29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. G. G. D. Scholes) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country is causing and will cause widespread inconvenience, confusion, expense and distress.
That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.
That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.
Your petitioners therefore pray: That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest inconvenience and distress are occurring, that is to say, in meteorology, in road distances, in sport, in the building and allied trades, in the printing trade, and in retail trade.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr J. F. Cairns, Mr Hewson, Mr Jarman and Mr Eric Robinson.
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 most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to diminish the size of the increase or, if possible, leave charges as they are.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Corbett and Mr Eric Robinson.
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 implementation of the Report on Housing by the Priorities Review Staff will not ensure that the Australian community can secure living accommodation of its own choosing appropriate to its needs:
That many of the proposals positively discriminate against home ownership:
That the proposals if implemented would not encourage thrift and initiative but would further advance the philosophy of dependence upon the Government for basic services:
That the proposals are more concerned with redistribution of income than providing accommodation for the Australian community.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will request the Government to take no further measures which will make home ownership unattractive to those who have a home and unachievable for those who have not.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McLeay and Mr Ian Robinson
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 197S.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfuly showeth: That the undersigned persons believe that-
The $300 limit on income tax deductibility in respect of personal residential land and water rates is unrealistic and is a discriminatory income tax penalty.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take steps to see that the aforesaid limitation is removed entirely or substantially increased.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
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 power plants fueled by uranium products produce highly radioacuve nuclear wastes for which there is no satisfactory method of disposal;
That the contamination of the environment by these nuclear wastes will lead to an increase in birth defects, leukemia and other malignant diseases;
That we fear the mining, enrichment and selling of uranium by Australia is a way of solving our immediate economic problems at the expense of the future of our children.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will suspend all mining, enrichment and selling of uranium until a high-level open enquiry can be made into its effect upon the total environment; and at the same time set in motion meaningful research into alternative sources of energy. by Dr Forbes.
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 a need exists for more financial assistance to be made available to students who have to go away from home for their education.
We the petitioners therefore humbly pray that:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Forbes.
To the Speaker of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of residents of Australia respectfully shows:
That we believe the plight of the World’s great whales to be desperate; that we are convinced that they need conservation now, and that exploitation should cease; that we agree with Dr. Sidney Holt of F.A.O., who says that a complete re-assessment of all scientific data on whales is needed; and we further submit that substitutes to all whale products are available, and could, with Government encouragement, be made in Australia. We are convinced that the great whales, as a significant part of the World’s Wildlife Heritage, and being on the verge of extinction, now need our complete and wholehearted protection.
We, your petitioners, therefore humbly pray that you will:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lamb.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government will immediately cease the mining and exporting of 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 Lamb.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we the undersigned strongly Petition and Protest against the disbursement of the School Cadet Corps which it is generally felt serves to fulfill a basic need for Australian youth today in developing Character, Discipline, Qualities of Leadership, Citizenship and Patriotism and to encourage by association to continue some form of service (community or otherwise) after leaving school.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that this present Government rescind their current policy on the disbandment of the Australian School Cadet Corps. by Mr Lucock.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we wish to protest most vigorously at the proposal to downgrade the Post Office to the position of Postal Agency.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that: The terms Post Office and Postmaster be retained and that the range of services now provided be continued and that there be no downgrading of Post Offices. by Mr Lusher.
To the Honourable the Speaker of the House of Representatives and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled the Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the decisions of the Australian Government -
Your petitioners are impelled by these facts to call upon the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to review the abovementioned decisions (a) and (b), and to determine-
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Thorburn. Petition received.
– I ask the Prime Minister Does it trouble him as a matter of elementary justice that all the sworn testamentary and documentary evidence which was presented to the Royal Commission on Petroleum and which could have exonerated Mr Souter and the Australian Council of Trade Unions of the charge of deliberate deceit of the Government was entirely overlooked by the royal commission in its report?
– I believe that the honourable gentleman is making completely unworthy allegations against the royal commissioner. It is all the more astonishing that the honourable gentleman who a few months ago was loudly, even raucously, calling for a royal commission, should now complain about a royal commission’s findings which do not suit him.The fact is that the royal commissioner, Mr Justice Collins, is one of the most experienced trial judges in this country. He was appointed to the Supreme Court of New South Wales 20 years ago. He has been given positions as royal commissioner or chairman of boards and so on by successive New South Wales Governments on both sides of politics. He is a person who never has been criticised so far as I know for his conduct as a judge or in any of the positions which he has been given since he became a judge. As a royal commissioner he was empowered to call any evidence, written or oral, which seemed to him to be relevant. I believe it is a completely unworthy insinuation, as I said, that he did not do his job and that he overlooked or discarded evidence. Really there is nobody in this country who would be more experienced in eliciting and assessing evidence. I believe that honourable gentlemen would do well to accept the findings of this experienced judge in the present royal commission.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Northern Australia, who is the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture. Is there any way in which the Government can assist the sugar industry out of its difficulties caused by seasonal hazards, particularly with next year’s crop?
-I share the concern of the honourable member for Leichhardt There are serious problems in Queensland at present in getting off the sugar crop. As the honourable member well knows, the reasons are physical rather than economic. The area north of Townsville has been plagued with unseasonal wet weather, if I might describe it as such, and also the basic structure of the sugar industry has changed in recent years in that all the harvesting now is carried out by harvesters as distinct from the use of cane cutters. Most of the harvesters - practically all of them - are rubber-tyred. It is clear that there will have to be a lot of rethinking in the sugar industry with respect to getting off crops which progressively are becoming bigger. The parameters are well defined in that the crop must be harvested between, say, July and Christmas, particularly in the far north. As tonnages are getting bigger and costs are rising, it is quite clear that there will have to be some rethinking about the whole technology of sugar cane harvesting including the burning of sugar cane.
Perhaps in relation to harvesting improved techniques can be more satisfactorily evolved for the harvesting of green sugar cane as distinct from burnt cane and perhaps consideration could be given to the throughput of the mills. All these things will have to be looked at. At present probably only about 65 per cent of the peak sugar in the whole of Queensland has been taken off. When one looks at the estimates above peak, which are very substantial, probably only 50 per cent has been taken off. In the far north the position is serious. In the southern area also from Bundaberg south the position is fairly serious, although there is a very good chance that the crop there will be taken off and there is the fact that stand-over cane is more practical than in the far north. In the Burdekin and Mackay region the position is reasonably satisfactory.
– Is that your electorate?
-Yes, that is my electorate. I can assure the honourable member that it is always reasonably satisfactory in my electorate, so far as the sugar crop goes. However, all these things are serious. The question raised by the honourable member for Leichhardt is being looked at closely by Federal authorities and State authorities. They are investigating the whole pattern of sugar cane marketing.
-Does the Prime Minister agree with Mr Bob Hawke and Mr Harold Souter that there are many inaccuracies in the report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum? Does the Prime Minister still believe that complete justice has been done to the Australian Council of Trade Unions in the finding of the royal commission that ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd deliberately deceived the Government?
-Mr Speaker, no, yes.
-I address a question to the Minister for Education. Is the honourable gentleman aware of the countless examples of deprived schools which receive extensive federal funding but which cannot use the money and equipment effectively because the State authorities are not acting responsibly and fairly with regard to their duties to such schools? Is he specifically aware of the plight of the Helen Street State School in Northcote, Melbourne, which has received extensive funding from this Government? Is our well intended and proper allocation of money substantially reduced in value in a school which suffers total neglect from the State Government and its do-nothing Minister? Can he ensure that the school will not be neglected?
– A disadvantaged school is a school which is agreed by me and the State Minister to be disadvantaged. The whole intention of the Karmel report in its recommendation on special funding for disadvantaged schools was that those special sums of money should be additional. The Helen Street State School to which the honourable gentleman refers received about $49,000 under the disadvantaged schools program. It would be an abuse of the system by the State Government if that $49,000 were all that was spent. The intention is that the State Government should spend on a school the normal amount which it would spend and if a school is in a bad way it is assumed that the State Government would use either its own funds or our general funds to finance whatever is needed to be done and finance provided under the disadvantaged schools program is extra and compensatory.
Although we are informed that in the case referred to by the honourable member finance provided under the disadvantaged schools program is being spent it is pretty clear that what is really happening is that this money is being used as a substitute for what would have been spent anyway and nothing additional or extra is being provided by the State Government. I would draw the attention of the honourable member to the fact that the State of Victoria has already drawn $45m capital and $63m recurrent from the Karmel funds. I believe that if the State did not have any of its own funds to allocate to a disadvantaged school- and State governments’ own as-of-right grants have been at record levels- it could have used some of the general grants. I am afraid that there was complete reluctance on the part of the State of Victoria to take part in any way in the disadvantaged schools program. This program can be defeated by a State government spending money provided by the disadvantaged schools program but not making available anything extra or additional by way of what would have been normal funding.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of Mr Hawke ‘s claim that the petroleum royal commission completely exonerated him in relation to the ACTU-Solo crude oil deal? Is the Prime Minister satisfied that Mr Hawke as Chairman and Managing Director of ACTUSolo and President of the Federal Executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions which unanimously endorsed Mr Souter ‘s action, was completely unaware of the nature of the deal both when it was made and when he launched the discount petrol venture as Chairman and Managing Director of ACTU-Solo?
– I accept the findings of the royal commission.
– I address my question to the Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs. Can the Minister confirm that an arrangement with the universities is likely so that the Australian Research Grants Committee will have sufficient funds for the calendar year 1 976? Has the Minister any plans to alter the ARGC triennium to bring it into line with the intention to start the new triennium for education in 1977 instead of 1976?
– I have already announced that an amount of $7.2m will be provided for Australian Research Grants Committee grants during the calendar year 1976, and that discussions are taking place with the universities through the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee to enable an amount of $2.1m to be made available from university resources during the current financial year- covering the period from January to June 1976. The proposed arrangements with the universities will mean that they will be reimbursed the cost of ARGC grants after they have incurred the expenditure instead of in advance of expenditure which is the normal practice. This has been necessary in order to enable the Government to keep within the total expenditure figure of the 1975-76 Budget. The universities will, however, be reimbursed any additional costs arising from the arrangement.
Although the amount of $7.2m allocated to the ARGC represents a reduction of $ 1.4m over the estimated cost of grants made in 1975, it should be noted that ARGC grants are adjusted each year to take account of academic salary increases and other wage determinations. It should also be noted that the policy adopted for ARGC grants is consistent with the Government’s overall strategy of expenditure restraint in the public sector. Nevertheless, the level of ARGC grants endorsed for the calendar year 1976, combined with the temporary financing arrangements for the current financial year which the members of the Australian ViceChancellors Committee have agreed to submit to their respective universities, will permit a high level of employment of researchers to be maintained in that year, after taking account of the normal attrition which takes place from year to year as research projects are completed or fail to merit continuation. The Parliament will appreciate that ARGC grants are intended to encourage research work of the highest calibre and that the only criterion for obtaining a grant is the excellence of the project. Although 1976 will be a holding year for ARGC grants I will be making a submission to Cabinet for a new triennium covering the years 1977-79 in due course.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he will concede to Mr Hawke ‘s demand to reconsider the Government’s decision to refuse to allocate Australian crude oil to ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd because it deliberately deceived the Government about the price it paid for crude oil.
– Clearly the Government will consider any proposition from any legitimate trader for operations within the law.
-I ask the Prime Minister a question about Timor. Does he agree that whilst there is no general food shortage in Timor there is a need for foods like milk and some grains which could be easily supplied by Australia? Will he make sure that every effort is made to satisfy those needs and that those efforts are not delayed by any lack of initiative by the Portuguese authorities? Will he also see that whatever effort Australia can make to prevent any foreign intervention in the affairs of Timor will be made?
– I mentioned a couple of days ago the very considerable contributions that Australia is making to alleviate distress in Timor. We operate through the International Red Cross. The International Red Cross has reported to us that there is not a shortage of foodstuffs in east Timor but that there are difficulties in distribution. We have helped alleviate those difficulties. I was discussing this matter with the Chief of the International Red Cross delegation in eastern Timor, Mr Andre Pasquier as recently as last Thursday. There is difficulty not only for those who have remained in the Portuguese colony but also for the some 40 000 who have taken refuge in west Timor.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister and follows the last answer which he gave, or did not give, to the Leader of the Opposition. I ask the Prime Minister, in the context of the question posed to him by the Leader of the Opposition and in particular in the context of his response, whether he considers ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd a legitimate trader.
-When it operates within the law.
– I address my question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. The Minister will be aware of concern about the consumption, of alcohol amongst some Aboriginal communities and of the matter concerning the community at Oenpelli raised by the honourable member for Mackellar during last night’s adjournment debate. Can the Minister say what steps he can take to overcome this problem?
-I am aware of the problems concerning the Aboriginal people in Arnhem Land at places like Oenpelli and Maningrida and many other parts where alcohol is taking a toll of the community. Of course, it is a very difficult matter with which to come to grips. Although the honourable member for Mackellar, who spoke on this matter last night, tends to make it all sound very easy, one just cannot go back to a prohibition approach to this situation, with the sequel of bootlegging and deleterious varieties of alcohol being consumed. The fact of the matter is that the predominance of people in these communities appears to want alcohol regardless of its deleterious consequences. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs has a very limited prerogative in the matter. The nearest store to Oenpelli is some 12 miles away. If that is closed down the Aboriginal people will just go from Oenpelli to the next store, which is 60 miles away. The fact of the matter is that in respect of each application for a liquor licence objections are made before the licensing authorities each year by the Aboriginal people; despite that the licence is granted. So it seems that there is an intent to secure liquor supplies in any eventuality and in any situation. It is not an easy thing just to decide that you are going to deprive Aboriginal people of liquor and that you can in fact effectively deprive them of it by closing down the neighbouring stores, because many of them would set about transporting it either by road over a longer distance or by air.
An interdepartmental committee has been looking at this matter for some time, and I have now asked that its efforts be intensified and that it be especially oriented to the particular problems that exist in Oenpelli. I am beginning to believe that the problem is so deep-seated that we will need to look at it from the standpoint of entirely different dimensions. The scientific basis of the problem will need to be investigated. It seems to me to be necessary to look at the reasons why alcohol is so appealing to Aboriginal people. Whether it is associated with a state of despair and despondency is difficult to say, but I readily concede that the problem is extremely serious. We will be intensifying our efforts to come to grips with it. We would like to give effect to the local option principle. In doing so, of course, one has to acknowledge readily that you get a very mixed scene in the Northern Territory.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister supplementary to that asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. In view of his acknowledgement that ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd is a legitimate trader provided it operates within the law, will he explain to the House whether there is any qualification on the response given yesterday in this chamber by his colleague, the Minister for Manufacturing Industry, regarding future allocations of Australian crude oil? Will he assure the House that no future allocations will be made to ACTU-Solo?
– I have nothing to add to the answer that my colleague gave yesterday.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Health been drawn to a report stating that large areas of Port Phillip Bay are heavily polluted with cadmium, zinc, mercury and other highly poisonous heavy metals? In particular, has the Minister seen figures which show that the figures for cadmium content in mussels in Corio Bay are the highest documented in the world- 9 times the limit considered safe? Is it a fact that the National Health and Medical Research Council has recommended a maximum content of 2 parts per million of cadmium in fish and fish products? Has the Victorian State Government followed this recommendation?
-Unfortunately so far no State government has implemented the recommended standards for cadmium in seafoods. In fact, very few of the standards for heavy metals recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council have been implemented in most States. Again, unfortunately, it seems that there may be a reluctance on the part of the Victorian authorities to make available some of the data on pollution in Port Phillip Bay. For example, the Australian Government analyst who co-operated with the authorities in 1972 discovered high levels of sewage type organisms in the Port Phillip Bay area; he also discovered high levels of various metals in seafoods. But he has never been given the full results of that survey. Apparently some of the tests were done by other analysts and the Australian Government has not been given notice of those findings, made as far back as 1 972. 1 think it is high time that the State governments, in particular the Victorian Government, made public what the levels of contamination are and what steps they are taking to see that fishermen have alternative fishing fields or that due warnings are given to the public in these instances, and started to take some action towards the prevention of pollution in the rivers and particularly in Victoria, in Port Phillip Bay. I think that the Australian Government made some thousands of dollars available to the States some years ago to look into this matter of pollution. I am not aware, nor are the colleagues I have spoken to, of what has been done with that money.
– Is the Minister for Services and Property aware of a report that to make a good showing in marginal seats at any future election an adequate sum for campaign expenditure will be at least $20,000? Will he state whether this expenditure contravenes the Electoral Act, which limits the amount to be expended on behalf of candidates for House of Representatives elections to $500?
– As an avid reader of the Press I advise the honourable member that I have seen the report. I notice that in a newspaper today, in Column 8, it is stated:
At the last Federal elections, the N.S.W. Liberal Party considered $12,000 to $15,000 an adequate sum to mount a good showing in marginal seats. At the forthcoming elections an ‘adequate sum’ will be at least $20,000, a stiff amount to raise in some electorates.
I also advise the honourable member that it is true that under the provisions of section 145 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act a candidate for a House of Representatives election may not expend more than $500. At the last election there were 245 candidates for the Senate and 500 for the House of Representatives. Of those candidates, including people who are now members of this Parliament, 392 failed to submit returns of expenses despite several requests. Fifty put in returns showing that they had exceeded the permitted expenditure. It is also correct to say that some sitting members of this Parliament, on both sides, have infringed section 145, notably the honourable member for Sturt who- I speak from memory- documented in the Press expenditure totalling $22,000 at the 1972 elections.
The answer to this problem is to increase the permissible expenditure on elections to a reasonable amount for individuals and political parties and to enforce the provisions of the Act. Recently the Government introduced legislation providing for these provisions but it was rejected out of hand by the Opposition parties. Had the legislation been passed, the average amount spent would have been roughly $6,000 for parties and individuals. We now face the position where members of this Parliament, particularly some in the Opposition in the Senate, who would probably have their seats declared vacant for contravention of the Act, are deciding whether or not they will throw out a democratically elected Government. Also, people have been prosecuted for failure to enrol or vote whilst the legislators in great number defy the electoral law. The reason why no charges were levelled against those who contravened the law at the last election was that there was legislation before the Parliament which the Government believed would remedy the situation. But it was opposed by the Liberal and National Country Parties here and in another place.
The position is that unless the Liberal and Country Parties are prepared to support the Labor legislation for reasonable expenditure which can be enforced, some interested elector outside this place may well take up the necessary challenge in the courts against one or more members of this Parliament or a senator, and may succeed. I understand that if a challenge is made the Act could be enforced. Therefore, I suggest to the Liberal and Country Parties that they give up playing politics on this matter and being parties to a situation in which there is one law for politicians and another for the electors. The Labor Party believes, as its legislation implied, in reasonable expenditure, enforceable, policed and in keeping with the electoral law. Finally, it is obvious that the Liberal and Country Parties do not want to curtail the expenditure because they are in the process of raising $60m for campaign expenditure at a time when the limit is $500 per member. I suggest to them that they are treading on very dangerous ground. They should be aware that if they proceed to spend $500,000 per electorate, their election to either House will be open to challenge, and rightly so.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. I draw the Minister’s attention to his Department’s discussion paper entitled Urban Land Problems and Policies in which the taxing of the rental value of owner-occupied housing was put forward as a component of a package designed to reduce the demand for owner-occupied housing. In view of this, did his Department make a submission to the Priorities Review Staff inquiry into housing? Did it recommend the introduction of a tax on home owners, calculated on the basis of the imputed rental value of their homes? Finally, did he support such recommendations and would he support the introduction of such a tax?
– My Department did make a submission to the Priorities Review inquiry but did not recommend the proposal which the honourable member suggested.
– Is the Treasurer aware of reports that taxation increases in the New South Wales Government Budget are due to the fiscal policies of this Government? Will he inform the House as to the amount of grants channelled to the New South Wales Government this year as compared with grants from previous governments?
-The significant factor about the New South Wales Government Budget this year is that by and large the Government had to resort, to a very small degree, to revenue raising. This arises because of the extremely generous treatment it has received- especially this yearsince this Government has been in office. For instance, this year allocations to the States represent about 38 per cent of the total outlays in the Budget. If one disaggregates the allocations to the States from our own expenditure one finds in the Budget that the increase in allocations to the States was 30 per cent compared with 18 per cent for our own needs. In some cases the States have increased their expenditure at a much faster rate than has the Australian Government overall. Allowing for the increase in expenditure for our own purposes, all the States have increased their expenditure at a much greater rate than has the Australian Government. This year the Australian Government will have increased allocations to the States by over $2,000m- an extremely generous arrangement. The benefits of Medibank, representing something like $700m to the States, have allowed them to avoid substantial revenue increases. These represent a very healthy and, on the part of the States, a welcome injection of additional financial support to allow them to maintain the operating services in their public hospitals.
Those States, like South Australia, which took up the offer of the Australian Government to absorb certain undertakings- in the case of South Australia the non-metropolitan railwaysfound that their financial situation was improved additionally. The advantage to South Australia this financial year is about $26m. Mr Dunstan has estimated that, over a 10-year period the benefits to that State will be between $760m and $800m. I cannot give the specific figures on the State of New South Wales, but I will arrange for these to be supplied to the honourable member. The facts are that the States have been extremely generously treated. The fiscal burdens and disciplines which we have imposed on ourselves have been much more severe and much more demanding than they have been in the case of the States solely because we have been so extremely generous to the States.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. In view of his earlier answers to questions asked of him by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that he accepts the findings of the Royal Commission on Petroleum in its third report, does the Prime Minister agree with the findings contained on page 33 of that report to the effect that all the directors of ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd, including by inference the managing director, share responsibility for the deliberate deception of a Minister of the Australian Government?
– I said that I accepted the findings.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Manufacturing Industry who, I understand, is representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy in this House. How does the Minister explain the fact that ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd paid more for its crude oil supplies than its commercial competitors and yet the retail outlets supplied by ACTU-Solo are able to sell petrol for 12c to 16c a gallon less than their competitors? In considering any appeal from ACTU-Solo for more Australian crude, will he take the interests of consumers into account?
-The position is, as the royal commission established, that this was dealing with a specific quantity of indigenous crude which was bought at a price less than the price of imported crude; therefore, it could be retailed at a cost less than the overall price. Australia does not meet all its own needs from indigenous crude. It has to import a fair amount of crude. The cost of imported crude is at least $8 to $10 a barrel. Accordingly, when the 2 crudes are mixed together, the retail price must be so much greater than if only indigenous crude was used. Therefore, there is a benefit in the sense that if we were operating only with indigenous crude, it could be sold at less than the price of the mixture.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that it was he who arranged the talks between ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd and the Minister for Minerals and Energy after talks with the President of the Australian Labor Party and prior to the initial allocation of the Australian crude to ACTU-Solo? Did he instruct Mr Connor to act on the ACTU-Solo request as quickly as possible? Was it because of this instruction that the ACTU-Solo deal was not fully investigated? Will he tell the House of his discussions with the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and his colleague, the Minister for Minerals and Energy?
– None of the matters which the honourable member puts are facts. I do not believe that I have discussed the matter with any of the persons whom he has named; nor did I receive any messages from them or send any messages to them. I can only repeat that I deplore any doubts being cast on the competence or the accuracy of the Royal Commissioner. The previous question from the honourable member for Bennelong would prompt me to say that he would know, as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, as the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party, who has now asked a question, should know as a man who has been admitted, to the Bar in New South Wales, that the Royal Commissioner is exceptionally well qualified to elicit and interpret facts. If any person has any facts which he believes would change the Commissioner’s findings then I would suggest that he should see the counsel engaged to assist the Commissioner. The commission’s inquiry is still proceeding. It is all very well for honourable gentlemen to make insinuations under privilege in the Parliament but they could, with complete safety, approach the counsel assisting the Commissioner and put any facts or suspicions that they have to him. There is no question that he also is a very experienced barrister, a senior counsel.
– He was a Labor candidate for this House in 1972.
– He is doing very much better financially at the Bar than he would as a Minister. If honourable gentlemen seek to make aspersions about people on the Bench or at the Bar they are free to make them outside. It is very significant that they will not make them outside.
– No aspersions are being made against the Royal Commissioner.
– Very well, I hope that the way you are climbing down is recorded by Hansard.
-I ask the Prime Minister: Has the Government taken any action in regard to the savage execution of 5 citizens of Spain whose crime, it seems, was to oppose the incumbent fascist regime?
-Yes, the Spanish Ambassador was called in and was acquainted with the detestation that the Australian Government feels for this latest barbarism by the Franco regime. All of Spain ‘s neighbours in Western Europe and also the Vatican have recalled their ambassadors from Spain. Spain deservedly is under a European diplomatic boycott. I do not blame civilised Europeans for refusing to have anything to do with this antiquated and disgraceful regime.
– I ask my question of the Prime Minister under standing order 144 which provides that a member can ask the Prime Minister whether a Minister’s statement represents government policy. The Prime Minister will have seen statements made by the Minister for Labor and Immigration following, and presumably based on, the Government’s Budget to the effect that unemployment will reach 400 000 and that inflation could reach 35 per cent next year. I ask: Was the Minister expressing the Government’s view? Is that level of unemployment and inflation part of the Government’s policy objectives contained in the Government’s Budget package?
– I answered a question on this subject yesterday. I also referred to the fact that the Opposition was forecasting an unemployment figure of half a million over the same period. I am not saying that that would be the Opposition’s policy just because it makes that assessment. Nor, of course, is it our policy because we make the assessment that the figure will be only 80 per cent as much. The facts are as the Government has put them according to the best advice available to it. The facts are regrettable. Nevertheless, the honourable gentlemen should know, and I believe that the Australian public is increasingly coming to know, that countries like
Australia- manufacturing, trading countriesare afflicted with an exceptional degree of unemployment. As I pointed out on Tuesday unemployment in countries of the European Economic Community now averages more than 5 per cent. It is greater than in Australia. Unemployment in the United States and Canada is somewhere between 7 per cent and 10 per cent. Australia certainly has a most regrettable and distressing rate of unemployment, but unemployment in comparable countries is greater. All countries have that rate of unemployment at this stage whatever the ideology of their governments. It is not only the social democratic governments, such as that in Australia, which have it, but it is also governments comprised of parties which would be comparable to those parties sitting opposite which have it. In fact, social democratic governments in general, as in Germany, have been able to keep unemployment lower and conservative governments, such as the United States or others in Western Europe, have higher unemployment.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Has he noticed the recommendation that insurance companies should lift their premiums for third party and worker’ compensation insurance to an additional $173m? Will the Government ascertain what action it can take to avoid this impost being placed on the Australian people?
-I believe it is true that throughout Australia, certainly in many of the States, there has been an increase in the premiums for third party insurance. This is a situation which is likely to get worse under the present system. As honourable gentlemen know, every State and both Territories require the owners of motor vehicles to insure against third party claims. The form of insurance requires increasing premiums because clearly under the present system provision has to be made not only for claims which might succeed during the year for which the premiums are being paid but also in regard to future years. It is for this reason that the Government is pursuing an alternative scheme which would be very much cheaper. It would avoid legal costs which this year will amount to $40m. It will avoid administrative costs and commissions. It will be total, instant and automatic in its benefits.
-My question to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development refers to the present non-availability of finance for the funding of existing homes under the defence service homes scheme. I ask the Minister whether he has given any thought to the serious difficulties confronting both purchasers and vendors where departmental approval had been notified and erroneous assurance given that finance was available. Because of the understandable action of the parties in making follow-on arrangements based on such assurances, a chain of hardship now exists. Will the Minister state whether he proposes any action to afford assistance to those applicants for defence service housing finance for whom approval had been granted prior to the Budget as distinct from fresh applications?
– Finance under the defence service homes scheme will be made available immediately to all applicants who applied up to 3 1 July, but for applications made after that date there will be a waiting period of 1 1 months, except in hardship cases. We have given regional directors responsibility for making recommendations in cases of hardship. We have made this decision in the overall budgetary context. It is quite easy for the Opposition to isolate the defence service homes sector but we have taken a decision in the whole budgetary position because we realised that if we had too great a deficit we would have to look at the overall housing situation, including interests generally. If our deficit was greater than was forecast in the Budget we might have found that the long term bond rate may have risen some 2 per cent or 3 per cent. Consequently sectors of housing other than defence service homes would have been penalised greatly.
We believe it is a reasonable proposal that the $122m that we have made available for defence service housing is a good contribution in the overall context. Frankly, except in the case of hardship, we believe that those people who are refused finance can secure temporary accommodation for 1 1 months, bearing in mind that when the long term bond rate is about 10 per cent they will still get finance at 3% per cent. We regret this, but it is a part of the overall Budget strategy.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report on the Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund for June 1975.
– Pursuant to section 28 of the Dried Fruits Export Control Act 1 924- 1 973,I present the annual report of the Australian Dried Fruits Control Board for the year ended 30 June 1975.
– For the information of honourable members I present the interim report of the operations (other than insurance) in relation to the Defence Service Homes scheme for the year ended 30 June 1975.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report prepared by the Australian Advisory Committee on the Environment entitled Coastal Land. The report is dated July 1975.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests:
Excise Tariff Bill 1975.
Railways Agreement (South Australia) Bill 1975.
-Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I claim to have been misrepresented yesterday in this chamber by the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt). At page 1543 of Hansard he is reported as having stated that the Labor Party represented no rural seats in Victoria. That is not true. The Victorian electorate of La Trobe covers more than 1 000 square miles, represents -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not making a personal explanation.
- Mr Speaker, the misrepresentation goes further.
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. At page 558 of Hansard the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Riordan) is reported as having made certain remarks in reply to a speech I made in which I complained that a Regional Employment Development scheme project involving proposed assistance for the Hollywood High School in my electorate in Western Australia has been cancelled. He said that it had not been cancelled at that stage. I replied to that that I was given an indication that it had been orally communicated to the Hollywood High School Parents and Citizens Association that the project had been cancelled. I now have received a letter from the Minister’s Department confirming that that project has been cancelled.
-I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
-No, but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has drawn my attention to a comment I made in the House on 30 ultimo when I said that the Opposition’s economic spokesman released in January this year a Press statement in which he condemned tax indexation. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has pointed out that that is wrong. I have checked and he is correct. I am wrong and I apologise.
- Mr Speaker, I would like to supplement my answer to the question asked by the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar).
– If the Minister wants to add to his answer I think he has to obtain leave to do so.
– What do you want to do?
– I want to add something to my answer.
-Is leave granted?
– I said that applications made under the defence service homes scheme will be honoured. I said that those people who made applications up to 31 July will get the money immediately. That of course will be consequent upon the Budget being passed. The reason for that is that an amount would be transferred from the $20m allocated in the Budget for the Australian Housing Corporation this year. That money will be transferred temporarily to that section of Defence Service Homes until the end of December when money will flow through to repay that amount.
-It will not be paid immediately?
-It cannot be paid immediately because we would be drawing on the $20m allocated in the Budget for the Housing Corporation. In other words that money will only come through once the Budget is passed.
Defence Forces Retirement Benefits-Political Parties-Tasmania: Shipping and Freight Rates-Australian Economy-Education: Capital Grants- Western Australia: Water Supply Employees- Social Services- Medibank- Price of Oil-Communications in Australia- Regional Employment Development Scheme-Local Government
That grievances be noted.
-After the present Government took office in 1 972 1 consistently made representations to Mr Barnard, the previous Minister for Defence, regarding the injustices and anomalies suffered by ex-members of the Services which became evident during the hearings conducted by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation which was known as the Jess Committee, which injustices I hoped the Government would attempt to overcome. The Jess Committee, which was established under the Gorton Government, comprised members of the Senate and this House who were members of all political parties, including the Australian Democratic Labor Party which was represented in the Senate at the time. Briefly, the Committee’s job was to investigate the old Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act which had become very complex in terms of administration and if necessary to introduce a new scheme based on simplicity which could be understood by all ranks. Many injustices, anomalies and inequalities in the old complicated system were brought to light during the course of public hearings. Unfortunately they still exist. A new scheme was devised for personnel serving on or after 1 October 1972 which, while it simplified and improved retirement benefits for serving personnel, did nothing for those members who retired prior to October 1972. Members who were classed as pre.nineteenfiftyniners were particularly affected.
That briefly is the result of the Jess Committee’s findings. Having served on the Committee with the previous Minister for Defence, I was aware that he knew of those anomalies, and I had a number of personal discussions with him on the problem. While he admitted that problems did exist for the personnel who retired prior to October 1 972, nothing has been undertaken to adjust them. There was also an amount of correspondence between the previous Minister and myself regarding the formation of a joint parliamentary committee to investigate the problems, and the Minister was the recipient of a number of questions from me during question time on the matter. None of these elicited positive action. At one time we reached the stage where the Minister asked me to submit terms of reference for such a committee and in conjunction with the remaining members of the Jess Committee, Senator Maunsell or the National Country Party, and Senator Devitt of the Australian Labor Party, I submitted such terms of reference as we felt were adequate to cover the situation. These in turn, I was informed, were forwarded to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) for his consideration. Again the answer to the suggestion of the establishment of such a committee was a positive ‘no’. What the Government is frightened of, or why it should hedge around this matter, I do not know. It is a case of justice being done, but justice is being entirely disregarded.
The terms of reference submitted at that time to the then Minister for Defence were compiled after studying correspondence from individual ex-servicemen and ex-service organisations detailing some of these anomalies, which incidentally amounted to quite a number. It was concluded that a joint committee, formed to enquire into these matters, should not be hampered or restricted in any way, that the situation should be tidied up once and for all to the satisfaction of all ex-servicemen and ex-service organisations concerned, and that no one group of exservicemen should be excluded from investigation. The terms of reference were as follows: To establish, first, whether there are any anomalies, inequities or injustices suffered by beneficiaries under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act of 1948-1973 who retired prior to 1 October 1972; and, secondly, what measures should be taken to correct the anomalies, inequities or injustices, if any, revealed by such inquiry. It was felt that these terms of reference would cover the full field of dissatisfaction, and the main thing as far as I was concerned was that party politics would play no part in settling the problem.
Unfortunately again the Government, through the then Minister for Defence, refused to cooperate. I can only assume from the persistent refusals by the Government to have such an investigation, and knowing that the then Minister knew of the particular problems, that a bureaucratic wall has been set up to oppose the recommedation. It may have been felt that the old scheme was adequate or that there was a possibility of ex-service personnel obtaining greater benefits than other categories of government employees. If that is so I assure the House that I will demolish that wall when the Opposition is returned to government. It is not as if there was anything to fear from such an investigation. On the contrary, it could possibly be of some advantage to future government schemes.
Since the adoption of the Jess Committee report in May 1973, when the then Minister for Defence publicly recognised that anomalies existed, this Government has been asked to implement its promise to provide for the automatic adjustments of retirement pay for exservice members. Although I have received continual promises that this would be done we are still awaiting the introduction of applicable legislation to amend the Acts. Also under the new Defence Forces Retirement and Death Benefits Act, any surplus contributions made by serving members in excess of 5.5 per cent of pay are being refunded. The surplus amount of moneys in the old DFRB fund is still being held. Why this is so I do not know. We cannot even obtain the information as to the actual surplus amount in the old fund. Surely after 2 years the Commonwealth Actuary should be in a position to inform the Government what the amount is.
I again ask the present Minister: What is the surplus amount in the old DFRB fund? Is it the Government’s intention to distribute this amount amongst those who made the contributions or does the Government intend to put the surplus into Consolidated Revenue? I am sick and tired of asking these questions and receiving no definite response. I put the questions to the Minister once again in this grievance debate. Answers given to me by the previous Minister that individual cases claiming injustice would be investigated were both ludicrous and foolish. There are not just a few cases to be dealt with. There are hundreds and hundreds of them and it would take a separate division in the Department to place these cases into categories and deal with them as the Minister suggested. A committee of investigation of the joint Houses, established by the Government as an extension of the Jess Committee, is the only possible solution and the only way in which satisfaction can be obtained. In this way justice will not only be done; it will appear to have been done.
I speak now on completely non-party lines when I say to the present Minister for Defence and to the Prime Minister that we of the Opposition can see the need for such a joint party committee of investigation. The Returned Services League can see it. The Regular Defence Forces Welfare Association can see it. Hundreds of exservicemen can see it. Ex-members of the Jess Committee, which included the previous Minister for Defence, can see it. Why then is this Government so blind that it cannot see the need? Maybe it does not wish to see it. I will not accept the excuse of the present Minister for Defence in regard to the delayed legislation that this Act is closely allied to the Superannuation Bill and because that legislation was rejected nothing can be done about the Defence Forces Retirement and Death Benefits Act 1973. That is completely wrong. They are both completely different Acts. Once again I submit my request to have this committee of investigation established and ask that the present Minister for Defence give his earnest consideration to the matter.
-Last week, as we all well know now, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) took yet another step in his continuing efforts to take this nation back to the past, with the political ideals of the long outmoded 1950s. He has the misconceived belief that because Australians have indicated some difficulty in absorbing and understanding the monumental advances made by the Government towards a new way of life- despite the Government’s facing with the rest of the world in the last 3 years some of the most difficult problems that have ever been encountered- the Australian people want to return to the dead hand of ultraconservative Liberalism which they unceremoniously rejected in December 1972. There is no doubt that, now that the ill considered contents of his Federal-State relations policy have been revealed and publicly questioned and condemned, the hastily arranged meeting of last week would never have taken place had he realised the consequences.
Since the Fraser fantasy on federalism policies has now become a document on which the Opposition hopes to gain office it is important that we all clearly understand its disastrous implications. It has been condemned in most of the well read and opinion-forming national newspapers. As recently as this morning the Canberra Times, in a headline to an article by its economics writer stated: ‘Opposition document notable mostly for what is left out’. The article stated: … the policy document was simplistic to the point of effrontery … the paper and the circumstances in which it was presented evoked nothing so much as the thoroughly unpleasant suspicion that the Opposition believes it is about to win government by default, that it is not the electoral approval of its policies which matters, but electoral disapproval of the Government’s policies.
The document was published in a fashion that has brought condemnation from people who have examined it, not, as has been suggested to me, by people who have not read it. Let me remind honourable members that criticisms have not been limited to Labor politicians. The most outspoken critic in Queensland of the meeting of Premiers with Mr Fraser and his colleagues in Melbourne last week was none other than the Treasurer of Queensland, Sir Gordon Chalk. The Telegraph of 29 September published an article carrying the headline: ‘Chalk is Unhappy on Taxes’. The article stated:
The Treasurer, Sir Gordon Chalk, today criticised the Premiers of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria in the growing row over the Federal Opposition’s new tax scheme.
He clearly rejected a claim by the Premier, Mr BjelkePetersen, that the new tax scheme could reduce Queensland taxes.
Mr Bjelke-Petersen stands condemned by his own Treasurer, a man who has the financial expertise as far as Queensland is concerned and a man who often has been held up by all sections of non-Labor parties in Australia as one of thenleading experts in the financial field. It is important that these things be fully understood.
I want to make some reference to the dishonesty- that is a word that today we all clearly understand is almost inseparably linked to the attitude of the Queensland Premier in almost every regard- of the Queensland Premier in the advertisement that he ran in the CourierMail on 25 September, the day following the conference that was held in Melbourne. No doubt the advertisement was prepared before the conference took place. In the advertisement he said that more and more effort was being made by the Australian Government to force grants on State governments under section 96 of the Constitution. The advertisement said:
The Federal Labor Government has misused this power by trying to make more and more State money available only as section 96 grants with socialist strings attached.
Of course Mr Bjelke-Petersen can get away with that because he is a politician. He can get away with that because he has no standards of ethical conduct or decency in anything that he does. If he were running a business concern he would be charged under section 52 of the Trade Practices Act for misleading and false advertising.
Honourable members should note the efforts that have been made particularly since this Government came to office by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) to put some semblance of decency into the operation of political parties in the national sphere in respect to campaigning and publications. This has been rejected continually by the Opposition.
Let me remind honourable members that the facts of the matter are that the Opposition policy document claiming that specific purpose funds now dominate State revenue is quite incorrect. In fact, the Opposition is over-rating the importance of specific purpose payments to States. In 1975-76 more than half- 53 per cent- of the funds available to the States from Australian Government payments and Loan Council programs will remain untied for use by the States as they see fit. Further, the Australian Government’s specific purpose assistance in 1974-75 was estimated to amount to only 29 per cent of the total funds available to the States, including funds available from their own resources. This, of course, clearly condemns and scarcely shows any approval or support for the Queensland Premier’s claim of being dominated.
In respect of the disclosures made by the Leader of the Opposition in his new document, ‘Fraser’s Federalism’, there is no doubt that should this policy be inflicted upon the Australian people we would see such a ridiculous situation with the collecton of tax and the administration of a dual system of taxation that not only would people be paying double taxation, as was clearly explained by the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) yesterday in answer to a question, but also in some instances people could be paying 3 lots of taxation. Consider a taxpayer who works in more than one State in any financial year. There would be difficulties in determining the claims by various States on the taxpayer’s income. Various ways of dealing with this problem could be devised, but new legislation would probably be needed and there would be considerable administrative troubles in clearing up the problem for that unfortunate individual. Very many people would be affected by that problem.
The implications of the proposal by the Opposition are vast and are frightening when it is considered that members of the Opposition expect the Australian people to be prepared to accept their ill-considered, ill-conceived document, and they expect the Australian people to give them an opportunity to put such a document into effect should their style of government again be inflicted upon the people.
Might I say that it is important for the Australian people to remember that the man who proposes this document is the man who in recent years was prepared to destroy 2 party leadersthe Leader of the Opposition in recent months, and previously, while the Opposition was in Government, his Leader, the Prime Minister of that day. His style of operation is unworthy of the democratic, decent way of life that is expected of politicians in this country. Now, of course, he links up with the National Party Queensland Premier, who in recent times has used his influence on the Leader of the Opposition and who by his very actions in the appointment of a senator to replace my late colleague, Senator Bert Milliner, seeks to destroy our democratic system of parliamentary elections whereby the people can determine the party that will govern them for a period of 3 years.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to take part in this grievance debate to air the problems of Tasmania’s communications. My purpose is twofold. First of all, I wish to describe the serious difficulties which Tasmanian economy and the Tasmanian people will face because of the savage increases in unsubsidised freight rates; secondly, I wish to describe the difficulties which will be faced by the travel and tourist industry because of the continued increases in air fares and because of other threatened air charges. Let me deal first with shipping and freight rates. Most honourable members would know that since September there has been an increase of 65 per cent in Australian National Line freight rates on goods shipped to Tasmania. Northbound freight rates are subsidised, or are mainly so, and I thank the Government for its concern in doing that; but southbound freight rates are not subsidised, and this is a problem.
I think the problem has been described very well by various commentators who have been reported in Tasmania. Let me quote one. Referring to the 40 per cent increase in shipping freight charges to Tasmania that came about in July this year, he said that in the light of the increases there is now a state of war between Tasmania and the Australian Government in this matter. That was said by Mr Lowe, who was Labor Acting Premier of Tasmania. Two other commentators in a joint statement said that the proposed 40 per cent increase in southbound cargo rates was a king hit to the Tasmanian economy, which was poised so sensitively upon Bass Strait freight rates. Of course, they were right. They are the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) and the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies). Later, when the honourable member for Wilmot, who led an unsuccessful and abortive attempt to persuade the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) to change his mind and to continue to subsidise southbound freight rates returned to Tasmania empty handed he said:
The Federal Government’s refusal to drop the 40 per cent increases in shipping freight charges to Tasmania could cost it every seat in Tasmania.
I agree with him.
I do not think people realise just how much effect this will have on the Tasmanian economy. Before I describe the effects about which the honourable member for Wilmot was talking, let me just say in passing that I find it very sad that honourable members on the Government side of the House have been so loud in their criticisms in Tasmania about the effects of these increases but when they have had a chance to voice them here they have been silent. Worse, and I find it nauseating, several honourable members opposite from Tasmania have even been so derelict in their duty to their State that they have heaped praise on the Minister for Transport for his efforts in Tasmania.
Let me be more specific about these effects. I will deal first with the effects on manufacturing industry and some of the imposts that have been caused by unsubsidised southbound freight. These are just examples of what applies to a whole range of industries. Cadbury Schweppes Pty Ltd, which is a major industry in Hobart, tells me that this increase will cost it this calendar year an extra $56,000 and next year an extra $136,000. Tioxide Australia Pty Ltd, on the north-west coast, estimates that the increase will cost it an additional $250,000, and Comalco Ltd estimates its cost at an additional $78,000. The effect of these increases does not seem to be understood by the Australian Government or the Minister for Transport. The Minister does not seem to realise that these costs are crucial to industry because industry cannot do anything about them. Manufacturing industry in Tasmania imports its raw material, machinery and spare parts from the mainland. It uses those things to manufacture goods which it then exports to the mainland to sell there.
– And it has to compete there.
-And it has to compete. I will come to that point in a moment. The manufacturing firms which I have used as examples are important firms. One small firm which is doing a very good job producing furniture employs 70 or 80 people. Every single component that it uses in the manufacture of its furniture comes from the mainland. This is what has now happened to its components: Upholstery fabric in July was 7c a metre and is now 10c; paint was 4c a litre and is now 6c; chair legs were 3c and they are now 4c. They are tremendous rises. As my colleague just said, we cannot absorb these costs because we have to compete on a market on the mainland, and it is a fiercely competitive one at that. It seems that the cost-profit ratio of our firms is affected by the cost squeeze more than ever. It means that struggling industries are going to find it even harder to struggle. More importantly, what chance have we got of encouraging new industry to come to Tasmania when we suffer this sort of thing?
It does not apply to just manufacturing industry. The farmers are equally affected as their manufacturing counterparts. They also have to import their machinery from the mainland - tractors, implements, spare parts and fuel. Let me give some examples. I have taken some figures out. A so-called equalisation of costs has been promised to Tasmania by the Government. But a 5-ton tractor moved by road from Sydney to Melbourne costs $130. Pick-up and set-down are included in that charge. To get that 5-ton tractor to a northern port in Tasmania costs $260, or double. That figure does not include freight forwarding charges, insurance, packaging and all the other things. I am told by a farmer in Scottsdale that an onion grader he brought from Brisbane cost him $280 or thereabouts to get it to Melbourne. To get it across Bass Strait cost him $600. This is the sort of penalty we are now suffering in Tasmania.
I turn to the cost of living. The Minister for Transport and other honourable members, particularly the honourable member for Braddon, have said that the cost of living was not affected by these increases. This is nonsense, sheer nonsense. The fact is that the last consumer price index showed that the price of food in Hobart rose by 2 per cent, against the national average of 0.7 per cent. That is the greatest increase since August last year. Why? Here are some figures on perishable goods: It costs 42c to freight half a case of fruit or vegetables from Adelaide to Melbourne. To get that same case across the Strait costs $1.04. 1 turn to the sort of effect this has on the housewife’s shopping basket. These are figures that we took out on Monday this week: A lettuce in Hobart costs 65c; in Melbourne it costs 35c. French beans are 72c per lb in Hobart and 49c per lb in Melbourne. A pound of bananas is 49c in Hobart and 29c in Melbourne. These are just some examples.
We went to a major retailing store in Launceston, the biggest one. The accountant there told us that over a range of 160 departments the cost increases imposed because of these freight rates averages out at 3 per cent. So let us have no more statements that these unsubsidised freight rates have no effect on the cost of living in Tasmania.
I turn to the tourist industry for a moment. The one viable industry that we have in Tasmania, the one about which we have the greatest expectations, is the travel and tourist industry. Since August, air fares have gone up by 34 per cent. I am told that one airline faces charges at Launceston Airport that will increase from $9,000 to $145,000. Our tourism industry will not survive with that sort of penalty. It is a keenly competitive market. We need help, and we need it now. Mr Ballantyne of the Tasmanian Tourist Council gave a comparison. He gave the example of a family of six travelling from Adelaide, through Melbourne, to Newcastle- to the home town of the Minister for Transport. His estimation was that with the cost of petrol, accommodation and so on it would cost that family $90 for the trip. To get a family to go to Tasmania we would have to persuade them that the trip is worth $350. The difference is just too great. We cannot compete if this situation continues.
I shall mention quickly Flinders Island and King Island. If the problems I have described exist in Tasmania- they surely do- they exist for those islanders as well. For example, Flinders Island has a cost of living calculated to be 25 per cent more than Launceston’s. It costs $14.50 to get one steer across from Flinders Island to the Launceston market and it cost $ 19.50 to get it to Melbourne. These people simply cannot go on like this. They need help.
In summary, I just point out that Tasmania’s links depend on air and sea. At present our economy is weak. Unemployment is on the increase; development is depressing. The growth rate of population is static. We cannot stand the burden of additional costs of these transport links. I appeal to the Minister for Transport to think about what I have said and perhaps consider giving us some relief until the Nimmo report is brought down. I urge him to discard the principle of ‘user must pay’. I appeal lastly to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). If he believes in honesty and integrity he will honour those promises to equalise freight rates that he made in 1972 and has made many times since.
– I rise to take part in this debate to draw attention to the fact that the economic malaise which affects this country at the moment is only part of an economic malaise which affects the whole of the western world. This is something which the Opposition simply does not make any allowance for, or if it makes any allowance for it it is a very minor allowance. But it is an important factor. In raising this point one is not trying to say that nothing that the Government does or that employers or trade unions in Australia do matters because of what has happened in the rest of the world. But one makes the point that it is important to understand that what is happening here is not happening in isolation; it is simply part and parcel of what is happening across the whole of the western world.
There is now available extensive literature and a great array of statistics to prove the points I am making. I found that perhaps the best of what is available is that produced by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research which is a respected and prestigious British institution. It produces a quarterly bulletin called the National Institute of Economic Review. The Institute summarised the state of the world economy in the August edition this year in a way which I think is relevant to this debate. The points which arise from the summary of the world economy can be summarised, as these: Firstly, recession has affected all countries in the western developed world, to varying degrees, but all of them have been substantially affected. Recession reached a trough in the middle of this year and recovery can be expected next year in practically every one of those countries. Inflation, which has been quite high in-all of those countries, is now starting to decline. A number of countries have resorted to substantial increases in public expenditure as a means of reflating their economies, and that has a particular relevance to Australia. Finally, some countries which resorted to tax cuts to stimulate their economies have found that taxpayers have put a lot of that tax cut in the bank rather than spend it, so it has not had the stimulatory effect that the economic planners and the governments hoped it would have. I shall go on to develop some of those points. I have produced a table which is headed ‘Actual and Estimated Movements in Real Gross Domestic Product of OECD Countries, 1974-1976’. I ask leave to have this table incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-I thank the House. This table, if I may summarise it, shows for 19 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries the increase in real gross domestic product over the previous year for the years 1974 to 1976 inclusive. The table shows that in 1974 for the total OECD there was an increase in real gross domestic product of only 2.8 per cent, and Australia was below that figure at only 0.8 per cent. But some countries in 1974 had negative growth. For instance, Japan had a negative growth of minus 1.8 per cent in the total amount of goods and services produced that year. The United States had a negative growth rate of minus 2. 1 per cent and a few other countries also had negative growth rates. The Institute estimates that in this current calendar year ten of the 19 countries which it shows in its publication will have negative growth, including Australia. But for the total OECD the Institute anticipates that the decline in real gross domestic product will be 2.3 per cent. The figure for Australia it is estimated will be 1.5 per cent. So our rate of economic decline in 1975 is estimated to be less than the average for OECD countries. I admit that that is small comfort, but it is a relevant fact. As I said, ten of the 19 countries shown will have negative rates of growth, some of them quite startlingly large. For instance, West Germany is estimated by the Institute to face a negative growth of 2.5 per cent to 3 per cent. The United States is estimated to have a negative growth of minus 4 per cent. The Institute anticipates that in 1976 practically every country in the OECD will experience economic recovery and for none of them is a negative growth rate anticipated. For Australia, the Institute anticipates an increase in real gross domestic product of 5 per cent and that is virtually the OECD average which it is anticipated will be 4.9 per cent. I shall illustrate some of those figures by referring to some comments by the Institute in looking at individual countries. In relation to the United States in 1 975 it states:
Industrial production in the United States in the second quarter was on average 2 per cent down on the first quarter and 10 per cent lower than in the fourth quarter of last year.
It stated further
Business fixed investment fell by 6 per cent in constant price terms in the first quarter and the second quarter brought the fifth successive decline.
So one can see that the United States has suffered a very substantial and continuous fall in business investment, as has been the case in this country. It has not happened just in this country and it is not just due to a Labor government. In relation to fiscal policy in the United States, the Institute said:
Fiscal policy has started to exercise a strong expansionary influence. In the first quarter Federal expenditure increased by 6 ‘A per cent.
It said that the Budget deficit more than doubled in .the first quarter of this year and that it will almost certainly be even higher in the second quarter. It said:
This brings the deficit for the first 1 1 months of the fiscal year ending on 1 July to $45. 1 billion, compared with a $ 10.6 billion deficit in 1973-74.
In other words, the United States is increasing its deficit by 350 per cent. The Institute went on to say:
In Canada the economy appears to be in the later stages of a cyclical downturn in some ways similar to that in the United States, although with the peak early in 1 974 recession began rather later in Canada and has been much less severe.
In relation to Japan it said:
In the fiscal year ending in March 1 975 stringent Government anti-inflation policy, combined with the stagnation of economic activity and the resulting slowdown in world trade, gave Japan the first fall in output since the last war. Real GNP fell by 0.6 per cent in the year and by 0.7 per cent in the January-March quarter.
In relation to France the Institute said:
Industrial production, seasonally adjusted, was some 3V4 per cent lower in the first quarter than in the previous 3 months and it fell further in the second quarter, probably to about 12 per cent below the corresponding 1974 level . . .
It appears that further expansionary measures, mainly in the field of public investment, will be taken after the holidays.
I understand that that expansion has now taken place. In relation to West Germany it said:
As the slight rise in consumers’ expenditure was in January-March outweighed by falls in exports and capital investment, real GDP was 3 per cent below the level of the previous quarter, and the situation in the building industry is described as desperate.
Also in relation to West Germany and referring to tax cuts it said:
But consumers have so far responded disappointingly, particularly in West Germany, to the rise in real disposable incomes which fiscal concessions have been giving them. OECD expects that the average savings ratio for the 7 major countries . . . will be even higher this year.
In other words, consumers are saving tax cuts rather than spending them. This has relevance to the Opposition’s proposals for expanding the economy at this time. The Institute continued:
Although the deep recession in Italy had earlier this year shown some erratic signs of moderating, real output was probably about Vz-2 per cent lower in the first half than in the previous 6 months and perhaps 5 per cent lower than in the first half of 1974. Industrial production in the first 6 months was about 13 per cent lower than in the same period. …
In Belgium the bottom of the recession may have been reached and a start to the recovery now seems possible before the end of the year. . . .
Although on the surface the Netherlands economy seems to be performing reasonably well against a background of world recession, the immediate prospects have worsened.
In relation to Denmark it said:
But building starts, which were halved last year, remain depressed and business investment is likely to be 10. per cent lower. Industrial production has declined further and the volume’ of orders in hand at the end of April was 1 7 per cent lower than in 1974.
The downward trend continues in Switzerland. Industrial production has been declining steadily and by the first quarter it was 18 per cent down compared with’ the same period last year. ..’.*.
The world recession seems to have caught up with Australia also. While in 1974 real GNP increased by 4.4 per cent, the latest national forecasts indicate a growth of only about 1 per cent this year. …
Industrial output in Spain has been falling since the middle of last year.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-This morning I want to raise some points in relation to the Australian Government capital grants for government schools and particularly in relation to the effect that these have had on a proposal to build a high school at Harden in my electorate. It is a matter of some concern in Harden that this proposal has been deferred because it has been on and off the drawing board for a very long time.
There have been problems within New South Wales as to the availability of land. When these problems were overcome the question of funds, finance, and things of that nature had to be faced. The fact is that the new school at Harden is very sorely needed. The existing buildings accommodate the infants, the primary and the secondary schools, while the senior students have had to move to the old shire offices in Harden, which are in a very dilapidated condition, simply because there is not room for them on the campus.
In 1974-75 the Australian Government provided $72m to New South Wales as capital grants for government and non-government schools. That figure is shown in Budget Paper No. 7. The capital grants estimate for 1975-76 is $48m, which represents a reduction of some $24m in actual money terms. Assuming that there is a 20 per cent inflation rate, the Australian Government would need to provide $86m in the current year to maintain the money value of last year’s $72m for capital grants to New South Wales for government schools. It could be argued that in terms of bricks and mortar the real reduction in capital grants has been $38m. The Schools Commission report for the triennium 1976-78 recommended $157m plus $40m under the States Grants (Schools) Act, giving a total of $ 1 97m as capital grants for Government schools in New South Wales in the triennium. The report recommended $29m plus $12m for the States Grants (Schools) Act, a total of $41m as capital grants for non-government schools in New South Wales in the triennium. I mention those figures simply to indicate the split-up between government and nongovernment schools which is not readily available from other figures that are published.
The total grants recommended are $197m plus $41m under the States Grants (Schools) Act, making a total of $238m for capital grants for government and non-government schools in New South Wales in the triennium. This is shown in table 18.3 of the Schools Commission report. Accepting the approximate ratio of grants for government schools and non-government schools as 5:1, the figures for 1974-75 would be $60m for government schools and $ 12m for nongovernment schools. In the 1975-76 Estimates the figures would be $40m and $80m respectively. If those figures are approximately correct New South Wales is receiving $20m less in money terms than last year for capital grants to government schools. On the basis of inflation it would be a reduction of $32m. The Schools Commission report for the triennium 1976-78 would have indicated about $65m in each of the 3 years for capital grants to government schools in New South Wales. If in fact New South Wales were planning on the basis of $65rn it would have been severely disappointed to learn that the grant was only to be $40m. This has resulted in cuts being made in New South Wales.
It has been argued, and probably correctly argued to some extent, that there have been big increases in the untied grants to New South Wales and that, if it so desired, New South Wales could allocate moneys from the untied grants in line with its priorities. I think it is worthy of note that the untied grant in 1974-75 amounted to $737m. In 1975-76 it is $980m, which is a fairly big increase. However, there is a formula for the yearly adjustment of the untied grant. Under that formula New South Wales was entitled to an increase of 23.7 per cent. This would have indicated an untied grant in 1975-76 of $9 12m, that is $737m plus a 23.7 per cent increase. So the actual increase in untied grants that is available for allocation by New South Wales is $68m.
If New South Wales were to supplement the Australian Government grant for capital grant purposes to government schools to maintain the 1974-75 purchasing power without any increase, it would need to allocate $32m from that increased amount of $68m which is available in the untied grants. That is a fairly heavy proportion of those grants. New South Wales itself does spend heavily on education. The capital expenditure by the New South Wales Government from its own funds in 1974-75 was $70.2m. That information comes from table 4.18 of the Schools Commission report. So, New South Wales will need to increase its own expenditure also.
In the triennium 1976-78, New South Wales will be involved in a capital expenditure program on government schools of $4 12m of which the Australian Government, according to the report, would be providing $179m and New South Wales $2 15m from its own resources. The Government of New South Wales is by no means falling down on the job of providing for education, at least not in the area of capital grants. New South Wales will have to find an additional $14m from its own resources to boost its own capital expenditure on government schools alone, from $70m last year to the same real value figure of $84m this year, assuming a cost increase again of 20 per cent. This is in addition to the $32 m which it would need to find to keep the Australian Government contribution at last year’s level. I know that it can be argued properly that the $14m that New South Wales will have to find to increase its own figure to keep that expenditure at the same level should properly come from the increase in the untied grants and from its own other sources. This is why, I understand, the untied grants are indexed. The $14m would presumably be covered in that, but the $32m is not. The Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) has suggested that New South Wales should assess its priorities and that if it believes that the construction program has a high priority it should allocate from the untied grants the money that is involved.
To sum up in relation to capital grants to government schools in New South Wales, the State of New South Wales received an estimated $60m for that purpose in 1974-75. It will receive an estimated $40m in 1975-76. The Schools Commission report recommended $ 1 97m for the triennium, say $65m in each of the 3 years. New South Wales will need to find $32m from its own funds to keep the level of Australian Government contribution up, plus $ 14m to keep its own contribution up; but that would be only at last year’s equivalent levels. The real increase in untied grants to New South Wales in 1975-76 has been $68m. That $68m has to be applied to a wide range of New South Wales Government programs, apart from this specific area of education.
I have spoken to the Minister of Education about this matter, admittedly briefly. I hope that what I have said will promote a bit of discussion. Personally, I would be happy, in the interests of seeing that the construction program in New South Wales is not as badly cut as it is proposed to be, to have my arguments demolished. In fact, in its Budget introduced yesterday, the New South Wales Government did increase its expenditure on education. At this stage, I do not know the details. I do not know what it may have allocated for an increase in government grants. I put the view in good faith. It is the position as I see it. I do not guarantee my accuracy. I hope that the Minister at a later date will give some thought to the matter.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-On 19 September last, the Metropolitan Water Supply, Sewerage and Drainage Board of Western Australia informed the Water Supply Union that it intended to retrench 300 employees. In its attempt to explain its extraordinary decision, the Board simply resorted to blaming the Australian
Government for a cutback in sewerage funds for Western Australian. I would like to examine the facts which lie behind this situation.
In 1974-75, the amount allocated to Western Australia under the national sewerage program was $12.4m. In 1975-76-in this year’s Budget -it is intended again to allocate $12.4m. Yet, because of the extraordinary arithmetic practised by that Board in Western Australia that allocation is portrayed to the public as a cut of $3m, this notwithstanding the fact that in the last 3 years $30m has been made available to the Government of Western Australia, as the first ever contribution by an Australian Government to reduce the backlog in sewerage works in Western Australia. In fact, in 1974, 40 per cent of all dwellings in Western Australia were still unsewered. I compare that to the national average of 15 per cent of all dwellings being unsewered. So, despite the extraordinary commitment of the Australian Government to this massive problem- it has provided $30m over the last 3 years- gratitude is shown by threatening to retrench 300 members of the Water Supply Union unless the Australian Government is prepared to provide more funds.
There is another interesting fact that has been entirely overlooked apparently by the Government of Western Australia. This is that in May of last year an agreement very belatedly was reached between the Australian Government and the Government of Western Australia to set up an Urban Land Council. Agreement was reached belatedly only because of procrastination on the part of Sir Charles Court and the reluctance of his Government to enter into arrangements whereby a State instrumentality using federal funds would purchase and service land which would be made available for sale to intending house owners at reasonable prices. In this way not only could the supply of land be increased but also the price at which land was made available could be kept to a minimum. It took the Government of Western Australia an inordinately lengthy period to come into this arrangement. Finally it did. More than $1 lm was spent last year in purchasing land for urban and non-urban uses. Again, this year, there is a further allocation to be made to the Urban Land Council for this purpose.
On 15 and 16 September of this year, just a couple of days before the extraordinary announcement by the Metropolitan Water Supply, Sewerage and Drainage Board of Western Australia to which I have referred the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) was in Perth and spoke to his State counterpart, Mr Rushton. Between them they agreed that funds totalling $2.5m from the Urban Land Council should be expended on servicing land owned by the Urban Land Council. Of this $2.5m between $lm and $1.5m is to be spent on sewerage reticulation and about $500,000 is to be spent on water reticulation to land held by the Urban Land Council.
One would have thought that this was not a too extraordinary proposition to suggest that this decision could be seen as being an additional commitment by the Australian Government to the work of the Water Board. It happens that there is a representative of that Board on the Urban Land Council. Presumably that representative knew of the plight of the Board and that retrenchments were imminent. Yet it would appear that the Urban Land Council did not intend to use that Board as the constructing authority for its sewerage and water reticulation work.
So, in an endeavour to remind the appropriate Ministers in Western Australia of this eminently reasonable solution to the problem the Minister for Urban and Regional Development today sent a telegram to the Minister for Works and Water Supply and the Minister for Town Planning in Western Australia. That telegram reads:
In view of the current retrenchment proposals by the Metropolitan Water Supply Sewerage and Drainage Board, I strongly urge that funds I approved recently under the Urban Land Council program for land servicing should be directed to sewerage and water reticulation works to be carried out by the MWSSDB.
It is signed ‘Tom Uren’. One would hope that this seemingly obvious solution will now be abundantly clear to the State Government of Western Australia. It is quite clear that the $lm or $ 1 .5m, whichever is the figure- I do not know the exact figure, but it is between $lm and $ 1.5m- should be added to the $ 12.4m which is being made available under the national sewerage program as a net addition to the sewerage works that can be carried out in Western Australia this year. If that were done, one would imagine that it ought to alter substantially the retrenchment picture as far as the Board is concerned, so long as the Urban Land Council is prepared to direct that the Metropolitan Water Supply Sewerage and Drainage Board should be the constructing authority for the Urban Land Council.
This catalogue of events indicates a disgraceful record of ineptitude on the part of the Western Australian Government. On the one hand it insists that four out of the five members of the Urban Land Council should be nominees of the
Western Australian Government with the consequence that only one of the five members is the nominee of the Australian Government. Yet apparently it is beyond the capacity of the Western Australian Government and the 2 Ministers involved to reach this quite simple solution by talking to each other and by realising that each of them has Australian Government money for sewerage works. Rather than doing that, the Western Australian Government just turns on the Australian Government and says that it is our fault that these retrenchments will be necessary.
However, I do not think we should be surprised at the Western Australian Government’s record of ineptitude, because one only has to look at the extraordinary way in which it carried out its negotiations with the union on this matter. On 13 August this year the union wrote to the Board indicating that it had heard rumours that retrenchments may be necessary and indicating that the union was totally opposed to the retrenchments and wanted to know whether there was any truth in the rumours. On 1 9 August the Board replied to the union saying that at that stage there was no indications that retrenchments would be necessary. Exactly one month later the Board informed the union that retrenchments of the order of 300 employees would be necessary because of the alleged cut-backs in Australian Government funds. That, I think demonstrates a cynical disregard on the part of the Western Australian Government for the plight of the workers who are about to be put out of work and their families. It was simply an evil attempt to put pressure on the Australian Government to allocate more funds which, as everybody knows, are in short supply this year. In fact, all of our political opponents are urging us to cut back on expenditure in all areas. In spite of that, the Western Australian Government is urging upon the Australian Government the proposition that it ought to expend more money on sewerage works. Yet it is unaware of the fact that an extra $lm to $1.5m for sewerage works, plus another $500,000 for water supply reticulation, has already been allocated and approved to be spent by the Australian Government in this year by one of the other State government instrumentalities.
I think that the State Government has really outsmarted itself this time. In an attempt to redirect the criticism from itself, where it really belongs, to the Australian Government, it missed the solution which lay in its hands the whole time. I remind the House that the decision to retrench the workers was taken on 19 September, whereas on 15 and 16 September
Minister Rushton met with Minister Uren and they between them agreed to spend something like $2m on work which could easily be done by the Metropolitan Water Supply, Sewerage and Drainage Board. I hope that the State Government does take the advice of the Federal Minister and agrees that this money should be spent in this way in order to save the jobs of the workers involved.
-Recently the Coleman Social Welfare Commission tabled its report in this House. Perhaps its most significant single recommendation was for the free installation of telephones for frail or severely handicapped people living alone in the community. The Commission recognised the need to improve the quality of life for the aged in the community by reducing their isolation and by supplying for them a constant source of contact with the outside world. Such contact is essential both in the ordinary sense and in order to overcome the effects of increasing immobility of the aged, and, in the medical sense, to meet sudden emergencies by enabling pensioners and aged people to make calls for help to the nearest doctor, hospital, relative or neighbour.
It is not statistically possible to guage the size of the problems caused to the aged through isolation. We have all heard of the extreme cases of the deaths of pensioners which have not been reported for several days. It is possible that disasters could have been prevented or their effects been reduced had communication been possible and help been available. No statistics will ever be able to measure the degree of suffering that so many pensioners must endure through the constant loneliness of living alone. Isolation must surely be one of the most severe features of old age.
The Commission’s recommendation for the free installation of telephones for aged people is therefore terribly important. Of the total number of 1 184 000 people receiving pensioner benefits at present, only about 40 per cent possess telephones. More than half a million pensioners do not have a telephone. Last year 56 096 pensioners died. It is not possible to identify the number of those deceased pensioners who did not possess a telephone. Nor is it possible to establish how many of those pensioners who did not have a telephone would still be alive today had they had access to help from the outside world by being able to use that telephone. If 40 per cent of all pensioners do not have telephones, is it not possible that many of them die through isolation? The figure could be 1000; it could be more. Who knows or who will ever know?
It may not be statistically possible to establish the cost in human life and suffering of old people who do not have access to a telephone. The provision of telephones for them should be of high priority to any government. None of the public authorities or private organisations which I have approached has been able to supply me with an accurate idea of the extent of the problem that isolation through lack of a telephone creates. However, they all assure me that they believe it to be considerable. The police, the pensioners association, the Brotherhood of St Laurence and even the Bureau of Statistics are of the opinion that deaths and accidents among the aged are in many cases inflicted and caused by an environment of isolation. It is the official recognition of that view by the Social Welfare Commission which has pleased many concerned members of our society.
The recommendation to provide free telephone installation to many aged, immobile, disadvantaged and isolated members of the community, if adopted, would enable them to possess a telephone in their homes when at the present time they find it financially impossible. The Commission’s recommendation is complemented by the recommendation of Professor Ronald Henderson who considered many of the same problems during the poverty inquiry. A copy of his report has also recently been tabled in this House. But recognition of the problem is only a start. It is indeed unfortunate for the aged of Australia to have a Government which has always claimed that it recognises the problems of the aged and the underprivileged but which now finds that it is unable to provide money, or give priority, to commence earnestly rectifying the problems which have been set out in both the Marie Coleman and the Henderson reports.
It was with sincere regret that we heard the recent statement made in the Senate by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Wheeldon) in which he announced, in response to the recommendations in the Coleman report, that the Government could not afford any significant reforms or developments in social welfare within the foreseeable future. So much for the cost of Medibank. If we accept the need and the importance for the telephone to overcome the problem of isolation which affects the aged we must determine the viability of providing it. A telephone now costs $120 to install and a further $85 per annum to maintain. Under this Government’s new Budget individual calls now cost 9c. Thus, it would cost the Government $205.09 to provide facilities for one- just one- emergency telephone call a year by a pensioner to his doctor or hospital. Yet upon the scale of other expenditure by this Government, is not $205 per annum a small amount to pay when a life could be directly at stake? Governments in the past have provided a pensioner telephone concession. This concession involves a 33 W per cent deduction only on the rental fee. This shows that past governments have recognised the need for pensioners to have access to telephones. It is a fact of life, however, that through the size of their income pensioners are not usually capable of affording even its installation. The Government provides for pensioners a deduction in telephone rental but it is a sadly inadequate deduction.
I hope that what I have said has served to highlight the recommendation made in the Coleman report and that telephones for the aged should now be recognised as a necessity of life and no longer a luxury. The Government commissioned Marie Coleman to supply it with reliable information and viable recommendations. This has now been completed. It is now the Government’s duty to accept those recommendations and to act upon them to reduce the suffering and to remove the isolation of life for our elderly citizens. Making the installation of a telephone free for pensioners would be a laudable first step. I strongly recommend to the Government that it give serious consideration to making the installation of telephones free to needy pensioners.
– I am tempted to reply to the sanctimonious speech by the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) but I will not do so. I want to deal today mainly with hypocrisy on the part of New South Wales specialists with the introduction of the hospital side of Medibank. Just before I do that I would like to refer to the question of the pricing of oil and also ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd arising out of some the arguments that have been going on in this House, and outside it especially. May I reiterate what happens in Australia at the present time. Oil companies receive 70 per cent of their oil as indigenous crude at $2.50 a barrel or less. They receive 30 per cent of their oil as imported crude at $8.50 a barrel or thereabouts. The average cost works out at about $4.30 a barrel. The Australian Council of Trade Unions is accused of having bought Australian crude claiming that it was paying only $2.10 or $2.50 when it was- in fact paying $5.10. So the average cost to the ACTU was $5. 10 a barrel; to the other companies it is $4.30. Yet ACTU-Solo is able to retail petrol at about 14c a gallon less than the other companies. What a fantastic rip-off it must be on the part of the other companies to pay less for their oil yet charge so much more for their petrol.
Now let me deal with another group of people in the community. Medibank was introduced into New South Wales on 1 October- yesterday and the specialists working at the present time as honoraries in New South Wales hospitals have declared that they will not come into the system on a sessional basis. Let us be quite clear because there has been so much hypocrisy and so much talked about that the average person in the community cannot follow. What has happened up until now? Specialists working at New South Wales public hospitals were honorary medical officers; that is, for treatment of their public patients they received no payment whatever. They were not able to charge the patient. They were not paid by the hospital. They received nothing for treating those patients. They were, of course, able to charge for their intermediate and private patients on a fee-for-service basis.
Let us be quite clear about what happens now. For treating intermediate and private patients they will continue to be able to charge on a feeforservice basis. For their public patients- I repeat, for their public patients- instead of receiving nothing they will receive payment on a sessional basis coming to approximately $70 a session of 3Vi hours. The cost of that is estimated by the Government to be $70m a year. They will receive $70 a session for something for which they previously received nothing. They claim that the reason they do not want to take the $70 and want a fee-for-service system has nothing to do with the question of money but has to do only with their relationship with their patients. What relationship did they have with their public patients before? They saw the patient. In most instances they did not see the patient because they were requested to see him. They saw the patient because the patient presented himself at the hospital as a public patient, and they will continue to do so. If they performed some service for that patient, especially an operation, they were responsible for that operation, but if they were not on duty on the day when some complication arose they did not, in most cases, come to see that patient. If the patient was admitted on a Monday he was admitted under the surgeon on duty on the Monday; he was operated on on the Monday and if something happened on the Wednesday the surgeon on duty, the registrar or the senior medical officer saw that patient on the Wednesday. I assume that this will continue to happen. This also happened as far as private and intermediate patients were concerned, but there was a lot of pretence about this in that they were personal patients.
Let us see what doctors are really complaining about. The New South Wales Health Commission in a conservative estimate has claimed that it would cost some 3 times as much, that is another $140m, if the specialists were paid on a fee-for-service basis. I think it could cost more than that. I think it is important to remember when the medical profession in New South Wales especially and in Australia generally attacks the Canadian system and says that the Canadian Medibank-type system is going broke, that doctors there are paid for public patients on a fee-for-service basis. It is therefore not surprising that the Canadian system is going broke. What would the average specialist- I will just give a few examples- expect to get instead of $70 or $80 a session, which is a period of 3¥i hours, if he in fact were able to be paid on a feeforservice basis? Let us take some very common things that are done in hospitals. Let us take a curette. He would be entitled to receive a benefit of $39 a curette. If he were a gynaecologist he could in a Vh hours session, without working terribly hard, easily do half a dozen curettes and one hysterectomy, for which he would receive $186. The total amount he would receive would be $420. Therefore he is obviously in favour of being paid on a fee-for-service basis. Let- us remember that these patients have not turned up at the hospital because they wanted to be treated by Dr X. They have turned up at the hospital as public patients and therefore to my mind that doctor is not entitled to be paid on a feeforservice basis.
Take doctors working as urologists. I used to work as an assistant in my days and at our hospital, for example, we used to do a dozen or more cystoscopies in a session. For each cystoscopy the urologist receives $33. He would receive something of the order of $400 for that number of cystoscopies, and it would not take him anywhere near VA hours. If he were doing appendectomies he certainly could easily do five in a 3Vi hour session which at $98 for each appendectomy would add up to $490 a session. If he were doing tonsillectomies he could certainly do 7 tonsillectomies on children in that 356 hours and at $84 it would work out at $588 a session. It would certainly be true that this country could not afford Medibank if we let the medical profession be paid for public patients on a fee-for-service basis, and that is exactly what is happening in Canada. State governments, of course, are perfectly aware of this and are not prepared to bring in feeforservice payments. Consider what happens just for calling into a hospital if a doctor is entitled to charge a fee for service. For the first consultation with a consultant physician the Medibank refund is $29 and for subsequent consultations it is $14.50. Imagine the amount of money specialist physicians would be able to obtain if they saw just a few public patients. Suppose a couple of new patients were admitted since they were last at the hospital. The doctor would receive just under $60 for seeing them, and if there were another 10 patients in the hospital he would only have to check to see how they were going and he would be entitled to another $145. The doctor would be collecting about $200 and it would not take him anywhere near 2 hours to do that work. I think Medibank is providing the specialists in the medical profession with a lot of extra money. Pensioners now are able to see specialists in their rooms and the specialists are entitled, of course, to be paid on a fee-for-service basis. But we must not allow them to charge fee for service to their involuntary ‘ captive ‘ patients.
Let us be quite clear of the situation in our minds when we are discussing Medibank unless we take the sort of attitude adopted earlier by the honourable member for Deakin when he was ordering free telephones for all pensioners. Apparently from his attitude, and his complaint that some married couples only had one telephone between them, he wants to give them 2 free telephones. He is being ridiculous in arguing that the Australian community can afford that sort of expenditure.
On top of what I have said, and possibly more important even than the cost involved, is the temptation for the medical profession to carry out unnecessary work on public patients in hospitals in order to get such large amounts of money. The number of women who would be having curettes, the number who would be having cauterisations of their cervixes, the number of children who would be having tonsils out, would double and treble if Medibank was paying for them as public patients on a fee for service basis.
-=-My comments this afternoon will relate to communications in Australia. I am encouraged in making them by having received the Australian Telecommunications Development Association publication Telecommunications 1975. One of the articles in the publication refers to communications for Indonesia. I want to quote from that article. One passage states:
Australia’s contribution to the continuing development of Indonesia’s telecommunications network is manifold and undertaken at both governmental and company level.
I welcome this assistance to Indonesia by the Australian Government and by the Australian companies. The point that impresses me is the great progress made in Indonesia in the field of communications. I believe that the development of our communications in Australia has failed very badly by comparison. We should remember that Indonesia is a new and emerging country. Certainly some of the progress being made in that country is as a result of well deserved assistance given under the Colombo Plan and perhaps through other agencies as well.
Indonesia now has decided to adopt a domestic satellite system to improve its internal communications. The system will not be cheap. It is planned for completion by the end of 1977 and will cost close to A$525m. That certainly is a very substantial sum of money. However it does highlight something. I expect that I will get some of the usual parrot cries about what the Opposition parties did during the time they were in government, but that is no answer. Time is passing and we do not have the satellite communications that a country like Australia needs, just as much as does a country like Indonesia. I hope my comments will encourage the Australian authorities and the Liberal and National Country Parties when we get back into office- I hope that will not be unduly delayed- to go on with the progress and development of our communications through satellites for the Australian communities.
The deterioration- that is the only word for it- of communications in outlying areas in Australia is increasing. Mail services in many areas out there are back to or even behind the level of the horse and buggy days. This can best be overcome by the introduction of a satellite communications system. Australia is a place that should have that sort of system. It is true that a comparatively small number of people in comparison with the total population is not receiving the best type of communication but those people are serving a very great national need. I want to emphasise that we have a national responsibility to utilise all the assets and resources of this country. We owe a very deep debt of gratitude to the people who are prepared to live in the outlying areas without the benefit of the medical and educational advantages available to so many Australians. It is because of this fact that I emphasise the need for satellite communication in addition to the advantage that the introduction of a modern method of communication will give to communications generally throughout Australia.
Looking about the chamber I expect that I will hear some rap about the possible cost of it. The longer we go on this way the longer we will have to go. If we look at the wealth and capacity of Indonesia and compare it with Australia we must realise that if the Indonesians can face up to this sort of thing it is up to all of us to look very closely at the promotion of this type of communication. This facility is expected to be very advantageous for the progress and development of Indonesia. I am not going to suggest that it is even more important to Indonesia than it is to Australia because Indonesia takes in such a large archipelago, but it is very important to Australia.
As one of the very few members of this parliament who represent the outlying areas I hope that some consideration will be given to the plea I make. I hope that the patties within this parliament will take note of this factor. I commend the principle of helping the underprivileged people in all parts of the world- it is a high ideal to which I subscribe in full- but if there is one section of the Australian community which is more underprivileged than another in my opinion it is made up of the people who live in the outlying areas of this Commonwealth. Those people are comparatively few in number and do not have a great voting capacity and therefore the political influence that other people in this country have. Their claims are neglected far too often or are pushed to one side. I find that people say to me that whenever these sorts of claims are put up they are agreed to and accepted, but nothing or very little is done about them.
I want to emphasise that people in some areas like my electorate do not have even reasonable radio communication, let alone anything else. I received a letter from a shire council in one of those areas and in it the council said that I need not be in a hurry to reply because it had no idea when it would get my letter. That letter was written by the clerk of a shire council and surely it emphasises the need for better communications in those areas. In any way that we look at the problems of these people we will find that they are being disadvantaged more and more. They were disadvantaged in the recent Electoral Act in which the conditions for postal voting were tightened. More people in those areas will be disfranchised if the mail is delayed. A vote should be available to people in every area and in every electorate, not just to those who live on the Australian seaboard or within areas where there are good communications. That legislation was introduced so that the results of elections could be known a few days earlier than they might otherwise be known. Is it fair that people in outlying areas should be disfranchised as a result of a hold-up in mail services? I say it is not.
I want to refer again to the subject on which I commenced my remarks, namely the provision of a satellite communication plan to assist people in country areas. I wanted to ask a question about this matter this morning. However it appears that because I have already asked one question this session I was not given the call. This is another example of the way in which representatives of people who live in country areas are handicapped to some extent. There is no end to the problems that confront people in country areas and which we are trying to bring to the notice of the country and the community at large.
The deletion or the discontinuance of the equalisation plan for petrol hits people in country areas harder than anyone else because of the distance at which they live from centres of supply. People in country areas are faced with increased costs in transporting their children to secondary schools in order to get an education, and again if there is any sort of serious illness in their families. Surely these problems should be well understood by the community. I hope that consideration will be given to the plight of people living in these areas. How often in this chamber have I been criticised because I represent fewer people than do members from city electorates? How often has it been very sarcastically said that I represent trees and haystacks? I do not draw the boundaries. I would be quite happy to have more people in my electorate if the boundaries were altered. What I do say is that electorates should be small enough to allow members to perform their duties as efficiently as possible. But what happened in the last redistribution was that the most sparsely settled areas where incorporated in one big electorate. That is the sort of approach that the Government adopted; that is the disregard that the Government has for country people.
Unfortunately the Government’s pious sort of outlook towards country people spreads far through the community. I appeal very strongly to the Postmaster-General and the Government to get on with the job while they have time to do something because they might not be here much longer. They should start something now so that they can at least have the credit of saying that they initiated progress towards a more realistic approach to communication. Consideration of the satellite proposition has been going on for too long now.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I was very interested to hear what the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) had to say in regard to free telephones for pensioners. I will be watching with great interest when the Opposition’s social welfare policy is tabled to see whether the matter which the honourable member raised is included in the policy.
When this Government first came into office in December 1972 it came in at an extraordinarily difficult time. In a desperate attempt to save itself from destruction the former Liberal-Country Party Government poured a tremendous amount of money into the economy, making finance far too freely available and pushing us into a very dangerous situation with too much money chasing too few goods. From 2 December 1972 the freely elected government of this country, elected under the same system as every other government, that is, elected to serve for 3 years, has never been free from threat from the Oppositionwhich has never been prepared to see itself as an Opposition. The present Opposition gave the nation 23 years of non-government, but each successive government was allowed to rule for its full term after each election.
Under our Westminster system governments are elected to serve for 3 years. I think that is too short a term. I think it should be 5 years because a government needs to plan ahead. However, following the extraordinary double dissolution in 1974 when, desperate again to regain government, the Liberal-Country Party forces pushed this country into another $4m election, Labor was again the choice of the people. Again we were elected to rule for 3 years; again we had a mandate. Again, and in line with the Constitution, we were elected to govern the country. From 18 May 1974 we have had again exactly the same pattern of lawlessness emanating from the Opposition benches. We have seen the procession of leaders throughout the LiberalCountry Party coalition over the past years since the resignation of Sir Robert Menzies and we have seen also the coalition’s slow disintegration. It is almost impossible for a government to go about its business with serenity when it is under constant threat.
The people of Australia are in danger because of the constant threat to our parliamentary system. We on this side of the House are dedicated to the parliamentary system, the system that has served us well over many years. The people of Australia should be aware of the threat that is posed to them by these constant attacks on convention and precedent. These constant attacks come from an Opposition that is not interested in whether the Budget is a good Budget or not. It is not interested in whether the country is coming out of a recession. It is simply interested in taking the Treasury benches. I believe that Australia is in a position of extreme danger. Once you start white-anting away at the foundations, as the Opposition has been doing since 1972- whiteanting the foundations of our democratic systemit is a hop, step and jump before the system crumbles. A democratic system at any time hangs by a very fragile thread. It hangs by the thread of convention, precedent and integrity. We have seen much of this swept aside in the last 2Vi years by the Opposition. I believe that the entire system is under threat by the Opposition. It is an impossible situation when a government is elected and not allowed to serve its term. If this is to be the pattern, if we are to have polls every 12 months, or every 6 months, the people of Australia will have bargain basement government. No government when faced with the possibility of an election will bring down an unpopular Budget although governments at times do have to make unpopular decisions. Governments in such a position will introduce Budgets designed to catch votes. The result is bargain basement government.
The other very big danger of this constant threat against the freely elected government is that it serves notice on the people that the present system has to be re-assessed. What we need would be a party which is very strong in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate.
– We will.
– You do not really mind if you decimate the system, but I care. What is needed is one party which is very strong in both Houses. If we look at history we can see that the direction in which we are heading is just a hop, step and jump from the Germany that evolved when Hitler took over. So I think there is a very real threat to our democracy. I think that those on the opposite side of the House who have talked for so long and so hypocritically about law and order should have a look at their own motives and at what they are doing in their lust to get back into government. I would like to quote to the House some extracts from a letter which was written by Senator Steele Hall, with whom I do not usually have much in common, to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser). He said:
I hope you will at least consider my prediction that if you take, or attempt to take, the Prime Minister’s office by the device of a vote in the Senate, your leadership capacity will automatically degenerate to the disadvantage of the Liberal Party.
I heartily agree with that. He went on to say:
If, conversely, you ‘assemble’ your members in the Senate to reject Supply, you will consciously destroy the stability of Australian politics . . .
I completely concur with that. It would be utterly ludicrous if the people of this country were forced to the polls before 1 977. If this happened the taxpayer would have to foot the bill for another $4m election- the third election in 3 years. Democracy is under a threat, our way of life is under threat, if we consistently turn our backs on precedents, conventions and traditions that have served us well since Federation.
Constant speculation by the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) on some great crisis forming to make it necessary for them to knock back the Budget is just so much hogwash. The real fact is that the Opposition just wants power. It is irrelevant to them whether the Budget is serving the people well. It is irrelevant to them that most of the monitors show that the economy is picking up. It is irrelevant to them that this continual threat of election erodes not only the confidence of the investors and businessmen but also the confidence of the people of Australia. It is irrelevant to them whether the Budget has been successful, and this is borne out by the survey that they commissioned, a survey to find out whether in fact the Opposition would become unpopular if it knocked back the Budget or knocked back Supply. What an extraordinary survey to commission! The Opposition is not concerned about the ethics or principles involved but whether it can win an election. If the Australian people are to sit back and allow their system of government to be capsized at the will of an Opposition wanting office regardless of the performance of the freely elected government of the day, this country is approaching a system of anarchy and this is something that the Opposition has always professed to despise. Their approach is next door to anarchy. I think the Australian people should be leaping up and down in fury at the attacks that are being made upon them. I say loud and clear: There is no known way that the Leader of the Opposition will be able to keep himself free from the criticism of highly unethical behaviour if he succumbs to the temptation- I do not say pressure because I think it will be temptation- and ambition to push for an election either before Christmas or by next May. He will not be able to keep his skirts clear. He will be seen to do what he does. He will be seen to be the man who hit the foundations of our system with perhaps the final blow that will collapse it.
-In this debate I want to highlight 2 aspects of the Regional Employment Development scheme. Firstly I want to deal with the appalling way in which the scheme has been destroyed and secondly to illustrate that it has been one of the greatest administrative bungles ever perpetrated by any government of this nation. We have been told by the Government that the scheme is a monster that has grown out of control. I ask: Who has let it grow out of control? The obvious answer is: No one other than the Government itself. To my way of thinking it would have been better to scale down the RED scheme rather than to push the panic button as has been done by this Government. The scheme is currently being expressed by the Government as being phased out. Let me assure the House and the nation that it is being completely cut off quite abruptly.
-Pulled out like a tooth.
– It is being pulled out like a tooth, as the honourable member for Gwydir suggests. I believe this is indicative of the general mismanagement of the affairs of this nation.
I want to trace the interesting, albeit brief, history of the scheme and the purposes of the scheme. Of course the supreme architect is that man of great vision, the Honourable Clyde Cameron. The scheme was introduced around about 12 months ago during a time of high unemployment. I think we should keep the ‘high’ in inverted commas. One purpose of the scheme was to provide employment at a stage when something like 100,000 to 120,000 people were unemployed and the figure was rising. The second purpose was to provide worthwhile projects for our communities. The thing that amazes me about the RED scheme is that it was introduced with those 2 purposes in mind and yet- this is the point I want to make- it has now been abolished when we have 300 000 unemployed, and of course the figure is rising. How anyone can reconcile the abolition of a scheme introduced to relieve unemployment when the figure was 120 000 with the abolition of the scheme when the figure is 300 000 and rising fails me completely.
I want to make my position clear on the scheme. I believe it was a stop-gap measure of some merit. In my opinion it should have been administered through local government with the funds going to the States. In my opinion the projects in the main are of great value to our community. I want to look at the allocation of funds next. In the 1974-75 Budget $25m was appropriated for the RED scheme. I believe that the
Government and the Minister for Labor and Immigration at the time stated that the amount would be flexible and dependent on the unemployment situation.
– He was a good Minister.
– He was a good Minister, as the honourable member for Bendigo reminds me. Unfortunately he got the axe like so many others. We find that for the financial year of 1974-1975 a figure of $60.4m was actually expended on the scheme. In this financial year $135m has been provided. Let me look at the administration of the scheme. The architect, as I stated earlier, was the Honourable Clyde Cameron who, together with the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and other members of the Government, hailed the project as a great scheme. They said, in effect, that there would be no grass clipping in this scheme as there was under the McMahon Government scheme early in 1972. They said that they would be providing assets for our communities of which the communities would be proud. It was important to the Government that these community projects would be built by local authorities, sporting clubs and organisations, etc. If we look a little more closely at the administration of the scheme we find it was too important for one Minister to administrate. It did not take 2 Ministers, 3 Ministers or even 4 Ministers to administer the scheme; it took no fewer than 7 Ministers of this Parliament.
– How many Ministers?
– It took 7 Ministers of this Parliament to oversee the RED scheme. Let us look at the Budget before the Parliament. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) is responsible for $633m; the Minister for Defence (Mr Morrison) for $l,800m; the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) for $ 1,908m; the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) for $2,778m; and at the top of the list is the Minister for Social Security and Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon) who is responsible for $4,772m. Yet it took 7 Ministers to administer a scheme which expended $60.4m in the last financial year. This was not done for the want of a back up organisation. This was done by the Commonwealth Employment Service. Some excellent officers are in that Service right throughout Australia. By way of example New South Wales has over 30 of these offices outside the capital city and Queensland something like 20 offices outside the capital city.
If we examine the infamous RED Ministers we can only say that they are a disgrace to themselves and a disgrace to the Parliament and what a humiliation this whole scheme has been to the Government. Let us categorise the Ministers. We have the old RED vintage of 1974 and the new RED vintage of 1975. Let us look at the calibre of those old vintage 1974 Ministers. They were: The Minister for Labor and Immigration, Mr Cameron; the Treasurer, Dr Cairns; the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, Mr Uren; the Minister for Social Security, Mr Hayden; the Minister for Manufacturing Industry, Senator James McClelland; the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, Mr Stewart; and the Minister for Environment, Dr Cass. Let us look at the new RED vintage 1975 Ministers. They are: The Minister for Labor and Immigration, Senator James McClelland; the Treasurer, Mr Hayden, the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, Mr Uren; the Minister for Social Security and Minister for Repatriation and Compensation, Senator Wheeldon; the Minister for Manufacturing Industry, Mr Bowen; the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, Mr Stewart; and the Minister for Environment, Mr Berinson. Four of these, Mr Hayden, Senator James McClelland, Mr Uren and Mr Stewart, have the unique distinction of being on both RED committeesthe 1974 vintage and the 1975 vintage. If we look at them we find that some of them are the cream of the Whitlam Cabinet. There is the new wonder Treasurer, the Hon. Bill Hayden, and the Hon. Clyde Cameron and the Hon. Senator James McClelland, both notable Labor and Immigration Ministers.
It has taken 7 Ministers or a quarter of the Whitlam Cabinet to administer $60m in the first year and $135m in the dying stages of this scheme. If one looks at this as a percentage of the Budget we find that it is taking 7 Ministers to bungle one-half of one per cent of the Budget. I ask the nation: What chance has this country got when 7 Ministers of the Government bungle onehalf of one per cent of the Budget and we have a Budget figure of $22 billion? Is it any wonder that we have an economic mess on our hands? Yet the Treasurer and the Prime Minister have the audacity to criticise the Opposition’s federalism policy. They ought to hang their heads in shame.
I want to examine briefly some of the problems that have confronted local authorities and organisations. I want to mention in particular one council in my electorate of Petrie that has had approved, over the signature of Senator James McClelland, $250,000 worth of projects.
The council is holding at the moment $62,000 in advances. The projects have been frozen. I received a telegram from the Minister as follows:
I am pleased to advise you that the following projects submitted by the Redcliffe City Council have been approved for assistance under the RED scheme . . .
It went on to list the projects and the details of the unemployed people who would be employed and the period of their employment. It was signed: Senator J. R. McClelland, Minister for Labor and Immigration. The freezing of this scheme is a disgrace. What has it done to the planning of local authorities and organisations? These people do not know where they are in their planning. If we look at the scheme we find that local authorities and organisations did not ask for it. They were happy in a sense that it came along because they were able to provide facilities, but of course in many instances they have been left carrying the baby.
The RED scheme is being put to rest and its tombstone will contain this epitaph: ‘RIP. Here lies the RED scheme, born 1974, passed away 1975, age 1½ years, architect Clyde Cameron’. Then it will list the infamous, unrenowned and anything but illustrious Ministers responsible for its brief and shameful life. I believe there will be an inscription on the bottom and it will be to the effect that the RED scheme has been one of the greatest administrative bungles in the history of the Australian Parliament.
-Four weeks ago the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) produced in this House a letter which had been stolen from the Department of the Treasury. Four weeks ago the Leader of the Opposition not only quoted from that letter at question time but also incorporated the letter itself in Hansard. Crime in this instance has had its appropriate reward because, as a result of that piece of unscrupulousness, in a relatively unimportant but nevertheless revealing matter we have become aware of the dinner which took place on 30 October last year. We have become aware that a full 1 2 months ago the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) had already carefully and cynically laid plans both for the removal of the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden, and for overcoming the resistance of those principled members of the Liberal Party, and perhaps of the National Country Party of Australia, who they foresaw would object to a rejection of the Budget at this stage of 1975. We have become aware of these things because a person present at the time who, in his own words, disapproved of eavesdropping but could not avoid overhearing what he overheard, felt his inhibitions to be released by the actions of the Leader of the Opposition in bringing into the House this letter stolen from the Treasury, in quoting from this stolen document, and in incorporating in Hansard this stolen document.
The dinner which I have mentioned and which is described in some detail elsewhere took place on 30 October last year, and at it, as I have said, plans were discussed in detail for the removal of the right honourable member for Bruce (Mr Snedden) from the position of Leader of the Opposition- a removal, a deed, which did not take place, did not eventuate, until 27 November. At least, this move was not begun publicly until 27 November and was not consummated until 2 1 March this year.
– What are you complaining about- the dinner?
-Let me remind honourable members, including the honourable member for Riverina, who objects, that on 27 November when the first attempt was made to remove Mr Snedden the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said:
I took no part in what occurred this morning in the Party room. I asked no one for support, nor would I do so.
Yet that is in direct contradiction with the report of which we have all become aware this week. Similarly, although on 30 October last year the present Leader of the Opposition was concerting his plans with the honourable member for Corangamite for disposing of the then Leader of the Opposition, on 8 February this year he was prepared to say:
Bill Snedden has my full support. I repeat, as I have said on numerous occasions, that I supported the Party room decision of last November and that I support the elected leader of the Liberal Party.
I bring up this matter and ask the House how much credence can then be put in the statement made by the honourable member on 21 March after he had assumed the leadership. He said:
I generally believe that if a government is elected to power in the Lower House and has the numbers and can maintain the numbers in the Lower House it is entitled to expect that it will govern for the 3-year term unless quite extraordinary events intervene.
There is a great deal of explanation due in the light of the information which has become available for the first time this week.
-Order! It is now 15 minutes to 1 o’clock. In accordance with standing order 106, the debate is interrupted and I put the question: ‘That grievances be noted’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill returned from the Senate with requests.
Motion ( by Mr Enderby) agreed to:
That the requested amendments be considered in Committee forthwith.
Consideration of Senate’s requested amendments.
Senate’s requested amendments-
In clause S, sub-clause (1), after ‘sub-section (2)’ insert ‘ and section 7 ‘.
After clause 6 add the following new clause: 7.(1) Where a Collector is satisfied that-
if coal were subjected to proximate analysis, on an air-dried basis, it would be classified as coal having an ash content greater than 1 4 per cent; and
the crucible swelling number of the coal is not greater than 3, the coal is exempt from the duty of Customs imposed by this Act.
For the purposes of sub-section (1), the crucible swelling number of coal is the number which, if the coal were subjected to a test made for the purpose of determining the crucible swelling number of coal, being a test approved in writing by the Minister, would be that number. ‘.
– I move:
That the requested amendments be made.
Honourable members will recall that the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) recently announced that in the light of representations from coal producers on the effects of the newly established coal export duty the Government had decided that certain steaming coal should be exempted from the duty. Prices for this coal have not risen in line with the general recent price increases in the industry. For this reason the effect of the duty on this coal could have priced it out of its markets in Britain and in Europe and led to termination of contracts. Exemption from the duty would avoid this result and would open the way for further contracts which would lead to increased production and employment in the Western Districts coal fields around Lithgow in New South Wales.
The particular type of coal to be exempted is steaming coal having both an ash content of more than 14 per cent on an air-dried basis and a crucible swelling number of not more than three. This type of coal is produced both in some Western Districts coalfields and in some coalfields in the Newcastle region. The amendments requested are to give effect to this decision.
– I note that I have opposite me again the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Enderby), who so often the other night called me ‘my good friend’. I wondered whether that resulted in the somewhat cold reserve I have struck among my colleagues. This, of course, is a familiar path that we are taking. It is a path that we ought to have expected to take again this year, in that a Budget is brought in, taxes heralded and before the Minister’s voice has stopped resounding in the chamber the reversals, the emasculation, and the changes occur. Of course, that has happened again. The Opposition is not going to oppose these amendments because they exempt some coal from the export tax. We would have been happier if the whole tax had been withdrawn, and we would still appeal to the Government to remove the whole of this export tax from all classes of coal, because it is disastrous to the nation and it is disastrous to the industry.
Actually, these amendments complicate the Bill somewhat further, because now we are to have 3 classes of coal. High quality coking coal will be taxed at $6 a tonne, coal that is not high quality coking coal but is not within the definition set out in the amendments will be taxed at $2 a tonne, and there will be no tax on coal falling within the definition set out in the amendments. I thank the Minister for the tribute he has paid this afternoon to my knowledge and intelligence. Before me he has placed a piece of paper which I had not seen before which talks about things like proximate analysis and crucible swelling numbers of not greater than three. The Minister, when he talks about proximate analysis and crucible swelling numbers, knowing my interest in the subject of pornography is fortunate I do not interpret it as some sort of indecent suggestion. But the meaning is made perfectly clear in the definition supplied at the bottom of the circulated amendments which states: … the crucible swelling number of coal is the number which, if the coal were subjected to a test made for the purpose of determining the crucible swelling number of coal, being a test approved in writing by the Minister, would be that number.
That is abundantly clear now. I am fortunate indeed that the august senators in another place have looked at this Bill. I know that terms like ‘proximate analysis’, ‘air-dried basis’ and ‘crucible swelling’ are so well known to them that they use them in their breakfast conversation as much as they do the discussion of the weather. Of course we welcome the fact that at least one class of coal, steaming coal- the Minister will see that I am au fait with some of the terms- has been exempted from the coal export duty. We appeal to the Government to go further than this. We believe that this tax is the most retrograde tax perhaps in the whole of the Budget.
– It is stopping development in the industry too.
-As my colleague, so learned in these matters, said, it is stopping development in the industry. That industry was a bright spot in our economy. Of course, that is disastrous in the eyes of this Government; that could not be allowed to continue. So the Government levied this tax which I believe is retrograde and most unfortunate. I appeal that the Government should not do the job in part, as it has done, and should review the whole export coal tax and remove this tax forthwith.
I know that the Attorney-General has agreed that the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) be allowed to speak on this matter. He has some pertinent comment to make on it. The comments he made in his speech on the Budget drew attention to the serious nature of this tax. We do not oppose the amendments; we support the amendments. But we wonder whether these technical terms and what was happening were understood entirely by the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor). We wonder whether the geography of his electorate and the mines it contains had any effect on the proposing of these amendments. We support the amendments.
– I should like to speak to these amendments requested by the Senate. The amendments were proposed by the Government, recognising the difficulties it was finding in applying the new export coal tax. When this tax was announced I criticised the Government heavily because it was obvious that it was an ill conceived tax. It was brought in hastily without a real understanding of the wide ramifications, and those ramifications are numerous. The one that disturbs the Opposition most is the impact the tax will have on a number of major coal development projects around Australia at a time when we want to give a boost to further development. This is only a deterrent. We also pointed out that the tax would have grave inconsistencies in its application, that some mines would be found to be in a position where they would have the higher tax imposedthat imposed on coking coal- whilst really their coal was graded as a steaming coal type, and that some of the companies producing steaming coal were operating on such low margins that they could not continue to operate.
I made the point clearly about the mines in the Lithgow area and the prospects they had for filling export orders for their steaming coal and also the prospects for further development.
-In the Hunter Valley too.
-There are many cases in the Hunter Valley where this applies. This amendment is a remedy for just a few in the industry. We will see a lot more amendments come back into this chamber if this Bill is to be applied fairly and satisfactorily. I imagine that even without those necessary amendments there will be some people in the industry who can use devices to avoid paying either the $2 a tonne or the $6 a tonne tax by blending their coal. What a stupid piece of legislation it is if people can use these devices. By getting a percentage point under the ash free content for coking coal a company would pay the $2 tax instead of the $6 tax. This is just a mechanical way of getting around the tax.
A person who is producing steaming coal where it is marginal whether he pays the $2 tax will produce a lower grade and not even pay the $2 tax. So if the producer is smart or has the capital to put in the plant or if he has the mining circumstances to be able to do these things he will be let off and the other person who is at a disadvantage has to pay the higher tax. This is the absurdity of this sort of tax being applied. The Government should recognise that it has made a blue and try to have the whole thing reanalysed if it is so concerned about getting the tax.
Why did the Government impose the tax? Because of its obsession about some of the big open cut coal mining operations in Queensland it has penalised the industry right across Australia. Even with these amendments a lot of small mines, particularly in New South Wales which have export orders for either coking coal or steaming coal, will still be put out of business. Their operations will not be profitable. There will be a multitude of projects where there is a possibility for expansion of existing mines or bringing in new mines that will not take effect. I think it is tragic when there is so much unemployment around Australia, where we want to build up employment capacity and commercial activity in a lot of country regions- it is mainly country regions which this tax affects- that the Government is naive and absurd enough to bring forward this legislation just out of spite against some of the big operations in Queensland.
It appears that in the case of the mines at Lithgow, Austen and Buta Pry Ltd and Coalex Pty Ltd will get the advantage of these amendments, and I am pleased. They might have to do some blending. But at Wallarah, where Coal and Allied Industries Ltd operates the mines will not be exempt and the operation will be gravely threatened. I mention a few of these mines because I have had the chance of getting in touch with the companies since I found that the Bill was to be dealt with this morning. But I imagine that if one went right round the industry one would find different circumstances in every one of these mining operations. Surely the Government could have consulted all of these people to find out just what are the ramifications. But no, in a blatant doctrinaire way it has come forward trying to meet one situation but not recognising that there is a multitude of other situations.
Above all, I do not believe in the philosophy of export taxes. They are retrograde taxes. They are a depressant against encouraging people to get into the export business. If ever a country has developed and prospered through exports it has been Australia. If we are to have any future aspirations and hopes for this country we ought to be developing our export industries as hard as we can possibly go. But no, if there are any prospects that someone will have a boom or success this Government will clamp down as hard as it can. I am just staggered that the Government is doing it to the coal mining industry. The Government is supposed to be the representative of the coal miners throughout Australia. This is one indication that the Government does not even care about the people it is supposed to represent. I should have thought that the trade union movement, which is supposed to represent these coal workers, would have been here in Canberra explaining the situation to the Government and seeing that some decent legislation comes forward, not this piecemeal operation which will not correct the situation for many in the industry. It certainly helps just a few, but it is not a comprehensive means of coping with a most difficult and complicated situation.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.1 5 p.m.
– I shall take only 5 minutes of the Committee’s time. The principles involved in these amendments and in the relevant clauses of the Bill need to be elucidated. I shall do so in a very short time. One of the best statements that has been made by any Government Minister and certainly the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) when he was Minister for Manufacturing Industry was that Australia should do most what it can do best. It was an absolutely superb statement which had about it all the canons of economic sense, all the prospects of raising standards of living and all those prospects concerning the allocation of resources in Australia which sensible economic management should be able to secure. Unfortunately, this measure flies directly in the face of that canon- of that doctrine- because what this measure is saying is that Australia should do least what it can do best, that Australia should penalise what it can do best or, alternatively, that Australia should do most what it can do worst. That is what is involved in this Bill.
So it is on a very important principle as to the allocation of resources in an economy that one needs to have doubts about the ultimate wisdom of this measure. I do not intend to look at the economics of it in detail or to see what it really means in terms of revenue to the Government. But in the last 2 minutes of this 5-minute speech I wish to put a proposition. What is involved now is that there should be 3 categories according to which levies are to be put upon coal. There is the category of 85 per cent and over carbon content and below that there are 2 categories of $2 a tonne and one where that levy will not apply if certain conditions are required as to ash content and the swelling content of the mineral. Where once there was one category there are now 3 points of determination.
I put this prospect to the Minister: What will happen if, as a result of the rise in oil prices, Europe begins to develop a very high rate of demand for steaming coal and what was previously non-profitable becomes a very profitable exercise? Will the Government then make another determination and then another position at which a levy or a duty will be put upon the industry? That will happen. Once we get into this area there will be multiple points at which differences will have to be determined. I believe that that is an absurdity. It is also incorrect to look at the coal industry and to say: ‘Some mining operations are very profitable and so we want to look at the profits themselves. As they are so profitable we can ignore the feed back and the ripple effects of that industry upon a whole community.’ Let me give the Government the benefit of a study that was made of the coal industry in Queensland in 1973. Much more is affected in terms of living standards than people who live in a number of small towns such as Moranbah,
Goonyella. Blackwater and Dysart. There are thousands and thousands of people working in the capital city who are dependent upon the ripple effects of that industry. The multiplier effect in terms of population support for those who are engaged in the Bowen Basin open cut mining industry in Queensland in 1972 was 18 to 20. That is an enormous multiplier effect and it is quite apart from contributions to exports or anything of that nature. After all, those contributions to exports indirectly enable tariff shelter to be given to industries in other parts of Australia whilst at the same time trying to increase standards of living.
It is those transfer effects which come from a very profitable and very efficient export mining industry that have been ignored. They ultimately help tariff and quota protected industries. They also have a far greater effect on living conditions throughout a whole region, a whole State or a capital city than was previously thought to be the case. Let me give a figure which illustrates the point. In 1972 3 Bowen Basin Coal mines which had a work force of significantly below 4000, together had a population support in the whole State at that time of over 60 000 people. That is on a very conservative assumption. It is one of the factors which has released many people in these far flung areas. The same thing applies in Western Australia in respect of iron ore. The effect of the iron ore industry on Perth is far greater than most analysts have determined before. However, that is not to be put aside.
I make this suggestion with respect to the future and I hope that it will be adopted by the Parliament: The expansion and the further development of the coal mining industry has to be looked at, and I suggest that, if that industry is not to remain static, a tax holiday should be declared upon significant future developments or expansion in that industry to apply until such time as the original investment is written off. By that means all those economic effects to which I have referred will not necessarily be put at nought and will not necessarily be nullified. The tax holiday ought to be policed carefully and precisely. The extraction of the mineral which would apply during those circumstances ought to be looked at far more carefully than, for example, was the case at Kieta in the first year of the Bougainville operations there. In other words, they should not be able to grab the high grade lodes of the mineral which would give them a bigger return during the period of the tax holiday. That is a suggestion for the future and I am grateful to the Committee for having allowed me to express one or two views for 3 minutes longer than I intended.
Requested amendments agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
Motion (by Mr Enderby) agreed to:
That the amendment be considered in Committee forthwith.
Consideration of Senate ‘s amendment. Clause 4.
Section 133 of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-sections: ‘(3) Applications may be made to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for review of decisions of a Collector made for the purposes of the definition of “high quality coking coal” in section 4 of the Customs Tariff (Coal Export Duty) Act 1975.’.
In clause 4, at end of new sub-section (3) add ‘or for the purposes of section 7 of that Act ‘.
– I move:
That the amendment be agreed to.
The amendment is complementary to the amendment to the Customs Tariff (Coal Export Duty) Bill which has just been considered. It provides for the right of appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a review of decisions of a Collector concerning the classification of coal which will be exempt from duty.
-The Opposition will not be opposing this amendment, particularly in the light of the most splendid definition which, for its clarity, I ought to read again. That definition is: … the crucible swelling number of coal is the number which, if the coal were subjected to a test made for the purpose of determining the crucible swelling number of coal, being a test approved in writing by the Minister, would be that number.
Knowing the Minister’s capacity and knowledge in the field of determining crucible swelling, how comforted we are.
-I am so pleased that the honourable member is satisfied by the definition.
Amendment agreed to.
Resolution reported; reported adopted.
Bill presented by Mr Beazley, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to provide for the establishment of the Australian Maritime College and to prepare the way for detailed planning and development of the College. Present education and training arrangements for the Australian maritime and fishing industries are quite inadequate. The gaps and deficiencies in existing facilities and courses have long been the subject of comment, culminating in the Summers Report which pointed to the need for a national, wellequipped maritime college. The Government accepts that there should be such a college and has already announced its decision to establish the college at Launceston. Steps are already under way to select a suitable site there.
The Australian Maritime College will give courses for deck, engineer and radio officers and will have many of the characteristics of a college of advanced education; but it will also be concerned with the provision and co-ordination of courses at technical college level for ratings, fishing boat crew and others. It will be a new and unique institution in the education system of this country, and there are many details of its functions and governance which will call for careful planning. In this planning process, it will be particularly important to involve those who know the special needs involved- the relevant unions, the ship owners, the fishing industry- as well as educationists. For this reason the present Bill includes provision for an Interim Council for the College, which will make recommendations with respect to a wide range of matters relating to the establishment of the College, as set out in clause 7 of the Bill. The Interim Council’s membership will include the range of interests I have just mentioned.
Because planning for the College is still at such an early stage, the present Bill is, in essence, a temporary measure to provide the basis on which the fullscale planning and development can proceed, leading up to a more definitive Act at a later stage. The Bill is, in this sense, similar to the Australian Institute of Marine Science Act of 1970, which paved the way for the development of that Institute. There can be little need for me to elaborate on the need for maritime training or on its urgency. My colleagues, the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) and the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt), naturally have a special concern and interest in this; and recent maritime disasters have underlined for all of us the importance of providing the best possible training and education for personnel in the maritime area. There is a wide range of needs, from advanced navigational studies to short practical training courses, which can be met by the Australian Maritime College. With the establishment of this College, the Australian maritime and fishing industries can be said to have come of age. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Wilson) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Charles Jones, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill provides for some significant advances in the conduct of our sea-going industry. Most of these advances are being made on our initiatives, although at least one- that concerned with ship owners liability- should have been made long ago. The International Convention on the Limitation of Liability of Owners of Sea-going Ships was made in Brussels in 1957. It came into force internationally in 1968 and could and should have been implemented here as quickly as possible thereafter. It is necessary to allow ship owners a limitation system, at the least for the practical reason that they need some defined level to which they can insure. But, up to the present, the limitation levels and the system have been those established in the old British Merchant Shipping Acts of 1894 and 1900. One of the thoroughly objectionable aspects of that existing law is that an owner may limit his liability in respect of his own crew members. The 1957 Convention allows for a signatory state to exclude such action and this is one of the reasons- perhaps the most important reasonwhy that Convention should have been applied in Australia years ago. This Bill, Mr Speaker, seeks to apply it.
When we came to Government, and I came to the Transport portfolio, I said that I was not satisfied with many aspects of marine safety. My views were tragically supported by the loss of the vessel Blythe Star and the subsequent loss of life. My Department, with the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy, conducted a most diligent and exhaustive search for survivors, but were terribly handicapped by having no knowledge of the vessel’s precise voyage intentions and by the fact that no requirement existed for vessels to report position during the course of voyages. What I found after this occurrence was that my Department had for some time been trying to arouse interest in a ship movement reporting scheme, but without any real success. I found also that someone had very clearly underestimated the co-operation that could easily be obtained from shipping companies. I had no difficulty in getting co-operation, and the ship reporting system which, by this Bill, is to be translated into law, has been operating on a voluntary basis for the best part of two years.
I know that I am, at this introductory stage, anticipating my more precise exposition of the several measures which this Bill proposes. What I want to emphasise, however, is the great, the vital importance of these proposed amendments. Even now, I do not say that this Bill represents the last word on the Navigation Act. It will adjust some anomalies. It will bring further amelioration to the seafarer’s lot. It will realise upon several of our significant safety initiatives. But more does remain to be done. The Navigation Act, and all of the administration it enables, has for too many years been viewed with indifference. This Bill, important and far-reaching as it is, is but the first tangible expression of our determination to make up for those years of indifference.
Coming now to that more precise exposition of the several measures in this Bill, I should explain that I shall deal with these by groups, and in the order in which these are treated both in the Bill itself and in the comprehensive explanatory notes which I have circulated. The first group to which I shall refer are those amendments which deal with vessels and other structures engaged in the off-shore industry, in activities associated with exploring or exploiting the natural resources of the continental shelf of Australia, or the sea bed of the Australian coastal sea. In the Bill, these terms are given the same meaning as in the Seas and Submerged Lands Act, and the provisions of the Bill relating to the off-shore industry are therefore placed on the same constitutional basis as the Seas and Submerged Lands Act.
The Bill draws a distinction between the small craft that service oil rigs, etc., and seismic and hydrographic survey vessels on the one hand and the large oil drilling rigs, derrick barges and mineral recovery vessels on the other. The vessels that fall into the first of these two categories are referred to in the Bill as ‘off-shore industry vessels’. Those falling into the latter category are termed ‘off-shore industry mobile units’. The Bill applies the Act to all vessels that engage in our off-shore industry irrespective of where they are registered. I think 1 should underline the words ‘irrespective of where they are registered’ because they are important, having in mind some of the accidents which have occurred. It makes consequential amendments in a considerable number of the sections of the Act to deal with the special procedures that have been adopted in this industry. For example, the traditional ‘articles of agreement’ which are entered into between the seamen and the master will be augmented by the new concept of ‘contract of sea service’ which provides for an agreement between the seamen and the employer to serve on any vessel under the control of the employer. This concept has been in use in the industry for some time and has proved eminently satisfactory to all parties.
In respect of off-shore industry mobile units the Bill makes provision for special safety and other marine or navigation-type requirements to be imposed by regulation or direction on all such craft operating in the off-shore area. I should explain that such requirements- that is, those that are made pursuant to the Navigation Act- will not go to the techniques and the working of the craft in the exploration or mining senses. But because the craft are at sea, it is essential that thensafety, and the safety of the people on board, from the hazards of the sea be provided for. A provision is included to ensure that such regulations or directions do not have effect to the extent that they are inconsistent with the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act and regulations or directions thereunder. This is designed to take account of the present obligations under the offshore petroleum agreement entered into with the States not to alter the scheme of legislation set forth in that agreement.
Another of the main alterations which this Bill introduces is in respect of visiting British ships. Part II of the Act deals with crewing matters and, until recently, was in line with similar provisions in the United Kingdom Merchant Shipping Act, with both laws applied to a visiting British ship whilst in Australia. The United Kingdom Merchant Shipping Act has been very substantially changed and it would create technical problems for the master and crew of a ship and the staffs of Mercantile Marine Offices, who administer the relevant provisions of the Act, if the Australian law were to continue to apply to such vessels. The Bill makes the necessary adjustments in this regard. These are explained in the notes which I have circulated, under the heading: ‘Clause 7’. The present anomaly dates from 1973, when the relevant United Kingdom legislation came into force. The legislative adjustment appears to be somewhat overdue, but the practicabilities have been cared for by an Order in Council under section 422a of the Act.
I referred in my opening remarks to a vital aspect of the Bill- that is, that it gives legal effect to the ship movement reporting scheme, which was introduced following the loss of the vessel Blythe Star, and which has been operating on a voluntary basis for some time. The scheme ensures that positive action is taken to search for a ship in the Australian search and rescue area if more than 24 hours have elapsed since the ship last indicated that all was well. It will also, in the event of a ship being in distress, enable the Marine Operations Centre of my Department to know immediately what ships are in the area and which of these would be best suited to assist in the emergency. In addition to the safety improvements, the provisions will bring about a significant saving of search and rescue resources by providing a datum on which to concentrate a search in the event of a vessel being overdue.
To my knowledge no such legislation exists anywhere else in the world. Information about the system has been circulated to members of the Inter-governmental Maritime Consultative Organization, where it has aroused considerable interest. In addition, Australia has proposed to IMCO that a uniform ship movement reporting system should be an integral part of any internationally-agreed search and rescue plan. Details of how the scheme works in practice are given in the notes on clause 68 of the Bill, which are included in the explanatory notes I have circulated. I do not refrain from expressing the Government’s pride in the system. In other directions we are intent on aiming for total safety of life at sea- that is our target, and always will be. But we have to recognise that for all our striving to that end we may not reach it- accidents at sea can still occur. Against that misfortune we are determined that no time will be lost in rescuing seafarers subjected to accident. We are confident that what we are doing here is the prototype for a world-wide system to deprive the sea of victims of its dangers.
The Bill also allows Australia to give effect to 2 international conventions, the texts of which are set out in the first and second Schedules to the Bill. The first of these is the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972, which will be given effect to on the widest possible basis by clause 67 of the Bill. This Convention is expected to come into operation, internationally, towards the end of next year and Australia must be in a position to sign it before that time. I have already made some reference to the second convention- the International Convention relating to the Limitation of the Liability of Owners of Sea-going Ships, 1957, which is given effect to by clause 74 of the Bill. Although this Convention came into force internationally in 1968, the law in Australia, in relation to the limitation of shipowners’ liability, is still the United Kingdom Merchant Shipping Acts of 1894 and 1900.
One of the main practical effects of clause 74 is to increase the amounts to which a shipowner will be able to limit his liability, unless he is held to be actually at fault himself, in respect of all claims arising out of specified occurrences to which the Convention applies. The existing low limits of about $28 per ton in the case of personal claims and $15 per ton in the case of property claims are to be increased to the equivalent of the Convention limits- about $175 and $56 per ton respectively. I should say here that even these new limits are, in my opinion- and indeed I am supported by a body of world opinion- still far too low. We have been actively participating in an international review of the 1957 Convention and will continue to press for liability limits which are realistic in the context of present values.
In giving effect to this Convention Australia, like the United Kingdom and a number of the European shipping countries, will exercise the option provided for in the Protocol of Signature to exclude the application of sub-paragraph (c) of paragraph ( 1) of article 1 of the Convention. This in effect means that shipowners will have unlimited liability in respect of damage to harbour works, and for wreck removal. At the same time as Australia gives effect to this Convention it will absolve shipowners from liability in respect of certain property claims set out in the new section 338 to be inserted in the Navigation Act. As I have already remarked, however, by virtue of new section 59A shipowners will be prevented from limiting their liability in respect of claims by crew members. I think the only remarkable thing about that measure is that an owner’s ability to invoke limitation in respect of his own crew members has been allowed to persist for so long.
On the subject of international conventions, the Bill also repeals or revises certain provisions that were contrary to 2 International Labour Organisation conventions to which Australia is already a signatory. Thus, although it does not permit us to sign any further ILO maritime conventions, it removes sections repugnant to the Conventions on Forced Labour and on Seamen’s Articles of Agreement.
Another group of amendments being inserted by the Bill, relating to certificates of competency for ships’ officers and masters, springs from our initiatives for recognising modern advances in maritime transport. These are being inserted to provide for the new certificate structure which the Department of Transport has been developing over recent months in full co-operation with all the unions concerned, with owners, and State marine authorities. The introduction of these new developments will be timed to fit in as closely as possible with the new training that will be provided by the Australian Maritime College, which the Government is in the process of establishing. My colleague, the Minister for Education, has already introduced legislation to enable establishment of the College. As the Prime Minister announced not long ago, the College will be set up in Launceston, and will provide for the most modern professional education of the several categories of seafarer. This will be one of the most important and far-reaching steps yet taken in recognition of modern advances in maritime transport. It is a step, alongside this new certificate structure, which has the approbation of all the sections of the industry. Some machinery amendments have been made to the manning provisions to facilitate the introduction of the new certificate structure.
The remaining amendments of the Bill fall generally under the heading of ‘miscellaneous’ and comprise a variety of amendments which it is opportune to make in this Bill. Some of these are of a purely drafting or machinery nature and are set out principally in Schedule 7. Others, however, are of more importance, but because of the notes that have been circulated and which explain the amendments in some detail, I shall refer to only one or two of them, in a very brief way. One of these amendments is to extend the reference in the Act to the owner of a vessel to include a reference to the operator, except in a few special circumstances. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that where a duty or liability is imposed by the Act on the owner, and in cases where the owner is only remotely concerned with the operations of the ship, for example, if he has executed a bare-boat charter, then responsibility for ensuring that that duty or liability is discharged is imposed on the person who is directly concerned with the relevant operations, as well as on the owner. Conversely, a benefit conferred on the owner will also, in appropriate cases, be available to the operator.
Another amendment is to provide for the Minister to make orders in relation to detailed technical requirements to be applied under the Act, so that such requirements can be quickly implemented, and varied without delay, in the light of casualties, failure investigations or technical developments. As an example of what is intended, it may be recalled that, after some recent marine casualties, I announced that I would introduce a requirement for every ship to carry an approved operations manual. Ships vary greatly in their lay-out, their construction, their characteristics, and it is simply not possible to embrace by regulation every safety requirement necessary on every individual ship. It is essential therefore that for every vessel there be prepared a detailed operations manual, to be amended of course in the light of experience, and approved by ministerial order, quite rapidly.
In the Bill, apart from prescribing penalties at appropriate levels for newly created offences, the opportunity has been taken, where sections are otherwise amended, to update certain maximum monetary penalties for existing offences against provisions of the Act and regulations and to increase some general penalties. Other penalties will need to be brought into line at a later date. However, and as I have remarked already, this Bill does not purport to be a general revision of the Navigation Act. That will follow when the Government has received the report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Maritime Industry, which is at present critically examining the basic concepts contained in the Navigation Act. Our maritime trade, and our initiatives for securing a proper place for Australian ships in Australia’s trade, are of such manifest national importance that we cannot continue the previous indifference towards our maritime law. I trust that the explanatory notes on the various clauses, which I have circulated, will assist honourable members to appreciate the significance of the amendments being made by this Bill. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Nixon) adjourned.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1 969- 1 974, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the Committee has duly reported to Parliament: Construction of naval transmitter building and power centre, Humpty Doo, N.T.
The proposal is for the erection of new transmitting facilities for naval operational communications in the areas to the north of Australia and in the Indian Ocean. It will form part of the Naval Communications Station Darwin, the other elements being the receiving station at Shoal Bay now nearing completion and the modernised communications centre at Coonawarra West. The proposal consists of a transmitter building, housing administrative, technical, messing and sleeping facilities. A secondary building will house the associated power supply. Other components include a flammable stores building, guard house, water supply and antenna farm. The estimated cost of the proposal was $4.5m at June 1975 prices. The Committee concluded there was a need for the facility, the site selected was suitable and that work should proceed to construction. It is recommended that the House concur with the Committee’s report allowing detailed planning to proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1974, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Three-year program for construction of development roads in the Northern Territory.
The proposal is for the construction of the following development roads in the Northern Territory to bitumen sealed road standards:
The total estimated cost of the proposal at September 1975 price is $19.35m. I table plans of the proposed works.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Message from the Governor-General recommending an appropriation for the purposes of an amendment to be moved to the Approriation Bill (No. 1) 1975 -76 announced.
Consideration resumed from 1 October. Second Schedule.
Department of Environment
Proposed expenditure, $7,703,000.
Department of Tourism and Recreation
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 5,040,000.
-In speaking to the estimates for the Department of Environment I would like to take this opportunity to thank the former Ministers especially the previous Minister who is now Minister for the Media (Dr Cass) and the present Minister for Environment (Mr Berinson) for the co-operation they have extended to me on matters related to the Environment portfolio. Honourable members will recall that in a period of 12 months I have had the privilege, for want of a more courteous expression, to shadow no less than 4 Ministers, namely, Dr Cass, Dr J. F. Cairns, then the Prime Minister and now the present Minister for Environment, Mr Berinson.
– You should be able to get a job in the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
– I do not know whether I would be more suited to that than the person who has done the shifting. He might be better suited in that role. It has been like looking through a kaleidoscope and seeing an endless variety of colourful figures passing me by. I particularly want to thank the permanent head of the Department, Dr McMichael, and the officers of his Department for their ready co-operation, advice and courtesy at all times. Last year when I was offered this responsibility by the Opposition of being Opposition spokesman on the environment I resolved that I would approach it in the most bi-partisan manner possible. In my view such an approach is essential in order to achieve community co-operation and involvement. Irresponsible confrontation on environmental issues will not solve anything. It will achieve nothing more than polarisation and community intolerance and impatience. The environment belongs to everyone and it will not be protected unless individuals and the community as a whole are concerned for it. It is one area from which party politics should be removed, and I believe that in this Parliament this largely has been achieved. It is an area which requires cooperation throughout all sections of the community, from the Parliament onwards.
One of the criticisms I have relates to the fragmentation in the presentation of the appropriations in this area. In Budget Paper No. 2, for instance, Appropriation Bill No. 1, expenditure by the Department of Environment for 1975-76 is shown as $7,703,000 as against $8,893,439 in 1974-75 and $8,243,437 in 1973-74. On the face of it this year there is a substantial reduction in expenditure. It is difficult to assess the exact expenditure by the Government in this field because of the fragmented way in which the Estimates are presented. For example, on page 42 of Budget Paper No. 2 a total of $7,703,000 is shown as the appropriation for the Department of Environment for 1974-75. On page 78 there is an appropriation of $1,690,000 for forestry, fisheries, wildlife and national parks under the Department of Northern Australia. On page 100 and following pages, under the Department of Science and Consumer Affairs there are appropriations for air monitoring and for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Of course, when we come to the Department of Urban and Regional Development on page 135 we find an appropriation for the national estate, the National Trust, the Heritage Commission and so on. From what I have said, Mr Chairman, you will appreciate that it is very difficult to speak to the estimates of the Department of Environment and environmental issues when it is so hard to work out the total appropriation and the funding for this important area.
I ask the Minister for Environment: Is it necessary to present the Department’s estimates in such an involved and fragmented way? I wonder whether the Government is trying to conceal its expenditure in this important area, either with the intention of doing good by stealth or, God forbid, concealing some dark secret. I will leave that point because I want to proceed to another area that I think needs urgent attention.
I ask the Minister Are not the Government’s priorities completely topsy-turvy when we find that the vast preponderance of funds spent in the States for acquisition of lands for national parks is being spent by the Federal Government on its own account and are not being paid to the States to improve or to increase their own national park systems? Will this not lead to most wasteful duplication of staff and resources? Is this what the Federal Government really is setting out to achieve? It is well known that owing to the Budget cuts and so on the Government has had to retreat from the offer that it made to the States last year when it said that it would make $9m available to them to acquire land for the purposes of establishing national parks. I know that the States were very upset because they could not complete the acquisitions within the 12-months period, or a period less than that. I am well aware also of the efforts the Minister has made. No doubt he will report to the House on what he has done in order to try to assist the States with firm commitments that they entered into as a result of the offer made last year as part, of a 3-year program. Clearly there must be a 3-year program if we are to have any sort of advance in this area.
I think that last year the Opposition complimented the Government for having announced that $20m would be available to the States over a 3-year program to get on with the job of acquiring land. What worries me is that the Government on one hand has retreated from its commitment to the States yet on the other it has acquired land to the value of $4.3m, and that land is to be administered by it- namely, Towra Point, an area about which I think there is a challenge by the New South Wales Government in the High Court, and Elanda Plains in Queensland. I wonder whether it is good practice to be offering States money through the States Grants (Nature Conservation) Act on the one hand in order to assist the States in acquiring and administering their own land while at the same time making separate appropriations for the Commonwealth to acquire lands and administer them. I believe such an approach is fraught with all the elements of a confrontation with the States. It achieves the sort of thing I mentioned earlier. I do not believe we are going to make progress if there is to be that sort of confrontation.
In the last two or three minutes left for me to speak I want to raise another matter that was brought to my attention by the Capricorn Conservation Council. I had spoken to the Minister about this matter. I only received the letter today. It is dated 30 September 1975. It was addressed to me and was signed by Mr McCabe. In it he said:
As you are probably aware grave concern has been expressed by the conservation movement over the drastic reduction in funding available in the current financial year for National Park land acquisition programs. It is unfortunate that the Government has seen it necessary to go back on its commitment to spend money over a 3-year period. There are many areas in Queensland which could have been acquired as part of proposed National Parks and I am sure that a similar situation exists in other States
The immediate concern of that body is that it wants either the Queensland Government or the Commonwealth Government to make funds available to acquire land in the Dingo area west of Rockhampton in order to try to preserve the habitat for the bridled nailtailed wallaby which is practically extinct as a species of the kangaroo or wallaby in Australia. I hope that the Minister will confer with the Queensland Government to see what can be done before their habitat is destroyed as a result of the extension of the brigalow farming program. I think this is a very important project and I hope that with funds that the Minister may still have available some action will be taken to assist Queensland to acquire and administer this area. Apart from those general constructive criticisms I support the estimates on behalf of the Opposition.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In speaking to the estimates of the Department of Tourism and Recreation it is worthy of note that until the advent of the Whitlam Government in 1972 no Australian Government had shown any interest in the provision of recreation facilities for the people of Australia. The Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) was required to start with completely fresh ideas and initiatives to encourage people to think about community recreation and leisure activities and to transpose those ideas into action. There is not one member of this House who can honestly say that the Minister has not succeeded in achieving that objective. It has not been a case of just pouring Government money into the field of community recreation, nor, in my opinion, should it be. It has been necessary to involve people, to obtain their ideas on what their needs are and to develop new ideas in recreation programming.
The State governments have now become involved, and not before time. The New South Wales Government, following the initiative of the Whitlam Government, has appointed a Minister for Sport and Recreation. Some of the States are now running workshops on recreation planning. These workshops will involve more people and are enabling a much wider coverage of what facilities should be provided for recreation and the effective use of leisure time. Experience has shown that the demand for community recreation facilities has far outstripped the funds which are available to the Department of Tourism and Recreation. This being so, the role of the Department should be to see that its funds are utilised in the most effective manner. With some minor exceptions, I believe the Department is carrying out that task.
As an example of public demand, the Department received more than 200 applications for innovative recreation program assistance in 1974-75. However, due to a lack of funds it was able to fund only eleven of those programs during that year. This form of assistance will be continued during 1975-76, but unfortunately as only $100,000 is available the Australia-wide assistance will be only minimal.
One matter that concerns me is whether the most effective use is being made of existing recreation facilities. The question could well be asked: Are the facilities already in existence in our schools being utilised to their full advantage? This applies not only to sporting facilities but also to educational facilities. Sporting fields at schools should not be the exclusive preserve of the children who attend those schools, but this seems to be the position today. Such an attitude results in a waste of facilities- and very costly facilities at that. The same applies to recreation halls, auditoriums, gymnasiums and even libraries.
Most schools have facilities and equipment for their pupils to learn the manual arts- woodwork, pottery making, metal work and the like. It should not be left to the personal whim of some selfish school principal to decide that all of these facilities are to be used only by the children of his school during the hours of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and also that they will be left completely unused for 3 months of each and every year. For too long have we heard the attitude expressed: ‘These facilities are mine, and outsiders cannot participate in their use ‘. The question can also be well asked: Just who are these outsiders? It just so happens that the outsiders are the people who pay for these facilities. I know that the Department is doing some work along these lines, but in my opinion much more needs to be done to enable the community to share in the use of these existing and costly facilities.
Worthy of consideration is the attitude of one State government, the Government of South Australia, which is developing community recreation centres in association with the schools of that State. This work is in hand at secondary schools at Angle Park and Thebarton. I commend to the attention of honourable members a film in regard to these projects which has been produced by the Department of Tourism and Recreation and which shows what can be done with a little planning and foresight. Mr Hansen, a former member of this Parliament and now the Minister’s liaison officer, has performed a very useful task for the Department and the people of Australia in going around and advising various local government authorities and bodies of the faculties that are available to them through the medium of the Department of Tourism and Recreation. I was present at one of those gatherings at which this film was shown to a group of local government mayors, councillors and officers covering a region of 9 local government areas. They did not know that these facilities existed and that it was possible so to plan a school that it could be utilised for the general use of the community. I would commend the film to honourable members and I recommend that they have a look at it when the opportunity arises.
I would like to say a few words on the needs of passive recreation. Not everybody wants to be an athlete or, with due apologies to the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp), a white flannelled fool. There are people who enjoy peace and tranquillity, who just want to sit, to think or meditate. There are people who enjoy bird watching- the feathered variety. Lord knows that in this rat race in which we live it is hard enough to escape the raucous sporting crowd or the teeming multitudes in our cities. The people who want to escape from them should be provided for. Australia is blessed with a natural scenery which is capable of much more exploitation for the benefit of those who just want to sit, rest and meditate. They are not a large pressure group but they are worthy of consideration.
In conclusion I would like to commend the Minister for Tourism and Recreation for a job well done with a minimum of money and a maximum of effort. I trust that when the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) makes the next allocation of funds for this Ministry there will be a realisation that money spent on worthwhile projects will bring real value and benefit to real people. The people about whom I am concerned are not of the ‘ratbag’ fringe- that vocal group who seem to make their voices heard by government and thereby unfortunately obtain results for themselves. My concern is for the real Australiansthe majority of Australians- who could well be called the silent and unheard majority.
– May I say, first of all, that I agree with many of the comments made by the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin), particularly those in the earlier part of his speech about the use of State school facilities. I hope that what he has to say is listened to by the State authorities because some State education departments have been far too slow in opening up the use of school grounds.
The Department of Tourism and Recreation was established with the change of government in 1972. Previous governments over the years have been slow to recognise the importance of the tourist industry. I was one who welcomed the new Department. Towards the end of the office of the previous Liberal-Country Party administration there had been a greater acceptance of the importance of the industry. I held some hope- and still do- for what this new Department can achieve.
I want to compliment the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) in a couple of respects. First of all, he has practised FederalState co-operation. He has administered his Department in co-operation with the State Ministers. I believe that this has been to the advantage of the Federal Government and of all Australians. I want to congratulate him equally on his assistance in regard to the creation of many recreational facilities. Many years ago I was the Chairman of the Playground and Recreation Association of Queensland and I was well aware of the important job that that community effort did in providing supervised playgrounds in the closely settled inner suburbs and the new sprawling outer ones. The Minister has been interested. He has travelled to my State, inspected facilities and helped that Association in a very worth while fashion. I have heard some fulsome and pleasant reports of a new playground being opened in the electorate of Bowman only a few weeks ago. A new one will be opened in my electorate in about a month’s time. This is all very desirable and helpful.
I simply take this opportunity of saying to the Minister and to the Government that if they want to find an industry which reflects private enterprise they need go no further than the tourist industry. This industry has been created on the enterprise of individuals. It is made up of a number of small components. It has taken this Government a long time- the Minister I think probably accepts this but I am certain some of his colleagues still do not- to realise the significance and the importance of private enterprise within the Australian community. An estimated 10 per cent of the work force is involved in the provision of tourist and ancillary services. The industry reflects the state of the economy. As the economy is managed so the industry is successful or otherwise. The industry cannot be divorced from the state of the economy. Therefore when we have an economy in which there is substantial inflation, of which a large amount is caused by wage demands, the tourist industry, which is one of the most labour intensive of all industries- the Minister certainly recognises this- has felt very severely the effects of some of the industrial awards, including wage demands, and the effects of the inflationary spiral.
The industry faced with that problem and the problems of unemployment, lack of confidence and the creation of disincentive because of some taxation policy, has not progressed as we would all wish it to have done in the last few years. We have seen a growing problem arising from the gap between what is earned within Australia by the tourist industry and what is spent overseas. The further we have this inflationary problem the further we will have this gap. The latest figures I have show a gap of about $ 120m.
-It is nearly $ 1 70m.
– The Minister tells me that on the latest figures he has it is nearly $170m; that is the difference between what is generated within Australia and what we spend overseas. This is a regrettable figure and one that we should seek to bring into balance by the correct development of tourist policies. Like the rest of the community the tourist industry needs some incentive. I am surprised that this Government, which formed the Mathews Committee and received its report, failed to act upon it. If the Government really wants to help the tourist industry it will implement many of the suggestions and recommendations of that Committee, such as inflation accounting, stock valuations, investment allowances and indexation for depreciation purposes. These things will make an enormous difference to the success or failure of many sections of this industry. We have heard so often lately of the problems of small business. So many of those small businesses are involved in servicing tourists, and they are the ones that are suffering. Regrettably many of the small businesses are finding it difficult not just to make a profit but difficult to fund their business and to keep sufficient liquidity to stay alive.
The Minister, of course, will immediately think that I am suggesting that we should have some tax reductions. I am not suggesting that there should be an increased deficit or increased expenditure. I am simply saying that we should look at this matter, obtain funds by remedying some of the wastage that is occurring in a number of departments and use those funds to bring a greater degree of incentive back into the private sector of the Australian economy. The same problems arise in the manufacturing industry. If we create incentive and create a climate in which people will do well we will have a very real prosperity, and the tourist industry will be one of the earnest to reap benefit from this sort of approach.
Let me take this opportunity of asking the Minister whether he will use his good offices to talk to his colleague, the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones), about the Coolangatta airport. The airport is the gateway to Australia’s leading tourist resort. The facilities are so outdated as to make it quite uncomfortable for people arriving at this very significant tourist area. I have raised this matter continually in the last 3 years. The transport policies of this Government are making it almost impossible for the proper sort of facilities to be provided at airports. The policy of recovering its full costs is making it extremely difficult to provide the right sorts of facilities for the people who are moving around Australia.
I conclude by saying that we are not going to have a change of government over tourist policy. Tourism is a significant industry and we as members of Parliament ought to recognise the importance of it. It employs 10 per cent of the Australian work force and has a capacity to increase our overseas earnings. Each and every one of us should be trying to develop policies which will stimulate and activate the potential growth we all know it has. We all know capital investment is down and that the return upon investments is poor, but we are not going to develop the tourist industry unless we have good international class hotels and first class facilities. There ought to be a real degree of agreement between members of the Parliament as to how we stimulate this important industry. I hope in future that all members of Parliament will be more greatly aware of the significance and the importance of it.
-I address myself to the estimates for the Department of Environment. I do so to raise 2 matters. During the year the Department made available sums of money for 2 projects which are of particular importance to me. The sum of $ 1 ,000 was made available for an investigation into the environmental aspects of the establishment of a radiation laboratory at Yallambie in my electorate. That money enabled a group of citizens to get the necessary information and to put their case to the Public Works Committee of this Parliament. Also, during the year the Department of
Environment made $5,000, 1 think, available to the Town and Country Planning Association of Victoria to enable a project on waste disposal in Melbourne to be carried out and a report to be prepared. I think that both these matters are of importance.
I want particularly to address myself to the report which has been prepared for the Town and Country Planning Association. I stress at this stage it is a preliminary report. It has been prepared by Stevan Teodorovic and Associates Pty Ltd, consulting chartered engineers. Mr Teodorovic has spent a great deal of his own time and money not only in preparing this report but also in his interest in environmental matters generally and in disposal of waste in particular. I think both the Town and Country Planning Association and that firm should be congratulated on the work that they have done and are doing. The preamble to the Town and Country Planning Association’s policy of waste disposal states:
A further specific issue of concern is the planning of waste disposal as an integral part of urban planning. As a consequence the Association has prepared the report titled ‘Proposal for Disposal of Solid, Liquid, and Recyclable Wastes for the State of Victoria’.
I think every member of this Parliament is most concerned about pollution and what can happen if man does not control liquid and solid wastes. The World Health Organisation has warned us in these terms:
No environmental health problem has greater significance than the disposal of man’s liquid and solid wastes.
Winston Churchill was not unaware of the problem and issued the following warning:
In biological history, no organism has survived long if its environment became in some way unfit for it, but no organism before man has deliberately polluted its own environment.
The matter of disposal of wastes has been mainly a matter of disposing of them at the least possible cost. I will say something later on about the methods by which we dispose of wastes, but little or no thought has been given to the following: Have methods been in harmony with the environment? Is the waste a potential source of financial return through recycling? Is the waste a potential source of heat energy through incineration? Is the waste a potential source of recovery of resources through pyrolysis? Is the waste a potential source of recovery of resources through any other process? Can the constituents of waste be altered at the manufacturing and packaging source to reduce volume of waste needing disposal?
These are all important matters, and I think it is of some regret that governments of all sorts, but particularly State governments, who have the prime responsibility in this matter, have not done a great deal more. The policy of the Town and Country Planning Association on the question of a State authority for co-ordinating waste disposal states:
While the report stressed the necessity for planning and co-ordination more emphasis is required to show how this can be achieved. This also applies to statements made in the reports re conducting surveys of potential filling sites, analysis of garbage content, studies of overseas disposal systems, the establishment of car body and scrap metal recycling centres, etc. The seriousness of the waste disposal problem as highlighted by the report would have been given a more positive sense of direction if the recommendations and conclusions had included a statement along the lines that there is a need for a State authority in co-ordinating waste disposal . . . Other States have established such authorities, namely: City of Perth . . . New South Wales- Metropolitan Waste Disposal Authority Act No. 97 of New South Wales’.
In Victoria the problem is that the State Government has not really carried out the program which has been set before it. I think it is necessary that the people of Victoria and the State Government do something about it.
I now turn to the question of how we can treat various types of waste. First of all there is socalled sanitary landfill with pollution control, recycling and shredding. There is incineration, incineration with heat utilisation, pyrolysis, sanitary landfill, baling, composting, recycling and hydrosposal. There are also intermediate treatments such as shredding and transfer stations. I think it is a matter of note, Mr Chairman, that the Government over the last 2 budgets has provided funds for transfer stations, one of which affects both our electorates in the city of Heidelberg.
The thing that really concerns me about the present methods of disposal in Australia, and it is something I have only recently realised, is that so-called sanitary landfill disposal is in fact potentially very dangerous. One would imagine that if you put waste materials in a quarry hole and covered it with soil you would largely solve the problem. This is not the case. This is not the practice which is carried out in many countries in Europe. The real problem appears to lie in the fact that the wastes eventually settle down in the hole, the ravine or wherever they happen to be placed and you then get liquor leaching from the wastes, then being transmitted via porous rocks and aquifers into the water system. I have no doubt at all that this is one of the reasons why many of our streams and bays are very seriously polluted. I asked a question in the House this morning about cadmium pollution in Port Phillip Bay together with other pollution by heavy metals.
The report to which I referred before also points out that in many quarry holes where liquid waste is being placed there is considerable leaching. Some of these quarry holes are very near to the sea or very near to rivers and streams which carry such waste into the sea. In the long run what appears to be a very cheap system and a very satisfactory system of waste disposal is not at all satisfactory. In my own municipality of Diamond Valley a ravine is presently being filled. When I was a councillor of that municipality I helped make the decision to do that. Having learned what I have learned I regret it, and I think that one of the things that ought to be done in such a case is that any effluent coming from the disposal of wastes in this way should be treated as though it were effluent from a septic tank. I believe that the Department of Environment, in enabling reports like this to be prepared and in assisting residents of areas to get information that they can put before government departments, is doing a great service. For this and for the other reasons for which the estimates are to be applied in this year I commend to the Committee the passing of these estimates.
– I am going to speak about conservation. I think I have got to the stage of life where I can give the Minister for Environment (Mr Berinson) some kind of fatherly advice. The thing I want to concentrate on is the need for keeping his feet on the ground. I speak with real sincerity when I say I was a member of the South Australian State Soil Conservation Service for 17 years and I do know that there is a job of overwhelming importance to be done, but I know also that you do not do it by going around making speeches. It is grass-roots wisdom, grass-roots understanding, that is required to make conservation work. If only these problems could be cured by eloquence they would not be nearly as insidious or as difficult as they are.
The examples I am going to give are examples of the way we tend to treat conservation as a subject for vote catching, something to make stirring speeches about instead of doing something about it. The first example I give I have written about in another place. One of the items of expenditure which the previous Minister, I presume, recommended and which was agreed to referred to John Paterson Urban Systems Pty Ltd, who were asked to study this question- ‘Time as a social indicator-study of time allocation and preference as an indicator of social welfare.’ I shall repeat that. I do not know whether anybody knows what it means. The Minister may know. I repeat: ‘Time as a social indicator-study of time allocation and preference as an indicator of social welfare’. If the Minister is going to do anything about conservation I trust that he does not do it by going around talking that kind of nonsense. If there is a task to be done, the proper thing is to spell it out so that members of Parliament know what the job is and so the people who are asked to do the task know what it is, but to trot out this type of verbiage is nonsense. I repeat it yet again so the Minister can realise the utter awfulness of the mess he has to clean up in his own Department. John Paterson Urban Systems Pty Ltd was asked to study: ‘Time as a social indicator-study of time allocation and preference as an indicator of social welfare’.
-What does that mean?
– No-one knows. I guess the Minister will find out what that means from his Department but it is a good idea to spell things out so that ordinary people can understand.
I turn to another example of the kind of sloppy thinking with which conservation is cursed. The previous Minister for Conservation had trouble in talking sense about kangaroos. I think he did the best he could with the previous Minister for Customs and Excise, Senator Murphy. It has been a silly kind of business. Kangaroos have risen to plague proportions and now the Department is allowing them to be killed under carefully controlled and wise conservation conditions. I approve of that. You are now allowed to shoot kangaroos- it must be- but one thing you must not do is export them. I do not know whether kangaroos can talk but if you asked a kangaroo whether he would rather be exported and kept under carefully controlled conditions and live in a zoo and be looked after, or be shot, I think I know what would be his answer. I think it is a pity kangaroos cannot talk, but galahs can talk. Some galahs talk quite well. You are allowed to shoot galahs if they are a problem. You can shoot them in thousands. But you are not allowed to export them. If you asked a galah who could talk whether he would prefer to be shot by Fred the farmer or to be exported on a padded perch in a gilded cage so that he could go overseas and propagate his kind in luxury, his answer would be short and eloquent. It would not be like this mumbo jumbo that we are fed with about preference as an indicator in a study of social welfare. What is wrong with a Department of Environment that cannot grasp a nettle such as this? We all know that kangaroos have to be harvested. They have to be shot or controlled somehow. Why not let the poor beggars go overseas in comfort? Why not let the galahs go overseas in comfort? They do not have to be jammed in suitcases as the present laws are causing them to be. They could be exported in the greatest comfort. Yet the Department will not bite on that bullet. The Minister must see that it is nonsense to treat in this way a subject as serious as this.
The other point I want to make is serious to me. The Minister knows the matter to which I refer. The Minister has done what he could to cure a position that arose. I shall spell it out to honourable members briefly. An agreement was made by the previous Minister to purchase some land from a group of people in my area and other areas in South Australia. Then because of financial stringency or some other reason the Department was ‘forced’, it said, to go back on its word. I have taken this matter up with the Minister. He agreed that it is the kind of thing that should not occur. He has done his best to undo the damage done. The important thing is that when people act like this they besmirch the fair name of conservation. I ask the Minister to do what he can to see that it never happens again. I know that if any of the farmers I know in private enterprise had behaved like that the finger of scorn would have been pointed at them as people who broke their word. The Minister did what he could as quickly as the Government machine, poor old bureaucratic stiff-jointed thing that it is, could act to set things right. But it is bad to see conservation besmirched in the way that it has been.
I am not being critical of the Minister. He was lumbered with decisions made before he assumed his portfolio. We want conservation to be a real fact of life and not just something to talk about. We do not want it as a banner to talk under but as something to do something about. We should get down to the fundamental facts of life instead of bleating away about our heritage in the way that these eloquent beggars talk. Why not tackle the problems at the grass roots and not go round forbidding the export of galahs or kangaroos which are allowed to be shot in thousands- under properly controlled conditions, I know? Why not let the poor beggars go overseas in comfort instead of shooting them, for good reasons, here? I will be glad to hear the Minister’s reply to that. I hope that he has the common sense, as well as the wisdom and the courage, to tackle the task. It is a task far bigger and harder than most people think. It needs a real down to earth approach which I hope the Minister will have.
– Estimates debates are too fragmented for use as a platform for any real discussion of our attitude as a nation to environmental and conservation matters. One of my hopes is that we will be able to make opportunities for a more general discussion. I believe it is too simple to accept the impression that concern for the environment now is so widespread that the battle, at least in principle, has been won; that it is just a matter of sorting out the details; that we are not in fact in an area of political dispute, as the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) put it to us earlier. I respect the views of the honourable member for Gwydir but I have to disagree with him at least gently. As Minister for Environment, as one of what he called the colourful figures passing him by, I think I can say with confidence, and in the hope that I have not yet passed him by, that environment is one of our most highly contentious areas and as a result one of our most political areas. That arises simply from the fact that environmental questions come up so often on the basis of competing interests. There are the competing interests between the community as a whole and commerce taken narrowly. One can hardly deny that there are also competing interests even between governments and within governments. That is the sort of field in which anyone with the responsibility for environment finds himself. Frankly, I can conceive of very few areas which are more political.
– The people concerned do not always follow party political lines, though.
– They do not always follow party political lines but I think they follow them often enough as well. I have already said that this is not a suitable opportunity for broad or philospohical approaches to this question. I want simply to take the opportunity to take up a couple of points that have been advanced. It was inevitable that the States Grants (Nature Conservation) Act should be mentioned. It was raised both by the honourable member for Gwydir and the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly). I think I should respond to their comments. The background of the allocation in this Act is well known. An amount of $9m was offered to the States last year for acquisition of lands by them for nature conservation purposes. The sum of $9m was appropriated to meet that offer. But none of the funds available was taken up by 30 June, after which time the appropriations lapsed. As I have had occasion to point out previously in this chamber, they lapsed in the ordinary course of budgetary and economic management.
The current Budget provides only $1.8m under this Act. That figure was estimated on the basis that, in the current budgetary conditions, we should restrict ourselves to completion of acquisitions where commitments which were legally binding or close to the point of being legally binding had been reached by the end of the last financial year. I stress again that the amount allocated was sufficient for those puposes. Nonetheless I am pleased to be able to advise the Committee that since the Budget allocation I have obtained authority to enter into forward commitments for the acquisition of land by the States on the basis that funds will become available in the 1976-77 financial year. Any interim funding necessary will be met by the States on the guarantee of reimbursement, and this procedure will ensure that all significant commitments by the States over the past 12 months, whether legally binding or not, will be honoured. This will now allow for the acquisition of land to the value of $6m.
I want to add 2 points to that. Firstly, I take the opportunity to express my appreciation to the States for their co-operation in arriving at what I believe is a good solution, and certainly a fair solution, for people who whether or not they had accumulated legal rights would have been seriously disadvantaged if an arrangement of this sort had not been possible. If I may say so, given the sort of cut-back, it was an area in which a great deal of criticism could have been expected from the States and the relevant State Ministers. I think it is a good sign of the acceptance of a common interest in this program that that sort of attack merely for the sake of making State versus Commonwealth points was not adopted by the States. On the contrary, there has been a very high degree of co-operation along the lines I have suggested. I welcome that, I appreciate it and I am hopeful that it will set the pattern for our future work in this area.
I should add for the information of honourable members that it is a matter of particular appreciation from my own point of view and an expression of the seriousness with which the States themselves view this program of land acquisition for nature conservation purposes that three of the States are contributing towards this expanded program out of their own funds. Those States are South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. In the case of South Australia and New South Wales we have an agreement- subject to confirmation, admittedly- that the States will make contributions for the acquisition of land for which the Commonwealth originally undertook to find all the funds. I conclude my comments on the question of the nature conservation grants by saying that I believe that we will get this program onto a proper footing again only when we are able to revert to a triennial basis of funding, which was the original basis for this program. I hope that with the progress we have made in sorting out the immediate problem the State and Australian governments can combine on forward planning even in this year in expectation of an easier budget position next year allowing long term planning and acquisitions to proceed.
I restrict myself to only 2 other comments, one in response to the honourable member for Wakefield who was kind enough to speak to me in a fatherly fashion about the undesirability of studies of time as a social indicator. The only thing I want to ask the honourable member for Wakefield is whether he has yet applied himself to considering the report that was produced on the basis of that grant. It is a quite comprehensive report. It came across my desk only yesterday and I have not had time to read it, which may be an indicator of some social significance. The point I really want to put to him is that it might be unfair in advance of his knowing- as I suspect that he does not know- the contents of that study, to make a judgment simply on the terminology of its title. In any event I invite him to reconsider his position after he has read the report, which I shall be happy to make available to him at any time he requests it. I say that, Dad, in a spirit of great family co-operation.
Finally let me say this to honourable members as I believe it will be of interest to them: A great deal of the work of the Department of Environment is a bit like the iceberg with only a small amount of it appearing above the surface. It is in the interests of the Parliament for honourable members to be aware in rather greater detail of the sort of work that is being done in the Department, much of that work having a close association with the interests of the individual electorates which honourable members represent. Accordingly I have arranged that my Department will prepare a quarterly statement of activities on a State rather than an electorate basis. The first such report is almost completed and covers the period to the end of June. Subsequent reports will be available closer to the end of the quarter on which they report. I shall arrange for an appropriate distribution of this material to honourable members. I am sure that they will find it of wide interest.
– It is noted that the estimates for the Department of tourism and Recreation provide for a proposed expenditure of $15,040,000 as compared with $11,043,316 for 1974-75. Tourism is an important export earner for Australia, and it is in Australia’s interests to make every effort to increase the number of overseas visitors coming here. I am indebted to the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Eric Robinson) who took part in this debate a short time ago for advising that 10 per cent of the work force is employed in this industry. They are employed in the fields of hotels, motels, tourist coaches, tourist travel companies, car rentals and many others. Tourism is of great importance to this country. I trust that the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) will be able to secure more funds to give impetus to this most important industry. It is also in our interests to see that recreational faculties are improved in order to benefit the health of the nation. I congratulate the Minister, who has a very distinguished record as a sportsman, on his efforts in this field.
Last year Australia received 532 683 visitors from overseas. Foreign exchange earnings from tourism amounted to $184m. This was a rise of 27 per cent over the previous year, but when inflation is taken into consideration it comes down to about 7 per cent. Australian travellers overseas spent $357m, and our deficit on travel account was $173m. This is a serious situation. We must make every effort through the Australian Trade Commissioner Service and the State tourist bureaus to attract more visitors from overseas and to arrest this situation. A substantial and continuing decline has occurred in respect of the United States of America market. A drop has taken place also in the number of visitors to Australia from the United Kingdom and other European countries.
As a visitor to the United States some months ago, it was evident to me that most people contacted in that country were very interested indeed in visiting Australia. The downturn in the number of United States tourists is most serious for the industry in Australia. We should be making every effort to secure more visitors from the United States. Many tourists companies rely on big turnover from tourists from the United States. A falling off in those tourist numbers is of great concern to the industry. It is reliably stated that American visitors spend at the rate of $353 a person. In those circumstances, it has been pleasing to learn that a mission of 40 representatives of organisations in the Australian tourist industry are visiting the United States to make the biggest drive to attract overseas tourists to Australia. I have no doubt that the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, who is at the table, will be able to tell the Committee whether that delegation is in the United States at present and of any success that it is achieving.
New Zealand also provides a big tourist traffic to Australia. In 1974 a total of 164 900 New Zealand tourists arrived in Australia. However, a big decline has taken place in New Zealand tourist numbers and the devaluation of the New Zealand dollar will probably inhibit further growth of this important tourist market. As one who has visited many overseas countries, my feeling is that more use could be made of our various established officers including our ambassadors, our consuls, our trade commissioners and the various State Agents-General. Perhaps the Minister and the Australian Tourist Commission are satisfied with the assistance already being given in this field. Nevertheless, from my own observations, my feeling is that more could be done through these avenues. I suggest that the Minister should check up on this aspect of tourist activities to see whether an improvement can be achieved.
Australia has much to offer tourists. We have a magnificent coastline, glorious beaches and scenery unsurpassed. We have, for instance, the magnificent strip of northern country on our eastern seaboard, including the Gold Coast and the Great Barrier Reef. In our inland areas we have much to show tourists including our rural industries and our mining ventures. Various State governments have set up regional tourist associations. These are making a splendid contribution to the industry. However, with increasing costs, these associations are finding it extremely difficult to carry on their important activities. Financed by the various State governments, with funds from local government and with assistance from business people, these regional councils are finding it extremely difficult to meet their normal commitments such as the provision of tourism officers, tourist brochures, keeping open regional offices for the dissemination of tourist information, arranging coach tours and performing general tourism work. I commend these bodies to the attention of the Minister. If these State organisations should fail as the result of lack of financial assistance, this would be a blow to the industry. Massive funds are not required but sufficient funds are necessary to keep the system going.
I know that as late as February 1974 the Minister for Tourism and Recreation indicated that legislation to control travel agents would be put before this Parliament. In a Press release, in February 1974, this intention was referred to. It stated:
The Minister for Tourism and Recreation, Mr Frank Stewart, said today that since the recent collapse of Centralian Tours there had been speculation in the Press about the provision and timing of the proposed Travel Agents Bill.
That legislation has been on the notice paper for some considerable time in this Parliament. Indeed, a few months ago, the stage was reached when the 2 relevant Bills were first and second on the daily program of business. Since that time the legislation has been relegated and, looking at our current program, I find that the 2 Bills are Nos 2 1 and 22 in the list of business.
Many people travelling overseas have had great problems when travel agents and tourist companies have become insolvent. Great financial problems have been created for those people. It is most important that the travel agents legislation should be passed by this chamber. I ask the Minister to make every effort to impress upon his Cabinet colleagues and those responsible for the program of legislation before the Parliament the need for that legislation to be brought forward. I support the estimates for the Minister’s Department. I know that he must have a most difficult task in obtaining allocations for tourism and recreational facilities. We on this side of the Committee will support the estimates because we know that these are of great importance to our nation.
-In rising to speak on the appropriations for the Department of Environment, I wish to direct my remarks to the sum of $315,000 set aside for the costs associated with public hearings held as part of the preparation of environmental impact statements. This amount of money is ten times that set aside last year when $31,762 was expended for this purpose. The expenditure is quite necessary if the full intentions of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act are to be achieved. It is essential that the public be involved if forward planning and successful protection of the environment are to be achieved. The environmental impact statement approach goes a long way towards achieving this end.
In any community plan, there will be a conflict of interest, each party or person hoping to benefit most out of decisions that will be made. Or to put it another way, each party or person hopes to lose little or nothing from compromise proposals that eventuate. Without consultation and participation, each self-interested party will treat the decisions and plans with suspicion. The plans, however reasonable, will have little likelihood of lasting or working. The plans are likely to be more relevant if all people are involved and, therefore, likely to be more cost effective. Public discussion helps to overcome the apathy and the ‘we’ and ‘they’ cynicism which can prejudice the attitudes of people to government and to their role in planning. If government is willing to listen to the voice of the people, the more support it is likely to gain, if at some future time there are serious confrontations on controversial issues.
Let me give some examples of conflict and of plans likely to fail in Victoria because people have not been given a continuous opportunity to participate in the planning process. Lack of consultation has led to the situation where it appears that unreasonable extremist conservationists are pitted against unreasonable extremist profitoriented landholders. Lack of consultation has meant that a backlash has developed over State Government planning in Victoria to protect and to preserve Melbourne’s playground areas. Most of that backlash has come from within the Liberal Party, from people whom one would normally expect to support a Liberal Government’s policies.
In an article in the Melbourne Herald yesterday, Bruce Baskett said:
The kick that has been felt by the State Government is anti-planning, anti-government interference and in favour of letting people do what they want with their own lives, house and land.
The planning and environment Ministers in the Hamer Government, Mr Hunt and Mr Borthwick, have come under partly unjustified attack to the point where Mr Hunt was forced in exasperation to say:
It would in many ways be simpler for a government to make no policy announcements on planning matters and to allow events simply to take their course.
That would be an abandonment of the Government’s responsibility and an abandonment of planning.
Planning is essential to safeguard the future and to enable scarce resources to be used to the best advantage of the community at large.
I fully concur with Mr Hunt’s comments. Because platforms and policies of the major parties are often, in places, written in generalities, they are fairly similar. For example, in similar terms to the platform of the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party’s own platform provides for ‘recognition that effective and sensible land use planning is essential to provide for orderly development, preserve the environment, and maintain and enhance the quality of life ‘. But the difference in the implementation of these policies is important.
The Labor Government requires the consideration of environmental factors and public opinion through the use of environmental impact study techniques and later public inquiries before its decisions are made and implemented. The public is to be involved before final decisions are made- not after a Cabinet decision has been made as occurs in Victoria. If the Liberal State Government did follow the Australian Government’s technique, perhaps the clash with Liberal voting land holders could have been avoided. For example, the protest against the conservation plan for the Mornington Peninsula was led by the Peninsula Rural Landholders Association whose Chairman is Mr Doug Jennings. Mr Jennings is Chairman of the Flinders electorate committee of the Liberal Party and won preselection for the Westernport seat in the Assembly. He is a member of the Jennings building and land development family. It is true that the Mornington conservation plan is on exhibition for public comment, but obviously participation is restricted to making objections. That sort of participation which is restricted to making objections to a plan is insufficient and too limited to bring about cooperation between the parties involved .
What is required is that the public participate fully at all stages of the planning process. If objections to a scheme are relied upon and if experience elsewhere is a guide, our planners will be subject to even greater pressure than previously from the what-is-in-it-for-me syndrome on the part of the more articulate. Majority and minority interests do not necessarily correspond with the loudest and the weakest voices. Further, it seems that people organise more easily into pressure groups for the opposition of specific proposals than they do into general interest groups able to give a considered opinion of a plan in general. Participation through planning and the provision of environmental impact studies would encourage positive attitudes rather than negative attitudes.
To give another example, it is believed that big land holders have put pressure on local Liberal members of Parliament successfully to have the proposal to establish a Geelong Regional Planning Authority axed. The State Government says that it will not go ahead with the authority legislation until Federal Government finance is guaranteed, and none was provided in this year’s Federal Budget. But the Australian Government would be unwise to provide the $20m until the authority is set up. Such an authority could ensure that the public was fully consulted, that the rights of the community and of individuals were upheld, and that land values were regulated so that some individuals did not gain unearned windfalls from taxpayers’ money.
Of course, the Australian Government would require an environmental impact statement on programs which involve expenditure of Australian Government money- that is, where the money is identifiable as being Australian Government funds. Construction projects could include such items as regional growth centres, redevelopment schemes and land purchased by the States for national parks and reserves. An environmental impact study would need to take into account many factors, including the impact of the proposal on the physical environment, the flora and fauna, and man made materials. It would need to take into account also the social environment such as health, employment, safety, the community, recreation and privacy. If the publication of such an environmental impact statement resulted in public comments which questioned whether the proposal had been considered adequately, then the Minister could call for a public inquiry to follow, although I suspect, and it is expected, that only a small proportion of such statements would result in public inquiries.
The Australian Government is anxious that people be encouraged to participate fully in decisions which affect their environment. Accordingly, finance is being provided to environment centres and conservation organisations to enable them to co-ordinate the activities of community groups. The Government is also assisting with technical expertise, public education programs and legal aid through the Australian Legal Aid Office. Public discussion of local proposals slows down the planning process. There is no doubt about that. But the time taken is well spent if it helps to build up residents’ confidence in thenarea and in governments’ intentions for its future.
I mentioned in another debate that the Australian Government had given $5,000 to $6,000 in legal aid to a woman in Ferntree Gully to argue in the Supreme Court of Victoria against the extension of a licence for the quarry in the area to operate. Local government had cooperated with the State Government to bring about the re-organisation of the quarry operations in the Dandenongs also to minimise the impact on the environment. Both parties thought that their plan was the best one to minimise the impact on the environment. Some councillors discussed that grant by the Australian Legal Aid Office and argued that the Australian Government had gone beyond its sphere of concern. But, as it turns out, the Australian Government had no opinion on the matter; that was irrelevant. The Government did feel that it had an obligation to provide assistance so that this woman had equal access to the law as did the company equipped with its own lawyers and finance. The matter in question, whether the quarry was operating without a licence, was to be determined by the Supreme Court of Victoria. In no way could it be said that the Australian Government interfered. It is extremely important that that sort of assistance be given by the Australian Government and that environmental impact studies and public inquiries be carried out if all people in the community are to have their rights observed and the community rights observed.
– I welcome this opportunity to speak on the estimates for the Department of Environment, particularly because yesterday the Australian Advisory Committee on the Environment published a report dealing with coastal land. I have been personally concerned for some time with that matter as it affects the metropolitan coastline of Perth, particularly that part which falls within my electorate of Stirling, parts of the coastline further south, and an area at Swanbourne which is presently owned and occupied by the Commonwealth and used by the Army. The report of that Committee is, I believe, of great significance because it focuses attention, not for the first time but quite significantly, on the need for a national coastal protection policy. One of the firm recommendations of the Committee is that the Australian Government should institute in close co-operation with the States a national coastal protection policy. I support such a national policy wholeheartedly, not only because of my own experience but also because of the importance of protection of the whole of the Australian coastline.
There is quite a controversy in Western Australia at the present time over a proposal by certain local authorities to put a highway through the Army land at Swanbourne. That might sound innocent in itself; it might also appear to be a matter of necessity if one considers the buildup in the volume of traffic which is occurring all the time. But the significance of it is that the proposed highway is to be constructed through coastal sand dune country and, in particular, through the Army land which is unique because of the fragility of the coastal sand dunes in that area and also because it is one of the last natural areas of sand dune country in metropolitan Perth. The remainder of the coastal land has been built upon for residential and commercial purposes. This area of the Swanbourne Army land represents the last significant part of the near metropolitan area of Perth where the sand dune country is in its natural state. I noted particularly what the Committee said in chapter 4 paragraph 4.56 of its report in which it pointed out the necessity for ecological buffer zones between different areas of land use; for example- it is rather interesting and significant that the Committee cited this example- for protection of sand dune systems.
I think it is more than a coincidence that one of the members of the Advisory Committee which published this report is Professor G. Seddon of Melbourne University. Professor Seddon made a particular study of the sand dunes of Western Australia. He wrote a magnificent book called A Sense of Place in which he describes the fragile nature of the sand dunes and points up the necessity to preserve them. He also stated how they can be so easily damaged if proper environmental control is not exercised, particularly by putting roads through this kind of country. The Army land at Swanbourne can and does at present represent a significant ecological buffer zone such as the Advisory Committee recommends ought to be provided. I was interested to hear the Minister speak earlier about the competing interests that inevitably arise in considering environmental matters. You do have these competing interests between those who wish to drive a road through the Army land at Swanbourne and those who wish to preserve the area for what it is, with its unique characteristics. I am one of those who unhesitatingly say that I am opposed to putting a highway through this area, a highway which, as is known to the people of Perth, is intended to be a link with what is called the west-coast highway. It can be only a 4-lane or 6-lane highway- not just a small insignificant link road, but one of major importance in the regional traffic routing in Perth.
I was pleased also when in answer to a letter of mine recently the Minister made it quite clear that the results of a study at present being undertaken at a cost of $150,000, funded by the Department of Transport, will not be binding on the Australian Government. The results may form the basis of an environmental impact study if the proposal for a highway is to be taken further. I think it is of the utmost importance that the Australian Government does not regard the results of the present study as being binding upon it. For my part I am not satisfied that the study will produce a proper judgment with respect to the competing interests that are involved. One might say in less personal terms that those competing interests are between the motor car and the sand dunes. It is so very easy to say we need a road, to look at a nice open space on a map and say: ‘We can put this road through from point A to point B In an engineering sense that is perfectly true, but I believe quite firmly and with some feeling of passion that in a situation of this kind we must go far beyond mere engineering considerations. Because the Commonwealth both owns and occupies this land it has a very special responsibility. It has a responsibility to ensure that the environment is protected, to make its own assessment and judgment on whether or not this area of land, unique as it is within metropolitan Perth, should be preserved as it is. I must pay tribute to the Army for the way in which it has not sought over the years to intrude into this area except so far as has been absolutely necessary for defence purposes.
I am not only opposed to what is suggested in regard to a west-coast highway link through the Swanbourne Army land but I am also concerned as the member for the seat of Stirling because what is done with the Swanbourne Army land will directly affect the regional road systems north of it and particularly the road systems within my own electorate. Fortunately some of the best surfing beaches in Western Australiacertainly in metropolitan Perth- are within my electorate. Places like Scarborough and Trigg have great surfing beaches for both body and board surfing. They are also great swimming beaches. At the present time there is immediately adjacent to the ocean a road which carries a tremendous amount of traffic- traffic which is ever increasing. I must say for my own local authority, the city of Stirling, that it is concerned that the volume of traffic should not increase. It is also concerned that this road should not become a major highway. Therefore, both from a personal and a political interest, I think it is of great national importance that this report of the Advisory Committee on the Environment has been brought down, advocating as it does a national coastal protection policy. Such a policy, as the Committee points out, need not be and it is not intended that it would be in derogation of States’ rights. It is something that can be assisted by the Commonwealth both in regard to funding and information and advice in co-operation with the States, many of which, as the Committee points out, have already embarked upon their own State policies of coastal protection. In some States this is supported by legislation and in others it is supported by town planning procedures.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Martin)-
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Once more I follow the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) in an estimates debate. Once more I must praise him, and particularly so today for bringing to the attention of this chamber the report of the Australian Advisory Committee on the Environment in respect of coastal land. I too have a coastal electorate. I suppose in one way we could say that Australians are a coastal people. The pressure on our coasts, particularly near the major cities, is quite intense and it has reached the stage where I think we are quite lucky to have left any coast in any sort of natural form. The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation has recently concluded a reference in respect of future land use in the Jervis Bay area. During the hearings of that Committee the Department of Environment brought forward a submission relating specifically to coastal lands. The Advisory Committee has now made its recommendations. I certainly trust that the Minister for Environment (Mr Berinson) and his Department will take the recommendations of this Committee into account. In the recommendations there is mention of finance.
This afternoon many conservationists, and I am sure all honourable members, were delighted to hear the Minister say that he can go beyond the $1.8m allocation under the terms of the States Grants (Nature Conservation) Act to guarantee ahead purchases by the States of certain lands that were not only legally binding but in train to some degree. As honourable members will recall, when the previous Minister made his statements it was then hoped that there would be some triennial funding. I think he suggested a figure of possibly $20m. I do not know what the Department is going to come up with in respect of a national coastal policy, whether there will be a need for a separate Act, but as the report pointed out, the States do have a lot of powers in this field. However, often when they have tried to act they have found it difficult because of a lack of finance.
The Minister this afternoon also pointed out the limits of his powers, the number of Acts he has, and emphasised the large amount of work going on within his Department. He also said that he will be advising us of some of this work in a different way. The Department was restructured a little some 4 months ago. I think it is very important that a department working in an area such as environment should constantly adjust and not become too rigid because we are dealing very much with an area concerned with value judgments. I think that one of the most important pieces of legislation introduced into the House in the current Parliament was that relating to environmental impact statements. Many environmental impact statements are now under way and I foresee that in the future there may be some need to look at the way that these measures have worked out in practice. The House of Representatives Standing Committee has enabled the members of it in particular to assess the way that people involved in the conservation movement, from the Department down to individuals, are thinking and developing their thoughts on all matters concerned with the environment and the way that the Government can involve itself at all levels in the problem. We have been particularly pleased to note the quality of some of the statements coming forward from quite minor groups. We have been pleased to note the impact that the quite minor grants being made by the Minister have had on some groups in some areas. Some conservation groups in my own electorate and in the electorate of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) have been particularly valuable.
As the Minister for Environment said, the States are co-operating with respect to national parks. I would like to devote most of my attention this afternoon to the national parks aspect of the Minister’s portfolio. Certain legislation was introduced in December last year and the Minister explained earlier this session, in answer to a question asked by the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), why only $1.8m was allocated at that time. The States have been attempting to combine their legislation and, with the permission of the honourable member for Gwydir, who is sitting opposite, I would like to incorporate in Hansard a table prepared by the Parliamentary Library relating to various pieces of legislation in the States. The table shows that the States are trying to incorporate their legislation into one Act that will cover all aspects of the environment.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Martin)-Is leave granted?
-Yes. (The document read as follows)-
Australian Capital Territory
Public Parks Ordinance 1 928- 1 942.
Animals and Birds Protection Ordinance 1 9 1 8- 1 928.
Wildflowers and Native Plants Protection Ordinance
Crown Lands Ordinance 1931-1973.
National Parks and Gardens Ordinance 1 959- 1 968.
Wildlife Conservation and Control Ordinance 1 962- 1 974.
Social Welfare Ordinance 1964-1974.
Native and Historical Objects and Areas Preservation Ordinance 1955-1960.
New South Wales
National Parks and Wildlife Bill 1974.
The object of this bill is to consolidate and amend the provisions of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1967, the Fauna Protection Act, 1948 and the Wild Flowers and Native Plants Protection Act, 1 927 ‘.
National Parks and Wildlife Act 1967 as amended to date.
Fauna Protection Act 1948 as amended to date.
Wild Flowers and Native Plants Protection Act 1927 as amended to date.
Crown Lands Consolidation Act 1913 as amended to date.
Forestry Act 1 9 1 6 as amended to date.
Mining Act 1906 as amended to date.
Public Parks Act 1 9 1 2 as amended to date.
Public Trusts Act 1 897 as amended to date.
Fisheries and Oyster Farm Act 1 935 as amended to date.
National Parks Act 1 970 as amended to date.
Mines Act 1958 as amended to date.
Petroleum Act 1 958 as amended to date.
Forests Act 1958 as amended to date.
Game Act 1 958 as amended to date.
Land Act 1958 as amended to date.
Wild Flowers and Native Plants Protection Act 1958 as amended to date.
National Parks and Wildlife Act 1 972.
National Parks and Wildlife Act 1970 as amended to date.
Land Act 1933-1972.
Fauna Conservation Act 1950-1970.
Native Flora Protection Act 1 935- 1 938.
Parks and Reserves Act 1895-1972.
Forestry Act 1959-1974.
Fauna Conservation Act 1974.
Native Plants Protection Act 1 930.
Fisheries Act 1957-1962.
Lands Act 1962-1974.
Aboriginal Relics Preservation Act 1967.
Rural Fires Act 1946-64.
– At the time that the States Grants (Nature Conservation) Act was introduced into the Parliament I had quite a bit of information prepared but unfortunately did not get a chance to speak in that debate. Again I would like to incorporate something. It is a table from the House of Representatives Standing Committee that dealt with wildlife. It shows the area of Australia set aside for national parks and reserves.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Is leave granted?
-Yes. (The document read as follows)-
– I want to deal with the situation relating to the amount of money that the States can allocate at present for the acquisition of national parks. New South Wales now has something over 4 million acres in national parks or reserves in one form or another. According to the most recent report it has been able to add an extra 250 000 hectares. Some of that land was acquired. The New South Wales Government allocated in 1972-73 about $2.02m for further acquisitions. That was an increase of about 15 per cent on the previous year’s allocation but it was more than offset by salary and wage increases. But even that small amount was by far the most that any State at that stage had been able to allocate towards the purchase of more national parks. For example, in Victoria where, according to the latest figures I have available, there are some 507 000 acres taken up by 24 national parks, the total income from all sources was only about $582,000. The grants made by the Government amounted only to $1 15,000 and it was quite obvious that there would be only a small amount over to be spent on any acquisition.
The same sort of situation prevails in the other States. Queensland, for example, spent $6 10,000 under the only Acts I have been able to see that are associated with national parks acquisition and this by way of a grant from Treasury. If one again compares the amount spent on wages and maintenance it also is very evident that only a very small amount could be spent by that State in acquiring national parks. The amount of the appropriation in Tasmania was only $590,000. According to the figures I looked at in the various reports of the Government departments in that State it would appear that only something like $8,000 was available for acquisition of parks in that State in the year ended 1973. Western Australia faces the same sort of problem. That State tries to finance its national park services but the latest figures I could find in the Library, those for 1973, revealed that it was dependent on a grant of some $400,000. The only details of an acquisition that I could find amounted to the expenditure of some $4,910 for, I think, the Walgunga National Park.
I am trying to stress the fact that even $1.8m will be of inestimable value to the States for the acquisition of additional national parks. That is why the announcement of the Minister this afternoon was so welcome. If we can commit ourselves ahead on the terms he indicated to the House and if the States continue the co-operation they have expressed so willingly so far I think we can all look forward in future years to a further increased allocation and get back to the concept of triennial funding with respect to some further grants to the States.
-In rising to speak to the estimates for the Department of Environment and the Department of Tourism and Recreation I would firstly like to refer to a point made by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb). He commented on the Australian Government’s call for impact statements and subsequent inquiries being necessary prior to any projects being commenced. I give the Government an assurance that when there is a change of government the present Opposition certainly will carry out the same policy in regard to environmental impact statements. That has been clearly stated by the shadow minister on this side of the chamber. I think that point should be made clear in the Hansard record.
I noted with interest one particular item when looking at the proposed expenditure for the Department of Environment in the Appropriation Bill. I know the item is not a big one but it is interesting to note. In preparing its estimates the Department has cut its allocation for postage and telephones, etc, from $71,000 to $51,000. That seems to me to be rather amazing. We found immediately prior to the Budget being announced that telephone costs increased and postage was to go up by about 80 per cent. I would have imagined that instead of the allocation for this item being reduced from $71,000 to $51,000 it would more likely be increased to about $140,000. 1 wonder whether this is indicative that all costs are being worked out in such a haphazard manner. That would not be at all surprising.
One of the areas under the control of the Department of Environment is that relating to impact statements on the acquisition or use of land. At present in the area of my electorate near Gisborne in Victoria, the Mount Macedon area, people who quite recently purchased blocks of land in the area have found to their utter dismay, having spent many thousands of dollars, that under an ordinance of the local council, which itself has acted quite correctly under instructions from the State Government and the Town Planning Authority, they are not allowed to build a house on this land. An environmental impact statement issued on the land in that area has shown that it is environmentally not practicable or desirable that homes should be built in these areas. I do not argue with this. I believe that it is proper for such organisations or authorities to make these decisions. But what I am concerned about it this: Who is to compensate the people concerned? What action can the people who own these blocks of land take to be compensated? These blocks are owned in many instances by people who wanted to move 30 or 40 miles away from the metropolitan area to get away from the smog of the city and enjoy nice clear country air. Members of this Parliament should be hoping that many more people will follow their example and move out of the cities. But these people who have spent most or all of their life savings to buy a block of land have now found that that land is to be taken away from them with the awful possibility that they will have absolutely no refund or will in no way be compensated.
In drawing this matter to the attention of the Minister I recognise that he is not directly responsible. But I think that as Minister for Environment he has an indirect responsibility. His Department, the Australian Government and the State Government are rightly concerned to preserve the ecology but I believe that we must consider compensating the people who suffer as a consequence. It is all very well to say that we are going to preserve a particular piece of land, that we are going to stop people from building on a particular piece of land. But what happens to the people who own the land? Who is going to compensate them? I seriously ask the Minister to look at this matter. The Minister in conjunction with his Cabinet colleagues and the appropriate Ministers in the States could have a very serious look at ways and means of providing funds to compensate these people, either by a cash compensation or by the provision of an alternative block of land.
The State Governments have not got the money to provide compensation of this type. After all, they are allocated a certain amount of money and they must budget accordingly. The Australian Government is the source of income. The Australian Government is the power that provides money under section 96 for all types of things, particularly matters that concern the States and which the States believe should be carried out. I suggest that this is an area that needs urgent attention. I would like the Minister for Environment, who is at the table, to take note of this matter because these people are in need of assistance. I am not saying that the Australian Government or the Australian Labor Party is responsible for the situation; I think this is something about which we should all be very seriously concerned. I am sure that the Minister and the Government agree that the last thing anybody wants to do is to hurt the people who have gone to the trouble of buying these blocks of land.
I turn to the estimates for the Department of Tourism and Recreation. I would like to mention 2 things that strike me as being remarkable in regard to these estimates. I happened by chance to find in my files a copy of the platform, constitution and rules of the Australian Labor Party. Do honourable members know that the subjects of tourism and recreation are not listed in the platform?
– You are not up to date.
– I admit that I am referring to the document formulated at Surfers Paradise in 1973. Perhaps it could have been brought up to date. I accept what the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) has said in that regard. However, I just wonder why tourism, which is one of the most important areas, was not mentioned in that platform.
The Minister has not been allocated a great deal of money. I would like to see him given a larger grant and allocations to other sections cut down. After all, tourism is one of the fastest growing industries in the country. I know that the Minister is very dedicated to providing large sums of money to the Bendigo area to help us with several of our projects. I would like to raise at this stage 2 important projects in the area which we believe should be proceeded with. One is the Dai-Gum-San village which is based on the old Chinese gold mining era in Bendigo. The Minister knows about and has been informed of this project. He has been most helpful. I realise that he is only being prevented at present from making a grant or offering to support this project to the extent that we ask by a lack of funds. I certainly hope that in the next 12 months when this project is under way he will then have sufficient funds to assist us.
The other project which is of more immediate concern is the Mount Alexander Koala Park Reserve. I would like the Minister particularly to take note of this project. The Minister has indicated that subject to the Victorian State Government giving priority to this project he will give assistance. I understand that the State Government has done this. I would ask the Minister to provide the grant that is necessary to finance this project. For the information of honourable members the Mount Alexander Koala Park is located at Mount Alexander just outside Castlemaine, between Castlemaine and Bendigo. For many many years it has been operated on an honorary basis by very keen and dedicated conservationists who have put thousands of hours, many years, of work into trying to maintain this reserve. A small income is received from tourists who are requested to put money in a box at the gate. Unfortunately, many people prefer to pass the gate and go in for nothing. But I can assure the Minister that this reserve is one of the two places in Victoria where koalas are being preserved. It is important that the reserve be preserved because the trees growing there are suitable for koalas. The reserve cannot be kept in operation much longer under the present arrangements, for the simple reason that the costs of providing new fencing required and the cost of providing the various other amenities for tourists cannot be met with the minute amount of income that is available. So I would ask the Minister to look at this matter.
I would also ask the Minister to look at his budget because I note that the estimate for his postage and telephone charges is down from $50,000 to $40,000. Surely this must be a joke. I am very disturbed to think that I will not be able to receive telephone calls and letters from the Minister to advise me of the grants that he most sincerely wants to provide. I would like to see the Minister and the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) get together and reassess the amount of money that they must surely spend in this area. After all, we are all aware of the extremely high cost inflicted on the community as a whole by the Australian Government as a result of increased postal and telephone charges.
– I am conscious that we have reached the limits of our time on these estimates. Perhaps I could just have one moment to respond specifically to the inquiry from the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) who asked about the prospect of funding for the acquisition of land at Dingo as the habitat of the bridled nail-tailed wallaby. I am advised that this area was in fact included in the Queensland Government’s original proposals for acquisitions under the States Grants (Nature Conservation) Act. However, all such proposals were required to be submitted to the Queensland Cabinet and we have had no word that it has been accepted by the Queensland authorities, nor have we received a specific request for this property.
My own Department regards this matter as one of high priority because of the rare species involved and had earlier funded the people in the district to look for it. I share the view of the honourable member for Gwydir that we have a special interest in acquiring land where there are endangered species. He knows our immediate financial problems. But I can add that if we were to receive submissions from the Queensland Government they would certainly receive serious consideration at least in terms of future extensions of our program.
I thank the various honourable members who have contributed to the debate on the environment, particularly the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb) who has been a member, and is now Chairman, of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation. I also thank the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Kerin) in particular. The honourable member has recently accepted the chairmanship of the Australian Advisory Committee on the Environment, one of whose reports was the subject of comment by the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner). I advise the honourable member for Stirling that, as a fellow Western Australian, apart from being Minister for Environment, I will certainly be looking with great interest at any proposals on the highway to which he referred.
The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) raised the question of compensation. He himself acknowledged that the area concerned was not within my sphere of responsibility. But I can advise him that the whole question of compensation in matters such as this is currently the subject of consideration by the Heritage Commission.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Department of Foreign Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $439,640,000.
-In the debate on the estimates for the Department of
Foreign Affairs I wish to speak about Australia’s role in peace keeping in relation to the United Nations. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) at last year’s United Nations General Assembly took a very interesting attitude towards peace keeping. He said: ‘It is not enough for members of the United Nations to pay lip service to the United Nations peace keeping role’. He also said: ‘Australia stands ready to participate in peace keeping operations in whatever way will be most useful’. He went on to say: ‘We wish Australia to be always among the first nations from which the United Nations would ask for peace keeping forces; we shall be among the first to respond’.
It now comes to light that last week the Labor Government rebuffed a United Nations plan to deploy an Australian peace keeping force in the Middle East. It seems that the United Nations Secretariat had been considering using approximately 250 Australian troops in a logistical role alongside Canadian peace keeping troops. This followed repeated offers by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence (Mr Morrison) of such a force. Now there arises a strange mixed story regarding whether these troops have been offered by Australia, how many troops are available, whether a request, official or otherwise, has been made for these troops, and what in fact is the Australian Government policy on this matter. The Department of Foreign Affairs insists that Australia’s offer of troops is still open and we know that the Prime Minister and Minister for Defence have reaffirmed this offer. We also know that there is a need for such troops and that the United Nations has been counting on Australian involvement in the United Nations peace keeping operation. We have troops who are trained but we are now told that there has been no official request by the United Nations Secretariat for Australian troops in the Middle East.
However, we all know that international organisations, and foreign governments for that matter, do not confront other governments with requests of an official nature until such time as informal soundings indicate that these requests will be sympathetically received. We have heard a great deal from the Prime Minister and from the Labor Government on the value of contributing forces under the auspices of the United Nations to keep the peace. Nevertheless, it seems obvious that a less than sympathetic answer to approaches from the United Nations must have been given and given no doubt in the corridors where the reversal of our foreign policy would not be recorded.
No one can deny the value of United Nations peace keeping forces. Peace keeping is perhaps the one most valuable role the United Nations has to play in today’s world. The Australian Labor Party itself has constantly argued that a high priority be given to Australia ‘s participation in United Nations peace keeping operations. For over a decade official Labor policy has been that Australian defence forces should be capable of deployment as part of the United Nations force. Indeed, for many members of the Australian Labor Party it would seem that the possibility that troops would be used in this way constituted one of the strongest moral justifications for the maintenance of Australia’s defence forces. Dr Evatt, as far back as the 1945 San Francisco Conference which drew up the Charter for the United Nations, argued strongly that middle powers should contribute to the United Nations peace keeping activities. Even the Prime Minister himself in 1963 said that Australia ‘must show a greater willingness to assist the United Nations in its peace keeping functions’. Unfortunately at the same time the Prime Minister, in his ignorance, attacked the government of the day, a Liberal-Country Party government, for not pulling its weight in this regard. This was arrant nonsense. Not only has the Liberal-Country Party always been in favour of United Nations peace keeping operations and an active and responsible participation in these by Australia but also in fact has been very much involved in peace keeping during, I stress, periods of a LiberalCountry Party government.
Not only was the Prime Minister confused about Liberal-Country Party commitments to United Nations peace keeping but much more recently has been the Minister for Defence. He is reported as saying that he did not think Australian soldiers had served in a peace keeping role for the United Nations in the past, although a contingent of Australian policemen had served in Cyprus. We were in Korea, as the Prime Minister has said. We were and still are in Cyprus, as the Minister for Defence has said. But this is certainly not the limit to our involvement. Australia participated in United Nations peace keeping operations over a span of 28 years- in 1947 in Indonesia; in 1950 in Kashmir; in 1950 in Korea; in 1956 in Palestine; in 1963 as observers to the United Nations Yemen Observation Mission; in 1962-63 for the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority in West New Guinea; and of course since 1964 with police in Cyprus. The Minister for Defence said in Washington just 2 months ago that he had advised United
Nations officials that Australia was ready to provide troops for any United Nations peace keeping force. He is reported as offering a force of several hundred- I repeat several hundred- soldiers to serve anywhere in the world, probably in the Sinai desert in the Middle East.
So we have a history of repeated statements of willingness, repeated policy platforms claiming what a splendid and correct thing it would be to provide Australian troops for peace keeping and now, as an extra incentive, if one were needed, a statement that we should have a specially trained force of Australian soldiers to perform such a function. In late August, as we know, 150 Australian soldiers were sent to Canada for 6 weeks training in the art of peace keeping. Now we have to find out why, in the face of informal approaches from the United Nations, the Government members have shown how empty their rhetoric is, how unreliable their promises and how unprincipled their principles. It appears that the forces to the Left in the Labor Party, who are opposed to the recent agreement between Egypt and Israel, may have been responsible for this embarrassing reversal of policy. It seems that sections of the Labor Party sympathetic to the acts of the Palestine Liberation Organisation have opposed an Australian peace keeping offer. Could it be that these sections in the Labor Party now have so much influence that the Government is unable to carry out its policies? Could it be that our forces are now so thin on the ground that it would be an embarrassment to divert some of them?
Naturally there is now a confusion in the minds of people as to Government policy. Where do the posturing and mouthing of principles end and where does the implementation of policy start? What we find is complete and utter hypocrisy- indeed there may well be outright deceit. The Government has a very confusing and 2-faced attitude toward foreign policy. Timor is another prime example of this. The Prime Minister affirms the principle of self-determination and de-colonisation and yet will take no responsible initiative, will not even discuss the situation and refuses to get involved. We have proposed discussions with the Association of South-East Asian Nations. We have proposed that ASEAN be involved in Timor in bringing the parties together. But this Government will take no initiative whatsoever. The Department of Foreign Affairs behaves in a most secretive manner in this area. Aid has been slow in going to Timor. There is a feeling of embarrassment even within the Labor party about the lack of initiative and involvement. Indeed members of the Labor Party have openly complained about it.
Timor has been abandoned to its own resources which, as we all know, are very scarce. If ASEAN had been able to play a role perhaps Indonesia would not have been forced to act unilaterally. We understand Indonesia’s concern. The events of the civil war in Timor are taking place in an area at the end of the Indonesian island archipelago. Who can doubt the concern that Indonesia must feel. This Government’s role has been negligent and negligible. Once again policy implementation is seen for a variety of reasons with left wing influences to be wrested from the hands of the Government.
Frankly, in a debate on the estimates for the Department of Foreign Affairs it is time that we received a full statement on foreign policy from the Government. We would like to know where the line is between principle and practice. We would like to know what this country can rely on through this Government. We would like to know to what extent other governments and organisations can rely on us. The last such foreign policy statement was made in May 1 973- almost 2Vi years ago. When in Opposition the Labor Party stressed constantly the need for frequent foreign policy statements. It is time now that it practised what it preached and let us know what we and others can expect of this Government. We have seen delinquency. We have seen a failure to act. We have seen a failure to act in concert with Indonesia on Timor. I think the Government can be described as utterly delinquent in that regard, and in the disparity between what it says about its contribution to United Nations peace keeping forces and what in actual fact it does. There seems to be, as I said earlier, outright deceit.
– I am speaking in the debate to express my support for the amounts allocated in the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) to the Department of Foreign Affairs. A glance at Schedule 2 on page 3 reveals that the expenditure in the Department is the third largest of all the departments, only the Department of Defence and the Department of Social Security claiming a greater share. It is well to note that the policies of the Labor Government, as developed in these departments, are reflected in our aid programs under the Department of Foreign Affairs. I will return to this issue later.
The Bill allocates an amount of $439,680,000 to the Department. This is only $15m more than was appropriated for the last financial year, but significantly, $44m more than was spent in that time. As all honourable members are aware, the government expenditure in the next financial year is the result of a number of pressures, some to increase expenditure, some to decrease it. Generally the main force in favour of decreasing expenditure is that of cutting back inflation by reducing government spending. A more specific criticism related to this Department concerns the amounts the Government is reported to have spent on buildings and renovations in its overseas embassies. There is a thinly veiled disdain when embassies in communist countries are mentioned, as though the associations with these countries are not quite as worthy as those relations we have with traditional allies. I shall not attempt to answer the criticism except to say that in the present Bill less than $3m more has been allocated to the Overseas Property Bureau than last year, and this is mainly for purposes of rent and maintenance. Arraigned against a cutback is the nature of foreign affairs spending itself. The Treasurer (Mr Hayden) in his Budget speech said:
Outlays from the Budget on foreign aid excluding defence co-operation are estimated to increase from $334m in 1974-75 to $385m in 1975-76. Papua New Guinea will continue to be the major recipient, receiving an estimated $2 10m in 1975-76.
Thus foreign aid will comprise 87.5 per cent of the Budget allocation to the Foreign Affairs Department in the next financial year and 55 per cent of this will go to Papua New Guinea. When one considers that $385m is a higher amount than that allocated to any of the other departments bar the two mentioned before, foreign aid rightly takes on a new significance. This year there is a slight rise, from 86 per cent last year, in the overall percentage of the Foreign Affairs budget. Foreign aid is administered by the Australian Development Assistance Agency, which became formally an office within the Department of Foreign Affairs, and which from 10 December 1974, became a statutory body.
If I may quote from a publication of that authority called Australian Aid to Developing Countries it may give us, I hope, some perspective on the matter of aid.
In it the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) has this to say about our aid policy objectives: they are to promote through social and economic development, the welfare of people in developing countries. Within the broad objectives of aid policy the Australian Development Assistance Agency is giving increased attention to development strategies which will help raise the living standards of the majority in developing countries, to ameliorate population pressures, to create wider employment opportunities and to strengthen the rural section. The encouragement of self-reliance in the sense of a decreasing dependence on the regular input of foreign aid, is in the political and economic interests of doner and recipient countries alike.
This latter sentiment is echoed in a statement which also displays the reality, as well as the hopes, of our aid programs. This statement was made by the Minister just recently to the Seventh Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly. On that occasion the Minister said:
It would be a moment of supreme satisfaction if, as a result of a vast improvement in the economic position of the developing countries, the need for the transfer of resources by way of assistance or aid, was to enter a declining or final phase. It is regrettably the case that no such prospect is in sight. When that situation does start to emerge it will mean that the present high degree of inequality in the production and sharing of the world’s wealth will be drawing to its welcome close. However, in present circumstances the compelling need for development assistance continues and increases.
The United Nations has chosen the figure of 0.7 per cent of the gross national product of donor countries as an acceptable and desirable amount to be spent in development aid to countries in need of it. Australia’s aid stands now at 0.53 per cent of our gross national product, and we have undertaken to increase it to the United Nations’ approved level by 1980. In specific areas, Australia has said it will grant $500m over the period 1974-77 to Papua New Guinea. We have a current pledge of $69m to Indonesia which will end next year. Australia’s contribution of food aid is in accordance with targets it has pledged and with which it will continue. These are just some of the factors which weigh very heavily in favour of Australia increasing its foreign aid expenditure and consequently its allocation to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
I turn now to the situation surrounding Papua New Guinea. I have already given figures on the amount of aid for which Australia is committing itself in Papua New Guinea. Last year $170m was given. Together with this year’s grants $380m of the $500m will have been spent, leaving only $120m for the last year of the pledge. That this amount will be surpassed considerably is fairly certain when we take into account the words of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) at the time he gave the assurance. He stressed that this figure merely reflected an assessment of what it was possible to anticipate at the time. Yet, in the midst of all this we have had the spectacle of Papua New Guinea’s Chief Minister negotiating in Canberra for increased aid, going back to Papua New Guinea dissatisfied, and then the wrath of the newspapers and the Opposition coming down on the Government because it was not doing enough. In fact the grant in aid, which is direct budgetary support, has been increased by $ 14m to $5 6m, and the development grant, originally designed to support capital works, but now being applied more to training and the extension of agricultural services, has been increased by $1,300,000 to $41,300,000. This latter change reflects the changing attitudes of development thinking towards the idea that the people are more valuable and important than the dams and factories, for instance, that someone else might build. Such an approach, on an international scale is very encouraging. Another increase is of $4m for the construction of a runway and other aviation works at Port Moresby and Nadzab, bringing this grant to over $9m, and the cultural development grant is to be raised by $500,000 to $ 1 .5m.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Like the honourable member for Evans (Mr Mulder), I wish to devote a good part of my speech to the question of overseas aid. I notice from Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1975-76 that it appears that the Government proposes an increased total outlay for 1975-76 of about $44!£m over the actual expenditure of the previous financial year. I, like many other honourable members, for a long time have taken a great interest in projects designed to help less fortunate countries than Australia. But we live in a rapidly changing world. I shall say something more about that aspect directly.
Until recent years Australia was undoubtedly, to borrow Donald Home’s phrase, a ‘Lucky Country’. The story of the last two or three years has changed the overall picture in this region of the world and indeed in the world at large. Donald Home himself in a recent article clearly conceded this change in relation to Australia and Australia’s position. This leads me to the first main point I should like to make; that is, whether the time has not come for Australia to make a major reappraisal of its overseas aid program.
The honourable member for Evans pointed out that 85 per cent of the expenditure for the Department of Foreign Affairs is in relation to overseas aid. My question is: Are our priorities right? Of course, included in that 85 per cent of expenditure is our total contribution to the United Nations under various headings. I think it is important to note that Canada recently decided on a major review and reassessment of its whole overseas aid programs in this changing world. I believe that we should do this too. Incidentally, reports by Professor Henderson as we all know show a tragically high degree of poverty in Australia. In recent months I have come more and more to consider the force of the argument that we have heard many times from many quarters that charity begins at home, although of course it does not end there.
I am not suggesting for a moment that we abandon or even seriously reduce our overseas aid program; what I am suggesting is that in the present difficult economic situations we should have a good hard look at our priorities. I am by no means satisfied that we have our priorities right in relation to the large amounts of money Australia proposes to send abroad during the current financial year. At the same time I reiterate that I still uphold the principle I have always upheld, that the more fortunate countries should help those less fortunate provided- this is quite an important proviso in my book- that the help is channelled to the people most in need and in ways that are most required.
Over the years when Australia was prosperous and economically stable I unequivocally supported our bilateral aid programs, particularly our aid to Papua New Guinea and under the Colombo Plan- which was initiated by this country some 25 years ago- our contribution to international education and training schemes, our food aid and disaster relief and other emergency relief programs and so on. Our total bilateral aid program proposed for the current financial year is to cost $318m-odd compared with an actual expenditure under this heading in the previous financial year of about $278Vim. I am bearing in mind that the Australian dollar will buy considerably less this financial year than it did even a year ago.
I still strongly support in principle our multilateral aid programs, especially our contributions to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Asian Development Bank and the International Development Association. Excluding our financial contributions to the United Nations and its various agencies and subsidiaries, Australia proposes this financial year to spend $30,206,000 on multilateral aid compared with an actual outlay in the last financial year of just over $26m. The area of expenditure on overseas aid most in need of review is in my judgment in relation to the United Nations. Originally high in concept and ideals for the establishment of a true and lasting peace and for the general betterment of mankind, the United Nations as a whole has been in many respects a costly failure. Many of its agencies and subsidiaries indeed do, and have done over the years, valuable work. But overall, our financial contributions to the United Nations are out of proportion to the results achieved by that world-wide organisation.
In particular I query one line of the estimates. I query the proposed payment by Australia again in this current financial year of the sum of $150,000-one cannot say that that is a large sum, but it is a significant sum- for the purpose of ‘humanitarian assistance to national liberation movements in Africa’. Put in blunter terms, $150,000 contributed by the Australian taxpayers is being allocated to further the cause of what has been described by a leading African judge as ‘the unspeakable evil of terrorism’. He went on to explain what he called ‘a monstrous distortion of the truth’. He said it was a story ‘of barbaric and inhuman conduct’ on the part of certain groups of armed terrorists who have crossed the borders from neighbouring countries in certain parts of the African continent, a campaign mounted and sustained, it is clear, by the forces of international communism, in the course of which campaign many innocent black people as well as white have been tortured and slain. This sum of $150,000, although not a magnificent sum, should be deleted from these estimates and distributed amongst the poverty stricken people of our own country.
-This afternoon from the Opposition we have heard evidence that the hard liners have taken over in the Liberal Party. That was evidenced by the speech by the shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) and by that of the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury) who gave us a very hard line attitude towards our foreign aid. Unless my ears deceived me it would appear that the honourable member for Kooyong, instead of grabbing onto the issue of Timor- on which of course he was run over by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony)- had the gall to say here today that due to left wing pressure from the Palestine Liberal Organisation the Australian Government would not participate in any United Nations peace-keeping force in the Sinai. I hope he will confirm that he said that. This is one of the greatest bits of nonsense he has ever brought in here. Firstly, there has been no specific request from the United Nations. Secondly, the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) said in the Senate yesterday that he made an offer to the United Nations to provide a peace-keeping force and the offer still stands. So I do not know how the honourable member for Kooyong can come in here and make such wild accusations and charges. The proposition I put forward is that the hard liners have taken over in his Party. He feels he is indebted to make this son of statement for the sake of his Party.
The other matter I should like to raise is with respect to the honourable member for Ryan. I am afraid that I must express to you, Mr Deputy Chairman, that I am in complete opposition to almost everything he said. He said that charity should begin at home. But I point out that the money we spend on aid abroad in no way has an inflationary effect domestically. Also, we have profound commitments to some countries, particularly Papua New Guinea. In fact our aid to Papua New Guinea skews most of our aid programs. It is essential that it continue to take such a large proportion of the aid we can allocate. I would rather put emphasis on the fact that what is disappointing in the amount allocated for aid is that it does not advance us far on the path to achieving an expenditure of 0.7 per cent of gross national product on overseas aid.
The honourable member for Ryan also raised the question of the appropriation of $ 1 50,000 for humanitarian assistance to national liberation movements in Africa. I suppose that last year we all received our little Christmas card with a picture of a negro corpse with a bullet in the middle of the head alleging that $150,000 goes for bullets. We are channelling money through organisations like the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund to provide humanitarian relief, not bullets. If a little bit of humanitarian relief and a little bit of Christian charity had been shown to the Palestinians and a few of the other refugee groups throughout the world in earlier times the international community may not have been faced with the very testing problems with which it is faced today. In 1974-75 Australia allocated $150,000 for mothers and children in Zambia under the care of a number of liberation movements. The funds were used for tents, blankets, domestic supplies, food, agricultural equipment, classroom equipment and school materials. I do not think the honourable member for Ryan would allege, as some people in the community allege, that the money was being spent on bullets. But I think that we need to look at this matter purely in terms of humanitarian assistance.
The estimated expenditure on aid in the Budget this year is about 0.53 per cent of the forecast gross national product. That compares with an actual expenditure last year of 0.56 per cent. I would like to express my disappointment that there has been a small decline in Australia’s performance in respect of official development assistance. We can judge this in the light of the percentages of gross national product which have been allocated in previous years. In 1971-72 it was 0.55 per cent, in 1972-73 it was 0.53 per cent, in 1 973-74 it was 0.52 per cent and last year, as I said, it was 0.56 per cent. In terms of calendar years the figures are more variable due to fluctuations in the rate of disbursements in each financial year. But it is disappointing. Regardless of whether we work on financial or calendar years, Australia’s performance has been consistently better than the average of the DAC countries providing development assistance but, as I said, it is not good enough. Australia has undertaken to increase its official development assistance to a figure equivalent to 0.7 per cent of gross national product. No intermediate timetable has been adopted but it is quite certain that if we are to reach the target by 1980 we will have to do a little better next year.
The honourable member for Ryan also devoted some of his time to the amount of money we are now allocating to the multi-lateral area rather than to the bi-lateral area. The problem with Australia’s aid program is that so much of the total allocation is skewed towards Papua New Guinea. As honourable members know, there has been quite a deal of debate between the governments of Papua New Guinea and Australia with respect to the agreements entered into. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Minister for Foreign Affairs have stated Australia’s point of view. In terms of the guarantee of $500m over 3 years- the Budget provides an allocation of $380m over 2 years- we can fairly say that we are well along the way to meeting that commitment. The 1975-76 development assistance budget allocates $207.9m as aid to Papua New Guinea. This represents 55.2 per cent of the total estimated development assistance expenditure and is an increase of $40.7m, or 24.3 per cent, over the actual expenditure in 1974-75. Aid to Papua New Guinea has been approximately maintained in real terms. Papua New Guinea’s position compares favourably with the percentage increase in the total aid budget of 14.9 per cent. If we look at the area of multi-lateral assistance we will see the reasons for it. Australia has allocated over 55 per cent of its total aid budget to Papua New Guinea.
If we are going to look at all the competing demands for our resources and if we are going to try to approach the problem in any sensible, pragmatic way it is quite certain that, apart from specific obligations, we will have to divert more of our attention to multi-lateral aid agencies, particularly in respect to the international obligations which we enter into at the various conferences we attend. For example, $200,000 is going to the International Labour Organisation for technical co-operation. Some $200,000 is going into overseas research and development programs. We are putting $50,000 into the Association for Science and Co-operation in Asia. We are putting $40,000 into the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development. We are also putting $4m into the International Fund for Agricultural Development because of obligations we have entered into. We are spending $4m or $5m through the World Bank- through the ‘third window’, as it is called- intermediate lending facility. For quite some time there has been a range of allocations to some 16 United Nations agencies. They have remained rather stable over the time during which we have been putting funds into them. This year particularly UNICEF, the Red Cross and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees have all run into serious deficits and it has been necessary for Australia to make an increase in their allocations -otherwise they would have most disruptive effects on the United Nations Organisation and make it even more impotent than the honourable member for Ryan said it is.
The final comment which I would like to make is that there has been some criticism of the aid agency and the number of staff it employs. As far as I can make out, at present the staffing is about 692. Of that number some 400 are employed on labour intensive training and welfare services for some 12 000 foreign students in Australia. Of the total of 692, 554 were taken over from other departments and were hidden within the staffing of those departments. Approximately 100 of the 692 people are employed servicing staffing assistance to Papua New Guinea and some 140 people were employed in respect of head office financial and management support of departments overseas and the head office staffing itself here. So that does not leave a lot of people in the aid agency to undertake the sort of reviews which the honourable member for Ryan quite rightly pointed out are a necessary feature of the aid agency’s work and a part of the work that is at present under intensive study.
-Before I comment on the estimates for the Department of Foreign Affairs I would like to refer to a couple of things that the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Kerin) said. He started by making a rather remarkable statement. He said that after listening to the speeches of my 2 colleagues the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) and the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury) it was evident that the hard liners had again taken over the Liberal Party. I say that nobody has taken over the Liberal Party- hard liners or anyone else. The two distinguished gentlemen who have spoken have shown that at least the Liberal and National Country Parties still hold firm to the idea of looking after the safety and security of this country, not only in relation to its defence but also in relation to its economy. I only hope that the people of Australia will very soon be given an opportunity to show that they also are concerned about the safety and security of this country, both from an economic and a defence point of view.
When one studies some of the comments that are made by honourable members on the Government side, not only on this occasion but also on other occasions, one finds a continuing failure to appreciate some of the circumstances and problems that confront this country. They still go along with the old line that if you stick your head in the sand for a sufficiently long period of time nothing will happen. The honourable member for Evans (Mr Mulder) spoke about assistance and aid from Australia. I think that this is important. Let me refer to what was said by the honourable member for Ryan. He spoke about the finance that was made available to the national liberation organisations. I have said on more than one occasion and I will say it again that this is one of the matters of which I am highly critical and one of the matters on which the World Council of Churches shows a lack of appreciation of the realities of the international situation. Unfortunately in that organisation there are some who are deliberately supporting the left wing and there are others who are misguided and follow along without a full appreciation of what they are actually doing. This has been proved in statements by folk who are closely associated with the countries who are affected by these terrorist groups and various organisations.
One subject that has been commented on by some honourable members on the Government side was law and order. I hope that the Government will look at this situation and the assistance that is given to these national liberation organisations. I support the comments made by the honourable member for Evans and the honourable member for Ryan in regard to assistance for many of these countries. I think that sometimes perhaps we do not face up to the type of assistance that could be given. I am thinking in terms of an article which appeared in The Economist in September. Under the heading Droughts Still Mean Hunger and dealing with the situation in Ethopia, this article stated:
Ethopia’s military government is appealing for food again: It needs 1 50,000 tons of grain and 50,000 tons of high protein food for drought-stricken areas. But the organisations and governments which contributed in previous years have not answered this time. Foreign relief agencies say there is already enough food in the country. And along with Ethopians themselves, donors are waiting to see if the October harvest is as good as it promises to be- and if the failing market system has actually collapsed.
I think that we might study that report and consider the situation in Ethopia. Australia has a problem related to the powdered milk supplies which are building up here again. One way in which we could make a very valuable contribution to the situation in Ethopia would be to make available through our aid program powdered milk to these people. In that way we would be handling the problem in Australia and providing assistance to a country where it is needed.
There is no doubt that in the international field we are confronted by a difficult situation. This is not being faced up to by this Government. As I said earlier, I believe that what has happened in so many instances is that this Government has adopted almost the ostrich attitude of putting its head into the sand in the hope that if this is done for a sufficiently long period our problems and difficulties will go away. This attitude has proved incorrect in respect of defence as well as in relation to the economy.
I was delighted to hear, in this respect, the statement by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) who said in a speech that he made in this Parliament the other day that the school cadet corps would be reinstated in Australia when the Liberal and National Country Parties are returned to government. This corps is an important factor, I believe, and makes a valuable contribution to Australia. The value of this organisation in the defence context has been argued by many people. There are many aspects in relation to defence in respect of which this movement makes a valuable contribution. I have had the privilege of attending in my electorate parades by some of the lads who are in the air cadet corps and the army cadet corps. To see the standard of behaviour of these lads, the contribution that they are making and the community association with those organisations reveals to me something that I believe is valuable.
– It is character building.
– As my friend from Paterson says, this is character building. When we look at some of the things that this Government is doing, one of the major needs in this country today is to rebuild the character of our people.
The problems that confront Australia internationally certainly have not lessened. We should think back again to the remark which was made not so very long ago that there was no foreseeable danger to this country for at least 1 5 years. When one looks at some of the events which are happening in areas very close to our shores, such as in Timor, one realises just how unwise and how incorrect that statement was and also how unwise the Government has been to come forward with a policy based on the correctness of that claim.
Quite frankly, I say that the Indonesians deserve credit and commendation from all the countries of the world. I believe that they have shown a remarkable restraint in not taking action in Timor when the security of many of their people has been threatened. Particularly should we express our appreciation to the Indonesians for the fact that they have not taken action in this situation. Surely we must anticipate that the Indonesians cannot remain oblivious for ever to what is happening in Timor if they have regard to the safety and security as well as the future of their people and their country. I believe that unless pretty drastic and positive action is taken by countries in the area, including Australia, we can anticipate that the Indonesians must act in the interests of their own safety and security.
One wonders with respect to the situation in Timor- we can only try to form an opinion- how it happened that the Fretilin forces had the equipment and capacity to take the action which they did in such a short period. At present, I say no more than that, although I think that this aspect does open up possibilities and considerations for us in relation to outside influence again coming into an area and that outside influence not being friendly to our way of life or to our standards of life. The discussion of these estimates in this Committee is important. It reminds us of the responsibilities that we have as a Parliament and as a nation. This Government is ignoring those responsibilities.
-In considering the estimates of the Department of Foreign Affairs, I wish to say something about the right of small countries to self-determination. Unfortunately, history abounds with examples of powerful countries getting together to impose their will on smaller countries and swallowing them up in their so-called spheres of interest. The situation that we have in Europe now and which has existed since World War II is the result of this imperialist practice. There is now the danger of the same thing happening in our own area with regard to East Timor.
This year, the world has witnessed the long awaited European Security Conference, which has formalised the deal made by the superpowers at the end of World War II. The agreed division of Europe has persisted since then, but has it really been a sound basis- I think this is worth asking- for detente between the super powers? The trouble was that when this deal was made at the end of World War II no regard was given to the wishes of the people of the European nations. I believe that there is credence in the views of the late Isaac Deutscher who suggested that if the spheres of interest had not been imposed on Europe it would look much different today. I wish to quote an extract from a work of the late Isaac Deutscher. He worte:
It is probable that had there been no Teheran and Yalta compacts, western rather than eastern Europe would have become the theatre of revolution- especially France and Italy, where the authority of the old ruling classes was in ruins, the working classes were in revolt, and the Communist parties led the bulk of the armed Resistance. Stalin, acting on his diplomatic commitments, prevailed upon the French and Italian Communists to resign themselves to the restoration of capitalism in their countries from the virtual collapse and even to co-operate in the restoration. At the same time, Churchill and Roosevelt induced the bourgeois ruling groups of eastern Europe to submit to Russia’s preponderance and consequently to surrender to revolution. On both sides of the great divide the interational balance of power swamped the class struggle. As in the Napoleonic era, revolution and counter-revolution alike were the byproducts of arms and diplomacy.
I do not wish to disparage the gains made to Europe and to the whole world by the European Security Conference, but I cannot resist the idea that if the countries of eastern and western Europe had been allowed to determine their own future rather than to have it imposed upon them by outside powers, the European Security Conference might never have been necessary. The situation is no different from the Congress of Vienna of 1814 when the imperial powers imposed their will on the hapless smaller and weaker states of Europe. Whether it is because or in spite of the European Security Conference I do not know, but it looks as if Europe will continue to be divided into 2 armed camps for a long time yet. I believe that is very unfortunate and sad. In our own area, right now the people of Timor are struggling to determine their own future, but they are encountering the efforts of an outside power to impose its will upon them. Not only are Indonesian pressures being applied to discourage the option of independence, but also there are disturbing reports that similar pressures are coming from Malaya and Singapore. Australia must resist these notions.
It is said that Australia is not a party principal in the Timor question. I agree with that proposition. If being a party principal means imposing one’s will on the Timorese, there should be no parties principal except East Timor itself. Indonesia should not be acknowledged as a party principal either. It is alarming that, although Indonesian leaders have said that they have no territorial claim on East Timor, they assert a de facto claim by suggesting that the only real option for East Timor is integration with Indonesia. That is a view which, to the Fretilin leaders, is tantamount to intimidation. It is an untenable view when, by all accounts, the majority of the politically conscious in East Timor favour independence. The Indonesians allegedly see an independent Timor as a threat to their security. How could a small State be such a threat? Small states invariably accommodate to the fears and aspirations of their great power neighbours.
What is the actual situation in East Timor? The conservative UDT launched a coup early in August, reportedly encouraged by Indonesia. Fretilin retaliated vigorously, which indicated that it had strong popular support. Within one month the remnants of UDT were forced to withdraw to Indonesian Timor. Fretilin controls East Timor and, according to the reports of all visitors, including some Australian members of Parliament, it is behaving with great restraint and moderation. Fretilin has sought the return of the Portuguese and tried to placate Indonesia. Indonesia’s response has been to make cynical allegations that Fretilin is communist or communistpenetrated, that its forces have been committing atrocities and that most of the population favours integration. It is clear that these allegations are blatantly untrue. Indonesian warships are now patrolling off Timor, and several parties of troops from Indonesian Timor, with at least some Indonesian regulars among them, have carried out raids into East Timor. Fretilin wants the Portuguese back. I support the proposal that the Portuguese negotiate with all parties. However, UDT and Apodeti will not talk to the Portuguese. If no spark of interest can be kindled in the Portuguese authorities I believe that there is a strong case for recognition of Fretilin as the Government of East Timor.
I regret that the official spokesman for the Opposition on these matters, the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), has not been very outspoken on this matter recently. I think that by and large the views he has held have been reasonable ones. I was sorry to hear that his views have been superseded by much more frightening views which have been expressed by . the Leader of his Party, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser), and by the Leader of the National Country Party of Australia (Mr Anthony). I hope that the honourable member for Kooyong will not be intimidated by these reactionary forces in his own Party. I hope that he will have the courage of his convictions and express the views that he sincerely feels about the rights of the Timorese people to determine their own future.
Finally, I would like to respond to a point made by the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock), who preceded me in the debate, about humanitarian assistance provided by the Australian Government for national liberation movements in Africa. As has been pointed out, $150,000 is provided in the Budget for that purpose. Organisations such as the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund and the Red Cross provide humanitarian relief programs for those affected by the struggle for liberation in a number of southern African countries. An examination is currently being made of the most appropriate programs to be supported in this coming financial year. In 1974-75 the Australian contribution funded assistance for mothers and children in Zambia under the care of a number of liberation movements. Funds were used for tents, blankets, domestic supplies, food, agricultural equipment, classroom equipment and school materials, drugs and medical equipment including a mobile unit and the training of medical assistants and nurses. Other major contributors to the project, by the way, are New Zealand, the United Kingdom and a voluntary organisation based in Ireland. I believe that that gives the lie to the remarks made by the honourable member for Lyne.
Mention has been made quite a number of times during the debate on the estimates for the Department of Foreign Affairs of the humanitarian aspects of the Government’s funding within these estimates. The point I want to raise tonight is related to refugees who have come into Australia over a number of years and refugees who may possibly be seeking to come into Australia in the future. There is no doubt that in these troubled times- in fact, in recent historyrefugees have provided a major humanitarian problem throughout the world. Up until fairly recently Australia had a very proud record in relation to its acceptance of and treatment of applications for assistance to refugees who wished to come to this country. For instance, from 1945 to December 1973, 426 000 refugees arrived in Australia. Between 1945 and 1951, 50000 refugees from Soviet occupied Europe came to Australia. It is worth recalling that only the United States of America took more refugees from that area in that time. Between the years 1951 and 1961 the Australian Government spent the equivalent of $260,000 for the purpose of resettling refugees in Australia. In 1974 we took refugees from Cyprus and Chile. More than 2000 refugees have now come from Chile.
I would like to speak briefly about that aspect of Australia’s refugee program because it appears to me that refugees have become a political question rather than a humanitarian one under the Labor Government.
-If the honourable member will wait a second he will hear why I believe that to be so. The fact of the matter is that we have had a number of refugees seeking to come to Australia from Chile over a number of years. Firstly, people from Chile were coming to Australia to escape the Allende regime. Those people were opposed to the policies of the Allende regime. They came to Australia and they were accepted here. I might add that they were not prisoners under the regime; they were not political prisoners. They came, as far as I can gather, of their own free will and they were accepted here as refugees from that regime. However, since the present junta has taken control in Chile a number of people have come to Australia from Chile. In many cases these people are political refugees straight from the prisons, and, I am informed, people who have not been accepted by other countries. I believe that we have an obligation to accept refugees, and political refugees amongst them. However, I become very concerned when I see developing in Australia a situation where refugees from the same country, taking 2 completely opposite political sides, are coming here in some numbers within a short period of time. I believe that in these circumstances there is very real danger of unrest, disturbance and violence within the Chilean community in Australia. And evidence has been put before me of political activities undertaken by these left wing political refugees who have come to Australia from Chile.
I contrast that situation with the Labor Party’s attitude towards allowing Vietnamese refugees to come to Australia. I believe that the attitude of the Government towards the plight of Vietnamese refugees has been nothing short of shameful. I think that all fairminded members of the Labor Party would believe in their heart of hearts that the attitude of the Prime Minister (Mr
Whitlam)- we must remember that the Prime Minister’s directive ensured that this policy came about-towards the request of Vietnamese students already in Australia and the request of Vietnamese refugees in many areas of the world to come to Australia has been little short of shameful.
I would like to speak in more general terms about the potential refugee problems that face Australia. It seems to me that at the present time there is absolutely no co-ordinating body to oversee refugee movements. The Government has not revealed any plans to allow a discussion on possible mechanisms, on the possible organisation of some body to oversee future refugee movements into Australia. Is it going to continue to make judgments purely on political grounds as it seems to have done in relation to Chilean refugees in recent times, and particularly the Vietnamese refugees? Let me remind honourable members once again that nine of the Vietnamese refugees have been denied basic political rights in Australia and this is something that has never happened before in the history of this country. We need to know what the Australian attitude will be in the future, what sort of body will be formed and how potentially large refugee problems will be handled. We cannot continue with an ad hoc attitude, as we have at present, to likely refugee problems. At the present time refugees are coming to Australia from a number of countries. The most recently publicised country of course is East Timor. The Government’s stand, as reported in the Australian, was that Australia would not allow refugees to settle in this country unless they could meet normal immigration standards. This is not an unusual stand to take but I believe the position must not be looked at in any harsh, illiberal or rigid way because in many cases for humanitarian reasons those normal immigration standards and requirements must be flexibly administered.
I went up to Darwin to assess at first hand the way in which the Government was handling the problem of the East Timorese refugees arriving in Australia. One of the things which impressed me greatly was the need for clearly understood procedures, interdepartmental co-ordination and delineation of responsibilities between the various departments to be sorted out because there is no doubt that the political situation in countries around us could not be described as wholly stable. It is not unlikely that in the future we could have very large numbers of refugees arriving literally overnight at a great number of points along our northern coastline. It seems to me that if the political situation in the countries to our north should degenerate in the future Australia will be in a very different situation, a situation never before experienced in relation to its acceptance of refugees. In the past we have been able to decide how many refugees we would take, and what standards we would apply. We have been able to go to places away from Australia, select the refugees and bring them to Australia. The refugees have not been permitted to arrive on our doorstep of their own free will or under their own transport systems.
This situation could change drastically in the future. There are within sailing distance of Australia populous nations where the political situation in the future may not be as stable as it is at the present time. As I said, we could be faced with a situation where large numbers of people sail to Australia, arrive in our ports or along our coastline and say: ‘Here we are. What are you going to do with us?’ I believe the present standards of administrative procedures clearly are not geared to deal with that sort of problem. I believe there is a very real need to give consideration to this potential situation. We all hope that it will not come about, but we need to take it into account. We need to make contingency plans so that, God forbid, should this situation come about Australia will not be faced with both the humanitarian and the health problems which could arise as a result of large numbers of people coming here from nearby countries, introducing a very difficult element into the Australian Government’s reaction in terms of numbers, in terms of processing them, in terms of settling them or in terms of requiring them perhaps to return to the countries whence they came.
I raise this point because I think the Timorese situation has shown us how difficult the situation can be if numbers of people do arrive suddenly without warning. Our administrative procedures must be able to cope with the problem, but at the moment they cannot.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Time will not permit me to say very much in this debate. I appreciate the manner in which the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) has put his case. There was a good deal of merit in much of what he had to say. I personally have been concerned about Australia becoming a dumping ground for refugees from countries that become involved in internal turbulence and revolutions. I have been prompted to attempt to reply to the honourable member for Warringah because he referred to political refugees following the
Chilean revolution. I would be the first to apologise if I were incorrect in interpreting his remarks as being opposed to the acceptance of Chilean refugees because the ones most likely to defect from Chile were the pro-Allende supporters.
– We have taken political refugees for years.
– He did not object to that.
– I want to remind honourable members that what concerns me is the type of refugees that the Government which the honourable member for Warringah supported allowed into this country from Hungary following the uprising in that country in 1958, 1 think it was.
– You are objecting to that?
– Not all of it, but there were many whom the Government you supported allowed into this country who claimed they were freedom fighters from Hungary. Admittedly- I make this clear very early in my remarks- we got a lot of decent citizens from Hungary. They have settled here and they have adapted themselves to the Australian way of life. I believe that if we were able to assess the figures we would find that for every decent citizen who has settled here and has been an asset to Australia we got two or three scum, professional criminals who came from Hungary because they knew their chance of survival in Hungary under communist law was nil. We know people in these countries have not got freedom. These people would very quickly have been drawn into the police net in Hungary because of the super powers that the police in countries such as Hungary have. We got a lot of the so-called freedom fighters. I believe that at that time if a person could convince the immigration authorities that he was fleeing from communism he was OK. All he had to say was ‘I hate communism’ and that was nearly a passport to come to Australia. This happened when the Government which the honourable member for Warringah supported was in office. It involved not only people from Hungary but also people from Hitler’s Germany. The honourable member was not in this place at the time one of the major eastem European countries made an application to the then Attorney-General, the present Chief Justice of the High Court, to extradite to the Soviet Union mass murderer- and I name him again in this place- -Evon Vicks. I read a transcript of the evidence from the court in Tartu, in Estonia. He committed shocking atrocities on his own people. The Australian Government, rightly or wrongly- I will not comment on it- refused Soviet authorities permission to extradite him to try him as a war criminal. There are many other fascist war criminals still in Australia. They came here during the term of office of the government formed by the parties that the honourable member supports. They are living in comfort and security in Australia, in the metropolis of Sydney, and some of them have substantial wealth. At an international forum in Brazil at one time I said that I would like to see international extradition treaties with all countries. I would like to ensure also that in the case of a person sought in Australia for a crime in another country, that country shall establish a prima facie case in our courts in accordance with our law before our Government hands over that person.
What type of refugee has caused great turbulence and trouble in Australia? Have they not been the Croats from the Greek region? The honourable member for Warringah must confess that that is so. Has it not been the Croats that have set off bombs around our cities?
– Did you say Croats?
-Was it not 2 Croats who bombed the Soviet Embassy in this city on the third occasion? Was it not 2 Croats who motored across from Perth to Canberra and committed that crime, or should I be corrected? They were fascist-minded people. When the honourable member raises this question about the Labor Government -
– What about the Indonesian Embassy?
– Tell us about Enderby attacking the South African Embassy.
– The honourable members interjecting are trying to turn serious remarks into something of mirth and I do not think it is appropriate to do so. That might be appropriate at some other time when I am speaking. The refugees I was talking about who were allowed into this country by a government formed by the Opposition parties bombed the Soviet Embassy and unfortunately our courts only gave them about 12 months gaol. That was a disgrace to the then government because it was an insult to one of the world’s greatest powers. The Whitlam Administration is trying to build Australian goodwill with all countries. I think we should show some concern about Australia being a dumping ground. I agree with that part of the honourable member’s speech. I also am concerned about that aspect. I think we should remove ourselves from the emotional atmosphere when there is disturbance in other countries. These people should not be able to flee into Australia; they should be screened properly and thoroughly-more thoroughly than has been done before.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8p.m.
Department of Health
Proposed expenditure, $1 19,963,000.
Department of Repatriation and Compensation
Proposed expenditure, $260,254,000.
Department of Social Security
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 ,706,890,000.
– I move:
This is amendment number 2 on the list which was circulated in the name of the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) at approximately 2.15 p.m. today. The reasons for the amendment are that the proposed appropriation as currently worded provides for payment of telephone rentals and postal concessions to pensioners to the Post Office Trust Account. Now that the Postal and Telecommunication Commissions are operating as statutory authorities the payments should be made to the Commissions. The amendment therefore substitutes the Postal and Telecommunication Commissions for the Post Office Trust Account.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-We are debating a very important Bill, which is colloquially known as the 1975 Budget. We are now in the Committee stage of the Budget Bill and we are considering the expenditure of departments or groups of departments. At present we are dealing with the Department of Health, the Department of Repatriation and Compensation and the Department of Social Security. As the shadow Minister for Social Security I shall address my remarks to the Department of Social Security. The Committee is being asked tonight to pass $1 billion or $ 1,000m worth of expenditure to be spent by the Department of Social Security. The Department spends money for the benefit essentially of people in need. The Committee is now being asked to vote on a Bill which proposes the spending of $ 1,000m of taxpayers’ money to people in need. In other words, the Government is saying: ‘We, the Government, know better than you taxpayers how to spend your money. We are going to take $ 1,000m of your income in the form of taxes and we are going to spend that on people in need’. This disturbs me especially when I ask myself how the Government has spent money over the period of almost 3 years since it has been in power. What has been the Government’s performance in the field of social welfare?
– Pretty good.
-It is absolutely tragic; it is pathetic. I will ignore the remarks, as contemptible as they usually are, of the honourable member for Prospect. The only reason he seems to speak in this House is to say something nasty or contemptible. He is building up quite a reputation in that respect.
The Government distinguishes itself after 3 years with this headline: ‘Government freezes social aid’. That is the net sum total of its performances in social welfare. After 3 years the Government says to the poor, to the indigent, to the disadvantaged, to the migrant and to every person in need: ‘Look, we have fouled up the economy so badly, we have made such a mess of things, we have mismanaged things so badly, so atrociously, that we have to freeze any social aid or social reforms’. That is bad enough. But what is going to happen if inflation keeps on the rate it is going? Are the people going to suffer, those who are poor?
The Government now finds itself in a dilemma. It seems to have realised that over-using the money pump or the printing presses will not cure welfare problems. So in desperation it has called for a one or 2-year wait on any new initiatives while inflation is cured. This is one of the tragedies of socialism, it is one of the tragedies of this Government, that the poor, the aged and the disadvantaged, the very people whom this Government supposedly champions, are made the scapegoats for its errors.
I would like to take one example, the example of pensions. The Government has now welshed on another promise, the promise that it would keep pensions to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. I used the word ‘pathetic’ earlier in my speech- the Government’s action in this regard is pathetic. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his 1 972 policy speech said this:
Under our Government the pension will never be allowed to fall below the level of 25 per cent of male average weekly earnings.
– And has it?
– It is above that now.
-Order! Last night the honourable member for Robertson expressed his admiration for this institution. I suggest he demonstrate it by obeying Standing Orders.
-Thank you, Mr Chairman. To my knowledge, and according to my calculations, the pension has never ever reached that level. After 3 years the Government says: ‘We can no longer maintain the economy, we can no longer produce a gross national product that will allow us to pay a pension of 25 per cent of average weekly earnings’. So the government has gone back to the Consumer Price Index.
– Give us your calculations.
-The Government says that this will save it $80m a year.
– We did not say that.
-What the hell does that mean if it is not what I suggested? The honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) always interjects. He has more pensioners in his electorate of Robertson than perhaps anybody else in this chamber. Let him go up to Gosford and tell the pensioners there how he can rip off $80m from the pensioners this year. That is exactly what it means.
– Give us your calculations.
– When the honourable member for Robertson retorts in his customary abusive way it gives me a great deal of satisfaction because then I know I have scored.
The Henderson report by inference criticised the Government by saying inflation created poverty through unemployment and other ways. The dispensing of welfare under this Government has been centralist. The Budget gives no indication of the stance or direction of social welfare. It says it attempts to take stock of our programs and consolidate our aims. In fact it is an inadequate attempt to patch up existing flaws and a failure to commit the Government to a philosophy or specific measures. It is another Band-Aid.
The Henderson Report again clearly documents the failure of the welfare policies of this Labor Government and clearly documents over pages and pages of its report the dissatisfaction of recipients of those policies. The Australian Assistance Plan was a novel, exciting and progressive idea. It has failed because of maladministration. Members of the Government have even broken the undertaking that they would try to put forward this exciting new concept in the form of experiments and pilot schemes. What was supposed to be an experiment and a pilot scheme they have made a permanent feature of welfare and possibly have set back this exciting area of human progress a number of years.
Let me refer to lone fathers. That is an area in which Government members have palpably turned their faces against what is probably a need above all others. They supposedly champion the working man. Where do they turn to hit him? They hit him with indirect taxes. We know that with imposts on beer, cigarettes, petrol, telephones and postage the so-called working man is put at a direct disadvantage. What does it matter to the man on $20,000, $30,000 or $40,000 a year if he has to pay another 6c a packet for cigarettes? But it does mean a great deal to the man on average weekly earnings or less. I think that hundreds of people in nursing homes tonight are desperately anxious about what their future will hold. This Budget does not solve their problems. People who are building aged persons’ hostels and aged persons homes do not know where they are.
I will have the honour in a few weeks to unveil the Opposition’s social welfare policies. I believe that these policies will correct the mismanagement and the chaos into which this Government has turned this most important area of welfare. I finish as I began: What this appropriation does is spend a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money. It bothers me to leave that amount in the hands of men of the character of the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen), the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) and their contemptible ilk.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-We in this chamber are very used, of course, to hearing the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) making very untruthful statements. In fact he has the reputation around the place these days, I understand, of being devious Don. We expect this sort of behaviour from him. We also expect the type of action which he took tonight.
– Twisting the facts.
– Not only of twisting the facts but also of attacking an honourable member who has no right of reply. I refer to the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen). I think the action of the honourable member for Hotham is quite cowardly. He attacked the honourable member for Robertson who, as the honourable member for Hotham is aware, is not on the list of speakers in this debate and therefore cannot possibly reply. Into the bargain the honourable member then makes assertions. He says that the Government has not abided by its promises to pensioners. He does not yet know how to do his sums. I do not know where he went to school; no doubt he went to a privileged one but evidently it did not teach arithmetic. I suggest that the honourable member for Hotham shows us precisely how he computed his figures. He did not give us his figures. There is no proof whatever. He was just making a wild assertion without any proof. If he does a few sums he will find that the basic rate of pension at present is 25.2 per cent of average weekly earnings. Our undertaking on coming to office was that we would lift the present rate- it was then, I think, 18.7 per cent of average weekly earnings- to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. We have done so.
– We have done better.
– As the honourable member for Robertson says, we have done better. Furthermore we have done something which no other government has done. We have indexed pensions and related them to the consumer price index. In the last quarter the consumer price index rose by 3.5 per cent whereas average weekly earnings increased by one per cent. In other words if this rate of increase continues pensioners will do better by having pensions tied to the consumer price index than they would if pensions were tied to average weekly earnings. Despite requests from pensioners’ organisations and the then Opposition- the Australian Labor Party- the previous Government, after 23 years, flatly refused to give any guaranteed pension. Pensioners waited with bated breath for every increase. The increases used to be 50c or $ 1- not as much as the $5 increases we have given. The pensioners used to wait hoping that the Government would give them a little, tiny bit when the time came once a year. Now pensions are indexed and increased half-yearly in line with the increase of the consumer price index.
The major thing I wish to speak on tonight is the community health program. The honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) will remember the day when we, along with the present Treasurer (Mr Hayden), at that time the shadow Minister for social security and health, toured the western suburbs of Sydney and we looked at the hospitals right throughout the area. At that time we found a backlog- and this was supported by a completely independent surveyof 1200 beds in the hospitals in the outer pension region. On that day Mr Hayden stated that upon the Labor Party’s assuming power later that year it would immediately introduce a community health program and that for the first time a Federal government as it was called then- it is the Australian Government nowwould give funds towards that program. This has been done. Right throughout the outer western suburbs of Sydney and various parts of Australia very worthwhile projects, such as community health centres, drug withdrawal units, antialcohol clinics, psychiatric centres and home nursing care services, have been undertaken. All these facilities are being provided in cooperation with the States with funds from this Government. We fund the States with section 96 grants.
If the policy of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who wants to cut out section 96 grants, is introduced, these community health programs would be in jeopardy. I ask honourable members to keep that in mind. Not only would the education programs, including Karmel recommendations, of this Government be placed in jeopardy but also the community health program would be placed in jeopardy. That policy was advocated by the Leader of the Opposition in his recent statement on taxation. All these facilities have been introduced with our assistance for the first time in the history of this country. They are one of the greatest initiatives of this Government, but the States are endeavouring, by quite dishonest means, to detract deliberately from the efforts of this Government and to take credit for something they did not do. I have some examples of this. I have a beauty which I will give to honourable members tonight. One good example is the Mt Druitt polyclinic. The Australian Government funded it. It cost $1.6m. It is the largest community health project in this country.
– We know the hard work you put into it.
– That is quite right. Much work was also done by the former State member for Mt Druitt. Two Labor members of Parliament have been active in this area. This project was funded by the Australian Government. We covered 25 per cent of the capital cost. We will cover 90 per cent of the running cost each financial year from now into infinity. Of course, the clinic was opened by the State Minister for Health. All the publicity in the local Press turned out from the Parramatta office of the State Health Commission implies that it is a purely State project. It completely ignores reference to the Australian Government, excepting that now and again in the very fine print mention is made that it was built with funds from the Australian Government. The main headlines and the main information state that it was built and is operated purely by the State Government, by the State
Health Commission with its funds, not Australian Government funds.
– That is low politics.
– Very low politics; I agree. It is not only low politics but also dishonest politics. The matter goes further than that. Today I received a letter addressed to the State member for Blacktown, Mr Barnier. He sent it to me.
– Lovely fellow.
– He is a very fine fellow. He is an excellent member. The letter was sent to him by the Minister for Health in New South Wales, Mr Healey, and is dated 25 September. In the letter Mr Healey states that a grant has been made to the community aid service of the municipality of Blacktown to help the operation of its community cottage, which is a refuge for women in crisis situations, the grant being $10,585. The letter states that this was approved under the New South Wales community health program. In other words, this is an invitation to a State member of Parliament to get publicity in the local Press stating that this is a project approved with funds from the New South Wales Government. In actual fact, this is part of the community health program of the Australian Government. The funds for this project have been provided by this Government.
– No, by the taxpayers.
– The honourable member for Riverina is very young and very inexperienced. He would not be aware, of course, that this Government is the first government to finance community health programs. The New South Wales Government is trying to take credit for projects which it did not initiate, and that is dishonest.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expried.
-Ten minutes is a very restricted time in which to talk about the $691,000,000 for the Department of Health, so I will try to cover 4 areas- administration, the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory and the pharmaceutical benefits. I think the most important comment that can be made about the estimates of the Department of Health is that the major health cost of this country, that is the $ 1,400m plus for the Health Insurance Commission or Medibank, does not come within the responsibility of the Department of Health. It is the responsibility of another department altogether. I believe that this is an absurd situation, because the Department of Health has no control over or input into this major health cost.
It means there can be no control, priority procedures or positive health procedures to be introduced by the department responsible for health at the federal level. Medibank will gallop away with such a proportion of gross national product that there will not be sufficient funds available for the other important health and welfare services that the people need. Medibank will have to be curbed. There will have to be utilisation and control mechanisms to control doctor and patient abuse. In all of this area we have no Department of Health expertise. Hopefully submissions made to the Royal Commission on Australian Government adminstration are covering this point.
I turn to the situation of ACT hospitals. The estimates for the Department of Health indicate a decrease in the expenditure on both the Canberra and Woden Valley hospitals. The reductions are substantial. It is claimed that they have been made because of the 50 per cent funding from Medibank. However, the decrease comes at a time of increased utilisation through an increased population and through Medibank itself. Let us make allowance for an increase in bed occupancy in the 2 hospitals from 738 per day to 778 per day, which is considered to be an unrealistically low figure by many people conversant with this area, but that is the Department’s estimate. Why at a time of increasing Canberra population and expectation of greater bed occupancy has the number of resident medical officers at the hospitals been reduced? I am told that it is a fact that it was hoped to have 37 resident medical officers in the ACT hospitals for 1975. The number obtained was 29. In May before the abolition of the Canberra Hospitals Board permission to recruit a further 9 was obtained to build the number up to 38. However, the original number has decreased to 26 and now permission to employ any more resident medical officers had been revoked. So there is a shortfall in the 2 Canberra hospitals at the present time without any permission to increase the number of resident medical officers to what is considered to be adequate; that is, to increase the number by 12 to bring it to 38.
How will these hospitals be properly staffed with the increase in utilisation that is taking place with the increased population and Medibank? It is no use saying that there are more salaried medical specialists. They are not a substitute for resident medical officers; they are a substitute for visiting medical officers. The two are complementary. Furthermore, of the salaried specialists recruited by the ACT Health Commission in its desperate determination to exclude private specialists, some have been accepted with doubtful medical qualifications. They have been provisionally accepted under the 12-month trial provisional procedure and accepted from medical schools that have not been recognised by any Australian medical registration board.
– Second class education.
– Yes. The implications for health in Canberra are quite serious. There is first of all a danger over a long period of lowering the medical standards of doctors available to people in Canberra and the danger, from the ability of these people to go elsewhere in Australia after registration under this procedure, of lowering medical and health standards throughout the country generally.
I deal now with Northern Territory health. I am pleased to see the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) in the chamber. I ask him whether a sufficient appropriation has been made under division 329, the Northern Territory section, to allow or provide for substantially increased salaries for medical officers in the Northern Territory, particularly in certain Northern Territory hospitals such as the Darwin hospital. The Minister is well aware of the critical situation which exists, particularly at Darwin hospital, and I give him credit for his efforts in this direction, but in reply to a question from the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) he indicated that the salaries provided for medical officers in the Northern Territory are 25 per cent below similar levels in the A.C.T. How it is expected to employ medical officers in the Northern Territory under that situation, I do not know, and I am sure he does not know either. Out of 123 positions for medical staff in the Northern Territory at the time he answered the question 26 are vacant. Already an application for a salary increase has been rejected because of the direction on indexation from the Public Service Board. I ask the Minister: Does it mean there will not be the required increase in medical officers in the Northern Territory to provide the adequate staffing necessary there?
Pharmaceutical benefits constitute the major single item of expenditure in the Department of Health. Pharmaceutical benefits for pensioners and non-pensioners are estimated to cost over $280m. However, these figures appear to be unrealisticaly low. I believe there has been a considerable underestimating by the Department of Health as to what the total costs will be. The figures are unrealistic for 3 reasons: The utilisation will be greater than is estimated; there is the problem of increased pharmacist remuneration and there is also the problem of increased drug costs. If one ignores the abnormal year of 1973-74, which one is suggested to do in the annual report of the Department of Health, the actual increase in both categories in 1974-75 was $10m or an 11 per cent increase on- 1973-74 figures to almost 98 million prescriptions. Yet for 1975-76 an increase to only $102,300,000r-or under half the increase that took place last year has been estimated. Yet this is the year of Medibank during which there will be increased consultations, particularly for pensioners, who are the heaviest users.
I think, a more realistic figure to aim for would be 110 million prescriptions. I am supported in this assumption by the highly inaccurate departmental estimates that have been made’ by the Department in this area over the years. Hidden in the figure allocated for pharmacists’ remuneration is the additional $33m of retrospective payments to pharmacists of 1 lc in 1973-74 and 22c last year partly in accordance with the Scott report recommendations. This figure could be increased because of arbitration and it will be increased because of increased utilisation. There is also a recommendation to be made of a further dispensing fee of probably 15c to be paid to chemists this year.
If one looks at the administration of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme from 1973-74 when the amount allocated was $2. 9m, one will see that the estimate for 1975-76 has jumped to $4.7m or a 68 per cent increase in 3 years. At the same time as the Department acknowledges the problem of inflation in its own administration, it refuses to acknowledge the crisis facing the prescription drug industry. Inflation is allowed for within the Department and the Prices Justification Tribunal has allowed considerable increases in the non-prescription areas to the same companies in respect of which the Department will not recognise inflation in the prescription area. These companies are forbidden from using the Prices Justification Tribunal for prescription drugs because the Department of Health is the monopoly buyer and the setter of prices. A committee comprising representatives of the Australian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association and the Department was set up to review reasonable price increases. The United Kingdom allowed a substantial increase early in the year. Word had evidently gone out after this that there could be no increases because of the Budgetary restrictions. One can screw the private sector even though the Government sector is allowed to roar on.
This Government has to make up its mind as to whether or not it wants a prescription drug manufacturing industry in this country and employment for hundreds and thousands of Australians. If it does, increases will have to be granted, and if this happens the Budget estimate in this one area will be under-estimated by many millions of dollars. If that is added to the increased utilisation that will take place, I believe that the Department of Health estimate in this area will be perhaps up to $40m out. Therefore this is one of the many increased Budget costs that will be shown as the year progresses. I will not attempt to talk about all the other interesting things, such as the purchase of FAWNMAC and the hearing aid situation. No doubt time will be provided for that later.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I address my remarks to the estimates for the Department of Health. Recently I have received a number of letters, as I suppose other honourable members have, about amounts of money being made available for medical and other research. One often hears people saying: ‘Well, is the money that we are spending on medical research worth while? Is this research not duplicated in other countries?’ and comments of that sort. There is no doubt that research is duplicated in all countries. But there is also a great deal of advantage to Australia in the sort of research that we are doing. I am very pleased to see that the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) and the Minister for Science (Mr Clyde Cameron) have been able to make arrangements within the context of the Budget to ensure that sufficient money is made available for research.
If there is an area where research is as necessary as in any other, it is in the area of pollution by heavy metals and, as far as I am concerned, particularly where lead is concerned. If there has been a change in the pattern of behaviour and incidence of disease it is far more likely to be due to an established change in the chemical environment than to any alleged social or economic factors. There has been an environmental change related to industry and to the motor vehicle, but there is nothing new about stress. People are generally better off as well as being better nourished. Social and economic factors have remained substantially constant or have improved; the environment has not.
The major change in life style here and overseas is concerned with the cult and the effects of the motor vehicle. Far more families have far more cars than ever before and they squander so much petrol that the present reserves of it are rapidly dwindling and, in the process, they have created dangerous and massive pollution. Prewar cars used low octane fuel, and although they could go very much faster than present laws allow, pollution by then was negligible. Since then, they have been made with high compression engines and use the high octane fuel no longer needed by transport aircraft. To make this fuel acceptable to motorists the petroleum industry laces it with anti-knock lead so that the engines will run more smoothly. There is now so much of it that every thousand cars blow out at least a ton of lead in aerosol form every year. This does not just go away; it falls out, goes to every part of the world, goes all the way to the poles and contaminates everything, including water storage and vegetation, so that everyone has to eat, drink and breathe lead. They have no choice. Despite the claims of the petrol lobby, lead, however ingested, is an insidious and dangerous poison. It is not only toxic, it is also completely unnecessary to use it, since there are quite acceptable and safe alternatives such as methanol. I agree that at the moment fuel with methanol would cost more than petrol but I think that we ought to consider the other costs associated with what we are doing in our use of petrol.
The petroleum industry is obviously aware of the danger of indiscriminately fouling the atmosphere with poisonous dust. Therefore they employ a large number of public relations officials with a variety of misleading titles to lull the public into a false sense of security and to stifle criticism. It is not always wise to accept information from their bureau as fact. For example, they would have us believe that people are just not affected by lead unless they are actually dying from what they accept to be lead poisoning. Nobody else, they suggest, is affected at all. This of course is sheer nonsense. It was stated in a recent issue of the Lancet that it is difficult to find any scientist not actually employed or paid by the industry who does not deplore the global increase of lead and its implications for world health. Scientists in Australia and throughout the world have been quietly and steadily accumulating evidence about the danger of lead, but such is the power of the industry that they have considerable difficulty in having their views published. This is another good reason why these estimates, which provide for research into medicine, be given the support of this Parliament. When people do put their views forward the spokesmen of the petroleum industry produce one of their prefabricated answers and that is usually the end of it.
Lead is a neuro-toxin as well as a general one so that it must cause mental and intellectual impairment as well as damaging general physical health. There is persuasive evidence to suggest that this does happen. For at least 2000 years it has been known that lead causes brain damage and for a very long time has been found to be associated with a high incidence of high blood pressure and arterial disease and to cause people to age prematurely. If this means anything it must include the possibility of early development of diseases of the aged and of early death. Lead is suspected to be involved in the great increase in coronary heart disease and death. I must stress that though many of these things cannot be proved absolutely, while there is evidence that such things are caused by lead we ought to be very careful about its use.
It has also been suggested that lead is a factor in the problem of some sorts of cancer and especially of lung cancer. This has not been proved either, but there is no evidence to the contrary and there seems to be no other explanation. For instance, there has been a rapid increase in lung cancer caused by smoking or allegedly caused by smoking at the same time as levels of lead pollution in the air have risen. Yet, years ago, people smoked a good deal, so one wonders whether in fact tobacco is the only contributing factor to the increase of lung cancer. There appears to be no doubt that lead is directly involved in many otherwise unexplained psychological and neurological phenomena. It has been shown to impair intellectual development and is one of the explanations for the birth of imperfect infants and some so-called minus children, and of hyperactivity, autism, dyslexia and so on. It is also believed to be involved in some cases of multiple sclerosis and other unexplained neurological diseases. There is a good reason to believe that it contributes to abnormal behaviour and that many criminals have an abnormal reaction to lead. I invite honourable members to have a look at the information on this subject which is available in the Parliamentary Library. I believe that they will find it most informative.
In this country considerable care is taken about substances that are only slightly suspect as health hazards. If the same criteria were to be applied to lead it would have been banned long ago. Recent work in Australia and overseas has proved absolutely and conclusively that the elimination of lead from the body makes for a tremendous improvement in physical and mental health as well as helping many and benefiting many of the sick. People have found their tolerance to alcohol to be altered so that there is no ‘hangover’. They feel more alert and generally more fit. It is hoped that the Minister will take these things into account. Surely it is more important to be healthy, vital and virile than to break the speed limit.
I was interested to hear the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) allege that the Government had failed to increase the age pension to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. That is a complete fabrication on the part of the honourable member. At the moment average weekly earnings are $155 in raw figures or $153.20 on a seasonally adjusted basis. If we take the age pension of $38.75 and apply it to the raw figure of $155 we find that the pension is 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. If we take $38.75 as a proportion of the seasonally adjusted figure we find that it comes to 25.2 per cent. So not only has the Government reached the target that it promised but it has exceeded it. It does not sit well on the shoulders of the honourable member for Hotham to make such a statement because obviously he has not checked the figures.
I remind honourable members that in 1970 under the Liberal-Country Party Government the age pension was about 17 per cent of average weekly earnings. In 1972, just before the election when the pension was raised, it was about 20 per cent of average weekly earnings.
– It was the highest it had been for years.
– It was the highest it had been for years as the honourable member for Robertson reminds me. In fact in some years the Liberal-Country Party governments gave the pensioners no increase or an increase of only 50c. I think that it is a very poor show for honourable members opposite to allege that this Government has not kept its promise because quite clearly it has done so. I commend the estimates for the Department of Health to the Committee. I say once again how pleased I am that the expenditure on medical research has been upgraded. I believe that in relation to things such as heavy metal pollution this country and the world will gain a great deal from such expenditure.
-The only answer I can give to the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie), who feels that his Government is creating some record, is to refer him to my speech on the Budget. The Government has created some records in its time- some beauties- and some that no other government has achieved. I refer the honourable member to that speech.
Approximately 3 weeks ago the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland) made a public statement which gave cause for grave concern among the community. Whilst I commend him for his honesty, if the figures he cited prove to be correct the Government should hang its head in shame. The statement read as follows:
The Minister for Labor. Senator J. McClelland, confirmed the unemployment crisis by firmly predicting that 400 000 Australians would be out of work in the new year.
This is a shocking situation to look forward to and an embarrassment to the Government which was so adamant that the Budget recently introduced would go a long way towards curing our unemployment problem. This promises to be a pretty bleak Christmas for many of our people. The annoying part of it all is that it need not have happened. When this Government took office it charged into its policies of reform like a team of wounded bulls. It spent money as if there was no limit to the source of supply. No planning or forethought was given to the results of such a mad spending spree. Only now is the Government trying to save something from the wreck of a bruised and battered economy for which it is responsible.
With the prediction of 400 000 unemployed in the new year the Government needs the services of the Wizard of Id to help it save something from the wreck. The payout for unemployment benefits in the last financial year, according to the annual report from the Department of Social Security- this can be checked by the honourable member who is interjecting - was $25 1,740,000-odd. The payout for the previous year was $5 8m. With the unemployment figure reaching 400 000 we can expect this payout in unemployment benefits to double, which is not a very pleasant prospect for the people of Australia. It has been extremely interesting over the last 2Vi years to listen to various Government supporters- both Ministers and backbencherswhen the economy first started to go bad, stating that they had inherited the mess from the previous Government. May I remind them that when they took over from the previous Government the inflation rate was low, our dollar had real value, the business world was operating with confidence, our balance of payments was healthy, unemployment figures were low and there was plenty of money in the bank.
In just Vh years this situation has been completely reversed- a fact which does not give the Australian people any degree of joy. The
Government also blamed the overall situation throughout the world when things became tough. May I remind honourable members opposite that it is their own maladministration which has caused this. In 1971 Australia ranked fourth in the national prosperity stakes, behind the United States of America, Switzerland and Canada. Today we are ranked ninth, and it is predicted that we are still on the slippery slide. In the rest of the Western world last year unemployment was cured. On 2 occasions this week I have heard the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) say that our unemployment position was similar to that in comparable countries overseas. While the rest of the Western world cured its unemployment last year we increased ours. Only one other country beat us and that was tiny Denmark, which also has a government with socialist ideas.
I mentioned earlier that the Government was keen to introduce its policies as soon as it possibly could. Surely it could have learned a lesson from Britain with its huge unemployment problem and its huge payout of unemployment benefits. Surely it could have learned how the policy of socialisation robs the people of ambition and initiative and makes them completely subservient to the government. This Govenment with its record dole payments has placed us in a unique category among the countries of the Western world for we are enjoying the reputation of being a country in which one can live reasonably well without working. How long the taxpayers in this country will tolerate that situation remains to be seen.
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Chairman. Can you show me where the honourable member is speaking to the estimates?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury)-I think that the matter of unemployment comes within the Department of Social Security and that the question of social security benefits is a matter for the Department of Social Security. The honourable member for Herbert is in order on that point.
– I for one object to the fact that some of the tax I pay will go to keep in idleness some person who boasts that he has no intention of seeking employment but is content to draw unemployment benefits from the Department of Social Security. Recently we saw the embarrassment of this Government when it was brought to its notice that many people who were not entitled to unemployment benefits were receiving them. We have seen interviewed on television groups of young people who have stated openly that they are quite satisfied to exist on unemployment benefits and who are enjoying the life of Riley while others work to keep them in such a state of bliss. We have seen this Government embarrassed by reports that people who are working are still receiving unemployment benefits. We have heard of others who, through the use of fictitious names, draw more than one benefit from different centres. I have had cases in which young people have approached me with cheques for unemployment benefits received from the Department and saying that they had notified the Department they were working, but were still receiving cheques. They had brought them to me to return them and to beg the Department to stop sending them. These are the honest ones. How many dishonest ones are there who help to increase the payment of benefits to $25 lm? Surely this must be a good enough reason for a review of the administration within the Department, to offset these anomalies I have mentioned. This is taxpayers’ hard-earned money the Government is fiddling with, not something that grows on trees for free.
During the Budget debate last month I made a suggestion to the Government which would stop all this nonsense. I mentioned that the pay-out figure in unemployment benefits was unproductive and a dead weight. I mentioned that many of our unemployed people wanted to work. I mentioned that $80m only was allocated for local government projects, which was productive money, and that if the Government was keen on assisting local governments and ensuring that moneys paid out in unemployment benefits were productive, it could allocate the $2 50m- it will be more this financial year- also to local governments and allow them to take up the slack in unemployment. This would ensure the continuity of necessary local works without having to borrow money for this purpose. It would ease the burden on the ratepayer. The taxpayer would be happy knowing that his money was productive. The community would benefit considerably. The genuine unemployed person would feel happier earning his benefits instead of receiving a handout. For those who did not want to work there would be no money. It would stop the duplication of unemployment benefits to the one person, and I am positive that co-operation between local governments, the Commonwealth Employment Service, and the Department of Social Security would make such a scheme workable. If the figure of those unemployed reaches 400 000 as predicted by the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland) the pay-out for benefits will be enormous, and the administration of the Department made more difficult, due to these increased numbers. The strain on the administration could be overcome by the co-operation of the three departments concerned in the suggestion that I have just made. The Government would be satisfied that local government projects and essential services were being maintained, and the money it was outlaying would be productive.
-Let me make a quick comment on a couple of the remarks of” the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett). I remind him that a number of State Liberal governments at present are challenging the Regional Employment Development scheme as we know it, which aims to provide the kind of employment about which he has just spoken. He also made reference to socialist governments being identified with unemployment in various countries. I wonder what the . honourable member would say about the 9 per cent level of unemployment in the United States of America. Recently I saw a documentary which referred to ghost cities in the United States where business, employment and everything else was at a standstill. One could visit many cities in the United States and in other countries as well and see this sort of situation.
I had a friendly conversation with the honourable member this morning about the beef industry. A little over 12 months or so ago, the price of beef in Australia was at an all-time high. Only a week or two ago it was at an all-time low. Why do our beef producers face this situation? The reason is that Australia is a trading country. We trade with Japan, the United States of America and other countries. For their own domestic reasons, these countries are not buying our goods. Therefore, the economic consequences spill over into countries such as Australia. Whilst it is true that no government would be foolish enough to claim that it is not guilty of mistakes, on the other hand it is absolutely true that we are a trading country which for its economic health is interdependent on the welfare of other nations.
I wish to speak tonight about a department that has not been mentioned but which is in the complex of departments that we are discussing. I refer to the Department of Repatriation and Compensation. This Department is concerned with an area in respect of which I am sure nobody could take away from this Labor Government the very great credit that is due to it for what it has done for ex-servicemen, exservicewomen, serving personnel and their dependants. This Budget provides for an increase in expenditure from $204m last financial year to $260m this financial year. No cutback in expenditure is involved. In quoting those figures, I am reminded by a footnote in the Budget documents that that sum does not include war and service pensions and allowances for which the expenditure is charged to a special apropriation.
As I said, this Government- and it has been acknowledged by the Returned Services League and other service organisations- has an unsurpassed record of care for those who served in times of war and also for looking after their dependants. Let me quote a few selected pension payments that have been effected by this Government. I mention first the special rate or totally and permanently incapacitated pensionerthe TPI pensioner, as we know the category. Prior to this Labor Government taking office, such pensioners received $48 a week. This Budget proposes that that rate shall be increased to $74.10 a week. That is an increase of 54 per cent. Those pensioners have been promised that, under this Government, in the coming autumn session of the Parliament the TPI pension will be increased to $80. 10 a week, an increase of 69 per cent in a period of 3 years. Likewise, the intermediate rate pension has risen 5 1 per cent and with the further increase will have gone up 59 per cent in that same period. Meanwhile, the cost of living has risen by only 41 per cent in the time that this Government has been in office. I will acknowledge that that increase is too much. But the important aspect is that this Government has been able to keep up these payments to people in receipt of repatriation benefits. It has been able to maintain payments also to those in receipt of social welfare benefits at a rate ahead of the cost of living.
Pensions for war widows have been increased by 94 per cent; 98 per cent of these pensioners receive additionally the domestic allowance which has risen from $8.50 a week to $12.50 a week. Let me deal now with service pensioners who are in the same category as age and invalid pensioners. The standard rate pension has risen by 94 per cent, taking into account the increases contained in this Budget. I compare that increase again with the cost of living increase as at the June quarter of this year of 4 1 per cent. The married rate pension has increased by 87 per cent. The general rate pension has not risen in this Budget, but it was increased in May last by $3 a week. The important fact with respect to the general rate pension is that this Government has unlocked the closed door that existed for a great many pensioners- the great proportion, about 86 per cent, of general rate pensioners- which was shut on those pensioners by our predecessors from 1964 to 1972. Any war pensioner receiving a part pension of 70 per cent down to 10 per cent of the general rate pension received no increase whatsoever in those 8 years. Yet I have heard people complaining that in this one year, when this Government is trying to meet the needs of the stringent economic circumstances besetting us, we have not been able to increase the rate of that pension.
The pension increases that 1 have mentioned do not tell the whole story by any means. A most important improvement introduced by the Labor Government is the provision to allow 50 per cent of war pensions to be disregarded for means test purposes. This provision is applicable to service pensions. This means that many pensioners receiving these pensions not only have gained the substantial increases that I have described but also have qualified for a substantial part of one of these service pensions as a result of the easing of the means test.
Let me quote one example, the single TPI pensioner. This is not the most dramatic example of what the Government has done. A single TPI pensioner, under 70 years of age- that is, the pensioner for whom the means test has not been abolished- with no other income or property, as a result of the Budget provisions, can receive a total of $104.33 a week, that is $5,425 a year. In other words, for a single totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner that amount of $5,425 a year is not taxable. Therefore the benefit is equivalent to an income of $6,632. 1 could go on to mention that a war widow under 70 years of age can receive up to $74. 1 5 a week as a result of the very important steps we took- we did it in 2 stages- to have disregarded 50 per cent of what a person receives as a war pension when applying for a service pension or, in the case of a war widow, an age pension or an invalid pension. That is a tremendous contribution.
In the short time left to me let me merely mention some of the many other benefits for which many of my colleagues and I, along with exservice organisations, strove when we were in Opposition but which did not come to pass until a Labor government came to power. The repatriation means test pension is now payable in overseas countries, just as is the social security pension. If a person chooses to go overseas on retirement, he is still entitled to receive his pension. Free repatriation treatment is available for all veterans of the Boer War and World War I. There is no means test; they are all entitled to it. They receive also nursing home care, although admittedly they have to make some contribution for it. All cancer cases are treated irrespective of whether the cancer was caused by war service. That was a benefit for which we fought for many years, but which was never granted until a Labor government came to power. As I have said, since May 1975, 50 per cent of war pensions are disregarded as income for means test purposes in the case of an application for a service pension. We have abolished the means test on service pensions, as we have on age pensions, for all persons 70 years and over, with the promise that as from May of next year the age will be reduced to 69 years, and will progressively be reduced further.
War Pension Entitlement Appeal Tribunals and repatriation boards are now required to give reasons for their decisions. It has been a bone of contention with ex-service bodies for years that those bodies were not required to give a reason for refusing an application. Now these important bodies are required to give reasons so that when a person challenges their decisions he or she knows on what grounds to meet the challenge. Eligibility for service pensions has been extended to veterans of the defence forces of British Commonwealth countries who have lived for 10 years in Australia. De facto wives are now recognised and provision has been made under this Government for ex-nuptial children. Provision has been made for free medical and hospital treatment for all Australian prisoners of war. No longer do prisoners of war have to prove their case before a tribunal; they automatically receive free treatment. Who would have thought that during 23 years in power a government would not provide that kind of assistance to prisoners of war. This Government has done very much in the cause of the ex-serviceman.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury)-
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to direct a few remarks to the estimates for the Department of Social Security. That Department has direct outlays in the field of social security and welfare for this year estimated at some $4,772m. Direct outlays on social security and welfare in 1975-76 are equivalent to 21.8 per cent of the estimated total Budget outlay. That, of course makes our Department of Social Security one of the most important areas of government responsibility. Because of that huge responsibility to our genuine areas of welfare and because of the costs involved, it is most desirable that stringent procedures be developed that remove existing anomalies and also remove the abuses that are being perpetuated in the system. A nation with Australia’s potential should not allow to develop throughout the community, and particularly amongst our young people, a hand out mentality where people believe that income can be obtained without work. I believe that only by close scrutiny can we ensure that the welfare areas are supported fully and adequately and can be broadened.
There are one or two areas within the Department of Social Security to which I would like to direct specific attention. The first is that of the Aged Persons Homes and Hostels Act. I believe that this is the first time since that Act was introduced into the Parliament that it has been thrown into limbo in that the program is going to be suspended for 12 months. Organisations sponsoring appeals for geriatric wards for nursing units, for aged persons homes, for aged persons hostels throughout Australia today will lack the confidence that they should have to continue these programs. We all know that the applications that are being received at the present time cannot expect funding for at least 12 months. I believe that the Department of Social Security should look very seriously at making some commitment and some guarantee to these organisations so that they can borrow from outside the Department, carry on their programs and be guaranteed the funds when they become available.
The same situation also exists in relation to the development and expansion of offices of the Department of Social Security throughout the nation. After many years of making representations in relation to Swan Hill, which is in my electorate, we were last year granted approval for the development of an office of the Department of Social Security. It was a much needed office because Department of Social Security services do not exist in that area within a distance of 240 miles. As a result the administration of social security benefits and payments did create anomalies and disadvantages for the people who live in that immediate radius. Of course, as a result of the cut backs in capital works programs announced in this Budget, the proposal to establish that office has now been abandoned. Once again I can only say to the Minister Assisting the Minister for Social Security (Mr Stewart), who is at the table, that great consideration should be given to expanding these necessary resources and facilities within the rural areas. The same thing can also be said for the decentralising of these social security offices into other areas for the benefit of the people they would serve.
For one moment I wish to direct my attention to the domiciliary nursing care benefit. When that benefit was introduced on 1 March 1973 it received the support of this Parliament. Of course, the intention of the enacting legislation was to encourage people to look after their aged relatives in their own homes instead of having to admit them to nursing home, hospitals or other institutions. The current benefit is $ 14 and it was not increased in the Budget. However, I make no criticism of that. What I do criticise is the fact that anomalies and inequalities have developed with respect to that benefit. There has been widespread criticism of the legislation and its application on a number of grounds. One of the grounds, for instance, is the problem faced by many people in rural areas. They are excluded from the benefit of nursing care simply because nursing care is not available. Relatives caring for invalids under 65 years of age do not qualify for the benefit under the conditions of eligibility. That is having anti-rehabilitative effects and is placing unnecessary demands on scarce nursing resources.
To enable caring relatives to benefit from that legislation doctors and nurses must be available in remote areas. In places where there are no domiciliary nurses and which may well be without access to a doctor except in cases of emergency, it is absolutely essential that families in these remote areas, who are perhaps more likely to look after aged parents and other relatives at home, qualify for the benefit. But because of the non-availability of a visiting nursing service they are prevented from qualifying for the benefit. Thus problems already created by geographical factors are compounded by legislation which fails to cater for other than urban situations, and that, of course, results in assistance not reaching many of those people in need.
I now wish to direct one or two comments to a situation in relation to which the National Country Party has been making many representations for many months. I refer to the fact that we believe that the unemployment benefit should be paid to many people who are self employed, particularly where sickness is involved or in cases of particular stress through lack of income over a short period of time. On 22 April I wrote to the then Minister for Social Security, Mr Hayden. He replied and said that while the criterion for eligibility was available to all people he had to admit that the conditions for benefit made it difficult for anyone self employed, such as primary producers or small business people to obtain any assistance under this program. We have to look at the conditions and the criteria to see the reasons.
The calculation is based on a means test which takes into account income and assets. On the assets side the calculation uses a notable 10 per cent return on capital. I am quite sure that we all realise that nobody in small business or in primary production today can obtain anywhere near a 10 per cent return on his capital. This, of course, rules such a person out of any benefit that he may deserve.
During the last flood along the Murray River many of my constituents were flooded out for some 18 months and as a result had to sell all their stock. In other words, they had to sell their means of obtaining an income. Many of them were living in caravan parks in nearby towns. Despite the fact that they were registered as unemployed, despite representations to Ministers, despite the fact that they had no income whatsoever for a period of some 18 months and even at the end of that time they had to borrow money to restock their properties, they were not entitled to any benefit through the social security system because of the criteria that existed. It is difficult to develop criteria whereby self-employed people can be entitled to receive unemployment benefits, but it can be done. It applies in New Zealand and also in many other countries. It can be done by a calculation based on the previous year’s income with interim calculations based on the current year’s income. If necessary adjustments can be made later, even after payments are made. I believe this request is quite justifiable. Even if a person does own property as an asset we should remember that the asset that the primary producer owns or the small businessman owns is not only his means of income for the rest of his life, and perhaps the life of his family, but it is also the means whereby this nation is able to provide benefit to other people. I believe that the criteria that exist within the social security system are an injustice and an inequity and I do hope that the Minister will look at this with a view to making some adjustment.
May I just say in closing my remarks that the success of any social welfare program is dependent not on the Government but upon the ability of taxpayers to fund the necessary schemes. It is to be hoped that this Government does not cripple the economic potential of the nation to the immediate detriment of those in real need.
– I want to discuss under the Department of Health estimates the proposed appropriation of $230,000 for the training of dental therapists. I take this opportunity to say a few words about the school dental service because the great degree of progress that has been made in this scheme since the election of the Labor Government in December 1972 is not generally realised. The annual report of the Director-General of Health sets out at page 240 some of the advances that have been made both in the number of static clinics provided for schools and in the increase in the number of personnel including dental therapists and others employed in the service. It also indicates the increased amount in capital and recurrent expenditure appropriated for this program. I seek leave to have 2 tables incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury)-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows)-
– As far as my own State of South Australia is concerned these tables show an increase in the number of clinics from 28 in 1973 to 4 1 in the present year, and in the total number of personnel from 143 in 1973 to 228 in 1975. This great degree of initiative was shown by the Government. In fact, one of the first acts by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in December 1972 was to arrange with the New Zealand Government to send 25 trainee dental therapists to New Zealand so that they could be trained in the facilities which already exist there to complement those who will be trained in Australia to man the scheme. The scheme was modelled on the New Zealand scheme and it was initiated in my State of South Australia in the late 1960s under the Walsh Labor Government. It was adopted as national policy at the national conference of the Australian Labor Party in 1971 at Launceston. I was very proud to have been associated with the measure to incorporate that as the policy which became the policy of the Government.
The school dental scheme aims basically at prevention, preventive dental care and educationeducating the children and their parents in proper dental care. It does aim to achieve a comprehensive cover for all primary school children in Australia and eventually all children up to the age of 15 years. The scheme is run mainly by female graduates following a 2-year course at colleges of advanced education in the various States and services are provided free of charge, all the people in the service being salaried. I think this does show very well the advantage of a salaried system, a system in which the State provides the service and employs those people who are needed to run it. The benefit is provided to everybody irrespective of who he is, where he lives, and what his economic circumstances are. It does not leave the distribution of these services to market forces. I think this is very important because the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has espoused the new philosophy of the Liberal Party in which he believes that everything should be left to market forces. I believe if this were to apply in this case there would be a good deal of inequity in the distribution and access of school children to proper dental care. I think we would have the same sort of thing that happened in respect of legal services before the Australian Legal Aid Office was set up whereby poor people had insufficient access to proper legal services. I believe the same thing would happen with the school dental service if we left that to market forces.
It would be completely inadequate if we left the whole thing to a fee-for-service arrangement like we have with the medical scheme that we have unfortunately inherited- this tradition of fee-for-service. I think that if that were to happen the market forces would not be sufficient to ensure a proper distribution because poor people would be priced out of the service. If we just provided a subsidy to private enterprise like we have been forced to do with medical care we would find that the only way that we could make available adequate treatment for poor people would be to provide such a great subsidy that the scheme would be very overpriced. This would result in the enrichment of the privileged people who.provide services such as medical services.
The school dental scheme really is on the same principle as the education service. The State government provides the service. It employs the people to man the service. It trains the people to provide that service and to work in it. As I said, the proposed expenditure and the previous expenditure on the program provide more static clinics in schools which are manned by the dental therapists and are under the general supervision of dentists. Funds are being provided for training schools. Quite recently I had the privilege of being associated with the South Australian Minister for Health in the opening of a large dental therapy training school at Somerton Park in South Australia in my electorate. Approval has been given for the establishment of yet another centre in Adelaide, so we hope before long to have an output of some 96 graduates a year in South Australia. These centres will also train therapists for the Northern Territory. I do hope that as many people as possible will have a chance to visit dental therapy training schools such as the one at Somerton Park to see this truly wonderful program in action. Dental therapists can do all the basic things required to treat children. They can give preventive care. They can administer local anaesthetics. They can carry out fillings. They do extractions. They X-ray children’s teeth and perhaps most importantly they carry out general education programs for the children in the schools, and they ask the parents to come along as well. It is under the general supervision of a dentist. There is approximately one dentist to every 4 school dental clinics, each school dental clinic having about 2 dental therapists. The dentist will prescribe the general form of treatment but it is carried out by the dental therapist. I am sure that the end result of this will be a real improvement in human welfare in the form of better dental health for the next generation of Australians. It is really different in that way from other areas of government expenditure.
The Government might be able to build more hospitals but it would not necessarily mean that we would have a healthier community. We might spend more on prescription drugs but it would not necessarily mean that we would have a healthier community. We might build more law courts or have bigger police forces but it would not mean that we would have a more law abiding community. We have more teachers but it does not necessarily mean that we have better educated children in Australia. However, it is different with this program. It is not just that we have more dental therapists and it is not just that we have more buildings; the benefit is a tangible one in human welfare. It means that there is better dental health for the next generation of Australians. I think this is shown quite clearly as a result of the scheme as applied in New Zealand. It also provides a redistributive benefit.
Surveys carried out before the scheme was introduced showed that children in poor areas tended to have much worse teeth than those in better off areas. In this respect the school dental health program provides a quality of children’s teeth of uniform excellence. Therefore there is a significantly greater benefit provided to those children in poor areas who have the worst teeth. It is of great benefit to people from low income families.
As I said, I believe that this scheme could not possibly be run by private enterprise. With a private enterprise fee for service system we would not be able to have the preventive or educative aspects. I am sure that such a scheme would be much more expensive because it would have to subsidise the dentists to see that everybody got enough as rich people could take more than their share of the resources available. The cost to the community therefore is very much less under the scheme that this Government has provided. I would like to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) tell us whether his proposal to leave all these sorts of things to market forces applies to the school dental therapy program. If that were the case it would be a very sad day for the state of health of children’s teeth in Australia. I believe that this program is socialism with a human face and I commend the Government for its continued support for it.
-I would like to make some remarks on matters relating to social services and particularly to draw attention to the failure of the Government to carry out its promises. There are many things in respect of which the Government has failed to carry out its promises but I want to make particular note of two of them. Firstly, it said quite definitely that by this time it would have got rid of the means test for everybody over the age of 65 years. It has welshed on that promise. Secondly, it talked about raising the rate of pensions to 25 per cent of the average weekly earnings. Well, it has welshed on that promise too because the pension rate now is approximately the same percentage of average weekly earnings as it was when the Government came to power in 1 972.
– That is not right.
– I am told that it is right. I will produce figures because I think this has to be done scientifically. Honourable members should remember that there is a lag in the production of those figures. The Government is guilty of some kind of deception by not making allowance for that lag by reason of the run-away prices. That lag was not important when we of the Opposition parties were in office because prices were not running away, but now that they are running away the 6 months lag is of very great statistical importance. It is of more than statistical importance; it is important for the unhappy pensioners who find that their pensions are not able to purchase as much as they had believed.
I am going to talk also about the virtual shutting off of the aged persons homes scheme, the failure to honour promises, the failure to allow further commitments and the way in which these very worthy institutions have been put in financial straits from time to time. These are matters which are sins of commission. There is one sin of omission to which I want to draw particular attention and that is the failure to do anything for the motherless family, for the man who has to support and look after his children because his wife has died or because his wife has deserted him. I believe that we of the Opposition should have done something about this matter in our time. It was next in priority on my list when I was Minister for Social Services and it is absolutely disgraceful that now, 3 years later, nothing has been done and nothing is in contemplation. The reason for that is very simple; the Government has had to outlay tremendous sums on unemployment benefits.
I am not suggesting that such sums should not be outlaid on unemployment where necessary and where there is no abuse. What I am saying is that these sums have to be outlaid because of the degree of unemployment in the community which in the main has been created by the Government. If honourable members look at the Budget papers they will see that this year $43 7m is being allocated for unemployment and sickness benefits. I have made some rough calculations and I think that in view of the volume of unemployment at present and the unemployment that is expected this figure has been underestimated by something like $150m a year. We will have to see how the figures are for the rest of the financial year but I am very much afraid that the present Treasurer (Mr Hayden) has underestimated and that he will have to find an even greater amount for unemployment relief than the prodigious figure of $437m that he had to place in his Budget.
Let me put the situation clearly. It is because of the immensity of this expenditure, which is a necessary consequence of the Government’s economic failure, that other social services have had to be cut back. Unemployment means a double loss. It means a loss to all other social service recipients and potential recipients because payments to them have had to be cut in order to meet this expenditure, and even worse, in fact far worse, it means a loss to the unemployed people. What about the sufferings of unemployed people. I know that there are some people who are called bludgers and that there are some people who are polling on the community; that is true. However, there are large numbers of people who are unemployed through no fault of their own but simply because of the disastrous policies of this Government. They are the people we have to keep in mind. Sure, this sum of $600m has to be found this year for unemployment benefits.
The fact that we have to find that amount of money means that hundreds of thousands of people are suffering undeserved unemployment by reason of this Government’s failure, its economic clumsiness and its inability to manage the economy. This is tremendously serious because among the people included is a large number of juveniles who want their first job. There still are about 40 000 or 50 000 unemployed people from last year’s school leaven. What do we think of this? It is not just the economic loss that has to be considered. Probably the school leavers suffer less economic loss because their parents still keep them. But what about the non-economic losses? Losses in morale are of tremendous consequence for school leavers. The Government has created a generation which has no work experience and which is becoming habituated to unemployment. This is a terrible moral thing that follows as a consequence of this Government’s policy. These people deserve something better than what they have been offered. There is no precedence for this kind of thing since the depression of 1931 and 1932.
We have never had anything like this sustained level of unemployment in the Australian community since those days. It is no good to say that this is only the consequence of something that happened internationally. That simply is not true because Australia is one of those fortunate countries which with its physical resources is able to isolate itself from these international disasters. We have not really suffered a collapse of our export prices with the one exception, I think, of meat. We are not worried about credits from overseas. Indeed this Government has gone to great lengths to prevent the inflow of money for one reason or another so that cannot be the case. We have not been worried by the oil price hike because over 70 per cent of our oil is still locally produced. These are facts and there is no reason at all why a government that had been running the economy successfully should have had to meet this sustained level of unemployment.
Let me remind the Committee that when this Government went to the election in 1974 it pledged itself to no unemployment. In point of fact it brought about some kind of fallacious kick in the economy in April and May of that year and it put over the deception that unemployment was coming to an end. That was not so at all. Exactly the opposite was the case. The Government was guilty of a calculated cold deception. It is a fraudulent government that gained power by a fraudulent policy which it knew to be based on a lie. It is not fit to remain in office. I say to the Government: Get off the backs of the Australian people and give them a chance- resign.
– I want to use the brief time available to me to speak in support of the appropriation for the Department of Health mainly, and in brief in support of that for the Department of Social Security. The increased involvement of the Australian Government has added a new dimension to health care. Allocations this year indicate the very large quantitative increase but, at the same time, they reflect the qualitative improvement. The assistance provided by the Australian Government has particular significance, I would suggest, in my own State of Victoria where health care services have been allowed to run down to a very low state. The maladministration of the present Victorian Health Minister is readily acknowledged as he bounces from one disaster to another.
It is fortunate that my electorate has shared in the enlarged vision of health care held by this Government. In many ways it can be regarded as a microcosm within the macrocosm. Throughout the electorate one can see evidence of innovations introduced by the Australian Government that are adding to the quality of health. Residents in the Holt electorate of course share with the people of Australia generally the advantages which accrue through the introduction of Medibank. On the medical side these advantages are clear. I suppose the most important group here is that made up of people who were not insured at all through no fault of their own in many cases but because they could not afford private health insurance. These people will now have health insurance provided for them, and rightly so, by the Government.
But on the hospital side the increased allocation of funds for the running costs of hospitals is of particular importance to the Dandenong and District Hospital which is the major hospital in my electorate. This is a unique hospital which has a remarkable record of service to the community. It has the State’s shortest average stay and the lowest cost per patient. Constantly it is faced with an acute bed shortage. This hospital has the highest proportion of casualties of any hospital in the State. Increased assistance by the Australian Government through the Medibank arrangements will provide urgently needed financial assistance in the hospital’s administration.
There are several disturbing features in regard to the Dandenong and District Hospital. The hospital has a low proportion of public patients at the present time. I believe that only 10 per cent of the patients are public patients. I also believe that public maternity cases have to go to the city hospitals. Again I believe that the Medibank arrangements will remedy many of these shortcomings. As honourable members are aware, there has been a massive increase of $77.7m in the grants made available under the hospitals development program. Portion of the $108m provided for in this year’s Budget will be used to finance the south block extensions currently proceeding at Dandenong. Of course, this is a cooperative venture but the exact share of the State has yet to be determined.
Possibly one of the greatest problems that we face in the community is the care of frail and the sick-aged people. Certainly my electorate faces that problem. Recently I discussed this problem with the welfare officer at the Dandenong and District Hospital and she showed to me a number of case studies which she had carried out on elderly people in the hospital which demonstrated the desperate plight faced by those people who virtually have nowhere to go. She drew to my attention cases where people have been in hospital for long periods of time and were living in a community where there is virtually nowhere for them to go once they leave hospital. She pointed out that their problem was made worse by the fact that generally nursing homes were full and in many cases the homes to which they could return were totally unsuitable for them. For this reason I was pleased recently when the Australian Government provided 80 per cent of the capital needed by the Methodist Church to purchase a nursing home in Noble Park. I would like to make passing reference to a comment made to me by Reverend John Johnson, the Director of Adult Care in the Methodist Church in Victoria, who stated that if it had not been for the deficit finance arrangements introduced by this Government voluntary and religious organisations such as his would have had to withdraw from the field of nursing home care.
Also in the geriatric field the Holt electorate is fortunate that the Dandenong Day Hospital at present under construction will provide paramedical assistance urgently needed by many frail and aged people living in their homes. In this respect the Australian Government will provide 75 per cent of the capital funds required. Of course, the ideal is for aged people to live in their own homes for as long as possible and retain their independence. Sadly this is not always possible and they have to live with their families. The Government is mindful of this and is doing all it can to provide added domiciliary and ancillary care in the home. An example of this is the $2 per day allowance which is payable to people looking after the sick and aged in recognition of the importance of their work.
I believe it is significant that the first medical appointment to the Doveton Community Health Centre was a community nurse. This centre was funded almost entirely by this Government. This is not to say that nurses had not already been carrying out excellent work through the district nursing service. But in many cases the service was very badly overtaxed. Of course, we know that there are many other facilities available within the community to provide services to those who are looking after the elderly in their homes. I will mention but one- the Delivered Meals Subsidy Act which provides subsidies for meals on wheels. It can of course be extended into many areas for organisations and councils which show the necessary initiative.
In the moment or two remaining I want to mention medical aids which have been made available by the Government and which provide encouragement for the frail aged to remain in their homes. First I pay tribute to the excellent work being done by the National Acoustics Laboratory. Again Dandenong is fortunate in having a regional acoustic centre. Assistance is given to people in the provision of free hearing aids. If they are unable to attend the centre themselves due to invalidity or sickness the service is brought to them in their homes. Recently I have had the opportunity to observe the work of the centre at close hand and can testify to the quality of the service and the appliances. Another innovation that this Government introduced last year was the provision of home dialysis equipment and supplies. In this year’s appropriation $2.28m was set aside for this purpose. As was announced yesterday by the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) stoma appliances are now available free of charge to all who need them. For this purpose $600,000 has been set aside in the Budget.
Much has been done by this Government in the field of health care. A new approach has been launched and I believe that great credit must go to the Minister for the innovations that have been carried out. I am certain that the Minister and this Government would be the first to admit that we have only just begun the task and that there is much that remains to be done. A start has been made and the foundations are firm.
-I address my remarks this evening to the Australian Assistance Plan in general and more particularly to a parochial matter that concerns me personally in my electorate of Petrie. I want to look first of all at the background of the Australian Assistance Plan and to remind the Committee that the Plan is now in its third year of operation. At this stage it is still being classed by the Government as a social experiment. I point out that some $2m was spent in the 1973-74 financial year, $4.2m was spent in 1974-75 and it is estimated that in this financial year $7.4m will be expended on the Plan. There are 12 regions receiving captitation grants. In the last financial year they received $4,lm. Page 54 of Budget Paper No. 1 shows that 37 regional councils received social development grants for administrative costs and for the employment of community development officers or CDOs as they are referred to. Fourteen of the 37 regional councils will receive capitation grants.
I turn my remarks more particularly to the Brisbane area. The City of Brisbane Interim Committee at the moment is not receiving capitation grants but is receiving funds for the employment of administrative staff and also community development officers. I want to look first of all at the composition of the Interim Committee in a political sense. I am not aware of the political affiliations or leanings of all the members of the Committee, nor have I bothered to go into that in great depth. Of some 20 members on the Committee two are non-Labor members of note, the Liberal member for the State seat of Merthyr, Mr Don Lane, and the National Country Party member for the State seat of Wynnum, Mr Bill Lamond.
– I would not trust either.
-Maybe the Minister would not trust them. He should wait until I give the line-up of the ALP members on the Committee. I understands that at least one other Liberal also sits on that Committee.
– You are not certain?
– I am not certain about two or three of the others on the Labor side either. There are no fewer than 6 well-recognised Labor members on this Committee. They are Mr Kevin
Hooper, the MLA for Archerfield, Alderman Burton and Alderman Beattie Dawson from the Brisbane City Council- they will not be there after the March elections next year when the Liberal Party for the first time contests the Brisbane City Council elections- Councillor J. Harding from the Albert Shire Council, Mr S. Tapper representing the Trades Hall and Mrs Pat Brusasco who is the wife of. Brisbane City Council Alderman Ian Brusasco. I understand there are 2 other Labor members as well. I am not particularly taking issue with that point. Therein lies the greatest danger that the Australian Assistance Plan faces. Any ad hoc committee that is established in this country which is not democratically elected and where the people elected to the Committee do not have to face the ballot box a danger always exists.
I want to refer to some of the seminars and meetings that have been held to establish interim committees in the Brisbane area. I attended one recently at the Sandgate Town Hall that reeked of politics. Meetings of this nature are stacked, they have been stacked, they are being stacked and they will be stacked in the future by people from both sides of the political spectrum while the present situation in relation to the Australian Assistance Plan exists. I want to refer to a part of the minutes of a meeting of the City of Brisbane Interim Committee on Friday, 27 June. It referred first of all to a letter of resignation from a community development officer, R. Phelps, addressed to the Reverend Laurie, the Committee Chairman. Mr Phelps had asked that the letter be included in the minutes, and this was done. Let me quote 2 paragraphs from the minutes. They read:
Your Committee should re-open the question of Community Development Officers being endorsed candidates seeking public office.
A CDO cannot also assume the role of endorsed candidate and be a success. The roles are incompatible. A CDO publicises and fosters the interest of the AAP, while a candidate must publicise him or herself, and personal interests and activities to be successful. Undertaken concurrently, one must necessarily reflect on the other.
This was a very eventful meeting. There was also a dismissal of another community development officer but this gentleman happened to be the endorsed ALP candidate for the Federal seat of Moreton, which is now held by Mr Killen.
There had been an agreement, I understand, between this community development officer, Mr Lewin Blazevich and the Committee that he would not operate in the electorate of Moreton as he was the endorsed ALP candidate. However, I understand he broke this agreement. The matter of his non-compliance with the direction of the
Brisbane executive officer was discussed at this same meeting. There was a report from the executive officer, Mr Marshall. Mr Blayevich addressed the meeting and responded to questions from the Interim Committee. A motion was moved and seconded by two of the ALP members that the report be noted and no action be taken. The motion was defeated, 4 members being in favour, five being against and two abstaining. Then a motion was moved by Rev. Brian Gilmour and seconded by Mr Kelly that the Committee adopt the recommendations of the executive officer to the Interim Committee and that Mr Lewin Blazevich be dismissed. This motion was carried, 6 members being in favour, four being against and one abstaining. It is interesting to note also that another community development officer, Lyndal Sullivan, resigned at this meeting. It was really quite a meeting.
Having dealt with the circumstances that surrounded the dismissal of the endorsed ALP candidate and community development officer, Mr Blayevich, I now turn to another endorsed ALP candidate who is also a community development officer in my electorate of Petrie. I refer to Mr Hungerford. He was endorsed some 6 months ago. I inform the House that I have not made any statement publicly until this evening. I have not raised the issue but have watched it naturally very closely. My association with Mr Hugerford has been a very friendly one. I meet him quite frequently in my electorate. We have shaken hands on a number of occasions and our association is quite a friendly one. I want to make that point quite clear. I have received reports in recent times that he is working in the Petrie electorate. Anyone who knows the activities of a community development officer will realise that the scope is quite wide. Such an officer can be carrying out different surveys and door knocking in the course of his duties. Of course, politically this gives him quite an advantage. After all, one must recognise that he is also being paid under the Australian Assistance Plan by this Government.
This gentleman has received quite a deal of publicity. He has met community groups and addresses them in the course of his work and he has had articles in local newspapers. At the same time- this is once again his right as a candidatehe has had quite a deal to say in the Press in relation to various issues. I do not take issue with him on that point, but it is rather disturbing when a local newspaper contains an item stating that he has addressed a meeting in his capacity as a community development officer under the Australian Assistance Plan and on the same page or a page or two later he is named as the endorsed
ALP candidate for the electorate of Petrie. One would have to say that he has a vested interest. That is the point that Mr Phelps made in his letter.
– He has no hope of winning Petrie.
– He has no hope of winning it, but it is a point that wants watching, and I raise it tonight for that very reason.
– You would have to be a nervous Nellie.
-Would the Minister like to come to my electorate and assist the gentleman? I would like all honourable members opposite, particularly the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), to come into Petrie. He would be most welcome there. I would even pay his fare if he would come. The Minister for Tourism and Recreation is welcome too. I am going to write to the Brisbane interim committee and request that this gentleman work in an area other than the federal electorate of Petrie. I do not wish to see Mr Hungerford dismissed. That would be the last thing I would want. Because of the nature of his work and because he will be campaigning in the next few months, as I understand he has been doing quietly in the past 6 months, I believe that he should be directed in his duties into an area other than the Petrie electorate.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Mr STEWART (Lang-Minister for Tourism and Recreation)- Mr Chairman, I suggest that the order for the consideration of the proposed expenditures agreed to by the Committee on 4 September by varied by postponing the consideration of the proposed expenditure for the Department of Housing and Construction.
-Is the suggestion of the Minister agreed to? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
Department of Services and Property
Proposed expenditure, $70, 1 50,000
– I have never spoken on this item before and I have never made a personal attack on a person in this Parliament before, but I am going to do so tonight. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) thinks himself to be a great wit. I think he is a mixture of cunning and a contriving plotter. I am going to spell it out now so that even he can understand. I wish to illustrate just one simple point by mentioning one polling place in my electorate, which is about twice as big as Victoria. I could mention other places, but I am going to mention only one. I want the Minister, with all bis brilliance, cunning and humour, to get one into his head, because I think it is going to follow him for a long while yet.
I refer to a place called Oodnadatta. It is not a big place. The number of votes recorded there in the last 3 years has been 57, 47 and 40. The Minister has closed it down as a polling place, I guess, in the name of economy. That may have been a sensible move to make in other cases, but in the case of Oodnadatta it was not. Oodnadatta has closed down. What is a citizen in Oodnadatta to do? I guess he can go to the next polling place.
– How far away is that?
– It is 270-odd miles away over the roughest road in Australia. The Minister no doubt will say that there is another alternative and that a person can make a postal vote. Those of us who know the postal service that looks after Oodnadatta will know that if a person living in Oodnadatta does everything exactly right and his footwork is impeccable, he can perhaps apply for a postal vote. But a person who lives 60 or 70 miles out on a station, say, at Mount Darah, cannot ever vote again. He cannot lodge a postal vote. Unless he goes 270 miles to Marree and 270 miles back he cannot vote again.
The Minister can grin as much as he likes, but this is something he will wear until the end of time as far as I am concerned. He has deliberately disenfranchised people outside Oodnadatta, say, at Anna Creek or on the other stations, forever. He may say that he did not know the gun was loaded, that he did not know what he was doing. He can grin as much as he likes. I wrote to his district returning officer on 5 May. I wrote to him on 8 May. I got no reply. I wrote to him again on 15 July. I had no acknowledgement, no reply whatever. The Minister may claim that he did not know what he was doing. Either he did or he did not know what he was doing, but any Minister who can deliberately set to work to disenfranchise a small section of the community- there may not be many of them and they may vote against his Party- is doing a scandalous thing.
I have never made a personal attack on any member in this Parliament before, but I do so now. The Minister has wantonly and deliberately disenfranchised the people of Oodnadatta. I can say the same about Blinman, Olary and many other places. This is something I hope the Minister will wear and never forget. Will he please stand up and say how the people who live 20, 30 or 50 miles out of Oodnadatta, who get mail once a fortnight, are going to apply for a postal vote at
Kadina and get the papers back in time? I say that the Minister deliberately disenfranchised the people of Oodnadatta. He did it with his eyes open and with that smile we have come to despise across his lips.
The Minister and other members of the Government frequently wonder why the people who live in the bush despise the Government. It is not just because it has abolished the superphosphate bounty and things like that. It is because the Minister and people like him have set to work to see that these people will never get a vote again. That is something I want the Minister to reply to when his time comes. I do not want him to just show some smart footwork and a bit of wit and humour. Let him tell me why the people who live 30 miles out of Oodnadatta will never vote again.
-As these estimates deal with the Department of Services and Property, which is in charge of the electoral machinery, I wish to deal tonight with the extraordinary circumstances surrounding allegations and rumours that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) wishes to block the Budget. Of course, if such an action is taken, it will set an extraordinary precedent- a precedent that will destroy democratic government in Australia. It will set up a circumstance under which other oppositions in the future could take similar action. In other words, whenever a government might be going through a difficult period and be a little bit unpopular, as happens to all governments, then an opposition could take the initiative of blocking the Budget in the Senate.
Mr DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock)Order! I think the honourable member for Chifley is rather stretching the debate on the estimates for the Department of Services and Property by discussing, firstly, the Budget and secondly the factor in relation to an election because of the Budget. I suggest that the honourable member might give consideration to the fact that the subject matter which he is debating at the moment is not covered by the Department of Services and Property.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, I shall not be discussing the Budget; I shall be discussing matters dealing with the electoral machinery of this country. I shall be dealing with the powers to call elections or otherwise, which surely comes within the authority of the Electoral Office of this country and certainly comes within the machinery controlled by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). I should like to quote from section 53 of the Australian Constitution which states:
Proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys, or imposing taxation, shall not originate in the Senate.
– Order! I suggest that if the honourable member takes into consideration what he is saying, he will realise that he is not dealing with matters relating to the machinery of elections, the Department of Services and Property or the Electoral Office. He is discussing matters that come under the sphere of activity of other departments and certainly not this department. I suggest again that the honourable member not continue with the line that he is debating at the moment.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, I have had quite a bit of my time taken up, but I am dealing with the possibility of elections, which certainly come within the province of the Department of Services and Property.
– Order! I point out to the honourable member for Chifley that if he continues in this strain I shall immediately ask him to resume his seat.
– As a matter of protest, I intend to continue on this line.
– Order ! The honourable member for Chifley will resume his seat. I must confess that I regret that it just happened to be at this moment that I came into this chair. If the honourable member for Chifley wishes to make any comment in regard to my capacity, I remind him that I have had some experience in this chair. If the honourable member for Chifley will consider the things that he has been saying, he will realise that he has been mentioning a matter concerning another department; certainly not the machinery matters of the Department of Services and Property.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, I submit very strongly that the question of a potential election- and I intend to make this submission very firmly- comes within the machinery of the Minister for Services and Property. I believe this matter should be aired and that this is the correct time to do it. I have not yet been advised as to which department this matter comes under. I would be rather interested to find which department it comes under, because I shall make sure that I deal with the matter in the estimates of that department.
-Mr Deputy Chairman, I rise on a point of order. Perhaps I can assist the honourable member for Chifley and suggest that it might come under the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
– There is no point of order involved.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, I wish to speak to the point of order. It is true that the Department of Services and Property with expenditure totalling $70m-odd is under discussion. The expenditure comes under the heading of Administrative, Australian Electoral Office and State and Electorate Offices of Ministers and Members of the Australian Parliament- Staff and Services. So I submit that the honourable member for Chifley is right in making reference to matters within the concern of the Australian Electoral Office which comes directly under my control as Minister for Services and Property.
– Order! In regard to the point of order raised by the Minister, I have not said to the honourable member for Chifley that he should not speak on any matters relating to the Electoral Office or factors concerning members in the performance of their duties and other things. But the honourable member for Chifley, in the course of his remarks, has canvassed the matter of the rejection of Supply by the Senate. He has associated with that the Leader of the Opposition and in my opinion these are not matters related to the department under discussion. I suggest therefore, as I have said to the honourable member for Chifley, that he do not enter into debate on matters that are not in that sense under the control of the Department of Services and Property.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, an amount of $6,492,500 has been allocated in this Budget for the Australian Electoral Office. These funds would be utilised, of course, particularly in the event of an election. I realise there is sensitivity on the part of the Opposition -
– Order! The honourable member for Chifley will resume his seat.
– I do so, but I protest–
– Order! The honourable member for Chifley will resume his seat. I remind the honourable member for Chifley that the decision from the Chair is a decision related merely to the Standing Orders. I suggest that if one followed the argument which the honourable member for Chifley has put forward to justify his comments, one could discuss the matter of an election in the sense in which he is discussing under almost any department or any estimates being considered. I again suggest to the honourable member for Chifley that he do not continue on the line on which he has been debating at this moment.
– As a matter of protest, Mr Deputy Chairman, because of the obvious sensitivity of the Opposition to this issue, because honourable members opposite know the matter to be raised-
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Chairman. The honourable member for Chifley is clearly in flagrant breach of your ruling. I suggest, with respect, that now, on the fourth occasion that the honourable member for Chifley has indicated through the use of the words ‘as a means of protest’, that he is disregarding the ruling of the Chair.
– No point of order is involved.
– The honourable member for Bennelong took a point of order before he had heard what I had to say. I had not finished my remarks. The point I was making was that I protest against the obvious opposition and sensitivity of the Opposition because honourable members opposite know the matters I am going to air. They are deliberately trying to gag me. However, Mr Deputy Chairman, you have given your ruling. I protest against it. I protest most firmly because of the knowledge of the matters and the question of the integrity of the Leader of the Opposition which I was going to raise. Nevertheless I shall abide by your ruling. But I believe that in time to come this matter will have to be aired in this chamber. I shall take the first appropriate opportunity to air it and to give exactly the details which I wanted to give tonight. Honourable members opposite can query and squeal as much as they like, but these issues will be aired in this chamber, because that is in the interests of democracy and maintaining democracy in this country.
– I wish to pursue a little further the issue raised by the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) earlier in this debate, that is, the closing of polling booths in the electorate of Wakefield. The Minister for Servives and Property (Mr Daly), in answer to a question on notice, indicated to the Parliament and to the people of this country that, in order to save money, the Government has closed over 900 polling places throughout Australia. In the case of the electorate of Wakefield, some electors will have to travel, as the honourable member for Wakefield said, over 270 miles to cast a vote and return 270 miles home after having done so. There may be even more extreme cases. The honourable member says that there are no roads. In the electorate of Gwydir 24 polling places have been closed also- polling places that have been in existence for many years- for very good reasons. Some of them are remote regions and in mountainous country where they can be cut off by rapidly rising creeks.
– I have quite a few of them in my electorate.
– The honourable member for Paterson says that he has quite a few of them in his electorate. Further west in the electorate of Gwydir there are vast areas that are not served by all-weather roads. In times of wet weather the only way people will be able to cast a vote in a federal election from now on will be to walk, to go on horseback or by a 4-wheel drive vehicle. What the Government has done effectively is disfranchise a great number of people in certain circumstances. The Minister for Services and Property would be well aware that the people who cast their votes in some of these isolated areas are not favourably disposed towards this Government.
We were told that this measure has been brought in to save money. Bearing that in mind, let me refer to another aspect of the Department of Services and Property. We find around the countryside a great number of ghost offices. The Auditor-General’s report on the Department of Services and Property indicates that there are no fewer than 6 government offices that have been unoccupied for extended periods and which are valued at $12,051,000. The Government is also paying dead rent on leased buildings which it is not occupying. The Auditor-General’s report indicates that the Government is paying rent on 3 buildings to the extent of $1,130,000 and a further 7 cases were noted where dead rent ranged from approximately $40,000 to $1 10,000. The Auditor-General thought that the state of affairs was so serious that it was necessary to report to the Parliament and have the issue referred to the Joint Committee on Public Accounts. The Auditor-General’s report stated:
In a recent reply to Audit representations, the Department of Services and Property indicated the details provided highlighted some of the difficulties confronting the Department in meeting its responsibilities for property arrangements. The Department stated, however, once it acquired a property on behalf of another department, it was the responsibility of the client department to ensure the property was utilised effectively for departmental purposes, or if not required immediately, alternative arrangements should be explored; for example, lease-back, renting, etc.
The Administrative Arrangements Order of 6 June 1975 provides for the acquisition, leasing and disposal of land and property, including office accommodation, in Australia for Australian Government purposes to be transferred to the
Department of Urban and Regional Development. Responsibility for matters relating to the control, use and management of land and property, including office accommodation, remains with the Department of Services and Property.
That was contained in the report. The Joint Committee on Public Accounts indicated that it was concerned that the Department of Services and Property had not produced either a cohesive or an adequate set of procedures which would enable it to cope with its functions. The Committee also stated that the evidence presented at the inquiry showed that there was a large degree of confusion and disagreement among the principal departments involved and the procedures themselves were not capable of coping with demands placed on them either in the normal course of events or when unusual pressures or circumstances arose. What an indictment that is. I am not saying this-
– Your Ministers planned the building.
– The honourable member for Shortland should read the Auditor-General’s report. I am not saying this; I am quoting from the Auditor-General’s report, which is an entirely independent opinion. That has not been the case in all circumstances. This Government has been in office for nearly 3 years. It cannot say that it has inherited this situation or that it has not had a chance in 3 years to overcome the payment of dead rent which is running into millions of dollars, leaving ghost buildings unoccupied around the countryside, yet it is trying to save money by closing about 970 polling booths around Australia and disfranchising people. Really the whole matter is a travesty of justice for people living in remote areas of Australia, people who have enough difficulties in trying to make a living, people who are deprived in more ways than one. Now we find that a great number of them in difficult circumstances are being deprived of their democratic entitlement to vote at federal elections. Let us not hear the story that more and more of these polling booths are to be closed because the Government is trying to save money. That is not a valid argument from the Department of Services and Property. The Minister cannot talk about saving money when he is leaving ghost buildings around the countryside unoccupied, when he is paying dead rent running into millions of dollars. The situation is unbelievable. The Minister will not convince the people of Australia that it has not been these sorts of things that have been running the country into a deficit of $2,500m. Previous governments never had a deficit of $2,500m. What is more, they would not have countenanced the situation of budgeting for this year’s deficit of $2,800m. The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) who interjects sits there ashamed of his Government’s record. He is ashamed because he is a man of conscience. He would have to be ashamed, as every other Government supporter would be.
Let us take places like Boolcarroll where the polling booth has existed since 1901. Boolcarroll was an old staging place for the bullock teams that used to take the wool from west of Walgett. No longer is there a polling place for the local people. I can assure the Minister that the locals of Boolcarroll are very upset about this. I refer also to places like Bulyeroi, Cubaroo Siding and Pokataroo. They are all grand places, places that Slim Dusty has mentioned many a time in some of his songs. The people who live in those areas should have the same entitlement to cast a vote as the people who live in Grayndler at the back door of the Minister himself. What he has done effectively is to deprive people in our democratic society of a basic right in times of wet weather. He says that he has done it to save money. But we have seen what is contained in the AuditorGeneral’s report. I did not say that. All I did was quote from the Auditor-General’s report which stands as an indictment of the Minister, of the Government and of every member of it.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I was rather astonished when I looked at Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ) to see the staggering figures in the administrative expenses of the Department of Services and Property for salaries and payments and also telephone, postage and cleaning charges. Taking into account today’s rate of inflation and the fact that the Government is allowing for a one per cent or VA per cent increase in growth in the public sector, we find that salaries and payments are to be reduced by $6m. Postage charges have risen from 10c to 18c and telephone charges have been increased but we find that there is a reduction of $2,460,000 in the postage and telephone estimates for this Department. I turn now to the appropriation for cleaning. All of us know the problems associated with and the cost of cleaning our offices. Under the heading ‘Administrative Expenses’, we find that the cleaning budget is to be reduced by $3,600,000.
– We will let the honourable member clean his own office.
-This deals with the administrative section and not with the offices of members of Parliament We see that the appropriation for contract cleaning has fallen from $7,010,000 last financial year to $3,600,000, this financial year. I believe that such a proposition is a totally stupid one to put forward. Fancy anybody in the light of today’s inflationary costs, with charges continually rising, coming forward not only with a non-growth factor but actually with a reduction in the appropriation for this purpose. I pointed out in earlier speeches today when debating the appropriations that the Government is totally deceiving everybody. All of the estimates for the various Departments in respect of postal charges have been reduced by approximately 50 per cent. I say to the Committee that this is not possible. There is no way the Government can achieve these savings unless it sacks its employees. The only way to reduce expenditure to this extent is to cut down on the costs of salaries and on the costs of phone calls. One cannot see the Minister for Services and Property cutting back on the costs he incurs in that respect. I believe that the Minister is seeking to delude the people of Australia totally when he brings forward a proposition proposing to cut back on these costs in respect of administrative expenses. Will the Minister stand up in a few moments and tell us that he intends to sack a large number of the employees of his Department? The total expenditure in respect of salaries and overtime by his Department last year was $24,834,653. The appropriation sought this financial year has been reduced to $18,243,300. That is roughly a cut of one-third. If we allow for the fact that inflation is continuing and that the usual increase in wages is approximately 20 per cent, we should see a cut in the staff of the Minister’s Department of approximately 40 per cent to 45 per cent. I asked the Minister to tell us tonight whether he is going to introduce such a cut-back and retrench 45 per cent of the staff of his Department.
(10.23)- I remain completely unmoved by the bitter personal attack on me by the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly). He has spoken of the changes that have been made in regard to polling places. I say to the honourable member that this matter is constantly under review. Not only country areas are affected. In this day and age we are long past the horse and buggy days in which the honourable member still lives. Transport facilities are infinitely better then they were and, consequently, sections of the Electoral Act dealing with polling places which were enacted in 1902, about the year when the honourable member was born, no longer have application in this day and age. Consequently, we are constantly updating the provisions of the Electoral Act.
Let us look at what the honourable member said. He claimed that some electors were a couple of hundred miles from their polling places. The honourable member for Kalgoolie (Mr Collard) under the Government of which the honourable member for Wakefield was a member had to represent areas that were 500 miles from polling places. In some areas there are no polling places at all. But those people still manage to vote. The honourable member mentioned Oodnadatta in this respect. As a matter of fact Oodnadatta is on the railway line. There is a regular rail service to it. It is almost a suburb of Adelaide when compared with the distance some areas in the electorate of the honourable member for Kalgoolie are from the capital city of his State.
– The honourable member for Wakefield has probably never been there.
– Yes. The honourable member has probably never been there. Those electors have never seen him. That is why they vote for him. Who in Oodnadatta would vote for him if they ever saw him? I have here a list of the polling places which, for a number of reasons, have been abolished. Some of the electors concerned can travel 20 miles to cast a vote. The honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) said that the roads were bad. Well, his Government was in office for 23 years. If people cannot vote because of bad roads, they should blame the Country Party. It was in office for 23 years and did nothing about that problem.
The honourable member for Wakefield lodged strong objection to the elimination of Frome North where 10 electors were concerned. These electors were only 56 kilometres from some place or other. The honourable member lodges a complaint when they are in fact 16, 20 or 24 kilometres away- only a hop, step and jump. I suggest that the honourable member likes to complain about everything, as do his colleagues. But none of them has ever complained about the honourable member for Kalgoorlie who represents the largest electorate in the world. People in his electorate rush 500 miles to a polling place to vote for him because they know he is worth voting for. When the honourable member complains about these matters and launches this bitter personal attack on me, why should I not remain unmoved? I have news for the honourable member. Already approximately 32 polling places have been abolished in his electorate and there are more to come. We think that any area with a population of fewer than 100 voters should not have a polling place; those people can vote by lodging a postal vote. Consequently there is no reason why this action should not be taken.
The honourable member for Gwydir wept tears of blood. Let us look at the situation in his electorate. No one is more than about 16 kilometres from the closest polling place. Honourable members know that every cocky on polling day would go that far to have a beer. He would drive 20 miles to have a beer, so why should he not vote while he is there.
The honourable member claims that there are bad roads in his district. If you take a good look at the honourable member for Gwydir you will see that he could not build a road. If his electors cannot get to a polling place to vote, they should vote to get a new member. If roads in his electorate have not been improved in the 23 years that his Government was in office, why should they vote for him- by postal vote or otherwise- in the future? I have news for the honourable member for Gwydir also. A few more closures are to come. A few more polling places will go in suburban electorates too because those polling places are too close together. By that action we will be saving money.
Let me return to the honourable member for Wakefield. If the honourable member had voted to support the proposed redistribution of boundaries in South Australia, in future Frome North would have been represented by a Labor member, the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallace). It was to be included in his new electorate. So, if the honourable member for Wakefield does not want to be bothered with those electors and if he thinks that they will not vote for him because there is no polling place there, he should vote for the proposed redistribution to give those people the chance to elect a decent Labor member instead of somebody like the honourable member for Wakefield who launches bitter personal attacks under the guise of doing something for his electors.
I tell honourable members opposite that the Australian Labor Party is the one democratic party in this country. We believe that people are entitled to a vote. We believe that each vote should be of equal value. If I introduced legislation to double the number of polling places throughout Australia, every honourable member opposite would vote against that legislation because they are opposed to every electoral reform that has ever been brought in in this country. I will not say any more, other than to add that we are reviewing -
-What about Currabubula?
-Currabubula is still a polling place. But the people there are so fair dinkum that they will go 100 miles to vote for a Daly. The honourable member need have no worry about that. The honourable member for Gwydir roared and screamed about dead rentals. Most of that dead rent commenced under the Government of which he was a member and under the administration of which he was the Minister responsible in this respect.
– They could not pick the carpet colour.
– That is correct. They could not pick the carpet colour. That cost $lm in rent, because McEwen or the honourable member for Gwydir did not know what colour carpet they wanted in some joint or other. The position in regard to dead rent is that a time factor is involved in the matter. There is the question of putting up partitioning. The contractor wants to start as soon as he can. Consequently, contracts must be signed. Delays take place in respect of partitioning and the choice of a carpet to suit the Minister. The colour and the size of the room must be considered. It may need to be a size appropriate for a Class 10 or Class 8 officer. Those sorts of problems arise. These things do occur. This Government has reduced to a minimum the dead rent associated with the policy pursued by the previous Government. We have reduced completely the dead rent that is paid, in view of all of the difficulties that existed.
It is true that occasionally buildings are idle, but that is no fault of the Government. We have speeded up procedures to see that from the date on which the commencement of a lease is agreed to the time for which the building concerned is unoccupied is kept to a minimum. We see the people occupy the buildings as quickly as possible. Inevitably, partitioning and all these other factors enter into the matter. Certain delays can occur at certain times. But the same situation applies in private industry and everywhere else. The Government is no exception to that rule. Consequently the Auditor-General’s report, which is a hardy annual and which is justified, no doubt, in the comments it makes, draws attention to these matters. At the same time, I point out that these are problems that cannot be completely avoided. So, the hysterics by the honourable member for Gwydir to cover up his fake campaign about the need to retain certain polling places does not hide the fact that the worst behaviour of the kind to which he refers occurred under the Government of which he was a member. The real reason why there is this dead rent problem is that the former Government was in office for so long. It did very little to remedy it and that practice has been continued. The Government and the people are losing certain moneys. Honourable members can rest assured and I assure the millions of people in this country who are listening to me tonight that we will see that these practices are terminated at the earliest moment and that money will be saved wherever possible.
Mr KELLY (Wakefield)-I wish to make a personal explanation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock)Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– For the first time in this House I claim to have been misrepresented by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). The Minister said that I objected to the closing of the polling place at Frome North. For his information, there is no such polling place at Frome North. Fifteen polling places have been closed in the subdivision of Frome North. It is clear that the Minister does not even know his own area of administration.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 11 July 1974, I shall report progress.
-Order! It being after 10.30 p.m. I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to say a few words about Elizabeth Reid.
-The honourable member should wait for this. In the aftermath of cyclone Tracy many Australians came to the aid of the people of Darwin. In my first major speech this year I paid tribute to those people collectively and not individually because there were so many to thank.
However, tonight I think I should single out one, who gave so much of her time to help the people of Darwin. I refer to Miss Elizabeth Reid, of the office of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). Her resignation was announced this evening. Within hours of the news filtering back to the eastern states of the disaster that befell Darwin on Christmas Day, Elizabeth Reid was holding talks on how assistance could be given. Then as priorities emerged on assistance, she martialled that assistance. It would be wrong of me not to acknowledge publicly the contribution she made for the people of Darwin, particularly the women. Elizabeth Reid gave freely of her time to help the distressed women of Darwin. She showed that she cared and she acted in the best possible way to help the people who needed help.
With her colleagues, other members of the ministerial staff, and the staff of the International Women’s Year Secretariat, she arranged for necessary supplies to be sent to the women of Darwin. She arranged for women to be helped and given advice as they arrived in the southern States from beleagured Darwin. She arranged for supplies of basic necessities to be sent to the women who remained. That basic assistance was deeply appreciated by the community of Darwin which stayed behind to clean up the mess and they often worked under appalling conditions. Mothers were without refrigerators to keep milk cool for their children- one can imagine that in the tropics during the summer time or the wet season- women were without basic clothes, women needed to know that other Australian women cared for them. The efforts of Elizabeth Reid showed to all those brave women of Darwin that there were Australian women who, regardless of politics, cared for the women of Darwin and it was those women of Darwin who were deeply touched and given extra spirit to get to work alongside their men and rebuild Darwin as their home city, as they are now doing.
Since her appointment, Elizabeth Reid has been criticised for some of the administrative actions of the Women’s Year movement. I am not qualified to comment on that criticism. However I am qualified to comment on her actions and those of her colleagues during the Darwin emergency. Those actions were above and beyond the call of duty. I appreciate and thank her for them and so do the people of Darwin. She helped to fuel a spirit with many others throughout Australia which will ensure that the word ‘Tracy’ is an immemorial part of our national history- an occasion on which Australians and their friends overseas bent their backs together to help an Australian community recover from devastation and forge the will to rebuild that city. During my many visits to Darwin in recent weeks I have seen that that spirit has been regenerated. The private citizens of the city, both men and women, whom Elizabeth Reid helped so very much during those days, are fighting back.
-The unprecedented rejection of Supply by the Senate last year was the most serious assault on our constitutional system of government since Federation and the full impact of that unprincipled act by the Liberal-Country parties has not been realised by most Australians. The impromptu sacking of a properly elected Labor government by a handful of political opportunists in the Senate was the first step in the deliberate campaign to destroy our Federal system by the Opposition. Spurious arguments attempting to justify the rejection of the Budget by the Senate are being promoted by the Murdoch Press and the Packer Press. The political instability that is being fostered in Australia by the actions of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser)- the man who is afraid to face up to a debate in this place, the man who dodges our Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in this national forum, the man who expresses his views only through Press handouts and not here in the national Parliament- is a tragedy for democracy in Australia.
– How many speeches has he made?
– How many speeches has he made? Zero. He will not come into the chamber. Our present economic uncertainty is a result of the bushranger tactics being practised by the Opposition in the Senate, and the Leader of the Opposition in this place is afraid to speak in this chamber. Men of that calibre have been aptly described as political cowards. The people of Australia need to be told that the Leader of the Opposition is afraid to match himself against the Prime Minister in the national Parliament and chooses instead to hide behind an army of script writers and political press secretaries who prescribe his daily thoughts for him. One of his own backbenchers I thought very aptly described him recently as a man who has to be ‘programmed’ an excellent description with which I am sure anyone in the media who has interviewed the Leader of the Opposition would readily agree.
– Name him.
-I want him to live; I do not want him to die. As that Opposition back bencher said, as long as he is asked something for which he has been programmed then he is all right but if he is asked something for which he has not been programmed then he is in trouble. But I suppose one should not be too critical of the mediocre performance of the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber after having heard yesterday of the profound statement in the letter he sent to wealthy companies seeking political funds for the Liberal Party: ‘You cannot fatten your pigs on market day’. Who else but the wealthy squire from Wannon could have thought up that statement?
Another man with a rural background has become renowned around the world for his thoughts- Chairman Mao, not Chairman Mai. Now the Opposition team is led by a man with a rural background. Possibly in the near future we can expect to see a local publication. I would expect it to have a red cover, probably printed in 6 languages and probably to be found in all railway stations, air terminals and hotel vestibules. In it would be inscribed the profound thoughts of Chairman Mai. Then we could look forward to a daily procession of Chairman Mai’s thought for the day. The thought for today is: ‘You cannot fatten your pigs on market day’. He claims that a Liberal-Country Party government would create stability.
– That is right.
– Yes, that is right, like the stability created in the Liberal Party, which is the only political party in Australian history to have had 4 leaders in 4 years. Four out of four is a pretty good batting average. The honourable member for Wannon, the present Leader of the Opposition, is the only Liberal leader ever to have destroyed two of the previous leaders of his Party. He has collected 2 scalps in 4 years- the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) and the right honourable member for Bruce (Mr Snedden). The honourable member for Wannon knows very well that if he faces up to the Prime Minister in this national forum it will not be long before the Liberal Party has another new leader- before another leader collects Chairman Mai’s scalp. It is not difficult to pick a short list but the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) would be at the top of it.
The latest attack by the Leader of the Opposition on stable government and stable national economic management is the double tax policy he unveiled last week under the smokescreen of ‘New Federalism ‘. It ought to be properly titled ‘New Colonialism’ because that is what it represents. If ever it was implemented it would set national economic management back 75 years, back to the colonial days. Under the proposals outlined by the Liberal Opposition each State would levy a surtax, that is, another tax on top of the present income tax which in some intricate, but as yet not clearly defined way, would be collected by the Australian Government. The effect of this, naturally, would be that individual States would have to levy varying rates of income tax because of population differences in the States. And again naturally the States with the smaller populations such as Tasmania, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland would be greatly disadvantaged. Their progress would be hampered and people in those smaller States of Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland would have to pay a much higher rate of State income tax than people in the more populous States of New South Wales and Victoria. People who moved interstate in the process of earning their income would be required to keep records of how much they earned in each State for tax purposes. What a ridiculous proposition from an Opposition that makes claim to efficiency.
The Opposition tax proposals appear to have been modelled on the Canadian Federal Provincial tax system. Heaven forbid that a system like that is ever introduced in Australia. In Canada provincial income taxes vary considerably, by up to as much as 26 per cent. In that kind of situation in Australia people would move from States with higher income taxes to States with lower income taxes to minimise their tax liabilities. A proposal of this kind would have a chaotic effect on the present centralised and efficient company tax arrangements. This comes from an Opposition which is supposed to be the champion of private enterprise. What would happen if as part of national economic management federal income tax was reduced? There is absolutely no doubt that State governments would increase their rate of income tax to take up the gap vacated by federal income tax.
The economic chaos that the Opposition tax proposals would create and the disadvantage that would be done to South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia and Queensland was what led those States to reject the proposals of Prime Minister Menzies who offered to return income tax powers to the States many years ago. Since the introduction of uniform income tax all successive federal governments, Liberal or Labor, have seen fit to continue it as being the best way to manage the financial affairs of our nation- as a federation- as one Australia, as one country, not as 6 colonies each going its own way. What is of paramount importance is thai if Australia is to continue to develop as a federation, with the best interests of the whole nation as the objective, there has to be a uniform taxation collected by the Australian Government.
In the words of the right honourable member for Higgins- a former Prime Minister of Australia and a gallant Australian- I quote from the Age of 1 5 September 1 975:
What matters is that there can be only one economic manager in a country and any attempt to bring other managers into the system is doomed to dismal failure . . .
He properly described the Opposition proposals as a threat to the uniform taxation system. To that I would add: This Government sees Australia as one nation, one country, one people. The Opposition seeks to divide, dismantle and disintegrate our system of government, to undermine and destroy our federation, our nation.
The Opposition’s tax proposals would mean double tax for all Australians.
In the few minutes left to me I want to return to the subject I raised on 2 September. This was also mentioned by my colleague the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) last evening. It relates to a campaign of coercion in the community and fear and intimidation by the Opposition. We are a lucky country compared with other countries but if the coercion and intimidation of people by the establishment such as is occurring in the insurance industry todayencouraged by the Opposition- and if interest groups in the community and migrant groups are whipped up into a frenzy on the basis or preWorld War II beliefs on the other side of the world- beliefs not relevant to Australia- if intolerance, greed and disregard for the less endowed and the less fortunate are to be encouraged as they are being encouraged by the Opposition, there can be only one result and that is disintegration of our system and ultimately violence. Violence is the last thing this Government wants, it is the last thing that the Australian people want and it is the last thing that the members of the Australia Labor Party want, but if that ultimately occurs it will properly be seen to be the result of the actions of the present LiberalCountry Party Opposition in this chamber and in the Senate and it will be on their heads to carry the burden and the guilt of having divided a once proud nation.
– I want to make a few comments about the decision of the Government to suspend the Regional Employment Development scheme, or the RED scheme as it is better known. When this scheme was started there were many areas within it with which naturally, of course, people on this side of the House disagreed. They were mainly areas of inefficiencies. We held the belief that State governments and people close to the public could administer an unemployment scheme more efficiently to the benefit of the unemployed. However, the scheme got under way and it served a vital purpose. Not only did it assist those people who were unemployed through no fault of their own but through the fault of the Government’s economic policies and the economic situation in Australia, but it also assisted many organisations and local government throughout Australia to develop projects that were of benefit to the ratepayers as well.
Following the introduction of the Budget the RED scheme was suspended. This has created many injustices. I believe that if such things occurred in our everyday civil life, or if such action were carried out by private enterprise, it would create a tremendous uproar and, in fact, would even be regarded as totally illegal. Schemes that were already approved and schemes on which many organisations and local municipalities had spent time and money in planning and making submissions to the Government were suspended. Many organisations had already spent a great amount of money on materials for approved schemes. But because they had not actually obtained their labour sources they found that approval was denied to their municipalities.
Let us think of the injustices that would have occurred if the same sort of criteria had been applied to the National Employment and Training scheme. Imagine the situation if people who had started on a training course and who perhaps had attended such a course for one or 2 years were suddenly told that because of the economic situation the course would be suspended. I think an exact situation applies to the administration of the RED scheme and the decision to suspend it. I believe that all those projects that have been approved by the Government should be funded. They should be allowed to go ahead not only in the interests of the unemployed people but also in the interests of those organisations and those councils that, in good faith, made applications to the Government and had them granted.
The worst feature of the decision to suspend the scheme is that it is not only a denial of approved applications but also a denial of those projects that have not yet been commenced. The fact is that many projects that had been commenced are now not being funded by the
Government. Several municipalities in my electorate which commenced projects in good faith are now finding, because of the rise in costs and the rise in wages and materials, in particular, that these projects are costing many thousands of dollars more than the cost envisaged in the original application. Before the decision to suspend the scheme, this on cost was met by the Government. But since the suspension of the scheme these organisations have been advised that they will not be funded for additional cost increases that have occurred. Consequently councils, which applied to the Government in good faith for assistance under a government scheme, are now going to be put in a worse position financially than they were before they applied.
– The Government got them up a tree and then cut the tree down.
– That is right. I do not believe it is fair that an organisation, in making an application for a scheme to assist the Government in alleviating the unemployment situation in this country, should have to bear the brunt of additional costs for a scheme that it was only carrying out on behalf of the Australian Government and the Australian people. I have written many letters on this matter to the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland) pointing out individual schemes within my electorate. I am quite aware that almost every other honourable member has made representations on the same subject. I believe this Government has a right to look again at its decision. I believe it has every right to suspend the scheme if it believes it is inefficient or if it is unable to pay for it because it is beyond its means. But the Government has no right to approve projects, to allow municipalities to commence them, to allow additional costs to be incurred on the projects due to its economic mismanagement of this country, and then to expect these organisations and municipalities to pay for them.
– The honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher), my friend and colleague, is an honourable man and I am sure that he brought the matters he mentioned before the Parliament with a very genuine feeling for the people he represents. However, I point out to him that the cut back in the Regional Employment Development scheme was due to the unavoidable necessity to cut down Government spending. In cases where projects have been commenced the Government is prepared to meet the cost of any expense incurred.
– That is not true.
– The honourable member for Mallee tells me it is not true but I believe it is as I have been informed that that is the case. Turning now to another matter, Mr Speaker, I think that most of us have received letters from public servants who have pointed out to us that in some cases under 20 per cent of their gross income is available to them as disposable income because they have not only to meet the normal requirements of taxation and other outgoings but are required to expend a considerable amount of their income on superannuation payments. They are so far into the superannuation scheme that they cannot do anything about it. It is a matter for regret that people in another place have seen fit to reject the superannuation legislation that was brought before the Parliament. Of course, there is dissension in the Opposition ranks on this matter of superannuation and that indicates-
– There is dissension on the Government side also.
– There is dissension and I would like to point out where it lies. In the Associate News of the Technical Teachers’ Association of Victoria I saw a letter from Dr George Smith, President of the Australian Teachers Federation, who sent the following letter to both the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Fraser, and the Leader of the National Country Party, Mr Anthony. Their replies do seem to indicate some dissension about this matter. I will read the letter from Dr Smith. It states:
The members of the Australian Teachers’ Federation would constitute one of the largest groups of subscribers to a superannuation fund in Australia. These funds are administered by various State authorities and in general they provide for a voluntary retiring age of 60 years.
I have been requested by the Executive of the ATF to inform you that we support an optional retiring age of 60 and to recommend that your Party should support such provision in the superannuation scheme currently being considered by the Parliament.
The ATF supports this proposal because a retiring age of 60 provides most people with some years of continuing good health to enjoy their retirement after many years of conscientious work. Moreover, an earlier retiring age provides promotion opportunities to encourage younger people to seek promotion.
I would be pleased if your Party would support this proposal.
The Leader of the Opposition replied in the following terms:
Dear Mr Smith,
Thank you for your letter concerning the Commonwealth Employees Superannuation Scheme.
The Opposition is firm in its view that the Superannuation Scheme should be based on the notion of a normal retirement at the age of 65. Our proposals provide that retirement between the age of 60 or 65 would result in approximately 2 per cent reduction in retirement benefit for each year below 65.
We believe that the cost alone of a Scheme based on retirement at 60 would not only be a significant burden on the Australian Taxpayer but would create enormous economic difficulties for an already beleaguered private sector.
I regret therefore that we unable to support your proposal.
The Leader of the National Country Party replied in these terms:
Dear Mr Smith,
Thank you for sending me a copy of your letter to Mr Fraser, dated June 30.
Note that he knew it had been sent. The letter continues:
The Opposition does support optional retirement between the ages of 60 and 65 under the Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme.
Yours sincerely, J. D. Anthony
The facts speak for themselves. On such an important matter- a matter that was debated at great length in this House and in the Senateafter many applications and delegations had been received from employees of the Australian Public Service, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the National Country Party are in disagreement as to their basic attitude to such an important problem. I and the Government Party believe that employees of the Australian Public Service are entitled to a good and proper superannuation scheme. It should be the right of all employees to enjoy a reasonable retirement salary. It is an absolute disgrace that so many people are obliged to suffer a lowering of their standard of living so that they can make payments out of their salary towards the cost of the present scheme which is completely iniquitous and has no relation whatsoever to schemes presently operating in the States. State public servants are very much better off.
I understand that the proposals are to be placed before the Opposition parties in the hope that a compromise might be reached in this matter. I hope that all parties would agree, in the interests of Commonwealth employees, that at least on a temporary basis something should be done to remedy the iniquitous situation which presently applies. We, as a national Parliament, should have done something about this matter a long time ago. It is a disgrace that people are obliged to live on less than 20 per cent of their salary. I think it speaks volumes, when it is quite clearly shown that the letters had been sent to both the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the National Country Party, that on such an important matter these 2 gentlemen should disagree. I hope that members of this Parliament will very quickly resolve this matter to the benefit of the Australian public servants.
House adjourned at 10.58 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Services and Property, upon notice:
– The answer to the 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:
The Fawnmac Group consists of three operating companies:
It manufacturers products for sale under its own name, and the Fawns and McAllan brand and also carries out contract manufacturing for other companies;
Croydon Investments Pty Ltd which owns the land and buildings from which the group’s activities are conducted.
Major non prescription products sold: Citrets Flura Vitamin and Mineral capsules.
Percentage of annual turnover derived from:
It is intended, for the time being, to continue the present product range.
asked the Minister for Northern Australia, upon notice: < 1) With reference to Question No. 2686 of the Member for La Trobe, what has been the cost to the Government of the programs detailed in part ( 1 ) of the question during each of the years 1971-72, 1972-73, 1973-74 and during 1974-75 to date.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Loans, as detailed in my answer to Question No. 2686 cost the following amounts:
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:
All these Regional Councils are entitled to a grant of $5,000 per annum or $1,000 per quarter for the funding of small urgent projects. Funding of this kind is not included in the amounts shown above.
The Southern Region (W.A.) Social Development Board also received $ 1 5,000 for the education and work involved in dividing the Region into three Regions by 1 July 1 975.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: ( 1 ), (2) and (3) Areas of the Reserve are currently being utilised for general community purposes including portions on the western side which are leased to the Langwarrin Progress Association, the Frankston International Small Bore Rifle Club and the Frankston and Peninsula Gun Club.
The Cranbourne Shire Council has requested the University of Melbourne to conduct an environmental study of the area and in the interim it has been agreed with the Council that no further permits will be given for any additional use of the Army Military Reserve at Langwarrin.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Schools Commission- $2.06m
Universities Commission- $2.06m
Commission on Advanced Education- $2.06m
Technical and Further Education Commission- $2.06m
Curriculum Development Centre (including the Council)$0.4m
Shipping: Wheat Exports (Question 2648)
asked the Minister for
Transport, upon notice:
In respect of each ship (a) who was the charterer,
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
This information is not available within my Department. However, I am advised by the Victorian Oatgrowers Pool and Marketing Co. Ltd in the following terms:
The wheat referred to was sold to a number of different buyers at a number of overseas destinations. It was shipped by parcel freight, part and full charters. The number of vessels used during the period was 25 but the names of the ships used is a matter of commercial confidentiality as this could lead to the disclosure of the buyers names.
(a) The names of charterers are also a matter of commercial confidentiality. However, vessels for wheat (or any other grain) may be chartered by the buyer, shipper or the original supplier depending on the terms of sale (that is to say wheat may be sold ex silos, on wharf, f.o.b. or c.i.f). Each charterer negotiates his own terms with the owners of the vessel and depending on the negotiations a chartering commission may be or may not be payable to the charterer.
The Victorian Oatgrowers Pool and Marketing Co. Ltd received $13,453.71 in chartering commission as a result of their chartering negotiations for one full and three part wheat cargoes which are the only vessels for wheat in the said period for which the Company was entitled to chartering commission.
See answer to (2) (b).
The Victorian Oatgrowers Pool was not entitled to despatch money in any of the vessels used for wheat in the relevant period.
The Victorian Oatgrowers Pool was not liable to pay demurrage for any of these ships.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
1 ) What financial assistance by way of
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The only grants administered by the Department of Defence that relate to the above Parliamentary Question are as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– 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:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
ABC: Rural Services (Question No. 2934)
asked the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It is not a fact that no coverage at all of parliamentary proceedings is provided on regional programs. The ABC broadcasts through its regional stations the Budget Speech and the Leader of the Opposition’s reply. Otherwise, parliamentary proceedings are broadcast upon such national broadcasting stations as are prescribed, upon such days and during such periods as the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings determines.
asked the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
Would he please answer my letter dated 5 May 1975.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Your letter was answered by me on 1 8 September 1975.
asked the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
Would he please answer my letter dated 3 June 1975.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Your letter was answered by me on 30 September 1 975.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Say the hospital fees which applied to private patients after J ulyl.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Who is financially responsible for the physical maintenance of buildings constructed under the Community Health Program.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Where premises are constructed by the Australian Government with funds provided under the Community Health Program and the Australian Government makes the use of those premises available to another organisation for the provision of community health services, the cost of maintenance of the premises would be the responsibility of the Australian Government.
Where funds are provided under the Community Health Program for the construction of premises to be owned by a State Government, a local government authority or a nongovernmental organisation, the cost of maintenance of the premises is an item of expenditure towards which the Australian Government would generally provide financial assistance under the Program.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the 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:
The Salvation Army ( 1 delegate)
The Country Women’s Association of Western Australia (1)
The Western Australian Department of Health ( 1 )
The University of Western Australia (2)
The Abortion Law Repeal Association ( 1 )
The Family Planning Association of Western Australia (1)
The Western Australian Institute of Technology (2)
Perth Obesity Clinic ( 1 )
The Australian Inland Mission ( 1 )
The Perth Women’s Health and Community Health Centre (2)
The Hospital Employees’ Union of Western Australia ( 1 )
The Good Neighbour Council of Western Australia ( 1 )
The Italian Migrants ‘ Association ( 1 )
The Aboriginal Medical Service, Penh (3)
The Clerks Union of Western Australia ( 1 )
Derby Hospital (1)
The Aboriginal Rights League Aged People ‘s Home ( 1 )
Three of the above were males who delivered papers.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It is therefore the International League Against Rheumatism which is proposing such a World Rheumatism Year and not the World Health Organisation although it is understood that the latter would have no objection and will indeed assist in the project. The International League Against Rheumatism is a non-governmental organisation which is in official relations with WHO.
The degree to which such co-operation may be extended, will be dependent upon funds available from the budgetary allocation for the period in question.
No indication can therefore be given of specific plans in each of these areas until the Australian budgets for 1976-77 are presented.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Government has recently decided to negotiate purchase of the Estate. It is hoped that successful negotiation to purchase the Estate will lead to early resolution of the difficulties hitherto experienced.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable members question is as follows:
Financial assistance with fares and/or accommodation was given by the Australian Government to:
Country Women ‘s Association
National Council of Women
Family Planning Association
Community Health Centres
Abortion Law Repeal Association
Right to Life Association
Good Neighbour Council
Italian Migrant’s Association
Turkish Women’s Association
Greek Migrants’ Association
Medical Students Associations
Marriage Guidance Council
Federated Clerks Union ( W.A. Branch)
Shop Assistants Union
Royal Australian Nursing Federation
South Sea Islanders Association and Aboriginal women from-
Bennelong Haven Halfway Home, N.S.W.
Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service, N.S.W.
Bairnsdale Medical Service, Vic.
Fitzroy Medical Service, Vic.
Pukatja Community, S.A.
Family Planning Association, S.A.
Lutheran Sobriety Group, S.A.
Aboriginal Medical Service, Perth
Aboriginal Rights League Aged People’s Home, Perth
Derby Hospital, W. A.
Aboriginal Information Service, Tasmania
Catholic Mission, Bathurst Island, NT.
Aboriginal Foundation, Darwin
Daly River Community, N.T.
Institute of Aboriginal Development, Alice Springs
Yuendumu Community, N.T.
Christian Mission Society, Numbulwar, N.T.
United Church Mission Group, Goulburn Island, N.T.
Palm Island Community, Qld
Kurrinda Community, Qld
Mornington Island Community, Qld
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Will he accept as adequate the industry voluntary code on alcohol advertising now being introduced; if not, what action is being considered.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
So far the only industry voluntary code on alcohol advertising which is operative is that adopted by the Australian Associated Brewers’, and applies only to its members’ products. I am informed that the Federated Wholesale Spirit Merchants Association of Australia has also finalised a recommended code which is currently being considered by the Media Council. 1 regard the Australian Associated Brewers’ code as a positive first step and support the emphasis it gives to not relating drinking with the work situation or with driving. However, it does not go far enough in changing the nature and direction of liquor advertising. The only code that would be fully supported is one which rather than contributing to the promotion of increasing consumption, would involve the industry in contributing to the area of community education by promoting in a positive manner more enlightened drinking patterns. Such a code should also discourage drinking patterns that lead to problems, and encourage tolerance for those people who choose not to drink at all or to drink only occasionally.
At the most recent Health Ministers’ Conference a Working Party was established to investigate, amongst other things, the advertising of alcohol. This Working Party had its first meeting recently and I am informed that firm proposals will be forthcoming.
In addition, my own officers are working on developing a comprehensive national program to reduce the alcohol related problems of our community.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Would he please answer my letter dated 3 July 1 975.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The honourable member’s letter, which raised policy considerations, was acknowledged on 1 1 July 1975 and a substantive reply was forwarded on 19 September 1975.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Enrivonment upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Relationships between BOD and instrumentally determined fractions in water. (December 1976)
Soil conservation study (an Australian/State government task force project). (March 1 976)
Field testing an algal harvesting process under summer conditions. (June 1975)
Time as a social indicator. (August 1 975 )
Water quality problems in national parks. (June 1977)
A dynamic approach to the optimisation of a complex urban water supply scheme. (June 1976)
Nutrient, major ion and heavy metal budgets within aquatic ecosystems. December 1977)
Simulation of the urban runoff process. (April 1 976)
Hydrologic parameter assessment in Queensland using remote sensing. (December 1977)
Relationship of shallow groundwater supplies to geomorphology and stratigraphy in eastern Tasmania. (June 1977)
Hydraulic behaviour of an unconfined aquifer. (June 1977)
Rapid spectroscopic methods for trace element investigations in natural waters. (June 1977)
A field investigation of the drainage processes in a tropical rainforest catchment. (December 1977)
Application of mathematical models to management of phytoplankton growth in lakes and reservoirs. (January 1978)
Effects of artificial aeration and destratification on water quality. (June 1978)
Eutrophication of the North Pine River Dam. (December 1977)
Phosphorus balance of Lake Burley Griffin. (December 1977)
asked the Minister for Environment, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1,2 and 3) Because of changed circumstances the Army requirement for use of the land is being re-examined. However, it is not now proposed to use any of the area for the provision of married quarters.
asked the Minister for Environment, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
In cases where chlorine is added to water supplies for health reasons, such as the water supplied to the northern Spencer Gulf area of South Australia, has any research been carried out as to any possible medical side effects from the use of this method of protection of water supplies.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am not aware of any research being carried out as to any possible medical side effects from chlorination of water supplies in areas such as the Spencer Gulf region of South Australia. I am, however, aware of recent moves in overseas countries to seek alternatives to chlorine for the purpose of rendering drinking water safe for use.
Some concern has been expressed recently in the United States over the presence of a number of organic chemicals in public water supply systems. The results of research done so far, indicate that the chlorination process may contribute to the formation of chlorinated organic compounds. In view of the known toxicity of some of these compounds, the possible health hazards associated with their presence in water supplies is under consideration in the United States.
There have also been some problems in that country associated with the use of chlorinated water in haemodialysis units. Such problems can be overcome by purification techniques such as are used in Australia.
However, by virtue of its germicidal properties, comparatively low cost and ease of application, chlorine has been until now, the most widely used disinfectant for community water supplies. Chlorination remains the single most effective method of preventing outbreaks of water-borne disease.
My Department is closely studying overseas developments, in particular the investigations that are proceeding into possible alternative water treatment methods that do not involve the use of chlorine.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Family Planning Program
Drugs of Dependence
National Health and Medical Research Council Grants
Home Nursing Subsidy Scheme
Blood Transfusion Service
Royal Flying Doctor Service
Special Grants to Howard Florey and Walter & Eliza Hall Institutes
Community Health Program
Grants in the A.C.T.
Health Services Planning and Research Grants
Family Planning Program
Drugs of Dependence
The drug education programs are well established and their existence generally well known through the activities of the State and Territory health authorities who provide information on them. Advertising is not considered necessary.
National Health and Medical Research Council Grants
The Government supports medical research through the National Health and Medical Research Council. This support consists of non-repayable grants and can broadly be classified under the following headings:
They may be used to provide salaries for research workers and assistants, equipment, supplies, maintenance, travel and other specific expenses.
Undergraduate scholarships are provided to assist medical and dental students to extend their undergraduate courses to study for the degree of B. Med. Sc.
Home Nursling Subsidy Scheme
Blood Transfusion Service
Royal Flying Doctor Service
Special Grants to Howard Florey and Walter and Eliza Hall Institutes
Community Health Program
Grants in the Australian Capital Territory
Health Service Planning and Research Grants
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
– The Minister for Labor and Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Profile of Vietnamese granted permanent residence- 119- spouses, minor dependent children and aged or otherwise dependent parents of Australian residents 63- persons who met the occupational requirements for migrant entry 42- persons admitted on compelling compassionate grounds or accepted by religious orders in Australia 203- selected in Hong Kong at the request of the Government of the Colony of Hong Kong. Those selected were most in need of humanitarian assistance which re-settlement in Australia would provide and were not likely to receive such assistance from another country. 223- selected in Singapore at the request of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Those selected were most in need of humanitarian assistance which re-settlement in Australia would provide and were not likely to receive such assistance from another country. 103- selected in Malaysia at the request of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Those selected were most in need of humanitarian assistance which re-settlement in Australia would provide and were not likely to receive such assistance from another country. 281 -orphans admitted for adoption.
Profile of Vietnamese admitted for temporary residence- 46- family reunion including spouses and children of Vietnamese students in Australia. 53- persons admitted on humanitarian grounds.
asked the Minister representing the Special Minister of State, upon notice:
– The Special Minister of State has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
Consumer Affairs in answer to Question No. 2837 printed in Hansard, page 813 of 28 August 1975 on the same subject, has, however, been supplied by the Public Service Board: “There has not been a detailed evaluation of the suitability of the La Trobe cataloguing system for use by departmental libraries. It is, however, understood that the computer configuration and data processing staff at La Trobe University could not be expected to support use of the system by a large number of organisations and that the opportunity of sharing the catalogue system would lie only in making use of the system design and software.
With regard to departments developing their own library systems, it can be stated that most departmental libraries are not large enough to justify development of their own computer-based systems. Notable exceptions are the larger departments with a number of libraries, e.g., Defence, some of which have already implemented computerbased cataloguing systems.
As indicated in Section 2 of Mr Cameron’s reply to Question No. 2837, a number of systems similar to the La Trobe cataloguing system are known to have already been implemented or are in course of development by other large public and institutional libraries as well as by computer companies.
It is the Board’s policy to actively encourage the use of standard ADP systems and packages within the Service with a view to reducing system development effort and ensuring standard means of data interchange. It is intended that requirements for standard computer-based library systems for use within the Service will be examined when resources permit. The work would be undertaken in collaboration with the National Library and would include evaluation of the La Trobe and any other appropriate systems to identify a system or systems suitable for Service use. It is expected that any exercise of this nature would be influenced considerably by the findings of the ALBIS feasibility study.’
ALBIS studies have revealed that the National Library serves over 90 per cent of the total of Australian users of computer based bibliographical information services in the Federal and State agencies, industry, universities, hospitals and other institutions.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The individual State governments expend their funds according to their own priorities under an overall approved program.
During the financial year 1974-75 for non-government schools $1 19,856 was provided for books within the overall agreed program but decisions on titles or topics of the books purchased under the program are a responsibility of the school authorities.
The June 1975 Schools Commission Report indicated that during 1 974 and the first months of 1 975 over forty-two pilot library building projects were approved for non-government schools including a large outer suburban school with a high percentage of migrant students and generally having very poor facilities which has been provided with a library and resources to the level recommended in ‘Guidelines for Library Services in Primary Schools’.
asked the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
– The Minister for Labor and Immigration has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
The first section of the reply lists inquiries undertaken, their purpose and information relating to the preparation of reports, their receipt by the Government and tabling in Parliament (where that occurred), which relates to parts I to 5 (inclusive) of the question. The second section deals with the recommendations contained in the reports and consequent action, and relates to part 6 of the question
Where recommendations fall within the jurisdictions of other Ministers, the information on follow-up action has been supplied by their respective Departments.
For the purpose of brevity the terms of the recommendations have been shown only in those cases where the particular report has not been tabled in Parliament.
Section 1- Inquiries and Reports
Purpose: to investigate the situation of older migrants in Australia.
Report received by the Government in August 1974 and tabled in Parliament 17 September 1974.
Purpose: to inquire into discrimination against migrants and the extent to which migrants make use of community services.
Interim Report received by the Government August 1974 and tabled in Parliament 17 September 1974.
Purpose: to investigate the extent to which the use or nonuse by migrants of community resources is affected by:
Report embodying survey findings soon to be completed and submitted to Government.
Purpose: To examine aspects of migrant education.
Reports received by the Government in October 1972, October 1973 and June 1974. These reports were not tabled in Parliament.
Purpose: To identify problems at regional level affecting migrants in the community and to report and recommend to the Minister solutions to these problems. Reports received by the Government
New South Wales-5 July 1973
Victoria- 17 July 1973
Queensland-23 July 1973 (First Report)
Queensland-8 February 1974 (Second Report)
South Australia-22 October 1973
Western Australia- 1 9 September 1 973
Tasmania-24 December 1973
Reports tabled in Parliament:
New South Wales-29 August 1973
Victoria -29 August 1973
Queensland-29 August 1973
South Australia- 15 November 1973
Western Australia-10 October 1973
Tasmania-21 March 1974
Purpose: To obtain information which would assist in the identification of residual and topical problems (both of immigrants and authorities) at the local level.
Report completed by the Department 1974 and received by the Government on 1 7 September. It was tabled in Parliament on 5 June 1975.
Section 2- Reports and Consequent Action
Recommendations: See Report tabled in Parliament.
Action Taken: The Migrant Social Welfare Advisory Council has examined the recommendations in the report and is currently developing proposals for consideration by the Minister for Social Security.
Recommendations: See Report tabled in Parliament. Action Taken:
A number of measures have been adopted or are under consideration to eliminate discrimination against those who are not Commonwealth citizens; these include the adoption as from 1 January 1975 of uniform criteria for all people coming to Australia (except Australian citizens and people covered by Australia’s agreement with New Zealand).
Provision was made in the Citizenship Bill of 1975 that candidates for Australian citizenship should not be required to renounce formally and publicly their former allegiance. (This provision was not accepted by Parliament when the Bill, as amended was enacted.)
Action is proceeding on the establishment of a National Council on Interpreting and Translating. Pending the introduction of training courses on a continuing basis, funds are being provided for fulltime courses for interpreters and translators at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, the Canberra College of Advanced Education and part-time courses at the University of New South Wales throughout the 1 975 academic year.
English language instruction is being provided in prisons from time to time depending upon need.
Migrants requiring retraining are already eligible to apply for assistance under the National Employment and Training Scheme (NEAT).
This Report has yet to be completed.
Courses in Industry: The Committee urged that the Australian Government provide an example to private industry by arranging courses in its own factories and in institutions employing significant numbers of non-English speaking migrants.
Action Taken: Approaches have been made to Ministers whose Departments and authorities employ large numbers of non-English speaking migrants, requesting their support for the introduction of courses in industry at the work place. As a result, courses have been held in several Departments.
Home Tutor Scheme: The Committee recommended that the Department produce on a large scale ‘Home Tutorial’ kits and that volunteers from voluntary organisations (such as the YWCA, CWA and the Good Neighbour Councils) be invited to participate in the scheme.
Action Taken: A home tutor scheme on the lines recommended by the Committee was launched early in 1974. Voluntary tutors are provided with a home tutor kit and supporting material. At the end of 1974-75, some 1334 tutors were involved in tutoring migrant women and families in the home situation.
Conference on Teacher Education: The Committee recommended the holding of a national seminar of representatives of teacher education institutions to clarify the purpose of migrant education and provide an exchange of information on possible course content and approach.
Action Taken: A national seminar on the need to include instruction on the special needs of migrant children in all teacher training courses was conducted at the Macquarie University 28 to 3 1 August 1974.
Research: The Committee recommended a program of research into the educational experiences and social background characteristics of migrant children of non-English speaking ethnic origin.
Action Taken: The following research projects are at present being financed and supervised in conjunction with the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia:
In addition, a project is being funded through the Australian Council for Educational Research for the development of tests and other devices which would be of practical help to teachers of migrant children in assessing current ability at points of transition within the school system and in monitoring the progress of children in learning English. Similar arrangements have been made to finance a study of the problems of migrant children in primary schools in Victoria.
The reports of the Migrant Task Force Committees contained a total of 312 recommendations. Upon collation, it was apparent that in many cases the Committees shared common views and these were subsequently considered by a Conference of the Committees in Canberra on 21-22 February 1974. This Conference identified a number of priority recommendations that represented all major findings and these and the action taken on them are summarised below.
Dissemination of Information Booklets: Careful consideration should be given to the dissemination of all literature and information booklets; that the approach in these documents be more down to earth and that multi-lingual publications be disseminated on all aspects of accommodation, rental, home purchase, etc.
Action Taken: The texts of existing information booklets are being progressively reviewed to ensure a ‘down to earth’ presentation. A similar approach is being taken with the preparation of new publications. In addition as publications are revised the need to include information on new topics is assessed.
Information Films: A series of short films should be produced on consumer issues, e.g. buying a house or buying a second-hand car, and that these be prepared in close association with ethnic organisations.
Action Taken: Discussions have been held on this proposal and the concept of short films for use in cinemas or with ethnic groups on consumer issues will be taken into account in preparing future production programs.
Radio and TV Programs for Ethnic Groups: The Department of the Media should be asked to assist with the programming on both ABC radio and television material appropriate for ethnic groups.
Action Taken: Experimental ethnic broadcasting stations have been established in Sydney and Melbourne to provide broadcasts for ethnic groups. Also, ethnic groups have been granted access to broadcasting through the public broadcasting station in Melbourne and through station SUV in Adelaide.
Multilingual Information Card: An information multilingual resource card (of the credit-card format) should be provided and that this card contain essential telephone numbers and points of reference. It should be distributed to community services and be readily accessible to the migrant community.
Action Taken- A multilingual card in 20 languages providing telephone numbers of the Telephone Interpreter Service is being printed and will be issued soon.
Publication for Workers: Publications concerning the structure of the industrial system in Australia, including arbitration awards, the rights of workers, etc. should be prepared.
That when safety and health programs are initiated in the English press, they also be extended to the ethnic press.
Action Taken: Action has been taken to prepare information literature on arbitration awards, the rights of workers and other aspects of the structure of the industrial system in Australia.
It is now a matter of Government policy for the ethnic press to be considered where appropriate for inclusion in advertising schedules prepared for Australian Government Departments.
Special Needs of Secondary Students: Attention should be given to special needs of migrants at secondary school level and, where practicable, opportunities for learning all languages should be given to Australian as well as migrant children.
Action Taken: Special arrangements have been made in some States for intensive courses to meet the special language needs of students at the secondary level. The Universities Commission has been requested to examine the question of the wider development of studies in universities of migrant languages and culture.
Assistance for Organisations Providing Language Courses: Encouragement should be given to existing classes which have been established by ethnic groups, and institutions which already are providing suitable courses should be given assistance with the purchase of materials, the provision of in-service training for teachers and child care faculties.
Action Taken: Ethnic groups and other institutions which are providing English language classes are now being provided with materials and assistance in arranging in-service training of teachers under the adult migrant education program.
Legal Problems Facing Migrants: Several recommendations were made in the field of law enforcement and the legal system, which include improving the awareness of migrants of the system; informing police, judges and magistrates of migrants’ cultural backgrounds; and providing better legal aid, interpreting and prison and rehabilitation services for migrants.
Action Taken: These recommendations concerning migrants’ legal problems were referred to the Australia AttorneyGeneral who has taken up some of the matters with the State Attorneys-General. The Australian Attorney-General has indicated that in planning the Legal Aid Service, special account has been taken of areas of pressing need, particularly where there is a concentration of migrants.
A booklet titled ‘The Newcomer and the Law’ has been commissioned through the Australian National University to assist migrants in understanding the Australian legal system.
As mentioned earlier, funds have been provided for courses for interpreters and translators in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra in the 1975 academic year and information has been gathered from other Australian Government Departments on their interpreting and translating needs and resources with a view to improvement in services in this field.
Reduction of Residential Qualifications for Pensions: Residential qualifications for aged pensions should be reduced to three years and the 5 year residence requirement for invalid pensions in respect of injury sustained in Australia should be rescinded.
Action Taken: These two recommendations were referred to the Minister for Social Security for consideration. In consequence migrants invalided since their arrival in Australian are now eligible for pension benefits without any residential qualification. At this time the residential qualification for aged pensions remains 10 years.
Broader Education of the Migrant: There is a need to educate the migrant not only is the English language but also about the Australian way of life and his rights and responsibilities in that system.
Action Taken: Adult migrant education courses generally have been extended to include more material about the Australian way of life.
Education of Migrant Children in Parents’ Languages: There is a need to educate the children of migrants in their parents ‘ native language and culture.
Action Taken: Assistance is given to ethnic groups in arranging weekend schools where their children may be taught their native language and culture, including the introduction of teachers from the source country for this purpose.
Information on Union Facilities for Migrants: Migrants should be made aware of union activities and the resources available.
Action Taken: Information about trade unions in Australia is given in booklets issued by the Department of Labor and Immigration to prospective migrants overseas. These publications are ‘Employment in Australia’ and ‘Australia’. The role of trade unions in Australia is also referred to in a new booklet for prospective migrants now being prepared by the Australian Information Service for the Department of Labor and Immigration.
Availability of WEA Courses for Migrants: Consideration should be given to making Workers Education Association (WEA) courses more readily available to migrants.
Action Taken: WEA courses are available to all members of the community including migrants. They generally are well advertised and course booklets are widely distributed.
Briefing of the Australian Community: The Australian community should be informed about migrants, their culture, and the problems they may face in Australia.
Action Taken: A Community Education Section was established in the former Department of Immigration for the purpose of developing a program to inform Australians about migrants, and migrants about Australians. This function has now been transferred to the Department of Social Security. A series of papers on the cultural, sociological and the behavioural background of migrants ‘source countries is already in course of preparation.
The Immigration Information Branch of the Australian Information Service has produced a series of 156 brief radio programs illustrating the problems faced by settlers and the contributions settlers have made to Australia. These have been broadcast over more than 50 radio stations throughout Australia.
Ethnic Cultural Information for Migrant Education Teachers: A manual giving details of the cultural and educational backgrounds (in both the historical and the new environments) of various migrant groups should be provided for use by migrant education teachers.
Action Taken: Information material on cultural and educational backgrounds of various migrant groups has been produced for use by teachers and others involved with the migrant community.
Recommendations: see Report tabled in Parliament.
Action Taken: A working party has been established and is examining the conclusions of the survey report with a view to developing policy recommendations.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Aluminium Hydroxide Gel Mixture 360 ml ($29,732)- Prescribed as an antacid. It is priced below $1.50 only when prescribed as a packed line. When prescribed with instructions for use the price is above $ 1 . 50.
Amylobarbitone tablets 1 5 mg ($63, 1 37)
Amylobarbitone tablets 30 mg ($474,692)
Amylobarbitone tablets 100 mg ($7,349)
Pentobarbitone Sodium Tablets 30 mg ($8,855)
Pentobarbitone Sodium Tablets 50 mg ($ 1 8,024)
Pentobarbitone Sodium Tablets 100 mg ($90,551 )
Phenobarbitone tablets 15 mg ($7,486)
Phenobarbitone tablets 30 mg ($90,6 1 1 )
Quinalbarbitone Sodium Tablets 100 mg($155)
These barbiturates are prescribed as sedatives and hypnotics. Other sedatives and hypnotics including some barbiturates are available as benefits.
Ascorbic Acid 25 mg (one brand only) ($1,741) (all brands)
Ascorbic Acid 50 mg (one brand only) ($21,883) (all brands)
There are other brands available in these strengths and all strengths are restricted to pensioners.
Cod Liver Oil 200 ml ($ 1 , 582)
Cod Liver Oil Emulsion 50 per cent 450 ml ($741 )
These items are priced below $1.50 only when prescribed as a packed line. When prescribed with instructions for use the price is above $ 1 . 50.
Ferrous Phosphate Compound Syrup 100 ml ($174)- This is an iron supplement. It is priced below $1.50 only when prescribed as a packed line. When prescribed with instructions for use the price is above $ 1 . 50.
Aspirin Tablet 300 mg ($9,130)-Other analgesic products are available including a 300 mg soluble aspirin tablet
Carbachol Injection 250 micrograms ($488)- This item is to be deleted from 1 December 1975 at the request of the manufacturers.
Water and Electrolyte Replacement Preparations-
Potassium Chloride Tablet 500 mg ($803)
The more widely prescribed 600 mg strength tablet is available.
Sodium Chloride Tablet 300 mg ($ 1 , 405)
Used to replace salt lost by excessive perspiration. Common table salt can be used for this purpose.
Water for injections 2 ml ($17,398 (all brands) and 5 ml ($5,060) (all brands). (One brand of each only). Other brands of these benefits are available.
Cascara Tablet 300 mg ($7,482)
Cascara Liquid Extract 50 ml ($829)
Glycerol Suppositories 1 g ($1 1,517)
Magnesium Sulphate Crystals 400 g ($132)
Paraffin Liquid 200 ml ($14,124)
Other laxatives are available.
NOTE: Glycerol suppositories are priced below $1.50 only when prescribed as a packed line. When prescribed with instructions for use the price is above $1.50.
Boric Acid Powder 100 g ($ 1 60)
Sulphafurazole Eye Ointment 4 per cent 5 g ($ 1 , 7 1 1 )
Sulphacetamide Eye Ointment 10 per cent 5 g ($ 1 , 004)
Boric acid is available as an extemporaneous benefit and there are other eye ointments available.
Wool Fat Hydrous 50 g ($2,405 )
Wool Alcohols Ointment 100g($12,795)
Glycerol 100 ml ($493)
Other brand applications for the skin are available. Wool Alcohols Ointment and Glycerol are priced below $1.50 only when prescribed as a packed line. When prescribed with instructions for use their price is above $ 1 . 50.
Dapsone Tablet 100 mg ($1,830)-Used in the treatment of leprosy. An alternative preparation (thiambutosine) is available.
Saccharin Tablets 30 mg ($63,896)-Sweetening agent used instead of sugar.
Copper Sulphate Diagnostic Compound Tablets ($35,493)- Used by diabetics to test urine. Alternative preparations are available.
Hydrogen Peroxide Solution 10 vol 100 ml ($663)
Hydrogen Peroxide Solution 10 vol 200 ml ($741 )
Hydrogen Peroxide Solution 20 vol 100 ml ($75)
An antiseptic. Other preparations are available. The 20 vol solution is priced below $1.50 only when prescribed as a packed line. When prescribed with directions for use the price is above $1.50.
Magnesium Sulphate Paste 50 g ($2,238)- A preparation used in the initial treatment of abscesses. A 100 g pack is still available and alternative products are also available as extemporaneous benefits.
Thyroid Tablets 15 mg ($1,184)
Thyroid Tablets 30 mg ($ 1 7,60 1 )
Used in the treatment of thyroid deficiency. Thyroxine Sodium tablets (3 strengths provide an alternative. Two higher strength thyroid tablets are still available.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice: (!) With reference to Question No. 2694 of the Member for La Trobe, what has been the cost to the Government of the programs detailed in part ( 1 ) of the question during each of the years 1971-72, 1972-73, 1973-74, and during 1974-75 to date.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 October 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1975/19751002_reps_29_hor96/>.