provide a natural growth in the available work force of approximately 2 per cent. Small firms have desirable social implications. They provide a productive outlet for the energies of enterprising, independent and sturdy people, the real Australians whom we represent who prefer to be self-employed. They embody the principle of freedom of enterprise and decentralisation of economic power. They are opposed to the sickening cancer of creeping socialism.
-As the honourable member for Riverina says, they are opposed to bludgers. I hold firmly to the belief that these qualities of sturdy citizenship must be maintained and preserved and I submit that if some sacrifice in efficiency is necessary to ensure their continuation then these sacrifices by society must be made. We do not subscribe to the cavalier attitude of the Government which has not given this vital section even a fleeting reference. It is to be regretted that there is no recognised source of growth capital for small business in Australia today. The sum of $67.3m allocated to the Petroleum and Minerals Authority would be a good base to use as a catalyst to attract further funds for small business. Certainly this would be a lot better for us as a nation than those funds being used to satisfy the ego of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), who thought that there were petro-dollars around but found there were not any. He was like the bloke who put a feather in the ground thinking it would grow into a rooster.
When finance is available to help the private sector, small business in industry and commerce has generally received unequal treatment. No doubt potential borrowers often have difficulty in demonstrating to financial institutions that they are a viable proposition or have reasonable prospects of continuing to be or becoming a profitable undertaking. However, the history of Australia shows that many undertakings have succeeded due to the get-up-and-go philosophy of the owner-operator, even though he has been given sewing machine terms- threepence down and threepence a week. There should be more of it for the young Australians who want to get out and develop Australia. Relief from the savage rates of tax on retained profits in private companies would provide, an internal source of finance but profits are probably accumulated too slowly in the early stage of development to provide sufficient finance to accommodate the pressing needs of the very fast rate of growth in production which is sometimes demanded by the market. Tax also has to be paid by the individual member of a small business while death duties cause special problems in family firms which are usually small businesses. The requirement to pay a substantial proportion of the value of the business in death duties makes it most difficult for the father to pass on the business intact to his descendants unless long term arrangements for financing the required cash flow are made or evasive measures are taken.
As we on this side of the House have done on many occasions, I make a plea to the Australian Government to withdraw from levying death duties, the most savage and iniquitous of duties. The amount of revenue raised this way by the Government is small but the cost of collecting it is high. The benefit of this money to the taxpayer involved would be of great significance. Management expertise is a problem with small business and I like the idea adopted by the Queensland Department of Primary Industry with its extension services. The Department allocates a special sum of money to allow officers to go out and acquaint farmers with new techniques. I believe it would be an excellent incentive if the Government created a secretariat of established people who would be able to go out and advise small businesses on the best way to conduct their enterprises. Of course, we cannot expect much better than we have got from the present Government which is led by a Prime Minister who in his own arrogant and egotistical style on a recent television program told the truth for once when he described himself as an armchair economist. This is the Prime Minister of this country! It was rather strange to have a statement like this from the Prime Minister but at least he was truthful for once.
Small business must be encouraged. In a climate where the usual approach of the community is to be destructive, we on this side of the House advance positive policies to help in this area because we are concerned at the viability of small business. We fund trade union colleges so why cannot we fund a secretariat to help small businesses? It would be doing exactly the same thing in a different environment. We are on the side of helping private enterprise in this respect, just as we agreed to help the leadership of trade union organisations in that way. We castigate the Government for the Up service it is paying to overcome unemployment. How better could it be done than by encouraging small business?
I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, because if the policies of the Labor Party are to be carried out in the full they Will sound the death knell of the Australian quality of life, which already has been flattened into the dust. It Will be our job to pick it up from there. In particular, rural industry has not had any consideration whatsoever from those who occupy the treasury benches. I was most disappointed to read of the recent statement by Senator Wriedt. He is the man who promises the lot, but he is yet to convince Cabinet of anything.
– Said a lot, done nothing.
– The honourable member for McMillan has said: ‘Said a lot, done nothing’. They are words of wisdom. How true. The dairy industry for the next 12 months will have to mark time because the Government has not seen fit -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to make a very short statement in relation to something I said earlier today.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I thank the House. Earlier today I said that the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Riordan) had advocated people building houses of 6 or 7 squares. I have checked the transcript of what the Minister said and he did not mention 6 or 7 squares. What he did advocate was that perhaps people’s expectations may be higher than their capacity to purchase and that therefore they should build a house with a capacity to add to it. What he said therefore was that due to skyrocketing costs caused by inflation people’s expectations could not be realised and they would have to be content with a lower standard of housing, with the standard of housing of the production line type, not of their own choice or design. A reduction in standards was the essential point which I mentioned earlier today. I withdraw the reference to the Minister advocating houses of 6 or 7 squares.
-The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has given the Australian electorate a very clear choice between the 2 major parties with his quite unusually revealing statements in the House last Tuesday week. He reacted to this Budget by saying it was a complete confidence trick, an act of duplicity and a tragedy that the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) did not seem to understand the economy of the country. However it evidently was not a big enough tragedy for the Leader of the Opposition to put his leadership on the line by refusing to pass the Budget through this House. I would imagine that if the Opposition is going to oppose the Budget in this House it should also oppose it in the Senate, or support it in both Houses.
We are well aware that inflation is this nation’s worst enemy. We aim to curb it, but we do not aim to throw away the great program of reform and change that this Government introduced into our community starting in 1972- the programs we have been following through steadily since in education, in community health, in social welfare. The Australian Government’s record in all these areas is widely acknowledged and it is enduring. We are not reversing this trend, but there comes a time when we have to consolidate, pause and take stock of the achievements of the past and plan for the future. May I say that whatever criticism this Government attracts, there are 5 groups within the community who have cause to be thankful that at last they have a Labor Government. These 5 groups take in the sick, the old, the handicapped, the disadvantaged and the children both in and out of the schools. These are the 5 groups to whom we have a governmental responsibility as well as a community responsibility.
Education expenditure by this Government will increase substantially in the forthcoming year. In our first year in office we doubled it, and we doubled it again last year. We had to because the neglect of the previous years necessitated urgent spending. However the recurrent expenditure has again been heavily increased this year. The States grants, do not forget, have also been increased this year to record levels. I believe it would be fair for educational lobbyists to start pressuring State governments to contribute more to education. We had and we have no intention of taking over the entire responsibility for funding education. States have the control of the planning and the allocation of both these specific grants for education and the budgeting for their own spending in this area. Since the Australian Labor Party came into government their level of expenditure has dropped considerably and is dropping year by year. They get more from us, so why do they not contribute more to education? At the same time they might have a look at cutting their own costs, especially their building costs. They might take a few tips from the nongovernment schools which manage to get far more value from the money we give them than the State governments have got for the money that has been given to them. This is a complete and utter waste of the taxpayer’s money. In particular I would say that Victoria must have a good look at how it is spending the money it is getting from the Federal sector.
Medibank, which was launched on 1 July, is included in Budget funding. I noticed that the former Leader of the Opposition was urging further cuts in Government spending and that he again made an attack on Medibank. He was followed by the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) who hastily withdrew his attack. What they said is in line with Opposition policy of no protection for the 5 groups I mentioned earlier. We have opened a whole new deal for these 5 groups. We intend to protect that new deal. We stand behind the groups who need help. The Leader of the Opposition did commit his Party to reduced government spending, and he committed it in some detail. However I am far more interested in the detail which he did not give and the implications of his omissions. He did not mention health, social security, education or pensions. I have been interested in listening to and reading the speeches on the Budget by honourable members opposite. The only honourable members who so far have mentioned social welfare are the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) and the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar) who commented on this Government’s insistence on financing an extravagant social welfare program.
Social security, education and health are the traditional areas where the Opposition, when it was in government, always economised. Because they were not mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition or other honourable members opposite, do we take it that the Opposition endorses our policies on education, that the Opposition accepts the Schools Commission, our community health program, the hospital building program and Medibank? Do we accept that it would continue public spending in these areas? Of course we do not. It is aU too clear when we look at its track record and it is all too clear when honourable members opposite did not bother to mention welfare matters in their reply to the Budget. All those people dependent on social security, aU those charitable and voluntary organisations who care for dependants should have a good look at the Liberal Budget alternatives. They are the vulnerable ones. They are the ones who have been hit in the past. They are the ones without political strength. They are not mining corporations, insurance companies or rural interests with political might. They are the ones in jeopardy. Honourable members might remember Mr Bury and his Budget of 1970-71. Remember that they were economically good times then. He said:
We have avoided any significant acceleration in the rate of domestic outlays- we have chosen to pursue high priority objectives.
In that Budget pensioners got 50c, so we know where the high priorities lie. The Leader of the Opposition criticised the increase in Post Office charges, the increased charges on beer and cigarettes. Mr Bury in his Budget did exactly as the present Government has done. These were the same areas that were affected. As a further criticism, the Leader of the Opposition mentioned the Government’s imposition of a special tax on coal exports, but he did not say, and he has not said, that the Opposition would not continue with it or the other measures I have mentioned. But I suppose the most amazing thing is his criticism of the tax rebates as introduced by Mr Hayden in this year’s Budget. The Melbourne Age points out in its editorial that the Leader of the Opposition’s alternative is an elitist approach. What else would one expect? He does concede that tax rebates were needed because tax deductions were going to operate much too harshly on lower income people, but I would suggest that the most interesting comment in the Leader of the Opposition’s speech on the Budget is recorded on page 522 of Hansard. He said: . . . This Budget is one more instrument to implement ‘ the Prime Minister’s philosophy of making everyone dependent on government for basic services such as health, education and retirement.
No single family unit can ever provide everything that is exactly necessary for the health and education of that family. No single family can provide the equipment that is necessary for each member of that family. Families have to be helped by government provision of hospitals, of the services within the hospitals, and by the provision of schools, school equipment, school buildings and school teachers. Of course these things are always assisted by government otherwise we would not have the facilities. Previously the provision of facilities for health services and education depended only on the ability to pay.
As long as the earlier Liberal-Country Party Government was sitting on the Treasury bench the type of education a child received depended on geography. It depended on whether a person lived in the industrial suburbs, in the country, south of the Yarra or north of the Yarra and it depended on a person’s ability to pay. The schools in the western or northern suburbs of Melbourne were deplorable, but that was quite all right because people living in those areas did not have the ability to pay for anything better. The schools in the southern or eastern suburbs would be better, the facilities would be better and obviously the retention of the teacherstudent ratio would be better because these were much more pleasant places in which to work.
Is the Opposition now suggesting that we cut spending so that we can go back to this type of education which depends on a person’s ability to pay? This born to rule philosophy shows through very clearly in what Mr Malcolm Fraser had to say about people being dependent on government basic services such as health, education and retirement. Good health surely should be the right of every person who lives within the community, but as before with education, good health for 23 years had been determined by the ability to pay. It should not be so, but it has been. Does Mr Fraser want us to go back to the situation where, if a person has the money, health services are available to him and if a person cannot afford to pay then devil take the hindmost? This is survival of the fittest policy. It is also an extreme right wing policy.
I noticed with interest that one of the cutbacks that Mr Fraser was advocating was the suspension of a $20m advance to the Australian Housing Commission. I found that quite interesting because one of the earlier speakers, I think it was the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman), was bemoaning the fact that the Victorian Housing Commission needed more money. Members of the Opposition cannot keep on putting and taking. They have to make up their minds. Do they or do they not want to take that $20m away? Even taking in all the cutbacks that Mr Fraser is advocating, such as the capital advance to the Australian Industry Development Corporation, suspension of the Australian Housing Corporation, adandonment of uranium exploration, suspension of growth centres and program and area improvements, the selling of the pharmaceutical company which the Government has not even bought yet and the abolition of the Australian Government Insurance Office, not as much money as he suggests will be saved. Where will the savings be made? Even with a zero growth rate in the Commonwealth Public Service not much money can be saved. The saving will be made where it has always been made, and that is in the areas of the 5 groups I mentioned before- the ones which always have been deprived- the sick, the old, the handicapped, the disadvantaged and the children and out of schools. The program will repeat itself. It is written in every line of the speech that the Leader of the Opposition made. There is a strong movement away to the right. This strong philosophy suggests that all people must look after themselves, stand on their own two feet and be completely independent or fall flat on their faces and stay there. It is a survival of the fittest philosophy. It would be great to think that everyone would be able to stand on his own two feet and would be able to provide for himself out of his own pay packet, but that unfortunately is a pipe dream. There will always be within the community those who need extra help. There will always be those who will be dependent. In fact if we look clearly at a community, even those of us who think we are independent are also interdependent each upon the other and all of us upon the services provided by the community.
As far as I am concerned the speech of the Leader of the Opposition gave warning to all within the social services area and in the area of community health. I would feel very vulnerable if I were a pensioner and was approaching a Budget under a possible Liberal-National Country Party government of the future. I would feel extremely vulnerable in regard to the amount of pension I would get. However our Budget has been brought down into the House and it has shown that once again this Government can deliver the goods. Mr Fraser has shown that once again all he can do is talk about it. The new system of tax is simpler, fairer, more flexible, more efficient and is in keeping with the Government’s social welfare programs. The Government recognises that within the community there are groups which will always need assistance. Mr Fraser speaks of bringing in totally the recommendations of the Mathews Committee. These would reduce company tax payouts by an estimated $ 1,000m. What then does the Opposition intend to do? Does it intend having a bigger deficit? Would Mr Fraser advise a bigger deficit or more cuts? Speeches made by Opposition members indicate a policy of cuts, cuts, cuts. I repeat that the savings will come from the same place from which they have always come. Savings obviously cannot be made in the field of defence because every time there is a debate on defence in this House members of the Opposition advocate greater expenditure.
This Budget polarises the Liberal Party and the Labor Party and gives a clear indication to the people of Australia what they are supporting when they support either the Liberal Party or the Labor Party. This is a Budget in which the Government has made every effort to be responsible and yet still hold to its philosophy of putting people first. Having heard Mr Fraser speak last Tuesday week I repeat that the Australian people must know exactly where they stand when they are looking at the fortunes of either of the main parties. The Labor Party stands where it has always stood- firmly on a platform of social welfare and firmly in support of the principle that the people’s needs come first. There is a complete polarisation of both parties following the two speeches, one from the Treasurer and one from Mr Fraser. Those who are voting in the next election should be under no illusions as to the philosophy for which they are voting.
The Ayn Rand philosophy comes out very clearly from Mr Fraser ‘s speeches, both in the House and when he addressed the National Press Club. In fact I think the philosophy has been strengthened. It was always the philosophy of the former Government when it came to handing out increases for social security, for repatriation, for sickness, for invalid and for unemployment benefits to look at what was available and never to look at the needs. It always looked at how popular it was in the electorate. It is a right wing philosophy and it is being re-endorsed and reaffirmed. It is a survival of the fittest policy. It rejects the philosophy of people being dependent on government for basic services such as health, education and retirement. It is the same attitude as comes through when Mr Fraser says: ‘In our view the Budget does not meet the problems that Australia faces. It does not adequately restrain government spending’. He obviously wanted a lower deficit. AU persons should really be worried if they look into the philosophy that is being expounded by the Opposition. The appeal is to individual selfishness, to individual greed and to individual independence. It takes no note of the fact that aU individuals are not able to be independent.
Mr Fraser ‘s statement at the Press Club luncheon that the next Liberal Government will strongly reassert the right of families and individuals to retain their own earnings so that they can meet their needs ‘as they see fit’- this is his emphasis not mine- -implicitly says that we all have the ability to provide for our own needs out of our own earnings. I think that it further implies and voters should take note of this, that if a person cannot provide for his own needs out of his own earnings it is bad luck, he cannot expect a government to do it. That philosophy is quite foreign to what we have been putting forward. I know that our policy of social reform has cost a lot, but it has also provided tremendous impetus in the fields of the sick, the old and the handicapped. The costs have to be met. They have to be met out of revenue. There is no way in which we can provide community services unless they come out of federal revenue. This attitude or philosophy that appeals to individual selfishness is something that should surely be rejected in 1975.
There must be a sense of responsibility in each and every one in regard to making this Budget work, in regard to defeating rising inflation, in regard to getting back to full employment and, most importantly in regard to the care and compassion that we extend to those who cannot meet their own needs out of their own earnings. The Liberal philosophy rejects enforced equality in the work place, in the economy and in education. The Labor philosophy says there is one clear goal that the national Parliament should set for itself which should define and motivate every specific action that we take. I refer to the goal of equality. As the Age remarked in respect of the next election:
Battle lines are drawn and no one should be able to say afterwards that they did not know the gun was loaded.
We Will move back into the 19th century if we put forward the argument that ability to pay is the only way a person Will have access to the standard of living for which most people are looking. We will move back into the 19th century if we accept that broad philosophy of survival of the fittest. I commend the Budget to the House.
-A number of Government speakers in the Budget debate have referred to the fact that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and other Opposition members in commenting on the Government’s Budget have not referred to certain areas. Let me assure Government members that they can take nothing for granted. This is the Government’s Budget, not the Opposition’s Budget. I state quite frankly that in framing a Budget the total situation has to be looked at. So one cannot take anything for granted just because the Opposition has not commented upon a particular area. I suggest to the honourable member for Henty (Mrs Child) that any government, insofar as social welfare benefits are concerned, should sharpen up where the handouts are made. Handouts should be made to those in need and not to everyone right across the board. Australians, unfortunately, are drifting too far in the direction of Big Brother looking after everyone.
I strongly support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) which condemns the Budget for not providing a program to beat inflation and unemployment and to restore confidence in the business sector. The Treasurer, claimed in his Budget Speech that tougher budgetary measures were necessary because we were living in tougher times. I suggest to the Government that the reason why we have tougher times is this Government’s mismanagement of the Aus.tralian economy. The reason why we have a mess in Australia today is the ineptitude of this Labor Government. In my estimation this Budget is an admission of the failure of this Labor Government over a period of some 3 years. It is a classic example of shutting the gate after the horse has bolted. If this Government during its previous 2 years in office had been careful in the framing of its previous budgets and watched where it spent the funds that it raised, I am sure that we would not be in quite the chaos that we have in Australia today.
So the honeymoon is over. The spending spree is finished or halted temporarily. However, the thing that concerns me is that having realised this the Government still has so many madcap schemes in the pipeline. These schemes basically are making people less self-reliant. In other words, they are making people more dependent on the Government. The day of reckoning has arrived. I think everyone would agree that the Government of Australia is the largest business in the country. I wonder how many businessmen there are on the Government side of the House. It would be interesting to take a count just to see what the position is because it is a large business and it is a business that requires a great deal of expertise. Obviously, it is expertise that is not available on the Government side. So often we have heard the bleat from members of the Australian Labor Party that in 23 years of government under a Liberal-National Country Party Administration this thing was not done or that thing was not done. Let me assure Government members that any advancement that was made that time was made well within the resources of Australia at the particular time, something that cannot be said of this Government today.
Let us look at the statements of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) over the past 2 years. He has been telling the people of this country that inflation has peaked and that there will now be a downturn in the rate of inflation. This has been going on for over 12 months. He has been telling the people that unemployment has peaked and that there will be a downturn. We are all waiting for that downturn to occur. So far as the economic crisis is concerned, he has been telling the nation that we are about to climb out of the trough. I ask honourable members to consider that. He said 12 months ago that we were about to climb out of the trough. It is a bottomless trough that I assert we will never climb out of under this Government. The Prime Minister’s credibility has evaporated; there is no doubt about this. The people of this nation are trusting him less and less. I think this is obvious from the public opinion polls that are taken today.
I now turn to the Budget Speech of the Treasurer and wish to quote some of the more infamous statements that appear in that speech. The Treasurer stated:
We expect that as the expansion of public sector activity is restrained, the opportunities for private sector expansion will improve, though full responses to greater room for growth may take time to develop.
I have heard Government members claim in this House repeatedly that profits had been too high. In other words, they claimed that the private sector should be squeezed even further. Now we see that the private sector is to be given a chance. The Treasurer continued:
Furthermore, the big increases in spending on our programs in the past 2 years were needed to overcome decades of neglect.
I submit to honourable members that no one should have the gall to suggest that this nation was neglected for 2 decades. When we look at the mess we have in Australia today we can only come to the conclusion that in those 2 decades we had responsible government under a LiberalNational Country Party Administration. Again, the Treasurer said:
Our reforms are enduring; they will not be reversed. Now we propose to pause to take stock of the achievements.
Good heavens. I ask: Achievements at what price? The answer is at any price. We have chaos in Australia today. What is worse, of course, is that the Government is still pursuing these costly reforms. Is the Government proud of the situation that we have in Australia today? Is it proud of the inflation, the high unemployment and the economic crisis that exists in this country? Let me go on a little further to quote from this speech of the Treasurer:
Because of the structure of our mixed economy, where three out of four jobs are in the private sector, there are firm limits on how far the public sector should be stimulated in this recovery phase. In framing the Budget, therefore, we have exercised the utmost restraint on Government spending.
Surely Government members recall that over the last 2 years the Opposition has been exhorting the Government to restrain Government spending. But they have said, so to speak: ‘No, we will not do this. We will let it rip’. For 2 years they have let the private sector stew in its own juice. Now, all of a sudden, we notice that the private sector is important. Let us look finally at these couple of sentences:
Our present level of unemployment is too high. If we fail to control inflation, unemployment will get worse.
What a brilliant deduction. The Opposition told the Government that it would have to control unemployment by controlling inflation and, of course, by stimulating the business sector. But the Government saw fit not to do anything about it. I think it is true to say that the most important factor today in Australia that needs to be controlled is inflation.
I want to recall the history of inflation in this country. Prior to the 1972 election, Australia’s rate of inflation was 4.5 per cent per annum. We heard at that time from the then Leader of the Opposition, the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), that Labor would not tolerate this situation, that the country could not live with a rate of inflation of 4.5 per cent. Let us look at the record of the Labor Government. In June 1973, the inflation rate was about 10 per cent; in December of that year it had risen to 13.2 per cent; in June of 1974 it was 14.4 per cent; and in December of that year, it was 16.3 per cent. Of course, in June of this year, it is 1 7 per cent.
What of the claim by the Government that our inflation is imported? I suggest that it is a lot of ballyhoo. It is manufactured domestically. Let us look at the position in regard to our cheap resources. Our sugar costs us about one-third of the world price. We produce about 70 per cent of our oil requirements at about 25 per cent of the price of imported crude oil. Our coal is cheap. So it is rubbish to talk about imported inflation. It is not on, as far as Australia is concerned. Our cost of living has gone up by 41 per cent since Labor came to office 2Vi years ago. It is interesting to note that a Liberal-National Country Party dollar is now worth only 70c. It is interesting to note from the figures of the Organisation for Economic Development and Co-operation that, with the exception of Great Britain, inflation is being cut back in most nations. I refer to the statement of the British Labour Prime Minister, Mr Harold Wilson which he made to the British nation on 21 August 1975, 2 days after the presentation of the Hayden Budget. He said:
We have tight price controls, but there is a limit to what can be safely done by price control. Price control which cuts manufacturers’ and traders’ profits to the bone can drive them into bankruptcy and cause further losses of jobs: that is one reason why we cannot just simply introduce a flat pricefreeze.
I suggest that the Prices Justification Tribunal should be abolished. Competition ensures that prices remain at a reasonable level and that profitability remains at a reasonable level. Of course, with profitability Will come expansion of business and more job opportunities. Unfortunately, Australia appears to be sUpping into the situation which exists in Great Britain. What impact will the Budget have on inflation? I suggest that it will increase the rate of inflation, indirect taxes have increased by over $700m. The new taxes and charges are expected to add more than 1.5 per cent to the December consumer price index.
I move on to comment on unemployment. Once again we have to go back in history and look at the situation in December 1 972 and prior to that date. We were told by the Australian Labor Party, then in Opposition, that Australia could not live with from 60 000 to 120 000 unemployed. The figure fluctuated between 60 000 and 120 000 for quite some time. The Labor Party said that a Labor Government would not tolerate an unemployment figure as high as 100 000. If we look at the seasonally adjusted figures for December 1972 we find that 100 500 or 1.8 per cent of the work force were registered as unemployed. In June 1973 there had been a reduction to 89 100 or 1 .6 per cent. In March 1 974 the figure was 8 1 600 or 1 .4 per cent.
Then the rot began to set in. In September 1974 there were 145 900 or 2.5 per cent of the work force unemployed. In December of that year the figure was 235 000 or 3.9 per cent. In March 1975 it was 267 000 or 4.5 per cent. In May 1975 it was 270 000 or 4.5 per cent. In July of this year the number unemployed was 287 700 or 4.8 per cent of the work force. The comment of the previous Minister for Labor and Immigration, Mr Clyde Cameron, was that he would resign if his Government ever allowed the registered unemployed to reach 250 000. He did not resign. At that point the Government, too, should have resigned. If we included the 32 000 employed at the moment under the Regional Employment Development scheme, which is to be phased out, those employed under the National Employment and Training scheme, and those employed under the State Government employment schemes, the unemployed would be about 330 000 or 5.5 per cent of the work force. This is one of the highest rates in the world. The predictions, not just from this side of the House, are that the number could rise to 500 000 or 8 per cent of the work force. In fact, unemployment would be worse than it was in the depression days.
If we look at the cause of unemployment we find that basically it is the problems which exist in the private sector. It is a vicious circle. Unless this Government sees that there is greater stimulation in the private sector, unemployment in this nation Will not improve. There is no business confidence in Australia today. It is not, as we hear so often from the Government side, a case of the Opposition preaching gloom and doom. Unemployment is there. It is factual. There is no business expansion. I ask honourable members on the Government side whether they would expand if they were in business today. There are no incentives. As I go about my electorate I find that people have no trust in this Government. Why should one bother to expand one’s business? The interest rates are too high. People in business cannot afford to buy money today. They have liquidity problems and escalating overheads and their productivity is down. I believe that the average Australian has to accept some of the blame because the rate of production in this nation today is appalling. The average worker must accept his share of responsibility.
What does the businessman do? He rationalises his operations because he is motivated by self-survival. He puts off staff. His equipment is not replaced. He puts off expansion. His rebuilding programs are not undertaken. His expansion is halted or perhaps curtailed. I submit that this Government has betrayed the workers, the people whom it purports to represent, because this Budget is not designed to provide jobs. One of the problems I see today is that Australians might accept 300 000 unemployed as the norm. That certainly was not the case when the Liberal Party and the National Country Party of Australia were in government.
I refer now to the position in relation to housing. It was commented on recently by the President of the Building Workers Industrial Union when he said that only 16 per cent of wage earners or one in six were able to purchase their home. The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Riordan) might take note of this. Let me assure the Minister that back in 1964 90 per cent of wage earners were able to purchase their homes. In 1974-75 there was a drop of 30 per cent generally in the home building industry.
– Who made the statement?
-I cannot recall the gentleman’s name. I shall get the article and show it to the Minister afterwards. We saw the abolition of the homes savings grant which assisted people, particularly first home seekers, to bridge the deposit gap. Some of them have no chance today under the present scheme. I know that a scheme for deduction of mortgage interest was introduced. But, quite frankly, this is of no assistance to those people who do not have homes today. This Budget has dropped 10 per cent or $69. lm from the allocation for housing. It has dealt a death blow to the housing industry and to people who seek to own their homes. Of course, the total Budget was increased by 22 per cent.
I refer now to the defence service homes scheme. The Minister for Housing and Construction will realise that there has been a reduction of $7.5m in this area. With inflation at the current rate the loss in homes built for ex-servicemen will probably exceed 500. I am completely bewildered at the Government’s action in this area. There will be an increase in demand. The upper limit has been raised from $12,000 to $15,000. Ex-servicemen have been sent reeling in this operation. It is typical of the attitude of the Government to ex-servicemen and women. This was illustrated by the Prime Minister in his fairly recent attacks on the Returned Services League. I shall make a few comments on local government finance because it is important for those people who are battling in this important area of government. They have seen extra attention given to local government but with tremendous fragmentation. They now do not know where the money is coming from, how much it will be and when they will receive it. Money is provided under such schemes as the RED scheme, the area improvement programs scheme, the Grants Commission, unemployment relief for the States and the National Estate scheme and, of course, some funds are available from the Department of Tourism and Recreation. This is the dilemma that faces people today in local government in their attempts to forward plan.
– They had no trouble under the Liberal Government; they got none.
– I have never denied in this House that the area of local government was neglected by the Liberal-Country Party Government. I agree with the honourable member for Barton. But the fact remains that at the moment because of the quest of Ministers to see how much can be spent in their areas the local government people do not know where they are going. A number of other matters could be referred to but time will not permit. Postal charges were cunningly conceived and announced a month before the Budget. These increases will hit those less fortunate in our community such as pensioners and people in receipt of superannuation. They will be vastly disadvantaged. I also want to refer briefly to the record deficit of $2,567m in 1974-75. This year the deficit is to be increased to $2,798m.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I rise to support Appropriation Bill (No. 1) and to take this opportunity of congratulating the Treasurer, Bill Hayden on the introduction of his first Budget. I am confident that Bill Hayden, as he is a young man, will be introducing many Labor budgets in this Parliament. The Whitlam Labor Government is concerned with the welfare of the people of Australia. Prior to the election to office of a Labor Government in 1 972 many discrepancies existed throughout Australia’s social structure. Therefore there feU upon the newly elected Government the mighty task of adjusting some of the inadequacies meted out to the Australian people during 23 years of dominating, suppressive Liberal rule. The preoccupation of the Liberal Government throughout its years of office with the dog eat dog way of life left much to be desired for the workers, for the young and the aged persons within the community.
In spite of the wishes of the majority of the people, an increasing commitment to Vietnam was developed by the Liberal Government. (Quorum formed) Our young men were sent to fight and often died in a war that was directed and governed by powers outside of the interests of the majority of the Vietnamese and Australian people- a war in fact that was perpetuated by capitalistic interests. Moneys that could have been used for the betterment of living for the people of Australia were used by the Liberal Government against our neighbours in a destructive and inhumane way. Millions of dollars were spent in Veitnam during the Liberal term of office, with only a minor percentage of those moneys being spent in a humanitarian way.
In May of this year the Prime Minister, the honourable Gough Whitlam, announced a contribution of $lm for relief work among refugees in Indo-China. This amount was additional to the $200,000 announced in March for the IndoChina Operational Group of the International Committee of the Red Cross. This money assisted the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in relief and rehabilitation projects for refugees in aU parts of Indo-China. On 3 April 1975, during a statement to launch the Indo-China-Vietnam appeal, the Prime Minister spoke of the promptness with which our Government had acted to assist in the plight of homeless refugees. During a statement by the then Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, the honourable Bill Morrison, on 28 April 1975, the Acting Minister stated:
Australia has brought more refugees out of Vietnam than any other government except the United States. Australia was one of the last governments to withdraw its embassy from Saigon.
This was done in the face of endless rabid criticism from the Opposition which having involved the people of Australia in a bloody inhumane battle, could only offer platitudes and criticism for the Labor Government which was, as the greatest number of Australian people were, conscious of the depth of the humanitarian needs that dominated the Vietnam scene.
With the drawing to a close of the Vietnam war, the homeless, sick, young and old struggled to survive in a country torn by 30 years of pillage, destruction and shackles applied by financial interests geographically far removed from Vietnam. The war in Vietnam was, at the outset, a civil war. The real character of the war never changed. What did change was the nature of the fighting and the level of violence. With the change came additional suffering and violence due to one factor- foreign intervention. The real result of foreign intervention- principally the United States on the side of Saigon and Russia on the side of Hanoi- was to raise the level of violence and to increase the capacity for mutual destruction on both sides. Foreign intervention made certain that the end, whoever would win, would be as bloody as possible. On 8 April 1975 the Prime Minister stated: . . . after all these years, after all the blunders and bloodshed of 30 years, what tolerable or feasible objective can any foreign government set for itself except the ending of the war, except the ending of the killing as soon as possible. We outsiders never had the right to intervene. But even if there were such a right or even if it were right to intervene, would anyone now suggest that any foreign Government resume that intervention? If we have learnt nothing else in the last 30 years we have surely learnt this much, at a heavy loss to ourselves but at a terrible one to the people we claimed to be helping.
The Australian Government tried to apply its resources to save lives and to relieve suffering. With the drawing to a close of the war the main focus of attention in Australia as in other parts of the world centred on the children living in chaos unparalleled in history. It was the concern and the aim of our Government that eligible children be brought to this country for adoption by suitable families, this to be effected as promptly and as safely as possible. This indeed we achieved in the face of endless criticism laced with hysteria from members of the Opposition. Indeed, many were the members of this House who were beset by anxious, often deeply distressed prospective adoptive parents waiting to receive a Vietnamese child into their homes. The anxiety of these people was only heightened by the intense fear campaign fed through the media with no thought to the leagalities for adopting Vietnamese children. The Labor Government was concerned not only that children brought to this country should receive a warm receptive response from the proposed adoptive parents, but also that the future of these parents and the children be free from any danger of legal tangles that could arise should the correct procedure not be followed from the outset. Therefore, our Government was bound to require 2 conditions: That orphans be approved for exit from Saigon by the South Vietnamese Government for adoption in Australia; and that the States of Australia would guarantee that normal adoption procedures would be observed.
On 23 July 1975 the Prime Minister announced that the Australian Government had decided to initiate a special survey of Vietnamese refugees who had settled recently in Australia He announced that the survey would take approximately 5 years, would be conducted by Dr Jean Martin of the Australian National University and would encompass such things as the refugees’ reasons for leaving their own country; their social characteristics; their aspirations in their new homeland; what Australian Government assistance in maintenance and welfare they requested, or needed and received; the problems they thought they might have to face in settling in Australia and how these compared with the problems actually encountered; the problems of culture and language difference that they had to face; what happened to their cultural identity in the process of resettlement; and to what extent, if at all, they suffered from racism.
With no previous study of refugees living in this country, the task was made more laborious for the Labor Government. However, it should be carefully observed that this was the first time that Australia had instigated with regard to racial origins resettlement opportunities for Asian displaced persons who were not readily identified or connected with this country.
Australia has worked closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and part of our Government’s commitment to this world service has been to take refugees from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. I ask honourable members to think well about the immense responsibilities associated with caring for homeless people. The Labor Government concerned itself firstly with the humanitarian needs influencing the issues. Our country selected refugees who were least likely to be selected by other countries, people who did not have recognised skills and who normally would not be eligible for entry to Australia, people who were caught in a morass of social upheaval and degradation, people given the opportunity- to use a good Australian expression- to have a ‘fair go’, which is something the Liberal governments during their 23 years of rule, were loath to give the vast majority of Australians. Indeed, the cry often went up from the populace during Labor’s early months of office for the Liberals to give the new Government a ‘ fair go ‘.
It was well known how neglected our pensioners, health services, education and the many social agencies were within Australia. It took, however, a Labor Government to face and tackle these problems that had been so readily swept under the carpet by previous Liberal governments. The task indeed was a formidable one, but the Labor Government tackled it determined to shorten the distance between the affluent and poor. I have already spoken of the enormous sums of money spent in Vietnam during that time when the proud cry of the Liberals and Country Party was ‘AH the way with LBJ’. Did they ever consider the expense to this country, not monetary alone but socially too- effects that were being felt throughout by young and old alike living in the lower income strata? Inflation, in spite of the Opposition’s protestations, was born and nurtured during these years of Vietnam, born and nurtured by capitalist interests in Australia and overseas. Theirs was not to reason, only to rake in the ever-growing pile of the almighty dollar.
It is a sad despairing fact that wars make profits for the few in this world. Indeed, there were those in Australia who did not want to see an end to the war in Vietnam because their profits would drop- as indeed they did. The working man in Australia paid- in blood, sweat and tears. The profits he reaped were often sorrow, grief, horror and destruction. So Labor, when elected in 1972, set about the mighty task of serving the people of Australia in a humanitarian way. Many have been our critics- not all, I might add, from the Opposition. ‘Too much too soon’ got and still gets a popular hearing, although the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was heard to say on the eve of the Budget ‘too little too late’- that from a man whose party was loath to give even a little to those non-economic units in society, the old and the young.
The Australian Labor Government has raised all pensions and social security payments. At the same time the Government is improving the whole social security program in other fundamental ways. We do not believe that social security comes from cash benefits alone. In July, 1974 pensioners received their biggest increase on record- an extra $5 a week. It was the second increase in 1974. Substantial increases have also been made in repatriation and service benefits. New benefits including free medical care for exprisoner of war have been introduced. Pensions now represent about 24 per cent of average weekly earnings. Included in the Budget of the Treasurer, Bill Hayden, are more increases for pensioners. My friend, the Labor Government, during its short time of reign has met, and I have no doubt will continue to meet, hard criticism from our friends in opposition. The boys with the vested interests are against much of the Government’s social reforms. However, this Government will honour its pledges to the people of Australia- the people who in 1972 gave the Labor Government the mandate to institute social reform. The Government has, since it came to power, substantially increased repatriation benefits and introduced new benefits for ex-servicemen.
The Government has increased the subsidy under the Aged Persons Homes Act, now the Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Act, from $2 for $1 to $4 to $1 and widened the scope of the Act to encompass accommodation for disabled adults. The subsidy was also extended to local government borrowings which were previously ineligible to attract a grant under the Act. The Government approved 2 increases in the maximum subsidy limits under the Act, and in April introduced a separate subsidy of up to $1,600 a unit for the acquisition of land. The 2 increases saw the subsidy limits rise from $5,200 to $7,800 for a single unit and from $6,000 to $9,100 for a double unit. With the introduction of the $4 to $ 1 subsidy these limits rose to $9,360 and $10,920 respectively, plus a maximum of $1,920 a unit for land. I feel that local councils should be quicker to take advantage of this grant. Surely this would increase co-operation between the first and third tier of government- the money resources of Federal Government effectively linked with local knowledge and expertise of local government. Only in this way can the true needs of welfare of the people of Australia be met. In my electorate of Bonython 10 aged persons homes are subsidised. Grants approved since 1972 to these homes have amounted to $685,917, and subsidies paid since December 1972 amount to $350,032. Subsidies are paid as work progresses.
I now turn to the Meals on Wheels subsidy. The Government has increased the basic rate of subsidy paid to Meals on Wheels services from the December 1972 rate of 15 cents plus 5 cents for approved vitamin C subsidy to the present rate of 25 cents plus 5 cents approved vitamin C subsidy, this operating from 1 July 1974. Concerning the Meals on Wheels subsidy operating from Salisbury in my electorate of Bonython, the subsidy paid here as from December 1972 amounts to $10,469, with the number of meals being served per month approximately 1,400. In relation to handicapped persons’ welfare, we have announced major new initiatives to improve services to the handicapped people and voluntary, religious and similar organisations caring for them. They include a free of means test incentive allowance of $5 a week to all disabled people employed in approved sheltered workshops and an increase in the rate of existing capital and equipment subsidy to sheltered workshops and handicapped children’s training centres from $2 for $1 to $4 to $1. Subsidies will be paid for maintaining existing buildings and for rehabilitation and recreation facilities, including holiday cottages and camps.
In the electorate of Bonython the Handicapped Person’s Welfare Act has benefited greatly 2 caring services. Firstly, the Central Districts Mentally Handicapped Children’s Association of Smithfield Plains has been paid a subsidy of $43,000 for capital building costs and equipment. This equipment includes a kindergarten and workshops. There is operating in conjunction with the Smithfield Plains establishment a rental hostel at Main North Road, Pooraka, again in my electorate. The rental for this hostel is subsidised at $1,250 per annum plus $1,400 per annum toward cost of salaries.
There is one other area of finance about which I wish to speak, that of the financial assistance that my electorate of Bonython has received under the Regional Employment Development scheme. The RED scheme has come in for a great amount of criticism. However, when the then Minister for Labor and Immigration, the honourable Clyde Cameron, introduced this measure it was meant to provide jobs for unemployed people. This was effected most efficiently within my area. However, the total benefits covered a wider range than would first be apparent. The amount of money my electorate has received at this stage from the RED scheme is $4,238,926. I want to take this opportunity to thank the previous Minister for Labor and Immigration, Mr Clyde Cameron, on the marvellous way in which he operated this RED scheme. As I stated at the beginning of my speech -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-This has been a most important and illuminating Budget debate; important because we stand at the crossroads of Australia’s economic future and illuminating because in my short experience in this House this is the first occasion where the philosophic battle lines between those who espouse a true liberal philosophy compared with those who espouse a philosophy of socialism has been drawn so clearly. We have been told this evening, for example by the honourable member for Henty (Mrs Child), that the philosophy that my Party espouses, and which was so adequately expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in an address to the National Press Club on 3 1 July last, is that we stand for a policy of ‘survival of the fittest’. I cannot but help draw a certain parallel between the honourable member’s remarks and those made by Henry Louis Mencken, a noted 19th century American editor, who no doubt at the time did not realise that there were female socialists. He gave the following definition of a socialist
A man suffering from an overwhelming compulsion to believe what is not true.
I take this opportunity for the advantage of the honourable member for Henty and her colleagues to read into Hansard certain relevant sections of the speech made by my Leader to the National Press Club on 3 1 July 1 975. He said:
Whatever have been the failings of the past, they should not be seen as setting a pattern for future Liberal Governments. The next Liberal Government is already marking out a distinctive course for itself. The course is based on the recognition that social change is inevitable and desirable. It is based on the recognition that the job of Government is to pursue policies which contribute to a sense of self-respect for every person- a self-respect on which tolerance and selffulfilment can be built.
He went on to say:
The next Liberal Government will be individualist in the best sense of the word. Its individualism will stress not survival of the fittest, but concern for the value of each person.
I hope that the honourable member for Henty has marked well those words because that policy certainly does take into account the sick, the old and the handicapped and it certainly will not be through the policies of the party for which I stand that any of these groups will suffer the way they have been forced to suffer in recent times due to the profligate spending of this Government and its policies which have done everything conceivable to encourage the most incredible rate of inflation that this nation has experienced since the turn of the century.
We are in every sense of the word almost a bankrupt nation. Yet, at the same time, Australia is known to be one of the richest states on this earth. If we are in this situation it is not as members of the Government would have us believe, because we are but a part of a world which is suffering from inflation. It is true that other countries are suffering from inflation. But other countries through the fact that they have had the courage to take the necessary decisions have made very substantial inroads both in terms of their rate of unemployment as well as their rate of inflation.
The Treasurer (Mr Hayden) in his Budget Speech made the point that his Government had made every attempt possible to limit the impact of what he regarded as extreme political actions to overcome these major economic problems. What he has not told us, however, is that in his attempts to overcome these problems we have still found ourselves today in a situation where Australia has the highest rate of unemployment in our recent history. During the 1972 election campaign the then Leader of the Opposition- if the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) had not made these remarks one could say that they were made by the present Leader of the Oppositionhad this to say:
Do you believe that Australia can take another 3 years like the last 20 months? Will you accept another 3 years of waiting for next week’s blunder? Will you again entrust the nation’s economy to men who deliberately and needlessly created the worst unemployment for 10 years and the worst inflation for 20 years?
– Who said this?
-The present Prime Minister. And to what statistics was he referring? When these remarks were made Australia’s rate of inflation was approximately 4.5 per cent and unemployment 1.94 per cent or in real terms 80 000 people.
– What is it now?
– The honourable member may well ask what it is now. I will tell him. It is 287 666. 1 would venture to suggest that that is not an accurate figure as Mr Hawke and other members of the Australian Council of Trade Unions have already pointed out on various occasions because of the way the Government has played with the statistics. The Government has gone out of its way to make sure that all of those receiving unemployment benefits, all of those who are getting assistance under the Regional Employment Development scheme and the National Employment and Training scheme as well as aU of those wives or husbands whose other spouse happens to be working but they are not employed are not counted as unemployed. I ask: How can we possibly accept that 287 666 is in any sense an accurate figure? But if the figure were twice or even half that the fact of the matter is that there is no excuse for this country and for the people of Australia to have to suffer the economic dislocation, the fear and the uncertainty which has been forced upon them by a Government which has said to the people on so many occasions and whose members have said to this House that it stands for compassion and concern.
I ask the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young): Where is his compassion and concern for the waterside workers in his electorate who, as with the waterside workers in the port of Sydney, do not have enough work because there are not enough ships coming in and there is not enough trade? Is it any advantage to be able to stand on high as the Government does today, looking around at the ruins of its own creation? This is what the Government has to consider because today the people of this country had expectations that the Government in its third Budget would have learnt from the mistakes of its last 2 Budgets and would have had the courage to take real decisions which are so necessary if this nation is to get out of the current crisis of the highest inflation in Australia’s history and the highest rate of unemployment since the Depression. This is a crisis which is eating away at the confidence and the security of every citizen of Australia
Wherever I go in the city of Sydney I am asked: ‘When are you going to get them out? When are we going to have a Government that we can respect? When are we going to have people in charge of the nation’s responsibilities with the courage of their convictions to take decisions even if they are difficult?’ After all, if we espouse to rule it is important that we have the courage to take difficult decisions as well as easy ones. The Government has shown after 214 years and its third Budget that it does not have the fundamental intestinal fortitude to make these decisions.
Two weeks ago in this House the Leader of the Opposition put forward an alternative economic plan. This is the first time in recent years that an Opposition- and this was certainly not done by the present Government when it was in Opposition has been prepared to put to the people of Australia alternative Budget proposals. These proposals are in fact a blueprint for the economic recovery of Australia. I wish to enunciate the proposals to this House so that they may be recorded in Hansard and enable the people of Australia to read them and not have to depend entirely on the daily Press. I want to state precisely to the House the points that were made by my Leader on that occasion. In terms of inflation and unemployment the basis of our policy is as follows: The recommendations of the Mathews Committee report on taxation for individuals and companies will be adopted over a 3 year period. I think it is worth pointing out that the present Government had the opportunity, when that report was tabled, to accept its basic principles. It had the chance to bring in wage indexation, it had the opportunity to bring in tax indexation, and it accepted neither.
-Order! It being half past 10 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 1 1 July 19741 put the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to take up a matter which concerns the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). I did advise him that I intended to raise this matter in the House. It concerns the promise given by the Minister relating to the establishment of the Aus.tralian Government Office building in Bendigo. I refer to a letter written by the Minister on 30 March 1 973 in which he said:
I refer again to your letter of 9 February 1973, about the construction of an Australian Government office building in Bendigo.
As you know, the Department of Services and Property has already acquired a site in Meyers Street, Bendigo. However, on further investigation’, this site was found to be too small to suit the needs of departments already located in Bendigo, and on the advice of the Department of Works an adjoining property is being purchased this year.
It is hoped that design work can commence on the proposed offices so that they can be included in a works program in 1974-75. This would mean completion in early 1977.
It is rather startling that we have not seen sight nor sign of the works drawings. Certainly not even so much as a peg has been driven into the ground. Further- this leads up to something that the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) raised- I wrote to the Minister again on 20 May 1975. 1 note that the Minister has just come into the House and I thank him for doing so. In my letter concerning the Australian Government Office building in Bendigo I said:
On 27 February 1975 I wrote seeking advice from you as to when it was anticipated construction of the Australian Government Office in Bendigo would commence.
So far I have not received one iota of a reply from the Minister to that letter. That is typical of the lack of consideration given by Ministers to correspondence from members of the Opposition. As the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) says as he walks out, it is totally unjust. I agree with him.
We have come to expect this attitude from a man who is the fastest talker in the House but who is the slowest to act. The Minister for Services and Property has quite a record apparently for not bothering to answer his mail. Probably he cannot read it. It is a pity, because it is important to the people in the area who are relying on having this Australian Government Office building. When the Minister was a new Minister back in 1973 he did not have much correspondence and so was able to write letters. He did bother to reply to my letter; so I faithfully published his promise in the newspaper. I can assure him that I have faithfully published it just about every month since to make sure that the people of Bendigo know that he has failed in his promise. Unfortunately now, due to its poor management of the economy, the Government is forced to take restraint after having nearly bankrupted the country and we find that the building will probably never go ahead.
Australian Government departments are spread all over the place and, instead of having one building in Bendigo with the photograph of Gough Whitlam, the Prime Minister, in it, we have his photograph spread about in many places. That is a shame. The sooner the Minister puts up this building, even if only to get rid of some of those photographs, the better it will be for the people of Bendigo. It is urgent that this block of land, which is lying vacant and idle in the middle of the city, should have a nice building put on it so that all the Australian Government offices will be located in the one central spot, readily accessible to the people of the district. Perhaps the Minister Will deign to answer my letter some time. Incidentally I have sent him another one today. Providing he is fortunate enough to be still here, I expect that some time after Christmas I will receive a reply.
I turn now to the Minister for Defence (Mr Morrison). I wrote to him some time ago, and I wrote to his predecessors, concerning the acquisition of land in the Puckapunyal area as proposed by the Army. This is a remarkable situation. I criticise my own Party for this, because back in 1940 the Commonwealth Government of the day, through the Department of the Army as it then was, advised all the landholders and the farmers adjacent to the Puckapunyal Army Camp, in the areas of Tooboorac and Heathcote, that their land would be required for Army purposes. It is interesting to note that 35 years later the land is still being required but none of it has yet been bought. Even if a farmer was a young man of 20 at the time he would now be 55. There is no way in the world that he can sell his land. He cannot dispose of it. He has to sit on it. If he becomes ill or if unfortunately he passes away that farm cannot be used for anything else and it cannot be passed on to anybody else.
When the Liberal and Country parties were in power and again during the last 2lA years I have asked the Ministers concerned to do something about this matter. Surely to goodness when there is talk of restraint, cutting back on costs and spending money, it is logical that the Government should release this land and let the people on it have the option of selling or alternatively should give them an indemnity so that they can release that land to whoever might wish to take it over, with a guarantee of some years’ coverage. There is no way at present in which the people there can get rid of this land. This is a tragedy. I am sure that even the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope), with his little 20 feet by 20 feet block of land, would not Uke to be suffering as these people have suffered for so many years.
– They should change their member.
– Their member has been trying desperately for the last 2¥i years to get something done. The previous member had less luck than I have had. I can assure the House that I will be trying for the next 20 years while I am here. I hope that the present Minister for Defence will look at this matter seriously and will take some positive action to help the people in this area who are trying desperately to obtain some relief from this terrible problem that has been hanging over their heads for so many years.
– I would like to say a few words tonight about Medibank. We have heard a number of accusations about Medibank being abused. I would Uke to look at the situation from the patients’ point of view. Honourable members know that the practice is to see a doctor and collect a prescription. But they may have to obtain a repeat prescription. It has been my experience that one calls in to pick up the repeat prescription from the nurse and pay $1 for the service. That is fair enough. It is now being said that if a man perhaps has to collect a prescription for his wife who is home in bed he cannot collect it as the patient must collect it herself. It is said that this is a new regulation brought in by the Labor Government as part and parcel of Medibank and that doctors can no longer hand a prescription to anyone but the patient for whom the medicine is prescribed. That is patently untrue. It is unfair. I hope the Government can get the message through to patients that it does not expect someone suffering from a heart attack to get out of bed, go down and pick up his own heart tablets. The Government has not altered the Act; it has simply altered the method by which one pays for the service.
Another thing that happens with a minority of doctors- if only one doctor is doing it that is bad enough- is that when a person goes in and picks up his repeat prescription from the nurse she hands him a Medibank form and asks him to sign it. This cannot be done. The doctor must see the patient. If he does not have a consultation with the patient he is in breach of the Act. He cannot charge a patient on a Medibank form unless he has seen the patient. This is also an offence against the taxpayer who is paying the bill, because all it is doing is lining the doctor’s pocket by taking money out of the taxpayer’s pocket.
One other point about Medibank that has been drawn to my attention is that most pensioners are now being asked to pay their accounts at the doctor’s surgery because doctors will not bulk bill them. I discovered in my electorate that several of the doctors say: ‘This is because we want to treat all people alike. We want to give the pensioners back their dignity’. I do not know about that but I do not treat an old sick person in the same way as I treat a young, active, healthy person. Certainly, if I were a doctor and a pensioner came in, and I wanted that pensioner to pay on the spot, and I knew that that pensioner would have to walk perhaps three-quarters of a mile to receive a refund, I would treat that pensioner as an old, sick person and not expect him or her to walk that distance, perhaps in the rain, in order to get a refund on my bill. Sometimes the amount involved could be all the money that a pensioner has in his pocket or all the money that he has to purchase food.
On the brighter side, I advertised in my electorate by letter in a newspaper for doctors who would bulk bill pensioners and/or other patients to get in touch with me. I was absolutely delighted at the response. I now have a list of the names of doctors who will bulk bill pensioners and also a list of doctors who will bulk bill everybody. I am advertising also in the paper for anyone at all who wishes to make use of Medibank as it was designed to be used to contact my office which will be able to supply the name of a doctor who provides these services and who is located closest to the person writing.
-Last week in this chamber I raised a very important question in relation to the decision by the Government to ignore the recommendations of the Industries
Assistance Commission on superphosphate. On that occasion I virtually challenged the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) or any of his senior Ministers to say why they have ignored those recommendations.
You will remember, Mr Speaker, that I made reference to the fact that, prior to the findings being presented by the LAC in relation to its inquiry on superphosphate, the Prime Minister refused to give any indication whether he would support the reintroduction of the superphosphate bounty. Since the report of the Commission on that inquiry was presented, a few activities have been going on. I understand that the Government handed the report to certain departments which were to study it. Those departments were divided in their opinions on that report. Where there is a division of opinion, the Government appears to be opposing the reintroduction of the bounty.
The only occasions so far as I can see when anyone from the Government side has made any reference to this matter since I spoke in this chamber a week or so ago were, firstly, a question asked by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) of the Prime Ministerthe question was a very loaded one, which makes one wonder to what depths the Government will go to implement its policy; and secondly a contribution by the honourable member for EdenMonaro (Mr Whan) who also tried to back up the opposition of the Government to the introduction of the proposals as presented by the Commissioners.
First and foremost, I take a very grim view of the way in which it appears that Government members have organised themselves to denigrate the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I refer to 2 questions that were asked, one in this House and one in another chamber, at almost identical times, both directed to the same point. The Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) answered in the other place and the Prime Minister answered in this place. This action makes one wonder just where we are going. The Government established the Industries Assistance Commission. It has repeatedly said that the matter of superphosphate has been handed over to the LAC for its recommendation. But when the recommendation is presented, if it does not suit the Government, the Government ignores it. What is the use of establishing a Commission if no notice is to be taken of its recommendations?
Not only have its recommendations been ignored. We get statements from none otherthan the Prime Minister almost ridiculing the majority report of the IAC. Let me quote from the reply given to the honourable for Blaxland by the Prime Minister. He said that the Minister for Agriculture had given primary industry organisations for comment: . . . the report of the Industries Assistance Commission, not only Commissioner Robinson’s admirably cogent and rational report but also the rather less convincing ones of his 2 colleagues.
– Who said that?
– The Prime Minister made this statement. It is hard to believe. I can appreciate why the honourable member for Fisher queries this aspect. Think of the situation: The Prime Minister sets up the Commission and appoints the 3 men to sit on that Commission. He says what a wonderful job Commissioner Robinson, who presented the minority report, did, and he ridicules the majority report of the other 2 members. I am moved to ask: Where are we going?
I turn to the speech delivered by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro. I have not time to quote from it. He, too, has adopted the line of opposing the recommendations of the Commissioners supporting the reintroduction of the bounty. Therefore, in his mind, the primary producers of Eden-Monaro should not be entitled to receive any assistance by way of superphosphate bounty. Again I ask: How can we depend on this Government to give a reasonable decision on such matters?
There is no need for me to spell out to you, Mr Speaker, or to this chamber the difficulties facing certain primary industries at this time. We all know, for instance, of the reports on the meat industry. I am rather perturbed to think that the Prime Minister has taken advantage of the claim by some individual members of the industry, calling themselves Cattle Producers of Australia, that they oppose the reintroduction of the superphosphate bounty, to state virtually that members of the cattle industry are opposed to its reintroduction. It is not unreasonable to expect that some members of the cattle industry are opposed to the reintroduction of the bounty as not all cattle producers use superphosphate. They would no doubt be taking a very strong attitude because they believe that their competitors who do use superphosphate would get a trading advantage over them.
I feel that I must raise this question once more tonight and again challenge the Government to make its position clear. I read a report in one of the newspapers to the effect that the Prime Minister or the Minister for Agriculture has again referred this matter to the various primary industry organisations for their views. If this Government had listened to any of the submissions put forward- such statements make one wonder whether it has- it would know surely that sufficient evidence has been submitted to prove that primary industry organisations support the reintroduction of the superphosphate bounty.
In my speech last week, I cited the actual cost of superphosphate when this Government came into office. It was less than $20 a ton delivered at the farm. Today it is approximately $70 a ton. I can recall the Prime Minister saying when he referred this question to the IAC that primary industry was looking up and that there was no need for assistance to be provided to it. All the time, primary production costs are increasing. As I said, the cost of superphosphate has gone up more than 300 per cent. Now the Prime Minister is starting to run away from his statement. We on this side of the House fully appreciate that the Prime Minister is running away from it because he believes that he cannot get any support from the rural sector of Australia, so why should he worry about people in that area?
Looking at the recommendations contained in the Henderson report on poverty which was tabled only last week, we find a recommendation made to the effect that certain primary producers when in financial difficulties should be entitled to some assistance. I wonder whether the Government will take heed of that report. No doubt it will ignore it as it is ignoring the report by the IAC. So I say to the Government that it is about time it woke up and really lived up to its responsibility to protect all sections of the community and not just those from where the biggest majority of votes for it come.
I return to the question raised by the honourable member for Blaxland in this chamber and by a senator in another place in an attempt to ridicule the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I do not care how much money the Leader of the Opposition was to get under the superphosphate bounty. Are we to be governed in the future on the basis that because one person received more than someone else, the rest of the community must pay the penalty? I know the Leader of the Opposition as a very sincere man. He has been accused on numerous occasions of being the wealthiest man in this place. Well, so much more to his credit. If a man in his capacity has the finance that all members of the Government Party say he has, why should he be worrying about the few thousand dollars he might pick up from the superphosphate bounty? The Leader of the Opposition is fully appreciative of the fact -
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I received a message in my office tonight that the office of the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) had rung and said that if he was able to speak on the adjournment tonight it would be on a matter within my portfolio. Not being a mind reader or a clairvoyant I could not understand from a distance of a quarter of a mile what the honourable member for Bendigo was going to speak about. Consequently I answer him without any papers on the subject. I wondered why the honourable member who is generally quiet was so excited about this matter, but later I noticed that he had one or two very nice admirers in the gallery. No doubt he wanted to stimulate their interest in his type of speech which generally does not attract much attention. Therefore tonight I forgive him for the energy that he put into the speech, for the blood pressure he raised and for the bitter and personal attack he made on me.
– Where are your admirers?
– The many millions listening to me realise my value. The honourable member for Bendigo is behind in his homework. Had he read the Administrative Orders which are published regularly in the Australian Government Gazette he would have known that the matter he talked about was no longer under my control. For some time it has been in the portfolio of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren). Consequently, if the honourable member wrote a letter to me today on this matter he has wasted 18c because it has gone to the wrong Minister. He wants to bring himself up to date on parliamentary activities. He is sitting here aU day as the Liberal Party Whip and has extra staff in his pay, yet he does not know what matters come within the portfolios of the Ministers to whom he writes. It is not for me to educate him so let him apply himself to the task for which he was elected.
Let me bring him up to date. I handle the electoral affairs of this country as the Minister for Services and Property. In addition I handle the services provided to members, Ministers, office holders and others in that category, as well as the affairs of the Australian Fire Board and the Aus.tralian Purchasing Commission. In my spare time I act as Leader of House. So I have a reasonably full task from day to day without having to come in here to be bitterly attacked on the adjournment debate about a matter that is not within the confines of my portfolio. It is interesting to note that the honourable member has withdrawn from the chamber after the cowardly attack that he made on me. He probably knew at the time that it was a false charge. He would know that being a very sensitive person I would stay awake for a long time pondering over what he had said. I regret that he had to raise this matter, but I will discuss it with my colleague the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. I suggest to the honourable member that he bring himself up to date with what is happening so that he will know where he stands.
It is not amazing that a member of the Party which has led the band demanding a restriction of government expenditure is tonight clamouring for the spending of public funds on a government building in his electorate? He does not give a hang about the economy when he is involved. He wants the Government to spend more millions of dollars while his leader is crying every day about the huge amounts being allocated for government spending. Honourable members opposite never make up their minds. The situation is that the honourable member wants this expenditure, but at the same time he says that the Opposition could reduce the Budget deficit. The whole thing is contradictory. Had the honourable member told me in detail what he was going to talk about tonight I would have perhaps been more enlightening, despite the fact that the matter is not within my portfolio. I would have checked the matter as far as it went with me. I assure him that any further correspondence to me on this matter is just wasting very valuable postage, for the simple reason that the matter is no longer within my portfolio.
I want to deal for a few minutes with the tears shed by the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King). He cried tonight about the poor Leader of the Opposition because he received only $50,000 out of the superphosphate bountythis struggling farmer on his $2m property who sits and thinks about low cost housing and the plight of the poor underprivileged. He gained only $50,000 from the superphosphate bounty and this dreadful Government is not going to continue his subsidy. Why, he has a farm as big as my electorate and it is worth millions of dollars, as honourable members know. Yet here is a member of the National Country Party crying because the bounty is not being given to him. How many more like the Leader of the Opposition collected $50,000 from that fund? There were many thousands of them. The real fault with the scheme was that the small farmers and others were not getting the benefits, that they were going to the wealthy people like the Leader of the Opposition.
Why does the Leader of the Opposition not come into the Parliament and defend himself? What is the good of putting up second raters to defend him when he is under a great charge like this? Why does he not stand in the Parliament and say precisely whether he got the subsidy or whether he did not? If he was as charitable as he makes out and wanted to do for the poor people the things he says he wants to do he would not take this money; he would give it back. However, the situation is that the Country Party, the Leader of the Opposition and others- there are thousands of them in the same position as the Leader of the Opposition, wealthy and powerful men in the farming community- are raking it off in thousands at the expense of the small farmers and others. That is what the honourable member for Wimmera is defending in the Parliament tonight. The honourable member should not attack the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating); let the Leader of the Opposition stand in this place and defend himself if he can. The fact is that he has no defence. He has the $5,000 a year from the superphosphate bounty and it is no good him trying to explain it away because he is the classic case of a person who should not benefit from this kind of bounty. Can we not weep tears of blood when we think of him sitting on the verandah on that million dollar property crying about losing the $5,000 subsidy?
Where is it all going to end? By heavens, to think that honourable members could get up and defend this kind of conduct under the guise of seeking assistance for the farmers. It is difficult to understand. The honourable member for Wimmera says that he is another who wants to cut down expenditure. He says there is too much spending in the community, but this is not so where the cockies are concerned. The more the Goverment can give them the better, no matter who else goes broke. The honourable member is advocating increased expenditure at a time when he says government expenditure should be cut down. A report has been made on this matter and probably its recommendations will affect the Leader of the Opposition and a few others, but certainly I will not stay awake at night crying over the likes of the Frasers who have lost $50,000 when they can afford to pay that much into the bounty fund themselves. Instead of defending this kind of subsidy the honourable member for Wimmera should be shedding a few tears for the poor farmers- and there are many of them- and those such as the family farmers who really need assistance. They are the ones to be concerned about.
The men controlling the Country Party work in Pitt Street in their business places. They live at Wahroonga, Rose Bay and Bellevue Hill. If we went through the Country Party members with a fine tooth comb I doubt whether we would find a farmer or grazier among them. At one time I went through them and found auctioneers and solicitors, but I could not find a farmer. The members of the Country Party in this House are distant from the farms and consequently have lost contact altogether with the poor farmer, the family farmer and the man who really needs assistance. I suggest to the honourable member for Wimmera that he should not stay awake at night crying over the Leader of the Opposition. He can afford a lot of $50,000s. I would be quite prepared to give that much away if I could sit on the verandah of that million dollar property looking at those lovely fields and thinking that the Government subsidises me in addition to what I make myself. There is no need to cry all night about such people. The honourable member should spend his time looking after the family farmer, the small farmer and the poor farmer, those to whom the superphosphate bounty should go.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! it being 1 1 p.m., the House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) The Department has a training section. The current training program contains a number of courses designed to meet the different needs at different levels of all officers in the Department. Several courses are geared particularly towards the needs of Aboriginal officers. Training is a continuing requirement and subsequent programs will be updated and new developments incorporated based on need and in the light of results of past courses.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
– The Minister for Labor and Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
I am advised that the question of whether the plywood industry is in need of temporary assistance because of the effects of imports was referred to the Temporary Assistance Authority by my colleague the Special Minister of State on 28.7.75.
asked the Minister for Services and Property, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member ‘s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to the Prime Minister’s reply to question No. 2S86 which appeared in Hansard, S June 1975, page 3545
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) In maintaining a constant effective exchange value for the Australian dollar, daily movements in the values of the currencies of Australia’s major trading partners are weighted in accordance with the importance of the country concerned in Australia’s trade. Appropriate adjustment is then made on a daily basis to the rate for the Australian dollar to offset what would otherwise be a movement in the effective exchange value of the Australian dollar. In order to avoid possibilities for exchange speculation against the currency, details of the weighting system and the foreign currencies involved have not been published.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) Australia joined the International Monetary Fund in 1947. Since 1948 it has been represented on the Executive Board of the Fund and this continues to be the situation. Australia was also a member of the Committee of Twenty on Reform of the International Monetary System set up by the International Monetary Fund, and is currently one of twenty members of the successor to the Committee of Twenty, the IMF Interim Committee of Governors. In addition Australia is one of the twenty members of the Joint IMF/IBRD Development Committee of Governors.
As a result of its membership of the Executive Board and the Interim Committee, Australia is able to participate in, and contribute in a significant way to, the work of the IMF in all its aspects. Australia has been actively engaged in considerations in the Fund relating to developments in the international monetary system, including in particular discussions concerning the reform of the international monetary system and related issues.
No change in Australia’s role or position in the Fund is expected in the near future.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Minerals and Energy, upon notice:
Following the decision of the Petro-Chemical Consortium not to proceed with the establishment of a petro-chemical plant at Redcliffs, South Australia, are any proposals being examined to utilise the liquid gas from the Moomba and Gildgealpa gas fields that would have been used in the Redcliffs project.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Yes. Alternative proposals are being examined in conjunction with the South Australian Government.
ABC Radio Programs ‘AM’ and ‘PM’ (Question No. 2752)
asked the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
How many (a) Ministers, (b) Opposition Shadow Ministers, (c) Government backbenchers, (d) Opposition backbenchers, (e) trade union officials and (0 employer representatives appeared on the ABC radio programs (i) ‘AM ‘ and (ii) ‘PM ‘ this year to 1 June 1 975.
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (l)and(2).
No landings were reported during 1973 and 1975.
B. Off-Shore Reefs
Ashmore, Scott, Carrier, Seringapatam and Rowley Shoals, 200-400 miles off-shore, have been used traditionally by Indonesian fishing vessels to replenish water supplies. This arrangement was formalised in an instrument of understanding between the Indonesian and Australian Governments in 1974. My Department has no records of landings on these reefs over the last three years. However, in July, 1974 a report was received from HMAS Diamantina that Indonesians were using Ashmore Reef as a base. The matter was investigated and I refer the honourable member to my answer to his Question 1032 (Hansard of 3 October 1974 pages 2256-7) for the details. As to any other incidents, the Australian Minister for Agriculture has a responsibility for matters concerning illegal fishing operations by foreign fishing vessels and may be able to provide information on what interceptions if any have occurred in this area for illegal fishing during . the past three years.
As a result of the reported landings during 1974 a combined surveillance operation (Operation Trochus was introduced. Since April, 1975 when this operation became effective approximately 580 sightings have been made of native fishing vessels on or in the proximity of the abovenamed reefs. It has not been possible for the crews of reconnaissance aircraft to positively identify each small native fishing boat and undoubtedly the same vessel has been repeatedly reported during its course to the off-shore reefs.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Referring to his answer to my question No. 2656, and as the Government is concerned with human rights issues, does he consider that the case of Rudolph Hess’s release from Spandau Prison is one of human rights being grossly deprived and therefore worthy of representation on this issue alone, even if such a representation might not be certain of success.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I have nothing to add to my answer on 5 June 1975 (Hansard, page 3546).
asked the Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am advised that:
The research in question is a further step in CSIRO’s long-term program of assessment of Australia’s demersal and pelagic fishery resources- that is, open sea fisheries off the Australian coast.
It has always been CSIRO’s policy to conduct original studies, and the Organisation will not unnecessarily duplicate research carried out by any other authority in its program on the fisheries of south-eastern Australia. That program has been developed with the approval and cooperation of the appropriate committees and subcommittees of the Standing Committee of the Australian Fisheries Council, on which fisheries authorities of all States and the Australian Government are represented. The relevant committees and sub-committees are the SouthEastern Fisheries Committee and its Trawl and Pelagic Fish Research Group. The last named Group was formed in mid- 1974 specifically to co-ordinate research and development programs on trawl and pelagic fisheries in southeastern Australia, and has discussed CSIRO’s proposals on several occasions. It includes representatives of fisheries authorities in all south-eastern States.
Courageous will be based in Sydney because CSIRO’s Division of Fisheries and Oceanography has its headquarters there and the necessary technical services- including the services of CSIRO’s own electronics technicians- are readily available there to ensure satisfactory installation, operation, and maintenance of the sophisticated equipment she will carry. After the initial shakedown period, however, Courageous will operate over a large area in the Tasman Sea carrying out work complementary to that of State fisheries authorities, and will make use of any convenient port with adequate facilities.
Courageous is a considerably larger vessel than Kapala- 350 versus 225-tons- and has the capacity for longer and more extensive cruises. She can accommodate 14 crew and scientists adequately to sustain a round-the-clock operation without returning to port for several weeks. The basic pattern proposed is 21 days at sea followed by a week in port, with of course longer times in port for periodical overhaul. It will thus be quite feasible to operate anywhere from Brisbane to Hobart even on those occasions when it is necessary to return to Sydney between cruises.
The ability to stay at sea for extended periods will make it possible to work up to 500 miles off-shore and thus to study true open ocean resources as well as those on or over the continental shelf.
The other significant difference between the two vessels is that Courageous, unlike Kapala, will be equipped to generate an estimate of the weight and number of fish under her swept path by having a computer interpret the signals received from two echosounders. This interpretation will be supplemented by netting and other forms of fishing to identify the kinds of fish being enumerated. Finally, the ship will be equipped to do basic environmental work including temperature and salinity profiles and plankton tows.
CSIRO’s forward planning includes the possibility that Courageous may spend the 1977 calendar year on a survey off the north-western coast of Australia, where a major fishery resource probably exists.
Apart from the possibility that Courageous may locate offshore fisheries capable of supporting a major new industry that might, under favourable economic circumstances, compete with imported fish, fish meal and other fish products, there is an urgent need to obtain information about Australia’s off-shore marine resources because of the proposal by the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea for the establishment of a 200-mile exclusive economic zone. This proposal has been accepted in principle by almost every Conference participant. If finally adopted, Australia will be responsible for the management of marine resources within the 200-mile zone around her shores.
Courageous is privately owned and is under charter to CSIRO for three years, fully crewed, maintained and serviced, at a cost of approximately $440,000 per annum, subject to rise and fall adjustments after June 1976.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 September 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1975/19750903_reps_29_hor96/>.