29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr speaker (Hon. G. G. d. Scholes) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers. petitions:
The Clerk- Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
Increased Postal and Telephone Charges
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectively showeth:
That we wish to protest most vigorously at the proposed increases in postal and telephone charges.
Your petitioners roost 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. by Mr Snedden, Mr Cohen, Mr Garland, Mr McLeay and Mr Wentworth.
Increased Postal and Telephone Charges
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 postal and telephone charges should not be increased.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House either decrease or reject proposed increases in postal and telephone charges.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Staley.
Australian Government Insurance Corporation
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:
( 1 ) That Parliament should reject the Bill currently before it to establish an Australian Government Insurance Office.
(2) That while there is a need to establish in Australia a Natural Disaster Fund to provide compensation for property damage and other losses resulting from disasters such as earthquakes, floods and cyclones, such a Fund can be established, as in other countries, using the medium of the existing private enterprise insurance offices.
(3) That a plan for a Fund was submitted to the Treasury in October, 1974.
(4) That no sound reason for the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Corporation (other than the desire to provide non-commercial disaster insurance and Australian Government competition with private enterprise) has been given by the Government.
(5) That there is already intense competition between the existing 45 life assurance offices and between over 260 general insurance companies now operating in Australia, and that further competition from a Government Office would only be harmful at this time.
(6) That the Insurance industry is already coping with
(a) the effects of inflation,
(b) increased taxation on life assurance offices,
(c) the effects of recent natural disasters,
(d) other legislative measures already in train or in prospect by the Government, e.g. the National Compensation Bill, a National Superannuation Plan and improved Commonwealth Public Service Superannuation.
(7) That as taxpayers your petitioners are greatly concerned at the huge costs (far more than the $2 million initial capital and loan funds which it is proposed will be allocated) of establishing an Australian Government Insurance Office.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bungey.
Australian Government Insurance Corporation
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:
( 1 ) Further shrink the flow of funds available for finance for private enterprise in Australia.
(2) Will eventually lead to nationalisation of much of private enterprise in Australia.
(3) Cause serious unemployment in the private insurance industry throughout Australia.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1 975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly and Mr Corbett.
Australian Government Insurance Corporation
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:
1 . Create hundreds of public service jobs and cause serious unemployment in the private insurance industry throughout Australia.
Add to the Taxpayers burden.
Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975. by Mr McLeay.
Australian Government Insurance Corporation
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:
Increase Bureaucracy at the time when Government spending should be curtailed.
Shrink the flow of funds to the private sector.
Eliminate private insurance for Australians.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrMacphee.
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:
(a) That the use of Uranium as an alternative source of energy is currently unacceptable as it presents problems including radioactive waste, military implications and thermal pollution.
(b) That there can, at present, be no assurances that radioactive materials exported for peaceful purposes will not be used in the production of nuclear weapons.
(c) That there is not, as yet, any known safe method of disposal of radioactive wastes, nor ever likely to be.
(d) That the export of Uranium from Australia is internationally irresponsible and is not, in the long term, of benefit to Australia.
(e) That the export of Uranium from Australia only discourages importing countries from investing into research on viable alternatives.
(f) That only the overdeveloped industrial nations will benefit from Australian Uranium and the gap between these countries and the energy-starved Third World will increase yet further.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government will immediately cease the mining and exporting on Uranium until perfectly safe disposal methods for the radioactive wastes have been guaranteed; will greatly increase expenditure on research into safe clean and inexhaustible sources of energy; and will aid underdeveloped countries in their plea for a fair share of the world’s energy resources, while at the same time honouring its obligations to the future of humanity.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Berinson and Mr Cadman.
Black Neds Bay
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
We, the undersigned, citizens of Australia, by this our humble petition respectfully request that the Australian Government make available, either singularly or in cooperation with the State of New South Wales, finance to allow the purchase and dedication as a fauna and flora sanctuary with part reserved for recreational usage that parcel of land known as ‘Black Neds Bay’ being the estuarine swamp and salt marsh at the entrance to Lake Macquarie, New South Wales, together with the land along the southern shore of the entrance to Lake Macquarie to the east of’Black
Neds Bay’ up to and including the headland known as Reids Mistake’.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Cohen.
Shire of South Gippsland
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:
(i) The Rural economy of the Shire of South Gippsland is severely disadvantaged by the current prices being paid for cattle;
(ii) The Council of the Shire of South Gippsland is extremely concerned with the financial crisis which is rapidly overtaking its finances;
(iii) Non-replacement of outdoor staff has been introduced since early 1974 because of the effective reduction in funds for road maintenance and construction caused by inflation;
(iv) Continually increasing wages and salaries as a result of indexation cannot continue to be passed on to the ratepayer.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House take steps to-
(1) grant to the Shire of South Gippsland an amount of $200,000 to enable it to provide the same standard of service it provided in 1972;
(2) increase this grant annually in line with the inflation rate.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Nixon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas 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 Mr Young.
– I ask the Deputy Prime Minister and Acting Treasurer the following question: Will the honourable gentleman tell the House why Government spending is continuing to increase at a rate in excess of 45 per cent in spite of the fact that the increase in outlays for the full financial year is estimated at 23 per cent? Does this mean that there is a requirement for an additional appropriation of funds to enable the Government to fund its programs until the end of November?
-I believe that the shadow Minister ought to be well aware that there are some pitfalls, if I may say so, in trying to draw a year’s conclusions from the first month or 2 months of the financial year’s transactions. I am sure that he, like other honourable members, has been supplied with the full details of the expenditure for the 2 months to the end of August 1975 as against the 2 months to the end of August 1974. If he reads those details carefully, he will .find that $60m of that expenditure was in the category of defence. Does he believe that we are spending too much on defence? The expenditure on education is up by almost $ 100m. I have had many people claiming that there is not enough being spent on education. In the area of health, the difference is of the order of $140m. In the area of housing, it is $250m. Again, there seem to be complaints that not enough money is being spent in that category. Payments to the States are $200m greater in the 2 months of the financial year 1 975-76 than they were in the financial year 1974-75. This economy would have been in a far worse position had there not been an acceleration of Government expenditure over recent months. I suggest to the honourable gentleman that he read the figures carefully, indicate to me where he thinks expenditure could be reduced and I will answer his question.
– I address my question to the Minister for Health. Last April approval was given by the Australian Government for the establishment of community health centres at Eden, Ulladulla and Sussex Inlet. I have recently been approached by local residents complaining that the New South Wales Government has said that money is no longer available for these projects. Is the Minister aware of similar problems elsewhere in New South Wales and can he give the House an explanation for this apparent change of policy?
– Given the good working relationship which exists at officer level, these holdups must be politically motivated. The States received an additional 34 per cent in unspecified, untied grants this year. New South Wales is suffering financial difficulties from its poor handling of Medibank and its failure to transfer country railways to the Australian Government. Given the increase in unspecified grants and the fact that the Australian Government contributes 90 per cent of the operating costs and 75 per cent of the capital costs of community health projects, it is difficult to understand why this worthwhile program has been slowed down. Consistent with the Australian Government’s ongoing commitment to community health services, the Budget provides $65m for this year compared with $42.5m in 1974-75. Perhaps the New South Wales Government is finding it difficult to provide its 25 per cent contribution to capital costs.
On the staffing side, a mere 10 per cent of State contribution .is required, and yet hundreds of positions have been left unfilled. In all, about 1 500 positions were created in New South Wales under the community health program. Not only is Mr Lewis threatening to stand down up to 600 employees of the Public Works Department; he is also failing to use grants available from the Australian Government to boost employment in the health field by about the same figure. It is certainly a curious way of managing the financial affairs of a sovereign State. Most authorities in the world concede that most of the money put into more efficient community care is more than saved by reduced demand for costly hospital care. I shall take up the matter with the New South Wales Minister for Health to find a way to ensure that these vital initiatives are taken in the community health field.
-Does the Acting Treasurer still say that the Government can keep within its overall budgeted deficit of $2,800m when the deficit for the first 2 months of the year is running at $l,071m? I note that the Acting Treasurer made the point about taking the figures forward over the full 12 months. Is he aware that if the deficit continues to grow as it has grown in the first 2 months of the year it will lead to a total deficit of more than $6,000m in this financial year?
-I can assure the honourable gentleman that that will not be the case. He knows as well as anybody else knows that this Government cannot spend money for which it does not have an appropriation. There are unevennesses from month to month. I cited the defence figures. Orders came in which had to be paid for. The other day some curious character in Queensland suggested that the Government was not paying its accounts. I wish he would check the facts before making silly statements like that. There are unevennesses. Housing moneys were advanced to the States early because the States claimed that they needed them. It is quite wrong to multiply the figure by six and say that that will be the end result.
-Has the Prime Minister seen reports of a call by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke, for the Government to reconsider the phasing out of the Regional Employment Development scheme? Can the Prime Minister inform the House of the future of the scheme or of any other approaches made to him seeking the retention of the Regional Employment Development scheme?
– The only communication I have had on the Regional Employment Development scheme has been from the Premier of Victoria, and he has urged that it be continued or expanded. His Government, of course, on 19 December last challenged the validity of the RED scheme in the High Court of Australia and is pursuing the challenge. I did hear on the radio that the Premier of New South Wales had also made some pronouncement about this matter. He, on 14 February last, also challenged the validity of the RED scheme in the High Court, and his Government is pursuing that challenge. I wish people on the Opposition side who volunteer these comments about the RED scheme would make up their minds whether they want it to continue or or whether they do not. They are asking us to continue or expand appropriations for a scheme whose validity under the Constitution they are challenging. In the meantime they get no assistance from their colleagues in this Parliament, because one does not know whether the Liberals, from the top to the bottom, or the National Country Party of Australia either for that matter, want the RED scheme to be expanded or scaled down, or whether they think it is unconstitutional. All one can say is that the first reaction, and a very early reaction, by the Liberal State governments- that is, in the parliaments where the Liberals have options to do things- was to challenge the validity of the scheme.
I would point out that the scheme was introduced as a means of improving employment opportunities in areas of excessively high unemployment. It subsequently became a general unemployment relief scheme. The Government has made appropriations which it believes will effect a more substantial improvement in the employment situation, and I will cite four of them. There has been a large increase in the present Budget in grants to local government bodies for them to spend as they see fit. In the last Budget they got $56m in grants. This Budget they are getting $80m in grants. Again, there are special employment grants schemes for the States. They are getting $30m in this way in this Budget, and they can spend it as they see fit. In addition to that the Government is appropriating funds in its Children’s Commission program and in its area improvement program which will relieve unemployment. These programs have not been challenged in the High Court by the Liberal State governments.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration, and it is a supplementary question to that just asked by the honourable member for Melbourne. The Minister will be aware that in some country areas the ratio of people unemployed is twice that of the national average, in some cases exceeding 10 per cent. With the phasing out now of the Regional Employment Development scheme, is any action being taken or are any plans being undertaken by the Government to ensure that there will be some continuing job opportunities for people in these country areas?
-The Government does have under consideration a number of schemes to assist employment generally. I think it is appropriate at this stage to mention that unemployment in the last month in fact fell. There were some 3393 people fewer unemployed in August than there were in the previous month, and unfilled vacancies also showed a marginal increase of 627, so there are now some 26 155 unfilled vacancies throughout the Commonwealth. It is all very well, of course, to rely on the statistical mechanism called seasonal adjustment. Seasonal adjustment of employment figures works on the premise that we are in a normal situation. In fact, at this time there is an abnormal situation. Our economy is corning out of a slump which has afflicted every comparable country throughout the world. Of course, that causes concern to some honourable members opposite. They do not want that recovery and they do their best in this Parliament and elsewhere to continue to undermine public confidence.
In respect of the question of the phasing out of the Regional Employment Development scheme, I wish the honourable gentleman would make up his mind. On the one hand his colleagues are saying that they do not want the RED scheme, that it is invalid and unconstitutional; in the next breath they are saying that they want it continued. This Government is the first government to undertake seriously regional development. It is the first government to make a serious attempt to see that there is decentralisation in Australia and it is doing it in a number of ways. The honourable gentleman would do well to have a close look at what is being done in the area of technical and further education so that children in rural areas and in the country towns will have the opportunity to be trained in skilled employment, thereby making it possible for employers to start industries in those regions. If the honourable gentleman would look seriously once in a while at his own record he would find that although the Liberal-Country Party Government frequently advanced the argument that there should be decentralisation of industry, it did nothing to provide the facilities to train labour to work in those industries. The greatest single inhibition on employers decentralising their factories was that they did not have the capacity to obtain trained labour. All these facilities are being made available now whether the honourable gentleman likes it or not and they are being provided at a much more rapid pace than the honourable gentleman could ever have contemplated.
– I address my question to the Minister for Minerals and Energy. What proportion of profits from the export of Australian coal is derived by the Utah Development Company and its affiliates? What is the Australian equity in those companies? What steps has the Minister taken to ensure adequate Australian participation in them?
Mr CONNOR Of the total gross profit of $544m derived this year from the export to Japan of coking coal the percentage which will flow to the Utah Development Company and its affiliate is 56 per cent. They will take $309m out of $544m- 56k percent to be precise. Only 10.8 per cent of that will pass to Australian shareholders; the rest will go abroad. The Utah
Development Company can thank the good offices and support of the Australian Government for its present situation because the contracts it entered into with 7-year pricing terms with various Japanese steel mills did not provide for an annual review of prices. Thanks to our good graces and by grace and favour of the Japanese consumers, the Utah Development Company is receiving the same annual review of prices as the other Australian producers.
For the future, this is the position: The Utah Development Company is in the cream. It has paid for its infrastructure and the question seriously arises as to whether it should continue merely to skim off the 17 per cent of Queensland coal which is available to open cut mining at the highest profit rates and leave behind for posterity and for Japan ultimately, the rest of the coal that will be won at greater cost. A fortnight ago Mr Wilson of Utah and some of his senior officers came to discuss with me their various pricing problems. The Australian Government was happy to assist them. I indicated to Mr Wilson that the time had arrived when there ought to be proper Australian equity participation. There the matter remains and I hope to get a response within a reasonable time.
-No doubt the Acting Treasurer has read or heard about the United Kingdom Sandiland report recommending indexation of stocks and current cost valuation of plant and equipment and will know that the United Kingdom Government has allowed tax on stock profits to be deferred immediately. As well, it will permit depreciation of plant and equipment and other capital investment to be written off in one year. Does the Government now realise against this background, that the explanation on page 21 of the Budget Speech that very serious problems would be created by indexation, is obviously superficial nonsense, and that in any event the difficulties could easily be avoided? I will tell the Acting Treasurer how if he cares to consult me. Does he now realise how wise the Leader of the Opposition was in recommending similar policy changes to those of the United Kingdom? What does the Government intend to do about it?
– I wish that these matters were as simple as the right honourable gentleman makes out. Perhaps if he and I did have a talk he would learn as well as he thinks I would. The Budget did do certain things in relation to the company position. It doubled the normal depreciation allowances that could be claimed. It reduced the basic company tax rate by 2V4 per cent. The question of indexation was considered in a document known as the ‘Mathews Report’ and with all due respect to that report, I do not think it was anywhere near as good as the right honourable gentleman claimed the other day when he described it, if I heard him properly, as a brilliantly written document. The matters are not as simple as that and it is no justice when one section of the community tries to index itself at the expense of the rest.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the report that the Prices Justification Tribunal would be abolished with a different Party in government? Would this be consistent with a slow down in the rate of inflation?
-I do remember that the Leader of the Opposition said that he would like to have an opportunity to abolish the Prices Justification Tribunal. I would point out that the Prices Justification Tribunal was established over 2 years ago in redemption of an election undertaking by the Government. I would urge honourable gentlemen who criticise it to consider what would be the attitude among employees- in particular those whose incomes in general have to be approved or vetted by tribunals such as the Arbitration Commission- if there were no similar machinery to vet prices to be charged by companies. The Prices Justification Tribunal does not fix prices; it merely requires companies in certain categories which are contemplating increasing their prices to justify those increases. The Government believes that it is fair that people who charge for their services and also people who charge for their wares should have similar procedures applied to them.
It will make very much more difficult the quest for any restraint in income policies if there is any campaign to disparage or demolish the Prices Justification Tribunal. In fact a considerable number of people who are considered to support or advise the Liberal Party see virtue in the Prices Justification Tribunal. It is a matter of public knowledge that among those whom the Leader of the Opposition asked to advise him some 4 weeks ago in preparing his speech on the Budget was Mr Rod Carnegie, the Chairman of Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd. He has said that companies have found that the amount of work and self-examination which went into a Prices Justification Tribunal submission was very healthy. The Government will support reasonable increases in prices approved by the Prices Justification Tribunal just as it will support reasonable increases in wages granted by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, but a new, unpredictable and provocative element will be introduced into our economy if there is any move to disparage or demolish the Prices Justification Tribunal. It has done a good job. It has pioneered a new field and has done so effectively. I believe honourable gentlemen ought to acknowledge the skill and wisdom with which Mr Justice Williams has presided over this new form of law and order in the Australian economy.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Is it correct as reported in the Press that the Government is considering buying out Mr Clunies-Ross’s interests in Cocos (Keeling) Islands? Is this being done to make us or the Cocos Islanders happy? Is it true that the Cocos Islanders use plastic money while we have to make do with paper money which seems to be rapidly losing its value? Is this fair? Does not the Prime Minister agree that the Cocos Islanders have no right to expect to be happy and contented forever while we suffer under socialism here?
-The Government has decided to take 2 actions. The Cocos (Keeling) Islands should be obeying Australian laws that apply not only to continental Australia and Tasmania but also to the overseas territories, and should use Australian currency. Mr Clunies-Ross has always ignored the law in this respect. He has issued tokens to the people whom he employs. The only things they can buy with those tokens are the things which are available in the store which he owns. There is no other store. He is the owner, the operator and the employer and he makes the coinage. It is a paradise- for Mr Clunies-Ross.
– Is it free enterprise?
– It is free enterprise for Mr Clunies-Ross. He lives in the way his ancestors lived 100 years ago. Those whom he employs and those to whom he sells have to live as they lived 100 years ago. There is no part of the world where things have changed so little. The Government proposes to see that Mr Clunies-Ross obeys the law, that is, that he obeys the currency legislation of the Australian Parliament. The fact that our predecessors were prepared to condone this situation for all those years since the middle 1950s- 1955- when the Menzies Government accepted the Cocos (Keeling) Islands from Great Britain at the time when Singapore was being given independence is no reason why we should continue to condone it. Even if we wanted to condone it, the rest of the world is well aware of the position.
It is true that until last Thursday the honourable gentlemen opposite, including their leader, suppressed the report which was made to them concerning conditions on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Mr Kerr, a senior public servant who investigated the situation in 1 97 1 , said that it was like a slave plantation in the Deep South. No wonder when a Senator Committee which was investigating the affairs on Cocos sought to have access to the Kerr report and asked me to secure it, and I asked the Leader of the Opposition whether he would make it available to the Committee, that honourable gentleman refused to clear it. However, owing to a question which my colleague, the Minister for Manufacturing Industry, answered last Thursday, the report is now public property. The Senate Committee can now see it. All honourable gentlemen can see it. Quite apart from that the United Nations Committee of Twenty-four has been to Cocos and has reported adversely on the feudal conditions that there obtain.
The other thing that the Government proposes to do is to introduce an ordinance for lands acquisition on Cocos on terms similar to those which apply to lands acquisition by the Federal Government in continental Australia and Tasmania. Thereafter it will be possible for the Government to treat with Mr Clunies Ross to see that his estates can be acquired by the Australian people on just terms. Cocos Islands are and have been for a long time of some strategic importance to Australia. If Australia is to continue to exercise jurisdiction over this remote territory we ought to comply with the decent opinion of the world. I do not believe that we ought to tolerate any employer paying his employees in tokens of his own creation redeemable in stores of which the employer holds the monopoly. I do not believe that we should tolerate a situation where Mr Clunies Ross can defy the laws whether for lands acquisition or currency. Cocos is important to Australia but Australia will enjoy undisturbed jurisdiction in Cocos only if proper standards acceptable to Australia and the rest of the world are applied. Our predecessors knew the situation. They covered it up; they did nothing about it.
(Dr Klugman having addressed a question to the Prime Minister) -
-I take a point of order. I think it is out of order for the honourable member to ask a question seeking an opinion on an article of that sort. I suggest that the honourable member’s question is out of order.
– I was waiting to see whether the honourable gentleman would get to asking a question. He did not do so. I think the question is out of order.
– I raise a point of order. Could I repeat the relevant part of the question to see whether you stick to that ruling, Mr Speaker? I have a feeling that there was noise in the House -
– Order! I think I heard the relevant part of the question. The question asked the opinion of the Prime Minister on a report in a journal.
– No, I am sorry. The question -
-Order! I have ruled the question out of order. I call the honourable member for Gippsland.
-Will the Prime Minister sort out the administrative muddle between 2 of his Ministers, the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Minerals and Energy? Does he know that 2 Australian built oil rigs worth over $50m are unable to find work and are not allowed to be exported to find work because of the stupidity of his 2 Ministers?
-My knowledge of this situation is that some people who have had a very hefty subsidy from the Australian taxpayers to build some of these rigs now want to use the rigs elsewhere. I wish the honourable gentleman would confer with some of his National Country Party colleagues who are always keen to support any claims by mineral or mining interests. I would have thought that these rigs could be used in Australia. That was the proposition upon which the subsidies were paid for them to be built in Australia. They are perfectly suitable for use in Australian territorial waters -
– I rise on a point of order. My point of order simply is that they cannot find work here.
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. If he makes that sort of point of order again I will name him.
-The honourable gentleman probably at least agrees with his colleagues in supporting the assistance which was formerly given by our predecessors to the mining interests. Their very large taxation concessions did not lead to any exploration or discovery; they did lead to a very great deal of speculation. The brokers did all right out of it in general cases; the investors did not, and we did not discover or exploit our resources.
Honourable gentlemen opposite seem to hold the extraordinary view that mining interests in Australia should not prospect unless the Government pays them to do it. There is nothing to prevent mining interests from prospecting in Australia or off-shore. Here we have 2 drilling rigs which are ideal for the purpose and the Australian people have a very large stake in them. The taxpayers have paid millions of dollars for these rigs to be constructed in Australia. Now the honourable member for Gippsland suggests that we should let them be used elsewhere. Well, I do not agree with him. The whole of the Government supports the principle that if Australian taxpayers’ funds are to be used to build things in Australia they should first of all be used in Australia.
– I address my question to the Minister for Minerals and Energy: Is the Minister aware of the meeting being held today between State Ministers for Mines and/or Energy relative to the forthcoming indigenous oil pricing policy? What is his answer to the criticism of his Western Australian counterpart, Mr Mensaros?
-I am well aware of this selfappointed group of people who are meeting as self-appointed experts on this matter. It is quite a coincidence, following the Prime Minister’s answer to the last question, that undoubtedly, as a result of a submission that I have made on indigenous pricing, I will be able to give every possible assistance to the operation of off-shore drilling rigs. In point of fact, Mr Mensaros has been one of the greatest impediments to offshore oil exploration. Only 22 wells were required to be drilled on the whole of the northwest shelf. In total seventy-two have been drilled around the coast of Western Australia. In respect of the granting of renewals of exploration permits, contrary to our wishes and policy, the Western Australian Government has provided for a total of only 36 wells to be drilled, spread over the next 5 years. In point of fact my Department advises me that that would be precisely enough work for one off-shore drilling vessel. With the submissions that I have made in connection with the indigenous oil pricing policy and a proper remuneration for new oil, I think even the carping critics from the Liberal governed States will be more than satisfied and left without further grounds for criticism.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. During the Bass by-election the Government made many promises to the people of Launceston and George Town. Many of them were made by the Prime Minister himself. They included such things as a by-pass around the city of Launceston, the upgrading of the Bell BayLaunceston Road to national highway status, the establishment of a government information office in Launceston, additions to the Launceston General Hospital, the establishment of a national maritime college and several other projects. Will the Prime Minister give an assurance to the people of Launceston and George Town that these promises will be kept? Assuming that that assurance is given here, will the Prime Minister give some indication when the funds will be made available to start these projects?
-The maritime college legislation ought to be introduced within the next few weeks. It is very nearly fully drafted. The provision for the by-pass around Launceston to link the 2 national roads will be made in the arrangements which the Minister for Transport is hoping to make with the States, I think towards the end of 1975. The honourable gentleman should know also that the Government is seeking continuously to make arrangements with the Tasmanian Government to upgrade port facilities, particularly at Bell Bay, in Tasmania and to coordinate them with road and rail transport. I am in correspondence with the Premier of Tasmania, for instance, about the wheat trade to Tasmania. The Australian Government, through the Australian National Line, has provided the ship which supplies Tasmania with wheat. It is coming to the end of its life. We want to use bulk carriers there. The advisers of both the Australian Government and the Tasmanian Government say that bulk carriers would be much more economical for the job. At present there are no adequate port facilities in Tasmania for a bulk carrier, nor are there the proper transfer points from the ports to road and rail.
The Australian Government is constantly in touch with the Tasmanian Government about these matters. It is very largely for this reason that we agreed to acquire the Tasmanian Railways. Tasmania’s economic difficulties flow from the fact that she is the only island State. Accordingly the alleviation of those economic difficulties depends above all on better transport systems. We believe that by the combination of the Australian National Line and the Australian Railways we are making a great contribution to improving Tasmania’s economy. We hope that additional arrangements we seek with the Tasmanian Government will assist more to that end.
- Mr Speaker, I should like to rephrase my earlier disallowed question. It is directed again to the Prime Minister. Has his attention been drawn to an attack on the new Budget measures in the Sydney Morning Herald by 2 lecturers from the Law School of the University of New South Wales, alleging that the new tax scheme gives advantages to large families. They say that the plan provides great tax benefits to the family man with 3 children or more and that it is an invitation or acts as a direct inducement to parents with 2 children or more to go on and to ‘proliferate with a vengeance’ as they put it, with a third, fourth, fifth or sixth child and so on? Is it a fact that the new tax scheme will benefit parents of non-zero population growth families?
– I did notice, somewhat cursorily I will admit, the comments by the 2 contributors to the Sydney Morning Herald in a series of articles on the Budget. I must confess that I had not realised that the contributors were lecturers in law; I presumed that they were philosophers or sociologists. The general theme seemed to be: No procreation while there is taxation. Quite frankly, I have never adhered to the theory that people would have children only if the taxpayers subsidised them to have them. There are many valid reasons for people having children and there are many valid reasons, I suppose, for people not having children. I must confess that in all the considerations the Government gave to this great taxation reform in the present Budget we did not consider the effect that it would have on the birth rate. But we did consider the effect that it would have on people who have family responsibilities.
Of course, it is true that people who have dependants- spouses and children- will benefit very considerably from this Budget. They will benefit more from this Budget than they have benefited from any preceding Budget, not only in total but also proportionately. Since my views are sought on this matter, it seems to me perfectly reasonable that people who have the greatest number of dependants should in fact get the most assistance from the community. I suppose I would concede the converse, that is that those who have the fewest responsibilities should get the least assistance from the taxpayers. But the great advance that this Budget makes is that all families of the same size will get the same amount of assistance from the taxpayers, whatever their incomes may be. Under the previous taxation system, the higher one ‘s income the bigger the subsidy the taxpayers gave for every dependent child. The new taxation system means that whatever your income is the taxpayers will give you exactly the same amount of assistance for every dependant that you have. This seems to me logical, rational, humane and overdue.
– Pursuant to section 30 of the Canberra College of Advanced Education Act 1967-70, I present the report of the Council of the Canberra College of Advanced Education for the year 1 January 1974 to 31 December 1974.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the annual report of the Department of Education for 1974.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report prepared by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads titled National Highways Linking Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, 1975. Due to the limited numbers available, reference copies of this report have been placed in the Parliamentary Library. In addition, copies of supplementary documents referred to in the introduction to the report have also been placed in the Parliamentary Library, although these documents are not now being tabled.
– On behalf of the Minister for Labor and Immigration, and for the information of honourable members, I present the first annual report of the National Training Council for the year ended 3 1 December 1974.
– I present for the information of honourable members the reports of the Temporary Assistance Authority on non-adjustable spanners and plywood.
- Mr Speaker, Pursuant to sections 6(5), 7 (7) and 12D(5) of the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1 973- 1 974, 1 present, in the order received by the Special Minister of State, copies of 1 7 determinations and 3 reports as follows:
Seven Remuneration Tribunal determinations in relation to:
Independent Inquiry to determine the fees for medical benefits purposes
Australian Advisory Committee on Research and Development in Education
An Academic Salaries Tribunal determination and report in relation to annual leave (bonus) payments.
Two Remuneration Tribunal determinations in relation to:
Capital Territory Health Commission Australian Dairy Corporation The Secretary to the Department of Northern Australia
A document entitled ‘Remuneration Tribunal Reports and Determinations August 1975’ which contains 2 reports and 3 determinations in relation to all groups within the jurisdiction of the Remuneration Tribunal.
Four Remuneration Tribunal determinations in relation to:
The Secretary to the Postmaster-General’s
Australian National Railways Commission Commissioner for Community Relations Commissioners under the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1 974 Road Safety and Standards Authority Director of National Parks and Wildlife Aboriginal Hostels Ltd Schools Commission Health Insurance Commission
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I wish to apologise for any inconvenience suffered by Mr Joe Gullett, the former member for Henty, or by any of his relatives. As appears on page 1036 of Hansard for last Thursday, I was answering what I thought were unfair allegations against my Party by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), who accused my Party of unfairness in political appointments. I pointed out how in my opinion the previous Government, or the tories, had abused this privilege over the years. I said that Mr Gullett was one of many members of the Liberal and Country Parties who had been appointed to overseas posts or important public posts in Australia. I also stated that I thought that Mr Gullett had passed away recently. That is where I made a mistake.
– What about the former Attorney-General whom you slandered?
– I have never slandered anybody in my life. If I have been tempted to do so it is because of what I have heard from the Liberals since I have been in this place. They are the slanderers. I also want to thank the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) with the utmost sincerity for bringing this matter to my notice. I humbly solicit forgiveness for the error I have made.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sure that the honourable member for Hunter reads Hansard very well, but if he reads Hansard again he will see that his reference to the honourable member for Lilley is a trifle out of place. I made no such reference. I was not even in the chamber.
– I meant the honourable member for Griffith.
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 demonstrated inability to deal with the problems of industrial relations.
I, therefore, call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places).
-Prior to its coming to power in December 1972 we were told by the Australian Labor Party that it had all the answers to the problems of industrial relations in Australia. We were told that there would be less industrial strife because of the so-called special relationship between the Labor Party and the trade union movement. The Federal Conference of the Labor Party in its industrial relations policy placed human rights and values first and provided for the development of full human dignity in the industrial sphere. It went on to emphasise full employment and freedom of choice in that employment. That is what we were told then. It sounded pretty good at the time, and it still does. But what a gap there is between the principle and the practice, between the ideology and the actuality.
Let us have a look at the promises of 1972 in the light of what has happened since then. There would be fewer industrial disputes, we were told. But what a record we have seen. In 1972 there were 2 million working days lost. In 1973 that figure had increased by over 600 000. Last year the figure was over 6 million working days lost. The figure for wages lost by the people who were to benefit from this special relationship is even worse. In 1972 $32m was lost, in 1973 $45m was lost, and last year the figure was an unbelievable $128m. Some special relationship!
Who did benefit as a result of this special relationship? If there was a special relationship, it was a special relationship of disaster- disaster for the workers of this country, disaster for the employers, disaster for the general public. No longer do we hear any resounding ideological policy commitments because there is no policy at all. Unfortunately, the story does not stop there, because this disastrous Government is still in power, and worse than that, it is still running true to form.
At the beginning of 1973 the seasonally adjusted unemployment figure was 95 000, approximately 1V4 per cent of the work force- a remarkably low figure by any standard. From this figure and through successive months unemployment levels began to rise. How many times did we hear senior members of the Government publicly say ‘It will never reach 100 000’ or ‘No way it will get to 150 000”? And there is that famous quote: ‘I will resign from the ministry if it gets beyond 250 000’.
Opposition members- Who said that?
-That was the former Minister for Labor and Immigration, the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). Where is the special relationship with the 300 000 Australian unemployed now comprising 5 per cent of the work force? On these figures alone, the condemnation of this Government is overwhelming. Never before have there been so many unemployed. But that is not the end of it. Consider for a moment the 25 000 hidden unemployed temporarily under the Regional Employment Development scheme, the thousands of people covered by the National Employment and Training scheme, the tens of thousands of students who remain at school in the hope that employment will improve. They must come into the work force next year. Consider also the decline in business confidence. As a result of the Government’s policies business will have to reduce its labour even further. I do not hear any member of the Government promising that unemployment figures will not reach 350 000. With this destructive combination of record industrial disputation and record unemployment one would have thought the Australian Labor Party would have come up with some constructive ideas, but the one initiative proposed was indexation, and then only on wages- not on personal income tax, although that was recommended by the Government’s own committee, the Mathews Committee, and is supported by the whole union movement. Wage indexation was to be the Government’s great cure all for industrial strife. Look at the figures in May, the month immediately after the introduction of indexation. In May this year there were 330 industrial disputes, the highest figure for any month this year and one of the highest for many years. Half a million work days were lost, the highest for this year. An amount of $ 13.7m was lost in wages- a record again. If that is the result of the Government’s only initiative in industrial relations, heaven help us for the future.
The fact is that the Government is barren of ideas. Its policies on the various aspects of industrial relations are either non-existent or a positive liability. Take the question of communication. Communication is at the heart of industrial relations, because industrial relations are fundamentally human relations. It is obvious that if communication breaks down then industrial relations break down. But what did the Government do on coming to power? It promptly abolished the only national consultative forum there was- the National Labour Advisory Council, where representatives of employers, employees and the Government could meet and discuss national employment and industrial problems, and God knows there are plenty of them to discuss. The National Labour Advisory Council was, and under a Liberal-National Country Party Government will once again be, an essential part of Government, an essential instrument in the development of an industrial relations policy. We would reconstruct it as a statutory body with its own small secretariat, and it would be required to meet regularly. The Minister for Labor of the day, whoever he might be, will not be able to take refuge, as successive Ministers of this Government have done by just refusing to call the Council together. Communications must be encouraged not only at the national level, important thought that is. Industrial relations start at the shop floor, and communication at this level is vital.
Where are the proposals of this Government? They do not exist. Again we have to look at the policies of the Liberal and National Country Parties. We recognise that it is not easy to legislate in this area- in fact, it is probably not desirable to legislate- but it is absolutely essential that’ appropriate lines of communication be developed between employers and employees. It is essential for good industrial relations and fundamental to achieving Australia’s full potential for development. The Liberal and National Country Parties are dedicated to developing a partnership concept in industry. We reject completely the outworn discredited ideology of the Australian Labor Party that industrial relations must be built on a class warfare concept. No Australian stands to benefit from that. All Australians stand to benefit from a mutual understanding of each other’s problems and this can come only through the establishment of communication procedures to suit each individual plant or industry.
Our policies strive to encourage, protect and respect the rights and responsibilities of all those engaged in industry. This is the foundation on which harmonious industrial relations are established. However, all parties involved in industrial relations must recognise that once an agreement has been reached or an award has been made they have an obligation to honour that agreement or award and that such arrangements must apply equally to both sides. The view that industrial agreements should be the only legal agreements which are binding on one party and not the other is contrary to our philosophy, contrary to law and contrary to the democratic system. Let anybody on the other side of the House who denies that declare himself now. The implementation of such a policy requires leadership from government. The present Government will not provide it. It has done nothing to stop industrial disputes and it stands condemned by the record level of industrial disputation which has occurred since it came to power.
The Opposition’s industrial policy, on the other hand, sets out in quite explicit terms our order of priorities. First, the whole thrust of our policy is directed towards preventing disputes from occurring, and I have already described the key role of communication in that respect. But we recognise that it is unreal to expect that disputes will never occur. Of course they will, and a realistic industrial relations policy must recognise that fact and include proposals to deal with disputes. We would give full support to the inclusion in awards and agreements of the dispute settling procedures which were agreed to by the Australian Council of Trade Unions and employers in 1970. There has never been a genuine concerted effort to apply these procedures. The present Government has never even mentioned them. Our policy recognises that in the last resort it is the right of an employee to withdraw his labour in an industrial dispute- to strike- so long as the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act have been complied with. However, long before that situation is reached there must be an obligation to talk, to negotiate and to conciliate. The dispute settling procedures would provide the machinery for this. Not only that, they would ensure that the public interest was protected.
The Labor Party seems to have the peculiar attitude that there are only 2 parties to industrial disputes. It seems to forget that there is an unseen, sometimes forgotten, but vitally interested third party- the general public. A little while ago there were reports that the present Minister for Labor and Immigration was about to introduce amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to protect the public interest, to give the Government power to appeal against decisions of single members of the Commission and to require commissioners to observe the indexation principles and guidelines of the Full Bench. Where are these amendments? If they are responsible and are designed to counter inflation, the number one enemy of full employment in this country, the Opposition would support them. However, there has been no action, as always seems to be the case with this Government when confronted with a real issue or problem.
The Government will not face up to its responsibilities. There is plenty of talk at national wage case hearings about the need for restraint but there is a strange silence when it is confronted with the need to argue strongly in individual cases. Did the Government intervene in the recent coal miners’ case? Did it intervene when the meat workers in Victoria claimed another $60 a week? Will it intervene in the oil industry case this week? If the Government were genuine in its calls for restraint it would have taken every opportunity to argue the case. There have been plenty of opportunities but this pusillanimous, spineless, no-policy government turns its back on the problems and on the unemployed whose only hope of a job depends on inflation being brought under control. This Government has abdicated its responsibility in industrial relations. It refuses to represent the people of Australia. What other words can be used to describe a situation where a Minister of the Crown has the effrontery to tell beef producers, who are desperately seeking a market for their stock and who are desperately trying to stay solvent, that if they want to export cattle they should try to make arrangements with the union so that they will be allowed to export their stock. What bare faced impertinence, what gall for a Government to give such advice to people facing the gravest financial crisis in the history of their industry.
A government which adopts this attitude has forfeited all right to respect from the Australian electorate. A great principle is involved. That principle is that in a parliamentary democracy the elected representatives of the people govern the country and when they refuse to do so they lose their right to govern. This Government deserves to go. The former Minister for Labor and Immigration 12 months ago said:
The Government would not want to continue in office if unemployment increased from the present 93 000 to a 2S0 000 figure.
Mr Hawke, the President of the Australian Labor Party, said at a time when unemployment was less than half what it is now that he would rather see a new election than have the Government cause mass unemployment. This Government not only deserves to go but also, according to one of its own Ministers and to the president of the Australian Labor Party, it has to go.
. There were 2 things about the speech of the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) which impressed me. The first was his statement that an elected government is entitled to govern. I wish he would tell that once in a while to his colleagues in the Senate. The second was that he apparently has not read the Conciliation and Arbitration Act very carefully otherwise he would not have made some of the statements he made. I suggest that he should look at what are the rights of government to intervene in industrial disputes, where government is restricted and how rigidly it is restricted. After all, his colleague, the Deputy Leader of
Opposition (Mr Lynch) had a long time in which to correct that situation if he had been able to do so. I am sure it was not an oversight on his part but that he deliberately decided not to do it. I notice also that the honourable member for Corangamite said that it was not desirable to legislate in this area. Not desirable to legislate!
I have looked at a document of the Liberal and National Country Parties’ called Employment and Industrial Relations Policy, a remarkable document if ever there was one. It is a document stolen from Dixie- Governor Wallace would be proud of honourable members opposite. In it are some of the most remarkable pieces of proposed legislation that one could imagine and when the Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress meets next week it might well have a hard look at the alternative to the present Government to see what it is in for. Also the Australian people might have a hard look to see what they are faced with if the alternative government on the other side of the House came to power. The Opposition parties stand for industrial confrontation the type of which has not been seen in this country for the last 50 years. Let me give a classic example of what they have in mind. They want consequences for certain unfair practices of employees and unions.
– These consequences are a remarkable -
– Don’t you? Have you read the document?
-Yes. Let me remind the honourable member what it says.
– Don ‘t you believe it?
– I do not believe it-certainly not. It says:
Examples of the kind of consequences which could be available to the Court would be: deregistration -
That is a brilliant way to get a union outside the system to comply with it. Push it right out. That is a brilliant idea. Nobody other than whoever wrote this document would think of it. The document continues: sequestration or garnishees of funds, fines, exclusion from office of employer industrial officers or office bearers of an organisation for a specified period, facilitation of steps by which an innocent party may claim damages for loss suffered as a result of an unfair industrial practice.
Will honourable members opposite think for just a moment about what they are proposing there? They are saying that a company which employed a personnel officer could be told by some court that it could not have that person. He would be, as it were, blacklisted by the Industrial Court not to be employed. Are members opposite serious? Are they seriously suggesting that a union which, in a ballot conducted by the Commonwealth Electoral Office under the provisions of the Arbitration Act, decided by 25 000 votes to 200 votes that a certain person was to be the general secretary, could be told by the court that they could not have that person? Are honourable members opposite really serious about this? Who do they think would accept that proposition? Nobody would accept that proposition; nobody would accept it for one moment. Do honourable members opposite suggest that some court should have the power to say to the electors of Corangamite: ‘You should not have elected Mr Street; he has been unfair and he cannot take his place in the Parliament.? Members of the Opposition are seeking to deny the very basis of industrial democracy. They are seeking to deny the very tenet on which the whole system of trade union elections is based. They are saying that one can elect who one likes as long as it suits the court appointed by a Liberal-National Country Party Government. We know some of the judges that they have appointed in the past and what they would do. We know them well. We have seen them well and, in fact, they are known too well. The alternative to this Government’s policy is confrontation and disputation in the streets. That is the proposition. Honourable members opposite would seek to push trade unions outside the system of conciliation and arbitration. *(Opposition members interjecting.)
- (Mr Keith Johnson)- Order! I ask honourable gentlemen on my left to restrain themselves.
– Honourable members opposite would seek to have a situation in this country where they divide it in the way in which they divided it in the past. They have the gall to talk about the increase in industrial disputes. In the March quarter of 1975, 22.7 per cent of all disputes were under the heading which includes amalgamations. They were disputes about demarcations.
– They are still disputes.
– Of course they are, and who is responsible for preventing the amalgamation?
-Order! I have already asked the honourable members on my left to restrain themselves; if they continue to defy me I will have to take action. The Minister will please address his remarks to the Chair.
-The Liberal Party and National Country Party propose industrial unionism in their policy. The same parties have frustrated this Government’s attempt to facilitate amalgamation which brings about industrial unionism. Their arguments are hypocritical. They are contradictory. They do not deserve to be taken as being a genuine effort to resolve industrial disputes. What they seek to do is to override decisions of arbitration tribunals in the past and to impose on arbitration tribunals their idea of industrial policies. For example, they deny the fact that there has existed in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act for at least 60 years a provision whereby members of registered unions may obtain preference of employment over those who are not members. They would seek, as the Bavin Government did 40 years ago, to wipe out -
– No, I did not say that.
– Yes, the honourable member did. The honourable member said it in this document which I have here and if he does not see where he said it, he cannot read. Members of the Opposition seek to eliminate the sort of preference to unionists provision which the Full Bench of the Arbitration Commission has awarded.
– No we do not.
-Do not tell me that the Commission did not do it. I was in the case. I know what it was about.
-Order! The honourable member for Corangamite was heard in silence by the Minister. Since the Minister has been speaking the honourable member has constantly interjected and has directed a crossfire across the table to the Minister. It will not be tolerated by the Chair. The honourable member will please remain silent.
-The facts of the matter are that industrial disputes have decreased in the first part of this year as compared with last year.
– Not in May.
-Yes-even in May. When one compares the first 5 months of this year with the corresponding period last year this is the result: The number of disputes is 1 1 per cent less; the number of workers involved is 40.9 per cent less; the number of working days lost is 68.7 per cent less; and the estimated loss of wages is 55.5 per cent less. How is that situation arrived at? How can honourable members opposite possibly suggest that that is an indication of some upsurge in industrial disputes? In fact, exactly the opposite of what the honourable gentleman said is correct. One can easily pick out a week or a day or a month, but I am talking about the first 5 months of this year as compared with exactly the same period last year. That would be the most recent comparison and the fairest to make. The honourable member for Corangamite said that when one speaks of industrial relations, one speaks about human relations. I commend him on having made that discovery but he should take it a step further. He should recognise that employees work in order to live. They do not live in order to work. There is a great distinction to be made.
-The honourable gentleman agrees with me. He would realise then that the purpose of earning a wage is to achieve something in life. When one talks about this Government and its attitude towards industrial relations, one must look at what has occurred for the employee and the quality of life that he enjoys. For example, his children are now entitled to a far greater degree of equality in educational opportunity. The youth in the employee’s family and even the employee himself is entitled to undertake some form of training which was not available previously. There is provision now whereby he and his family can have access to specialist medical attention which they did not always have previously. The Government is developing a manpower policy which the Government of honourable members opposite was never prepared even to undertake.
– You have to get jobs first.
– Let me say this to the honourable member for Corangamite: When you poke contempt at the Government’s wages policy, you ought to think whether you are really doing a service to yourself, your Party, this Parliament or the nation.
– I am saying you should stand up for -
– Order! I warn the honourable member for Corangamite.
-The honourable member ought to think very carefully about what he is doing. At this time there is a very great debate in the community about whether there should be wage indexation and whether guidelines should be maintained. Certainly employers are split and split very deeply on this issue. Some have been responsible enough to recognise that this Government’s initiative is in the national interest. All trade union organisations have now accepted wage indexation and as late as this week have accepted that there must be some guidelines, certainly reserving the right to debate what those guidelines should be, as does the Government. This is accepted by all trade union bodies, some employer bodies and every State government including those led by the Liberal Party and the National Country Party. It does not do members of the Opposition any credit to stand in this Parliament and to try to sneer away this very difficult situation on which so much depends.
This country needs a rational wages policy of which wage indexation is part. This Government should have the support of honourable members opposite. It is entitled to expect that as Australians they would give their unqualified support to the establishment of a rational wages policy in this country, and their unqualified support to achieve the success of wage indexation. Opposition members when in government could not develop a rational wages policy; they could not get anybody to listen to a concept because they had nothing to offer. But when this Government seeks to establish such a wages policy which will be just and fair to all sections of the community, honourable members opposite are seeking to destroy it at this very critical time- at the very time when the case has finished and judgment is awaited with interest and when the trade unions are arguing about whether or not they will accept indexation in its totality. Honourable members opposite are seeking to inflame a situation and I say to them that it does them little credit.
Wage indexation is part of a total scheme. The Prices Justification Tribunal is an important element in a wages and incomes policy in Australia. Workers will never accept that they have to justify their wage claims if the producers of goods and services are not required to justify the prices that they charge for them. But a Liberal-National Country Party government would abolish the Prices Justification Tribunal. It would shackle the unions. It would impose all the conditions outlined in its policy and at the same time allow the producers of goods and services to charge what they like. Does the Opposition seriously suggest that it is not inviting confrontation? The Opposition must remember that we live in a free society in which men are free. They cannot be coerced and they will not be coerced. If the Opposition attempts to impose that sort of policy, it knows and everybody else knows the sort of answer it is likely to receive.
Certainly this Government is entitled to expect that its policies will be given a fair chance. We are developing policies which are being implemented. We are not thinking up harebrained schemes to write down on pieces of paper in an irresponsible fashion knowing that nobody will ever have to take them seriously. Our policies have to be acceptable right across the board. I believe that they are being accepted. Our wages policy which the Opposition has attacked and continues to attack has the support of every State government, of every major trade union organisation and of the majority of employers in this country. Who stands out against it? It is the Opposition and a few employers who are attached to one employer organisation. Even an honourable member of this Parliament- a former Leader of the Opposition- acting in his professional capacity appeared on behalf of the Master Builders Association in support of this Government’s policies. I notice that the Opposition, has not got him here today to try to bolster up this ludicrous attack on the Government’s policies. I believe that this attack on the Government will be seen by the people of Australia for what it is, a cheap political stunt that does not deserve serious consideration.
-There are a number of things one would like to say in answer to what was said by the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Riordan). First of all, I state that he has certainly misrepresented the Opposition’s policy just as he has misrepresented the record of the Government. He mentioned the intervention by the Government in cases before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. One of the sad facts is that the Government has not used the power which it has to intervene. When it has intervened in such cases before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, it has promised a package which included tax measures and other economic management measures which can be taken by the Government. It has therefore committed itself to support the guidelines of the Commission but it has, in fact, failed to do so by the use of its fiscal, monetary and taxation powers. It is most important that if the Government intervenes m a national wage case or other general standards case, it has something to say and that it then acts in a way consistent with what it says, especially if the tribunal has taken up its recommendations as it did in the national wage case. The Minister also responded to the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) by saying that we had asserted that there were limits on our legislative capacity or the desirability of legislation in this area. Of course there are. Let me deal with what the Minister said about our alleged industrial sanctions policy. We do not highlight the sanctions policy because our order of emphasis is, properly, the dispute settling procedures, conciliation, arbitration and ultimately sanctions. It was very interesting to note that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, intervened when the Minister was speaking and suggested a form of sanctions for the misconduct in this debate. We know that sanctions are very much a fundamental part of human behaviour. But we also know that in the field of industrial relations- I wish to make this point quite clear- the Opposition is not advocating a form of legislation which in all possible circumstances binds the Industrial Court which is charged with the imposition of sanctions for breach of the award or agreement. We see- I also wish to make this point very clear- a fundamental obligation on both the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the Industrial Court to act in an industrial relations framework and not in a legal framework. We recognise that it is their obligation to prevent and settle industrial disputes. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to ensure that under any legislation of this Parliament the Industrial Court has an appropriate discretion. As the Minister well knows, there was a period when this was not so and there was mayhem as a result.
The whole idea of our policy on the question of industrial sanctions is for the Industrial Relations Bureau to present the Industrial Court with all the information relevant to a dispute then before the Court.. No Government can legislate in such a way as to bind the Court as to the way in which it should act. The Court is obliged to consider the past and future industrial relations between the parties. It has to have regard to the future relations between them. It has to consider the repercussions of imposing or not imposing sanctions. It is not for this Parliament to tell the Industrial Court what to do when it comes to that stage of proceedings. There is a community ambivalence, which the Minister has not fully recognised in his speech but which I am sure he understands to be the case, in regard to these matters. There are cases in which the community does expect sanctions to be applied. Equally, there are cases in which the imposition of sanctions aggravates industrial relations. It is up to the Court to decide when the imposition of sanctions would aggravate the position. It is important to recognise that whilst the public has a remarkable tolerance in regard to strike action, our policy recognises that strike action is a fact of life and that it is appropriate on occasions to draw attention to bad industrial relations.
We recognise that the Industrial Court must look behind the technical breach and must look to all the circumstances to see why strike action has been persisted with even if the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has been dealing with the dispute. It is important then that we have a policy which is capable of meeting the community’s expectations as well as satisfying the community’s tolerance. The Government may be prepared to have a situation in which there are no industrial sanctions, a situation which would harm the public interest. We are not prepared to have that situation. In our industrial policy, employment policies, wages policies, investment policies and government spending policies are all linked together. It is a matter of sound economic management. This has been well and truly traversed in the Budget debate. Constructive criticism has been coming from the Opposition. The Government cannot afford the embarrassing escalation of working days lost through industrial disputes. In 1972, man days lost through industrial disputes totalled 2 million. In 1974 the number of days lost through industrial disputes had increased to 6.3 million man days. Over 90 per cent of the days lost have been as a result of wage demands. Yet during that 2-year period until March 1975, average weekly male earnings rose by 47.7 per cent. Despite that, we have had great industrial unrest.
There is one other matter that should be mentioned in relation to the Minister’s allegations concerning our policy on secret ballots. The information which we have obtained shows that in 73 per cent of the 126 elections conducted by the Industrial Registrar for which details are available, more than 50 per cent of the ballot papers issued were returned. In 34 of those cases or 27 per cent of those elections, 50 per cent or less of the ballot papers were returned. So the existing law is not as harsh as it is painted by the Government. It has satisfied 73 per cent of elections conducted by the Industrial Registrar. It is important that it is recognised that an industrial relations framework requires sound economic management. I suggest that anyone seriously interested in the question of industrial relations pick up a copy of the Opposition’s program and does not merely accept the Minister’s interpretation of our industrial relations policy as being an accurate one. It will be seen that we have the most positive and detailed programs which would accompany our economic management programs.
For example, we will be encouraging the mobility of employees, recognising the most important principle of the portability of benefits. We will make a systematic attack on the employment position, recognising the need for generous contributions to those who wish to work and cannot find employment, and taking a tougher attitude towards those who are able to work but are not prepared to do so. We have a 5-point program aimed at improving access to job information. Even the poor beleaguered clothing industry at present has a number of positions unfilled for which nobody is applying. We will vigorously implement training and retraining schemes. We all know the anomalies and injustices which have stemmed from the famous National Employment and Training scheme. The Minister avoids the fact that the NEAT scheme contains other forms of discrimination which the Government is pledged to remove. The NEAT scheme is especially discriminatory against married women. This is something which we certainly would not tolerate in any of our programs. We have programs to provide government assistance for relocation, assistance with housing and the introduction of relief work. We have a most detailed program which, if the Minister cared to consider it dispassionately, would make a great improvement to the existing policy or shambles of policies of the Government.
In addition- and quite apart from what may appear to be sloganeering- we have a great deal of detail worked out in terms of major programs for the creation of equal opportunities for work, for removing discrimination in employment, but not by legislation tampering with decisions of the Commission, for training and retraining and for union and management training. We have supported most enthusiastically the trade union training programs and we wish to have extensive corresponding management training programs. We too have well thought out programs for manpower planning, job restructuring, productivity improvement, and in plant, communication, and machinery, advice to people about improved practices elsewhere and improved industrial safety. One could go on and on. This is a most positive policy and in marked contrast to the Government’s policy and practice.
-In this debate, which concerns the Government’s supposed demonstrated inability to deal with the problems of industrial relations, the Opposition has been resorting to statistics on industrial disputes and on unemployment. I wish to say a bit about those statistics. I refer firstly to industrial disputes. Reference has been made by the previous speaker, the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee), and also by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) to the escalation of the number of industrial disputes. If they look at the figures for the 5 months to May of this year, which are the latest figures available, they would find that the number of working days lost is about one-third of the number of working days lost in the previous year. Admittedly the figure was rather higher in 1974. It is also true that the loss of working days in the first 5 months of 1975 is running at a lower rate than it was in 1 97 1 when the Opposition was in government. In that respect I think it is difficult to find from the figures on industrial disputes and on the number of working days lost any particular demonstrated inability of the Government to deal with the problems of industrial relations or at least an inability greater , than the Opposition displayed when it was in government.
Figures of up to 300 000 persons have been thrown around in regard to unemployment.! say once again, as I have said in previous debates in this House, particularly this year, that we should really be looking at the 2 sets of figures that are available for unemployment, paying much greater attention to the figure from the Bureau of Statistics than we do to the figures from the Department of Labor and Immigration which are collected through the Commonwealth Employment Service. The fact is that the number of unemployed which we get from the collation of figures from the Commonwealth Employment Service is substantially in excess of what the Commonwealth Statistician finds when his officers knock on doors and do their quarterly sampling. In May of this year, which is the last period for which we have figures from the Bureau of Statistics, the number of unemployed who were looking for full time work was 192 000 persons. For that same month the CES showed a figure of 248 064 persons. In other words there is a discrepancy of well over 50 000. In fact one would assume that the figures from the Bureau of Statistics would be higher because they would pick up not only those people who are registered with the CES but also those people who are unemployed but have not bothered to register.
The sampling taken by the Bureau of Statistics is to internationally accepted standards and conforms with the International Labour Organisation ‘s Statisticians’ convention for the measurement of unemployment. Yet the Bureau of Statistics figure, this internationally accepted figure, is substantially less- some 50 000 or 60 000 less and it has been in February and May again of this year- than the figures collected by the CES. I do not have time to go into great detail as to why that is so, but there are reasons one can dig up. I am not suggesting that the CES figures are a rort in any way. They measure, undoubtedly, the people who say they are unemployed at the time. Whether they really are is a different question. I do not have time to develop that further but the fact is that the actual number of unemployed on an internationally accepted basis is substantially less than the figure we are getting from the CES at the moment, and this has been so, well back into the time when the Opposition was in government.
The industrial disputes during this year and last year, and indeed in most years, have been mainly related to wages. Of course the Government’s major initiative in this area has been wage indexation. It has gone into the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and supported wage indexation. It is natural and understandable that at a time of rapid inflation there would be an exacerbation of industrial disputes related to wages because wage earners, like everyone else, are hurt by inflation. The Government’s answer has been to try to say to wage earners: ‘Look, we can assist you by pursuing a course through the Arbitration Commission to try to get that body to accept a system of adjustment of wages quarterly in line with price increases so that your real wage levels will be maintained’. Indeed, that accords with trade union policy. For 22 years the trade union movement tried to get the system of quarterly adjustments restored. It operated for 30 years until 1953 when it was abolished. The trade union movement has wanted the system restored ever since. Admittedly the system then operated slightly differently from the present system, but it was in essence wage indexation. It was an adjustment for increases in the cost of living. This system has now been introduced and we hope it will be continued by the Arbitration Commission. It is now being supported by the Opposition, judging by the speech of the Leader of” the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in the Budget debate.
It is true, of course, that there are problems with wage indexation at the moment. Some unions are pressing for wage increases outside indexation guidelines. I think it is interesting to look at the reasons for that. There are some misconceptions about the real meaning of wage indexation. I saw a report in one trade union journal recently saying that a union supported wage indexation but also wanted cost of living adjustments. The union concerned was a fairly small union; I do not think it is a typical misconception. I think there is a lack of understanding in some areas of the trade union movement about what indexation really means.
There is also a very genuine and substantial concern about over-award payments by some trade unions- indeed all those unions which have members who receive substantial overaward payments. As the system stands at the moment the adjustment which would take place with indexation would apply only to the award rate. This must mean that every time there is no increase in the over-award segment of wages the whole wage will not be keeping pace with inflation. Of course the unions will make claims for wage increases outside the indexation increases so that over-award payments will keep pace with inflation too. The Government is trying to overcome this aspect to reduce the amount of industrial disputation in this area by saying to the Arbitration Commission that it should devise a method of applying wage indexation to overaward payments as well as to award payments. Of course there are some technical difficulties in that and we will see in the next week or so whether the Arbitration Commission is of a mind to do that and, if so, whether it can do so feasibly.
There is also undoubtedly some action by trade unions to get bigger pay increases to increase their share of the cake. I think it is this part of trade union activity which is of the greatest concern to this Government. There has been a very substantial shift from capital to labour in the share of the national cake and any greater movement at this stage would have a very adverse effect on employment. The Government has taken some action to make sure that the indexation guidelines are not breached. It has intervened in disputes and the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Riordan), who is at the table, has indicated the limitations on the Government’s ability to do too much in this area. The Government also said- and I do not think enough publicity is being given to this fact- to the Arbitration Commission that it would say before the Prices Justification Tribunal that the Tribunal should not pass on or use as the basis for a price increase a wage increase which is in excess of the guidelines. This seems to me to be an extraordinarily sensible way in which to use the Prices Justification Tribunal.
If wage earners and employers, when they negotiate about a wage increase, know that an increase beyond the guidelines cannot be passed on in the form of higher prices but has to come out of profits then the employer will know that his profits will be dented to the extent that he exceeds the guideline, and that will be an inhibition on him, and the unionists will know that if they go too far they will certainly damage their employment prospects. So I think the use of the
Prices Justification Tribunal in this way is something which the Government should pursue more. I would like to see the Government give the Tribunal a lot more publicity and possibly amend the Act to include this element in it.
Of course, Opposition members could not do this if they were in Government because they object to the use of the PJT and would abolish it altogether. Instead, as the Minister has mentioned, the Opposition has a system of restoring the penal clauses. We would have the third arm, as the Opposition calls it, the industrial relations bureau which would be established as an extension of the arbitration inspectorate and which would finish up taking cases to the Industrial Court. The eventual consequences, as it was so delightfully put in the POliCy and used by the Leader of the Opposition, would be eventually fines and imprisonment. So we would be back to the delightful days of 1969, the days of confrontation that we had then. Finally, I should like to draw attention to the marvellous dichotomy of attitude of the Opposition as between employer investment strikes and employee strikes. If the -
- (Mr Keith Johnson)- Order! The Honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is concluded. I call on Government Business.
– You have concluded discussions on the matter of public importance?
– I did not see anybody rise.
– I did stand.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the business of the day be called on.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That notice No. 1 and order of the day No. 1 , Government business, be postponed until the next sitting.
Consideration resumed from 4 September.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clauses 8 and 9- by leave- taken together and agreed to.
– I move:
In sub-clause ( 1 ) omit ‘ a particular importer in ‘.
In sub-clause (1) omit ‘that importer’, substitute ‘an importer’.
Actually I think that the amendments are selfexplanatory. As I indicated in my second reading speech, the Bill was left for consideration for some 2 months and representations were made to me by those interested in it. These 2 amendments are the consequence of suggestions made in the view of those who wanted to improve the clause. I ask the Committee to accept the amendments.
-The Opposition agrees that the amendments circulated by the Minister for Overseas Trade improve the clause. Subject to our general opposition to the Bill the Opposition raises no specific objection to the amendments.
-I think it is a great pity that this debate on this Bill was gagged on Thursday night by the Government with only 2 speakers from the Opposition able to speak.
– Order! The Committee stage of the debate was not gagged. It was a matter of the standing order of the House requiring that it be reported, I think at 10.30 p.m.’ It was not gagged.
– The second reading stage was gagged.
– This is the Committee stage.
– It is necessary therefore for the Opposition today to speak at some length on the various clauses in the Committee stages. Clause 8, which cannot be discussed in isolation from clause 10, sets out what the Corporation may do and describes the powers of the Corporation which I think anyone would agree are extremely wide. Clause 8, having said that the Corporation can do all the things listed in the Bill, clause 10 then imposes certain restrictions. I agree that the amendments which the Minister for Overseas Trade has introduced are an improvement to the original clause. The impact of clause 10 however is to outline the purpose of the proposed Corporation with regard to the private sector. One would gather from reading it, that the purpose of the clause is not to assist private businesses to expand operations but rather to abandon and restrict them.
Even as amended clause 10 is a contradictory sort of clause. It starts upon the basis that the Corporation shall not compete against existing enterprises, in tacit acknowledgement of its superior resources and privileged position over the private sector. It then lists an extensive series of exceptions, the effect of which is to negate the non-competition rule. The widest and most offensive part of the clause is paragraph (a) which defines the exception relating to it as being ‘necessary’ to compete by reason of time and quantity. This sub-paragraph jeopardises the entire basis of the Bill, which is ostensibly to assist small manufacturers and processors into the export industry. This exception states that where a manufacturer or processor is unable to meet time or quantity requirements- and it is probably a small manufacturer who would be in this position and who certainly would be in need of the assistance which the Corporation is supposed to give- the Corporation is specifically empowered to come in and compete with that business.
I note that paragraph (b) says if the importer prefers to deal with the Corporation, rather than with the exporter, again the Corporation can take over. It is quite possible that a communist government in the Eastern Bloc would prefer to deal with another government in another country rather than deal with a private firm. I think this clause will disadvantage the private sector. I am not happy with clause 10, the same as I am not happy with much of the Bill. I do not think that the private importer or exporter is given proper protection. I think that actually the effect of the Bill will be almost to socialise or nationalise the import-export trade. I think it will be a great pity if this Bill is passed. It should be rejected.
– I do not wish to take very long to make a point about clause 10. 1 should perhaps repeat what I said the other night, that this Australian Overseas Trading Corporation in the opinion of the Opposition is not necessary. But if one looks at clause 10 one sees a conflict between its wording and the statement by the Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr Crean) in his second reading speech. In the roneoed copy of that speech at page 7 he states:
The safeguards written into the Bill for the private sector are quite explicit. The Corporation would not be empowered to export goods to a market where commercial trading houses had an established and continuing trade in those goods to that market.
It is important to stress that the Minister said that the Corporation would not be empowered to export goods to a market where commercial trading houses had an established and continuing trade in those goods to that market. But that is not the wording of clause 10, which refers to a particular importer in another country. That does not mean market. It refers to goods of that kind to that importer in that country. There is no reason why the Australian Overseas Trading Corporation could not use another importer. The Minister may have an explanation for this but most genuinely I cannot see that clause 10, as worded, conforms with what the Minister said in his second reading speech.
Also, if one looks at the exceptions to those general provisions one sees in clause 10. ( 1) (b) that this shall be the case unless the importer in that other country prefers to deal with the Corporation rather than with a private commercial dealer. I would think that this means that it would not be difficult for the Overseas Trading Corporation to persuade an importer in another country, whether the same or a different importer, that it would be beneficial to the importer to deal with the Corporation rather than with a private commercial house in Australia and therefore he could come within the exception contemplated in clause 10. If my understanding of those words is correct it really makes a mockery of the so-called safeguards to which the Minister referred in his second reading speech. If that is a safeguard it is a strange way of providing the safeguard which the various export and trade organisations who saw the Minister thought they were obtaining when they got undertakings from the Minister and his departmental officers.
The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) in his address at the second reading stage of the Bill, said that the Australian Manufacturers Export Council, the Australian
Chambers of Commerce and the Heavy Engineering Manufacturers Association were in agreement with the Bill. Indeed, in the Minister’s second reading speech the Minister also implied that that was so. He certainly mentioned that consultations had occurred. It is a fact that the Australian Manufacturers Export Council and the Australian Chambers of Commerce are opposed to the Bill. It is a fact that the Heavy Engineering Manufacturers Association favours the Bill. It has reasons for doing so. It is quite explicable in the nature of its industry. But I still do not believe on balance, when we weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the Bill, that it is justified to make life a little easier for one section of industry rather than considering the wellbeing of industry overall and the necessity to provide this form of assistance when commercial trading houses are established and able to look after all levels of business in Australia. It is a fact, contrary to what the Minister has said, that Australian business houses do trade with centrally planned economies, and representatives of centrally planned economies are quite content to deal with someone who knows what he is talking about. With due respect to public servants, they cannot be as knowledgeable- persons to be employed by the Australian Overseas Trading Corporation cannot be as knowledgeable- as those who are in commerce for their livelihood and who have the experience which Australian and the other commercial houses operating in, to and through Australia have.
It is so important that we do not set up at great cost to the taxpayer at this time when we are all told that we should be saving money, yet another organisation which does not even on the face of the Bill do what is claimed for it. The exception to which I have referred contained in clause 10(1) (b) should be read in conjunction with clause 8 ( 1 ) (a) on which we chose not to speak and which is concerned about the importing of goods. If that is coupled with the power to act as principal, the power to acquire ownership of goods, to import and to export, one sees that the Bill does not provide safeguards for industry at all.
I think that industry and all who are concerned with the costs of establishing this body and the types of powers it will have are entitled to an explanation of whether this is just another example of meddling. I know that the Minister will say that in clause 10 (3) there is a provision for administrative appeals. The Minister also mentioned this in his second reading speech. One wonders whose brilliant idea this really was. Are traders now, having had imposed upon them a trading corporation which they do not want, to employ additional staff to watch the activities of the Overseas Trading Corporation to see whether they come within the fairly generous exceptions to the general statement on so-called safeguards? Are they now to watch everything the Corporation does and to start to lodge appeals to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal? This legislation is in every way a most undesirable and unnecessary imposition on the Australian public.
– I shall take only two or three minutes of the Committee’s time. I suggest that the amendments proposed by the Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr Crean) on behalf of the Government tend to fix up quite a deal that was wrong with clause 10, and that ought to be appreciated. I know that the amendments proposed omit reference to a particular importer and effectively substitute other words in another concept. I do not believe it is any substitute to say that once a market is established for a particular operator the Corporation is to be prohibited from operating in that market altogether. Some criticisms of this clause are that it comes dangeroulsy close to the situation where those who would object might seek to obtain, to have and to keep monopoly rights into and out of a particular market. I do not believe that would be acceptable to any fair minded person. I ask the Minister a question relating to the word ‘ knows ‘ in the first line of clause 10, which states:
Where the Board knows that a person is carrying on an established and continuing business … the Corporation shall not arrange - to have activity in that market unless a certain set of conditions is satisfied. My query to the Minister is: What is the test of knowledge? I appreciate that in certain of the taxation laws the Commissioner of Taxation is allowed to undertake certain action if he thinks that a certain set of circumstances operates. But what is the test of knowing? In these circumstances knowledge could be legitimately assumed of a particular set of circumstances. The Board could operate in that market and nobody would have any way of saying: ‘There was available to the Board a reasonable knowledge that a set of circumstances existed there’.
It is a very difficult question and proposition. While I concede immediately that the amendments that the Minister has proposed attempt to go a long way to meeting the objections to this clause, I should be anxious to hear from the Minister what he considers to be the test of knowledge on which the Board’s operations or lack of operations could depend. It is quite crucial to this clause. It certainly determines the list of exceptions which allow the Board’s operations be conducted, as specified in clause 10. (1) (a) to (d). But it is the test of knowledge and how it is to be determined, what it is and the way it could be subsequently checked by a body competing with the Board’s activities that lies at the heart of a lot of this proposed legislation.
-Let me say briefly that I overlooked that one of the amendments moved by the Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr Crean) which seeks to remove the words ‘a particular importer’. While.that certainly cures part of what I am referring to, it does not answer my remarks in respect of clause 10(l)(b).
- Mr Chairman, I will reply briefly. I wish my friend from Balaclava (Mr Macphee) had continued reading. He chose one excerpt, but he did not go on to say:
It is not intended that the Australian Overseas Trading Corporation would enjoy, as a Government agency, any exclusive or preferred position in trading, nor would it seek to cut across or interfere with existing trade patterns or associations developed by Australian trading houses. It would concentrate on the generation of new business.
I repeat that assurance. I think my friend from Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) has well pointed out that if paragraph (b) of sub-clause ( 1 ) were not there in essence the legislation virtually would be conferring monopoly powers on anybody who happened to be engaged in these activities already, which is not necessarily fair.
The honourable member for Lilley has now left the chamber. I was going to explain the meaning of the word ‘know’ to him, but he seems to have disappeared. He asked how we would know. One thing that we do know at the moment is that, apart from trade in wheat and wool, in the sort of area that we are talking about trade is virtually nil. With all respect to those who defend private enterprise, it seems to me that private enterprise has not been very enterprising in these areas. There are some rather good reasons why it is not easy, either, to be enterprising in countries which have different kinds of economies. For our part, we still assert here- I get representations from the centrally planned economies- that trading in Australia is on a private person to private person basis as far as possible. Nevertheless, the trading patterns of those countries are different. It is our belief in bringing forward a measure of this type that we are missing out because of that fact. That is what I would have hoped might have been the attitude adopted rather than what seems to me to be a fairly obscurantist attitude about trade generally, ignoring that the kinds of areas that this legislation is specified to cover are countries with which we virtually do not trade at all. It is not as though we are taking anything away. Where Australian trade has been successfully generated, we are prepared not to interfere. We would even encourage that trade and perhaps assist it to get better.
The point was made about Government officials now knowing as much as commercial operators about activities in this area. Well, we are not proposing to staff the Australian Overseas Trading Commission with public servants. At least I am interested in the wide variety of people who have indicated interest in joining this organisation. Unfortunately, because of the economic moves and so on, we will not be able to take many of them. But I assure the Committee that there are very many good applicants who come from that field of private enterprise.
My friend from Lilley is back. I say to him that our knowledge arises from our trade commissioner services that already exist and from the kind of information that we have built up within the Department of Manufacturing Industry which, I think, is praised by industry in Australia. We can almost tell any potential importer or exporter at very short notice with what types of firms both inside and outside Australia they, in their respective activities, are likely to be able to trade. We obtain information from my own Department, the Department of Overseas Trade. We have a network now, as honourable members know, of very efficient trade commissioners around the world. Items cannot be imported into or exported from Australia without there being some sort of recording arrangements at the level of customs and excise. I mention also the Export Finance Insurance Corporation which maintains contact. In many cases insurance is sought for these transactions. Whilst knowledge in that sense is not always specific, I think it is broad enough to be better than just generality.
– Is not the present set-up adequate in terms of our requirements?
-No. The present set-up is not adequate if one looks at the very small amount of trading that we have with these areas as against the potential that exists. If we take out the commodities, wheat and wool in particular, which are traded- the Australian Wheat Board and the Australian Wool Board are Government agencies which assist in those sales- trade by Australia with approximately one third of the world’s population is negligible. I would have hoped that members of the Opposition might have taken a wider view of this legislation than they have. I can understand the defence of commercial groups, industrial groups and so on. But I think it can be said quite categorically that they have not been very successful in securing trade in these areas.
Our belief, with which presumably the Opposition differs, is that our trade will be assisted by an organisation such as the Australian Overseas Trading Corporation. Other countries have similar organisations. The United States of America, for instance, has all sorts of devices to assist its so-called private enterprises in its trading with these countries. Europe, unfortunately, at the moment is beginning to form itself into a bloc. In sheer self defence, I believe that Australia has to begin to do the same sort of thing. It is in this light that legislation such as this must be brought down. If Opposition members are dedicated to opposing it, knowing the curious combination of numbers they can introduce in another place, I suppose that that is the end of it. But I would have hoped that at least this legislation would have been regarded as an honest attempt, and not as an insidious device to impose, as somebody said, socialism by stealth, or near enough to it.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 1 1 agreed to.
Sub-section (1) does not prevent the Corporation from-
– I move:
Omit paragraph (c).
I have proposed this amendment in response to representations concerning the Bill.
-I wonder whether the Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr Crean) could explain the purpose of clause 12, sub-clause (2), paragraph (a). Clause 12 reads:
Sub-section (1) does not prevent the Corporation from-
I am sure that, in the light of his comments on the last amendments, the Minister has a purpose behind this provision. I would very much like to hear what the Minister envisages happening. What does strike one from the comment by the Minister on clause 10 is that he is talking of a belief. He said ‘our belief ‘. Well, with respect to the Government’s belief, there is no talk of a feasibility study. The Minister quite rightly pointed out in his remarks on the last amendments that the preponderance of our very small trade with the Middle East and the centrally planned economies is in bulk commodities. But the Minister would be aware, from export award presentations and from the statistics, that a great number of very small manufacturing companies are penetrating these markets, in their opinion as fast as it is commercially feasible to do so. Can the Minister explain whether anything resembling a feasibility study has been carried out or whether it is just a statement of belief by the Government that there ought to be a potential there and whether clause 12 (2) (a) is in some way related to that?
The Minister has said before- I was critical of this assertion last Thursday when this matter was debated- that part of the Corporation’s functions would be to assist small business. That seems rather strange, as small business has in many respects an ample market here and can use existing trading houses. One wonders whether clause 12 (2) (a) would be one of the ways in which small business might be commissioned to do certain things. I do not know. The Minister may be able to throw some light upon it.
I would like to raise another matter with the Minister. In his second reading speach he spoke about the possibility of barter. I doubt whether he seriously sees very much barter trading being carried on. He referred to different methods of trading. Does he seriously envisage that the Overseas Trading Corporation would be involved in barter trade? If so, in those circumstances how would the tariff be applied? How could the value for duty of an import be measured in terms of barter instead of the current method of valuation? The other point of a general nature is that again the means of introducing small business to the markets which we have not penetrated exist through the Trade
Commissioner Service of the Department. I believe that more than just a statement of belief is necessary. I would be interested to hear what the Minister has to say about a feasibility study.
– In the course of my second reading speach I referred to the fact and I accept the point that in many respects some small companies have been far more enterprising internationally than have some large companies. In some areas a single small company can be at a disadvantage in that it may be able to supply only a limited quantity of certain goods that may be required in larger numbers. The Overseas Trading Corporation will not make the goods but will order the goods from companies which can manufacture them. By its existence in the Overseas Trading Corporation the Government can make contact with some of the centrally planned systems which indicate the need for certain kinds of goods and services which Australia is capable of producing but a total run of which perhaps one firm alone is incapable of satisfying. That is the kind of logic that has been used. The Corporation will not make the goods but will commission others to make them. It will not go to company B to make goods if company A exists and has an order for them. That is an example of the intention of the legislation. All I ask is that this legislation be accepted in good faith.
I believe that in the next 10 years international trade will not be as easy to obtain as it has been, and Australia will need to expand its total trade. The Government sees this sort of organisation as an arm to help. I accept the praise which the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee) gave to the existing Department of Overseas Trade and its arrangements. The Opposition does not seem to be terrified by it, so why is it suspicious about this new arm of the Department which the Government believes is now necessary to trade in those areas in which we are not trading as successfully as we might be and where we believe there is potential? We want to utilise the capacity of industry in Australia in order to do this. Small firms are often disadvantaged. They do not have translators or facilities with bankers overseas which some of the bigger concerns may have. I hope that we will be fostering this trade and not in any way interfering with what is already being done. That is the best explanation I can give and I ask the Opposition to believe that the Government is honest in its intent.
-I should like to ask the Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr
Crean) a follow up question on that point. One reason why the Opposition clearly prefers the Trade Commissioner Service is that it has a function to provide data and make introductions, and that is where it stops.
– It does not trade itself.
– That is right, it does not I do not for one minute attribute this motivation to the Minister, but taking it literally- unless I am wrong- clause 12 (2) (a) theoretically would enable the Overseas Trading Corporation to arrange for the production or manufacture of goods by manufacturers in other countries for import into Australia because of the import powers given to the Corporation by other parts of the Bill. It is when one sees this combination of powers that one asks whether it is commercially necessary. The Minister has mentioned small companies. I can think of a brand of soft drink in Australia, for example, which is not by any means the most prominent brand of soft drink, but which has penetrated the Middle Eastern market quite well on its own initiative but through introductions by the Department of Overseas Trade and the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. Means of introduction exist. I think that this is the reason why industry feels that expenditure on the establishment of yet another body at this time is not necessary. The Minister may care to comment on that possible interpretation. Whilst in practice there would be a hue and cry which would make the position politically untenable and probably no Australian government would want to use it, on the face of it it stands as a possible threat to local manufacture.
– Again I can only give the assurance that that is not the intent. Insofar as one can rely on legal opinions, the advice of the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) is that that is not the intent. That is the only defence I can use. I have tried to explain that the Overseas Trading Corporation does not intend to make the goods. It will arrange for the production or manufacture by other persons for the purpose of the Corporation’s overseas trade. That seems to me not to suggest that the Corporation will import goods that it has asked to be made in other countries.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 1 3 (Transactions in national interest).
-I am a little concerned about clause 13 mainly because of the very great power and discretion which I think it gives to the Minister for Overseas Trade. The clause states that where a transaction may not be in accordance with sound commercial principles the Overseas Trading Corporation may nonetheless be directed by the Minister, where he is of the opinion that it is in the national interest, to engage in a certain type of trade. This clause could allow political considerations to be treated with a higher priority by the Corporation than perhaps basic commercial considerations. This is a fundamental flaw in the Overseas Trading Corporation Bill. I do not believe that it is viable or wise to surrender our national bread and butter trade flow to political and executive negotiation with some other country. This clause leaves totally undefined all important and controversial areas of operation which fall within the concept of national interest. It does not explain exactly what is meant by national interest. The clause concerns me for those reasons.
– I have the same concern as my colleague the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman). The Minister for Overseas Trade said in his second reading speech:
If it -
That is the Corporation- considers a transaction to be in the national interest by reason of its size or potential, but not commercially attractive, it may request the government to permit it to undertake the deal. If the government agrees, it will reimburse the Corporation for any losses that may be sustained.
I wonder whether the Minister can illustrate what sort of transaction he has in mind. It was not very long ago that this Parliament considered so-called national interest provisions in another Bill, the Australian Government Insurance Corporation Bill. We had problems then with the breadth of the wording. In this Bill, although the problems are not so extreme, there are difficulties in understanding how this clause is intended to be used. If the Minister can give an illustration, it may show that some of our fears are groundless. I cannot think of a transaction- apart from those to do with foreign aid, which is quite a separate question- which would fit into the description in the Minister’s speech or into the actual clause itself. If the size and potential of a transaction are not commercially attractive, one wonders how the transaction can be in the national interest. The Minister may be able to give an example of such a transaction, but I suspect that we are getting back into the foreign aid area, in which case I think the matter could have been dealt with rather differently.
If it means simply the general proposition that we are not dealing enough with centrally planned economics, one comes back to the part of the Minister’s speech where he spoke about the growing trend towards governmenttogovernment arrangements. Perhaps that is what the Minister intends to be covered by clause 13. Although there is a growing trend, and that is undeniable, there is no screaming necessity for it. One wonders why we need to add to the trend when there is still no evidence of a feasibility study having been conducted. We only have an assertion that government-to-government dealings are on the increase but no assertion that governments will deal only with governments. I repeat that there are commercial counsellors and others in Australia from centrally planned economies who agree that they are more interested in dealing with people who are really knowledgeable. Whilst they are accustomed to dealing with governments, there are many examples of Australian industry dealing with centrally planned economies.
I would be grateful if the Minister would illustrate just what sort of transactions are contemplated as being so much in the national interest yet not commercially attractive enough for the entrepreneur.
– I join my colleagues the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) and the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee) in expressing some opinion on this clause which relates to transactions which are said to be in the national interest, that is, transactions which are not in accordance with sound commercial principles under which the Australian Overseas Trading Corporation is directed to operate. The provisions in clause 13 make commercial accountability of the Corporation quite meaningless. The clause is wide enough to permit the Corporation, at the Minister’s direction, to engage in any transaction. This is one of the features in this legislation with which we in the Opposition are not happy. Why bring in all these unnecessary powers if they are not going to be used? This clause makes a mockery of all the other provisions of the Bill which purport to impose qualifications on the powers of the Corporation. In effect, it permits the Corporation to import into Australia goods already manufactured in Australia.
– I thought we were discussing clause 13 dealing with national interests. I think the honourable member for Deakin (Mr
Jarman) and the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee) at least dealt with clause 13. I am not too sure whether the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) did. If anybody could give me a definition of national interest in simple terms, I would be very interested to have it. We have sought in quite a number of Acts in this Parliament, Acts brought down by previous governments, to indicate that sometimes things may be required to be done in the national interest. Such a provision as is contained in clause 13 is already in legislation relating to the Export Finance Insurance Corporation, formerly the Export Payments Insurance Corporation. A similar general power is provided in the Australian Wheat Board legislation.
There are many instances, as I am sure the honourable member for Paterson would know, when wheat has been sold on non-commercial terms. I repeat that we have sold wheat in these conditions because of the mechanism of the Wheat Board. There well may be other sorts of transactions in other than wheat which are of a long term or development basis where it would be to Australia’s advantage to sell the thing, a capital project of some kind, but where on normal terms it would not be commercial. In such an instance the Australian Overseas Trading Corporation would come to its Minister as the Wheat Board now comes to the Minister for Agriculture or the Treasurer- I am not quite sure still whose final responsibility it is- in respect of the Export Finance Insurance Corporation. I did and still do get requests, let us say, for a transaction with Indonesia where interest is being sought at a lower rate than the normal rate. There have been one or two instances when we have complied.
All we are suggesting is that when the AOTC works, as I would hope it will work, there will be instances of perhaps longer term development and capital projects where it will still be a sensible and viable thing for Australia to do the business but where there may have to be some concessional rate of interest or some accommodation about the terms of payment. I must say I find it rather curious that wheat, which is a product reasonably quickly consumed, should be sold on long term credit at all. The Wheat Board would like not to do it, but there have been occasions when it has been prudent for it, if we were to sell it at all, to sell it on long term credit. One country recently bought in desperation when the price was high and when the price subsequently fell and it had not taken delivery of all its wheat it wanted to renegotiate at the lower price. As the honourable member for Balaclava said, in the finish this is a matter relating to our foreign aid or foreign exchange assistance rather than trade. Nevertheless in certain circumstances such transactions could make trade flow.
All we say is that there may be instances of transactions such as those referred to in the clause. The matter has to come to the Minister via the Corporation itself. The Minister does not intervene directly, but if the Corporation believes that a transaction in the long run would have some economic viability but that in one sense there are certain non-commercial aspects that have to be looked at, it comes to the Minister, and if after consideration the Minister says yes, then the Corporation is reimbursed for any subsidy or potential loss that might be involved. That is the nature of the clause. I would hope that I have explained the position by using wheat as an example. Wheat has been the subject of trade with some centrally planned economies, but the Wheat Board, which has been responsible for these sales, cannot sell other than wheat. The Australian Overseas Trading Corporation might be able to do similar sorts of transactions, say, in capital goods, machinery and so on.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 14 and 15- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
The Australian Overseas Trading Corporation shall consist of-
The Chairman, the Deputy Chairman and the Directors referred to in paragraph (1) (e) shall be appointed by the Governor-General and shall be so appointed as parttime Directors.
– I move:
After sub-clause (2) insert the following sub-clause: ‘(2a) A person shall not be appointed as a Director unless he appears to the Governor-General to be qualified for appointment by virtue of his knowledge of, or experience in, industry, commerce, public administration, finance or industrial matters. ‘.
This amendment is to enable as broad a classification as is possible of people who serve as directors on the Corporation. I hope that this will be seen as an improvement to the efficiency of the Corporation.
-Once again, subject to our general opposition to this Bill, the Opposition agrees with the Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr Crean) that the amendment improves the clause.
-This clause provides for the membership of the Board of the Corporation. It is a procedural clause which gives no detail whatever about the exact composition of the Board. The amendment which the Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr Crean) has just moved and to which I am sure the Opposition has no objection does perhaps tend to lay down some sort of qualifications that members of the Board should have. However, the clause gives no precise description of the nature of the Board and because it does not provide a guarantee of representation from the private sector on the Board I think it is an unsatisfactory clause. It should spell out the numbers of people who are to be on the Board and whether private enterprise is to be represented.
– Have you read the early part of clause 16 in which the members are defined- a chairman, a deputy chairman, a managing director, a deputy managing director and 6 other directors?
– The Minister is correct. The amendment does cover matters I was raising, but it does not clearly spell out representation of the private sector.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 17 to 36- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Subject to section 13, in the performance of its function and in the conduct of its business, the Corporation shall pursue a policy directed towards securing, in each financial year, revenues sufficient-
– I move:
After ‘the Corporation’ insert ‘ shall act in accordance with sound commercial principles and’.
I am sure that again the Opposition would think that this amendment is an improvement to the clause.
-The Opposition does think that the amendment improves the clause. We are always pleased to see legislation establishing Government business corporations stating that sound commercial principles should be observed. Subject once again to our objection to the Bill, we think an improvement is brought about by the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of the Bill- by leave- taken as a whole.
-I direct the attention of the Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr Crean) to clause 41 which deals with the guarantee. It is couched in language which is found in other legislation establishing government corporations. While it purports to give a guarantee by the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia in respect of debts due by the Corporation it does not in any way authorise a creditor or other person claiming against the Corporation to sue Australia in respect of his claim. Would the Minister be kind enough for my guidance and perhaps the guidance of the Committee to explain the basis of what I see as a limited guarantee?
– My understanding is that it is a standard enough clause in this type of legislation. There is a similar clause in the legislation setting up the Australian National Line and in many other pieces of legislation. The clause states that the Government shall stand behind the Corporation. I guess that it is thought that this ought to be good enough rather than to allow every individual creditor whose transaction was not with Australia but with the Corporation to sue Australia in respect of his claim. I would have thought that this was a normal commercially prudent thing to do. If one cannot get satisfaction from the Corporation, Australia guarantees the debt and I would not have thought that we would want any suing power against Australia. I will endeavour to get an explanation for the honourable member and if he is not satisfied with it the matter can be raised in the other place. I am not a lawyer but I have seen this clause before and it seems to me to be a standard one.
A note just handed to me is to the the effect that it is a standard legal clause to prevent the Australian Government as opposed to the Corporation being involved in litigation. This would seem to me to be sensible enough, even on the part of the potential litigant who would know in advance what the situation was.
Remainder of the Bill agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Motion (by Mr Crean)- by leave- proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 27 August, on motion by Mr Whitlam:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Tasman Bridge Restoration Bill (No. 2) is a relatively small Bill but an important one. The purpose of the Bill is to modify an agreement that has already been arranged between this Government and the Tasmanian Government relating to a modification of the Tasman Bridge on the Derwent River at Hobart to be carried out concurrendy with restoration of that bridge. The Bill provides authority for the Commission to add a fifth lane to the Tasman Bridge whilst at the same time reconstructing the broken sections of that bridge.
The House will recall that the first Bill on this matter came into the Parliament on 10 April and was assented to on 19 May this year. The House will also recall that the reason for both of these Bills was the collision of the Lake Illawarra with the Tasman Bridge in January of this year when 3 spans of the bridge collapsed. It was a tragic event and it caused the loss of lives of at least 12 known persons, including some of the members of the crew of the Lake Illawarra and a number of people in cars who unfortunately went over the end of the broken section. This event has certainly disrupted the life of the city of Hobart, there being some 50 000 people living on the eastern shore who feel quite inconvenienced through the lack of the use of this bridge. There are people who live on one side of the city and who work on the other and pupils going to school whose life has been disrupted. It is claimed that the life of the people on the eastern shore of the river is broken as a result of the collapse of this bridge. I understand that these people have a 51 -mile trek now through Risdon and Bridgewater around to Hobart on a road which apparently is not designed to carry the sort of traffic it is expected to carry now. There is a very telling article in the Australian of May this year in connection with this matter and I should like to read a quote from that article. It is headed: ‘The social decline of a divided city’. The article states:
Five months after the ore carrier Lake Illawarra rammed the Tasman Bridge, killing 12 and isolating the bedrooms of the city from the boardrooms, Hoban remains a city in shock.
It is a city that has lost its innocence. Without the bridge much of its rural peace has evaporated as workers battle to commute by ferry across the River Derwent
To the people of Sydney and Melbourne commuting times of up to one hour are commonplace, but they have their cars and trains. The residents of Hobart ‘s eastern shore have been denied their cars and feel they have been stripped of their autonomy and freedom.
This is the important part of this article:
The first tentative results of two major social surveys into the results of the collapse are depressing. Researchers see the first indication of increasing delinquency, crime, marital breakdowns, addiction to alcohol and sedatives in the heavily urban eastern shore communities where some women spend their afternoons weeping in frustration at being isolated and alone.
The50 000 people on the eastern shore, separated from the city’s centre by a circuitous 80km (50 mile) road trip or an hour-long queue and a ferry trip across the1¼ kilometre Derwent, feel isolated and resentful.
As yet they have no hospital, few shops and a growing fear that all the reasons they loved living in Hobart are gone forever.
Perhaps worst of all, is the feeling that the Government is not doing enough quickly enough to rebuild the Tasman Bridge and restore the links that fostered trade and held families together.
No decision -
That is when this newspaper article was written- has yet been made on how, and some say if, the bridge will be repaired.
That position has been clarified by the latest decisions.
The State Labor Government will announce the method of repair in about one month, -
That was in May- but no one, including the Premier, Mr Neilson, expects the bridge to re-open much before 1978.
Until then, eastern shore residents, and to a lesser extent, the 100,000 on the city side will unhappily rely on nine ferries to commute across the Derwent.
Later this year, there will also be a temporary bridge a few kilometres upstream from the Tasman, but it will initially have only one lane, and that will be reserved for emergency and commercial vehicles during peak hours.
A second permanent bridge, even farther upstream, is scheduled to be built before 1980, and there is every possibility it will be in service before the Tasman is repaired,
I would say that that has every prospect of being true, having regard to the way this Government behaves. probably by a steel span supported by a single pier.
There is a general feeling in Hobart that neither the ministers nor the Public Service mandarins and their minions were up to dealing with a major catastrophe.
– What Liberal wrote that?
-The honourable member for Wilmot, the great expert, interjects and says, ‘What Liberal wrote that?’. Fancy the honourable member introducing politics into a disaster of this nature. I am ashamed of the honourable member for Wilmot. I read to him what is obviously a very carefully taken social survey of the problems of the people of eastern Hobart and he introduces politics into the matter. I am ashamed of the honourable member for Wilmot. I thought better of him. The House will recall that when this disaster occurred the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was overseas on one of his many regular holiday jaunts -
– Do not bring politics into it.
– I am forced to bring politics into the matter in response to the interjection by the honourable member for Wilmot -
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member that he might speak to the Bill. The subject matter of the Bill is very narrow.
- Mr Speaker, I am making the point that the Prime Minister was overseas on one of his holiday jaunts when the event occurred that made this Bill necessary.
-Order! If the honourable member continues deviating I will sit him down.
-Yes, I can see that I will have great trouble with this Bill. I can see why Mr Speaker is in the Chair today -
-Order! There is no room for deviation. The subject matter of the Bill is only one lane wide.
- Mr Speaker, all I want to do is to make a few points about the cause and effect of this Bill, if I can be allowed to proceed. The fact is that at the time when the bridge collapse occurred the Prime Minister made a very stupid statement about the cause of the collapse. Of course, he was castigated for his remarks and had to apologise.
– Where did he make that statement?
– He was in Europe when he made that statement. I am rather reminded of a story that I heard recently. Mr Speaker, I will just deviate for a moment and will not take up a moment of the House ‘s time.
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member might speak to the subject matter of the Bill.
-I was about to refer to a story that I heard in Europe about the Prime Minister’s visit over there. They say there that all the visiting Presidents -
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member that he either speak to the Bill or not speak at all. The subject matter of the Bill is very narrow.
– I will save that story for another time. It is worth telling and I would hate it to be interrupted by you, Mr Speaker. What this House and the people of Hobart want to see is this bridge completed. The year 1978 is set as the earliest possible date for completion. Sadly, there has been a great deal of industrial trouble over the construction of the bridge. I am pleased to report, as some honourable members from Tasmania who keep themselves informed on this matter will know, that the industrial trouble is over for the moment. But one sees how inept this Government has been in allowing almost 3 months to go by during which this industrial trouble has occurred without taking action. I have before me a letter from the Council of Clarence Progress Associations which deals with this point. It states:
Since the destruction of a portion of the Hobart Tasman Bridge by a ship of the ANL, we have been most grateful to all who have contributed in any way to the alleviation of distress to those forced by circumstances to use alternative - methods of travel to and from the eastern and western shores of the River Derwent.
However, we are most concerned that there should be any hold-ups to the repairs to the partly existing bridge and/or to the Risdon Punts and the work on the temporary bridge crossing at Dowsing Point.
We view with alarm and disgust any industrial delay of work on these projects which must lengthen the time of completion of any or all of the aforementioned projects.
Our Council has always tried to be reasonable in its understanding of the difficulties and work time involved in preliminary planning. We accepted this, but from now on we do not accept as necessary any further time lag that may be caused by the actions of any person or persons.
We, therefore, ask that immediate steps be taken to see this does not continue to happen now or in the future.
I suppose we can all understand the feelings of that Council on this matter. Three months is a long time for a strike. I am pleased that the strike is over, but I make this plea to the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) who is at the table and to the Government: Next time there is a strike or industrial trouble, do not be so apathetic about it and do not sit doing nothing about it; please try to help to end the strike. It is quite extraordinary that I have not heard the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) and the honourable member for Denison (Mr Coates), who are both in the chamber, raise this question of industrial trouble which has affected the reconstruction of the bridge. I may be misjudging them, and I will be pleased if they will put me right. But they have both been as silent as the grave on this matter. They have been hoping that the problem would go away. They are like emus with their heads in the sand hoping that the problem will go away. Of course, it did not go away. It lasted for 3 months. If that is the sort of inactivity that this Government is to engage in in a matter of this nature, it is time that the Government carefully examined its position. I am staggered that the honourable members from Tasmania should sit so still and silent in this place and not try to at least get the Minister for Transport or the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland) to do something about the position. They have done nothing, as usual. I can understand the disappointment of the members of the Council of Clarence Progress Associations. I join with them in making a plea to the Minister not to sit idly by next time there is a strike and allow it to continue for 3 months, thus further delaying the reconstruction of the bridge. Obviously, the delay is causing enormous social upheavals in the eastern suburbs of Hobart. This inaction is a disappointment to me. I thought that the Minister was a man of action, but clearly he is not. I would like to read to honourable members, so that they are well informed on this matter, an article from the Hobart Mercury newspaper of 14 August 1975. It is headed, ‘Time of Despair’ -
– A Liberal paper. It is the best Liberal newspaper in the State.
-The honourable member for Wilmot is introducing politics into the debate again. The newspaper article states:
Hobart ‘s Eastern Shore residents must have feelings of frustration, perhaps even despair. They made it plain that they were fed up with the bumbling procrastination that characterised early efforts to provide adequate ferry services and a start on restoring the bridge and building a duplicate.
But when there was some light at the end of the tunnelreconstruction of Old Beach Rd, more ferries and better facilities for passengers, a start on a temporary link at Dows.ings Pt, plans for a new crossing, and evidence of patching up the old bridge- a labor dispute has set the programme back drastically.
Pessimists- and there seem more of them on the Eastern Shore than optimists -
I can understand that having regard to the delays and the behaviour of this Government- now seem resigned to waiting three years or more before adequate vehicular links are re-established.
The Amalgamated Metal Workers’ Union, which has key men for the building of the temporary bridge, restoring the Tasman Bridge and construction of a new Risdon punt, has been holding out now for six weeks -
This article was written some time ago. At that time, the strike period was 6 weeks- for $20 a week over-award payments. The union has been told there can be no Court hearing until the men resume work.
Contractors for the Tasman Bridge say that because of the delay, reopening of the bridge is now unlikely before midFebruary, 1978. The programme for the temporary crossing and the new Risdon punt have also suffered severe setbacks.
The newspaper article goes on to point out the despair of die people on the eastern side of Hobart. It concludes by stating this:
Now the Tasmanian Trades and Labor Council is to try again. In the meantime, the winter of discontent for Eastern Shore residents looks like becoming the summer of despair.
I read that to the Minister for one reason: It is to ensure that he gets the message. Clearly the members for Tasmania have not been delivering the message and telling him of the concern in eastern Hobart on this matter. Surely one of the back benchers should have been active on this matter. It really is an indictment of the Government that it allows this procrastination to occur. I plead with the Minister not to allow industrial trouble to cause a long delay again. The year 1978 is long enough away for that important link to be completed. The people are disadvantaged by the inadequate services of the ferries that have been supplied. Certainly the ferries were supplied, I understand, by the Australian Government in part.
The purpose of the Bill- I notice that Mr Speaker has left his chair; I wanted to get back to my story- is to add a fifth lane to the bridge. It was a 4-lane bridge and now a fifth lane is to be built. I congratulate the Tasmanian Government of seeking an additional lane for the bridge. I have been across the bridge at peak hour on occasions and it is very packed. The addition of a fifth lane while the broken spans are being restructured is a very far-sighted and wise act. I congratulate both the governments concerned. I hope, having built the fifth lane, that they will do something to solve the bottlenecks at each end of the bridge that are part of the problem of Hobart.
– What did they say in Europe about the Prime Minister? Tell your story.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I was telling a story earlier that the Prime Minister -
– I raise a point of order. Mr Speaker has already ruled out of order the proposed short story.
-In that case I must rule it out of order also.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I feel I am being set upon. I really do. It might be a different story; one cannot judge until I tell it.
– Circulate it in the House.
-I will tell it; do not worry. It is a beauty. One thing this Government is good at is words. It is very long on words and very short on action. This bridge is a typical example. I think the ex-deputy Prime Minister, the ex-Minister for Defence and the ex-honourable member for Bass- thank goodness he has been replaced by a genuine worker for Tasmania’s interests- within days of the collapse of the bridge announced a $ 1 3m grant or loan -
– A grant.
– A grant to Tasmania for the purpose of this bridge. There were great headlines. It is now September and nothing has been done. There has been a bit of preliminary planning. I think an amount of $900,000 has been allocated in this Budget for the estimated cost of preparation of plans and specifications for the bridge. The Minister and the Government have done nothing. The same story can be told about Darwin. Months after Cyclone Tracy not one house has been built.
– That is not true- 4000 houses have been repaired.
-Order! There are too many interjections. Honourable members on both sides of the House will have the opportunity to speak. I ask honourable members to comply with the Standing Orders and listen to the honourable member for Gippsland.
– Months after Cyclone Tracy not one house has been reconstructed.
– That is not true.
– It is true. I am not talking about the suburbs near where the honourable member lives in Launceston; I am talking about Darwin.
-Order! I have already asked honourable members to cease interjecting.
– I make my point again. This Government is long on words and short on action. Its public relations machine churns out paper after paper full of propaganda and publicity convincing people that members of the Government are men of great action. The fact is that nothing has been done in Darwin or Hobart. The Government now has a commitment to Tasmania for some $50m to overcome the transport problems of Hobart with the provision of a new bridge at Risdon, ferries and the reconstruction of the Tasman Bridge. The commitment has been made. Surely it is time for action and no longer time for words.
– I will display a great deal of generosity towards the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) this afternoon. My only regret is that members of the National Country Party, including the honourable member, seem to treat this Bill as being a humorous episode. A remarkable degree of levity has been displayed by the honourable gentleman and some of his followers. I assure honourable members that we in Tasmania do not consider the situation to be humorous; we consider it to be quite serious. I want to make one or two observations.
– After that speech it is easy to understand why Tasmanians will not wear the Country Party down there.
-Yes. Indeed their leader from Queensland is not very welcome down there at all.
-Order! I have already asked that interjections cease. I call the honourable member for Franklin.
– I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. This Bill, to which the honourable member for Gippsland rarely referred, is an important Bill and is in addition to those introduced into this House previously which dealt with the Tasman Bridge. I want to take issue with the honourable member. He quoted from a very dubious newspaper article of last May. I remind the honourable gentleman that it is now September. Maybe he does not realise that spring is with us, but still he always was a wee bit slow about these things. One of the general observations that he made when quoting from that article related to the apparent neglect of the area. The honourable gentleman had one or two of his facts wrong and one or two of the geographical situations incorrect. Of course one can understand that. The honourable member cannot see the wood for the trees.
I happen to live on the eastern shore of the Derwent. I represent a great many constituents in that area. I have not found the immorality and the crime to which the honourable member refers. In fact I have an office there and am in that area every day of the week when Parliament is not sitting. I should like him to substantiate the claim that he read, for example, that crime has been on the increase. No statistics are available in State instrumentalities or authorities to support such an absurdity. The honourable member touched upon the question of a hospital. In fact there would have been a hospital there many years ago but for the obduracy and the stubbornness of certain sections of the Australian Medical
Association. If the honourable member cares to look at the Budget Papers he will see that the Government has provided almost $ 1 m for the establishment of a complete community health centre on the eastern shore to serve these people. Further to that the Government has established offices of the Department of Social Security, offices of the Department of Labor and Immigration, welfare offices and community centres. These are just a few of the things that have been established in quite a short time. This is in direct contrast to the attitude of the honourable gentleman and his Party to the disaster of the 1967 bushfires. People are still paying off the debt to the then national government which was presided over by former Prime Minister, Mr Holt.
The honourable member for Gippsland talks about industrial trouble. He made great play of this. He was very flippant, as he usually is, about the Tasmanian members. Let me assure the honourable gentlemen that within a week consultations were held- quiet, constructive consultations, I might add, without the issuance of Press statements and the grabbing of headlineswith the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland). I remind the honourable gentleman that within a week that dispute was settled. Disputes can be settled in a rational way. If somebody tries to be irrational and to bulldoze his way through he will not settle anything. Surely the honourable gentleman is not suggesting the use of this sort of tactic. Quiet, dispassionate, logical discussion will always win out.
– Why did you not start the discussions earlier?
– The honourable member for Wimmera does not deter me one iota. I take no cue from him on how to settle industrial disputes. In fact if I were looking for the recipe to exacerbate industrial disputes I would call him in. We have been subjected to the usual speech by the honourable member for Gippsland. He comes into the House and obviously has not read the Bill, short though it is. Predictably he has been destructive. As I said before he showed a degree of levity. He has been meaningless and cynical in the extreme.
– He is not even listening.
-As my good friend the honourable member for Denison reminds me, he is not even listening now. The honourable gentleman, of course, has established a great reputation, if one can apply that misnomer in respect to him, for vulgarity and empty rhetoric in the extreme. This Government has responded in a very positive fashion to this disaster. Nobody more than myself is aware of the ramifications that have flowed from this disaster. I represent people who live in the Tasman Bridge area, and I do so to the best of my ability. I am not assisted, aided or helped in any way by spurious criticism of the sort that flowed from the honourable gentleman’s mouth this afternoon.
– Who was that?
-The honourable member for Gippsland. This is a responsible Bill and has to be looked at in a responsible fashion. The honourable member for Gippsland quoted from the Hobart Mercury. One would think that would be the last source of information that one would go to for accuracy. It is largely because of articles appearing in that newspaper that so much confusion has come about. I would have thought that particular publication, in response to the corporate sense of responsibility that ought to flow from a responsible newspaper, would have reported in an untarnished and unbiased fashion. Unfortunately one’s hopes in this direction are never fulfilled nor are they ever likely to be.
As honourable members will recall, the Bill provides for the introduction of a fifth lane to the repairs of the Tasman Bridge. I just want to make one or two observations on the physical and engineering difficulties that are faced in this situation. It is terribly easy for anybody to get up in this House or outside it and say: ‘You ought to have had it rebuilt’. The fact is that the engineering problems are of enormous magnitude. The joint construction authority has had to face this fact. It has had to be rational in its approach. It had to be logical and be persuaded that the actions and directions that it was taking were in fact the correct ones. Is any honourable members going to dispute the engineering qualifications of Sir Allan Knight? If he is, let him say so. I do not think any honourable member will do so. Sir Allan Knight is a man of world-wide experience acclaimed in this field. The decisions that he has made are based upon a very profound engineering knowledge. They are not based upon emotion and empty rhetoric. One does not repair bridges or anything else with that sort of ingredient. One can only tackle this problem if one sits down as a rational human being, looks at the physical and engineering problems involved and then makes a decision. It is not up to politicians to say how a bridge will be repaired. I have no concept of the physical dimensions or the engineering dimensions involved and I would suggest that very few honourable members have any concept of what is involved.
It is very easy to be critical; it is far more difficult to be productive and positive. I might say at this point that I do not intend to take up the full amount of my time as I know that this is an important Bill and other speakers will want to make their contribution. I think the Bill ought to be allowed a swift passage. However, I want to make one or two points. It is not generally realised, for example, that over 7000 tons of concrete and steel are lying on top of or are in the immediate vicinity of the Lake Illawarra. Are honourable members going to suggest that the job of removing this material can be done overnight? Of course it cannot. Better minds than ours have applied themselves to this very difficult problem.
Nobody realises the great difficulties of the water situation. The river bed itself has always posed great problems for engineers of the greatest eminence, even when the bridge was first built. But paramount to the whole operation has been the repair of the spans. It is easy for every expert imaginable to say that this or that ought to have been done. Admittedly, of course, one has to face up to the fact that industrial trouble did set the program back- nobody disputes thatand that it is regrettable. I have said this publicly and I repeat it here. Nonetheless, do not let us dwell on what has happened; rather, let us be positive in our attitude to what we hope will be achieved in the future.
There will be, not as the honourable member for Gippsland has said, months’ delay, but about a month’s delay- a 4 week’s delay- on the actual piledriving and construction work on the main span. In the meantime work is proceeding rapidly with the piledriving equipment on the Dowsing Point temporary bridge. Also, this Government has provided money, as every honourable member is aware, for the preliminary work involved in the construction of a second permanent bridge. I am always fascinated in this Parliament at the continual criticism directed at this Government for too much public spending.
In conclusion, let me encapsulate what I want to say. This Government, faced with this disaster, is looking at a Bill that has a financial commitment in the vicinity of $50m. It is very easy to be critical and to say that this Government spends too much money. But the Government has clearly spelt out its obligation and commitment in respect of this matter. No government could have been more positive in its reaction, response and contribution to the restoration of the Tasman Bridge, the construction of the temporary bridge and also the preliminary plans for the reconstruction of the second permanent bridge and all the associated works that have gone with it. Do honourable members think that ferry terminals come out of the night like a spectre? Do honourable members think that new roads are built overnight? This is what has happened in Hobart, and people well know it. I have talked to people from New South Wales who have told me quite frankly- they are quite adamant about this- that at the moment Hobart has a ferry service that is better than the service between Sydney and Manly. All this has been achieved within a few months. It has all been done with funds provided by this Government. I hope that this Bill receives the same speedy passage as its predecessors. I commend it to the House.
-I support the Bill. I would like to make that clear from the beginning. But in speaking to support the Bill I think it important to recall what has happened to the Tasman Bridge Restoration Bill, the related Bill concerned with the reconstruction of the Tasman Bridge. In the short time that I have been in this place I have been struck by the way in which supporters of the Government when talking about a problem always go into long details about the moneys that are being spent in solving the problem. But when one gets down to analyse the matter properly the problem never seems to have been solved. I am afraid that this is the case in the matter of the Tasman Bridge. What is needed in Hobart now are not ferries, terminals, new telephones and social welfare services which the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) so proudly enumerated, but a bridgeeither a temporary bridge, repairs to the old bridge or a newly constructed bridge. The facilities that have been enumerated, of course, were needed as interim patch-up measures, but a bridge is what is needed.
The proposition that I put here is this: The honourable member for Franklin and the honourable member for Denison (Mr Coates) were extremely enthusiastic in the early stages of the accident and talked about urgency. I think the initial urgency which they expressed has been blunted. In its place there has been inaction; there has been a growth of bureaucracy, a growth of committees and perhaps a waste of money. I shall deal with that point in a moment. Now to look at the proposition and prove my argument.
There is no doubt about the urgency aspects of the disaster to which the honourable member for
Franklin referred. The honourable member was at great pains to spell it out when he spoke in April on the Tasman Bridge Restoration Bill. Proudly the honourable member said, in part: . . . I congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) for his sense of urgency and his response to my personal invitation to visit Hobart . . .
A little later in his speech he said:
What we need at this moment is action and not words. Let us pass this measure. Let us get on with the job.
He was referring to the job of building a bridge. They are proud words, but let us look at what has happened. One hundred people of various eminence and importance have gone to Tasmania to inspect the site. There has been the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). The honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) also visited the site when he was Deputy Prime Minister. The Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) visited the site. Various consultants from the United States of America have visited the site. Mr Lance Barnard also went down to look at it. They have all been looking. I presume that it is as a result of those visits that there has been the growth of about 22 committees of various sorts to examine the problem. We have committees such as the joint CommonwealthState committee to superintend and co-ordinate the salvage and rebuilding. We have another joint Commonwealth-State committee to organise the repair of the bridge, a study by Maunsell and Partners Pty Ltd of the best way of repairing the bridge, another study by John Holland (Constructions) Ltd into a contract proposal for the bridge, studies by firms tendering for the salvage and for the best way to do that job, a marine court of inquiry and a joint CommonwealthState committee to investigate a second Derwent crossing. This is a bit of a surprise because 2 years ago everybody thought that the State Government had decided on the site of a crossing. But we are to defer that for another 18 months while this is decided as well. I could go on and on. By the way, it is interesting that one of the advisors and the liaison officer for this place was Mr Lance Barnard, who I notice has not been replaced.
There has been some pretty gross activity with hundreds of people and dozens of committees. Let us look at the result. There has been some drilling on the piers. Some earthworks for the temporary bridge have been constructed. I believe that about a quarter of the piles for the temporary bridge are now driven. But as I said at the beginning, there is no bridge. For heaven’s sake, we have in Hobart now $2m to $3m worth of Bailey bridging sitting on the ground. Does anyone mean to tell me that it takes the Department of Defence all this time, since January, to put in a bridge? I admit that the job was taken on by the Tasmanian Public Works Department, ‘but we are talking about a temporary expedient crossing, and there is still nothing done.
I now pass to the matter of finance. I have no doubt about the sentiments of the honourable member for Denison about this matter. They are real and sincere and I know that. I want him just to listen to what I am saying and really to think whether a fair thing is being accomplished in Hobart at this time. I question the financial set up of the operation. I question whether real management and a sense of responsibility have been exercised. There was a proud boast that in the first 2Vi hours after the disaster Lance Barnard went to Hobart and arranged immediately for $13m for the reconstruction of this bridge. This was backed up by the honourable member for Denison who said:
The Australian Government has agreed to provide money in respect of every proposal which has been put up for funding. There should not t>e any reluctance on the part of Tasmania to be quite radical in its proposals.
He said later:
I urge the Tasmanian Government not to hold back in putting up proposals.
As I said, I begin to question whether good management has been used in Hobart in the expenditure of public moneys. An amount of $6m has already been used- I presume to prop up all these committees and other works that have been done and of course to get the ferries and the terminals and the road going. The sum of $ 13m has been voted for work in this financial year. The honourable member for Franklin is proudly saying that another $50m will be used.
– How much?
-He said today that another $50m would be used to build the bridge. I hope that that sum includes expenditure for the second bridge as well, but unfortunately he did not say that. So when we add in the fact that the replacement value of the Bailey bridge is $2m or $3m we are now talking about enormous sums of money. How much is being spent on the administration of all these various joint government committees? How many times will we have a fiasco like the towing to Tasmania of the Lady Ferguson. The sum of $100,000 of Commonwealth money, the people’s money, was spent on that wretched tow which will end up with the Lady Ferguson rotting in the river of Hobart. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) might go back to his friends in the New South Wales Parliament to make sure that we get our $10,000 back on that ferry because I trunk it was a rather dubious agreement from the beginning
They are some of the estimations of money and where it is going. Other estimations as to the cost to Tasmania I think are also important to recall. One, which included tangible and intangible costs in trying to calculate the amount, stated that the lack of the bridge would cost $26m a year to the people of Hobart as long as the bridge is not there- not ferries, not terminals, but a bridge. Another estimate of two or three weeks ago mentioned a cost of $ 12m over 3 years to Tasmania, not to Hobart. That represents about $62.25 for every wage earner in Tasmania. It is costing the retail firms of Hobart $5,000 a week to keep on going whilst that bridge is not there.
As I said at the beginning, my simple proposition is that the initial action has been blunted. There has been a growth of bureaucracy and as a result things are slowing down. Therefore, in supporting this Bill I should like to say that I hope that the original urgency that the honourable member for Franklin so proudly boasted of in this House back in April can be restored and that he can put a little more into it now. As far as I can recall, I have not heard the honourable member for Franklin or the honourable member for Denison really speaking out clearly on delays in the construction of the bridge over the last two or three months.
I pause here for a moment to talk about the industrial dispute which affected the work. That also wasted a lot of Federal money- $10,000 a week. Before the work gets under way again the cost will be of the order of $130,000 or$140,000. I would question the claim of the honourable member for Franklin that he solved this problem.
-I did not say that at all.
-That is the inference I got and the one which I am sure everybody else who was listening to him got. I point out that the dispute went for 9 weeks before the honourable member for Frankin claimed to have stepped in and quietly had a word with Mr Hawke or the Prime Minister. I presume that he was prompted to do this when Councillor Goodluck of the Clarence Council had been talking about the dispute for many weeks.
– He happens to be the Liberal candidate, as you well know.
– I ask the honourable member for Franklin please to wait for just one moment and let me finish. Councillor Goodluck himself had to write to the Prime Minister and to
Mr Hawke. I presume that is when the honourable member for Franklin decided he had better step in and do something about it himself.
I support this Bill. But, to the other honourable members from Tasmania I say that we should look carefully at the way in which money is being spent on the construction of this bridge and on all the other work associated with it. I believe the situation is getting out of hand and that perhaps we should be concerned because the expenditure may affect other projects that should be getting money in its stead. Some of them are the equalisation of transport costs across the Tasman and things like the Winnaleah irrigation scheme and a whole host of other things.
I support the Bill. I hope the work is conducted with some urgency and that we will not have the bungling that has gone on over the last 6 months.
-0( course the Government cannot win in such a debate as this when the Opposition tries to have it both ways. It criticises the Australian Government for delays and other such problems that might be occurring arising out of the collapse of the Tasman Bridge. Yet if in January the Australian Government had moved in to Tasmania and said: ‘Right, out of the road, State Government. We will take over and do the lot’ the Opposition would have kicked us to death about it because we would have been interfering in what was basically a State responsibility. So when the honourable member for Bass (Mr Newman) refers to the fact that Australian Government supporters seem to be talking only about the money involved, that to some extent is true. The best thing that we can do for this problem is to provide the finance. The State Government has the responsibility for most of the work involved and the Australian Government provides the finance so that the agencies in Tasmania can do the job, but with the assistance and advice of members of the Australian Government and of its departments.
We have provided a transport adviser, the cost again being provided by the Australian Government, to help in overcoming the secondary problems associated with the collapse of the bridge. The money is being put to good use. I am not suggesting, in response to the honourable member for Bass, that there has not been some wastage. In the expenditure of the sum of $ 13m, I am sure there must be some wastage and that when actions are taken in an attempt to carry out urgently the works that are required the money is not always used in the best way possible. Surely a great deal more money would have been wasted if we had rushed in even more rapidly than we have done and went about reconstruction in the wrong way. Surely in an engineering problem of this magnitude, planning must be carried out.
The honourable member for Bass suggested that too many committees had been set up. A private firm of engineers, Maunsell and Partners, was engaged. There was a marine court of inquiry. When we add up all the bodies involved, they certainly do come to a lot of committees. But all of them were useful and met with some specific purpose in mind. I do not think that the honourable member has any basis for saying that the bureaucracy is increasing. My impression is that the stage has been reached where everything is going along smoothly. The size of the bureaucracy is being reduced. A number of committees have finished all of their work. The ferry services, the work on the Old Beach Road and all the other projects in which the expenditure of Australian Government money was involved are going along without a great need for the involvement of the committees that initially had to be set up.
The honourable member for Bass mentioned a number of other matters. He claimed that the Department of Defence had taken too long to set up the Bailey bridge. Let me remind the honourable member that the Department of Defence provided the Bailey bridge spans. A condition of this temporary bridge being provided was that all of the construction work had to be done by the Tasmanian Department of Public Works. That is what has happened. I think that everyone knows that there were unavoidable delays in the availability of the appropriate barges with the necessary pile driving equipment on them. This was because these barges mainly were used first to explore under the Tasman Bridge and to determine the shape of the bottom, if I may use that expression, in respect of the 7000 tons of concrete to which the honourable member for Franklin referred. If a decision had been taken too quickly and it was said: ‘We cannot do anything without moving that concrete’, a whole year would have been added to the reconstruction time of the bridge.
We have been accused of being long on words and short on action, but I do not think that either the Australian Government Ministers or the departmental officers involved can be criticised in any way at all. Criticisms have been primarily made when referring to Ministers about the attitudes of some State Ministers whose words have been taken in a way in which they were not intended to be taken.
I refer next to the delay in the reconstruction and to the industrial dispute. Thankfully, that industrial dispute is over. May I remind the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) that there are always 2 sides to an industrial dispute. The House will note that the honourable member glossed over that aspect to some extent. The Opposition could not engage in its usual union bashing because, as I think the honourable member for Gippsland realises, the leadership of the union concerned recommended a return to work but the rank and file voted otherwise. The Opposition usually tries to make out that in union affairs the leadership imposes its will on the rank and file. Now that the Opposition has had presented to it an example of the recommendations of a union leadership being rejected, rightly or wrongly, I think that the lack of understanding of Opposition members of industrial relations has been shown up.
Let me refer now to some of the detail of the Bill. Partly because its contents are short and partly because the Opposition wants to make some political points, the Bill has not been referred to all that much. Most of the debate that has taken place so far this afternoon has been a re-run of the debate in April on the original Bill, which is now the principal Act, by which the Tasman Bridge Restoration Commission was set up. This body is a joint commission of Australian Government and Tasmanian Government appointees who have the responsibility for the reconstruction of that bridge. The primary tasks of that Commission are spelt out in the Schedule to the Tasman Bridge Restoration Act in the form of an Agreement.
The Tasman Bridge Reconstruction Bill (No. 2) which we are now considering seeks to provide a supplementary agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania so that a fifth lane can be added to the bridge. Those honourable members who visited Hobart before the Tasman Bridge was damaged will recall that the bridge had 4 lanes. With traffic growth over the years, those 4 lanes had become inadequate, particularly at peak hours. In recent times, before the collapse, during peak hours 3 lanes operated one way and one lane the other way. That arrangement sought to cater for the traffic during those peak hours.
One factor that has become clear this year is that, with the development of services on the eastern shore, even when the bridge is reconstructed there will not be the same disparity in traffic flows in opposite directions at peak hours as there used to be. A 4-lane bridge on which 3 lanes operated one way and one lane the other way would result in a situation where quite possibly one lane operating in the off-peak direction would not be sufficient to cater for the increased traffic in that direction. So, reasonably enough, in order to provide for a total increase in traffic lanes and for a better configuration of division at peak hours, the proposal is that a fifth lane be added to the bridge, using the width now taken up by footpaths on the bridge. In peak hours, there will be a traffic flow of 3 lanes one way and 2 lanes the other way, with the 2 lanes designated as off-peak lanes being used for the minor traffic flow at the relevant peak period.
Despite some concern that originally footpaths would not be provided, footpaths will be provided on the bridge. A footpath will be located on each side, supported by steel cantilever supports added to the existing structure. Those footpaths will be the same width as the existing footpaths. The completion of the work on the bridge will result in the provision of more adequate facilities on that bridge. Perhaps the new bridge will not look quite so good as the original one. In order to speed up construction, to some extent there will be a lack of symmetry in the pylons of the bridge. But the widening of the bridge and the provision of an additional lane in the reconstruction is really what this debate is all about. The main debate held in April dealt with the reconstruction generally. The provision of a fifth lane on the bridge will assist the situation a great deal.
As in the previous Bill, this Bill provides for the reconstruction to be co-ordinated and controlled by one body, the Tasman Bridge Reconstruction Commission. There was a joint expert advisory committee which reported on the design of the bridge. It carried out that work with the assistance of private contractors such as Maunsell and Partners. The honourable member for Bass referred to the marine court of inquiry as being, apparently, an unnecessary committee. That statement surprises me in view of the fact that the holding of a marine board of inquiry was obligatory to determine the cause of the collapse. The Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) was required to set up that body.
The key clause in the Bill is clause 4 in the Schedule which says:
The Commission shall, by way of addition to its present functions be empowered to exercise and may perform all or any of the functions … of superintending, coordinating, directing, managing and executing the planning and performance of any work associated with the structural modification of the Bridge throughout its length to accommodate five lanes of vehicular traffic.
Consequent upon that further duty of the Commission will be adjustment of the approaches to the bridge. Those honourable members who are familiar with the bridge will know that the flyover arrangements at each end of the bridge cater for only 4 lanes. So there will have to be quite extensive reconstruction of the approaches to the bridge, particularly on the western end. I agree with the honourable member for Bass that there is also a need to ensure that the problems of the railway roundabout which causes bottlenecks a mile or so from the bridge are also catered for without too much delay. But that is entirely a matter for the State Government.
The Australian Government has done all that it is possible to do with this project. The setting up of the Joint Tasman Bridge Restoration Commission has been hailed as the most appropriate way of doing this work. It means that experts from both governments can easily be coordinated. The reconstruction is proceeding. It will resume in three or four weeks time. There was not a 9-week delay on the bridge reconstruction because steel already fabricated was able to be used. In three or four weeks time reconstruction of the Tasman Bridge will recommence. Last weekend work resumed on the temporary Bailey crossing which is being constructed by the State Public Works Department. I support the Bill and hope that it has a quick passage through both Houses.
-As I listened to the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) speaking in this debate I could not help remembering that in private life previously he had been a broadcaster. He has the facility for uttering platitudes in an impressive voice. It is nice to remember this because he will have something to go back to when he loses his seat at the next election.
– The Australian Broadcasting Commission will not take him back.
-Well, I am quite sure that he is a good broadcaster. Let me turn to the main point of the Bill, which the Opposition supports but which I am afraid is based on bureaucratic bungling of the worst character. I want to draw 2 matters to the attention of the House. The first is that there is as yet no temporary bridge across the Derwent River. The second is that socialism at work here shows the same kind of inefficiency with committee after committee that it is showing in the reconstruction- or rather the non-reconstruction- of Darwin. The Government runs true to form. It is par for the course.
Just as in Darwin there are committees on committees on committees doing nothing effective, here we have exactly the same thing. The people of Tasmania are suffering from socialism. In Darwin all the responsibility lies on the Labor Government here in Canberra. In Hobart the responsibility lies on the Labor Government here and the Labor Government in Tasmania. They are both guilty of the most incredible bungling, delay and waste of money and resources.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– We are talking about the Bill for the restoration of the Tasman Bridge in Hobart. Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was drawing attention to the bungling, the extravagance and the procrastination which have characterised efforts to do something after the disaster of last January. The guilt of this must be shared by the Labor Government in this House and the Labor Government in Hobart, because they have been responsible for these events. An extraordinary amount of money is now involved. This Bill is an open-ended Bill. It gives complete protection for any kind of extravagance and inefficiency. It removes any financial authority which this House might have over coming events.
None of us would want to be niggardly or to do anything which would delay the work, but surely there have been enough delays, and inordinate delays. The disaster occurred in the first week of January, and today the people of Hobart are still without even a temporary crossing of the Derwent. This is incredible, but it is true. If there had been any efficiency we would have had a temporary crossing completed in a few weeks, or at most, a couple of months after the disaster. I think the Army could have done it If the Army could not have done it, that throws a lurid light on the state or our whole defence forces. I believe that, given a free hand, the Army could have done it. It has Bailey bridges. Admittedly Bailey bridges were taken to Hobart, and I am afraid that they constitute most of the stock of Bailey bridges held by the whole of the Australian Army. They were taken to Hobart in time, but they are still unerected
– The Army did not have them in your day.
– The Army in our day was efficient and it could have coped with a disaster of this character. Those honourable members on the Opposition side who know something about it- I know the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) has always been an enemy of the Army- would know that the Army was in our day a great deal more efficient. Honourable members on the Government side, if they have any decency, will recall that when they were the Opposition they opposed so much of our military expenditure and demanded from their place in the Parliament that it should be cut down. Let us have a little bit of common sense and decency in regard to this.
I do not want to digress too much. What I say is that it is almost incredible that now in September we do not have a temporary bridge over the Derwent to meet a situation brought about by a disaster which occurred at the beginning of January. Why has this not been possible? Surely there is inefficiency somewhere. The facts cry out. Any efficient government would have had this quite small temporary work done months ago. Meanwhile the citizens of Hobart have to undergo the losses and inconveniences which have been so well put before this House earlier tonight by the honourable member for Bass (Mr Newman) and which amount to many millions of dollars of loss. This stands as a monument to the inefficiency of socialism.
There is a terrible parallel between what is happening in Hobart and what is happening in Darwin, because in both cases there has been an excess of bureaucracy, planning and socialist bungling. Nothing gets done. There are virtually no houses in Darwin now.
– I suggest to the honourable member that this is a very narrow Bill. It only extends an existing Act and this is not an occasion for a general debate.
Mr WENTWORTH Mr Speaker, all I am trying to say is that the reason why there has been such delay and why there is no temporary bridge over the Derwent still is the same kind of reason which has created the fact that no houses have been built in Darwin so long after the disaster that occurred there. What is happening in Hobart is that there have been committees after committee, jobs for the boys, jobs for the Government’s favourites and collusion in inefficiency between the Labor Government in Hobart and the Labor Government in Canberra.
There is no need for me to say much more about this, because the facts cry out for themselves. Nothing has been done. Still in September there is no temporary bridge over the Derwent. Even in the times of the Boer War any efficient army would have been able to bridge a comparatively small estuary over a couple of months. We are talking about Hobart, where all the civil resources are available. I just ask the Government what kind of thing would happen if we were involved in hostilities. What kind of thing would happen if the civil resources were not available? The Government has left Australia defenceless, and the fact that it has been unable to bridge the Derwent with a temporary structure 9 months after the disaster is proof of what I say.
I want to make just one other point in regard to the delays. Honourable members on the other side of the House have admitted that the delays were due partly to industrial trouble and strikes. This, I am afraid, is the fact. They have said: ‘It was not the fault of the leaders of the unions. The leaders wanted the men to go back, and the rank and file would not’. I do not want to go into the details of what occurred. I simply follow on from what members of the Government Party have said in this debate. The leaders wanted the men to go back. Therefore they knew that the cause of the strike was unjust. What did the Government in Canberra or the Labor Government in Hobart do? They did nothing. They did not take any firm measures. They did not even express a consistent disapproval at what the men were doing. They did not harangue them and say: ‘You are holding the citizens of Hobart to ransom. You are the people guilty of this’. Not for the one moment. Because they are frightened of some of the trade union elements they stay silent.
-Order! I have listened to the honourable gentleman for 10 minutes and I have not heard one reference to the content of the Bill. I suggest that he should comment on the Bill, even if only briefly, during his remarks; otherwise I shall sit him down.
- Mr Speaker, I would have thought that what I was saying was related to the Bill. The Bill deals with the bridging of the Derwent. I am saying that the Derwent should have had a temporary bridge over it- this is dealt with in the Bill- long, long ago, and I am giving some of the reasons why it has not yet got a temporary bridge over it and why the citizens of Hobart are still -
-Order! I remind the honourable gentleman that this is a Bill amending an Act. He may be speaking to the Act but he is certainly not speaking to the Bill.
– I am just reminding you, Mr Speaker, of the clauses of the Bill which give to the Commission certain functions and those functions are concerned with the bridging of the Derwent. The Commission has been exercising those functions. It has been spending money which is provided for in terms of this Bill and it is surely relevant for me to point out that the Commission, which has received these open ended funds, has behaved inefficiently in the past and that money has been wasted. This is of the nature of the Bill. I need not press the point. I think the House will thoroughly understand that these delays are reprehensible. There has been procrastination and delay and money has been wasted. It is socialist extravagance and what has happened in Hobart is being parallelled by what is happening in Darwin.
– We are most fortunate that it was a new moon last Thursday and that the full moon is still about 10 days away.
-That is not relevant.
-Otherwise we would have had a real performance tonight.
– I rise to order. Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to standing order 77 which says:
When any offensive or disorderly words are used, whether by a Member who is addressing the Chair or a Member who is present, the Speaker shall intervene.
I ask you to carry out your functions as Speaker fairly and impartially.
-The honourable member is objecting to words. The Minister made no reference to any member in the remarks he made. If the honourable member for Mackellar interprets them as a reflection on him I ask the Minister to withdraw his remarks.
-If the honourable member finds them offensive- factual but offensiveI withdraw them.
-There will be no qualification; the withdrawal must be complete.
– If the Minister will assure me -
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
-According to my tide chart there was a new moon last Thursday. That is factual. It is a pity that the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) did not go on and refer to the time that he and the former member for Macarthur tried to break into Garden Island during the last war and the then Minister left them rotting in boob all night.
-Order! I ask the Minister to make his remarks relevant to the Bill otherwise I will sit him down.
– That is false and you will withdraw that. It is completely and utterly false. It is a damn lie.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. He will not stand up and debate in this chamber whenever he feels like it. He will do it only when he gets the call from the Chair. The Minister will refer to the Bill only.
– I rise to order. The honourable member for Mackellar referred to the Minister as a damn liar. I ask for a withdrawal.
– The honourable member need not withdraw. I did not hear the remark and therefore I do not intend to ask for a withdrawal. If he did make the remark then both the Minister and the honourable member are acting in a manner which is not in the best interests of the House. I suggest that the Minister deal with his reply to the debate on the Bill so that we can get on with the business of the House.
-The Bill provides $3m to carry out a widening of the Tasman Bridge so that instead of there being 4 traffic lanes there can be 5 traffic lanes. One of the things which has struck me about the debate tonight and this afternoon is the irrelevant matter that has been brought into it. Honourable members opposite have really been clutching at straws, making irrelevant and irrational statements which they cannot back up with facts. For example, the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) in leading the debate had to rely for his speech on 2 newspaper cuttings, one of which was almost 5 months old, about some mythical survey that was carried out by some individual but which had very little relevance to the facts of life. Let us look at what has been done by this Government in an endeavour to overcome the problems that have been created by this unfortunate and tragic accident. Nobody has yet suggested that it was not accidental or that it was the fault of this Government that the Australian National Line ship collided with the Bridge. We should also look at what has been done by the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) and the honourable member for Denison (Mr Coates) to overcome the problems created by this unfortunate accident. I refer to the new government department offices that have been set up on the east side of the Derwent River so that people will be less inconvenienced than they would have been if we had disregarded them and had no regard for their problems.
I give full credit to the honourable members for Denison and Franklin for what they have done. They have not run around asking questions and going on with all sorts of nonsense such as we have heard from the Opposition here tonight. As a result of the work of these men a community health service has been provided, an office of the Department of Social Security has been established, new roads have been put in to service the area- I will deal with the Old Beach Road at a later stage and will tell the House just what did occur in regard to that road- grants have been made to the Clarence Council, an office of the Department of Labor and Immigration has been set up as well as Social Welfare offices. All told more money has been made available to the east side than ever before to try - to overcome this unfortunate problem. One cannot knock down a bridge over a major river like the Derwent and carry on as though nothing has happened. These honourable members have done something practical about the problems. They realise that it will not be repaired for some considerable time. It was a major job to build it in the first place but its replacement will be an even greater job.
I listened to the garbage that was dished up to us a short time ago by the honourable member for Mackellar who talked about the Army moving in and putting up a Bailey bridge overnight. Of course that is something we would do during a war when thousands of people were losing their lives, but we are talking about peacetime. The former member for Bass, the Hon. Lance Barnard, had the Army, which came within his Department, to have a look at that proposition. And what was the advice that the Army engineers gave to the Government? They said that it was not feasible to put a pontoon bridge across the river. They said that a pontoon bridge was not a proposition over a river that wide and which would have to carry that amount of traffic. In this situation the aluminium pontoons would have been exposed to salt water where normally they would be used in fresh water on narrower rivers. We are talking about a river over which a pontoon bridge was not a proposition. The Government took the only action that was possible and, in conjunction with the Tasmanian Government and the Tasmanian Public Works Department, put a pile bridge across as a temporary measure. That is all it can be. If we are talking in terms of permanent structures, why waste the money of the people replacing and renewing spans that were knocked out in this tragic accident? This has to be a temporary structure. The piles will be installed and I hope it will not be too long before this temporary bridge is removed and people will be using the new or repaired bridge.
The honourable member for Gippsland said that when this bridge was completed or restored certain things would happen and he mentioned some of the bottlenecks on the approaches to the bridge. Some people have awfully short memories. If I remember rightly, the honourable mem- ber for Gippsland or one of his ilk was Minister for Shipping and Transport at the time when the bridge was built but his Government never said to the Tasmanian Government at that time: ‘What you are doing is ridiculous. What you are doing will create bottlenecks’. But the Opposition is pretty good after the event. That is the situation. The honourable member for Gippsland was the Minister who approved of the plans. So any bottlenecks that exist on the approaches to the bridge are not this Government’s doing, but the doings of the former Government. So when honourable members opposite talk about what should be done, they should not cast any aspersions at us. At least we are trying to get down to a national road system. With regard to the Amalgamated Metal Workers strike, we have heard a lot of words from the Opposition, but we have not heard one remark from the honourable member for Gippsland on this. I interjected consistently during his speech, trying to provoke him into giving us an answer as to what he would have done.
– Very naughty, too.
-I know I was naughty. Mr Speaker, finally, I am pleased to say, called me to order so that my interjections are now recorded in Hansard. I kept asking the honourable member for Gippsland what he would do, and even at this point, some hours later, he has not come up with the answer; neither have any of his supporting speakers come up with an answer. Why did he not come up with an answer when I was asking him for the answer? For one simple reason: he was confining his speech to the Press articles that had been written 5 months ago and with which he has not kept up.
Let us go back to the. real position: When this accident occurred, it caused a great mess of broken piling underneath the bridge decking, all of which is in deep water where men can work only for about half an hour before they have to surface. This is a most difficult problem that has beset the engineers. I think they have gone about their task in a pretty methodical way because what they do has to be permanent. I believe that the designs and plans that they have put together are permanent, practical and something that can be put into operation. When one compares what has been done by the Tasmanian Government and this Government with the bungling by the Victorian Liberal-Country Party Government in connection with the Westgate Bridge, one will see the mess that the Victorian Government has made. Once again, unfortunately, many members of my union lost their lives in that disaster as a result of engineering bungling brought about by the Victorian Liberal-Country Party Government. Honourable members opposite should not talk to me about bungling. Let us recall what Bethune, the former Liberal Premier of Tasmania, did to the Bell Bay to Launceston railway. The original estimate was $4.75m but the final cost of it was almost $30m. Honourable members opposite should not talk to me about bungling when they consider the mess that was made of the Bell Bay to Launceston railway.
– Order! I suggest that the honourable gentleman might also speak to the Bill.
-Mr Speaker, with due regard to you, I will accept your ruling. But members of the Opposition drew attention to the alleged bungling that is taking place. I think that the Tasmanian Government and this Government have done an exceptionally good job in ensuring that people can at least get some form of transport as quickly as possible. We arranged for them to buy ferries. Sure they made a mistake with one of them; it was a bomb. But there is an old saying that you never buy a car from your friend and you do not buy something from a friendly government either. That is what happened as far as one of the ferries is concerned. But at least the people involved were having a go to provide the people of Hobart with some transport. That is more than the people across the way would have done.
With regard to Old Beach Road, I had discussions with the Premier very shortly after the unfortunate accident and we came to a clear understanding. The result was that Old Beach Road was resurfaced. It was previously a dust track and I drove over it to find out what condition it was in and what the people would be subjected to. As a result of the action that we took, there is now a road- admittedly it is a long way round but at least it is a road- which will enable people to move around if they want to use it. The Derwent River is a long river and it does create problems so we did move to do something about it. Landing craft have been provided so that in the event of emergencies requiring police, ambulance, fire brigades or services of that type there are facilities to transport them very quickly across the river. Honourable members opposite should be fair, honest and sincere and stop playing politics by trying to boost up the Warden of Clarence Council who is a Liberal candidate who will oppose Mr Ray Sherry, the Labor sitting member for Franklin, at the next general election. Honourable members opposite are trying to boost that man’s reputation but he has no possible hope of unseating the honourable member for Franklin
- Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. You earlier called speakers to order and pointed out the very narrow scope of this Bill. Might I respectfully suggest that the Minister is getting very wide of the Bill?
– I would point out to the honourable member that the Minister is answering matters which were raised by honourable members on his side of the House.
– I did not mention Liberal candidates.
-I know the honourable member did not mention the Liberal candidate but I mentioned him for the honourable member.
– Order! I suggest that the Minister might confine his remarks to the Bill.
– What was his name again?
-He is the Warden of Clarence Council. He has Buckley’s chance of ever getting into this place, because Ray Sherry the member will be here after the next election.
– Why do you not criticise him?
-I am not. There has been some criticism of the manner in which the Government has handled the engineering side of this situation. The honourable member for Bass (Mr Newman)’ referred to the proliferation of committees that have been set up in association with this work. The fact of the matter is that this Government has endeavoured to bring in as many experienced people as possible to assist. This includes a former Secretary to the Treasury who was appointed by a Liberal-Country Party government- Sir Roland Wilson. We did not play politics. We acknowledged that he was the best man for the job and we appointed him to do the job. One of the deputy secretaries of my Department, Mr Phillips, was posted to Hobart to do a job there. We received a letter of thanks from the Premier acknowledging the work that Mr Phillips had done in assisting to organise what had to be done in Hobart. It is necessary at times to appoint committees. The committees get on with the job. They involve the local people in what has to be done. That is what we set cut to do so that at least people would know what was under way.
There has been criticism of the consulting engineering firm of Maunsell and Partners Pty Ltd which has been engaged by us. They have done a lot of consulting work as far as this Government is concerned and likewise they were consultants to the former Government.
– Very good they were.
-I thank the honourable member for Gippsland for acknowledging the fact that we probably hired one of the best consultant firms available in Australia. According to the honourable member for Bass, that is a crime. It is wasting time. We got the best men that we could possibly get for the job to get on with the job. Maunsells has carried out its study. It is a very complicated engineering study and it has got on with the job. The engineering firm of John Holland (Constructions) Pty Ltd has already been advised that it has won the contract for its job. A contract has not been signed but over the past 3 months Hollands has been getting on with the job of removing debris where necessary from the floor of the river. It has been setting up its shore establishment so that as soon as the company is able to get on with the job it will do so. The company has been using 2 barge crane rigs to enable it to get the temporary crossing completed so at it can get with the permanent work. It does not matter which way we look at this situation, the facts are that this Government has done a first class job in providing alternative cross river transport, in providing facilities on the east side of the river, and providing access by way of road and by surfacing the Old Beach Road and paying for it and telling the Government in Tasmania to get on with the job and to get it out of the way. In comparing that record with the bungling that took place under the Bethune Government in regard to the Launceston to Bell Bay railway and the way in which the Liberal-National Country Party Government handled the Westgate Bridge tragedy in Victoria this Government has plenty of which to be proud.
In conclusion, I seek leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard this table which shows the amount of assistance which the Australian Government has given to Tasmania and is either directly or indirectly involved with this bridge collapse.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-I thank the House. The table shows that in 1974-75 $6m was spent on the repair of this bridge, providing replacement facilities and the like. The estimated expenditure for this year, 1975-76, is $ 13.9m. The estimated overall assistance at this stage totals $62m. Is that an indication that this Government has no regard whatsoever for Hobart and Tasmania and its problems? Any government that is prepared to put that sort of money into restoring, building up and providing the necessary replacement for what has been damaged and what has to be put there for the future gives me no indication that that government has no regard whatever for Hobart or Tasmania as a whole. The Government’s actions are typical of all the things that it has been doing to assist Tasmania to cope with its problems. There is the money that has been provided in other avenues- railways and the like -
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Mr NEWMAN (Bass)-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. In speaking to this Bill I put the proposition to the House that what had happened was that no bridge, either temporary or substantial, had ever been built. In advancing that proposition I put the evidence that one of the things that had happened was that there had been a tremendous growth in bureaucracy. It meant that 22 committees had been formed to try to build a bridge of one sort or another. In talking about those 22 committees I mentioned one involving Maunsell and Partners. At no stage did I say that the Maunsell contribution to the construction of the bridge had been bad, dilatory or otherwise. It was simply just one of the various 22 committees that had been formed. At no stage did I say that Maunsell and Partners was dilatory.
– Order! I think that the honourable member has made his point.
Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar)-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. In the course of his remarks, the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) mentioned an alleged incident at Garden Island in which the former honourable member for Macarthur and I had participated. This is a complete and utter fabrication. It has no basis of fact whatsoever. It has been denied before in the House. So the Minister should have known that it was false. It is part of a conspiracy of slander against me in which the Minister has participated.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to point out that I used as my authority speeches that had been made in this Parliament, particularly by a former member for East Sydney.
– Order! We will not debate the question. The honourable member -
- Mr Speaker-
-Order! The honourable member has made his point.
-But, Mr Speaker-
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. He has made his personal explanation. His position is clear to the House. I do not think that it requires any further explanation and I do not think that the Minister is in order in claiming any other authority.
- Mr Speaker-
-The question now is: That the Bill be read a second time.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Minister said something in his remarks which you said was out of order but which I think I am entitled to reply to -
-Order! The honourable member is not entitled to reply to it. I have said that the honourable member has made his personal explanation. The Minister named an authority for his remarks. The honourable member’s personal explanation in which he denied that is on the record. I think that that is all that is required in this matter. I do not intend to hear any further argument.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Charles Jones) read a third time.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Defence Force Re-Organization Bill 1975
Papua New Guinea Bill 1975
Papua New Guinea Independence Bill 1975
Papua New Guinea Loans Guarantee Bill 1 975
Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) Bill 1 975
Social Services Bill (No. 2) 1975
Consideration resumed from 4 September.
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 1 , 499,000.
-The abstract which appears on page 3 of the Appropriation
Bill (No. 1) 1975-76 shows that the appropriation for Parliament is the second lowest of the appropriation for all Government departments which appear on that page. The appropriation for the year ended 30 June 1976 is $1 1,499,000. The lowest of all the appropriations is the appropriation for the Department of Environment, for which an amount of $7,703,000 has been provided. Of course, the Department of Environment is a very new department whereas Parliament is a very old institution going back for centuries. I do not think that it can be justly said that the appropriation is overmuch. The examination of these estimates gives us an opportunity annually to have an objective and bipartisan look at the working of the Parliament, its failings and the work that we are doing or trying to do to find ways and means of improving the system.
I believe that credit should be given where credit is due. I will give credit to the present Government under 3 headings. Firstly, I give credit to the Government for introducing the automatic adjournment rule which has been in force for a very long time at Westminster, the mother of Parliaments. Now, we have an automatic adjournment question put at 10.30 p.m. and the House, after debating the question that the House adjourn, rises at 11 p.m. I think it should be pointed out that even then it is midnight or later before many of the people who work in this building are able to go home. I refer particularly to the Clerks of the House, the Hansard reporters, the car drivers and the various other people in this building. I hope that we will never return to sitting until very late hours at night, as used to obtain in times gone by.
I say unequivocally that from every point of view the late sittings until 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 4 o’clock, 5 o’clock and even 6 o’clock- I can remember that we sat until 6 o’clock on one occasion- were thoroughly bad. I think that practice should be denounced. Ironically, in the early 1960s- I think it was 1962-I, as a member of the Standing Orders Committee, tried very hard to have the automatic adjournment rule introduced in this chamber. I was unsuccessful because at that time it was opposed by the Australian Labor Party members of the Standing Orders Committee. I am very glad that since coming into power the Labor Party has seen the light and has adopted the suggestion which I think I was the first to put forward.
Secondly, I commend the Government on the fairly regular grievance day debates that we have had under standing order 106 and also on the fairly regular general business day debates which have been conducted under standing order 104. Having said that, I believe there are many important areas that need to be improved. The first is in regard to questions without notice. On many occasions the questions are too long, and also on many occasions the answers from Ministers are too long. I believe the answer may be found in giving greater powers to Mr Speaker. I have been having a good look at this with some of my colleagues. I have drafted an amendment to standing order 145 which I hope in due course to have an opportunity of putting to the Standing Orders Committee of which I am still a member. The powers of the Speaker at the moment under standing order 145 are limited to relevance. That standing order reads:
An answer shall be relevant to the question.
I believe that if Mr Speaker were given greater powers in relation to both questions and more particularly to answers by Ministers we would see a great improvement and a greater number of questions asked and answered each day.
I should like to see the Standing Orders Committee meet more frequently as it used to do in years gone by. I realise the difficulties. The members of it comprise, to a great extent, the most senior people on both sides of this chamber- the Prime Minister and others. They are extremely busy. It is very difficult indeed, as I know from past experience, for the Speaker to arrange a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee at which all the members or at least the greater number and particularly the important ones can be present. I think perhaps a look could be had at the appointment of sub-committees of the Standing Orders Committee. On one or two occasions at least I have served on sub-committees for particular purposes in relation to Standing Orders. I think this was a useful exercise.
I refer now to questions on notice. Today’s notice paper shows a considerable number of questions remaining unanswered. Some date back as far as July 1974. A glance through them suggests that a number of them could have been answered without too much difficulty or time. By the same token some questions on the notice paper are far too long. For instance on today’s notice paper there is a question taking up 2 full pages. It is dated 10 April 1 975 and was put in by a Liberal member. A question placed on the notice paper by a Labor member and dated 3 September, a few days ago, takes up 114 pages. Both of these questions, I submit, are far too long. Maybe we should have a look at the Westminster system which limits the number of words that may be included in a question to 70 words.
My next point relates to quorums. The quorum of 33% per cent, which was established under section 39 of the Australian Constitution, is the highest, as far as I can discover, in the world. It is the equivalent of the quorum required in the Lok Sabha in India and is much too high in today’s circumstances. I suggest an adequate and more appropriate quorum would be 20 per cent or perhaps 25 per cent. Ministers and members have a great deal of work to attend to in the Parliament other than what they have to do in this chamber. I think this is not generally recognised outside the Parliament. There is a great deal of committee work which takes a lot of time. I refer not only to the actual sittings of the committee but also to the preparation for committee meetings. There is also research for speeches or for committee meetings, correspondence with Ministers, correspondence with constituents, seeing Ministers on behalf of constituents and so on. All this takes time.
It is quite impossible to expect a very high quorum of members in a busy chamber in this modern world. A Bill was introduced, as my friend the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) reminded me a moment ago, some years ago along. the lines I have just mentioned. Unfortunately it was allowed to lapse. Somebody moved an amendment. The Bill was bogged down and left at the bottom of the notice paper. The Parliament was dissolved and the Bill was not brought forward in the new Parliament. Finding adequate time for dealing with legislation, committee work and other matters is an increasing problem for all of us. The volume of work continues to grow both here and in our electorates. I believe the time is coming when this national Parliament will have to sit for longer periods each year, as is the case in a number of other national Parliaments- for example, Westminster, Washington, New Delhi and others. This will mean less time for members to spend in their electorates.
My next major and final point concerns the committee system which, I think we will all agree, is a vital part of the machinery of the Parliament. We all await with much interest the report of the joint committee which was appointed to examine and make recommendations relating to the committee system. I have thought for a long time that we need to develop a better system for examining the annual estimates of expenditure. The Senate has 7 Estimates Committees each dealing with a particular group of departments. The examination in this chamber is far from satisfactory and is really little more than a mini-Budget debate. I am not in favour of too great a proliferation of committees, but some way must clearly be found for a closer and more detailed examination of proposed national expenditure, perhaps along the lines followed in the United Kingdom and in Canada. Possibly this objective could best be achieved by extending the powers and size of the Public Accounts Committee, on which members of both Houses of the Parliament are represented.
– I propose firstly to discuss the role of the Senate within our parliamentary system and for that purpose I refer again to comments which I made in the Estimates debate almost 3 years ago. As you will be aware, Mr Chairman, I am not in the habit of quoting myself. If I make an exception to that rule now it is only to emphasise that what I am about to say as a member of the Government is completely consistent with my arguments in Opposition. It is not as some less generous members may suspect just a current reaction to a current set of problems. I refer to Hansard of 12 September 1.972. ( Quorum formed). As I was saying, Hansard of 12 September 1972 records me in the following terms:
For over 20 years the Senate has had the potential to be a highly negative and disruptive body and with the imminence of a general election and the likelihood of a Labor Government thereafter, that potential could be realised all too soon. … the balance of power in the Senate is now held by 5 DLP and 3 independent senators, all 8 of whom between them represent a mere fraction of the whole electorate.
This situation has presented no problem to this stage because the Democratic Labor Party could always be relied upon to support the Government parties. The same cooperation, however, could hardly be expected for a Labor Government.
The prospects, then, would be of very great difficulty in passing any meaningful legislative programme at all and very serious instability of government.
Even the double dissolution provisions would not necessarily resolve the problems likely to arise because, although not yet tested it does appear that the Senate can bring down a government without leading to its own dissolution by means of a refusal of Supply.
Famous last words. I went on to say:
As it is, we already have 2 Federal elections every 3 years, which is far too often for effective government. We should beware of opening the way to even more frequent polls than that. The result at best would be chaos- at worst, complete paralysis of the system.
I then went on to discuss a number of myths about the Senate, the suggestion for example that it really is distinctively useful as a House of review; that it can realistically be looked to for protection of the rights of the States; that a multiparty rather than a 2-party Senate is desirable in principle despite the minority balance of power situations to which it lends itself. On the latter point I said this:
The argument is that minorities should be better and more specifically represented than the 2-party system allows. Perhaps that argument is right, although I would deny it. But if it is right, why stop there? Why not be consistent and adopt proportional representation- that is, the multi-parry system for the House of Representatives as well? The answer is obvious and rests on the fragmentation, instability and indecisiveness which characterise every parliament which is elected on a proportional representation basis.
While I believe that what I said in 1972 was right, I would now concede that I did not then go far enough. It is not enough to say- as I said then- that if we have proportional representation in both Houses of Parliament the result will be political instability. Experience has shown that one can produce that result, given a particular set of circumstances, by proportional representation in one House alone. Because of that voting system in the Senate we had one election 18 months ahead of time in May last year. There is now irrepressible speculation on a second premature election within the next 6 months.
But the frequency of elections- intolerable as that is- is only part of the problem. Even more serious has been the effect of repeated dissolution threats on the quality of government in the meantime. No government, let alone one as new to administration and faced with as many unique international problems as ours has been, could be expected to function as effectively as it should while simultaneously obliged to renew its popularity on a 6-month rolling program. That simply cannot be done. Indeed, one of the most important features of this year’s Budget is that it refuses to try. It recognises that our current economic difficulties are not amenable to instant solutions and it therefore initiates a relatively long term response. That the electoral cost of that exercise is potentially very heavy has nothing to do with the merits of the Budget itself. It rests solely on a fortuitous balance of numbers in the Senate which is a direct result of the system of proportional representation in that House.
As to alternatives, the former Senate electoral system of preferential voting on a State-wide electorate is also, if not equally, undesirable. I therefore come back to a third alternative, namely, the replacement of State-wide Senate constituencies by 5 constituencies within each State, each constituency with 2 senators elected at alternate polls. The voting system in that case would be preferential as for this House. It would tend to provide clear rather than narrow majorities in the Senate and an improved prospect of the power in both Houses resting in the same party.
Finally- and not least important- the proposed change is within the power of Parliament itself to enact. It is envisaged by the Constitution and would not require anything so impossible as the passage of a referendum in order to achieve it. I have made the identical suggestion many times and I have never yet been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the response to it. I raise it here again because developments in recent times have made such action more urgent than ever. With the disgraceful conduct of the New South Wales and Queensland governments in replacing Labor Senate vacancies with nonLabor appointments we have reached the stage where not only is the whole government of the country subject to the caprice of a peculiar voting system, it is now also vitally dependent on such otherwise irrelevant facts as the extent to which individual senators are healthy, ill or accident prone. The Queensland Government in particular, when it elected Mr Field, brought the convention on casual Senate vacancies to the point of destruction, and the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) has asked very properly whether the convention has not been torn up. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has responded to that question by describing the Queensland Government’s action as without principle and without honour. The clear indication there is that the Prime Minister is concerned to preserve the convention. That should be the concern of us all.
The alternative election system which I have proposed would encourage its survival, if only because the temptations to seize a chance opportunity for a Senate majority would be so greatly reduced. This is not the only or main argument for the change but an additional justification for it and if we avoid consideration of that possibility it is at the peril of our whole parliamentary system.
– I would like to agree with the observations made by the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury) about the fact that the problem which confronts Parliament is not a party political one; it is a problem with which politicians on both sides of this House have lived for a long time. It seems to me that this point has just been ably illustrated by the calling of a quorum in the middle of a debate on the estimates of the Parliament. People on both sides of the chamber put up with the most antiquated procedures. Regardless of which party is in government, the Opposition finds it appropriate to call quorums and divisions with the idea of disrupting government. It seems to me that if we are really examining seriously the role of Parliament we should certainly need to consider changing the rules relating to quorums and divisions. Perhaps we could postpone the holding of divisions to a certain time of the day so that the business of both government and Opposition may be conducted properly.
We are concerned at the moment with the estimates for Parliament and, of course, a very small sum has been allocated for that purpose. One must be critical of the conditions under which parliamentarians work. I know it is fashionable for the media to say that parliamentarians get increased salaries and remunerations. This sort of news item seems to be sensational. It seems to occupy most of the time of members of the media when they are questioning leaders of Parliament. But they do not know the conditions under which we work behind this elaborate facade of a building. They do not know about the rabbit warrens in which people are accommodated, three and four to a room. No union or private company in this country would tolerate these conditions. They are inefficient; they strain the goodwill of people who have to work in relative harmony; they strain the limited human resources. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who is at the table, knows this problem well. He has tolerated it for a long time. But I wonder for how long members of this chamber and the people whom they represent must tolerate these conditions.
As I have said, this is not a party political matter- it is a matter for the whole community. I am told quite often that I am a Johnnycomelately in this place, but it seems to me that the people of Australia do not know how bad the conditions are. Much more money would have been allocated in the Budget to this Parliament if the people knew how bad conditions were. Praise must be given to this Government for its decision to allow members of Parliament to appoint a research assistant to aid their electoral secretaries and to help them in their duties. Even this assistance makes a small impression on the work that needs to be done.
The Minister for the Environment (Mr Berinson) made reference to a number of inadequacies with respect to the researching of material which is to be considered in Parliament. For one thing, the Parliament has to consider too much legislation. The honourable member for Ryan said that we may have to sit longer. Of course, one could criticise much of this legislation as being nuts and bolts legislation or legislation more adequately dealt with by State governments or councils. But regardless of that criticism, there is too much legislation. There is also the haste with which the legislation is drawn. Just as we have limited time within which to consider the legislation, the parliamentary draftsmen have limited time within which to draw it. In fact this was admitted by the First Parliamentary Counsel, Mr Comans, to the Eighteenth Legal Convention in Canberra only recently.
Another of the requirements of members of Parliament is the collection of information from government and private sources. We must have time to digest the information and research assistance in order to do that. I repeat that this is not a criticism in any way of the present Government which has greatly improved the very limited facilities of honourable members. But more needs to be done. The honourable member for Ryan referred to the inadequacy of question time. This is something which has been complained of for years. I see that the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Lionel Bowen) is in the chamber. When he was an Opposition back bencher he complained about the time which Opposition back benchers received. It was in September 1972 that the now Minister for Manufacturing Industry observed that back benchers in the House of Representatives were able to speak, if they were fortunate, for an average of 2.5 to 3 hours per annum and they could ask one question per month and they could make one speech per month.
– Who said that?
– The Minister who has since exceeded his average. The people who elect people to office think that they are getting an adequate opportunity to be represented. We all know the problems at question time. The honourable member for Ryan referred to that matter to some extent. Question time ought to be a probing occasion. Again I say that I am not being critical of this Government or of the Opposition. It is a fact of the institution, so it seems, that question time is less than adequate when it comes to extracting information from the Government.
– But you get a lot more time than you gave us when you were in government. Billy McMahon had it down to 3 1 minutes.
-Order! The honourable member will come to order or I will give him a little time.
-Statistics do not bear out the honourable member’s interjection. Also, the honourable member overlooked the fact that I stressed that I was not being party political. I am making a point about the inadequacy of the institution here. The honourable member who interjected ought to be concerned with that too. But seeing that the honourable member raises the point I shall just point out that the average number of questions without notice each day of sitting has dropped from 17 in 1971 and 1972 to 15 in 1973, 13 in 1974 and 11 so far on average in 1975.
– Your questions are too long.
-The honourable member says that the questions are too long. Some of them are. Certainly some of the answers are too long. I am not attributing fault; I am asking honourable members in this limited once a year debate on the Parliament to consider the adequacy of parliamentary rules, procedure and practice. Seeing that the honourable member provokes me I shall mention the number of ministerial statements by leave on policy mattersone of the important procedures of the Parliament. They have declined from 86 in 1972 to 71 in 1 973 and 28 in 1 974. Likewise, the number of motions to take note of the paper have declined from 44 in 1972 to 27 in 1973 and 10 in 1974. These are two important opportunities for debate by the Opposition and they have been circumvented by the Government.
I turn to the question of gags and guillotines. I know that that is a matter which has bothered the Parliament for years. Again I refrain from being partisan about it except to state that the statistics of recent years show that the McMahon Government did not use the guillotine once in its final year. The Minister for Services and Property has told me that that meant that honourable members had to sit right through the night. The honourable members for Ryan rightly said that this is an improper thing to ask of members of Parliament when they are supposed to be efficient and on the job. The number of gags moved from 68 in 1972 to 103 in 1973 and to 1 14 in 1974.
The Australian people are sceptical of their politicians. For some reason they do not regard them as doing a serious job of work. At the same time they put their faith in them. They elect them every 3 years and they wish us to have a system of parliamentary democracy. If we are seriously to place parliamentary democracy in the hands of elected members of Parliament we should certainly give them better accommodation, not sharing rooms two and three to a room, interrupting each other by way of telephone calls, interviews and other things, with inefficient systems of work and a lack of staff support. It is time the Australian people realised the difficulties under which members of Parliament labour arid the difficulties under which they confront increasing inroads on their time, increasing slabs of power in legislation, and increasing delegation to statutory corporations. There is need for a reallocation of the work of parliamentarians, for more committees of the Parliament and less social welfare and diplomatic work in the community by parliamentarians unless further aid is forthcoming.
– I should like to commend the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee) who has just addressed the Committee. It is seldom that we agree with one another. But he agrees with my point of view and I think that is some commendation of his own level of intelligence. He made a comment about the media, which in Australia seems to have the arrogance to determine all sorts of attitudes so far as parliamentarians are concerned. There are no representatives of the media here tonight, except for one lass who has been busily scribbling all night. I draw to the attention of the Committee that the upper gallery behind your chair Mr Chairman and the one to your left are supposed to be occupied by the Press. Tomorrow we will see screamer headlines and yet no Press representatives are present here tonight.
The subject before the Committee tonight is the estimates for the Parliament. The honourable member for Balaclava spoke, as did the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury) before him, about what happens when an honourable member reaches this chamber, but nobody spoke about what happens for an honourable member to be elected to this place. We all profess to live in a democracy in Australia. Everybody knows that we have parliamentary democracy in Australia. We also know that on 2 December 1972- not yet 3 years ago, and yet the Constitution states that the House of Representatives should be elected for 3 years- the people of Australia chose a majority of members of the Australian Labor Party to govern in this House. We know what has happened since then. We know that in another place, because of the system of election for that place, there will always be a delicate balance of power. We know that in that place a majority of senators decided that in May 1974, before the 3 years required by the Constitution were up, they would take the people of Australia to another election. The people of Australia responded correctly and they returned a Labor government. Since then this other chamber, the other House of the parliamentary system in Australia as defined in the Constitution, has set about taking some other decisions. The first thing that happened was that- I will not call him the honourable senator- ex-senator Gair from Queensland -
– His Excellency.
-Accepted the position of Ambassador to China, as the new senator says.
-The new senator said ‘China’. We had better buy him a map of the world before he goes any further. Be that as it may, from that time on a number of people do not now sit in the Senate who were there in 9 May 1974. One of those, through no fault of his own was the late Senator Milliner.
– A very fine bloke.
-A very fine gentleman from Queensland. In Australia we do not have only this Parliament. This is not the be all or the end all of parliaments in Australia. We also have another six. Let us have a look at the democratic process by which the members of these Parliaments are elected in their totality. For instance, in Victoria we have a lower and an upper House, as we have in five of the 6 States. In Victoria, because there are no constitutional requirements for boundaries of electorates, the members of the Parliament set their own boundaries. What is the result? We find that in the Port Phillip electorate there are twice as many electors as there are in Victorian country areas. So, a gerrymander exists in Victoria.
The position in New South Wales is no better. Electors do not have the right to vote for those who are elected to the New South Wales Upper House. Persons are appointed to the Upper House by the 2 Houses of the New South Wales Parliament sitting together. I understand that members of the New South Wales Legislative Council serve a term of office of 12 years.
-Order! I would invite the honourable member for Burke to consider the appropriation with which the Committee is dealing at the moment, which is the appropriation for this Parliament. I have allowed the honourable member some latitude. I invite the honourable member to relate his remarks to that appropriation.
-The point to which I was coming is that because a democratic system does not operate in New South Wales we now have sitting in the other chamber of this Parliament a person who does not reflect the result of the voting pattern expressed by the people of New South Wales at the last Senate election.
Surely that situation affects this Parliament. Sitting in the other chamber is a person whose presence directly reflects a rigged vote in New South Wales. Because the membership of the Upper House in New South Wales is not elected by the people, but is appointed, we have sitting in the other chamber here a person who may be described politically as a wether or a neuter. That will have an effect on what happens in this Parliament.
Recently Senator Milliner died. We all regret his passing; there is no doubt about that. I have heard people in this chamber and in the other chamber stand up and say so. What happened in Queensland with respect to filling the vacancy his death caused? Because with 19 per cent of the vote some peanut from Kingaroy became the Premier of that State -
– Who is he?
-Bjelke-Petersen. I believe I have pronounced his name correctly. That person sets about to prostitute Queensland representation in this Parliament. Instead of returning to this Parliament somebody of the same political party as the late Senator Milliner for whom the people of Queensland voted in 1974- and I remind the Committee that Senator Milliner was a most respected and revered member of the Australian Labor Party- that Premier has returned to the Senate a person who is not a member of the Labor Party. He did so simply because that person said that, if ever he came to the national Parliament, he would vote to bring down the Labor Government. Let us have a look at that proposition. He said that he would bring down the Labor Party. Those who sit on the opposite side of this chamber talk about law and order. They talk about ‘Laura Norda’, the girl with whom they are having a love affair. Those people who sit on the Opposition side of this Parliament claim that they are seeking law and order. But their actions mean that the people of this country, who want decent government and who are being frustrated by gerrymanders in every State and by State parliamentarians determining who will sit in the other chamber of this Parliament, are being brought to a position where violence on this question will occur in the not far distant future. I am not inciting violence. I am the most ‘unviolent’ person, if that is the correct word, that anyone would ever meet in his life.
– You are a pacifist.
-Yes. I am a pacifist. I am an absolute pacifist, and those who know me will swear to that.
– ‘Gentle’ is the word.
-Yes. I am a gentle person, as the honourable member for Wakefield reminds me.
– Order! I invite the honourable member to ignore such interjections.
-Thank you, Mr Chairman. I think you are quite right, too. What will these actions lead to? What will those Australians who believe in decent government do? They do not believe in the attitudes expressed by the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party, or whatever its name is from time to time, the Leader of that Party (Mr Anthony) or the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and his Deputy Leader (Mr Lynch) all of whom seek power at any price for their own purposes and who are quite prepared to override the stated will of the Australian people. One must question their reasons.
The point that I wish to make is that if they continue to pursue that course, their action will endanger very greatly the system of parliamentary democracy in Australia as we know it. So long as they pursue their power hungry course those who are frustrated and who are not allowed to see their will as expressed at the ballot box run for 3 years as they believed it would in the government they elected, will make their voices heard. It is desirable that the call of their voices be made known in this Parliament. I am endeavouring to do that tonight.
If their will is frustrated and is denied to them, they will not remain frustrated and denied, but rather will they find a remedy in another way. The honourable member for New England who happens to be a lawyer, more by accident than choice, ought to know better than to incite people to the type of action to which he, his Leader and the Queensland Premier who is supported by only 19 per cent of the people of Queensland, have incited them. He ought to know better than that. The sooner that he pulls his socks up- I suppose it is difficult to pull your socks up if you have not any- and other people of his ilk do likewise, the sooner Australia will return to parliamentary democracy. We do not have it now. Every attempt is made by those who sit opposite to deny parliamentary democracy. If they continue to deny it, they will suffer the consequences.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) commenced his remarks by saying that he agreed with the speech that had been made by the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee). I would imagine that there is no necessity for me to say that I disagree perhaps not with everything but as least a fair percentage of what the honourable member for Burke had to say.
Tonight we are talking about the Parliament. I regret that when the Minister for Environment (Mr Berinson) was speaking earlier this evening, a quorum was called. I certainly think that that action taken by us on this side of the chamber was a very bad step. I wish to apologise personally to the Minister for that action. The honourable member for Burke talked about elections. I have been a member of this Parliament now for close on 24 years. I have faced 10 elections and, on top of that -
– And won them all.
– As the honourable member for Darling Downs said, I won them all. That is true up to a point. I would not be here if I had not. That has been rather fortunate. One of the points that I wish to make in this debate is that I believe there is a danger that the importance of elections is lessened as we continue to see separate elections held for the House of Representatives, the Senate and State legislatures. Having said that, I believe that for the safety and security of this country there are times when an election should be held. This must be done, as I say, for the sake of the safety and security of this country even when it means that an election is held at a time when the party elected to power has had a shorter period in office than the term for which it was elected.
With due respect, I believe- and I have said this before- that the double dissolution which was engendered by the Opposition parties recently was one for which there was complete and absolute justification. I said at that time, and I repeat it, that the Governor-General should have dismissed both the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the then Attorney-General, former Senator Murphy, from their positions because they had so contravened the Constitution that their actions set at nought the essence of democracy about which in this debate Government members have been speaking. Having made that point, I do not wish to make any comment on what has happened recently with respect to membership of the other place. The matter was one for the State Parliament concerned. It is a matter for that Parliament’s responsibility and for its conscience.
The debate on the appropriations for the Parliament is an important one. It is one to which, I believe, we should all give very serious consideration. May I say at the outset that we are indebted to the members of the staff of this House. I refer not only to those in the Executive staff but also to the attendants and to all those others who make this Parliament work. There are perhaps some occasions- probably a number of occasions- when we take for granted the work and the contribution that those people make to the parliamentary system.
I believe that Parliament is under challenge. In the period I have been a member- the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who is at the table, will have seen this in the lengthy period that he has been a member- a great deal of change has occurred in our parliamentary setup. Today a member has far more correspondence and far more constituency work to do. The honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury) said that the legislative program had caused increased work for the Parliament and that members had to spend more time in the Parliament. In some electorates- particularly in Western Australia, parts of Queensland and some country areas in the other States- where there is difficulty with lines of communication and travel, it is not easy for an honourable member to render service to his electorate and to give the full attention to the Parliament that it really deserves. I have previously complimented the Minister for Services and Property for the tremendous contribution he has made in assisting members of this Parliament in the work they do in their electorates. I give him credit for that again.
Last weekend I spent 4 days in the electorate of Maranoa, which borders the electorate of my colleague the honourable member for Darling Downs. From practically the moment we left Canberra by aircraft at 7 o’clock on the Friday morning until we arrived back in Canberra at about 10 o’clock on the Monday evening the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) and I were on the move pretty well all the time. That is an indication of the amount of time an honourable member spends on travel in giving service to his electorate. Sometimes that is not appreciated even by people in the electorate.. It is not appreciated by members of the media or by people who are highly critical of the Parliament. Honourable members from both sides of the Parliament must give very serious consideration to an alteration in procedures. Whilst the Parliament must have the ultimate authority and responsibility, thought should be given to the establishment of more committees.
– Hear, hear!
– The honourable member for Wakefield said: ‘Hear, hear’. He has had a tremendous amount of experience both as the very distinguished Chairman and as a member of the Joint Committee on Public Works. Those of us who have had the experience of being members of committees know that there is a tremendous amount of common ground there on which members from all parties can work. To that degree a very valuable contribution is made to the political life of this nation. Members get together around a committee table and the discussion is a considered one. By that I do not imply that debates or comments in this chamber are not considered. There is perhaps a calmer atmosphere in the committee room than there is in this chamber. I believe that the discussion that takes place and the decisions made there are of benefit to this country. So I feel that committees should be set up to study certain legislation in detail. A committee has been set up to look into procedures and we have set up a committee to look into the committee system. Their work will be of tremendous value.
A country the size of Australia needs a federal parliament such as the Parliament we have in Canberra today. I believe that it also needs the State parliaments. What worries me a little today is the tendency towards centralised control. I do not think that this is a good thing for the future progress and development of Australia. We need our State parliaments. We also need local government. With those 2 other tiers of government in this country the Federal Parliament can make an important contribution to the continuing progress of the democratic form of Government in Australia. If one looks around the world today one sees the problems in some other countries where dictators or groups are endeavouring to take control. Every member of this House should give very serious consideration to something which is of vital importance to our country and to future generations- the maintaining of our system and of our democratic way of life.
– The estimates for the Parliament are likely to receive universal consideration by honourable members from both sides of the chamber because I believe that we are all vitally interested in the institution of the Parliament. I agree with the remarks just made by the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock). I think that the estimates for the parliament are more important than any other estimates because the Parliamentary system is fundamental to our way of life and to the way in which we manage our affairs. I think that all of us are pleased to see the way in which the debate is being conducted. Like the honourable member for Lyne, I believe that out parliamentary system is under very strong challenge at the moment. I would like to express my concern about the situation which has developed with regard to parliamentary democracy in Australia. As mentioned by the Minister for Environment (Mr Berinson) this evening, we had one election before the required time because the Senate threatened to refuse Supply.
When the founding fathers drew up our Constitution they balanced the rights of the colonies, which were later to become the States, with the rights of the population of Australia as a whole. Unfortunately, because of the expressed rights of the colonies at the time and because they felt there was a need to have a States House, which after federation rapidly became a Party House, the situation developed- and it exists at the present time- where the Senate in certain circumstances could refuse Supply and thus force the House of Representatives to an election without having to go to an election itself. We should think very seriously about this matter because we could reach a situation where a party or a number of parties with the majority in the Senate could continue to refuse Supply regardless of what happened in an election for the House of Representatives.
In those circumstances democracy becomes virtually unworkable. I suggest that if the Constitution had been drawn up about 12 or 15 years later than it was the situation we have at the moment would not have occurred, because about 1910 or 1911 after a constitutional crisis in the United Kingdom the House of Lords had the power to refuse money taken away from it- or it agreed by virtue of the circumstances that it could not refuse money to the Parliament. I believe that that sort of power would have been enshrined in the Constitution if it had been drawn up about 1 5 years later. But it did not happen that way. I think that there are members of all parties in the Parliament who are very concerned about what could happen. I draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that no government can be universally popular during its whole term in office. No government can govern effectively if every 6 months when Supply Bills come before the Parliament that party elected to power at the preceding election has to go to the people. That is one reason why municipal councils always strike the rate immediately after the annual; election. If that were not done the finances of local government would be in an even worse state than they are now.
The situation to which I have referred has happened before. To my knowledge it has happened twice in my own State. On 20 December 1877, nearly 100 years ago, the Legislative Council refused Supply to the Berry Government. The Berry Government refused to accept what it regarded as being an unconstitutional action on the part of the Legislative Council. It sat the situation out until the Legislative Council decided to do something else about it.
I suggest to this Committee that this is precisely the sort of situation that could occur in the future to either the present Government or some other government if it were faced with the rejection of Supply in the Senate. I also suggest to honourable members on the other side of the chamber, because I have heard them express sentiments in terms similar to those used by the honourable member for Lyne, that this goes very close to destroying the whole system, because once money for government runs out, the public servants cannot be paid, pensioners cannot be paid and contractors cannot be paid. If this should happen in this Parliament we will be faced with a very serious constitutional crisis.
In answer to the point that was made by the honourable member for Lyne about the need to take action in certain circumstances, let me say that there have been occasions in this Parliament when a government has fallen, but it has fallen in the House of Representatives and it has fallen because the Party in power has not been able to have a majority of members in support of it. That has happened both under Labor and under Conservative administrations. That is the remedy to a situation- not to refuse supply in the other chamber. I feel very strongly about this, because I believe that if this should happen Australia will be faced with a very difficult and very dangerous situation. I do not need to go into details before the Committee. I leave it to the imagination of honourable members. I think they will readily see how this Parliament could be affected.
The estimates for the Parliament have been carefully drawn up by the officers of the Parliament and they provide what I believe to be adequate expenditure for the services of the Parliament. I draw the Committee’s attention to the appropriation under administrative expenses for standing and select committees. I notice that in this coming year the amount of $100,000 is suggested as the correct appropriation for this item. I believe that the Parliament is well served by the select and standing committees. They provide one of the few opportunities which honourable members in this chamber, in the Senate and jointly have of sitting down together on an allParty basis to discuss matters of importance to their country and to their electorates in the special matters which they consider. I believe that we are getting very good service in this way. Many of the reports which are brought before this Parliament are unanimous reports, despite the fact that many of them are very controversial. I hope that the Parliament will consider in the very near future an extension of the committees of this place and perhaps a reorganisation of the procedure of the Parliament to allow those committees to function more effectively. I commend to the Committee the estimates as outlined for the Parliament. As I said before, I believe they are adequate, that they are not extravagant, and in my opinion they will make sure that the services and the functions of this place are carried on properly and for the benefit of the people.
-The thread running through this debate has been one of concern about the preservation of the parliamentary system and the exercise of democracy. It is good to note that speakers from both sides of the chamber have taken this point into their various deliberations. Parliament is for the people and is the forum in which the people of Australian can hope to have their points of view expounded. I have to express some concern at what has happened in this Parliament over recent months. I believe that a great deal of the concern that has been reflected by the previous speakers and by the people outside the Parliament has been due to what happened here on 27 February this year. It gives me no great personal pleasure to recount what happened on what was a disastrous morning. One can lay no blame for the view that was expressed by the Press, the radio and television following the sacking of Speaker Cope.
That happening, brought on by the express will of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), was something that has created an irritant among people who have seen their fortress of democracy threatened. Power does not grow out of the barrel. The Prime Minister that morning endeavoured to exercise power out of the barrel. He deliberately and quite openly defied the authority of the Speaker. I submit that that action of the Prime Minister in this Parliament proved once and for all that he is not fit to be the Prime Minister of this country. It was blatant -
-Order! The honourable member is offending in 2 senses. He is making imputations against the Prime Minister, and I would think that his last remarks were definitely offensive in the parliamentary sense. I would ask him to desist from making remarks of that nature.
– Thank you, Mr Chairman. I was endeavouring to bring out that there was more or less blood in this forum and a betrayal of Parliament- and we are debating Parliament. That was the point I was trying to bring out in the national interest, free of party dogma. Parliament was under threat by that action.
The Parliament does deserve some comment. I think, by and large, the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), in association with the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party of Australia (Mr Sinclair), has made this Parliament a very busy place. I think we should compliment both those people for their spirit of cooperation and co-ordination. I think it is fitting also in passing, since we are talking about Parliament and members of Parliament, to place on record the appreciation of so many of us of the excellent service given to us by the Minister for Services and Property and to let him know that we do not take for granted what he has done for us. We do appreciate what he has done to improve the role of the ordinary parliamentarian in what is a rather difficult situation. Whilst he often attacks the National Country Party- quite undeservedly on all occasions- at least we can say of him that if we have a problem and we go to him he listens to our problems with a disciplined and fair mind, and we appreciate that.
It would be fair to say that question time has deteriorated during recent months. It is fitting to note that in 33 days in the 1 972 February to June sitting, 564 questions were asked and answered, and in the 37 days of the February to June sitting in 1975 only 500 questions were asked and answered. I believe that Ministers should be brought to task and made answer the questions, and they should get away from cheap political answers to what in many cases are Dorothy Dixers. We on the Opposition side of the Parliament can only hope to ask three or four questions each session. It grates on one’s nerves to hear questions on non-events of political significance to improving the quality of life of Australians and to hear Ministers, who seem to have been around when the good Lord was giving out longwindedness, going on forever about nothing. The
Speaker could exercise more control over Ministers who endeavour to take up question time which should be reserved for the more pertinent and intelligent questions that emanate quite obviously from this side of the House.
Previous speakers spoke about questions on notice. It is most disappointing and distressing to find that there are many hundreds of questions that have not been answered. I think that Ministers with their retinues could be more attentive to the questions and have them answered. The matter of the closing of debates is of concern. In the February to June session this year on 98 occasions motions were moved that a member be no longer heard or that the question be now put. This compares with only 43 such motions in the February to June session of 1972. That indicates that we have got away from the system of open government. Surely the Australian people are entitled to open government.
I want to comment upon the high increase in the cost of Hansard. This seems to me to thwart the ambitions of the ordinary Australian citizen who likes to keep himself conversant with what the national Parliament is discussing. I find it most difficult to equate in my mind the earnestness of a Prime Minister who will give $100,000 to Germaine Greer, waste $ 164,000 in a week of socialist propaganda in Canberra for the women of Australia, pay $ 1.25m for Blue Poles which displeases everyone and pleases no one, with a Prime Minister who agrees to increase the cost of Hansard from $1.20 a year to $63.10 a year. Of course, he dismisses it with a quick wave of his hand. When questioned about how people can find out about matters that the Parliament is discussing he says: ‘Let them read it in Hansard’. I would like to know how the ordinary person, the ordinary labourer, who has to pay 4c more for a glass of beer and 13c more for a tin of tobacco can be expected to pay $60-odd more for Hansard. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to dismiss this matter as being of no concern. I suggest that he would do a lot better to get his priorities right and to keep the cost of Hansard down so that the ordinary person, the man in the street, can afford it.
I want to talk also about the service that is given to the Parliament by the staff of the Parliamentary Library, the officers who wait in the chamber and the attendants in various sections of the House. I think it appropriate to remark that they are always very courteous to us and only too ready to carry out the requests that we make of them. In particular, the Library staff is to be highly commended for the excellent service it gives, often in most difficult situations. These people do it quite readily and warmly and the person who thought of improving the Library facilities in this Parliament has certainly played a most notable part in the improvement of debates and in the contributions made by various members. Some other honourable members spoke about the Committee system. If one has to be critical one could say that we do not have enough time in Canberra to carry out an in depth analysis of the legislation that requires our attention from dme to dme. I do not think it is a workable solution to allow committees to meet while the Parliament is discussing various pieces of legislation. It is appropriate to recommend for the consideration of those who are in charge of the affairs -
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to say a few words about the estimates for the Parliament. I appreciate the compliments that have been paid to me by the previous speaker and the generous remarks of other honourable members. I would say that, broadly speaking, parliamentarians are probably the hardest people in the world to satisfy. For reasons that I can never understand they continually write themselves down. A vast majority of parliamentarians, for instance, seem to think that they ought never to give themselves a salary rise although everybody else in the community takes one. This kind of weird reasoning makes it difficult sometimes for Parliament to work. They seem to think that by setting some kind of weird example, occasionally others will follow. They give no consideration to the justice of their claims to certain rights and certain conditions to which they are entitled by reason of the positions they occupy or to the lead they should give the community. Therefore, when I speak tonight on this matter I do so with the reservation that the vast majority of politicians is inclined to write themselves down and suffer accordingly in the eyes of the public.
The honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh), who has just spoken, mentioned the former Speaker, the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope). The full responsibility for the incident involving the honourable member for Sydney lies mainly at the door of the Liberal and National Country Parties in this Parliament. By larrikin conduct they took advantage of an exceedingly kind man and endeavoured to destroy him and remove him from the Chair. The events of that day were caused entirely by their destructive tactics and full responsibility for what happened is theirs. It is interesting to note that those who cry out the most about it now were those who moved motions of no confidence in the former Speaker and dissent from his rulings. They must now have certain regrets about what occurred. It was a very unfortunate event in parliamentary history.
But whatever might have happened, it has been capitalised on by those on the other side of this Parliament who have torn up the rule book in regard to parliamentary procedures. They did it in New South Wales over the filling of a Senate vacancy and also in Queensland a day or so ago. As I mentioned in this Parliament earlier, those who have torn up the rule book in regard to the filling of Senate vacancies cannot complain if in the industrial world in the future some people tear up the rule book and apply the same tactics to industry as honourable members opposite applied in regard to the Senate. Instead of giving an example of leadership and showing what should be done in the parliamentary sphere they have given by their method of filling Senate vacancies an inspiration to those who want to tear up the industrial rule book. They may well find that their example has been followed to their detriment and undoubtedly to the detriment of the vast majority of Australians.
The honourable member spoke of gags and guillotines but he should remember when he quotes figures that the legislative program of this Government is about 3 times greater than that of the previous Government. Consequently to get this amount of legislation through the Parliament requires much more effective action than that taken previously. The record in this Parliament for the guillotine is 17 Bills in 19 hours and this is held by the previous Government. That was an unforgettable event which was described by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) in a speech he made in Brisbane recently as one of the blackest days of democracy in this country. I respect the honourable member for Moreton. He is one of the really intelligent members of the Opposition parties. He is a shadow Minister- a man who knows and upholds the traditions of the Parliament. No matter how hard we tried we could not possibly equal that record.
I do not regard it as wrong that Oppositions should try to hold up the procedures of Parliament. If an Opposition desired to do it it could turn the place into a real bear garden. It could obstruct, and by using every known device make it practically impossible for the Government to get its legislation passed. By all means the Opposition can do what it likes in that regard but it is no good it squealing when the Government hits back by using the procedures of the Parliament to bring about the termination of a debate through the use of the gag or the guillotine. The fact is that legislation must go through. If everybody on the opposite side of the House exercised his right to speak on every Bill we would not get one Bill passed a year. The procedures of the Parliament are available to both sides and as the position tries to obstruct so the Government try to have its legislation passed. Instead of complaining about the gag and the guillotine, I would suggest that honourable members opposite might negotiate more and in an objective and constructive way seek to put their point of view without unduly delaying what is undoubtedly most progressive legislation from this side of the Parliament
Earlier tonight I was interested by the very constructive remarks of the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury). He has continually given a great deal of attention to matters relating to the Parliament. I agree with him. There are a number of matters that he mentioned that might well receive the consideration of the Standing Orders Committee or even an all Party committee of this Parliament. I think the number required for a quorum in the Parliament should be reduced to about 20 or 25 with a precaution taken that the vote on certain measures should be a stipulated number or perhaps a majority of the Parliament. I think that in the House of Commons in Canada out of a Parliament of 254, the quorum required is about twenty-five. I said to one member there one day: ‘Could you pass the Budget by thirteen to twelve?’ He said: ‘We could; but everyone who was not there would probably lose his seat at the next election ‘.
In other words, an honourable member makes sure that he is there for the important votes. This can be done. Consequently, I am inclined to think after a long time in the Parliament that the calling of quorums, whilst it keeps the Government on its feet, is a bit of a childlike procedure in this day and age and might well be kept down to the very minimum particularly by certain members. Outside the Parliament many people possibly think that when an honourable member is not in the chamber he is walking around or having a beer. The fact of the matter is that he is probably busily engaged on legislation or parliamentary or electorate affairs. So a false impression is created sometimes by the calling of quorums. These are things that we might well consider in the broad context when we are considering matters associated with Parliament.
Like other honourable members, I would like to see adequate time given to debate. That is impossible, though, in a Parliament of 127 members with Standing Orders that were instituted for 75 members to fit procedures that apply in the House of Commons. I agree with the previous speaker that to have committee meetings when Parliament is meeting makes it impossible for this Parliament to function effectively. Whilst we debate the Budget and the Estimates in Committee of the Whole House, it does not lend itself to what could be called expeditious treatment of these affairs. In the House of Commons recently I happened to attend some committee meetings where honourable members sat in committee rooms on certain issues with a Minister present giving answers and accepting amendments. The matters in hand were all settled. These are procedures which the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System is at present investigating.
– Would you recommend that we do that?
– I would support that kind of procedure. Undoubtedly it must come about if we are to have what could be called ‘opportunity to debate’. In this debate I think that every honourable member may speak for 10 minutes twice probably on practically everything.
– You get unlimited time.
– I will not hold up the Committee. But if everyone were to exercise that right, there is not one member of this Parliament who would be here with the Speaker when the Parliament rises about Christmas time this year. These are things which the Parliament will have to face up to in the not far distant future. The honourable member for Ryan also mentioned a number of other matters connected with the Standing Orders and committee meetings. These are matters which will have to receive consideration. I do not say that members are guilty of being absent because the fact is they are usually engaged on committee meetings when they ought to be in the Parliament. But the only effective way to learn the procedures of the Parliament, as honourable members know, is to be in it continually and, by breaking the rules, they will know when they are going well the next time around. I mention these matters because I appreciate what has been said.
The matter of question time has been raised. One cannot blame the Government or the Opposition in this regard. The fact of the matter is that if one asks a long question it will bring a long answer.
– What if you ask a short question?
– If an honourable member asks a short question he might get an answer like that given by Sir John McEwen on one occasion. I think it took him 37 minutes to answer a short question. In other words, it is up to the Ministers and others. These are things that might well be considered by some form of committee. The fact is that the time of the Parliament as it is constituted under the Standing Orders does not lend itself to the extensive debate that we might wish to have.
I agree with honourable members that the 1 1 o’clock closing time is a good one. But I would like to see an experiment whereby the Parliament would sit, say, from mid-day to 8 o’clock at night or maybe from mid-day to 6 o’clock at night. We could probably have other meetings that might be wanted at night. I think there is a lot to be said for some form of committee deciding on a change in the sitting hours. We could possibly do as other Parliaments do and sit right through the lunch hour or the dinner time with a neutral period like a 6-day bike race when no divisions are called and a vote could be taken at a later time. I think these things will have to be considered by the Parliament. It takes us practically from 10 o’clock in the morning until 11 o’clock at night to fit in what could possibly be dealt with between mid-day and 8 o’clock at night. It would be to our mutual benefit if we could get common agreement on these questions.
I would like to see an experiment conducted before we actually committed ourselves to sitting those hours. Perhaps they could be observed 1 day a week. Of course the trouble in Australia is that everybody eats between about 6 o’clock and 6.30 at night. There are problems in that respect and there are problems with the broadcasting of Parliament, Hansard, the Clerks and others. But I think we ought to see whether we can get some form of agreement on these matters and by sitting 2 or 3 days a week- even Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday- allow members more time in their electorates. Whatever side of politics one is on, one cannot neglect the base from which one comes. I think these are matters which we might well discuss. The Standing Orders Committee might well have a good look at this situation in the immediate future. By a change in hours and a change in methods, particularly in the committee system and the hours of committee sittings, I think we could improve generally all round the workings of this Parliament.
With regard to the accommodation in the Parliament, the less said the better. It must be the worst equipped Parliament anywhere in the world, including some of the developing countries. Unless we can get concertina walls on the Parliament, there is no chance of any extension to it. What will be done I do not know but I see private members working in the poor conditions that were mentioned by the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee) earlier tonight with 2 or 3 members to a room. The opportunity to interview constituents who come to Parliament House is very limited. This applies to private members. Ministers and office holders are much worse off. I think that the best thing that could be done at a time of high unemployment would be to start building a new Parliament House because it would not be finished for many years. It is a very necessary thing to be done. If things continue as they are now, it may be necessary even to move out of this building and take over some other building and house the Parliament in it whilst a new Parliament House is being built. This situation cannot go on much longer.
In another place, senators have asked for 2 rooms each within the precincts of this Parliament for themselves and staff. I do not object to that; it is a reasonable proposition but there is no chance of getting it. Every private member knows that his chances of getting a room to himself and the proper faculties, unless he is very fortunate, are practically non-existent. These are matters which honourable members have to face up to. They are terribly important. I do not think the public outside realises the conditions that exist within the confines of the Parliament. Most of them see only this chamber, Kings Hall and the appointments that are available to the public. But behind the scenes it is a cramped place where people just cannot carry on effectively the work that they should do.
In any case, I am grateful to honourable members for what have been very constructive suggestions in regard to the Parliament. I hope that possibly arising out of a debate such as this something can be done, first of all, to overhaul the Standing Orders; to see whether something cannot immediately be done in regard to the sitting hours and matters of that nature; to see whether our facilities could not possibly be improved; and to make this a better building to work in so as to allow honourable members to carry out more effectively the duties which they were sent here to perform. Without being egotistical in any way, I think every honourable member should regard himself as being on the board of directors of the Commonwealth of Australia. That is a tremendous task and honourable members are entitled to proper facilities, proper incomes and all that goes with the job. But if honourable members write themselves down and do not apply themselves to these matters, they will go on as they are now indefinitely. Everybody has been talking about a new Parliament House and facilities as long as I can remember. It is nearly time that in some way from both sides of the Parliament we did something effective to remedy the situation.
– It is inevitable in a debate such as this that much of the discussion time should be taken up with suggestions as to the way in which the work of the Parliament could be improved together with comments upon deficiencies. As a member who has been here for a very short period, I make only one suggestion: Perhaps the Standing Orders Committee might consider a reduction in the time allowed private members for speeches on the second reading of Bills from 20 minutes to 10 minutes. During the time that I have been here I have formed a very strong opinion that what is lacking in many of the second reading debates is an atmosphere of debate. One of the things that contributes to sterility in a debate is the large number of members on both sides of the chamber who read prepared speeches. There is no spirit of give and take in the course of the debate. There is no attempt to answer comments and criticisms which have been made by preceding speakers. Whilst I think that it would be impractical to alter the time allotted to the leading speaker for the Opposition or to a Minister in a debate, I think that the Standing Orders Committee ought to give some serious consideration to introducing a reduction in the speaking time from 20 minutes to 10 minutes. I think that this should be considered particularly towards the end of a second reading debate when every principle has been canvassed carefully and gone over again by the preceding speakers. I think that 20 minutes speaking time for every speaker is far too long. The fact that on many occasions we are exhorted by the Government Whip, the Leader of the House, our own Whip and our own Leader of the House to limit our remarks to about 10 minutes only proves the point. I hope that the Standing Orders Committee might take that matter into account.
The other matter that I want to mention is one that was referred to by the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) in his remarks. It is not saying anything new in a debate like this to say that the institution of Parliament throughout the world is under very serious challenge. I take the matter even further than that. The institution of Parliament, as we understand it, is virtually nonexistent throughout the world. I do not think that it should pass the notice of honourable members that since the estimates for the Parliament were last debated in October of last year the largest functioning parliamentary democracy in the world has ceased to exist as a parliamentary democracy.
I refer to the very unfortunate events which have overtaken the Indian nation in regard to its parliamentary system. I derive no pleasure from referring to this matter and I do not raise it in any unduly punitive sense. But I think that it is a first class tragedy for the parliamentary system throughout the world to have witnessed the events which have overtaken India during the last few months. To many honourable members on both sides of the chamber India represented hope for the success of the Westminster parliamentary system in Asia. It was to be an example to the Third World that the system of parliamentary democracy might be able to work in an environment that many thought was alien to that system. I think that it is a tragedy for the parliamentary system throughout the entire world that the events which occurred in India did occur, particularly after a period of 25 years of parliamentary democracy. If we imagine that our problems are immense, India had problems far beyond the problems of this nation. As I say, it had tried for so long to make the system of parliamentary democracy work. I think that it ought to serve as a salutary lesson for all of us, irrespective of our partisan feelings, that the system of parliamentary democracy throughout the world is limited to a very few countries.
One can travel the length of the African continent and not find one system which can genuinely be called a free parliamentary democracy. In Europe, the number of genuine parliamentary or semi-parliamentary democracies is very limited. Honourable members on both sides of the chamber know that in only a very few countries in Europe does the democratic parliamentary tradition have a very firm basis. Of course, one is confronted with the same experiences in South America as one finds in Africa. So the countries throughout the world which have a system of government which resembles anything like an effective parliamentary system are reduced to a very small number. We belong to that very small group of countries. It ought not to be assumed from that that we will always be able to take our parliamentary system for granted.
It is very easy on an occasion like this to make flowery speeches about the value of a parliamentary system of government. But I think that it is a valuable system of government and all of us must try to make it work. There is a responsibility on political parties and all members of Parliament to make the system work and not to imagine in the present conditions throughout the world in which violence is often used to obtain political ends in a far more frightening and, to the ordinary citizen, a far more blood-curdling way than perhaps was used in the past, that this system wa endure forever. We have to work very hard to make it survive.
It is only natural that Government supporters have taken this opportunity in debating the parliamentary estimates to talk about the events which have occurred in another place in respect of the filling of a casual vacancy. I would have been surprised- in fact, astounded- if the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) had not taken advantage of that. The only comment I want to make on the matter is to remind honourable members opposite, particularly the honourable member for Bourke (Mr Keith Johnson) who has now left the chamber, that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Macolm Fraser) made his attitude perfectly clear on that matter. It is an attitude which I certainly share, and it is an attitude which I am sure the overwhelming majority of members of the Party that he leads share.
– Why did he not do something about it?
-I am glad that the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Riordan) interjected on that note. I would remind the Minister that the Leader of the Opposition leads the Federal Parliamentary Liberal Party in the same way as his Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) leads the Federal Parliamentary Australian Labor Party. When the South Australian Premier decided that the Minister’s leader was a little too close for electorate comfort a couple of months ago, he did not have any compunction about dissociating himself from the Federal Party. I think that the Minister knows enough about the functioning of political parties in this country to know that State parliamentary parties operate independently from Federal parliamentary parties. The Minister for Services and Property and other Government speakers took advantage of this debate on the Estimates to raise the filling of the casual vacancy in the Senate. Whilst it does not surprise me in the least that they did this, I do not think that it Will have the effect that they think it will have. The Leader of the Opposition made his position abundantly clear and the attitude that he expressed is shared by the overwhelming majority of the members of the parliamentary Liberal Party and Liberal supporters throughout Australia.
I conclude my remarks by again saying that the institution of parliamentary democracy throughout the world is in a fairly fragile state. The system has gone under in the world’s largest functioning parliamentary democracy during the last 12 months. Only a very few countries have anything resembling a viable parliamentary system. We are one of those countries. Perhaps in a debate such as this, above aU other debates in this Parliament, we ought to recall our collective responsibility to protect that institution. It can survive only if we want it to survive. We cannot write rules that will preserve parliamentary democracy for all time. It rests to a very large extent on the desire and the willingness of the people who participate in it to make it work. I think that that involves all of us and places a heavy responsibility on all of us.
Mr king (Mallee) (10.9)-This evening we have heard some very interesting contributions from both sides of the chamber in the debate on the estimates for the Parliament. I think, as the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie) rightly said, to a certain degree there is a lot of agreement. However, there are a few things that were said by honourable members opposite with which I think possibly some members of this side of the chamber do not agree. I was rather amused to hear the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) talking about honourable members on this side of the chamber carrying on Uke a lot of larrikins. Far be it for me to comment on a reference about larrikinism by the Minister for Services and Property. He went on to blame the Opposition for stopping the passing of legislation. He also said that we should not squeal when the Government brought down the hammer and gagged debates. After all, the Minister’s most famous statement is: While the Opposition might have aU the logic, the Government has the numbers. I am afraid that the Minister for Services and Property quite often uses that argument to his advantage. I think it was a tragedy that the Minister discussed issues such as this tonight. If he had not raised them I certainly would not have done so.
I am, Uke a lot of other honourable members, somewhat concerned at the decision of the Minister. He said that it is quite aU right if we want to call quorums because again he has the numbers and he uses them. I do not think this is a good and proper attitude to take. The Minister talked about altering the hours of sitting of the Parliament so that we could have more time in our electorates. I thank him for that consideration. I then immediately noted that in the Estimates debate all honourable members, other than Ministers, are limited to 10 minutes speaking time. What happened tonight? The Minister not only had his 10 minutes but he exceeded it by quite a considerable time. i am not too sure of the exact time by which he exceeded the 10 minutes, but i know he spoke for at least 15 minutes. Be that as it may; that is his privilege as a Minister.
– Fourteen minutes.
-A11 right. That is certainly in excess of 10 minutes. As I say, I did not check his time with the clock, but I knew the dme at which an honourable member had spoken previously and I worked out the Minister’s speaking dme from that I thought he had had at least 15 minutes. I am not disputing the dme he took. A couple of members from the Government side tonight spoke of the future of democracy in this place. i think it was the member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) who said that we do not have democracy in Australia today. I think a fair number of honourable members on this side of the Parliament would agree with that view. But why is it that he makes the statement? He blames areas outside this place for the failure of democracy. As far as we are concerned we look straight at this place in relation to the future of democracy. I think the honourable member for Diamond Valley was also concerned about the future of democracy. I am quite confident that people outside this place are equally as concerned. This comes right back to what i said before about the Minister for Services and Property. We can have all the logic about the place but while he has the numbers we will not win. That is not democracy in my mind and it is not democracy in the people’s mind.
The suggestion was made that democracy was being thrown out the window as a result of certain decisions made in Queensland last week. I do not know the finer details of what took place in regard to the appointment of a person to fill a vacancy caused by the death of a senator from Queensland. i do not know that the matter was in the hands of the State orgaisation of the Labor Party. It is my understanding that it was requested to submit a panel of names. This it refused to do. Members of that State organisation were not to be bulldozed, as it were, by a government in Queensland, but apparently it is quite in order to bulldoze in the Australian Parliament where the Labor Party has the numbers. So, I turn this matter right around on the Minister for Services and Property. I say to the Minister, the honourable member for Burke and other speakers on the Government side that they should not squeal if they do not have the numbers. Members of the Labor Party were in a position to see that one of their members was elected on this occasion, but they have given the seat away themselves.
Some Government supporters have been complaining that the Senate is blocking legislation. I remind honourable members on the Government side that all members of the Senate, with the exception of, I think, 2 people who were nominated by State governments, have been elected by the people. We must not forget that they have been elected by the people. What are the numbers in the Senate? What did the people do at the last election for the Senate?
– Two Labor seats.
– Two Labor seats.
-A11 right. I will come to that. What did the people do at the last Senate election? They returned 30 Liberal-National Country Party senators, 28 Labor senators -
– Twenty nine.
– I beg your pardon, 29 Labor senators and one senator whom we call an Independent from South Australia.
– You are wrong. There were 29 Opposition senators, 29 Government senators and 2 Independent senators.
– There is a slight dispute from the Government benches as to whether one of the senators elected from Tasmania came in as an Independent or as an independent Liberal, but since that election he has joined the Liberal Party. So in actual fact, although he came as an Independent, he had the backing of Liberal Party supporters in Tasmania. Do not let us split staws on this. After all the composition of the Senate was 30 Opposition senators, 29 Labor senators and one Independent senator. Because of certain decisions made, the position of one of the Labor Party seats was filled by an Independent and the composition was then 30 Opposition senators and 28 Government senators. Now, because of a decision by the Australian Labor Party as such, the figures now are 30 Opposition senators, 27 Labor senators and 3 Independent senators. This decision was made by the Australian Labour Party. Firstly it would not accede to the conditions laid down by the Queensland Government. Secondly, even when the decision was made it expelled the very person who nominated in the interests of the Labor Party. Again I throw the words right back to the Minister for Services and Property: Do not squeal.
Having said all these nasty things about the Minister, let me also pay tribute to him. I believe that since he has been the Minister for Services and Property things have not been all bad. He has introduced quite a few good things that I believe have been appreciated not only on his side of the chamber but on this side of the chamber as well. I believe that giving advanced information of sitting days is a big improvement. I am not too sure whether the actual sitting times are an improvement because they have varied from time to time. These are just a couple of the things that the Minister has introduced. I believe he has made it much easier for individual members to be able to carry out their duties. However I would like again to remind the Minister- I throw this virtually into his own court because of the conditions he has laid down- that if he wants cooperation from this side of the chamber, which he must have and he knows he must have, he must co-operate with the leaders on this side of the House. I think I can assure the Minister that if he is prepared to give honourable members on this side of the chamber a fair go he will certainly get a fair go from us.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-We are debating the estimates for the Parliament. In most cases I am responsible for those estimates. For that reason I am replying in this debate. Honourable members have raised a number of matters relating to these estimates and also matters relating to the procedures and the future of the House. I hope to comment on some of those matters in the time available. The matter of accommodation in the House was mentioned by the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr MacPhee) and by other members. I agree with the comments made by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) that this is an archaic building which is not capable of functioning in any modern sense. I am aware that there is a need for a minimum of 32 additional offices in order to provide single office accommodation for each member of the Parliament.
Some of the previous additions to the House were made with very little foresight and the offices are extremely small and are certainly not suitable for future development as offices for members or for any other purpose. Submissions have been made for extensions to the building to provide for additional office accommodation within the House.
It is not only members’ accommodation which is a matter of concern; I think honourable members ought to realise that most other people who work in this House also are functioning under extreme disabilities. It concerns me that every time mention is made of improving facilities in this House we have myriads of comment from the gentlemen in the Press Gallery about members’ improving their own accommodation. Possibly the worst accommodation in this building is that which is occupied by the gentlemen of the Press. If the Parliament did the right thing by the gentlemen of the Press it would ask them to vacate their accommodation because the place is most likely a fire hazard.
Accommodation in the kitchens and other parts at the rear of the building where a considerable number of the staff of the Parliament work is an absolute disgrace to the national Parliament of Australia and needs to be renewed as a matter of urgency. Unfortunately, because of the situation in regard to the allocation of funds- it does not matter who happens to be in power- any money that may be left over goes to the Par.liamentary building. Money that is spent on Par.liament is always portrayed as a waste of money. Conditions in this building have to be seen to be believed they have to be seen in their entirety by someone who has seen other buildings and knows the conditions under which other people work.
I am the person responsible for maintenance of part of this bunding, and I say this advisedly: I believe that funds must be allocated to improve this building, but I believe also that the building is not capable of being adapted to meet the future requirements of the Parliament of Australia. A new parliament house, if work on it started now, would take 15 years to complete. So there will have to be patching up operations within this building. They ought to be done now, if not to improve the facilities of members then to make the conditions under which the staff in the building work suitable for employment and in keeping with the expectations which an employer should be able to satisfy in his employees.
Mention has been made of other matters. One honourable member mentioned the price of Hansard. It is true that the price has risen, but also the availability of Hansard has been made much greater.
– Not early in the morning, though.
-The honourable member is talking again about bis own convenience. I am talking about convenience of the public. Hansard is available to every public library and every school library in Australia. It is fairly readily available to people who want access to copies on a casual basis. Those few people who want access to copies through the private subscription lists of members of Parliament can almost all be catered for if they approach their members. There are very few members who in fact have used their total allocation. When the Hansard subscription rate for each House of Parliament was 60c per year- for both Houses it was $1.20 a year- the combined cost covered the cost of postage of one copy of the Hansard report of each House. I think there were less than 2000 subscribers at that time. So, generally, a large number of people do not subscribe. I would agree that the price is now rather high, but I would say that it recovers only about half the cost of providing Hansard to the public. There is a limit to which we can subsidise such publications but, even so, the subsidy is extremely high.
Mention was made also of the procedures of Parliament. Like everyone else, I believe that the procedures of this House have to be modernised so that we can do the business that must be done and also perform the function of a House to discuss the policies of the nation. There are very great needs for some degree of flexibility in the handling of legislation. I personally believe that the parties and the members of the Parliament have a very great responsibility in this area. Everything that comes into the Parliament is not necessarily a Government versus Opposition measure. There is a very great area of legislation which in fact should be subject to negotiation within the parliamentary system. This would improve the standard of legislation; it would improve the standing and the operations of Parliament; and I believe it would make sure that we framed procedures which would enable us properly to handle our business.
Suggestions have been made over a period and I intend to refer to a couple of them. During the parliamentary recess I visited other parliaments. I believe that there are some minor and major alterations which could be made to our procedures and which would help in the discussion and passage of legislation. I do not intend to go through them aU because time would not allow me to do so. However, there are one or two proposals which are before the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System which are public documents. I suggest that it might be appropriate to incorporate them in Hansard. One proposal is for legislative committees which could meet in parallel and deal with legislation on a multiple basis at the same time where the House has agreed to that procedure. The other proposal is for a procedures committee, which I think is absolutely essential to this Parliament.
The honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury) mentioned meetings of the Standing Orders Committee. I know how difficult it is to have meetings of this Committee. In fact I would suggest to the Committee that, having regard to the present structure of the Standing Orders Committee, it is impossible for that Committee to perform a useful function in modernising the procedures of this House. There are too many kings on the Committee and it is impossible at any given time for the Committee to meet for any length of time on a series of days. I believe that a smaller procedures committee is absolutely essential within this Parliament in order continually to review and modernise its procedures.
There are a number of other procedural matters, some of which have already been mentioned, which I believe ought to be considered. Among them is the pairing system within the Parliament which I think ought to be rationalised and put on a semi-official basis so that, for example, members who go overseas would be able to register a pair under the Standing Orders and that pair would be binding on the 2 members concerned. Therefore the inconvenience of disadvantage of breaking a pair, which can happen through lack of good faith on either side of the Parliament would not exist. I believe that members who arrange a pair should be able to rely on that arrangement being permanent.
There are more serious areas of parliamentary reform which I believe only the goodwill of members of Parliament can solve. After all, what ever is contained in the Standing Orders of the Parliament has been determined by the members of this Parliament. In fact, every standing order which exists today was put in the Standing Orders by members who sit on the other side of the chamber and, if I may say so, some of the members on this side of the chamber supported those actions. The Standing Orders are monument to decisions made in this chamber, mostly on a free vote. If they are not satisfactory this chamber and this chamber alone can change them. It is up to the Parliament
One final remark I want to make is that if this Parliament does not learn to carry out its functions or is not capable of carrying out its functions or is not capable of carrying out the functions for which it has been elected, and that includes the function of governing by a government elected by the people, other methods will be devised by people in the community who want things done. People denied access to the Parliament will take other actions. This has happened in many countries; it could happen in Australia. If this Parliament does not set itself to modernise its procedures so that it can carry out the business required of it, this Parliament will fall into disrepute. It is up to the members. No one other than the people who sit within this chamber can change our procedures.
– I hope that what I am going to say will commend itself to both sides of the chamber. I refer to something in respect of which I think not only, this Government is at fault but also previous Liberal governments equally were at fault, namely, the numbers of questions on notice which remain unanswered. I think this is something which is quite scandalous. I am not saying that the fault is with this Government alone. As I have said, this is something which happened in times of Liberal governments also.
Looking at the current Notice Paper I see that a question from 1 1 July 1974 is unanswered. In this question the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) asked the Treasurer:
Will he provide details of losses incurred by the Reserves Bank from the provision of forward exchange cover during 1973.
If this question is inadmissible or the Minister does not want to answer it, let him say so. If he does want to answer it, let him answer it. There are pages and pages of the notice paper containing some hundreds of unanswered questions. This should not be. I suggest that we should find a mechanism whereby this kind of thing could be avoided.
– Order! It being half past 10 o’clock p.m. and in accordance with the order of the House of 11 July 1974 I shall report progress.
– It being half past 10 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 1 1 July 1 974 1 put the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I want tonight to draw the attention of the House to the recent attacks by the Government and in particular by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on the
Returned Services League. This organisation I have always believed to be one of the finest organisations in Australia. It is composed wholly of those who served their country overseas. Many of the colleagues of these members and their friends paid the supreme sacrifice in defence of their country and of freedom. Of course this Government and the new trendies denigrate and attempt to blacken the reputation of people who are public spirited enough to be prepared to die for their country. According to the socialist Left and the communists in Australia loyalty and patriotism are things to be laughed at. They belong to a bygone era. Only in communist countries is it still the custom to have patriotism and to love one’s country. So it has now become fashionable to attack the RSL as putting forward views which are out of step with modern thinking. The Government and the Prime Minister in particular are in the vanguard of those making these attacks.
I want tonight to make these 2 points: Firstly, the RSL has every right and, in fact, every duty to see that the needs of those who suffered for their country are taken care of and also to see that the defences of our country are in as good a condition as we can possibly afford for them to be. After all, many of the members of the RSL know what it is like to go into action with inadequate or outdated equipment. Secondly, this organisation, the RSL, is not a collection of old ‘Colonel Blimps’ who are out of step with modern thinking. Many of those in the organisation are members of the younger generation who saw action in Malaysia, Korea or in Vietnam.
What makes the Prime Minister think that he is the greatest and he leads a with-it trendy government while ex-servicemen younger than he are called fanatical and intolerant? However, before I come to the disgraceful and quite vindictive attack made on the RSL by the Prime Minister I bring up the case of the broken promises to the RSL on the Australian Housing Corporation. On 4 March of this year the then Minister for Housing and Construction, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), when speaking on the Australian Housing Corporation Bill, said:
I have been asked to give an assurance about how this legislation will affect the provisions that at present prevail in regard to the defence service homes scheme. The Defence Service Homes Act remains intact in every shape and form. It is not to be diminished, nor is the enthusiasm of the Government for the provision of houses for servicemen to be diminished in any way.
He went on to say:
It might be appropriate for me to tell the Committee, as a consolidation of that enthusiastic attitude that I have indicated, that it is my intention to provide on the board of the Corporation a representative of the Returned Services League so that the interests of ex-servicemen can be effectively safeguarded.
-Who said that?
– This was from the honourable member for Hughes, Mr Les Johnson.
– Speaking for the Government.
– Speaking for the Government he said: . . . it is my intention to provide on the board of the Corporation a representative of the Returned Services League so that the interests of ex-servicemen can be effectively safeguarded.
There was a clear and unequivocal promise in black and white to the RSL. When it was broken flagrantly by the successor to the honourable member for Hughes, naturally questions were asked. In the Senate, Senator Cavanagh replied:
I believe an undertaking was given by a previous Minister that there would be a representative of the RSL on such a body.
He was referring, of course, to the Australian Housing Corporation. Yet in this House the new Minister in charge of this area, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), said:
The Government has no commitment in this respect . . . At no time was there any commitment by the Government to the RSL.
In view of those conflicting statements, I spoke to the Prime Minister and pointed out in Hansard the promise made by the honourable member for Hughes. I received from the Prime Minister the amazing reply that the honourable member for Hughes had no authority to give that undertaking.
– He was the Minister.
– Of course he was. What an amazing situation! Apparently, if a Minister of the Crown gives an undertaking in the area for which he is responsible, we should not take it as gospel; we should first check with someone else to. see whether he had authority to give that undertaking. To the best of my knowledge, the promise made by the honourable member for Hughes has never been withdrawn; yet the Minister in charge of defence service homes, the honourable member for Reid, has said that at no time was there any commitment by the Government to the RSL. All I can say is that perhaps the English language no longer means what it says. But perhaps this is a relatively small matter and, after all, the breaking of one promise more or less will not cause this Government or the Prime Minister to lose any sleep.
I want to refer now to the vicious and quite unprovoked attack on the RSL by the Prime Minister in Sydney on 1 1 August at the World Congress and Assembly of War Veterans. I will ignore the tastelessness and the timing of his speech. It was a World Congress and Assembly of War Veterans aimed at promoting peace and international good will and the RSL was host to 38 countries and to the Prime Minister. What the Prime Minister said was quite unforgiveable. The RSL was accused of intolerance and fanaticism and of using the slogans of the fifties and the catchcry of cold war ideology. One of my parliamentary colleagues was more tolerant towards the Prime Minister than I am. Although he agreed that it is unspeakably vulgar for any guest to insult his host in the presence of other guests, he said that probably the speech was written for the Prime Minister and he had not read it before he delivered it. If that is so, it is a pity is was not left in the car, as was the speech for a recent meeting in Melbourne. The Prime Minister said:
All too rarely the sentiments and opinions of the RSL strike a chord with contemporary generations.
Does that mean that the RSL should not complain when it sees members of the contemporary generation in dirty clothes, unkempt and with long matted hair, and that it should not complain of drug taking or of bludgers who refuse to work and instead get social security benefits? Should the RSL be happy at the state of our shrinking deomoralised defence forces or should it remind the public of its motto: ‘The price of freedom is eternal vigilance’?
The Prime Minister feels that, as a member of the RSL for the past 30 years, he has every right to attack it. Yet what right has Brian Harradine had to say what he thought of the Australian Labor Party? He has been expelled. Many of the 270 000 members of the RSL think that the same thing should happen to the Prime Minister. The Liverpool Branch of the War Widows Association has called on the Prime Minister to resign from the RSL. It is investigating, in my opinion quite rightly, ways of having him hand in his badge. A former Navy man in Newcastle, who had 3 ships sunk under him during World War II, said that he has always voted Labor but he never will again. In conclusion, let me say that this large and, I believe, highly respected organisation is entitled to an apology from the Prime Minister, and then in all conscience he should resign from it.
-I feel that the remarks of the honourable member for Fairer (Mr Fairbairn) require some answer. The Returned Services League is, of course, a very important and most significant national organisation. It has a long history of public welfare activities and, I believe, of mobilising the nation, often in good causes. It claims the right- and I support its right- to criticise, to condemn and to advise governments, and during my period of membership of that organisation it has often done so. It has been quite vitriolic in its approach to many of the principles for which this Party, the Australian Labor Party, has stood, particularly in the past 10 years to 15 years. I for one would be a party in no way to silencing the members of the RSL and its leaders so to do. But those people who wish to dish it out have to respect the right of reply.
A great problem in this country with very many people at the heads of organisations- and this applies as well to people in churches- is that they claim the right to be able to issue ultimatums, to describe people in all sorts of unflattering terms and to set out principles of action which other people do not like but they resent it when somebody answers back. I think that the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Whitlam, is entitled to answer back to people who have hurled continuous criticisms and ‘advice’ at this Government and at the Labor Party.
– But at the right time in the right place.
– The right place to answer back is where the people who have said it can hear you. On this occasion, I am standing here not to support one way or another what was said by either side in this conflict but to say that in this community it is important that public discussion be not inhibited by any suggestion that somebody has a special right to be heard in silence. I think that it is most important that this be understood by the people of the RSL.
The Returned Services League is an acrosstheboard organisation. I have no doubt that the great proportion of the members of the RSL in my electorate probably vote for the Party that I represent. It may well be that the members of the RSL in Farrer, for goodness knows whatever reasons, voted for the honourable member for Farrer. So we are speaking here of an organisation that represents everybody and every point of view in the community. For my part, I have often thought the leaders of the RSL have not been truly representative of the point of view of the great mass of the membership of the League in the positions that those leaders have taken on many of these matters. They have taken strong positions in relation to subjects on which the Labor Party takes an equally strong position on the other side of the fence. Therefore, I think that the leaders of the. RSL have to understand the position and to be tolerant in these matters.
In the business of running a country and in the business of politics, if one uses strong words, one can expect the right of reply to be delivered with equal strength. I do think- and I say this to the membership and particularly to the leadership of the Returned Services League- that in recent years the RSL has been out of touch with the spirit of the community. By many of the public pronouncements of its leadership, the RSL has caused the younger generation in Australia to be inclined to pay scant respect to such events as Anzac Day and all that it stands for. I am just as much involved in all these matters as anybody in this House or in the community. I am involved in the community in such a way that often I am the recipient of criticism from younger people for my continued membership of the RSL and my participation in such events as Anzac Day because somehow some of the remarks of the people who lead the RSL have made the celebration of that day appear irrelevant. I am not criticising all of them. I am not criticising any in particular.
I know the leaders of the RSL pretty well. I respect them. I have been on platforms and have debated some of these issues with them. But I do not think that anybody does any service to the Returned Services League, to Parliament, to politics or to public affairs in Australia by suggesting that the Australian Government and in particular the Prime Minister ought to be silent in the face of people who are offering pretty stringent and pungent criticism of our actions on many occasions.
I say just this: It is darned near time that the RSL and many servicemen started to acknowledge that this Government has done more for the servicemen serving and for the servicemen retired than any previous government. My colleague the present Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon) has taken up the rights and privileges of and our duties and obligations to the servicemen with a vigour which certainly transcends that of his predecessors on the other side of the fence. Therefore, I for one would appreciate it if some of the recipients of the benefits of this Government’s actions, apart from criticising us when we are wrong, were also inclined to say thanks when they reckon we are right and particularly when they are beneficiaries, as are so many servicemen who are in service and in retirement in this country.
-Last November in this House I brought up a matter concerning the travelling post office in New South Wales and the strong rumours that were circulating at that time that this service was to be discontinued. The Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop) was asked to continue the service and delegates, officers of the postal union, arrived at Parliament House to take up the matter with the Minister. The Postmaster-General informed the delegates and myself that he was prepared to carry on the service provided the New South Wales Government continued with the mail vans on the trains. So 2 governments were involved in this matter of the travelling post office- the Federal Government and the State Government of New South Wales. When the New South Wales Government was approached it indicated that it required increased payments for the continuation of this service on its rail system.
This important matter has now come to a head. The mail officers’ ban on travelling post offices at present has cut off mail deliveries in New South Wales to about 200 country towns. The officers are protesting against a proposal by the New South Wales Public Transport Commission to abolish travelling post offices from 19 September. The travelling post offices are commissionowned vans which are attached to trains and travel daily to the remote parts of New South Wales. They are manned by 108 mail officers who sort the mail as they travel and leave it at country stations. The New South Wales Minister for Transport, the Honourable Wal Fife, has said that he will discontinue the service on 19 September unless the Australian Government pays for new vans to replace the present ones, most of which are about 50 years old. New South Wales is the only State in Australia with a travelling post office service and it has been operating there since 1870. Last night the State Executive of the Amalgamated Postal and Telecommunications Union rejected a proposal that sorters at the Sydney Mail Exchange should stop letters going out, in sympathy with the travelling post office.
It has been ascertained that the TPO service is one of the cheapest and surest means for the transportation of mails in New South Wales. Country people in the far western and far-flung parts of the State use the TPO considerably and it will be a very serious blow to them if this service is discontinued. People living in far-flung areas will be seriously disadvantaged by the cessation of the service. The Postmaster-General is requested to approach again the New South Wales Government through its Minister for Transport to see whether the present impasse can be solved. There is no doubt, as I mentioned earlier, that the 2 governments which are involved do not seem to be getting anywhere on the retention of this important service. I feel that it is of such importance that every effort should be made to continue it and to see whether the 2 governments can come together and keep such a valuable postal service in operation in New South Wales for the benefit of the people living in the country areas who receive this efficient and reliable service. It seems a great pity that some decision cannot be made to keep the service going. I commend it to the attention of the PostmasterGeneral and trust that in the few days left before 19 September arrangements of a satisfactory nature can be made to continue the service.
– I am always puzzled that the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) and the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) put the Returned Services League forward as being a non-political organisation; it probably has more to say about politics in this country than have most political organisations.
– It is not a matter of the RSL; it is a matter of the manners of your Prime Minister. You cannot see that. It has nothing to do with the political side of its activities.
– I would expect the honourable member, as a Deputy Speaker, at least to have the manners to listen to me in silence. Apparently he does not have those manners. It may be a consequence of the political activities of the RSL that a substantial proportion of the exservicemen eligible to be members are not members of it. I do not know the reasons why they are not members of it. I do not know the reasons why they are not members but the matter is worth considering That is all I intend to say about it. I think that a lot more could be done for young people by organisations within the RSL than is being done. I know that some RSL clubs do a first rate job to assist our youth, and that is the sort of example that could be emulated by all the other RSL organisations.
I rise to speak about Medibank and to bring to the notice of the Parliament some of the hardships that are being inflicted on pensioners and particularly sick pensioners in my electorate. The Opposition will abolish Medibank if it becomes the Government again, let there be no doubt about that. The role being played by some members of the medical profession in my electorate can only be described as one of brutality and callousness, and one that is totally mercenary. I would like to instance the position of a couple in their 80s who, just prior to 1 July, sat at home worrying about what would happen to them if they became sick at the weekend because they have been told by the doctor who treated them for some years previously under the pensioners medical scheme that after 1 July if they became ill he would require payment in advance when he called at their home before treatment would be given. The couple have only their pension, that is their only source of income. Their concern was whether they would have sufficient money on the mantleshelf if they became ill. They were not concerned about their illness; they were concerned about their payment to the doctor.
I would like to mention the case of another doctor. After 1 July a person ill with influenza went to the surgery and was told: ‘Doctor will not see you unless you pay cash before you go in.’ The person said: ‘I do not have that money with me and was told: ‘I am sorry, doctor will not see you unless you pay the money first. ‘
– What happened to the Hippocratic oath?
– The Hippocratic oath has become the hypocritic oath. I have mentioned 2 instances. The third one relates to the way in which members of the medical profession are ripping off the public purse. In this case a lady had her teenage daughter at home sick with influenza. The doctor had visited her the day before and had prescribed antibiotics. The following day the second daughter of the family became ill and was confined to bed. The mother went to the doctor’s surgery and was told that the daughter should be brought to the surgery. The mother said that the daughter was too ill to be brought to the surgery. The receptionist said: ‘Doctor cannot go and see her. She will have to come up here. “The mother told the receptionist the condition of her daughter, the receptionist then spoke to the doctor and the doctor said: ‘Well, we will give her some of the same medicaments that were prescribed for the elder daughter.’ The elder daughter had developed a severe pain in the ear and the doctor’s prescription for that was some drops. The doctor did this without sighting either patient and without visiting them, but he charged a fee. That apparently is equality, apparently it is honourable and apparently it is quite all right to rip off the public purse.
The other thing being done by doctors in respect of Medibank and ripping off the public purse is to force pensioners to pay in advance, or to make them fill in a claim form, send them to the Medibank office where they can get a cash payment and have them return to the doctor’s surgery. They are doing this one by one. Every member of the Opposition knows that that is placing a greatly exaggerated load on the resources of Medibank. It is placing a greatly increased financial burden on the operation of Medibank and it is a waste of the taxpayers’ money. Apparently it is all right with the Opposition if its supporters waste the taxpayers’ money. To them that represents responsible government but to me it illustrates the politics of greed. In the Newcastle area generally, over half of the doctors are creating severe anxiety and hardship, particularly for aged people who are sick, while at the same time they are grabbing everything they can out of the public purse.
I want to refer now to chemists and what some of them are doing. We have heard the Opposition criticising the cost of Medibank but chemists are adding to the cost because of a procedure they have adopted. A person comes in with more than one receipt to claim under Medibank. The claim form has 8 spaces in which claims can be written. Eight claims can be placed on one application sheet. The chemists are writing one claim on each sheet and then submitting one claim each day so that each goes in a different batch and they can get the 50c. They get the commission on each receipt handed in by the patient. They are doing this rather than putting them all through on the one claim form as was intended under Medibank.
I would have thought that these are the kind of malpractices to which the Opposition would be drawing attention. I know that members of the Opposition claim to be concerned for economy and responsibility in public expenditure. I know that they claim to be concerned about reducing the cost of Medibank. However, I am puzzled that since 1 July not one of these matters has been brought to the attention of this Parliament Not once has the Opposition made any suggestion as to how the cost of Medibank could be reduced or as to how its resources could be used more efficiently. There is no doubt whatsoever, as I said earlier, that if the Opposition Parties become the government at some stage Medibank will be one of the first schemes for the chop. This point was highlighted by the well informed comment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on Budget night that if we did not have the $ 1,400m expenditure on Medibank we could halve the proposed deficit for this financial year. That indicates the concern of the Opposition for Medibank.
The Medibank scheme is designed to assist pensioners and to remove them from the insecurity that goes with illness in later years. By endorsing what the medical profession is doing in ripping off public money and by making constant statements as to the uncertainty of Medibank, and by not indicating a clear policy of support for Medibank, the Opposition Parties in fact are encouraging certain members of the medical profession to go on with their rorts- they are nothing but rorts- and creating that severe personal anxiety, hardship, worry and concern that our pensioners and our aged are undergoing. I appeal to the Opposition to come clean and to declare one way or another where it stands on Medibank, whether it supports care for our aged and whether it supports removing hardship from the lot of our aged people.
– I am very disappointed that the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) should make such an attack on the medical profession as a whole when he knows very well that the vast majority of members of the medical profession lead extremely hard-working and busy lives and do the best they can in extremely difficult circumstances to look after the well-being of their patients. What the honourable member for Shortland has discovered is that Medibank, as we of the Opposition have said so frequently, contains a whole lot of bugs. In fact, as the honourable member said, some people will take advantage of the situation and make money out of it. This will lead to an open-ended situation where the cost of Medibank will escalate enormously over the years to come and the 2 results of Medibank which we will see, not in the short term but certainly in the long term in my view -
-Order! It being 11 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 Minerals and Energy, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Minerals and Energy, upon notice:
When will he answer my question No. 215 which first appeared on the Notice Paper on 1 6 July 1 974.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The answer was given on 28 August 1973 (Hansard page 808).
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question.
asked the Minister for Northern Australia, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Financial Assistance by Department of Services and Property (Question No. 2767) Mr Ruddock asked the Minister for Services and Property, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Financial Assistance by Department of Northern Australia (Question No. 2770)
asked the Minister for Northern Australia, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member ‘s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australian Department of Health; Australian Department of Aboriginal Affairs; . New South Wales Health Commission; Victorian Department of Public Health; Queensland Department of Health and Medical Services; Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement;
South Australian Department of Public Health; Western Australian Department of Public Health; Tasmanian Department of Public Health.
Several of these Departments have developed a close liaison with academic institutions, particularly in regard to research projects related to Aboriginal health. The institutions are:
Australian National University; University of Sydney; University of New South Wales; University of Melbourne; Monash University; University of Queensland; Flinders University; University of Western Australia.
In addition, voluntary organisations, which are controlled and managed by Aboriginals, are funded by the Australian Government to provide health care. These medical services which have been established in various areas of Australia, are:
Aboriginal Medical Service, Sydney; Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, Melbourne; East Gippsland Aboriginal Medical Service, Bairnsdale; Aboriginal and Islander Community Health Service, Brisbane;
Aboriginal and Islander Health Service, Townsville; Aboriginal Medical Service, Perth; Aboriginal Health Service, Alice Springs.
Most of these organisations are supported by specialists from academic institutions.
In addition, funds have been made available to the Central Australian Aborigines Congress to enable it to undertake investigations towards the possible development of a communityorientated alternative health model, which has as its principal object the introduction of a more healthy way of fe for Aborigines. The Central Australian Aborigines Congress is assisted by advisers from the University of New South Wales and Monash University.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
Was the distribution of Medibank material handled by Pacific Photo Services and thereby the postal service was bypassed.
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
No. The distribution of Medibank material, including Health Insurance cards and publicity material has been handled either by the Post Office, the Department of Social Security, or by the Health Insurance Commission itself.
The Pacific Photo Service’s function is to collect claims from pharmacists and deliver them to Medibank offices.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
As approximately 296 companies in New South Wales have collapsed in the last 12 months, involving amounts of shareholders’ moneys approximating $270 million, will the Minister, if asked by a responsible Minister of the New South Wales Government, refuse to issue a passport to any director or officer of a company which, at the time of application, is under investigation by the New South Wales Corporate Affairs Commission.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Passports Act confers upon the Minister for Foreign Affairs discretionary power to determine whether any particular application for an Australian passport should be granted, deferred or refused. Representations by the Government of New South Wales concerning the withholding of passport facilities from a person associated with a company which is under investigation by the New South Wales Corporate Affairs Commission would be examined and a decision would be made after full consideration of the circumstances relating to the case and the evidence or other relevant information presented in support of the representations.
A passport would not be issued if a Court Order restraining the applicant’s departure from Australia or a warrant for his arrest had been issued.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Has he yet ascertained the charter cost of the Boeing 707 used for the Commonwealth Heads of State Conference; if so, what are the details.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The net cost of the charter aircraft for the Australian delegation to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting was $186,074.
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Aboriginal Arts and Crafts Pty Ltd (Central Office), Mezzanine Floor, MLC Tower, Woden, A.C.T. 2606.
Aboriginal Artists Centre, 125 North Terrace, Adelaide, S.A. 5000.
Aboriginal Traditional Arts, 242 St George’s Terrace,
Perth, W.A. 6000. Arnhem Land Aboriginal An Gallery, Central Arcade,
Darwin, N.T. 5790. Centre for Aboriginal Artists and Craftsmen, Todd Street,
Alice Springs, N.T. 5790.
The Company has provided the following list of retail outlets for Aboriginal artifacts in Australia. (Where the name of the proprietor of each outlet is available it has been included in brackets.)
Aboriginal Advancement League (Aboriginal Advancement League), 6 Cunningham Street, Northcote, Vic.
Aboriginal Art Gallery (Mr L. Davidson), 42 Hardy Terrace, Ivanhoe, Vic.
Aboriginal Handcrafts (Presbyterian Ladies Auxiliary), 167 Collins Street, Melbourne, Vic.
Casa Pepe (Mr J. Sala), Southern Cross Plaza, Melbourne, Vic.
Echuca Aboriginal Co-operative Society Ltd (Echuca Aboriginal Co-op. Society Ltd), 509 High Street, Echuca, Vic.
Gippsland Aboriginal Art Museum (Mr H. Whiffen),
Princes Highway, Lakes Entrance, Vic. Geebaugh Gallery (One People of Australia League),
Ann Street, Brisbane, Qld. Native Creations (Mrs Kennel] ), 94B Woods Street,
Queensland Aboriginal Creations (Queensland State Government), George Street, Brisbane, Qld.
Sepik Primitive Arts (Mr B. Hoare), 50a Abbott Street, Cairns, Qld.
Spinifex Souvenirs (Mrs H. High), Miles Street, Mount Isa, Qld.
The Trinity Gallery (J. MacFarlane), 290 Draper Street, Cairns, Qld.
Aboriginal Artifacts (Mr R. Gatus), Woomera, S.A. Aldgate Crafts (R. & K. Ogilvie), Mt Barker Road, Aidgate, S.A.
The Australian Scene (Mr H. Hanks), Henley Beach Road, Adelaide, S.A.
Port Augusta Social Club (Port Augusta Aboriginal Community), Port Augusta, S.A.
Yalata Lutheran Mission (Yalata Mission), Eyre Highway, Yalata, S.A.
Aboriginal Advancement Council (Aboriginal Advancement League), 201 Beaufort Street, Perth, W.A.
Kununurra ( Mr W. Withers), Kununurra, W.A.
Parmelia Hotel, Perth, W.A.
YWCA Shop (YWCA), Derby, W.A.
Oast House (Mrs P. Moore), New Norfolk, Tas,
All Aboriginal Art (Mr and Mrs Joiner), Bath Street, Alice Springs, N.T.
Arunta Art Gallery (Mrs L. Harvey), Todd Street, Alice Springs, N.T.
Capricornia Art Shop, Todd Street, Alice Springs, N.T. Ininti Store (Docker River Aboriginal Community), Ayers Rock, N.T.
Souvenarta, Cavenagh Street, Darwin, N.T.
YMCA Shop ( YMCA), YMCA Hostel, Darwin, N.T.
Mbantua Store (Finke River Mission), 55 Gap Road, Alice Springs, N.T.
Alturinga Museum (Mrs K. Queen et al), Todd Street, Alice Springs, N.T.
Adina Aboriginal Arts (Foundation for Aboriginal Affairs), c/o Foundation for Aboriginal Affairs, Regent Street, Sydney, N.S.W.
Australian Aboriginal Creations (Mrs Commins), 25 Banksia Street, Eastwood, N.S.W.
Bortignons (Mr A. Bortignon), Sydney Hilton Hotel, Sydney, N.S.W.
The Boomerang School (Mr D. McLennan), Williams Street, Kings Cross, N.S.W.
Bush Church Aid Society (Bush Church Aid Society), 135 Bathurst Street, Sydney, N.S.W.
Gallery of Primitive Arts (Mr P. Brokensha), Argyle Arts Centre, 18 Argyle Street, Sydney, N.S.W.
Galleries Primitif (Mr Fleischmann), Woollahra, Sydney, N.S.W.
The Gilawarra Gift Shop (Purfleet Aboriginal Community), Pacific Highway, Purfleet, via Taree, N.S.W.
Greta Daly Australian Gallery (Mrs R. Daly), Manuka Arcade, Manuka, A.C.T.
Hotel Souvenir Shop, Lakeside International Hotel, Canberra, A.C.T. ‘
Paulian Society (Paulian Society), 175 Elizabeth Street, Sydney, N.S.W.
Travellers Fair Gift Shop, Wentworth Hotel, Phillip Street, Sydney, N.S.W.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture upon notice:
– The Minister for Agriculture has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The above amounts refer to allocations within the financial years listed. Actual expenditure may differ slightly, e.g. as a result of commitments carried forward at the end of a financial year.
Dairying and Poultry (Eggs) Industries
Ashby Research Service
P.A. Management Consultants Pty Ltd
Frank Small and Associates
P.E. Consulting Group
Australian Sales Research Bureau
The above amounts for poultry research grants were paid to Universities only.
The above amounts refer to allocations within the financial years listed. Actual expenditure may differ slightly, e.g. as a result of commitments carried forward at the end of a financial year.
Butter and Cheese Bounty
1973- 74-$ 18,000,000
Processed Milk Products Export Bounty
1973- 74-$ 116,627 1973-74-$50,925.
The above amounts refer to allocations within the financial years listed. Actual expenditure may differ slightly, e.g. as a result of commitments carried forward at the end of a financial year.
Fruit Growing Industry- Payments
1973- 74- $3,140,929
1974- 75- $5, 182,878.
Forestry and Timber Bureau
The Post graduate research awards were not introduced until the 1 974 academic year.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture, upon notice:
– The Minister for Agriculture has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
(a), (b), (c) Nil
Australian Extension Services Grant, Special Research Grant, Defence Re-Establishment
(a) Grants include disbursements from the National Projects Portion of the Australian Extension Services Grant. The AESG which is primarily a special purpose grant to States to assist in the further development of their agricultural extension and regional research services, includes a sum of $250,000 per annum which is used for projects of a national character. The grants are available to Universities and other non-government bodies or individuals inter-alia for purposes associated with the general objectives of the Grant. Current projects include post-graduate extension fellowships awarded under a scheme which replaced the undergraduate agricultural scholarship scheme, as recommended by the Australian Agricultural Council.
The availability of funds from the Australian Extension Services Grant and the Special Research Grant is not generally advertised. Requests for the support of projects under both Grants are made to the Australian Department of Agriculture by various bodies including industry, the State Departments of Agriculture, the universities and CSIRO. As the parties who are eligible to receive support from the two Grants are well aware of their existence and purpose there appears to be little need to advertise. On the other hand, the Australian Agricultural Council Extension Fellowships are advertised in July each year in the press and in selected technical journals. A similar procedure operated for the Australian Agricultural Council scholarships when they were being granted.
Information about the availability of loans under the Defence (Re-establishment) Act is made -available to servicemen by their re-establishment officers.
Dairying and Poultry (Eggs) Research Schemes
These grants are non-repayable, although provision exists for the recovery of any income obtained by the recipient organisation from produce or progeny sold, any moneys received from assets disposed of, any royalties arising from the research financed by the grant, and of any funds not spent or committed by the close of the financial year in which the grant is made. Levies collected are paid into the Dairying Research Trust Account or the Poultry Assistance Trust Fund. (b),(c),(d) Nil
Dairy, Eggs and Honey Industry
(a) Grants may be made from either the Fisheries Development Trust Account or the Fishing Industry Research Trust Account.
Fruit Growing Industry
(a) Australian Government financial assistance is made available to growers under the Apple and Pear Stabilisation Scheme and the Dried Vine Fruits Stabilisation Scheme. (b),(c) Nil
Assistance available under stabilisation provisions has been authorised by legislation. Ministerial press releases were issued at the time the stabilisation legislation was passed. The relevant grower and industry associations, which were consulted prior to introduction of the legislation, were also informed subsequently of the details of the legislation.
Press statements were issued by both the Australian and participatory State Governments regarding the additional export support program in the 1975 season. Relevant statutory and industry bodies were also informed.
Forestry and Timber Bureau
With regard to the answer to pan (3) of this question, I refer the honourable Member to the answer to question 2691 provided by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, Hansard, 2 1 August 1 975, page 468.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1M4) Grants made to educational institutions in the electorate of Grey from 1 January 1974 to 3 1 July 1975 are listed below under each program area of the Schools Commission.
In 1974, $455,500 was allocated to the Grey Electorate. During 1975 the Grey Electorate will benefit from $13,915,000 allocated to South Australia for general recurrent grants.
No figures are available from the Schools Commission for particular Government schools. The allocation of funds to particular Government schools is the responsibility of the State Department of Education.
Figures are not available from the Schools Commission on an individual school basis.
Government Special Schools
Recurrent grants totalling $809,774 have been made to the South Australian Education Department for the period 1 January 1974 to 3 1 July 1975. The funds are made available as a block grant allowing the State Education Department to determine its own expenditure priorities and the size of grants to particular schools.
The following schools would be expected to benefit from the funds made available:
Port Pirie Special School, Port Pirie
Port Augusta High School
Solomontown Primary School
Port Pirie Primary School
Bevan Crescent School, Whyalla
Port Lincoln High School
Whyalla Special School, Whyalla Playford
Port Lincoln Primary School
Stuart High School, Whyalla
Port Augusta Primary School
Memorial Oval Primary School, Whyalla.
Capital grants have also been made to the State Education Department for building projects connected with Government special schools under the Special Education Program. A total of $141,332 was paid for the period ending 31 July 1975 to the Whyalla Special School.
There are no non-Government Special Schools in the Grey Electorate.
The distribution of funds among Government disadvantaged schools is determined by the State Education Department.
The above figures represent payments for capital and recurrent purposes to 3 1 July 1 975.
The above figures represent grants approved to 31 July 1975. Advances to the schools, through the State Treasury, are authorized by the Schools Commission and payments are made progressively on certificates issued by the architect.
The above figures represent grants approved to 31 July 1975. Payments are made on the basis of quarterly requests from the Centre.
Both Government and non-Government teachers in the Grey Electorate would also benefit from $883,000 appropriated in South Australia for in-service training.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
With reference to the answer to Question No. 892 in which his predecessor advised me of details of each of the meetings of the Standing Committees of Australian and State Attorney-General, what progress has been made on-
a study to provide a basis for uniform laws relating to defamation throughout Australia;
the commissioning of a joint study to co-ordinate the work of all law reform bodies throughout Australia;
the establishment by the Government of an institute to train legislative draftsmen, and
the examination of uniform recording of criminal statistics in Australia.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 September 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1975/19750909_reps_29_hor96/>.