30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– Pursuant to standing order 18,I lay on the table my warrant nominating Mr Bonnett, Mr Drummond, Mr Giles, Mr Jarman and Mr Ian Robinson to act as Deputy Chairmen of Committees when requested to do so by the Chairman of Committees. I hope to be in a position shortly to nominate Opposition members to the panel.
– 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 humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth-
That the three service cadet forces have great value in the development of the youth of Australia.
That the disbanding of the cadet forces will disperse accumulated expertise and interest of those involved, and in some cases negate the efforts of many people over many years.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will reconsider its decision and that the Government will reinstate the cadet forces.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bonnett and Mr McVeigh.
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 if a system of personal income tax was introduced allowing State Governments the powers to vary personal income tax rates, this would lead to State Governments raising personal income taxes rather than lowering them;
That since the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory are Territories, and not States, laws allowing State Governments to vary personal income taxes would not apply in the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory.
That this would lead to Australian citizens living in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory paying lower levels of personal income tax than would be paid by Australian citizens living in any of the six States;
That this would also lead to members of the House of Representatives and Senators paying lower levels of personal income tax than would be paid by Australian citizens living in any of the six states since members of the House of Representatives and Senators pay personal income taxes as though they were living in the Australian Capital Territory;
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the present system of personal income taxation which ensures geographical uniformity of treatment of citizens throughout Australia will be retained and that a system of double taxation will not be imposed on incomes.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Jenkins.
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 new Government during the recent election campaign, promised lower taxation and more money in people’s pockets.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray-
That the House of Representatives will take immediate steps to prevent the introduction of Television and Radio licence fees, the imposition of a tax levy for Medibank and the introduction of higher charges for drugs dispensed under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Klugman.
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 existence of a system of double taxation of personal incomes whereby both the Australian Government and State Governments had the power to vary personal income taxes would mean that taxpayers who worked in more than one State in any year would-
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a system of double income tax on personal incomes be not reintroduced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
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 Neil.
To 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 Australian Government provide reasonable television reception for the citizens in the district council of Le Hunte in the State of South Australia.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives will accede to this request.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrWallis.
Books by Australian Authors
- Mr Speaker, I give notice of my intention to present on General Business Thursday No. 12 a Bill for an Act to provide for payments in respect of books written by Australian authors and held in Australian libraries.
Relationship between Peoples of Australia and Japan
– I give notice of my intention to present at the next sitting a Bill for an Act to establish a foundation for encouraging a closer relationship between the peoples of Australia and Japan, and to provide for related matters.
-I give notice of my intention to present on General Business Thursday No. 5 a Bill for an Act for the abolition of certain appeals from courts in Australia to the Privy Council and to effect certain repeals.
– I give notice of my intention to present on General Business Thursday No. 13 a Bill for an Act relating to the prevention of pollution of the marine environment.
-I give notice of my intention to present on General Business Thursday No. 14 a Bill for an Act to provide for the constitution of Aboriginal councils and the incorporation of associations of Aboriginals and for matters connected therewith.
-I ask the Prime Minister a question concerning his appointment to his Ministry of a man against whom serious charges had been prominently made a week before the elections. When did he himself first see these allegations, which were featured on the front page of the Canberra Times on 6 December? Did he mention them to the former Minister before he asked him to be one of bis Ministers? Did the former Minister mention them to him when the Prime Minister asked him to be one of his Ministers? Did the Minister for Administrative Services, who is responsible for administering the law which is alleged to have been broken by the former Minister, at any time mention the matter to the Prime Minister and, if so, on what occasion?
-This matter was brought to the notice of the Attorney-General in the proper course as a result of actions of which the Leader of the Opposition is well aware. Allegations of charges made were referred by the Electoral Officer to the Attorney-General’s Department. The Attorney-General dealt with the matter promptly once it had been referred to him and it was after that that the view of the Attorney was put to me. In view of the actions that have been taken in recent days I think it is quite unnecessary to comment further.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by saying that in 1973 the then Lord Mayor of Sydney, together with the Government of New South Wales, approached the Australian Government to make a tripartite agreement for the redevelopment of
Woolloomooloo on a residential basis. It has been publicly disclosed that the Prime Minister approached Sir Eric Willis during the recent Premiers Conference to cancel the agreement on Woolloomooloo reached by the 3 levels of government. Will the Prime Minister inform the House on whose advice was the agreement for residential development to house 7,000 people in Woolloomooloo cancelled, instead of which office construction is to proceed? Can he also give details of the statement that Alderman Leo Port would not have any difficulties in planning if the redevelopment were to be based on office construction instead of housing development?
– I can well understand the concern of many people in Sydney to protect the environment of some of the older parts of that city. It is a heritage that belongs not only to the people of Sydney and of New South Wales; it is also part of Australia’s heritage. This Government will certainly act, in concert with State governments and other authorities, to protect the Australian environment, whether it is man-made or natural, if it is deemed to be desirable in the interests of future generations. It was quite natural that in looking at the extravagances of the previous Government any particular program would be examined. This matter has had some examination from the Minister concerned but there is no intention of not fulfilling any agreement which has been reached with the State of New South Wales in relation to it. That is the position. Let me say one thing: Another element is involved in this question- I will deal with it quite separately- and that is that when a government is providing funds for welfare housing I believe there is some obligation on the Government to do so in a way that will provide the best housing for the greatest number of people and not in a way which, because of the expense involved, will heavily restrict the number of people who can be accommodated in such welfare housing.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that one of the ravages left behind after the last 3 years of misrule has been the parlous condition of decentralised country towns of some importance within this nation? Is he aware that whole sections of primary industries, particularly those with an export ingredient, are finding themselves in completely uneconomic conditions? Does he agree that it is a matter of some urgency for this Government to try to overcome the ravages to which I have referred?
-Of course the Government is concerned with all industries hit by the policies of the previous Administration; not only primary industries and the exporting areas but many other industries also have been hit. The honourable gentleman drew special notice in his question to the impact on country towns which in many cases are service towns for industries round about them. I believe that this section of the community has been worse hurt by the policies of the previous Administration than almost any other, yet we can all remember those charitable phrases, such as ‘You have never had it so good’, that were noised around.
– There are no charitable Frasers.
– I thought that yesterday the Leader of the Opposition had some charity in his heart for the honourable member. There is much that needs to be repaired as a result of many of the policies of the previous Government. Those people in rural industries, those in rural towns, were hit worst of all because the previous Administration seemed to believe it could win more votes in the great cities if it kicked to death the people in the countryside. Well, it did not work out that way. We will deal equally and properly with all sections of the Australian community on the merits of the case.
– I ask the Prime Minister again about the serious charges which were made publicly about a man whom he subsequently appointed as one of his Ministers. I ask him again: When did he first see the allegations which were made in the Canberra Times a week before the elections? Furthermore, I ask him again: Did he discuss these allegations with the former Minister before he appointed him? Also, did the Minister for Administrative Services ever mention these allegations to the Prime Minister before the Prime Minister made the appointment to his Ministry?
-The honourable gentleman has shown that even in spite of the fact that actions which are entirely proper were taken with great speed once the Government had been properly advised by its law officers, he wishes to persist in a case when it is much more proper to add nothing to the public controversy until the proceedings have been taken and completed. On that basis I have no intention of answering further questions on this subject. To take a leaf out of the honourable gentleman’s own book could I suggest that he place his questions on the notice paper.
– My question, which is addressed to the Attorney-General, relates to legal aid. I ask him whether he appreciates the importance of having a wide ranging legal aid scheme which adequately caters for the needs of all people in Australia who genuinely are in need of legal aid. Is it also important that such a legal aid scheme should be one where duplication is not the hallmark, as seems to be the case with legal aid as it exists today? In particular I ask the AttorneyGeneral: What is the future of the Australian Legal Aid Office? Can the Attorney give an undertaking that the Australian Legal Aid Office will not be abolished without there having been held beforehand an inquiry by a joint committee of both Houses of the Parliament to consider the important legal, social and constitutional issues involved?
– The Government is aware of the need to provide adequate legal aid services for those in need. We are also aware of the need to provide legal aid services in a way that will ensure they are delivered in the most efficient and economic manner. On 16 January I issued a Press statement indicating my intention to consider the question of legal aid in Australia. Shortly prior to that I had had discussions with the Law Council of Australia on the question of legal aid. On Friday of this week I shall be holding discussions in Canberra on this matter with the Attorney-General of each State. That meeting will be devoted almost entirely to the question of legal aid. My concern at this stage is to look at the rationalisation of legal aid services throughout the Commonwealth. The future of the Australian Legal Aid Office will be taken into account in that consideration.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. In view of the revelations in the United States, before a congressional committee, of the payment of bribes, gratuities and contributions to party funds by major American businesses to countries foreign to the United States, will the Prime Minister support legislation designed to make public the sources of party funds? Will he propose at the Premiers Conferences similar legislation in the States in view of the interest of these firms in resources which the States possess? In view of the fact that the Lockheed Corporation is revealed as a major source of this sort of corrupt action, will the Prime Minister cause an investigation to be made into its activities in Australia where it has been the major supplier to civil airlines and defence forces?
-The latter part of that question might well involve the previous Administration. There would probably need to be some assurance from the Leader of the Opposition in relation to some aspects of it. If the Opposition were really serious about these matters it would make public all donations it has received over the last 5 years from all corporations, whether they be Australia-based companies or multinationals. Let us test the credibility of the Opposition in relation to thise matter. I suggest it is in the Opposition’s hands if it wishes to do so. It would of course need to accompany the statements with sufficient evidence to indicate that no donations had been excluded.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs been directed to reports from Paris regarding a communist bloodbath in Cambodia, with detailed accounts, alleged, of executions, mass killings and other atrocities? Can he tell me what representation Australia has in Cambodia or what sources of information it would have to enable the truth of these accounts to be checked?
-I have seen the reports. They are not new. We are not, as a country, represented in Phnom Penh. Therefore we have no independent confirmation of the reports which were cited in the newspapers this morning. If the reports be correct the Government would deplore the atrocities. Naturally we favour a return to peaceful development and deplore breaches of” human rights, terrorism and atrocities wherever they occur.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. The discovery of oriental fruit fly and fowl plague in Australia indicates the vulnerability of Australia to exotic diseases and pests. Blue tongue is probably the most potentially dangerous or disastrous such disease that could enter Australia. Will we have to wait for the construction of the maximum security laboratory at Geelong before stocks of blue tongue vaccine can be produced or stored in Australia?
– The Government is concerned about any possible outbreak of blue tongue. Arrangements have been made for officers of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to go to the Animal Research Laboratory at Onderstepoort in South Africa to purify seventeen known strains of the virus. The strains will be further purified and stored in maximum security at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in Victoria. There is no chance of the virus escaping from that establishment. It will be handled with great care. Certainly it will not be inoculated into animals either domestic or laboratory. The virus will be stored in the Laboratory so that we will have available processes that would enable us to produce appropriate vaccines in the event of an outbreak of blue tongue in this country.
– My question relates to extravagances, a word used by the Prime Minister a short time ago. Does the Prime Minister recall in his policy speech giving a commitment to end Government extravagances and excesses? Is it a fact that he is holding a series of social functions at the Lodge this week to which more than 500 guests have been invited? Is it a fact that special crockery has been brought over to the Lodge by the caterers and that special champagne at $25 a bottle has been ordered? Does he intend to continue such extravagances whilst other sections of the community are expected to accept his call for national restraint in spending? Will he also disclose the total cost of these functions and how many pensioner funeral benefits could have been paid from that amount?
– I rather hope that a number of the wives of members of the Opposition in this House and in the Senate were having lunch with my wife today at the Lodge. I think that is an appropriate and proper course. The facilities of the Lodge have also been made available to wives throughout this week if they happen to be in Canberra and if they do not quite know what to do with themselves while their husbands are active in this place.
I would have thought also that the honourable member would be very unwise to pursue this matter because he might force the revelation of the costs of running Kirribilli House and the Lodge, of additional cars in respect of the previous Administration and, in addition, the ambitions to have not only 2 houses for the then Prime Minister but also a third in Melbourne for which modifications costing nearly $lm were involved.
– I ask the Prime Minister: In view of his stated determination to clamp down on what he terms as ‘dole bludgers ‘ in an effort to protect the Australian way of life, will he display equal determination to proceed with the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill in order to protect the pockets of trusting Australian investors from white collar scoundrels from the stock market industry who now have direct representation in the parliamentary Liberal Party?
-The honourable gentleman was well known in an earlier Administration for his opposition to the views of a former Minister for Labor who had views, it would seem from his stated and public record, that were pretty much the same as the views of this Government. However, because of the determination of the honourable member, who was Minister for Social Security at the time, to continue to waste public funds because adequate provision was not made to support Commonwealth Employment Service offices, I think this question comes rather oddly from him.
– My question, which I address to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, refers to Diego Garcia. Has the Minister any information to give the House in relation to progress towards the establishment of Diego Garcia as a defence establishment? Does he have any encouraging comment in relation to the visit to Australia recently of 4 American senators?
-It will be well known that the Government, prior to assuming that office, as the coalition in Opposition supported the extensions to the logistic support facilities at Diego Garcia. We said so during the election campaign of 1974; we said so during the election campaign of 1975. We fully support the policies of the United States of America Administration in extending those facilities. In our opinion they provide the opportunity for a balance of super power force in the Indian Ocean. Those who would cry for the need for a neutralisation of that area, which may be a worthwhile aspiration in due course, ought to recognise that before it can be achieved there ought to be that necessary prerequisite and balance there. For one power to opt out unilaterally would be only to play into the hands of another substantial power. It seemed to me that, consistent with the attitudes of the Administration, the majority of those senators who visited here, with the exception of one senator who had led a campaign in the Senate, were in favour of the extension of the facility. Even the one senator who dissented from the others was anxious to have it recorded that he was not opposed to the facility per se but recognised our point that if there were to be a neutralisation in due course there would need to be some prerequisite balance before that was achieved. Our views, of course, are well known on this matter. Charges that we have upset the relationships between littoral states of the Indian Ocean are fatuous. Our views have been well known and I suspect are supported by a great majority of people who support contemporary Western democracies.
– Is the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs aware that his Government’s spending cutbacks have resulted in the termination of the 12-month course for interpreters and translators at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology? In the light of the pressing need for translation and interpreter services for our ethnic communities, will the Minister inform the House of the steps he will take to make available the funds to allow the course to continue? Can the Minister explain why the translators and interpreters course in Canberra, where there is no substantial concentration of non-English speaking citizens, has been approved while those capital cities with large ethnic communities miss out? In the light of the difficulties experienced by graduates of last year’s interpreter and translator course in obtaining employment with those government departments that most need multilingual staff, will the Minister inform the House of the steps he is taking to ensure that government wage fixing bodies establish suitable rates and positions for professional translators and interpreters?
– In answer to the honourable member’s series of questions, I am aware that there has been some disquiet in Melbourne and in Sydney, and in fact in Canberra, about the alleged closing down of the interpreter courses. In fact this does not come within my portfolio responsibility, but naturally enough I am particularly interested in the role of interpreters and their employment, so much so that I have taken the matter up with the Minister for Education and the Prime Minister, and I hope I will be in a position to make further announcements shortly.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Overseas Trade. I note the Minister’s recent trip to Japan and ask whether during his discussions in that country he was given any indication that there would be a possibility of long term agreements for the sale of Australian beef to Japan.
-During my visit to Japan I discussed many commodities- raw materials, fibre and foodstuffs. One question of very great importance was the assured access for Australian beef to the Japanese market. There had been a shock to the Australian beef industry in 1974 when the market was closed for about 14 months. Commencing in June last year the market opened. For the balance of the Japanese trading year, which would be another 9 months, it opened with an estimated quantity of about 40 000 tons. That figure has now increased to 75 000 tons. But of great concern to Australian exporters was more predictability in the market and more advance notice, and also the opportunity for more chilled meat going on to the Japanese market. I am pleased to say that during the week that I was in Japan the Japanese increased the quantity of chilled meat from approximately 8000 tons to 20 000 tons which provides much more variety in the sale of that type of meat. We talked about the possibility of long term arrangements, but we are very much in the initial stages of trying to formulate what might be satisfactory arrangements. I think there is a considerable distance to go before anything is concluded in this area. Japanese imports at the moment are controlled by the Livestock Industry Promotion Corporation, which is more or less a Government monopoly, and there seems to be no indication from that body that it wants to get into long term trading arrangements. It is certainly the wish of the Australian Government to try to negotiate long term arrangements whether it be in minerals, foodstuffs or fibres.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister. Will he identify the members of his Cabinet with rural interests who voted to reintroduce the superphosphate bounty at a time when pensioners did not receive their full cost of living adjustment? In the public interest will he tell the Parliament by how much each of these Ministers, including himself, will benefit from the bounty which is estimated to be worth $30m in the next full year? Lastly, will the Prime Minister undertake to ensure that the legislation when introduced has a provision to guarantee distribution of the funds so that the major benefit goes to small farmers?
– I think the honourable gentleman should well know that Cabinet does not indicate how people determine their particular view within a particular meeting. I also think it is well on the public record which members of the Government have some farming interests. There is no secret about that. It needs no additional public identification. One of the odd things about the Opposition is that if there is an Industries Assistance Commission report which recommends some support to secondary industries and therefore will assist employment and the well-being of people who live very often largely in the towns and cities then the Opposition is prepared to accept the recommendation; but if that same impartial body, the Industries Assistance Commission, recommends some support for a hard-hit rural industry Opposition supporters say: ‘Oh no, how terrible it is. How wrong the report is. How falsely based it is ‘. We are prepared to accept impartial advice in the Commission’s reports whether they relate to the secondary industries or the primary industries. I think that before the honourable gentleman had framed the last part of his question he should have recalled that in the last Budget the then Treasurer postponed by one month payments to pensioners of the adjustment that flows from the consumer price index. In this autumn, 6 months after the last adjustment by the Labor Party, the full adjustment of the consumer price index will flow through into the pension area.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Did the former Labor Government’s tariff policy seriously affect the decentralised textile industry in Australia? Is the Minister aware that as a result of that policy the great Courtaulds (Aust.) Ltd works at Raymond Terrace will cease operations in early March? Did this concern employ 1600 people? Does it at present employ fewer than 600 people who have received notices terminating their employment? Will the Minister immediately investigate the situation to see whether it is possible to give assistance to keep the works operating?
– Yes, I am well aware of the disastrous effects on decentralised industries of the tariff policies of the previous Government. I am also aware of the closure, or the possible impending closure, of the Courtaulds works. I cannot vouch for the figures which the honourable gentleman gave but I would be happy to have them confirmed for him. In relation to the future of that company, it may be too late to take action such as the honourable gentleman suggests, but the Commonwealth Employment Service will be anxious to do whatever it can for those people who are being put out of employment as a result of the closure of the Courtaulds works. If necessary I shall arrange for extra officers of the Department to go to the town concerned to help in solving that problem which will be a major one- and that is recognised.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government intends to proceed to implement the unanimous report of the Joint Committee on Pecuniary Interests of Members of Parliament- which Committee was drawn from both sides of both Houses in the last Parliament- presented to both Houses on 30 September last. In particular I ask whether he has required his Ministers to make a declaration of interests which that Committee recommended they should make and whether he has required his Ministers have their staffs make the declarations of interests which the Committee also recommended that the staffs should make?
– All Ministers have been asked to make declarations to me, and the recommendations of the Committee were taken into account in formulating that requirement. In addition, all staffs of Ministers have made or are in the process of making declarations to the Minister for Administrative Services. Just as the previous Administration had not finally determined its own attitude on the report as a whole before certain events took place, we also have not yet determined our complete attitude in relation to it. I might add also that I have expressed a view to the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration that I would like a report from the Royal Commission on the position of senior public servants advising governments and also those who are not so senior but are in sensitive areas where their recommendations and determinations could have an impact on the well-being of certain industries. This is done in some other countries. In view of world trends it may also need to be done in Australia.
– Will the Minister for Transport give an unequivocal assurance that the curfew at Sydney’s Mascot Airport will be retained and will be rigidly enforced except in cases of emergency?
– The curfew is an historic one. It has been in operation since the late 1950s or the early 1960s. It is not intended that the conditions of the curfew as laid down will be changed at all.
-Is the Treasurer intending to impose a credit squeeze on the Australian community at a time when the objective should be full employment? If so, why has he not said so? If not, what else could be the effect of the increase in the ratio of liquid assets and government securities to deposits from 18 per cent to 23 per cent and the introduction of the Australian savings bond at far too high an interest rate with consequent fund raising difficulties for building societies, semi-governmental and other such institutions?
– I find it a matter of some irony that a member of the Australian Labor Party, which when in Government caused one of the most massive credit squeezes in Australian history, should now come forward to raise this matter in this House at this time. As well as the question of a credit squeeze, the honourable gentleman adverted- briefly albeit- to the question of unemployment. He should recognise that it was his Party which deliberately created the greatest pool of unemployed persons since the Great Depression. In response to the particular point the honourable gentleman raised, I refer him to the original Press statements put out by me in which I made it perfectly clear on behalf of the Government that, in seeking to mop up excess liquidity throughout the Australian community, that liquidity having been deliberately created by the honourable gentleman and his colleagues, the Government was at pains at the same time not in any way to prejudice the capacity of the free enterprise sector to underwrite economic recovery. There is no suggestion of a credit squeeze. This Government, by comparison with its predecessor Administration, is very much concerned about the need for fine tuning. That is in our mind and this matter is subject to a daily monitoring.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. In view of the reports of the tragic murdering in Angola of mercenaries enlisted in Britain and of reports that similar attempts have been made to get mercenaries in Australia, will he make sure as far as possible that no Australians are involved in tragic events of that kind?
– I would certainly oppose as a particular and a general rule the conduct of mercenary armies wherever they may be. As the honourable gentleman would know, there has been a great deal of support from one large country and one small country for one side in the Angola conflict. That has not been balanced in any way by the countries which might have a capacity to do so, with the result that there will be an almost inevitable conclusion. That does not in any way detract from what I said about the conduct of mercenaries. The honourable gentleman would also know that the powers of the Australian Government in relation to this matter are very limited.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Defence. When will the new cadet scheme be phased in? I remind the Minister that in 1974 the then cadet scheme had its weapons taken from it and that in 1975, as result of the same unclear muddled thinking, the cadet scheme was phased out. When will our scheme be phased in?
– On assuming office the Government found to its dismay that the previous Administration had dismantled over 80 per cent of the cadet units throughout Australia. The restoration of those units will call for considerable initiative and considerable resources, and the Government has embarked on a program of inquiry to see how that can best be achieved having regard to the use of resources and to manpower. It is my expectation that by the end of this month a report which would represent an appropriate survey of the problems will be in my hands, and then it will be upon the Government to determine a future course.
-By way of preface to my question to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs I refer to his decision to allow Australian residents who leave Australia on foreign passports to re-enter Australia without re-entry permits after absences of up to 3 years. What steps will be taken to prevent the re-entry of such persons who during their absence overseas have been convicted of serious criminal offences, or are subject to arrest on criminal charges, or are suspected of being engaged in drug trafficking, or have contracted a serious infection or contagious disease, or who for any other reason would have become disqualified for residential status in Australia in the normal way?
– The new procedures in no way lessen the protection afforded to the general Australian population because in fact those people who travel overseas and who are residents of Australia but who do not have Australian citizenship will be in exactly the same situation as they would have been if they had been required to obtain re-entry visas before they left. If they are found guilty of serious crimes overseas that fact presumably would be reported to the Australian authorities. If they contracted infectious diseases overseas, under the previous requirements they still would have been able to re-enter Australia simply because they already had re-entry visas stamped in their travel documents. So in no way is there a lessening of protection to the Australian population. Rather there is an easing of movement for people who are resident in Australia but who are not yet Australian citizens. Particularly of course does this apply to those people who have lived in Australia for a great number of years, whether they be of British origin or non-British origin. This particularly assists those people who have not seen fit to take out Australian citizenship. I do not think Australian citizenship should be forced upon anyone. I believe that the re-entry requirements introduced by the previous Government did have that effect upon people who were not yet Australian citizens.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Transport. He would be aware of the flood situation in central Australia and northern South Australia which could cause the central Australian railway again to become unserviceable for a long time. Will he investigate ways and means of getting much needed supplies to the Northern Territory from the south? Also, will he consider means of assisting road transport operators who have had to take over from ComRail so that consumers in the Northern Territory are not forced to meet the extra transport costs which will be involved?
-The honourable member for the Northern Territory raises a matter which is of very deep concern to residents of the Territory. As he will know, I was in the Northern Territory last week and had discussions with a number of groups about this very matter. I am very conscious indeed of the disturbance that the washing out of the railway system has caused to the carriage of goods to Alice Springs and further north. I am very sympathetic to the problems it has created. I have been looking at finding alternative methods to get freight to the Northern Territory at a cheap rate. Nothing has come forward that will satisfy the honourable member for the Northern Territory or me at this point. We are exploring to see whether it is possible to use road transport at a more equitable rate and in a more equitable fashion. If anything does develop I shall keep the honourable member informed.
(Mr Young proceeding to address a question to the Prime Minister)
-Order! The honourable gentleman is asking a question which would require the Prime Minister to reply stating a matter of policy. As such, the request for a statement of policy would be out of order. The second part of the question appeared to me to be in order. Will the honourable gentleman drop the first part of his question so that I do not have to rule it out of order, and proceed with the second part?
-With your direction, Mr Speaker, I ask the Prime Minister: Does he realise that an impost of $70 per television licence would cost the Australian consumer many millions of dollars and impose a further burden of approximately $5m on our tourist industry?
-Since no decision has been made on the first part of the question, Mr Speaker, if I am allowed to say that much, the second part of the question falls to the ground. Of course the honourable gentleman has an odd way of looking at some of these things. He and his party completely failed to pay any recognition to the additional costs placed on all individuals in Australia by the policies of the previous Government by which they tried to get off under a subterfuge by saying that there were tax reforms, at the same time taking an extra $2,600m out of the individual taxpayers of Australia.
– I direct my question to the Treasurer. Many pensioners and superannuated persons are now finding their incomes rising by simple and enforced adjustment, as a result of rises to offset inflation, to a level at which their classification as pensioner cuts out in respect of concessions for transport, rates and other governmental charges. Will the Treasurer consider indexing the cut-off point for these concessions now that indexing is such a popular concept so that wage indexation will not be at the expense of pensioners?
– I appreciate very much the question which has been posed by the honourable gentleman. At the outset I certainly want to record the long-time and effective interest which the honourable gentleman has shown in matters of social welfare in general and in relation to pensioners in particular. His interest is of course quite genuine as distinct from the alleged monopoly of concern which some members of the Opposition have formerly sought to display to the Australian community. I recognise very much the point which the honourable gentleman has made and the initiative recommended by him, will be the subject of examination by the Government. I invite the honourable gentleman to prepare a submission which can be taken both by myself and the Minister for Social Security so that a judgment can be made in relation to the context of the next Budget. I mention only briefly that of course it is the Government’s total objective to put value back into the welfare dollar and at the same time to recognise that, so far as social welfare groups are concerned, the overriding objective in their interest and that of the balance of the Australian community must be firstly to wind down the present rate of inflation.
-Is the Minister for Transport aware that Australian National Railways are considering the closure of the Darwin-Larrimah rail link as a result of this Government’s austerity program? Will the Minister give a firm assurance that the line will not be closed and that the employment of the personnel concerned will be ensured?
– I first became aware of the Australian National Railways’ intention to close the line when I was a caretaker Minister in the first Fraser Government. Apparently it was a proposal that either had been put to the previous Minister for Transport or was ready to be put to the previous Minister for Transport. I have not seen the private papers of the former Minister for Transport to know what opinion he adopted about the matter. So far as I am concerned, officials of the Australian National Railways have not come to me at this point to tell me anything about the closure of the line. When they do, I will have a discussion with them.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs: In respect of the amnesty for illegal immigrants presently in operation, how many illegal immigrants have come forward as a result of the amnesty? What proportion of them are likely to be allowed to stay in Australia? Does the Minister’s Department have any information on how many further illegal immigrants are likely to be in Australia but have not come forward?
– Figures as at last night indicate that there are just over 3500 people who have come forward claiming amnesty under our provisions. This is in marked contrast to a previous effort by a previous Administration when about 360-odd people came forward in a full year. On the best estimates we have, about 32 000 people would come under the amnesty conditions. The amnesty lasts until 30 April. I do not know of a single case where amnesty has been refused when people have come forward. I would encourage all who are covered by the amnesty provisions to come forward because it is in their best interests to do so.
– I present pursuant to statute the supplementary report of the Auditor-General for the year ended 30 June 1 975.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– Pursuant to section 12 of the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act 1959-73 1 present the 16th annual statement concerning the operation of that Act and the payment of subsidies during the year ended 30 June 1975.
– Pursuant to section 27 (4) of the National Library Act 1960-73 I present the annual report of the Council of the National Library of Australia for the year ended 30 June 1975 together with financial statements in respect of that year and the Auditor-General’s reports on those statements.
– For the information of honourable members I present statistical returns in respect of each of the States showing the voting within each subdivision in relation to the submission to the electors of proposed laws for the . alteration to the Constitution held in 1974. Due to the limited number available reference copies of these documents have been placed in the Parliamentary Library.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report on the working and administration of the Department of Transport for the year 1974-75 including those matters on which I am required to report pursuant to section 29 of the Air Navigation Act 1 920- 1 974.
Mr NIXON (Minister for TransportPursuant to section 39 of the Australian Snipping Commission Act 1974 I present the annual report of the Australian Shipping Commission for the year ended 30 June 1975 together with financial statements in respect of that year and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Temporary Assistance Authority for 1974-75.
– For the information of honourable members I present the reports of the Industries Assistance Commission on the dairy industry dated 23 October 1975, the. iron and steel industry dated 8 October 1975 and an interim report on fruit growing dated 30 October 1975.
-Pursuant to section 33 of the Hospitals and Health Services Commission Act 1973 I present the AuditorGeneral’s report on the statement of receipts and payments for the Hospitals and Health Services Commission for the year ended 30 June 1975. The financial statement referred to in paragraph 2 of the Auditor-General’s report was tabled in the Parliament together with the report of the Commission on 4 November 1 975.
-For the information of honourable members I present volume 2 of the first main report of the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty together with a statement by the Minister for Social Security relating to that report.
– For the information of honourable members I present a Green Paper entitled Towards New Perspectives for Australian Meteorological Services.
Mr ST ALE Y (Minister for the Capital Territory) Pursuant to section 33 (4) of the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Supply Act 1962-73 I present the annual report of the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority for the year ended 30 June 1975 together with financial statements and the report of the AuditorGeneral on those statements.
Mr STALEY (Minister for the Capital Territory) Pursuant to section 17(2) of the Consumer Affairs Ordinance 1973 I present the annual reports of the Consumer Affairs Council and the Consumer Affairs Bureau of the Australian Capital Territory for the year ended 30 June 1975.
– I have been informed by the Leader of the Opposition that he wishes to make a personal explanation. Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, by the Prime Minister ( Mr Malcolm Fraser) in respect to official residences. Mr Speaker, I would welcome the Prime Minister tabling any reports and all papers in connection with these matters. He referred specifically to an official residence in Melbourne. The residence is owned by the University of Melbourne. In the middle of last year the ViceChancellor approached the Governor-General, who discussed the matter with me. The proposal was that this residence, which would be available to the Australian Government at a peppercorn rent, should be used as an official residence in Melbourne. I agreed that investigations should proceed for that purpose for that residence.
When I became Prime Minister I found that there were plans drawn up by the Department of Works to extend the Prime Minister’s Lodge. I put an end to those plans. Last year the Governor-General was pressing for the expansion of Yarralumla. I did not allow those plans to proceed in this year’s Budget. Also, last year the Governor-General suggested to me, and I agreed, that plans should be developed to pool the resources of Admiralty House and Kirribilli House which are adjacent and which singly are not large enough to accommodate official visitors to Australia. I am not sure how far those plans have progressed. I should conclude by saying that the public should know that if the occupant -
-Only one sentence more. You will not find it offensive.
– I accept the honourable gentleman’s word but he must not debate the issue.
– No, I am not seeking to do so. I believe it should be known that if the occupant of the Prime Minister’s Lodge stays at Kirribilli House he gets no travel allowance; if he stays anywhere else in Sydney, including premises owned by himself, he gets a travel allowance.
– Order! There is too much noise in the chamber. This is an important part of the proceedings. I understand that the right honourable member for Lowe wishes to make a personal explanation. Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. In order to again prevent misrepresentation by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) I want to state that at no time during the period that I was Prime Minister was any proposal put to me or through the Prime Minister’s Department for any substantial improvements at the Lodge or to extend the premises. I think he must have been dreaming or dredging the bottom of the waste paper basket.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman has made his personal explanation.
– I call the Leader of the Opposition but I warn the honourable gentleman that I am not prepared to allow personal explanations to develop into a debate. If there is a particular matter on which he claims to have been misrepresented by the right honourable member for Lowe will he state it shortly and succinctly.
Mr E. G. WHITLAM (Werriwa-Leader of the Opposition)- Mr Speaker, when I took up residence in the Lodge for the first time there were plans by the Department of Works to extend the front of the Lodge forward on both sides. Those plans were still there when I left. No action was taken on them during my incumbency. I do not remember the date of them. They might not have been devised in the right honourable gentleman’s time; maybe it was during the time of his predecessors. However they were there when we took up residence.
– by leave- I wish to announce the Government’s decision to acquire 2 guided missile frigates for the Royal Australian Navy. The ships will be procured from the United States Navy construction program for guided missile frigates. These ships were previously known as patrol frigates and are now called the FFG-7,
Oliver Hazard Perry Class. The 2 ships will be in service by 1982. The ‘sail-away’ cost for the 2 ships as procured from the United States is $A195m in January 1976 prices. The total project investment cost, including helicopters, spares, test equipment, ammunition and so on, for the 2 ships has been estimated at $A330m in January 1976 prices.
Members will be aware that in our preelection Defence Policy we said that we would give priority to a review of the previous Government’s cancellation of the light destroyer (DDL) program. We also said that it might be necessary now to accept a modified destroyer design. The review has been completed and the results have been presented to the Government. The review, which was most comprehensive, covered the characteristics required of the destroyers, the pros and cons of re-instituting the DDL program, the acquisition of FFGs and of alternative ships to meet the current destroyer requirements of the Navy. The Navy itself has been deeply involved in the United States FFG program and has also conducted its own independent and very searching investigations. The unanimous advice I have received from my advisers is that the DDL program can no longer be considered because of costs and prospective delays.
It might be remembered that at the time of the coalition Government’s approval in 1972 the DDL was to include essentially the same weapons and sensor capability as the then patrol frigate- area air-defence weapons, helicopter operation, anti-ship missile- except that the DDL was planned to have a larger gun. The DDL hull and machinery outfit would have been less austere than the patrol frigate. There were some other unsatisfactory features in the design of the then patrol frigate.
Over the last three to four years the United States Navy has developed the guided missile frigate to have a capability much closer to the DDL than that of the original patrol frigate design. I might add that some of the improvements have been influenced by the input of Australian professional judgment through RAN participation in the United States Navy program. There will be some relatively minor, modifications in the RAN version of the FFG specifically to meet Australian operational requirements.
The FFG will provide the RAN with the essential characteristics required in this destroyer acquisition. It will provide them at lower cost. There is no doubt that the DDL would have been a less austere ship and would, if successfully developed, have provided a marginally better fighting capability; but it would now be too late in time. It had reached the preliminary design stage only.
The DDL program has lost its momentum and the development of a detailed design together with the substantial workload and facilities modernisation program of the Williamstown Dockyard would not permit destroyer construction to commence in Australia until 1980. It is currently estimated that the DDL program for 2 ships would cost about $130m more than the FFG Program-$460m against $330m. The DDL would enter service some S years later that the FFG. I hope that honourable members will take account of the fact that those 2 features have weighed very heavily with the Government in deciding to opt for the FFG.
The Government believes that the FFG is now the best choice if replacement of destroyers due to retire in the early 1980s is to be effected in a timely and economic fashion. The Government has no doubts that the ships will be a most appropriate adjunct to the Royal Australian Navy. The Navy has demonstrated that the ship will have the performance that it needs in service. Substantial effort has been exerted by the United States and Australian authorities in developing an adequate level of Australian industry participation against an FFG purchase. Provided Australian industry is sufficiently competitive, there is a good prospect of Australian industry participation against the ship acquisition. In this regard we will be supported by the United States Department of Defense and I have directed that my Department make every effort to increase the scope of participation.
The United States Navy FFG program consists of a lead ship- prototype- and a series of follow-ships. The lead ship was funded in the United States Budget for the fiscal year 1973 and is now under construction. The first 3 follow.ships were funded in the fiscal year 1975. The United States 1976 Defense Appropriation Bill, which includes funds for a further 6 ships, was signed by the President on 9 February 1976. In the proposed Budget for the fiscal year 1977 presented to Congress on 21 January 1976, the United States Department of Defense has sought funds for a further 8 follow-ships. The total projected United States program is 70 ships including the lead ship. The FFG program is in a very highly developed state with all weapon and ships systems thoroughly researched and tested at a very considerable expense. The fact that systems have been proved at sea prior even to the building of the lead ship is a strong assurance of the success of the program. We are joining this program on very advantageous conditions. Because it is a major United States program we will reap the benefit of concurrent procurement with the United States and the economies of scale.
In all, the Government is satisfied that the Navy’s present needs for destroyer acquisition will be met by the procurement of the 2 guided missile frigates and that they will prove most adequate to enhance the Navy’s destroyer force when they enter service. Whilst these ships represent a significant contribution to the strength of the Royal Australian Navy, the Government believes that further acquisitions will be necessary in due course. Studies are now underway to determine what future additions to the Royal Australian Navy are required. Whether or not future selections are of this type of ship is yet to be determined. I present the following paper:
Destroyers for the Royal Australian Navy- Ministerial Statement, 18 February 1976.
– My understanding is that the Minister for Defence has a second statement to make. I think the best procedure would be for him to do so forthwith.
– by leave- Activities at the Woomera rocket range in South Australia are to be reduced during the next 4 years to a care and maintenance level. This decision has been reached following months of negotiation between United Kingdom and Australian officials. The negotiations are expected to be finalised by British and Australian Ministers by June 1976. Some unfinished British trials will be completed during the run-down period. Some 12 months ago it was announced that activities at the Woomera range would be run down, and that instrumentation and facilities would be held in readiness for a revival if they were required. Since then negotiations have continued, and an agreement in principle has been reached. The run-down of the range will result in a reduction of staff at Woomera and Salisbury by some 700 personnel below the number employed at the beginning of July last year. However, the actual number of staff to be reduced will not be known until further staff studies are completed.
The Australian Services currently are examining possible uses of the Woomera area. These possibilities are that the area could be suitable for Army and Air Force tactical exercises, and as a range for live firing of ground and air weapons. A policy of replacement only of key staff who leave the trials organisation has been followed since the earlier announcement. As the work load diminishes it will be necessary to re-deploy staff to other employment and to achieve this end a specialist team will be formed to organise the transfer of Australian Public Service staff and temporary employees to new employment. This team will have a representative cell at Woomera to actively assist those people concerned. The Woomera village will continue to provide accommodation and social facilities for people employed at the range and at the Joint Defence Space Communications Station. I present the following paper:
Future Arrangements at Woomera- Ministerial Statement, 18 February 1976.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House take note of the papers.
-Firstly I express the appreciation of the Opposition for the courtesy of the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) in circulating early the information that he would give to the House so the matter could be studied. I hope that the precedent he has created will be followed by other Ministers. It is gratifying to note that the coalition Government has finally accepted that our decision to replace the DDL with the patrol frigate was the only possible decision to make in the best interests of the defence of Australia. If honourable gentlemen have any curiosity about the vessel I suggest they look at the Defence Report 1975. On page 16 they will see a picture of the missile frigate in question.
The Government’s decision is all the more gratifying considering the violent criticism that honourable gentlemen opposite offered when we announced our decision to consider what is clearly the better weapons system- the patrol frigate which is now known as the FFG or guided missile frigate. However the Minister for Defence was less than gracious in his reference to our decision to consider the FFG. He gave a passing but concealed tribute to the acumen of the then Defence Minister, Mr Lance Barnard, when he said:
We are joining this program on very advantageous conditions.
The simple fact is that those very advantageous conditions were obtained by Mr Barnard and were strengthened by his successor, Mr Morrison. The terms and conditions of the memorandum of arrangements covering the purchase of the frigates are unprecedented for an Australian defence acquisition and unprecedentedly advantageous. While rightly paying tribute to officers of the Department of Defence for their negotiating ability, I feel it is proper to note that the coalition did not give evidence in the Fill travesty of an ability to obtain very advantageous conditions. I draw the attention of the House to the statement on this matter of the former Minister. It is in the Defence Report 1 975. It states:
New destroyer project. Final commitment by the Australian Government to proceed with the guided missile frigate project will not be made until early 1976 and is dependent, among other things, on the results of a US Government review of the construction program.
We had options on the 2 vessels, but certain American decisions had to be made. The report continues:
In the meantime development in the US is proceeding satisfactorily, particularly at the land based test site where test and evaluation programs are being conducted for the major combat systems. Requests for tender proposals for USN guided missile frigate and the RAN ships were issued concurrently to US shipbuilders in April 1 975. Current planning is for delivery of both ships to the RAN by 1982.
The present Minister made an almost identical statement.
I wish to say one thing about Woomera which has been a very important area for Australian defence science since it was at Woomera that the Ikara, probably one of the best anti-submarine weapons in the world, was developed. The British Malkara, an anti-tank weapon, and the Blue Streak rocket, which is now completely outmoded but which in its day was quite significant, were developed there also. Mr Barnard had announced that the Woomera range would go on to a care and maintenance basis. Mr Morrison felt that there could be some additional uses for the range, including Fill exercises and tank live firing exercises. The present Minister’s statement acknowledges this possibility. Mr Morrison had planned that a team of 3 top scientists review the work of the Weapons Research Establishment and Woomera with a view to future uses. This was in the pipeline on 1 1 November 1975. It is regrettable that the decision to abolish 700 jobs at Woomera and Salisbury has been taken without a thorough and expert examination of the potential uses of Woomera as announced by Mr Morrison last year. The previous Government intended to appoint a task force of outside experts to examine whether the work of Salisbury and Woomera could be diversified into other useful activities involving the defence forces.
The Minister’s announcement today is precipitate and the finality of a decision is unnecessary. Woomera is a facility of superb potential and its contribution to Australia’s defence science has been unique. There is no reason whatsoever at this stage to condemn Woomera to death along with the jobs of 700 highly trained technicians. I am afraid it is a piece of cosmetic cost saving by the Government which will undermine the true wealth of this nation, namely, the expertise and experience of our best trained workers.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bourchier) adjourned.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The action of the Government in breaking its election promise to support wage indexation.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places).
– It is indeed ironic that a Government which proclaimed loudly and frequently throughout the recent election campaign that it would bring honesty into government should be publicly exposed as deceitful and dishonest only 7 weeks after it won the election. It attained that dubious distinction by breaking its promise to S million wage and salary earners in this country that it would support wage indexation at least in the current economic circumstances. Its action in opposing the full 6.4 per cent increase in wages claimed by the unions in the recent national wage case was universally interpreted as a breach of an election promise. The trade unions, the national employers organisations, State governments of all political persuasions, the Press and the general public were all taken by surprise because the Government’s commitment to the support of wage indexation seemed to be so unequivocal. In these circumstances the Government’s humiliating rebuff by the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission which completely rejected its argument and castigated its key submissions as unpersuasive assertions was exceedingly well deserved.
Let there be no doubt that there was a commitment by the Government to support wage indexation in the current economic circumstances.
In statement after statement the Government gave that commitment in the pre-election period. At no time did it in any way suggest that its commitment was in any way tentative or only partial. Indeed on one occasion the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) even forecasted the size of the wage increase that would result from the indexation case. In these circumstances, for the Government to claim that it was not committed to the support of full indexation is an insult to the Parliament and to the people. Yet that is what has been claimed.
The Prime Minister in a statement reported in the Melbourne Age of 31 January this year announced a decision of the Cabinet to oppose full indexation and to support about half of that increase. I shall read part of the Prime Minister’s statement. He said:
The Government has expressed its support, under current economic circumstances, for the wage indexation principles laid down by the commission last year.
The first of the wage indexation principles enumerated by the commission last year states: ‘The commission will adjust its award wages and salaries each quarter in relation to the most recent movement of the six capitals’ CPI unless it is persuaded to the contrary by those seeking to oppose the adjustment. ‘
The Prime Minister then continues with his own statement:
Because of the difficult economic circumstances, particularly inflation and unemployment, the Government finds it necessary to argue that instead of granting the increase of 6.4 per cent which would result from fully passing on the CPI increase for the last 2 quarters, the commission should at this time determine upon a figure of about half that order.
This claim that the Government, in opposing full indexation, was abiding by its election promise simply does not stand up to analysis. Let us look at a number of the statements that were made. Firstly, a report in the Melbourne Age of 28 November which related to the supplementary economic statement which was issued with the Prime Minister’s election policy speech, stated in respect of wage indexation:
The Government will support the wage indexation agreement in the current economic circumstances.
That is an emphatic statement. This is all that was said, although the use of the word ‘agreement’ is somewhat curious because it is an arbitrated decision rather than an agreement. But still there was an interpretation by everyone that that emphatic statement was support for wage indexation. There was no elaboration of qualification to suggest otherwise. Anyone would interpret that as full commitment, especially as the Prime Minister then went on in that statement to promise tax indexation which, as the Prime Minister said, would ‘underpin the wage indexation agreement’, so confirming the commitment to full wage indexation unless, of course, the commitment to tax indexation is also subject to substantial but unstated qualifications too, and that may well be the case.
So clearly this major policy statement must have given the impression to all who saw it that the Government was going to support full indexation in the national wage case due to start in early February. Certainly the Government did add the rider about present economic circumstances but no one expected any substantial change in the next couple of months. Furthermore, the Government could hardly now claim that it did not know in this election period what the economic circumstances were likely to be when the case came on. The Prime Minister knew that unemployment was high, he kept proclaiming that there was no sign of economic recovery, and he forecast that the rate of inflation would be around 5 per cent for the December quarter. But still he committed his Government to the support of wage indexation in those economic circumstances.
The day before the Prime Minister delivered his policy speech he held a Press conference at his Toorak home, and I refer to the transcript of that conference which I have obtained from the Parliamentary Library. At page 3 of the transcript he said:
For the December quarter the inflation rate alone will be S percent.
So clearly he knew the general extent of the price rise for that quarter which in fact was 5.6 per cent when it was announced. He went on:
Now, let’s leave it at that. I’m not going beyond the December quarter at the present time, except to say that the 5 per cent December quarter figure will flow through into the wage indexation proposals- or not proposals, decisionsthat will inevitably be made under the guidelines in, is it late February or early March?
In fact it turned out that the decision was made by 13 February. But I stress the importance of what the Prime Minister said during that Press conference which was reported to the nation. He said that inevitably there would be a flow-on under the guidelines of the 5 per cent into wages. If that was not promising the people that the Government supported the full indexation, I do not know how much firmer that commitment could have been. Further, the Prime Minister said:
The December quarter figure will be about 5 per cent, within the barest fraction of 5 per cent one way or another. And that will flow through with the previous figure from the last quarter.
He was asked the question: 0.8 per cent would be added to that?
The Prime Minister gave the answer:
Well, it will be near enough to 6 per cent increase in wages in the February-March quarter.
There could hardly be a more explicit commitment. Here we have the Prime Minister saying he knows there will be a 5 per cent or more price rise in the December quarter and that it will inevitably be passed on under the wage indexation guidelines, as will the 0.8 per cent increase of the previous quarter, and concluding there will be approximately a 6 per cent increase in wages in the March quarter. Does the Government now seriously contend that this was not a commitment? If so, it can hardly expect the people of Australia to take seriously any of its supposed commitments. We shall have to examine them all, look at the small print and any conceivable ambiguities they may contain to see whether there is any possible way the Government can wriggle out of them, and even then we will not be sure that the Government will abide by its word.
There is one other piece of evidence to which I would like to refer. Although it is perhaps superfluous I mention it because it may be referred to by others. It is a letter from the Prime Minister to the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations- CAGEO. The Prime Minister was asked in a letter from the Council the question:
CAGEO wages policy is to support the new wage index system. Our support is based on the strong desire to preserve the real value of the Australian Government employees’ wages during the current inflationary period. Will your Party, if elected to government, give support during the Arbitration Commission’s future quarterly indexation cases to the adjustment of wages for price movements as measured by the consumer price index in the form of a full percentage adjustment on total award wages?
His answer to that was -
– When did he give that answer?
– His answer was given before the election, on 9 December. He said:
We support the indexation guidelines from the Full Bench totally. The Full Bench has said that the indexation guidelines can apply to the total wage and not just the award wage, and that it will hear individual cases in relation to those guidelines.
In the context of the question asked, there was universal acceptance by those who saw that answer that it represented a total commitment to full indexation. But that in fact was not what eventuated. So far we have referred only to commitments by the Prime Minister. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) also made commitments of support. It is particularly interesting to look at his commitments to indexation in view of the reasons given later by the Government for opposing full wage indexation. In its submissions to the Commission the Government made it quite clear that it opposed full wage indexation because it regarded it as inflationary and that a revival of inflationary expectations would damage prospects for economic recovery. I ask the House to look at what the Minister for Labor and Immigration, as he then was, now Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, said in an interview reported in the Australian Financial Review on 2 1 November 1975. He said:
So long as indexation is able to sustain the vast majority of compliance that the Full Bench has made it quite clear that it needs to survive, and so long as the abnormal inflation conditions of recent times apply, we think indexation is worth backing. These are 2 quite important qualifications. The first is compliance and the second is the recent quite high level of inflation.
I emphasise what the Minister was saying. He was saying that a condition of the Government’s support was a continuing abnormal level of inflation, but it is that very condition of abnormal inflation that the Minister said was a condition of his support for indexation that was subsequently used by the Government as its reason for opposing full indexation, as is shown by the statement by the Prime Minister, which I read, announcing a decision of Cabinet.
It is relevant at this point to note the process by which the Government reached its decision to oppose full wage indexation. As everyone in this House knows, this matter was considered by the Economic Committee of Cabinet, which includes the Prime Minister, and it decided to support full wage indexation. According to the Press, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations supported full wage indexation but it was opposed by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch). On this occasion the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations won the battle, no doubt using the Government’s public commitment to full indexation as one of his arguments. He was given leave by the Prime Minister to announce publicly the decision. However, before he could do so, or before he did, someone got to the Prime Minister and persuaded him to take the matter to a full Cabinet meeting, where the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations lost out.
This decision of Cabinet came only at the end of the week before the national wage case was to start. I understand that counsel for the Government in the case had to abandon the brief he had been given in support of wage indexation, and then over the course of the weekend another brief opposing full indexation was hastily compiled for him. This hardly seems like the firm, decisive and competent Government that the Prime
Minister proclaimed his Government would be. Of course the irony in all this is that the Government’s breach of promise and policy somersaults were of no avail. Its arguments were flatly refuted by the Arbitration Commission and the full 6.4 per cent granted. I ask the House to note the unequivocal way in which the Arbitration Commission refuted the Government’s case. On page 6 of its decision it said:
The Commonwealth has argued that the economic shock of administering in one quarter a wage increase of such a magnitude would revive inflationary expectations, discourage consumption and investment and increase unemployment; and that increased confidence to consumers and business ‘can only be achieved at this stage by an increase less than 6.4 percent’.
We are not persuaded by these assertions.
It goes on to say why it is not. There could not be a more emphatic rebuttal of the Commonwealth Government’s position than was given in that statement by the Arbitration Commission. All those who know the language of the Commission realise that a statement that it is not persuaded by these assertions is castigation of your submissions indeed.
It is fortunate for this country that the Arbitration Commission saw fit to abide by its principles and reject the Government’s arguments. Had it not done so, there would have been grave implications for industrial relations and the economy. In regard to industrial relations, there would most certainly have been a tremendous increase in industrial disputation as unions sought to overcome a cut in real wages, because what it meant was not just slowing down the rate of real wage increase but cutting real wages. The Government argued for a cut in real wages, that is in the value of what a wage will buy, of 3.2 per cent, and the unions would most certainly have reacted very strongly to that.
Secondly, wage indexation would have been destroyed. Unions would have known that they could not count on the Arbitration Commission any more to maintain real wages, so they would have sought to protect their members by going for anticipatory wage claims as they did in 1974, so creating further inflation. So the Commonwealth Government’s argument that the 3.2 per cent would reduce inflationary expectations is in fact quite contrary to what would have happened. It would have exacerbated inflationary expectations because, without the protection of indexation, people would have to go for broke to make sure they kept in front of inflation. That would certainly have been the reasoning of unions.
Finally, the Arbitration Commission would have lost control of wage fixing procedures. One would have thought that the Commission’s role in this area was something that the Government would support. Does it really support the proposal that there be just mayhem in the wage fixation field, or does it support the proposition that there be some kind of wage fixing structure and that the Arbitration Commission have a strong role? Apparently it does not support the latter because it was prepared to dice the system of wage fixing which had brought about moderation in wage claims, protected workers from inflation and dramatically lowered the level of industrial disputation.
In conclusion, we say this is a sorry exercise and has shattered not only the Government’s credibility for abiding by its word but also its credibility in regard to industrial relations policy and economic policy. Its actions in opposing full indexation, knowing the likely reaction of the unions, is consistent with a policy of taking the unions on.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) talks about the question of credibility. I think it is fair to say at the outset, on the basis of the judgment made recently by the Australian people, that there has never been in the history of this country a government which has broken more promises in so short a period of time than did the Australian Labor Party in government in the course of the past 3 years.
This matter of public importance before the House clearly indicates the Labor Party’s incapacity to understand the basic determinants of the inflationary spiral which that Party deliberately created by its policies in office. This after all is a Party which in just 3 short years pushed inflation from a rate of 4.5 per cent to over 17 per cent, deliberately created the largest pool of unemployment since the Great Depression and brought about one of Australia’s most serious periods of economic recession. This is an Opposition which is today putting increases in money incomes and consequent price rises ahead of jobs, ahead of investment, ahead of economic recovery and ahead of the position of the fixed income earner and indeed the superannuitant.
The Government’s decision to oppose the full flow on of price increases in the September and December quarters last year was taken as a matter of national responsibility. By adding around $2,400m to the annual wages bill, the judgment brought down by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission means that many who might have otherwise moved into or back into gainful employment will now be unable to do so. Quite apart from this, the full flow on of price increases will widen further the gap between the wage and the non-wage sectors. The fixed income recipient will again be called upon to bear a disproportionate burden of the price rises which will flow from the Commission’s ruling.
We believe the decision has the capacity to produce a new resurgence in the inflationary cost spiral just at the time when some glimmers of hope were being discerned in that crucial respect. By so doing it will compound the already enormous difficulties of economic management which we have directly inherited as a result of 3 years of Labor administration. The choice, as the Government saw it, was between supporting an increase in money wages now, which because of its size would be quickly eroded by consequent price increases and which would directly reduce the capacity of employers to maintain their existing work forces, or supporting a more moderate increase which could be plainly and publicly seen as being consistent with a slow down in the rate of inflation thereby leading to more jobs and higher real wages in the period ahead.
In order to give the Opposition a simple understanding of what we in fact did in relation to that 6.4 per cent decision I point out that it was, as I mentioned earlier, to put jobs ahead of price increases, to consider investment, the question of economic recovery and certainly the position of those many fixed income earners not represented before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission itself. There can be no significant increase in consumer or investment spendingboth essential for economic and sustained recovery- until inflation and inflationary expectations are brought under control and confidence is returned. Restraint now from all sections of the community, including the wage and salary sector, is an essential pre-condition for economic recovery. The Government decided as a matter of the strongest conviction that to support an increase of money wages of the order of 6.4 per cent at this time would be to abandon its principal objective of curbing inflation. There is no doubt that the increase in money wages approved by the Commission will be substantially eroded by consequent price increases and that the capacity of employers to maintain existing work forces has been weakened as a direct result. A more moderate increase- the increase sought by the Government- would have been consistent with the slow down in the rate of inflation, would have underpinned economic recovery and would have led to the creation of more jobs in the short term and higher real wages in the period ahead. The Government for its part accepts a national responsibility for ensuring the wellbeing of all Australians including employers and employees, the self-employed, superannuants and those on fixed incomes. I can only say that this is not a concern which is shared by our opponents in this House.
In a little over 2 months in office the Government has set down an economic strategy designed to restore stability and overall economic prosperity. It has taken action through its monetary policies to reduce the excess liquidity in the Australian economy which we inherited from our predecessors and which threatened to fuel inflation further. We have acted vigorously and effectively to cut back on our own spending in order to reduce the extent of the Budget deficit. We cannot spend our way out of recession. This is a lesson which can be learnt from the policies of the Australian Labor Party. The Government’s wages and salary policy is an essential part of its overall economic strategy. The nation simply has to face the fact that the economy cannot support the magnitude of the wage and salary increases being sought by the trade union movement with the endorsement of the Opposition in this House. It is time for this community to face reality. Permissive government policies will only lead to further and more serious economic difficulties and to even greater hardship for the Australian community. A former Treasurer said on the public record- and well might he have been speaking in this debate:
One man’s larger pay packet is another man’s job.
That statement holds true more than ever in the circumstances we face at this time. The Opposition in this House has alleged that the Government has broken an election commitment by taking the stand which it did before the Commission. This is nothing less than absolute hypocrisy. I remind the House that this comes from an Opposition which broke more promises in this Parliament and outside of it than any government has ever broken. This Government is not in the business of breaking promises. I advert in brief to the simple fact that if the honourable member for Gellibrand reads the GovernorGeneral’s Speech he will see crystal clear a very firm commitment to tax indexation as from and including the next Budget.
Our opponents on the other side have alleged promise breaking. Let me refer in brief to the record of the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). In his 1972 policy speech he promised the following:
Labor’s first priority will be to restore genuine full employment- without qualification, without hedging.
– And what happened?
-What happened? As a matter of record, unemployment rose under the previous Government from 1.8 per cent in December 1 972 to 5.6 per cent in December last year. In the same speech the Leader of the Opposition said:
The most pressing need in the tax field is to retard the trend by which inflation has forced lower and middle income earners into higher tax brackets.
– And what happened?
-As a result of Labor’s first 2 Budgets income tax receipts increased by a staggering 89 per cent. In his 1974 policy speech the same gentleman said:
I see no reason why taxes, direct or indirect, need to be increased in order to pay for any of our continuing commitments.
In the last Budget there was of course a further massive increase in government charges and overall expenditure, but there is not really any need to weary the House by seeking to sustain the point further. So I deal directly now with the allegation that we have broken our commitment in respect of wage indexation.
The Government’s decision, taken on 30 January, to argue for less than full adjustment of wages for price increases in the September and December quarters is wholly consistent with the undertaking given by the Prime Minister in his supplementary statement on the Australian economy issued on 27 November last. In that statement the Prime Minister said that the Government would support the wage indexation agreement in the present circumstances. He went on to indicate that the Government would intervene on a regular basis before the Commission to put forward guidelines for increases in wages and salaries which were consistent with the objectives of national economic policy.
The agreement to which the Prime Minister referred is that embracing the 8 principles confirmed by the Full Bench of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in its decision of 1 8 September 1975.
The first of those principles states:
The Commission will adjust its award wages and salaries each quarter in relation to the most recent movement of the six capitals CPI unless it is persuaded to the contrary by those seeking to oppose the adjustment.
Contrary to what the Opposition has sought to allege, the Government has the right under the guidelines- as indeed do any of the parties- to argue for less than full adjustment. I would suggest that before honourable members opposite embarked upon today’s debate they should have taken the opportunity to consider seriously and carefully what the Government has said on this and related matters. The Opposition’s attempts to make political capital from the Government’s policy in no way measure up to its views given to the House when it was in office. The former Treasurer made it quite clear that the Whitlam Administration would have opposed the full flow-on of the consumer price index had that Government remained in office. It proposed to do so as a matter of publicly stated policy. The basis for its opposition to the full flow-on was set out in unequivocal terms by the former Treasurer during his Budget Speech on 19 August. I invite the honourable member for Gellibrand to tell the House whether he is now prepared to disown what the then Treasurer said in relation to this matter. I quote directly from that speech of the former Treasurer. He said: … I add that it is the Government’s firm view that, for the purposes of wage indexation, increases in prices resulting from tax measures of the sort that I have announced should be self-defeating if the system of wage indexation were to attempt to insulate the community from tax measures designed to redistribute resources for the benefit of the community in the form of improved public facilities . . .
He went on to say:
In its submissions in the recent wage indexation hearings before the Arbitration Commission the Government foreshadowed the likelihood that it would make submissions on this matter in future quarterly hearings.
In other words what the then Treasurer was saying explicitly and clearly in what is understood even in the Opposition ranks, a major policy statement brought down with the Budget was that the previous Government would have argued for an increase in wages of around 4 per cent and not 6 per cent, similarly to the submissions at the recent hearing. I invite further speakers on the Opposition side to say now whether they agree with what the former Treasurer said on that occasion in the Budget Speech or whether they now disown that Speech, because it made patently clear, or at least it was the view of the then Treasurer, ostensibly speaking on behalf of the then Government, that had that Government remained in office it would have argued for less than 6 per cent, having regard to the indirect tax situation? The Opposition’s present attitude is simply a further indication of its incapacity to maintain any semblance of consistency in economic matters.
The proposal for discussion of this matter as a matter of public importance is hypocritical and it is irresponsible. Ironically, the Opposition’s attitude is weakening the future of wage indexation. By going back apparently on its previously announced policy it has deliberately set out to whip up concern and apprehension within the trade union movement. This Government will not turn its back on the clearly expressed demand of the Australian people that inflation must be dealt with in a firm manner and must be dealt with now. The Prime Minister has indicated publicly that there is no place now in the mind of this Government for the soft option. Other governments throughout the world have adopted similar approaches. The New Zealand Government acted in a similar way recently in bringing down a general wage order granting a rise in award rates of less than half the price increase over the previous 6 months. If anyone in this House believes that the process of winding down inflation from the intolerable level induced by the Australian Labor Party Government will be easy he should think again, as the Opposition should think again. The proposal which has been brought forward is hypocritical and irresponsible. The Government rejects it.
– I am the architect of wage indexation in Australia. I resurrected the concept in 1972 and I can say, as I have already said time and again, that it was a very long and pretty lonely crusade. I did not receive much support from either inside or outside the trade union movement at the beginning of my campaign. Eventually support was given to it by the trade union movement whose members began to see that, if they were to preserve the increased share of the gross domestic non-farm product which they were able to receive for the year ending September 1974, amounting to 6.2 per cent- the most massive transfer from capital to labour that had ever occurred since Federation- they would need to index the wage system so that that increase could remain real over the period of years for which the wage indexation proposal was to operate.
I read through every page of the transcript of every case. I took a day-to-day, personal interest in the case when it was before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I claim to know as much about wage indexation as any person in the whole of the Commonwealth of Australia, and most people will say that that is not an overstatement of fact. It is not true, as the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) has just alleged, that the previous Government had decided to propose any discounting of increases reflected in the Consumer
Price Index brought about as a result of indirect taxation. No such decision was ever taken by Cabinet and nobody had any authority to say that Cabinet took that decision. It was a decision that would have been opposed by the Caucus, and I am certain by Cabinet, if it had ever been put forward, as it should have been opposed, because ever since the concept of wage indexation was a reality, from 1921 onwards, there has never been a concession by the trade union movement that increases reflected in the C series, the D series, the CPI or any other index should have discounted from them the effects of indirect taxation. Employers have been asking for it. Non-Labor governments have been asking for it. The unions have steadfastly refused it on every occasion.
The Commission has never had the power to alter the CPI or the index but, on the other hand, it has never sought to discount the amount that would normally come from translating the index into wage increases. The Statistician has never proposed that it be discounted. But the Statistician has never done it, and I hope he will never do it.
Indeed I hope that this Government will give attention to the powers that I had sought to repose in the standing tripartite commission on indexation which would supervise the index, its composition, the ‘weighting’ of the various components contained in it. Only when there was a unanimous decision of the standing commission, as in Belgium, France and the Scandinavian countries where tripartite commissions exist for oversighting of the index, would there be an acceptance of the index. If agreement was not possible the issue would have to be determined by an independant arbitrator.
It is absolutely fundamental to the successful operation of wage indexation that the people who are affected by it believe that the figures reflected in the CPI are not fiddled, because if they are fiddled there will be no public confidence in it and if public confidence in the CPI is lost, wage indexation must crash.
There is no doubt, in my view, that what has been done by the Government has been done against the wishes of most of the State governments. The Victorian Government actively opposed what the Australian Government did. Even those governments which supported something less than the full 6.4 per cent increase did so on the basis that the 3.2 per cent suggested by the Commonwealth Government did far more than reflect a discounting of the effect of indirect taxation upon the items contained in the CPI, and they opposed it. Nobody can say with precision what the effect of the indirect taxation on the items contained in the CPI might have been. The best that the employers could do, supported as they were by academics, economists and statisticians, was to say that the increase should be 4.8 per cent and not 3.2 per cent. In any event I utterly reject a 4.8 per cent increase as well.
I hope that I am not right in the assumption that I now make, which is that the Government is behaving as though it wants to destroy wage indexation. That is what Treasury wants to do. Treasury did not want indexation to be brought in in the first place. I know that Mr John Stone, a Deputy Secretary of Treasury, is utterly opposed to wage indexation. I know that Mr John Stone was the one who was responsible for getting the ear of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and being successful in overturning the decision of the economic committee of Cabinet, when the full Cabinet met. Mr John Stone may very well suggest that the ordinary working man should receive only a 3.2 per cent increase. That means only $3.20 to a man earning $ 1 00 a week, but Mr Stone, already receiving nearly $30,000 a year, would be able to collect $16.70 when the 3.2 per cent increase flowed into his salary. Why should people like that be accepted as authorities on what people on the bottom rung of the ladder have to put up with? How can anybody live on $ 100 a week? Hundreds of thousands of people have to do so. It is a myth that nobody lives on the minimum wage, which is even less than $100 a week. Sixty-five per cent of the total population earn less than average weekly earning of $160 a week. It is all very well for people like Mr Stone and other senior public servants earning well over $25,000 a year to come along and tell the Government that it ought to put the screws on the man who has to keep a wife and family on less than $160 a week. How would they like it to be done to them? What the Government is doing in pressing on with this sort of policy is spoiling for a fight with the trade union movement.. I believe that the Government is spoiling for a fight. Nobody wants it. The employers want a fight with the trade union movement now like they want a hole in the head. They do not want it and they are distressed by what is being done by this Government, which claims to be a businessman’s government, to bring about this sort of confrontation.
Does the Government think that the waterside workers would not have got the 6.4 per cent increase anyhow? Does it think that the seamen would have accepted the Government’s 3.2 per cent increase, or that the coal miners or the power workers or the construction workers or the metal workers would have accepted it? Of course they would not have. To imagine that by refusing to give the 6.4 per cent increase there would be no wage increases is madness because the workers would have got it anyhow.
The only difference is that the unions with the industrial muscle would get a lot more than the 6.4 per cent and the workers with no muscle, who in many cases are those who need a wage increase most would get nothing at all. That is what will happen if wage indexation collapses.
There is now some sanity coming back into the industrial relations arena in this country. The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is now being treated as a credible body for dealing with industrial disputes. I congratulate the Commission on the decision that it took. The Government has no right to ask the Commission to become the executor of Government economic policy. There is no constitutional authority for the Commission to act as the executive arm in the economic policies of this or any other government. Its constitutional authority begins and ends in the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes and any attempt to impose upon the Commission something beyond that is not only wrong but also unconstitutional, invalid and should not be tolerated. It was completely wrong for this Government to have asked that Commission to take the stand that it suggested. I read the argument put by the Government’s representative. It was a poor, weak argument and was properly described as such by the Commission. The Government’s action in trying to deal with inflation by making the wage earner pay the cost -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It was fascinating to observe the total conflict of views of the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) and the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), both, I remind the House, Ministers in the previous Labor Government. Just now we heard the honourable member for Hindmarsh indicate that a Labor Government never would have discounted the consumer price index for the effects of indirect taxes. Yet in the Budget Speech last year, his own Treasurer said:
In drawing attention to these price effects, I add that it is the Government’s firm view that, for the purposes of wage indexation, increases in prices resulting from tax measures of the son that I have announced should be discounted.
The Labor Government was a hopelessly divided government. We now have a clear indication that it will be just as hopelessly divided in Opposition.
At the start of my contribution to this debate I state quite clearly and firmly that the Government has not in any way departed from its undertaking to support the wage indexation agreement in the current economic circumstances. It is worth noting that immediately following that statement in our economic policy released just prior to the election is this second comment:
The Government will intervene on a regular basis before the Commission to put forward guidelines for increases in wages and salaries which are consistent with the objectives of national economic policy.
Wage indexation in the present context does not mean, simply and solely, the movement of award wages in accordance with movements in the consumer price index over the previous quarter. It refers to a set of 8 principles enunciated by the Full Bench in its decision of 30 April 1975. It would be quite invalid to apply the concept of adjusting award wages to reflect price increases out of this total context of 8 principles. Principle 1 reads:
The Commission will adjust its award wages and salaries each quarter in relation to the most recent movement of the 6 Capitals CPI unless it is persuaded to the contrary by those seeking to oppose the adjustment.
Some people seem to be under the impression that this means that, unless substantial noncompliance with the principles can be demonstrated by those opposing the adjustment, the full extent of the movement in the consumer price index in each quarter will be applied to wages and salaries. It can be seen from the Commission’s decision of 30 April which set down the principles that this is not the only relevant factor. The Commission said in its 30 April decision:
There is undoubted merit on grounds of equity and industrial relations for ensuring that recent wages are maintained unless evidence can be adduced of consequential adverse economic effects.
Deputy President Isaac, a distinguished member of the Full Bench hearing the national wage case, endorsed this interpretation of principle 1 during the course of the proceedings. He pointed out to the advocate for the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and I quote from the transcript:
Principle I does leave open the possibility for some adjustment less than the CPI in any one quarter if the Commission is persuaded this is the right course to take for a variety of reasons, including economic reasons.
It is therefore specious to argue that the Government was in some way breaking its promise to support wage indexation when all it did was argue for a perfectly rational application of the Commission ‘s own decision.
The Government did not take the line it did on the application of the wage fixing principles out of some sort of desire to enter into a confrontation with the trade union movement. Indeed, I am this day engaged in discussion with the Australian Council of Trade Unions to try to arrive at proper procedures for entering into consultative arrangements and I hope to find a favourable response from the ACTU to my approaches. The reason the Government took the course it did before the Commission was its over-riding concern for the state of the economy and the consequences for the entire Australian community. The Government sees the economic situation at the start of 1 976 as being grim. It is in a serious condition. Recently there have been some signs of a turn for the better but should there be any renewed upsurge of inflation these hopeful signs will not develop into positive and sustained improvement.
Right now the economy is delicately poised. Growth will depend crucially on the restoration and maintenance of both business and consumer confidence. Future trends in wages and prices will be critical in this respect. Inflation rates must be seen to be coming down in a steady and persistent manner. This will in time reverse the course of inflationary expectations and confirm the downward course of actual inflationary experience. There is bipartisan agreement on the role that too rapid a rate of increase in wages can play in wrecking the prospects for sound economic recovery. The former Treasurer, the honourable member for Oxley, said in his 1975 Budget Speech:
Meanwhile, however, it is clear that some wage and salary pressures are unrealistic and, when successful, harmful. It does employees generally no good to get higher and higher money incomes if the results are just higher prices, a severe squeeze on profits, a slump in new investment and a contraction in job opportunities.
It is precisely this inescapable problem of choice that was at the heart of the Commonwealth’s submission to the Full Bench in the national wage case. The choice is between, on the one hand, restoring fully the real incomes of those who do have jobs at the risk of throwing some of them out of work and on the other hand providing an environment in which the recent slight strengthening in consumer and business confidence will continue and more job opportunities will become available. The Commonwealth Government believes that in opting for the latter it will have the support of all those people who have the interests of wage and salary earners as a whole at heart.
What happened in 1 974-75 is an illustration of this. To the wage and salary earner who retained his job during that period the upsurge in real earnings may have seemed costless, but what of the less lucky individuals who were thrown out of work as firms endeavoured to live with the erosion of their profit margins and a drying up of cash flow. In the face of sharply rising costs and declining profits firms quickly took defensive action. Overhead costs were vigorously pruned and manpower levels were closely scrutinised, leading ultimately to retrenchments and a forestalling of new recruitment. Many firms went out of business altogether.
The result was that the seasonally adjusted level of unemployment almost trebled during the course of 1974. Now, in actual terms, unemployment in Australia is almost 344 000- a very high figure by historic Australian standards. The Government regards this as its prime problemrestoring business confidence, restoring job opportunities, increasing the job security of those who are lucky enough to have a job at the moment. We must recognise therefore that the behaviour of wages and prices over the next 12 months holds the key to sustained recovery in employment. Fundamental to that recovery will be a further easing in inflationary pressures to reduce uncertainty and to enhance consumer and business confidence. Sustained recovery in the economy could not be expected unless inflation abated further. Fiscal and monetary action could not of itself ensure that the recent easing in inflationary pressures on the wages side continued. Hence, this was a very crucial case. Faced with a choice between supporting application of the full 6.4 per cent or presenting a case whir h argued the cause of job security and job opportunity, the Government took the latter course. I find it extraordinary that the Australian Labor Party, having created the greatest unemployment in Australia since the Depression, now argues for a policy which must inevitably perpetuate, and indeed increase, unemployment.
-The matter that we are discussing today, namely, the action of the Government in breaking its election promises to support wage indexation, is essentially a discussion about credibility. In its very short life the credibility of this Government is at breaking point in the Australian community. Already in its short 3 months of office it has broken almost every election promise it made. The unions, in the whole question of wage indexation, have shown their credibility and sincerity right from the outset. It will be remembered by the Minister for Employment and
Industrial Relations (Mr Street) that the increase in the consumer price index in the September quarter of 1975 was 0.8 per cent. Although not in the best interests of the unions and their members, the unions forewent any claim for wage rises at that time because they had accepted the principle that they would be compensated for increases in costs in the community.
Apart from the Treasury- inspired gobbledegook that was used in this House by the previous 2 speakers from the Government side- I am sure that neither of them understood one word they said; they were reading from script which apparently had been prepared for them by the Treasury- what is understood by the community and by the trade union movement is that wage indexation is an increase in purchasing power for that lost through rises in prices. Great play was made of words used by the previous Treasurer about indirect taxes and that the Government was standing firm to its pre-election promises. Prior to the election the Government took full page advertisements in the daily Press. The heading on one stated:
Trade unionists- Liberals will continue to support wage indexation along with introduction of indexation of personal income tax. This is the full package sought by the ACTU.
If the Government were serious about its argument that indirect taxes should not be added in, why did it argue for some mysterious reduction of 50 per cent? There does not seem to be any science in that. Why did it not, in fact, do as the employers did and seek a 4.8 per cent increase? But it did not. It simply cut the figure in half. Obviously the Government was out to prevent any increase in wages to recompense working people for loss of purchasing power caused by increased prices. In the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission on 3 February 1976 when this matter was being heard- not so very long ago- the Government advocate, Mr Marks, in part said:
It is fundamental that action taken to raise taxes as part of the Government’s considered economic POliCY should not, through the wage fixing system, be translated into wage push.
His Honour, Robinson J. asked:
Is it not true that the farmer Government changed its attitude on this question of the use of government charges and indirect taxes in relation to indexation?
Mr Marks replied:
My understanding of the matter is that in the hearing on October 28 it was made clear in one of the hearings prior to the Christmas vacation that in the hearing subsequent to January the Australian Government, as it then was, would not make submissions in relation to discounting cost of living increase movements for indirect taxes and government charges.
That is what the previous Government said through its advocate. Yet the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) both stood in this House and quoted words used in the Budget Speech and tried to pin their case on them. Their evidence was so nebulous that of course their whole case collapsed. I think the previous Minister for Labor, the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), made this point which is well worth elaborating: Wage indexation is not new in Australia. It existed prior to 1953. It was then known as quarterly cost of living adjustments. They were adjustments that were automatically granted to workers as prices rose. The right honourable Sir Robert Menzies- R. G. Menzies as he then was- Prime Minister of Australia, claimed when referring to the dismantling of this way of recompensing workers that this action would in turn reduce prices. We all know what has happened in the spiral of prices since that time. I think everybody in this country would be well aware that there is not an employer who is a benevolent society or who sees himself as a benevolent society for workers. He will employ people only while he can make a quid out of them. There can be no doubt about that axiomatic statement. To suggest otherwise, to suggest that by reducing the purchasing power of workers- that is all that one does by reducing any increase in their wages- is to create more employment is an argument that I find very hard to follow. It seems to me that so long as there is purchasing power in the community, so long as people are purchasing goods, there will be people who will be prepared to make them because manufacturers do not make things and suppliers of services do not provide services unless they can find somebody who can afford to buy them. To suggest otherwise of course would be just so much poppycock and would put the lie to the whole argument.
Speaking of credibility, it is a matter of great regret that the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations seems to have lost his credibility in his negotiations with the trade union movement. On the question of wage indexation, it is my understanding that on the day prior to the matter being heard in the court he was asked by the State Ministers whether the Australian Government supported the granting of a 6.4 per cent increase and he said that it did. He was then reminded that he should go and consult on that. He did, and when he came back he said that the Government did not support that at all. He had been speaking to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the proposal then was for a 3.2 per cent increase. In his negotiations with the trade union movement, the Minister comes forward, puts propositions and enters into negotiations but when it comes to the crunch, when a decision has to be made, the honourable gentleman regretfully has to leave the negotiations and go to speak with the Prime Minister to see whether he can give a decision.
In those circumstances there is no trust of the Government by the Australian Council of Trade Unions. It has no reason to trust the Government. It has no trust of the Government’s Minister and it has no reason to trust him. The Australian people have little trust of this Government after the short time it has been in office and, again, very little to reason to trust it. As time goes on this will become more manifest. If there is to be a cessation of industrial lawlessness, as those on the opposite side of this chamber call it, surely there must be some sort of rule, some sort of order. That rule and order was set up by the previous Government. Wage indexation was introduced. It was accepted by the trade union movement in an endeavour to bring about some stability in the area. It is now being rejected by this Government which does not really argue for half of the increase. That is not what it is arguing for at all. It is arguing for the dismantling of the structure. This is the thin edge of the wedge. This is the sort of thing towards which the Government is heading. But that will resolve nothing. All it will do is move the trade unions into an area where they will forget about going to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to seek any rise. They will enter into collective bargaining with employers; they will use muscle where muscle can be used on employers and they will receive substantial increases in wages- increases far in excess of those being granted through the Commission. That in turn will bring about an inequity in the whole society where unions which are dealing with companies that perhaps are not so profitable, or unions that perhaps do not have so much muscle will find that their members will start to lag. The trade union movement, as expressed by the Australian Council of Trade Unions and its august President, has made it clear that that is a situation it really does not want to see. It would prefer to see a regular examination of the purchasing power of the dollar and when it is found to be wanting for there to be a reimbursement for it.
The argument was put by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) that the Labor Party placed wage increases ahead of price rises. I do not know whose tail is chasing whose in this argument. It seems to me that if a court is going to consider increases in prices over a previous 3 months and then give an increase in wages to compensate for the increases, it seems a very fallacious argument for those who sell things to come forward and say: ‘ Well, we must put up our prices to cover our increased wage bill’. It seems to me that if the honourable gentlemen opposite really want to get down to solving this problem of spiralling wages and inflation they would do far better to have a look at the prices area than at the wages area, as happened in the September quarter when there was no price increase so there was no wage increase either. If they were to contain that area, they would find that the trade unions in Australia would play their role. The trade unionists are not avaricious people, all they want is a fair share of the things that they produce. They did not get it in the past, they are not getting it now and there is little doubt that they will get in the future. They will get a darn sight less if the Government is allowed to dismantle the whole wage indexation policy and revert to taking unilateral decisions in the Cabinet room as to what the wages of workers in this country should be, relying only on the advice of the Treasury, in its ivory tower, which has no contact with the average Australian person, the average Australian family.
-The motion moved by the Opposition makes the specious, hypocritical charge that this Government has broken an election promise. It has not. My colleagues, the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) have made that clear. While asserting that, one might also make the observation that in certain circumstances, a variation from a particular undertaking can be the path to a greater good. I well recall in 1973 the pig headed attachment of the then Government to a commitment not to increase taxation and yet it pushed ahead with this promise and that promise to the electorate. This sowed the seed of the inflation- which has afflicted this economy ever since, from which our major present problems stem, from which resulted the major broken promises of the former Government to provide a stable economy and, in particular, full employment.
So we have this situation today- a situation we have inherited- of a continuing high level of unemployment, stagnation in business investment, a massive build-up of government spending with a corresponding huge deficit and the impact on the money supply, and of course a continuing high rate of inflation. This is the situation that this Government inherited. It is a grim and a serious economic situation and it calls for strong, if unpopular, measures. This Government has taken an array of such measures. In the short period since it took office it has implemented measures to reduce the momentum of growth of government spending. It has implemented measures to attempt to restore not only the confidence but the very capacity of business to invest. Honourable members opposite should not try to tell me that that is pandering to the business community. The recovery of investment is a key to the restored prosperity and forward movement of the economy. Today’s profitability, which has been so undermined and so needs to be restored, is tomorrow’s investment and the next day’s jobs- the meaningful, gainful jobs for Australians. We have introduced a monetary package designed to soak up excess liquidity in the economy. Let me stress that it is designed to soak up an excess of liquidity, not to squeeze the economy from the monetary side as was said by an honourable member who spoke earlier. Then there was the intervention before the Arbitration Commission.
Let me stress, as my colleagues have stressed, that the Government was not asking the Commission to abandon the indexation package. It is a package; it is a set of principles. It was always a conditional thing, not an automatic adjustment. It is a set of 8 principles set out specifically in the course of the 1975 judgment. Nowhere in the statements that the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) attributed to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was there a reference to the phrase that the honourable member for Gellibrand kept using- ‘full indexation’. There is a package, and that package is before the House. Under the terms of the first principle of that package which is well known, the Government sought that the adjustment to the CPI increase be a reduced one, firstly because inflation is not abating, unemployment is still high and the overwhelming priority of this Government is jobs- the restoration of full employment in Australia. Secondly, in this particular instance the Government was asking the Commission to take action because the change in the index, by which it was sought to adjust wages and salaries, was a figure significantly influenced by indirect tax measures introduced by the previous Government.
I am prepared to concede that additional charges on cigarettes, liquor and petrol have often been utilised by governments, but at the time these charges were introduced the then Opposition- now this Government- made it clear that that would create grave difficulties for the wage indexation package. The honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson), who preceded me, said that this Government, relying on ‘nebulous’ evidence, was attributing a certain view to the present Opposition, the former Government. What is nebulous about the Budget Speech of 1 9 August last year? I quote the then Treasurer, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), whom, I notice, is not present in the House for this debate.
– A backbencher.
-Well, he may be a backbencher, but he is not present in the House for this debate.
– Not many of them are.
-No, but I am referring in particular to the honourable member for Oxley whom I am going to quote. He said:
In drawing attention to these price effects, I add that it is the Government’s firm view-
I emphasise the word ‘Government’ in relation to the earlier remarks in this debate of the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron)- . . . it is the Government’s firm view that, for the purposes of wage indexation, increases in prices resulting from tax measures of the sort that I have announced should be discounted. It would be self-defeating if the system of wage indexation were to attempt to insulate the community from tax measures . . .
– That was before Medibank.
-That is what the then Treasurer said and that is an important matter at issue in this situation. I recognise that the Opposition makes an important point when it talks of the granting of what it refers to as full indexationa complete adjustment- which, in fact, has of course now occurred. It says that its chief advantage is its contribution to industrial peace. Against that stands jobs for Australians. Peace and joy amongst those in employment is one thing, but as a government we have to be concerned about not only those in employment but also the 300 000 Australians not in employment. Hence the attempt in appearing before the Commission to achieve a moderation for this purpose. The Commission has made its finding. So be it. But honourable members must remember that there are 8 principles within the terms of which we, the Government, acted. I ask the Opposition whether it is committed to those principles. What was the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) hinting at when he was talking previously of industrial action in one form or another?
-Threats, as my colleague puts it. Is the Opposition going to assist in the implementation of this total package? There are great problems and difficulties ahead for the restoration of health in the Australian economy.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The time for discussion has concluded.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair)- by leave- agreed to:
That Mr Groom be discharged from attendance on the Committee appointed to prepare an Address-in-Reply to the Speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General and that Mr Sainsbury be appointed a member of the Committee in his place.
– I move:
That, unless otherwise ordered, the House shall meet for the despatch of business on each Tuesday and Wednesday at 2.1S p.m. and on each Thursday at 10.30 a.m.
I do not believe there is any necessity for me to speak to this motion because it is self evident. It will ensure that the parliamentary members of both the Opposition and the Government have adequate opportunity to meet in committee and in their party or caucus on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. The Parliament will sit from 2.15 p.m. on those 2 afternoons and at 10.30 a.m. on Thursdays. I commend the motion to the House.
-The Opposition supports the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That, unless otherwise ordered, at 10.30 p.m. on each sitting day the Speaker shall propose the question- That the House do now adjourn- which question shall be open to debate; if the House be in committee at the time stated, the Chairman shall report progress and upon such report being made the Speaker shall forthwith propose the questionThat the House do now adjourn- which question shall be open to debate.
if a division be in progress at the time fixed for interruption such division shall be completed and the result announced,
if, on the question- That the House do now adjournbeing proposed, a Minister requires the question to be put forthwith without debate, the Speaker shall forthwith put the question,
nothing in this order shall operate to prevent a motion for the adjournment of the House being moved by a Minister at an earlier hour,
any business under discussion and not disposed of at the time of the adjournment shall be set down on the Notice Paper for the next sitting, and
if the question- That the House do now adjourn- is negatived, the House or committee shall resume the proceedings at the point at which they had been interrupted.
Provided further that, if at 1 1.00 p.m., the question before the House is- That the House do now adjourn- the Speaker shall forthwith adjourn the House until the time of its next meeting.
This motion will ensure that the House will normally adjourn at 10.30 p.m. for the adjournment debate and will rise at 1 1 p.m. This is one of the few practices introduced by the previous Government with which I totally concur. I therefore recommend its extension in this 30th Parliament.
-The Opposition obviously supports this motion. This is the third Parliament in which this motion has been introduced. I commend to the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) that at an early time he have it incorporated in the Standing Orders of this House. The practice has been well tried and it is now time for us to make it a permanent feature and not have it dependent on the whims of government which do change at times.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr Sainsbury for the Committee appointed to prepare an Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General, presented the proposed Address which was read by the Clerk.
-I am pleased to have brought up the AddressinReply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General. I move:
That the Address be agreed to.
– Did you not offer him membership of the Liberal Party?
-Order! The honourable member has no need to make that interjection. He well knows that this is the maiden speech of the honourable member for Eden Monaro. It is the custom of this House to listen to a maiden speech in silence.
– First, I should like to add my congratulations to the many that have been received by you, Mr Speaker, on your election to that position. Secondly, I should like to say how sorry I am that Mr Groom was unable to perform this function this afternoon because he has become ill. I am certainly thankful for the opportunity of moving the Address-in-Reply and of making this my maiden speech so early in what promises to be one of the most important parliaments in the history of Australia in that so much will be done in this Parliament for the good of Australians. I note that in 1966 the then member for Eden Monaro, Mr Munro, moved the Address-in-Reply. In 1972 the then member for Eden Monaro, Mr Whan, seconded the Address. I also note that both those honourable members sat in the House for only 3 years. For that reason, to call on a precedent I would like to mention Mr Allan Fraser who, I believe, held my seat for 26 years. He was a very well respected member of this House and a very highly respected member of our community in Eden-Monaro. I have read his maiden speech. Obviously he was a different sort of Labor man from the type existing at the moment because in that speech he said that there was food for thought in the words of Sir Winston Churchill that we must beware of building a state of society in which no man counts for anything except the politician and the official, in which enterprise has no advantages and thrift no reward. I am proud to be here as the representative for Eden-Monaro at a time when that sort of trend is about to be reversed.
My electorate, as most honourable members well know, is one of great diversity. We have a very large primary sector; we have some of the best wool growing areas in Australia; we produce a great deal of beef; we produce a lot of milk, and honourable members will be drinking a lot of it when they are in Canberra; we have a very big forestry industry, an important fishing industry and a sizeable potato industry. I was relieved to see in the Governor-General ‘s Speech that positive policies have been worked out in this Parliament for such primary industries. I am very pleased to see that some of those policies already have been announced. I also was pleased to see that the proposition of the Rural Bank, a Farm Income Reserve Fund, and a proposition for more forceful seeking of markets for our rural products overseas will be pursued for the good of Eden-Monaro and all those other people who work on the land throughout Australia.
My electorate, as I said, is one of great diversity. We have very strong Public Service element. In Queanbeyan 25 per cent of the work force is employed in the Public Service. In Goulburn there is a very large Public Service element and in Cooma we have the Snowy Mountains Authority and the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation, both of which add greatly to our country. The latter also helps us greatly in regard to foreign aid. It is an engineering corporation and because I am an engineer I obviously am particularly interested in it. I am pleased to see that we are not going to let the Corporation run down. In my electorate we also have a very strong tourist industry. Many honourable members will have been skiing there. I imagine that members of the Opposition will have done more than honourable members on this side. We also have some wonderful beaches. All in all, when everything is considered, we have one of the most incredible tourist areas in the world.
In my electorate we have a large number of migrants. As in other electorates our migrants have contributed greatly to the growth of important towns such as Queanbeyan and Cooma. I was pleased to hear the Governor-General say in his speech that the Government recognises the major contribution that migrants have made to Australia. I can assure honourable members that in my electorate the migrant population has made, and is continuing to make, a most important contribution. I was very interested recently to read that of all the groups in Australia the migrant community has the largest percentage of self-employed. I think that bears out the fact that the migrants have brought into this country since the last major war have greatly helped this nation. Their enterprise has pushed it ahead. The migrants in my area greatly enrich our culture, in the snowfields, in Cooma and in the restaurants of Queanbeyan. We know the worth of our migrants. I was very pleased to see that Australia once again will benefit from forward looking policies towards migrants, forward looking policies related to encouraging interpreter centres, encouraging consultative groups with ethnic groups. Those people can further enrich our society.
I have said that in Eden-Monaro we have a great diversity. I believe that diversity is one of the important elements that need to be encouraged in our country. Diversity is good. Individualism and individual initiative are very much an Australian trait. Again I was pleased to see in the Governor-General’s speech that the Government will give scope for community and individual initiative. There are many isolated communities in my electorate and individual initiative always has been a part of life in EdenMonaro. My constituents will welcome this change in principle by our Government.
Again I say that diversity is good but the misplaced corollary can be divisiveness and that is bad. Unfortunately divisiveness is an element which has been creeping into our Australian community far too much in recent years. The Governor-General’s Speech advanced the proposition that divisions must be resolved for the good of all Australians. We on this side of the House do not want to hear words such as class and privilege; those words are irrelevant in our society these days. Our guiding principle is a fair go for Australians and it is a shame that that fair go principle has not been followed completely by all the previous governments.
His Excellency enunciated the Government’s aim to cut unemployment. As all honourable members know, unemployment is one of the great creators of division in our society, the division of wage earner against wage earner, of government against union, of taxpayers against people who need to take the dole. I predict that unemployment will come down rapidly in the coming months. His Excellency also enunciated the Government’s aim to cut inflation. It now has been proved that inflation and unemployment have a great correlation. Certainly inflation in this country has created great poverty in some areas of fixed income. It has created a terrible and chaotic redistribution of wealth in some places. It is an absolute must that in following our view of bringing down the divisions in our country we have to bring down inflation for a start. I will strive against these divisions and I will strive for the individualism of diversity.
Speaking as a member for a country electorate, there is a great division still remaining in this country which I see in black and white every day. Unfortunately that is the still existing division between the cities and the country. When I was a boy the number of broad brimmed hats that were around at Easter time in Sydney was noticeable. At that time a lot of people who went to Sydney for the Show did seem to wear broad brimmed hats. It was commonly accepted at that time that those people were all wealthy. Unfortunately that feeling still continues in the city. It was brought home very forcibly to me last week when I noted the furore in the Press and in the other media over some minor but very positive incentives for the rural sector. We on the Government side and honourable members in Opposition must recognise just how much the export industries in the country are disadvantaged at times by the protected manufacturing industries in the cities. It is quote obvious to all honourable members that at the moment we cannot talk about lowering protection barriers. There are all sorts of reasons, especially at a time of very high unemployment. I believe that all of us must, however, recognise that compensation is due to people in the country for that imbalance which is created at times by a protection policy. It is for that reason that I, as a member for a country electorate, welcome so much the tariff compensations which have been announced in the last week. All people in Eden-Monaro think it is about time.
I suppose one of the problems that country people have is that the country is not well publicised. It is probably our fault to a great extent. When I read the Sydney papers I am always amazed that the articles on country matters are secreted somewhere towards the back of the papers. Country matters are important in our nation. I want more and more people to realise that fact and to realise that people in the country want a fair share of the cake too.
I wish to mention briefly that other great division which I hope will not be surfacing up very much during the term of this Parliament, and that is the division between employer and employee. Australia has an unenviable record of industrial unrest in the past two or three years. That record was brought out very forcibly in the last election campaign. I believe we cannot afford that sort of record in our country any longer. When one looks at the record of countries like Japan and America, where employees see their place as part of the productive process and see themselves as constituting one of the sections of the community which, given reasonable production, will get a fair share of profits, one must feel quite ashamed at some of the goings on in Australia. I will admit that the divisions between employer and employee have been exacerbated by inflation. As a construction man, I can see at very close hand the strain when, during an inflationary spiral, wages quite properly rise and an employee finds that a far greater proportion of his wages this week than last week is being taken away by way of taxation to fuel government spending. Certainly in the field of industrial relations, in healing this division between employee and employer which we must admit exists in this country, this Government will take good account of effects such as inflation. Good moves in industrial relations are being made, as borne out by the Governor-General’s Speech. I refer to tax indexation and the encouragement of secret ballots for union officials. I believe they will help in the healing of the divisions that cannot be allowed to exist in our country any longer. In Eden-Monaro, as in the rest of Australia, we must retain our diversity. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech points the way. We must work against divisiveness The Governor-General’s Speech points the way.
– I second the motion. I endorse particularly the expression of loyalty to our most gracious Sovereign. I wish to bring with this expression of loyalty the expressions of the people of Dawson. It is difficult for a new member, among 30 other new members, to gain recognition. I wish to make a few remarks about Dr Rex Patterson, who was my predecessor, as those members who were here previously will know. I pay tribute to his 10 years of service to the division and to the nation. The fact that we have different political philosophies does not blind me to the fact that he at all times worked for the division. The initiative which he showed and the dedication which he injected into his work as representative of the division in those 10 years was rather tremendous. For 3 of those 10 years he was a Minister of the Crown. As honourable members will realise, he was the architect of northern development, first as Deputy Director of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, then as Director of the Northern Development Division, and then as Minister for Northern Development. Unfortunately he was never given the financial means to ensure that his idealism came to fruition. It failed because of lack of government financial support.
One thing which will stamp him in the memory of the people of Dawson and of Queensland is his work on beef developmental roads which opened up quite a deal of pastoral country in western Queensland, particularly in the brigalow belt in my division. He will be remembered for this project. I hope that by applying pressure I will be able to see this project finalised. One other smaller project in terms of finance but more important in terms of discovery, I believe, will be his commissioning of the Kaiser engineering report into the Bowen coal basin. I believe that there are to be discovered in this basin possibly the richest mineral deposits in this nation.
I have the pleasure of representing the division of Dawson. Mackay and Hay Point are the focal points of the division as far as ports and exports are concerned. I listened to the previous speaker, the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury), speak of the tourist potential of his electorate. I cannot speak too highly of the climate in Dawson and its attraction for tourists. It is the only division which has as one boundary the Great Barrier Reef for a length of about 450 miles. Across this Reef the Pacific Ocean washes on to the Whitsunday Islands and on to the golden shores of the mainland. We have an undoubted tourist industry. We have a great tourist potential. I hope that with assistance from this Government we can exploit this potential to the full. Although some people in this House will disagree, the fact is that very few other divisions in Australia have as much prosperity and contribute as greatly to the national wealth by way of income tax as the division of Dawson does. It certainly contributes to a greater degree than its representation in this chamber would seem to indicate. We export through Mackay and Hay Point 4.5 per cent of the total value of Australia ‘s exports, mainly in sugar and minerals. Without wishing to sound like a Texan, I would like to say that we have the largest bulk terminal in the world for the export of sugar and the largest coal handling export facilities. We handle over 50 per cent of the coal exported from Australia. I believe that the potential in the tourist industry, in the rural industry and certainly in the mining industry is such that they could double their present wealth.
The amazing thing, if one examines the history of these industries and of the division, is that the wealth has been created by the free enterprise system and by people who were prepared to live under difficulties in the north. That private enterprise has had no assistance from departmental officers and has had no departmental services from which to profit. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech states that we will be transferring from the public to the private enterprise system. I believe Dawson is an example of the success of the private enterprise system in Australia.
The sugar industry has long been the backbone of the division, being centred in the Burdekin area and in Mackay itself. It supplies just under 50 per cent of the total amount of sugar produced in Australia. It started initially with the assistance of Kanaka labour, but it has built itself up into a great industry. It is fully mechanised both in the paddock and in the mill. It has been prepared to stabilise itself by voluntary restraint. At present it is prepared at a moment’s notice to enter into any expansion in which the Australian Government might wish to engage as a result of increased exports or increased domestic consumption. The position in Dawson has been stabilised also because the Bowen coal mining basin and the mining townships of Moranbah and Dysart have added wealth through the coal industry. It is good to see the way in which diversification has taken place. But for all I say about the rural, mining and tourist industries we have yet to harness their full potential. The development that has taken place has been due to the assistance and involvement of private enterprise and the multinational companies in private enterprise. Very little assistance has been given by governments themselves.
We talk in terms of decentralisation. But it has been only the private citizen in north Queensland who has enabled decentralisation to take place. By inhabiting the coastline and the hinterland of north Queensland private citizens have provided the only defence against the foreign invader. We have no protection against foreign fishing vessels which might fish in our waters and which might use our shorelines as a base.
I realise that this Government is concerned about the Budget deficit and that it would want to cut expenditure to reduce that deficit. Might I suggest that it would be unwise for the Government not to realise the profit that could result from investment to enable the north to develop its full potential. The Parliament does not have a Minister directly responsible for the north and I believe it is up to each Federal member from this region to bring the potential of the north to the notice of the Government.
Certain initiatives were taken by the previous Government in terms of the national highway. I want to mention some priorities that I believe people within my electorate would want me to raise. The Division of Dawson contains 85 kilometres of unsealed national highway- possibly the only unsealed portion within the State. Priority is being given to this matter. However, I would hope that higher priority would be given to the sealing of this section of national highway so that work can be carried out at a greater pace. The Pioneer River is spanned by many bridges, including the Rocklea Bridge at Mackay, all of which but one are subject to yearly flooding and damage. The other bridge is hardly sufficient to take local traffic. I might be asked: Where is the profit in providing these facilities? I say to this question that any investment that this Government cares to make to improve the road and the bridge system would be rewarded by the provision of an all weather road along the entire coast of Queensland which could be used for 12 months of the year for trade and tourism and which would be capable of being used for defence purposes if ever the need arose.
The last project I wish to mention is the Burdekin River scheme. No project for the utilisation of our resources should have a higher priority than an irrigation scheme on the Burdekin or its tributaries. There is a sugar industry within that area. This industry can be expanded, but it has to be safeguarded. The rice industry in this area at the moment is being encroached on by the sugar industry but plenty of land is available for the industry to continue. At the moment the quantity of rice that is grown uses 25 per cent of the capacity of the mill that treats this product. The mill has received overseas export orders to the extent of 10 times its capacity. As in everything else the free enterprise system in the Burdekin would be quite capable of taking up any challenge the Government could put forward by providing a scheme and asking for its utilisation. Development of the Burdekin would not only benefit the sugar and rice industries and other rural industries but it would also double the water supply of the city of Townsville. I believe that if private enterprise is not given this encouragement- it has been given encouragement in the past but promises have not been fulfilled- then the spirit on which northern development has taken place will be soured. I speak here of the spirit of free enterprise, the spirit of the people in this area who believe in the old Australian tradition of hard work and honest labour.
I noticed with interest the statement in the Governor-General’s Speech that the Government intends to place more emphasis on the mining industry and through that possibly on the entire energy resources of Australia. I have mentioned the Bowen Basin which has been developed to the extent that 3 mines are now being operated by the Utah organisation and it is supplying 1 1.5 million tonnes of coal per year for export. Development in this area yet to take place consists of another mine to be operated by Utah and 3 mines to be operated by ThiessPeabodyMitsui. There is also the great deposit at Hail Creek near Nebo. There are problems faced by the companies but these problems with encouragement can be overcome. A rail line and port facilities are to be duplicated and townships are to be constructed. But these developments will more than double the export of coal from this area. The problem is that during the last 3 years development costs on any of these coal fields have doubled. What could have been done 3 years ago costs twice as much to do now. It is much more difficult to attract money today for this type of development.
We also have a policy that foreign investment will have no more than a 50 per cent equity in an Australian project. I believe that the demand on Australian companies to provide this rate of investment will be too great. I would hope that when looking at this problem we will realise that the multinationals have provided development and employment and most of all have supplied the markets for our great mining industries. If it had not been for these companies which put at risk their own capital the coal and the minerals that Australia today is developing and exporting would still be in the ground. If it had not been for this action Australia would have been the poorer as it would not have gained the finances derived from taxes and coal export levies. I believe that we have to assess very carefully each individual case to ensure that maximum effort has been made by a company to acquire the 50 per cent equity. But if a company does not acquire this percentage I do not believe that we should penalise it. I do not believe that we should penalise Australians to the extent that the companies are not allowed to develop enterprises on the sites they choose because the longer any minerals stay in the ground the more costly mining and development will become. So I would hope that we would be realistic in our attitude to companies which are making the maximum effort to supply 50 per cent equity.
There is a limit to Australia’s reserves of energy. I believe that we should be looking very carefully at alternatives to our present energy sources. Some of these alternatives are made cheaper by the fact that the cost of oil has increased dramatically in recent years. Alternatives of 3 years ago that were then too costly can now be looked at. One of these energy sources is the production of the non-pollutant poweralcohol which is a derivative of sugar cane. At the moment this product is being tested by the Prichard Steam Motor Company. I believe that projects such as this should be encouraged and assisted by this Government. Such projects received limited assistance from the last Government; they should receive greater assistance from this Government.
A great deal of energy can be obtained from the unlimited resources of water and sun. There is a tidal range of some 8.6 metres in the St Lawrence River which flows 4 times a day- in twice and out twice. This unlimited source of energy should be tapped and research conducted on its uses. Research should also be undertaken on the use of solar energy. I believe that the Government, to ensure the supply of energy for use by our future generations, should explore these fields as quickly as possible.
Another aspect that was mentioned in His Excellency’s Speech was the allocation of funds from our revenues to various sources. There was a commitment to people in the welfare area who through some misfortune become the have-nots. This is the section of people who through no fault of their own do not have sufficient to live on. I believe that we should keep this matter under consideration and allocate finance or assistance as it is necessary and in time to prevent a crisis situation from developing.
I also believe that the Australian Assistance Plan, which is in its experimental stages, should be very well evaluated because there are many aspects of this Plan that are of assistance to urban communities and certainly to country and isolated communities. Mistakes may have been made in the initial stages of experimentation but I would hope that we could learn from them and continue with the Plan in some way. I believe that the Plan should be evaluated and redirected if necessary.
We talk in terms of decentralisation. May I make 2 suggestions. One is that the Treasury should look very carefully when framing the next Budget on the provision of the zone allowance. The fact is that within Queensland 50 per cent of the population lives within 80 kilometres of the General Post Office in Brisbane. As I have said, northern development has taken place at the risk of the private person. Our north lies open more to the desires of foreign nations than it does to Australians themselves. May I suggest that the value of the present zone allowance be reassessed, the boundaries being redrawn to take in the mining developments, the high cost developments and having regard to the cost of isolation so that the allowance will encourage people to go further than the city and urban limits to seek a livelihood. I also suggest that those businesses which wish to decentralise be granted a special allowance on capital costs within a certain range of a provincial or urbanised city.
I realise that when one comes into the Parliament as a new member one must come in with a touch of idealism, because if one had no idealism he would not be here in the first place. I have allowed myself the luxury of one small piece of idealism. I bring this straight from the area of private enterprise, but some of the older members in their period of office may have become a little divorced from it. I suggest that in preparing legislation we go further than the public sector in seeking advice. I believe that in 75 per cent of the cases the legislation we effect will affect private enterprise or the private sector of Australia. I suggest that we go to private enterprise and ask for its advice and and comments because that is were we find the practical people, the practising people, who maintain the standards of our legislation. If that is the case, I believe we should consult with them before we go to the legislating stage.
It was mentioned yesterday on 2 occasions that the dignity of this Parliament might have suffered because of some lack of decorum in the last few years. The duty I have before I become a politician of too long standing is to express the sentiments of the private individual in the outside world. I believe the people feel that there has been a lack of dignity. They believe that the parliamentary rules of debate, while they apply to councils and to committees outside the Parliament, apparently do not apply inside. I hope that we can set a new era in this regard by raising the standard so that the parliamentary rules of debate throughout Australia will be acceptable to all.
-Does the honourable gentleman second the motion?
– I do.
-Mr Speaker -
– Is this a maiden speech?
– Fortunes change, and yours may well change too. Firstly, I congratulate the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) and the honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite) on their maiden speeches. I might say that during the election campaign I went to and worked in the electorates of both of them to see that they did not get here but apparently my efforts were not of any avail. Secondly, Sir, I congratulate you upon your elevation to the distinguished position of Speaker of the House. I find it very difficult to distinguish people with beards, but I must say that under your wig you bear a remarkable resemblance physically to one of your predecessors, Sir William Aston.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will confine himself to the motion.
– Perhaps it is clothes that make the man. Today I want to devote the major part of my time to a consideration of the events that took place on 11 November 1975 and the time leading up to that date. I make 2 categorical assertions. The first one is that it is my belief that for the parliamentary system to be a workable institution no Senate should ever dare again to refuse supply to a government that has the numbers in the House of Representatives. I believe that is fundamental to the sensible carrying out of parliamentary government in Australia. During the crisis I made one or two speeches here round that theme in which I indicated that really it is nonsense for a government to be in a situation of having permanent public servants, legally employed, whom it cannot sack but because of a failure to get a piece of legislation through, not being able to pay them. Similarly, it is nonsense to have legislation sanctioning the payment of pensions of a couple of billion dollars or more a year and to have a government which, until it got the Appropriation Bill through, could not legally pay the administrators of the payment of those pensions.
This House has to think through its relationships with the other place. I must say that I was grieved somewhat by the cavalier fashion in which the previous House of Representatives was prepared to vacate what I think are its historic rights because of a chance difference in the political constitution of the upper House as against the lower. It seems that a lot of nonsense is being talked in this country about the Senate being equal with the House of Representatives. The Senate is not, and cannot be, equal with the House of Representatives. The principal reason is that this House must be the House that is responsible for the financial affairs of the nation. I do not think enough attention was paid to the illogicality of endeavouring to fail to pass part only of the financial commitments of the former Government. The Budget, when it was brought down, provided for expenditure in the region of $22,000m, and the Appropriation Bills that were rejected did not cover half of that amount. The Government could collect taxes but could not apply the taxes to the purposes for which they were intended. I believe that when the Senate carries out, or proposes to carry out, a certain course of action it should pay attention to the consequences of that action. The consequences of the Senate’s refusing to grant supply are the bringing into paralysis of the whole machine of government. That is a fundamental consideration.
The second matter I categorically assert is that I believe the Governor-General was wrong in the action he took to dismiss the Whitlam Government. I wonder how in the future constitutional usage and practice will be taught in Australia after what happened on 1 1 November. I happen to have been brought up as a student in political science. In those days we had the learned text of Bagehot’s English Constitution. The most modern interpreter of the working of the British Constitutionthe Australian system is modelled on the British system- is one called Ivor Jennings. In his book, the third edition of Cabinet Government, on page 403 he says this about the British system:
No Government has been dismissed by the Sovereign since 1783.
This was the accepted view of things. Here again, I am rather surprised to hear it being asserted that somehow what the Governor-General did on 11 November has been vindicated by the results. I am not going to quibble with the result of the election on 13 December. The numbers are evidence enough of what the result of the election was. But I think one has to pay some attention to what the role of the GovernorGeneral is. In my view the Governor-General is not an absolute monarch. The GovernorGeneral is the Governor-General in Council- the Governor-General acting upon the advice of his Ministers and only upon the advice of his Ministers. Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) read into Hansard the reply that was received by the former Speaker, Mr Scholes, from the Secretary to the Queen, Mr Martin Charteris. The Queen said this in her rather, if I may say, diplomatic letter:
As we understand the situation here, the Australian Constitution firmly places the prerogative powers of the Crown in the hands of the Governor-General as the representative of the Queen of Australia.
I think what is needed is an understanding as to what are the prerogative powers of the Crown, or in the case of Australia the prerogative powers of the Governor-General. I believe that if the Queen had been a little bit whimsical she might have put a footnote on the bottom of that letter saying: ‘I could not do in London to Mr Wilson what Sir John Kerr did in Australia to Mr Whitlam’.
– What did Whitlam do? You tend to have a one-sided view of this.
-I believe that this House has to defend its rights as a House. I do not think the honourable member has been here long enough yet to understand. Surely at times matters ought to be discussed objectively in this House. These sorts of events, fortunately, are not likely to happen again while the political constitution of the 2 Houses is the same, but at least we on the Labor Party side have an interest in the future conduct of events because when we are returned to power in this House the likelihood is that there could be almost equality politically in the other place. Governments in Australia are not decided by how many people there are in a particular party in the Senate; they are decided by how many people have been elected to particular Parties in the House of Representatives. As to all this nonsense about the powers of the Senate being the same as the powers of the House of Representatives, the powers of the Senate are the same in that no Bill can become law unless it is passed by both Houses. It is true also that a money Bill cannot originate in the Senate. The Constitution is quite specific. It says that a money Bill may not be amended by the Senate, but it does not say that it cannot be rejected.
I tried to suggest early in my speech that common sense- surely common sense is an essential part of the operation of constitutional governmentwould say in the latter quarter of the twentieth century that Senates cannot reject money Bills either. I believe this other question of trying to maintain in Australia to a GovernorGeneral prerogative powers that were discarded in the workings of the British system 200 years ago needs serious and critical examination in this country. Maybe it could be examined by people outside the House as well as by people in it. The prerogative powers are not absolute powers. In fact, in Quick and Garran’s famous book on the Constitution I think the authors observe that it was suggested that it ought to have said wherever the word ‘Governor’ appeared it meant ‘Governor-in-Council’. Perhaps it would have been a good thing had that been done. There are not many places in the Constitution where the Governor has any powers as such, but again those powers, unless they are to be potential tyranny, surely are meant to be exercised in the sense of ‘Governor-in-Council’, not the Governor as a paramount chief or trying to take to himself in 1976 powers that were discarded by the Crown in the United Kingdom almost 200 years ago.
I believe this is a central and fundamental matter. I suppose cynics will say: ‘Well, the Governor-General in some people’s view was vindicated by the action of the people on 13 December’. I do not believe the people voted on the single issue of whether the GovernorGeneral had acted rightly or wrongly. In the finish they were persuaded that they were voting for who would form the Government of this country for the next 3 years. I hope that this Government does have 3 years to govern. Certainly it is not in the situation that faced honourable members on this side of the House when we were in office from the end of 1972 or the beginning of 1 973. Our Government suffered continual harassment in another place, not about the rights of the States or anything else but simply because of the political numbers the then Opposition could not get its way in this place but was able occasionally to combine its numbers to get its way in another place. The then Opposition thwarted the proper carrying out of the parliamentary process by a government which was determined by the numbers in this House. Our
Government’s parliamentary process was frustrated virtually for the whole 3 years or so that we were in office. In the middle of our term we were forced to an election that we ought not to have needed. We won that election, but despite that the harassment continued in the Senate immediately we returned to office in July 1974 to try to carry on the work of government. We cannot have a system that has one set of rules when a party is in opposition and a different set of rules when it is in government. Both sides have to play by the same sort of rules because if we do not do it that way we bring the whole parliamentary process into disrepute.
I am one who believes in the parliamentary system. I still believe it is the best system yet evolved by mankind to carry out its government. Nevertheless it is not an easy system of government, and it is not made any easier when the working rules can be subverted by chance numbers in another place or, if I may say, not only chance numbers but changed numbers when people die or there are casual vacancies. Even those rules were abrogated in the choosing of successors. People are mortal. Even on the backbench, while the pressure is not so high, one still does not live forever, politically or otherwise. A member may want to move somewhat further forward. Some honourable members probably will. I am quite happy to be in my place for a few years. I hope that this matter which I have raised will receive serious attention by this Government which does not have any problem about its numbers.
At least it ought to accept that the rules of the game must be the same no matter which party is the Government. People might not like the government they get but it should not be hindered in its proper operations.
As I said earlier- I do not want to traverse it as I hope that I will be able to write about it at greater length- I believe that the GovernorGeneral was quite wrong. One other principle that was distorted in the course of coming to that decision was a doctrine that used to be known as the separation of powers; that the legislature, the executive and the judiciary are all essential parts of the system but each is separate and distinct. The lines certainly became blurred when the Chief Justice was asked to give his opinion to the executive head- the Governor-General- as to whether certain things could or could not be done. I believe this to be quite wrong also.
I have said this in public before. Sir Garfield Barwick is a former member of this House. Those who were in the House with him would not regard him as one of the greatest of its parliamentarians. I think that he was a poor parliamentarian. The sort of legal opinion that he gave to the Governor-General shows how poor a parliamentarian he was. He did not understand what ought to be the constitutional, commonsense working rules for a place like this. I believe that the people in this House can be wiser on those sorts of matters than so-called leading legal lights outside it. Parliament requires commonsense for its operation, particularly in the place that you are occupying at the moment, Mr Deputy Speaker. As well as consulting the Standing Orders the Speakers occasionally ought to rely on commonsense as well. Commonsense is sometimes better than what is written.
Difficulties arise with a written Constitution such as Australia has. It tried to put into writing what were the conventions of the British system at the time the Constitution was written. It is unfortunate that had our Constitution been written in 1912 instead of 1901 it would have incorporated what became the Parliament Act of the House of Commons in 1911, that is that there could have been no refusal of Supply in another place. Had that been the situation, I believe that what happened on 1 1 November would not have occurred.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Mine is not a maiden speech. Nevertheless I feel the embarrassment which a maiden speaker may well feel because on this occasion, although I am supporting the Address-in-Reply, I cannot support it unreservedly. I propose to make certain points in that regard. Before I do so may I advert to the things that were said a moment ago by the previous speaker, the honourable member for Melbourne Pons (Mr Crean)? I think that what he said was wrong. He failed to recognise the fact that the Australian Senate was modelled on the United States Senate rather than on the House of Lords. In other respects what he said does not bear analysis, but at least he is entitled to say it and nobody could cavil at that.
However, one would cavil at the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) in this regard which is, I believe, outrageous and unpardonable. It is outrageous because it strikes at the root of the whole of our constitutional system. He is trying to overturn the Australian democracy because he wants to be a kind of glorified president. I think it is wrong for him to come into this House and say things which he knows to be untrue. Let me make just 2 observations in regard to that- one trite and one which I do not think has been made before. The trite observation is this: Only a few years ago when he was once before Leader of the Opposition he embraced in this House, verbatim, the principles which he now finds so morally repugnant. This is a sham act. That is a trite observation. It has been made before.
However, let me make a new point. He talks of the supremacy of this House but what he means is the supremacy of the Australian Labor Party Caucus if Labor is the Government, because under his Caucus rules it is the Caucus, not the members of this House, that makes decisions. In that Caucus the Labor senators have exactly the same vote as the members of this House. So when he talks of the supremacy of this House and puts himself forward as its defender he is acting a lie, because what happens in his Caucus is that he gives the Labor senators exactly the same vote as the members of this House. So one can see that we are now dealing with a man who has become the enemy of Australia because he is peddling lies.
-Order! Although I appreciate that the honourable member is not calling the Leader of the Opposition a liar, I suggest that the imputation is quite clear. I suggest that the honourable member moderates his language.
-Should I say that he is showing himself, for his own personal gain, the enemy of the Australian people. Let me come to the matters of substance in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. I fully endorse the objectives behind it- the objectives of enterprise and freedom, the objectives of employment, the objectives of beating inflation, the objectives of cutting out waste from the Public Service and reducing the impact of government upon the private citizen. These are all things which I thoroughly endorse and hope by my conduct to further. But I am afraid that some of the detailed approaches of the Government are likely to be counterproductive and to militate against the very sound objectives which I believe the Government should follow and which it says it wants to follow.
Let us look at our position and see what we would like to do. First, we would like to reduce taxation. We would like to do this in 2 ways. We would like immediately to index income tax. After all, this is something which was mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech. He said:
Major reforms will be implemented to protect individuals from being subjected to massive unlegislated tax increases.
That is a very worthy objective. It is a legislative crime to impose on individuals unlegislated massive tax increases. That is what happens in times of inflation with an unindexed income tax. What do we say? We are putting out what we should do and yet we say: ‘For the time being we will condone part of the crime. We will have these massive unlegislated tax impositions. They are not as bad as they were. We are half repentant, but we will still pull in some of the swag from the crime. ‘ That is not good enough.
There is an even more important point. We want to get rid of inflation. Of course we do, and one of the things that is contributing to inflation is the incidence of government charges. Some of them are State charges, but State charges really emanate from here because it is from our policy that the necessity to raise revenue is placed on the States. I think particularly of payroll tax. We want to cut the cost of production and thereby reduce and eliminate inflation. To get rid of some of these indirect charges is probably the most effective way in which we can do it.
If we want a plan to reduce inflation we will have to consider such things as the petrol tax in New South Wales, payroll tax, excessive rail freights and fares, and high electricity charges. All these charges of which I have given only examples have to be considered. If we could only reduce them we would be making a real counterinflationary move. Some people at the hearing of the national wage case thought that the inflationary effect of these taxes should be removed from the computation of the index. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. After all, the counter-inflationary effect of taking off these charges is one of the methods by which we could and should control inflation. This is not something which we can do time and time again. It has to be a once-for-all move but it is part of a blockbusting plan which would stop the inflationary spiral. We have to get our forces together and stop inflation because we are not stopping it the way we are going.
We should be reducing taxation in the Federal Budget but also giving subventions to the States to allow them to reduce taxation and charges in a way which would cut away the roots of tins inflationary spiral. It is a good thing to cut out waste and duplication and to bring back some discipline to public spending. This is something that we should all applaud, but while we are doing that should we not also, moderately and not to any extravagant extent, be expanding productive public works which would take up the slack in employment and by so increasing the turnover in private industry reduce the costs of private industry. What we want to do is get private industry going again. Do we help the brickworkers and the timber workers if we cut down building activity? Do we help the manufacturers of steel and concrete if we cut back our engineering works? I remember in the time of the McMahon Government the shudder that went through this House when it was said that over the then coming Christmas there could be over 100 000 unemployed. Now we have got to the stage where we are almost accepting a quarter of a million unemployed, not just over Christmas but as the normal thing. I am frightened that in respect of employment we will be on a downward spiral if we are not very careful. From the point of view of the Australian economy how much does a worker produce? He has his wages, of course, but if at the same time he is bringing into production plant which is there and would otherwise remain idle, the value of his production is greater than the monetary wage.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was pointing out that our Liberal principles expressed in the Governor-General’s Speech should in present circumstances encourage us to reduce taxation and at the same time to increase the productive public works. Why do we not do it? The answer the Treasury gives is that this would increase what it calls the Budget deficit, which it now puts at $4.5 billion. There are some things that should be said about this. The first thing to be said is that in the proper sense of the term, the kind of sense that is used in the Budgets of most other countries, there is no Budget deficit. Let U3 have this quite plain. The present figure of $4.5 billion is struck after debiting $4.8 billion of capital works against revenue. This is said to be the deficit. In real accounting terms and in the kind of terms that are used in the budgets of most other countries that deficit does not exist.
There is, however, something quite different, and that is a liquidity problem- a cash flow problem, if one likes to call it that. We have a deficiency of cash in kitty because we are using money for capital works. The deficit is purely a figment of the Treasury’s imagination. It is not a deficit at all; it is something quite different. It is a liquidity problem and as such it should be dealt with by quite different measures from those used to deal with a proper deficit.
I say this: The Treasury is frightened that if we increase this cash deficiency- or deficit, call it what you like- there will be an increase in inflation. I put it to the House that this is nonsense. The deficit or the extra cash deficiency could be mopped up by additional loans. If those are not available it could be mopped up by the central bank credit which is available to the Government. Some people will say: ‘If you put this extra credit into the system you will increase the money supply’. That is true, but it is only half the problem. If” the money supply were increased in this way, as it would be, it would be quite easy for the Treasury to decrease the money supply correspondingly by raising what are known as the statutory reserve deposits, the SRDs, of the trading banks or in other types of open market operation. The technical problems of reducing the money supply to compensate for the extra money put in by a capital works program or by reduction of taxation are not by any means insoluble. I put it to the House that these are the proper lines on which a Liberal government should be thinking.
I would be the first person to agree that if we had full utilisation of our resources of labour, plant and materials the capital works program should be cut down to the bone because we would not want to compete with private enterprise for scarce resources- of course not. But as the present moment by increasing public works or decreasing taxation we would help private enterprise, not compete with it for resources which at present are in surplus and unused. This is the nub of the problem.
We get from Treasury all sorts of gobbledegook saying that we cannot do this because we would increase inflation, increase the money supply and so on. What Treasury says is half true, but it is only half the statement of the real facts. If we want to we can always contract the money supply to the extent to which it is increased by an additional so-called ‘Budget deficit’. If the Budget were in real deficit, if without capital works we were overspending to any great extent, I would feel a great deal of sympathy with the Treasury view. But this is not the case at the moment. This practice in public accounts in almost unique to Australia. Other countries do not do it. We have muddled up our capital and our current accounts and we get this kind of nonsense result. We have no reason to fear the deficit but we should have to take, and we can take, proper measures to cure any overliquidity caused by over-expenditure on capital works.
I have said that the advice that the Treasury has been giving is bad. I know that there is a long history of this and I know that there is a reason for it. This is part of a 25-year-long battle by the Treasury to increase its own empire. This is part of the way in which it has constrained the States and driven the State budgets to desperation. This has been a deliberate long term policy in the Treasury. I had experience of this when I was in the Ministry. When I brought forward a proposal which the Treasury did not like it brought to Cabinet estimates of expenditure which were as much as 100 per cent wrong. Treasury did not worry about doing this and sometimes it persuaded Cabinet. It is not just entrenched stupidity from Treasury, it is a piece of deliberate empire building. Treasury is the sacred cow of Australian politics and it is time that somebody said to it: ‘Go and get inseminated’.
-The last speech sounded like the result of a cross between the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) and the National Country Party. Firstly, allow me to congratulate you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and to convey to both the Speaker and you my congratulations on your reelection and the election of the Right Honourable Member for Bruce (Mr Snedden) to the very high offices you both hold in this Parliament. I also welcome into combat all those newly elected honourable members, particularly those on the other side of the chamber. They will find this 30th Parliament quite different from previous Parliaments because at the end of 1975 the parties that they represent tore up the convention rule book of politics in Australia. As the Australian Labor Party has been a political party of some standing in Australia for far longer than has any other political party it is pretty obvious to observers of politics that we will be here for a lot longer than those who sit opposite. I welcome the new honourable members opposite to the combat and I hope that they have a short stay.
Three months ago the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) promised Australians he would give ‘what Mr Whitlam cannot promise in a thousand years- government untainted with dishonesty and corruption’. Now, only 3 months later, he presides over a government whose tone is already almost a total one of broken promises, deliberate lies and now, for the first time in my memory, a prosecution involving political corruptionall this in just 3 months. We are promised steady, responsible government. Instead we have a government which is faltering, writhing this way and that in uncertainty. There will be no more grave, no more crucial decision taken by this Government than its deliberate breach of faith with the Australian people on wage indexation. That crude attempt to direct the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to become the executor of Government economic policy will be seen by historians as the beginning of the end of a government steeped in treachery. The Government apparently did not know or, as is more likely, did not care that the constitutional charter of the Commission is the -prevention and settlement of industrial disputes. Government supporters were to be the ones to win the confidence not only of their friends, big business, but the employees of Australia. Mr Fraser was to be a conciliator with the trade union movement. He was to win industrial peace. I ask honourable members to listen to what Paul Johnson, someone who can hardly be described as a friend of the trade unions, thinks of Mr Fraser ‘s beginning. He said: . . . Mr Fraser may come bitterly to regret having devalued his good faith right at the beginning of his term of office … It seems to me incredible that Mr Fraser should take such a fateful step on indexation without previously consulting trade union leaders or even informing them in advance. In short, Mr Fraser took a very risky decision, and he took it in a way calculated to inflame the very people whose forbearance and co-operation he needs.
Let us remember the very way that Mr Fraser took this fateful decision. Only a week before the announcement, Cabinet had decided to go along with the just wage indexation increase. Then, a mere week later, the complete reversal. Steady, sure government indeed. The reversal did not even find favour with Mr Fraser ‘s friends, the employers. Publicly they have maintained silence, but privately they are appalled at the prospect of industrial instability which will follow in the wake of Mr Fraser ‘s impetuous, illconsidered intervention. This is a government which will win not the trust but the abhorrence of the Australian people. We have a new Prime Minister, yes, but a Prime Minister who will travel a path he knows well- a path of deceit. We have heard a great deal about this Government ‘s style. It is some style- a style set and preserved by the Prime Minister himself. He promised Australians that he personally would set the standards for his new Government. It is the only promise that he has kept, because the broken promises, the untruths, the corruption charges with which his Government has been imbued since it gained office, again dishonestly, on 1 1 November are Mr Fraser’s standards. That day, 1 1 November was itself -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a very definite point of order. One of the problems in the last Parliament was that many accusations were made about people. Those accusations were not in order. I cannot put my hand on the relevant Standing Order, but the honourable member for whatever his electorate is is reflecting on the Prime Minister. I believe that very early in the piece this should be checked and his remarks ruled out of order.
– In regard to the point of order raised by the honourable member for Griffith, I have been listening carefully to what the honourable member for Port Adelaide has said and he has made no personal reflection at any time during his speech. He has been covering generalities.
– In what other democracy would the Leader of the Opposition firstly heed the call of a Governor-General without informing the Prime Minister of the day, and then expose the deceit by having a Commonwealth car concealed at the rear of the Governor-General’s residence in order that the Prime Minister -
-Order! I think the honourable member for Port Adelaide has now transgressed the Standing Orders. I suggest that he withdraw the reference to ‘deceit’ and in the remainder of his speech not reflect in that way upon the action during the past year.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, then I seek your guidance. What term should I use for a car that is hidden behind the Governor-General’s residence when the Prime Minister arrives?
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Port Adelaide has been in this House long enough to know what he should and should not do.
– It would be impossible for any observer of these proceedings not to believe that a conspiracy of gigantic proportions had been imposed on the Australian people. Mr Fraser had, I believe prior knowledge of the GovernorGeneral’s intentions. His own colleagues were telling respected and responsible journalists -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on standing order No. 74.
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Port Adelaide as I suggested earlier that a comment has been made in relation to this subject with regard to these events and the way they should be dealt with in this House. I again ask the honourable member for Port Adelaide to proceed with his speech without covering the subject matter in the manner in which he is doing.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to speak to the point of order. Are you ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker, that in this debate discussing the Governor-General’s Speech the reasons for his being here and the reasons for that Speech taking place are irrelevant to this debate? -Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER-Order! In reply to the point of order raised by the honourable member for Wills, I suggest also that he has been in this House long enough to know the Standing Orders. I suggest that the subject matter which is being referred by the honourable member for Port Adelaide is being referred to in a manner which is not to the advantage of this House or to its members. I suggest again that the debate in relation to the Address-in-Reply cover the matters in the Address given by His Excellency and not personal matters and matters relating to those things which are detrimental to the House and which are not allowed under Standing Orders.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I find it difficult to follow your ruling. This is the first opportunity that those of us who were dismissed from government on 1 1 November last have had to speak. I find it difficult to believe that the matters I raise are unrelated to the question now before the House, because we now have a new government in Australia as a result of the actions that were taken on 1 1 November for the first time in the history of Australia. It seems difficult to believe that in a general debate of this nature, where almost everything has been covered in previous debates on the Address-in-Reply, we are to abide by a ruling to restrict ourselves because the actions which so many people in Australia question- actions of the GovernorGeneral and the role of the then Leader of the Opposition- are not to be debated. It seems almost impossible to pass over them.
-Order! I remind the honourable member for Port Adelaide that the issue is not the subject matter but the fact that the honourable member imputed motives to a certain degree against both His Excellency the Governor-General and the Prime Minister. These are matters which are not allowed under the Standing Orders. I suggest that it is not what the honourable member for Port Adelaide is saying but the imputations behind his remarks which are being ruled against by the Chair.
– Prior to his clandestine visit to the Governor-General the then Leader of the Opposition had 2 meetings on the morning of 1 1 November- one with the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, in which he was informed directly that it was the intention of the Government to call a half Senate election. Within 5 minutes of leaving that meeting the now Prime Minister, the then Leader of the Opposition, had a meeting of his own Party. A half Senate election was a matter of mighty concern to his Party and to political analysts throughout Australia. Nevertheless, not a mention was made to his colleagues of the Prime Minister’s firm intention, asserted only minutes before. I ask honourable members to ask themselves why would the Leader of the Liberal Party not inform his own members of the information given to him about the calling of a half Senate election by the Prime Minister. There can be only one possible answer. To Mr Fraser, the then Leader of the Opposition, the information given to him by the Prime Minister was irrelevant. He knew that announcements to be made later in the day would negate any announcement by the incumbent Prime Minister. Again he has been less than honest in denying that prior knowledge. Mr Fraser ‘s promise of a government free of dishonesty and corruption was itself not true. All Australia can see that today, to the embarrassment of the honourable gentlemen opposite. He nevertheless set out to make that dishonest government a reality by the most amazing string of untruths, distortions, half truths and unsubstantiated allegations that this country has experienced in any election campaign. It was not true.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Standing order 76 and 74 have been continually transgressed by the honourable member for Port Adelaide.
– I would suggest to the honourable member for Port Adelaide that he is rather close to the line in some of his recent comments. I remind the honourable member that imputations of dishonesty and attributing untrue motives to individuals are not permissible under the Standing Orders.
-During the campaign leading up to 13 December the present Prime Minister used what were called Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development figures which he hoped would frighten the electorate. Those figures were proven to be non-existent. He said that Mr Hayden had stolen documents from the Treasury. That was an untruth which Mr Fraser was forced to withdraw- the only one. It was the only one of scores of untruths that Mr Fraser told Australia during that campaign, but it was one which could have been tested in court. He then proceeded to tell untruths about details of the Labor Government’s overseas borrowings. He said that there was scandal and corruption aplenty. But where was it? Mr Fraser demonstrated amply that he was a man who would do anything to get into office. He now demonstrates himself as a man who will say anything to stay there. It is only since the election that Australians have been able to appreciate the full extent of the dishonesty of the Prime Minister and the dishonesty with which he has imbued his Government.
-Order! I have reminded the honourable member for Port Adelaide on 3 occasions of what can and cannot be said under the Standing Orders. I would suggest also that there is a certain standard of debate which should be maintained in this House. The honourable member for Port Adelaide might not, I suggest, again transgress the Standing Orders nor should he try to avoid obeying what I have suggested from the Chair.
-I heed your advice, Mr Deputy Speaker, but it is difficult to keep in line with your rulings in view of the experience that members of the Opposition have had as a political party since 11 November- in fact, since December 1972 because of the actions of the Senate. I tum now to the question of wage indexation. At the very first opportunity it was found, of course, that the Government’s promise in this respect during the election campaign was an untruth. The Government said it would abolish the Prices Justification Tribunal. That, too, was an untruth. The Government promised a new era of harmonious industrial relations. Before the Government’s first Parliament met the union movement throughout Australia, largely because of the actions of the Prime Minister, refused any co-operation or even dialogue with the Government. Some new era! That never happened even under the most extreme of this Government’s predecessors. Mr Fraser said that in accordance with his Party’s written policy the Government would insist on 50 per cent Australian ownership of mineral resources. This Government knew at the time- his Party’s balance sheets show it- that that promise was only for the duration of the election. Already the Government has started the process of handing back to foreigners whatever they like to take from Australia’s fabulous mineral wealth. The Government has paid for that massive financial support in the way it has always known it would have to do so- by a public declaration that the 50 per cent Australian ownership policy which was presented for electoral purposes was meaningless.
What other untruths did this Government tell in its campaign leading up to 13 December? I invite honourable members to examine advertisements that were used during the campaign. One advertisement stated:
We will lead Australia to prosperity, creating jobs, opportunities. We will protect those in need of help. Medibank, pensions, education and social welfare will all be strengthened by honest responsible government.
Employees of the National Capital Development Commission are interested in the way the Government is going to create jobs. The Government has wrecked the National Employment and Training scheme which had established a fine record in creating jobs. The Government promised to protect those in need of help. I ask honourable members to refer this promise to the children at the poorer schools and universities, and to the pensioners. How well are those in need of medical or pharmaceutical care being protected by this Government? The Government promised that Medibank would be strengthened. Several of Australia’s leading journalists have tried to extract that assurance from Mr Fraser since the election. It is a promise the Government is no longer prepared to make. The Government has immediately altered the pension target from 25 per cent of average weekly earnings to mere increases in line with the consumer price index at significant cost to every pensioner in this country. We might ask how a delay of a month in the granting of promised pension increases is seen as a strengthening in this area. Mr Fraser said that education and social welfare would be strengthened. I shall list the instances where Mr Fraser has already given the lie to these promises. The people were promised honest and responsible government. That was the most gross deceit of all. How does this dishonest Government explain all these untruths? When asked by a puzzled interviewer how the Government could so readily abandon quite firm promises to the Australian people Mr Fraser said:
It would not be sensible for a government to suck rigidly on a policy just because it happened to announce that policy at a particular time.
In that statement the Prime Minister bestowed on himself a licence to mislead the Australian people. He is giving all Australians a warning that they can ignore anything he says in the future. I now refer honourable members to a second advertisement that the Liberal Party used throughout Australia during the election campaign. That advertisement stated:
Wage indexation: We will stick firmly to wage indexation.
We can put a cross through that promise. The only promise about those matters to which I referred, including pensions and education, that has been kept was the promise with respect to the superphosphate bounty. In the same week that the Government was asking the working people of this country to accept a 3.2 per cent drop in their living standards the Government made $30m available for the superphosphate bounty. So much for the promises of this Government.
But what about those matters about which this Government did not tell the people? It did not tell them it would delay pensions. It did not tell them it would reduce pensioners’ sickness benefits. It did not tell them it would close down 2 major conservation and environment operations started under the Labor Government. It did not tell them it would slash expenditure on the Australian Broadcasting Commission in a bid to silence the only independent organ of the media remaining in Australia- the only section of the media not on Mr Fraser ‘s regular ringaround list during the days when he was clawing his way into power. It remains the one organ of which Mr Fraser might justly be wary. One has only to examine the organisation’s own account of how it has struggled to survive under previous conservative governments. This account was carried yesterday morning in a responsible organ of what we might call the Fraser Press. It reveals how determined he was to silence this one independent voice.
The Government did not promise that Australians would pay $70 for television licences. It did not say that it would take free hearing aids from pensioners. The Government deliberately kept secret its intention of lopping massive amounts from schools and universities, particularly those schools most in need of assistance. The Government did not tell us at the same time that Mr Fraser would make sure that the wealthy schools- those attended by his children and those of his Cabinet colleagues- would be better off than ever before. The Government was not honest enough to say that it would take the funeral benefit of $40 from Australia’s pensioners. That $40 is nothing to those people who get nearly three times as much as that in a week from the superphosphate bounty alone. To pensioners, already deprived by this Government’s deception, it is a vital benefit. It is vital to scores of thousands who hope to escape the indignity of being unable to pay for their own or their families’ funerals.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In the debate on the appropriateness of the economic measures taken by the Government the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) referred to the need to reduce taxation in the Federal sphere and the need to provide subventions to the States to enable them to reduce their taxes. He also referred to the need to increase expenditure on productive work, particularly in the private enterprise sector. He spoke of the employment implications of such action. In recent times some criticism has been levelled at the savings bonds scheme recently introduced by the Government. The Government’s policy on wage indexation has also been criticised. Implicit in the arguments advanced in this debate is that the Budget deficit should be increased rather than decreased as proposed by the Government. It is not therefore unreasonable to ask: Why is the Government cutting the deficit? Will that not depress activity further? Ten years ago such a question might have sounded sensible. Today it merely reveals an utterly mistaken diagnosis of the problem.
The Government’s economic strategy is designed to steer the economy on the path of a formally based recovery. The problem is that until inflation and inflationary expectations are curbed there can be no lasting economic recovery. It is true that cutting Government expenditures, in order to reduce the deficit, will depress activity in the Government sector. It will in some cases reduce demands on, and activity in, the private sector.’ But unless inflation and inflationary expectations can be curbed any depressive effects of that kind will be far outweighed by a renewed decline in the private sector generally. That is why the huge deficits of the recent past have had such counter productive effects on overall activity. The inflationary expectations they have generated have led to a sharp cutback in business investment and a notable increase in squirrelling by consumers. The savings ratio went up from 9.7 per cent in 1 97 1 -72 to 17 per cent in 1974-75. That is essentially why a Budget deficit in the order of $4.7m and a consequential money supply growth rate of 20 per cent per annum or more- that is, the Hayden Budget -was a recipe not for recovery but merely for a pause in the further downward slide. That is why cutting back the deficit is the fundamental task confronting the Government. The old fashioned Keynesianism inherent in the question is increasingly discredited. Even the then Treasurer, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), said in his Budget speech last yean
We are no longer operating in that simple Keynesian world in which some reduction in unemployment could, apparently, always be purchased at the cost of some more inflation. Today, it is inflation itself which is the central policy problem. More inflation simply leads to more unemployment.
All around the world this unpalatable truth is being recognised. Even in the home of
Keynesianism, the United Kingdom and under a Labour government, the futility of piling on new deficits in order to soak up the unemployment created by the interminable succession of previous deficits is at long last being discerned as unemployment moves towards the 1.5 million mark and well over half the economy is now in the Government sector. It may very well be that vigorous action to cut back the deficit and rein in the destructive growth of the money supply will produce some temporary short term costs in terms of level of activity overall. It is certainly true that the 6.4 per cent national wage decision unfortunately makes that much more likely. What has to be faced up to is that there is no longer any alternative unless we are prepared to abandon our present form of society. We, the Government, were elected above all to ensure that we avoided such a fate.
The Government’s economic strategy is designed to steer the economy onto the path of a firmly based recovery. Central to this strategy is the successful combatting of inflation so as to restore business and consumer confidence and thereby encourage the revival in consumption and business investment that is needed for a sustained recovery. The recovery must be both gradual and balanced if it is to be sustained; otherwise the upturn in activity may be aborted by supply constraints resulting in a resurgence of inflationary pressures and import spill-over. Decisive measures are required immediately to regenerate the economy and these will be taken in the context of an overall strategy designed to operate over the term of the Government. Together with a commitment to more stability in policy, the adoption of such a long term program will give recognition to the capacity of the economy to adjust and will provide an overall framework within which budgetary, monetary and other decisions can be taken. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) said in his Press statement of 16 December 1975:
Because of the continuing risk of re-igniting inflation, there can be no question of trying to pull out of the recession at break-neck speed. Our overall strategy calls for a shift of emphasis away from the Government sector towards the private sector.
The dramatic slump in investment activity during 1 974-75 has curtailed both the short and the long term productive capacity of the economy. Recovery may be nipped in the bud if available business capacity proves insufficient to meet strengthening demand. It is not a question of whether the recovery will be investment led or consumer led as whether available resources can cope with future demand. The Government’s strategy aims, therefore, to prevent such an imbalance from developing by ensuring that the recovery in investment follows closely the recovery in other components of demand. The Government has set about encouraging an investment revival at an earlier stage than would otherwise be the case by creating an environment conducive to an optimistic, expansionist business outlook. The extent of the slump in business activity during 1974-75 also means that recovery initially will be quite gradual as it will take time to revive a mood of confidence, among consumers and businessmen alike, after a long period of years of double digit inflation. Of course, gradual recovery is less likely to give rise to severe demand/supply imbalances and that is all to the good. In the interests of a sustained recovery, steady rather than dramatic and short lived progress should be encouraged.
Recent experience has demonstrated the undesirable effects of sudden and large changes in policy direction. We have plenty of examples of that over the last 3 years. The cyclical downswing in 1974, for example, although a world wide phenomenon in industrialised countries, was aggravated in Australia’s case by an unduly restrictive monetary policy. More recently, due mainly to the impact of a growing Budget deficit, the monetary situation was permitted by the previous Government to move from one of excessive restraint to one of excessive liquidity. As a result, the Government introduced the special monetary policy package on 22 January. Likewise, the rapid transfer of resources from the private to the Government sector during recent years has had the effect of undermining the capacity of the private sector to produce, to invest and to provide employment. In the light of these experiences the Government is convinced of the need for a more constant and gradual monitoring of economic policy, thereby promoting long term recovery free of interference from erratic changes in policy positions.
Action has been taken or is in hand to give effect to the Government’s policy. Antiinflationary policies include cuts in Government spending designed to check the growth in the Budget deficit and, in turn, the effect of the deficit on liquidity; a monetary policy package designed to drain off excess liquidity and restore business confidence; a reasonable stance adopted in the Government’s submission to the national wage case. Other measures are investment policies such as the introduction of the 40 per cent investment allowance, the temporary suspension of quarterly company tax instalments and substantial cuts in borrowing costs.
In reference to unemployment, the Government is committed to a policy of reducing the record levels of unemployment inherited from the previous Labor administration. Unless inflation rates can be brought down, however, there can be no sustained revival in private sector demand, no lasting recovery in activity and hence no permanent reduction in unemployment. Policies being pursued to control inflation and to stimulate investment activity are central to the Government’s policy of creating more job opportunities. While unemployment rates between countries are not precisely comparable, the level of unemployment in Australia under Labor increased faster than in any of our major trading partners. In the course of the downturn the unemployment rate in Australia trebled while in the United States of America and Canada it about doubled. In the main, present unemployment derives from the recession created by Labor’s policies. Particular points of relevance are the high level of inflation permitted in 1974 and 1975; the very sharp squeeze on profits, the 1974 credit squeeze and the basic shift of profits as a percentage of GDP below their historical norm of about 15 per cent; the 25 per cent across the board tariff cuts, the structural dislocation associated with the rapid transfer of resources to the public sector; and the collapse of business confidence. The Government’s policy is directed towards bringing about a firmly based recovery in the private sector, which provides three out of every four jobs in Australia. Fundamental to the policy is the control of inflation, stimulation of investment and the return of business and consumer confidence.
The first 6 months in office will be used to establish new management procedures for the control of spending and the administration of government programs. The process of reining in the growth of expenditure is essential if control of the nation’s monetary and financial policies is to be regained. Without rigid controls on government expenditure the longer run objectives of tax reforms to which we are committed cannot be met.
The policies of the former Government which resulted in a doubling of government expenditure in 3 years had the following consequences: A significant increase in personal income tax, leading to increased wage and salary pressures as tax compensation was fed into the wage bargaining process; a Budget deficit which would have exceeded $4.7 billion in 1975-76- more than $1.9 billion higher than estimated in August- and a rate of increase in the money supply of more than 20 per cent in 1975; a rapid transfer of resources from the private sector to the public sector- outlays increased from about 25 per cent of GDP in 1973-74 to about 31 per cent in 1975-76- causing serious adjustment problems and an erosion of business confidence; and a marked increase in community expectations which, in turn, has contributed significantly to inflationary pressures.
The Government’s strategy clearly recognises that unless inflation is brought under control unemployment will remain high. The reduction in government spending is the first necessary step to reduce inflation and to provide the scope for a revival of private sector activity and a return to a prosperous economy. The Government intends to effect stringent economies and to put an end to the recent period of wasteful extravagance under the previous Labor administration. In this we are determined in the national interest. In summary, the Government is convinced that its package of economic measures is appropriate to the current circumstances in Australia.
-The document which we are discussing is the speech made by his Excellency the Governor-General on the occasion of the opening of the first session of the Thirtieth Parliament. That being the case, it seems appropriate to me that the events which led up to the formation of the Thirtieth Parliament be recapitulated and that the history be related again. They are appropriate to the document which we are discussing because they bring into question the whole action that has been taken by this Government and the actions that it intends to take. The Thirtieth Parliament meets after an election caused by the dismissal of the Whitlam Government and the dissolution of the Twenty-Ninth Parliament by the arbitrary action of the Governor-General. The Twenty-Eighth and Twenty-Ninth parliaments were not allowed to complete the 3 years of office to which they could have reasonably looked forward. Those 3 years of Australian Labor Party Government were turbulent.
During that time the conservative and reactionary forces in our community joined together in a way rarely experienced in Australia ‘s history. These forces used every possible device available to them to topple in a most unethical way the most progressive government Australia has had. Conservative Premiers in 4 States deliberately set out on a course of frustration of the expressed will of the Australian people, twice expressed in 18 months. Aided and abetted by the ultra-conservative Press, the ownership of which is exclusive to a few Australian familiesthe same families that own and control the visual and audio media outlets- the conservatives finally had their way. The Australian people should never be allowed to forget the shabby intrigues, the misuse of power and the blatant denigration of honesty, integrity and morality which were used by power hungry men to achieve their tawdry ends. There can be little joy in the hearts of decent men sitting opposite when they reflect on the methods used to gain office. Indeed fear will strike the breasts of many who know that at the next election the voters will wreak their revenge for the broken promises and blatant corruption of the Fraser Ministry.
It bears repeating that Liberal Premier Lewis of New South Wales flouted the wish of the electors of New South Wales to be represented by 5 ALP senators. He arbitrarily reduced that representation to 4 ALP senators when filling the vacancy caused by the elevation of then Senator Murphy to the High Court. Just 3 months ago the people of New South Wales reaffirmed their desire to be represented by 5 ALP senators. Incidentally, a bloodless coup took place there quite recently. During an extended lunch break the Liberal ruthlessness went to work and replaced Mr Lewis. He was expendable. The intellectual and political pigmy from Queensland, Premier Bjelke-Petersen, with the support of 20 per cent of the Queensland people -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Burke rephrase that part of his speech. I do not think it is beneficial to this Parliament or to the political scene for the member to use a phrase such as that.
-A man with a small intellect and small political ability, Premier Bjelke-Petersen, with the support of 20 per cent of” the Queensland people -
– I take a point of order.
– I suggest that the honourable member for Hindmarsh resume his seat. I will explain the position to him afterwards, and I think he will agree.
Mr Clyde Cameron- My point of order is this: Why are you constantly preventing our people interjecting when the Country Party is given an open go?
– I think the honourable member for Hindmarsh should have some regard for the circumstances of the House at the moment. 1 call the honourable member for Burke.
-I respect your sensitivities in this area, Mr Deputy Speaker. Senator
Milliner, who died, was replaced by a nonentity, a person dedicated to destroying the Labor Government, a person who was described as a Labor man by those who wished to salve their consciences. However, corruption and immorality became apparent, and challenges were made to the High Court on his right to sit in the Senate. As a result he spent little time there. When the poor fellow did, he found he had no friends. Even those he was anxious to please were nauseated at the circumstances of his appointment and despised him.
This was not the end of the farce. Conspiracy and backroom methods had to be used by the conservatives because all else had failed. The Governor-General conferred with the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Malcolm Fraser. This was fairly reported. He played his part well and kept a tight lip about the plot to overthrow in mid term a properly elected government. One member of a panel of seven respected justices of the High Court was consulted. One wonders whether it was coincidence that he was an AttorneyGeneral in a previous Liberal government. To compound the felony, the Opposition spokesman on legal matters, who has been rewarded by being made Attorney-General, was consulted. The whole ploy became evident when the Leader of the minority group was crowned Prime Minister by his mentor.
Those members who care about the need for government of the people, by the people, for the people should heed the sinister implications of these facts. They should be afraid that the then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, was never offered alternatives, that the advice of the High Court Full Bench was never sought, that the advice of the Attorney-General and/or the SolicitorGeneral was never sought, that the Presiding Officer of this House was ignored when a majority of the members in Parliament assembled directed a course of action. History will show quite clearly that an assault was made on the people’s Parliament on 11 November 1975. Members opposite will gloat and say: ‘But we won the election. The people spoke. The reasons for giving them a premature opportunity are of no consequence’. I urge them to consider seriously that attitude and to reflect on a prime creed of a political system that they profess to despise; that is that the ends justify the means.
The purpose of this debate is to consider a speech made on behalf of the Government yesterday in the Senate chamber, setting out the intentions of this Government during its life in the Thirtieth Parliament, no matter how short that life may be. The theme running through the speech is identifiably one of freedom of the individual; in other words, a return to the law of the jungle where the well organised and the strong will prey upon the defenceless and the weak. In other words, the members opposite will come to this chamber praying for their fellows while those who support them will be very busy in the community preying upon them.
In that period of uncertainty called an election campaign the present Prime Minister rode his trail bike or his horse, or something else, around the countryside offering all sorts of deals to try to re-establish his honour. When speaking to the community he said he would not interfere with wage indexation, nor would he oppose it, and then he mumbled something about ‘except under exceptional circumstances’. He assured the workers he would introduce tax indexation and then mumbled something about ‘at the appropriate time’. He would re-introduce the superphosphate bounty, the farmers were told. There were no qualifications on that one. He would reintroduce investment incentives, the industrialists were told. There were no qualifications on that one. There would be no cutback in the essential areas of education, social welfare, health and assistance to local government, he said. He made some qualification there because he used the words ‘essential areas’. He also said that there would be no industrial legislation introduced in the first session of Parliament unless the unions were consulted; that the Prices Justification Tribunal would be retained; and that the ownership of a home would be made easier and the interest burden on existing owners would be lessened. He said that he would not retrench public servants but would rely on natural wastage to reduce numbers. And so it went on. The significant feature of all these promises and undertakings is that they were all qualified with the exception of those made to farmers and industrialists.
Let us now look at the record only 3 months after the Government attaining office. The superphosphate bounty was introduced by the farmer Prime Minister and his Cabinet of farmers, but the small farmers whom I know, the battlers who are struggling, tell me that the bounty is of no value to a farmer who cannot afford to buy superphosphate, and it is a rip-off of public money for those who can. At better than $ 1 1 a tonne it is worth a lot of money to a farmer using 400 or 500 tonnes a year. I understand that all the farmers in the Cabinet use about this amount to fertilise their holdings. Associations that truly represent farmers have expressed the same view as my own.
Investment allowance to industry sounds good but it is not worth the words to utter it: It is claimed that this will stimulate industry. Industry will only ever manufacture the goods or provide the services which it can sell and for which it can be paid. Retail sales in Australia have not slumped. Savings bank deposits are as high as they ever were and the possession of manufactured goods is also very high. Therefore unless people are encouraged to purchase more goods than they need, or use more services than they require, it is difficult to understand how a community already apparently saturated with goods and services can be persuaded to purchase more goods and services.
Plant and equipment now owned are operating at something less than 60 per cent capacity. No manufacturer would buy new machinery if it could not be used to its fullest capacity. Furthermore, each new machine devised requires fewer operators to manufacture more goods, thus adding to the surplus work force in existence already. This, coupled with a mad desire to reduce wages and thus reduce purchasing power, can only lead to greater unemployment. The cutbacks in spending announced in the document are either window dressing of no real significance or are of such serious implication to the community that no responsible person would perpetrate them.
The reduction of the Public Service for example will mean a slower processing of all administrative services for which governments are responsible. Already the National Capital Development Commission has felt the axe. The Commission has been told to reduce its staff by 12 per cent by 30 June. This decision will affect a considerable number of people working for that body. Recruiting of school leavers has stopped. Only today I had a telephone call from one of my constituents, a man who is almost at retiring age, who is able to negotiate his retirement and who is willing to do so provided his son can have a job in the Public Service. This man has been told quite loudly and quite clearly that if he negotiates his own retirement he can go into retirement but the vacancy caused by his retirement cannot be filled by his son. Although the son is unemployed and cannot find employment this Government, according to the document that it has placed before us, apparently intends to do very little about such a situation. The Government has made no move in any other area to compensate for lack of employment in the Australian Government area. What poppycock is talked about stimulating industry to invest. Invest in what? Invest in new factories, new equipment and new machinery? And what is industry to do with the goods that are then manufactured by the machines in the factories? To whom will it sell these goods? Will it sell them to a community which, as I have already pointed out, seems to be saturated already with the goods and commodities of life, a community, I might remind the House, that led the world in the sale of television receivers when television was first introduced into Australia in 1956 and 1957. Australia led the world again in sales of colour receivers, on a per head of population basis, when colour television was introduced last year. These must be the kinds of things about which the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) was talking when he spoke of the development of industry and the manufacture of more goods- or is the Government to stop the importation of garments from Asia or any other part of the world? Government spokesmen have not said that.
If the Government is to talk about the development of projects involving roads, bridges, drainage and the like I would remind the Minister that most of this work is carried out with government financing and that means government spending and already we have been told that this spending is to be rather dramatically cut back. No one has explained, except by cliche, and that does not explain anything, as to how extra industry and extra jobs are to be found. As I indicated in an earlier speech in this House today, it is claptrap to talk about cutting wages and providing employment in that way. That will not stand up in practice. It has not stood up anywhere in the world and there is no reason why it should stand up in Australia.
For all these reasons, and for many more that could be gone into- and I am sure that my colleagues as they speak in this debate will highlight the inadequacies of this document, the inadequacies of the Government and its inability, untrustworthiness and its hopeless record in its 3 short months of office- I could not support the motion before the Chair and I reaffirm my opposition to it.
-In this debate tonight we have heard little more than the sound of an empty barrel from the Opposition. I, regrettably, will not be speaking about the economy on this occasion because I wish this House to appreciate the fact that the future of our country depends as much on our international standing and our defensive capacity as it does on the health of the Australian economy. The security and integrity of Australia are of prime concern to our Government, and this point was amply demonstrated yesterday in the Governor-General’s speech which stated that the Government’s foreign policy will reflect a greater self-reliance and willingness to develop friendly and co-operative relations with all countries.
It is a regrettable fact that during the last 3 years, as Australia has gone down the slippery slide towards economic catastrophe, on the international level our position has shown a similar deterioration. While we have the difficulty at home of straightening out the economic mess we also have the equal responsibility of restoring Australia internationally to a position where we are respected, where the countries with which we have alliances appreciate that we are prepared to pull our weight while at the same time we must continue to have the capacity and the determination to express Australia’s point of view and Australia’s interest above all else in the appropriate international forums.
Since the last election there have been a number of most important international events of which this House should be aware and which must be taken into account in the formulation of our foreign policy in the future. The most relevant, of course, are recent events in Angola where we have seen pro-Communist forces reach the stage where total victory is within their grasp. One of the reasons why this has occurred is because the United States of America is facing a major division between the new assertiveness of Congress on foreign policy questions and the responsibility of the President. Whereas Dr Kissinger, the Secretary of State, and the President wished to continue military assistance to pro- Western forces in Angola, Congress has not been prepared to support them.
What Australia and the allies of the United States must face is a twofold problem. Firstly, the failure of America’s policy in Vietnam has resulted in the United States Congress and the American people not being prepared to involve themselves in overseas adventures unless it can be conclusively shown that the fundamental interests of the United States are at stake. This was given very real expression in the Nixon doc-‘ trine or, as others prefer to call it, the Guam doctrine, which simply states that unless a country is prepared to help itself it cannot expect the people of the United States to pull its chestnuts out of the fire.
Regrettably, for too long, and certainly in the last 3 years, the people of Australia have been allowed to believe that, while we can insult and denigrate our allies, at the same time we can expect them to give their youth, their blood and their treasure in our defence. Such a view cannot be upheld in today’s world. Regrettably, it is every nation for itself, and every nation is primarily responsible for its own affairs.
In the last 3 years we have seen a Government, fortunately now the Opposition, embark upon a direct policy to break down Australia’s defences under the glorious guise of building bridges into the Third World. It took the view that alliances were passe and that it does not matter about friends of the past. It said: ‘Let us be independent. Let us talk about zones of peace.’ Glorious concepts! Of course we all want peace, but what we do not know is how to achieve it. One thing is clear. We do not achieve peace by surrender. What we are faced with today is that there has been for too long an unnecessary degree of dependence upon the United States. The people of the United States are no longer prepared to carry us and the rest of the Western world on their backs. Who can blame them for that? It is because nations like Australia for too long- this certainly applies also to Western Europe- have not been prepared to face the reality that we alone are responsible for our own defence. When you enter into an alliance it is supposed to be of equal partners. All sign the terms of the agreement which normally, as in the case of ANZUS- an agreement between the United States, Australia and New Zealand- require that the parties will work together to maintain peace and to protect each other in the event of war. But for so long we have driven on a one way street and have asked: ‘What are the Americans going to do for us?’ The situation has now changed. Today, as never before, the new Australian Government is faced by the fact that because of the run down in our defences we now have to cover in a very short time and at great expense projects which should have been carried out in the last 3 years.
Let us examine, in a general over view, the situation internationally. The Western alliance based on the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is showing very real signs of decay. NATO exists, in quite fundamental terms, only because the United States regards it as being a forward line of defence. If it were not for the 300 000-odd American troops in Europe one would have to doubt the will and the fortitude of some of the nations of Europe to pull together to look after their own collective security.
Recent events in Angola are important for the very important reason that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has shown for the first time that it now has the military and the strategic capacity to move large quantities of arms, munitions and troops- in this case Cubans- to virtually any part of the world. In the last decade, while the United States has continued to maintain a parity at the atomic and hydrogen level, at the conventional military level the Soviet Union has moved into a position of quantitative superiority. Whereas in the last two Middle East wars the USSR had to withdraw equipment including tanks and planes from its own units in Eastern Europe to support the Arabs, it has now reached the point where it can take on a massive resupply operation to a country like Angola thousands of miles away from its ports in the Black Sea and do it effectively. If Russia can succeed in Angola, it has the capability of doing likewise in our own part of the world should it be in the Russians ‘ interests.
I am not standing here simply hitting the Communist can. I am merely stating a fact that the Soviet Union today does give the impression to the world of a nation which is determined whereever possible, whenever the opportunities arise, to make use of them to turn a situation to its own advantage and therefore to increase its own international prestige and influence. It is worth keeping in mind that since 1945 the area of the world that has gone under direct or indirect Russian influence is very considerable indeed. In fact it is now nearly 50 per cent of the world’s population. Members of” the Opposition can guffaw and laugh about those statistics, but they are real. I want to hear from the Opposition at some stage in the future- we certainly did not hear it in the last 3-odd years- a reasonable analysis of precisely where Australia is to stand in the international spectrum of today. In a speech made yesterday by the Governor-General the point was emphasised, and quite rightly so, that the primary area of Australia’s responsibility and interest must lie in South East Asia. This is natural and is to be expected. After all, our capacity to be a power on the world stage is limited. The Leader of the Opposition tried to achieve the impossible when he led the fateful government of Australia- fateful’, I said, not ‘faithful’. Unlike the great dreamers we do not propose to try to carry mankind on some great wave of discovery to a new world of enlightenment based on socialism to an environment in which men and women lack the capacity to make decisions for themselves according to their inclinations and in their own way.
In South East Asia, we have seen in recent months a catastrophe take place near our own borders, a mere 300 miles from Australia in
Timor. This Government inherited a most unfortunate situation. It was created not by us but by the former Government and by the former Prime Minister, who was prepared to go to Jakarta and say to President Suharto: ‘Do not worry, old boy. We understand your interests. We will not make any trouble if you take over Timor’. That is the same government which months before at the United Nations, in this House and throughout the nation was telling the world that selfdetermination is the be-all and end-all of international life.
– That is not true. That was never said by our Prime Minister.
– It was.
– Can you prove it?
-As a matter of fact, a document exists.
-I will discuss the matter with you at some future time. We inherited in the case of Timor a ‘no win’ situation, for once a government such as Indonesia makes a decision, naturally it wishes to follow it through, especially when they assessed, as they did quite rightly, that whereas certain private members of the former Government were prepared to go against the policy of their Government publicly and in this House, this would not be the case when it came down to realities. That is precisely what has happened. We did not appreciate, nor condone, what Indonesia has done. We still want an act of self determination but at the same time there is a limit to what a nation like Australia can do in a situation like this, especially when we have no locus standi. In that situation, action should have been taken before the uprising against the Portuguese. While Portugal still had the responsibility and a presence in Timor Australia should have gone to the Portuguese and said: ‘We are prepared to help you. We are prepared to act in a mediating role with the Indonesians’. What did we hear from the Government in those days? Barren silence, devoid of resolution or humanity. Now of course we hear various muted voices in the distance bemoaning what we see happening in Timor today but it is too late. The situation in South-East Asia is, to say the least, tense. Events following the fall of Vietnam indicate that the North Vietnamese are still interested in carving out for themselves their own zone of influence in Indo-China and Thailand.
Of course we must not forget China. In our policy announced yesterday- I take great pleasure in this- it was stated that we will improve and further develop bilateral relations with China. It is obvious that the future of SouthEast Asia is going to depend principally on the relationship between Australia, Japan, China, India and, to a lesser extent, the United States and the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics. Within that orbit there will continue to be potential for a growing conflict of interest between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and China. What we have seen in Angola, and China’s reaction to Russia’s involvement in Angola, is symptomatic of the fact that wherever one of them moves there is going to be a counter reaction from the other. But whereas China’s capacity to undertake any activity in Africa is obviously limited by geographical factors, that is certainly not the situation in South-East Asia. I believe quite firmly that if the Soviet Union increases its influence in South-East Asia, through North Vietnam for example, a point will be reached where China might well have to consider taking action in its own interest. The one thing that China is terrified of today is that it is going to be surrounded by the Soviet Union, its growing navy and its satellites. Consequently, policies adopted by North Vietnam and North Korea and the long term future development of Japan, is of fundamental importance not only to China but also to the entire South-East Asian region, in fact to the world.
The point I started with is again worth making. Australia today has to be prepared to stand on its own feet. We have alliances but those alliances are only as good as the quality of effort made by all signatories to ensure their effectiveness. No international agreement ever signed has been carried out unless there has been the will to succeed on all sides. We have in Australia a great future and despite the enormous domestic problems we have the capacity to be a great nation, in this part of the world in particular. Our wealth, and the capacity of our people must be harnessed to help our neighbours also to improve their capacity to give greater opportunities to their people. It is of no use just talking about fighting Communism with guns. Those views are passe. They have failed in the past. I believe they will fail in the future. The only way to face communism on the ground is to fight an ideology which spawns on hunger and despair. When people have employment and opportunities for advancement people are not looking for ideologies which are going to give them the rainbow of the future. That is where Australia has a role to play. We must develop a deeper understanding of all the countries of South East Asia and regardless of what their political ideologies may be. They and we happen to share this world’s small surface and, whether we like it or not, we are a Western outpost on the edge of Asia. Geography and history have placed us in that role but we have tremendous opportunities which this Government will certainly not let pass.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (9.14)-The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) has given us the benefit of his knowledge of the military situation in the world. He referred to the situation in Timor having been inherited from the Labor Government but I feel quite sure that the great majority of Australians would prefer that to what the Labor Government inherited from the previous Government, namely, the situation in Vietnam, a war in which hundreds of Australians and many thousands of Americans were killed. No one has really defined what that war was all about. As a matter of fact, most Americans and most Australians were very pleased to withdraw from that war. Apart from making that point, I would not like to match my knowledge on the world military situation with that of the honourable member. I am more anxious to reply to some of the remarks made by the Governor-General in his Speech. Firstly, I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate you, Mr Deputy Speaker, on your elevation to that position and to the position of Chairman of Committees. I congratulate also Mr Snedden on his appointment as Mr Speaker. On many occasions when Mr Snedden was Leader of the Opposition I had cause to appreciate his courtesy and consideration for backbench members and I am quite sure that while both you and he occupy your positions in the chair we can expect the same consideration.
In opening this first session of Her Majesty’s Thirtieth Parliament the Governor-General commenced his Speech by reminding the nation that the Thirtieth Parliament was being opened at a time when large areas of New South Wales and Queensland were being devastated by severe flooding. He expressed the Government’s deepest concern for the plight of the people in those areas and the terrible experiences they were undergoing. He said that the Government was consulting with the States in taking action to ensure that all proper assistance was made available in flood areas. He said also that the Natural Disasters Organisation was working smoothly. My electorate is suffering most from this devastation. In fact this is the third natural disaster in my electorate in 2 years. In 1 974 we had tragic floods followed by very severe bushfires. Now once again the electorate is faced with heavy flooding. It was very gratifying to read the Governor-General’s statement and indeed to learn that the Natural Disasters Organisation was working smoothly. I have checked with most of the areas affected by flooding and the people there have informed me that all aid which has been sought, such as aeroplanes and helicopters, has been provided. These devastating disasters are causing the loss of thousands of cattle and much damage to property. We have been very fortunate that there has not been any loss of life as there was in the previous bushfires.
The flooding starts at the top of my electorate at Collarenebri and the water travels a distance of about 750 road miles entering the Murray River at Wentworth. This distance would be much further by river. These flood waters pass through the towns of Walgett, Collarenebri, Bourke, Wilcannia and Menindee before they reach the Murray River at Wentworth. I have been informed that the flood situation at Collarenebri is the most serious in this century. This would indicate a most serious situation for the townships further south if this water entered low level rivers. Unfortunately that is not the case. Already rivers are swollen and there have been many local storms and local floodings. The situation at Walgett is very grim. The people believe that the levee banks at Walgett will keep the water out. However they expect many thousands of cattle to be lost and many properties to be flooded. The same situation applies at Brewarrina and Bourke where they have a very substantial levee bank. Should the water rise to the top of the levee bank there they will be able to build it up higher.
Moving further on from Bourke we find a very serious situation. The Paroo River is already flooding, and if that water happens to meet up with the water coming down the Darling River there could be a very serious situation between Bourke and Wilcannia. For some 6 weeks or more now through local flooding about 13 stations in that area have been isolated. The situation at Wilcannia could be very serious. Moving further down, we have, fortunately, the buffer of the Menindee Lakes scheme. Already water is being let out of the Menindee Lakes scheme and this will save the situation at Menindee and further downstream. At Wentworth flooding from the Darling River is never serious because there is a big downgrade from the Darling River into the Murray River. Most of the flooding at Wentworth comes from the Murray River and not from the Darling.
There is no doubt that, in spite of all the civil defence assistance there will be a terrible loss of stock and as much property damage, as there was during the last flood. This flood is expected to be just as severe as the last flood. No doubt many lives will be in danger. It is very gratifying to learn not only from the Governor-General’s Speech but also from the people in that area that the Natural Disasters Organisation is working smoothly. The provision of helicopters will save a lot of lives and will prevent much damage to property. I want to refer to examples of bravery on the part of the air crew and people being rescued. I know that a woman and 2 children had to spend the night between the ceiling and the roof of a house. The young girl told me that the most terrifying experience of the lot was not getting out of the flooded house up into the ceiling but removing a sheet of iron from the roof and getting onto the helicopter.
It is gratifying to know that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the head of the Natural Disasters Organisation visited these parts of my electorate. Unfortunately the visit attracted some publicity. I received a telegram from a man who fives near Wanaaring, which is between Bourke and Tibooburra. He asked me to remind the Prime Minister that the Western division of New South Wales does not end in the MoreeWalgett area and that he is ploughing around underneath his house in many feet of water. I have tried to explain to him that the aid comes from the State civil defence organisation which must ask the Federal Government for assistance. I would have been much more grateful had the Prime Minister informed me that he would be visiting my electorate. This Government has asked the people of Australia for co-operation, but co-operation is a two-way matter. I believe that when the Prime Minister goes into an electorate, particularly at a time like this where the member concerned has studied the situation, the member should be notified and the Prime Minister should take some advice from the member who has already been in contact with the people. It is false economy to have the Prime Minister by-pass members, who are paid by the taxpayers, and not to ask their opinions on occasions like this.
Not only should the Prime Minister advise the member and take him along but some provision should be made for the member himself to spend some time there in the electorate. During the last floods I spent all my charter plane allowance on one week touring the flooded areas. Some extra provision should be made at times like this for the member to use a charter plane to get around, see the situation for himself and act on behalf of the people. It is a great comfort at those times for people to have their Federal member there. The people in the back blocks feel isolated at any time but at a time of emergency like this they derive great satisfaction from having their member there and he can help them in lots of ways. They have many problems when they cannot get out of town and see their relations and when they are bogged down there. I remember on the occasion of the last floods I myself was marooned at Walgett, protected only by the levee bank. We had borrowed a civil defence aeroplane to have a look over the area. There was a 40-mile front of water coming down towards the levee bank. From the plane I could see my caravan with my wife and little child in it. It was a very frightening experience. The first thing I wanted to do was get out of the place. We moved from the caravan park up into the town proper. It is certainly a big advantage to the people to have their member in the area at such times, and every assistance should be given to him.
The Governor-General also referred to the mining industry and the important contribution it made to the economic revival and the expansion of job opportunities. He called it a return to resources development. I would like to have some concrete evidence to show that the Government has any real intention of doing anything in this matter. I do not think members of the present Government had a very good record, either in Government or in Opposition, in the development of our mineral resources. Many speakers before me have touched on the mining industry. Most of them rose in defence of the multi-national mining companies. One would think that the Australian mining companies had no part to play in the development of our mineral resources. I believe that this has been a wrong attitude adopted by the Liberal-National Country Party coalition both in Government and in Opposition.
One should consider the great contribution made by Broken Hill South Ltd at Cobar. That mine was started up again and at present is going through a very lean period. Yet around that area is great mineral wealth. One would hope that some assistance would be forthcoming not only to keep the miners in Cobar but also to train more miners because the long range forecast is that Australia will be very short of miners in the not too distant future. Let us take the case of a smaller mining company at Broken Hill, Minerals Mining and Metallurgy. I have touched on this subject before. It is true that after Broken Hill South walked out of this mine the smaller company with the unionists of Broken Hill- the miners themselves- appealed to the Government for assistance to open this mine. The then Liberal-Country Party government did not think that the venture was worth while. That company, which has returned many millions of dollars in profits and has paid many millions of dollars in taxation, is still working. I turn now to the North Broken Hill Ltd mine and to the amounts of tax paid on royalties. It is fortunate that that company had enough profit left to search for and develop a new lode. Fortunately a new lode was found and there has been a new lease of life on that end of the line of lode.
In the 12 years to June 1974 the Broken Hill mines paid by way of federal income tax, payroll tax and tax on royalties to the New South Wales Government $260.539m. This is a large amount of money and in my opinion it is not too much to ask that some of this be put back, not for the benefit of multinational mining companies or other companies but for the people who provided the wealth. I refer to the miners. They have a very short life. It is very hard work and they are forced to retire at 62 years of age, although many of them are burnt out and cannot work on contract long before they reach that age. It is nice for them to know that there is some work there for their sons.
There is a big lode there called the western mineralisation and we believe that had the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill been passed instead of being blocked by the Opposition last year the previous Government would have provided money for the development of the western mineralisation. I ask this Government to have a good look at the situation at Broken Hill and the western mineralisation, at income tax and State royalties and to ensure that the line of lode is not shortened as companies have a tendency to pick the best ore and leave a lot of good ore behind because of the taxation paid on royalties. Some concession should be granted, some regulation made or some agreement reached to ensure that a lot of this low grade ore is taken with the good ore.
I hope that this Government is sincere in its development of our mineral resources and will make sure that these big companies are not encouraged to leave behind this ore. I hope also that our Australian companies are given every encouragement. I am sorry that I cannot support the motion before the Chair because I, like my colleagues, believe that the Governor-General was wrong in dismissing the Labor Government from office.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I first offer my congratulations to you on your election as the Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees in this chamber and ask you to pass on my congratulations to Mr Speaker. Tonight we have heard the first of the maiden speeches to be made in this Thirtieth Parliament. They are a credit to the men who made them and to the Parliament as a whole. We are very fortunate that we have a large crop of what is obviously very good talent in this Parliament. I hope that all of these members are able to spend a long time in this Parliament. I would like also to express my sympathy to the honourable member for Darling (Mr FitzPatrick), who preceded me in this debate, with particular reference to the problems he has with floods in his electorate.
To a lesser extent I know the problems that floods can cause. I have large stretches of the Murrumbidgee and Lachlan river systems in my electorate and we have had significant problems from time to time, particularly last year, with flooding. Of all the members of the Australian Labor Party in the chamber the honourable member for Darling is the one who probably would earn the most respect on this side of the House. Certainly that is true as far as I am concerned. It is a tribute to him that in his electorate a very small swing occurred against him. I am certainly not going to say that we were not trying to win that seat or that we will not continue to do so but I think we will have to wait until the present member retires before we are really in the hunt.
The suggestion made by the honourable member for Darling that the Parliament should give greater consideration to members of electorates concerned in times of crisis should be taken a great deal further. There is no doubt that members in large rural electorates have a stronger personal association with their constituents than do members from city electorates. This is important to the people and at times of crisis the member has a responsibility to be in his electorate and the Parliament and the Government should make available such facilities as are necessary to a member in such circumstances. Members of the Opposition who have spoken so far in this debate have tended to hark back to the past. They cannot seem to drag themselves forward into 1976 and probably the next couple of years in this Parliament will be spent by these members continuing to bring forward the constitutional questions which arose towards the end of last year. I do not believe that they are doing this Parliament or the country any service by continuing to pursue that line.
One of the important things about the Parliament and democracy is that there should be a strong and effective Opposition but if there is one thing we will not have in this Parliament it is a strong and effective Opposition whilst Opposition members pursue the line they have taken today. It obviously will be a key part of their strategy over the coming weeks and months, if not years. The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage), who is trying to interject, has finally come into the chamber. He is a couple of speeches late. I think he appeared on the speaker’s list before me. He is incapable of doing anything correctly. I do not understand how he can retain an endorsement in a seat such as he has -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Hume that the remarks I made to the honourable member for Port Adelaide also apply to him. I suggest that the honourable member not continue his speech on that same line.
– I rise to order. I did not interject on the honourable member for Hume. All I passed was a side remark that he could help the Opposition greatly by resigning because we would certainly capture his seat at the next opportunity.
-There is no point of order.
-The tragedy of the election of 1975 was that a number of reasonable men in the Labor Party lost their seats. A number of members probably deserved to lose their seats but did not, but that is the fault of the pre-selection system which the Opposition has. I was pleased to have been here this afternoon when the former Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), spoke. He spent a great deal of time in my electorate during the campaign and I was very pleased that he did. I am sure that he contributed greatly to the result in that seat. In my view the Opposition has a need to develop new policies to put forward to the Australian electorate at the next election. This is what the period it is about to go through is for. I am not one who is going to hand out a great deal of advice to the Opposition but I suggest that it give some thought to coming up with something constructive for the next round rather than living in the past. We have heard a great deal from the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) about the deceit and the lies and things of this nature which allegedly have been forthcoming from this Government since its assumption of office last December.
– He was an altar boy once.
– One would never recognise it. I think it is probably well worth going back to the election campaign before last when many people will recall the full page advertisements sponsored by the Australian Labor Party and showing photographs of its leader at that time, the man who is still the leader, and saying in very bold type: ‘Only Whitlam can reduce inflation by a third. ‘ This was the man who presided over the quadrupling of inflation in Australia, yet members of the Australian Labor Party come in here and talk about deceit by our coalition in the election campaign. That sort of thing just does not wash at all.
I think there is a strong argument that the Opposition men, shadows thereof, should spend some time being constructive if they are to contribute to the parliamentary session into which we are now entering. Our side of the Parliament has a legacy of 3 years of total mismanagement and of gross inability to handle the Australian economy. The tasks that are facing this new Government are immense. The response that we have taken to the situation that we have inherited has been quick and it has been taken decisively. I sincerely hope that the Government will continue to give thorough and deliberate thought to the redress of the imbalance that exists in the economy and then to act decisively to do something about it. There is no doubt that there will be no progress in our economy until the problems of unemployment and inflation are overcome.
We have introduced two basic additions to the economic structure of Australia in recent weeks and we have been criticised on both counts. I refer to the reintroduction of an improved investment allowance and also to the reintroduction of the superphosphate bounty. I think it is worth putting these things into perspective because from the way that the Opposition argues these cases one who has not kept up with events perhaps would be inclined to think that there are some points worthy of consideration in its arguments. Looking firstly on the superphosphate bounty situation, I think it is well worth recalling that in 1972-73, which was the financial year of the last Liberal-Country Party Budget, there was something in the order of $ 1 82m available to the rural industries by way of grants and subsidies. These were all items which had been built up and which had been provided for specific purposes over the years to encourage agriculture and to provide for the unpredictability of the weather, the markets and things of this nature. In the 1975-76 Budget, the last Budget brought down by the Australian Labor Party, that $ 1 82m had been reduced to a figure of less than $30m. What has been done by the Government in recent days has been to provide merely another $30m, which brings the figure up to about $60m, which is still $120m behind the 1972-73 figure. That is not taking any account of the downturns in markets and prices and a number of other things which to a large extent can be laid at the door of the previous Administration.
The industrial sector in Australia also suffered very severely at the hands of the former Administration. One had only to recall the effect upon industry in Australia of things like the arbitrary 25 per cent tariff cut and of decisions concerned with the valuation of the Australian dollar. The provision of the investment allowance will go only part of the way towards restoring the confidence that is needed in the manufacturing, the industrial and the private sectors of the great or potentially great Australian economy. This is the reality and this is the perspective. The Government which is now in office has a massive task in restoring the sort of atmosphere that ought to prevail in our economic sector. We have a lot of imbalance to redress. We have to create a better economic situation in Australia, which is something which the Opposition is incapable of even understanding. We have a responsibility to get back to the business of creating wealth rather than just redistributing wealth.
The Opposition did nothing in the last couple of years but find ways of digging extra money out of people and redistributing it amongst its chosen causes. It did nothing at all about the serious business of creating additional wealth. Gross domestic product was going down under the previous Administration when it ought not to have been going down in a country which is as rich, as resourceful and with as much potential as the country which we are fortunate enough to occupy. We have great responsibilities in Australia. The previous Government abrogated them. It is our responsibility now to pick up the shreds of an economy which the Opposition left behind and to try to do something about creating an atmosphere in which Australian business, Australian commerce, Australian people in general, can get on with the job of utilising the great wealth and great resources with which we have been blessed.
An atmosphere of confidence is basic in the Australian economy. The coalition parties will set about quite deliberately re-establishing that atmosphere of confidence which is basic. We had a situation in Australia in which the redistribution was so paramount in the minds of the then Government that not only did industry suffer but even the recipients of the redistribution, the recipients of the handouts, were not appreciative of them, were put into an uneasy position, by gross mismanagement, by the handout mentality which was encouraged by the former Administration, and they will now find themselves in great difficulties. I do not think it is fair to any sector of the community, even though it comprises the weak and allegedly oppressed, that a government for a short period of time should offer them the world and do this for them and that for them and give them this and give them that in a quite irresponsible fashion when it is perfectly obvious that such a situation cannot last and that the next government will have the task of saying: ‘We are terribly sorry but this just cannot be continued’.
Obviously expectations and hopes are raised which must in all responsibility be brought back down to some sort of reality. The Opposition has a lot to answer for because of the way in which it built up expectations over a period and the way in which it took away from people the incentives and the abilities which they had developed over a long period of time. I talk about things at a very mundane level like the tuckshop committees and the parents and citizens associations in the schools which worked for years and years and held fete after fete to provide television sets for classrooms in their schools only to find, 6 months later, the Government sending them half a dozen. Where is the sense of value in this sort of expenditure, in this sort of waste? Where is it in areas in which the mothers used to bake cakes and go out and sell them on the street corners on Saturday mornings to raise money to build a preschool, only to find that in the next year if they had waited they could have had a massive handout from the Government to build themselves a pre-school? We are going to get a situation in which because of the requirements of a rational economic policy we will have to get back towards that sort of activity. I do not believe it was. fair and reasonable approach for the former Administration to do the sort of things it did.
– You are going to send mothers back to baking cakes, are you?
-Yes, I will send mothers back to baking cakes because I believe that the mothers and the children themselves appreciate it a great deal more when they know that there is their own blood, sweat and toil involved in providing the sort of facilities that they want. If we have a situation in which the cost of providing those pre-schools and those colour television sets in schools is 400 000 unemployed and an inflation rate of 20 per cent I think that the mothers will be very happy to bake cakes and to go out and do something on their own. This Parliament will have to consider a lot of things in the course of the next 3 years. I think that we can look forward to a lot of changes which will be beneficial to Australia and which will set Australia back on the course to recovery and growth. A couple of things which I should like to see happen are the solutions to the massive problems facing local government in Australia. I believe that the coalition, with its new federalism policy, is already a long way on the road towards seeing that the problems that local government faces will be sorted out. I hope that the figure of 2 per cent of the taxation pool mentioned by the Premier of New South Wales will be able to find its way to local government. I think there is a great necessity on the part of this Parliament and this Government to realise that there is a great deal more work that needs to be done in the area of rural roads. It is all right for those honourable members who live in cities with their pocket handkerchief electorates; they should come out to the country and realise just how bad some of these roads are. If the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) who is continually trying to interject, keeps behaving like that, he will make me make statements about him that will cause the Deputy Speaker to call me to order. I do not want to be put in that position.
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Hume that he might cause the Deputy Speaker to do something else.
– There has to be a reassessment of the national roads policy and a significant redirection of funds back into the area of rural local roads. Another point on which I wish to speak very briefly in the time left to me is the question of telephones and improvements. I know that there are parts of Australia that do not have telephones at all. For the benefit of the honourable member for Chifley I remind him that the situation is common where we have eight to ten people sharing a party line in areas not very far from major country towns. Reports have been filtering through in recent times about the further computerisation of telephone services in the cities, the introduction of push button telephones, of telephone services that will tell the caller when a number is engaged and will ring him back when the number is not engaged so that he may make his call, and things of that nature. I admit that they are very desirable improvements in telephone technology and will obviously be of benefit to the telephone user. But these things should not be considered until such a time as everybody in Australia has a decent and adequate telephone service. I think we have to make sure that everybody in this country is adequately served before we get into expenditure of a great deal more money on a sophisticated system that is largely for the benefit of people in the cities. I hope that this Parliament will be able to take steps forward in the question of over the border growth in the Australian Capital Territory which affects my electorate and the electorate of Eden-Monaro. There are significant problems in this area and I hope that the local governments- which I think is a very important aspect of this- and the New South Wales State Government and this Government will be able to do a lot to solve those problems about Canberra’s growth and the effect that it is having on the surrounding region. Finally I think that it is proper for me to go back to the point where 1 started, that is to say to -
– Order ! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, my wife asked me to congratulate you on your appointment.
– She shows more wisdom than the honourable member.
– The last words of the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) were: ‘Let me get back to where I started ‘. I was waiting for him to start, because he had not said anything that impressed me during the whole of the 20 minutes that he held the floor. I expected that this boy from Hume would advance considerably in the National Country Party when he came here. I reckon that the speech he made tonight was, by far, not his best. Several times in his speech he said: ‘Let us get away from the past’. I can well understand that, because he and many who support his political philosophy are ashamed of the past. But we on this side of the House will never let the members of the Government forget the filthy past and what was resorted to for some time before they captured the Treasury benches in this Parliament. It would do the honourable member for Hume good to read the document that I have in my hand in relation to superphosphate bounties. In the main, superphosphate bounties do not benefit the small farmer. No one on the Government side or in cockies corner immediately on my left can conscientiously say that the superphosphate bounty is fairly distributed between all sections of the rural community. In 1974 the previous Government asked for some figures as to who benefited from the fertiliser bounty and it was supplied with figures and names showing all those who received 400 tonnes or more in 12 months received a subsidy of $5,000 or more. The Australian taxpayer was subsidising fertiliser that contained 19.5 per cent to 20.5 per cent superphosphate to the tune of $12 a ton. Among the names on the list of recipients are great pastoral companies. I believe that most of them would have their own private services that they fly around from-. The honourable member for Kennedy, who is interjecting, should go back west and drive his camel team. He might learn a bit more. He has been conning the people of his electorate too long. They will wake up to him one day. He is taking advantage of a Deputy Speaker who is allowing him a lot of latitude. But when members on this side interrupt they are immediately pulled up. Among the names of recipients of fertiliser bounty are R. J. Cornish and Co. Pty Ltd, J. A. Cuthbertson Pty Ltd, F. Fairthorne and Son Pty Ltd, and John M. Fraser, Nareen. I believe that that is the Prime Minister. So if one considers that he received $5,000 in superphosphate bounty in a period of 1 2 months, over 10 years he would have received $50,000 in superphosphate bounty. But now what the Government is doing- and the Australian people should be made well aware of it- is robbing the pensioners.
– What about your business?
-Order! I call the honourable member for Kennedy to order.
– I say to the honourable member for Kennedy: My background is cleaner than yours. You have been in every political party in Australia, including the Communist Party and the Democratic Labor Party. Your record is not clean. You are not fit to sit in this Parliament. You are a confidence man.
-Order! I call the honourable member for Hunter to order. I suggest to the honourable member for Kennedy, who is interjecting, that he saves his remarks until such time as he makes his speech on the Address-in-Reply.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, you were aware that I could handle the honourable member for Kennedy without your intervention, were you not?
– I suggest that the honourable member for Hunter might like to go outside at the moment and leave his speech and have a discussion with the honourable member for Kennedy.
– The honourable member is sitting behind a Prime Minister who came out in the election campaign and promised to cure inflation and unemployment overnight. I described him to the people in my electorate as the great magician of Australian politics- the Franquin of Australian politics. He will cure your dandruff, your lumbago, your sciatica, your headaches and your haemorrhoids if you give him a chance to get into power. I believe he will be the greatest flop of a Prime Minister that has ever occupied the Prime Ministership of this country. He is already embarrassed by what is happening to him and his Party in its ministerial ranks. I have always respected certain journalists, and I wish to pay a tribute to Mr Cranston, a forthright journalist, and I wish to pay a tribute to the Canberra Times and to a man named Cavanough for disclosing something that attacks the very roots of our democratic system, and that is graft in politics. Graft in politics will bring down people’s democracy more rapidly than anything else.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I suggest the honourable member for Riverina and other honourable members are not assisting the Chair in behaving as they are during the speech of the honourable member for Hunter. If the House does not come to order some honourable members may not be in this chamber when it adjourns. The honourable member for Hunter, because of his vast experience, knows something of the standing order relating to matters that are sub judice and I would suggest that he be very careful with his comments in relation to the matter he is now debating.
-I shall be very careful. The official report of my speech will prove that I am careful because I know that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, probably have had instructions to curb certain comments.
-Order! The honourable member for Hunter has been a member of this House long enough to know that no one gives me instructions when I am in the Chair. I know something about the Standing Orders and the honourable member for Hunter should realise, as I am sure he does, that the matter to which he refers is at this moment before the court and from his vast experience he should know that he must be extremely careful not to say anything in this House that could influence a judgment of or consideration by the court.
– I have made no reference to it.
-The honourable member has made reference to individuals concerned with this matter and to the subject matter before the court.
– The public here does not know. You know because your own mind has been informed, and not from what I have said. Comments have appeared in the Press and have been made in this House.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, is it in order for any honourable gentleman to argue the point with your goodself after you have given a ruling?
-The honourable member for Hunter is perfectly entitled to disagree with any comment from the Chair. The Chair is entitled to inform the honourable member for Hunter of the requirements of the Standing Orders. I have suggested to the honourable member for Hunter that he should be extremely careful in his remarks relating to this subject.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I will endeavour with all my might to accept your guidance. With great respect to your high office I repeat what I said earlier when I used the word ‘graft’. Something happened in Australia recently that strikes at the very roots of democracy for the people. If that is an infringement of the Standing Orders I will apologise. I do not believe it is. I congratulated Mr Cranston and the Canberra Times for exposing a certain graft racket that effects politics in this House. The article in the Canberra Times quoted a man who is known to many members of this House as saying: . . . then asked me my opinion of Sue Ryan. I said she should not be under estimated as she was a pretty smart woman who did her homework and knew what she was talking about. Mr X -
I shall refer to him as Mr X- asked me did 1 think she was vulnerable. I asked him in what respect.
At this stage Mr XI -
I shall refer to this man as Mr X 1 - said, ‘We are talking about her attitudes on abortion, incest, homosexuality, etc.
The article then refers to this man’s name and Mr XI saying that it was a Catholic-sounding name and asking: ‘Are you a Catholic?’ The man replied yes and Mr XI said: ‘Well that is terrific’. The article continued:
A man who was prominent in this Parliament- then suggested that I should book an advertisement Tor Monday next in the Canberra Times about the same size or larger than the one booked for Friday. All the copy would be prepared by them. He said, ‘Our solicitors will have a look at it to see that you don’t end up in strife with libel problems. You had better ring them now.’
The article continued by saying that the man involved said he attempted to book an advertisement for the Monday but on learning that the copy would have to be at the Canberra Times by noon of that present day. Friday, he agreed at the suggestion of Mr X to book it for Wednesday. This happened at the office of a prominent member of this House and that is where the sum of $500 was passed over. I am informed that up to the present the $500 has not been checked and it could well be bogus money. I should like the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) to look at this aspect because it could have a serious effect on what might happen in a certain tribunal.
I have in my possession a copy of the speech with which His Excellency the GovernorGeneral opened the Parliament and to which this Address-in-Reply is related. I understand it was prepared by public servants. During the election campaign Mr Fraser referred censoriously to members of the Australian Labor Party and particularly Prime Minister Whitlam travelling overseas excessively in connection with parliamentary duties. Last weekend Mr Anthony, the Leader of the National Country Party, who had been in Japan selling out more of Australia’s minerals, returned to Australia. In today’s Press we read that Mr Fraser, the great magician- the Great Franquin- of Australian politics is going to do a bit of globe trotting in China and in the Soviet Union at the expense of the poor old pensioners whose funeral benefits the Government has abolished. No doubt when you are preaching in the near future, Mr Deputy Speaker, as you do frequently- I have never heard any of your sermons but I understand you are very impressive in the Wingham area- you will apologise to the pensioners for your Government removing that funeral allowance. In the concluding part of the Governor-General’s Speech at the delivery of which I was not present yesterday -
-No, but it reads:
The Government is not concerned with power for itself. It is the servant of the Australian people. Its purpose is to work with the people to create an Australian democracy which will be an example to the world of what a free people can achieve.
I believe that they are idle, insincere words which an eminent journalist says were written into the speech by Mr Fraser. They were his only contribution to this document. If I am permitted to proceed without any further interruptions I will point out that the Government intends to sell down the drain Australia’s natural resources, particularly uranium. This frightens me. Some facts were pointed out, I believe correctly, by the former Chairman of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, Sir Philip Baxter, in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald of last Tuesday about uranium when he said:
At a present reserve of 300 000 tonnes- though much more will be discovered- and at prices likely in the next decade, they are worth about SI 8,000m and should not cost more than S6,000m to extract. The profit could be around $ 12,000m, a substantial part of which should belong to Australia.
We are all aware that the National Country Party and the Liberal Party received unlimited funds for their campaigns from the multinationals, particularly the mining companies, so that the legislation which the Labor Party had introduced, could be altered.
– Table your evidence.
– Get up and deny it. I am making the allegation. The honourable member can get up and deny it.
– It is nonsense.
-They would not tell the honourable member for Maranoa about it.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member for Hunter.
-What about him?
– I suggest that the honourable member for Hunter might assist if he does not answer the interjections. I already have requested that there be no interjections addressed to the honourable member for Hunter.
– I also want to refer to an article in the Melbourne Age of 10 November. That is one of the most prominent newspapers in Australia. I believe that it now is adopting a pretty respectable impartial role in political reporting. The Age of Monday, 10 November, contained an article referring to two former members of the Liberal Party who fought extradition from Paraguay to New South Wales. Ultimately they defeated the extradition application. They did this after clipping- that is the vernacular for thieving, Mr Deputy SpeakerAustralian shareholders for $33m and skipping out of the country after 29 of their companies collapsed.
-Who did this?
– Barton and his son. They had many high friends in the Liberal Party. After beating the final extradition attempt by the Australian authorities in Paraguay this newspaper reported in this way what they said to the Press:
Commenting on the efforts to obtain their extradition, Alexander Barton told journalists: ‘We belong to the capitalist Liberal Party while the present Australian Government is controlled by Laborites and Communists. That is why they persecute us and seek to discredit us, and through us the Liberal Party.’
Now they intend to set up industries in Paraguay. It is a pity that the Paraguayan authorities could not see through them. I could not say whether the Paraguayan Government is evil or whether the Paraguayan courts are evil but I think there was overwhelming evidence to show that they should be extradited.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I feel very conscious of what I am going to say now. This Government came to power by a conspiracy, cunningly conceived and crudely carried out. It came to power through the ambition of one man and through a conspiracy of international proportions, a conspiracy which was cunningly conceived in the ambition of one man. It was fostered by malice and bias, nurtured in the lap of lies and brought to fruition on the shoulders of unblushing and blatant perjury on the floor of this national Parliament. That conspiracy was directed against a man whose integrity ultimately will prove that he was the greatest Prime Minister who ever stood in this Parliament. David Frost, a man with no political allegiances, has said that Whitlam is one of the most intelligent men he has ever interviewed. When the Australian people become enlightened as to the political trickery and subterfuge of the Government, its members and its policies, they will regret their decision on 13 December last.
– It is my delight to follow the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) in this debate. I very much enjoyed his contribution. In the spirit of gamesmanship shown by him I will delight even further in bringing my game of monopoly along next week so that we can each delight in some play with bogus money. Mr Deputy Speaker, I congratulate you on your election to your office and I would be pleased if you would pass on to Mr Speaker my congratulations on his election. I also would luce to congratulate our maiden speakers of today. I was particularly delighted to hear the speeches of the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) and the honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite) so well presented. I am able to say with a great deal of confidence that they were good speeches because the most unbiased observer I know, in the same way as the honourable member for Hunter has such an unbiased observer to comment on these things- my wife- asked: ‘Why couldn’t you make a speech like that when you first came here?’
– What did you say?
-I found it difficult to reply. I am able to say with a great deal of confidence that in the time I have been in this place this was the most outstanding Speech presented by a Governor-General. I believe that the program set out by the Governor-General will be an outstanding one and will be acknowledged as such by the people of Australia when all the honourable members on this side of the House who present themselves at the polls on the next occasion are re-elected. The nature of the program was fully set out in that Speech but I want to comment on particular parts of it. One of the paragraphs that was very pleasing to me appeared very early in that Speech when the Governor-General said: . . . my Government believes that the Australian people have given it a strong directive to bring under control the highest unemployment for forty years and the worst prolonged inflation in the nation’s history. The Government believes that excessive government intervention in the life of the nation is a major factor in economic instability.
We saw during the period of office of the former Government the problems that can emerge when governments seek to interfere in our way of life generally and in every direction. This brought about many problems for us as an Australian people. That cannot be denied. We only have to look at the record of the former Government, as the Australian people did, to see it- inflation of record proportions; unemployment of record proportions. I regret that our colleagues opposite can so glibly ignore their record upon which the Australian people passed judgment not so long ago. Some recent comments ought to sit uneasily in all our minds. They were made by a prominent Australian company director with whom we are all familiar, one in whom the previous Government had some confidence because it appointed him as a member of the Jackson Committee. He said that Australia was losing its competitive thrust. I quote from the Financial Review of yesterday which reported:
Australia was no longer so competitive a supplier to world markets as it was in the 1960s, the chairman of Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd, Mr R. H. Carnegie, said yesterday.
Speaking to the International Banking Summer School at Melbourne University, Mr Carnegie said Australia shared the disease ‘of international suspicion about foreign ownership’. ‘There is a slowly growing recognition, learnt by experience, that foreign ownership is beneficial as well as having disadvantages,’ he said. ‘There is not yet a recognition that Governments require only the will- they already have the power- to control investment so that the abuses of other countries and of other times are not repeated. There is still, unfortunately, an impression that the investors of the world are in an eager queue to put money into this country. That impression is shared as much by ordinary Australians as by many people in positions of electoral or administrative power. Australia is no longer so competitive a supplier to world markets as to reproduce the position we had in the late 1960s. As you all know, the world as a whole has changed-, and many others are seeking for the scarce long-term capital available.’
These are important comments of which we all ought to take careful notice. I remember some constituents coming into my office during the post-election period. They recently had been in the New Hebrides, an area not so far from us. They were able to tell me of numbers of people they knew in the New Hebrides who would not buy Australian products and who would not order any Australian commodities because they could not rely on delivery dates or firm prices for products that might be supplied by us. They preferred to get them from Great Britain. Heaven knows, Great Britain has problems enough with its own economic conditions. Yet still it is able to offer a regular and certain supply of goods and services to a place in a far distant part of the world. Even in our region we are not competitive. In our region we cannot offer goods and services. We cannot get them loaded into ships effectively and efficiently without real problems. This must be recognised by all of us. Until we get Australians who are prepared to work, without seeing a conspiracy in everything that is undertaken, we will not succeed. Some honourable members opposite recognise the truth of these comments because they had the courage to make such comments when they were in government. Yet others did not have the courage to hear them or to heed their words. This was part of the problem that members opposite experienced when they were in government.
Australia has a new government. It Will be able to offer to the Australian people solutions to many of these problems. We are getting back to a stage at which we will be encouraging people to work. We will be limiting the transfer of resources from the non-productive public area to the private area of Australia. This is important. The Speech made mention of this. It states:
There will be a major direction of resources away from Government towards individuals and private enterprise; the internal structure of the Government is being made more economical and effective.
Coupled with those words were further comments which I would like to read, with a great deal of pleasure. The Speech states:
Major reforms will be implemented to protect individuals from being subjected to massive unlegislated tax increases.
This ought to be recognised. Over a long period we have had government without responsibility. Governments ought to be responsible for raising the tax revenue that they wish to expend on our behalf. Inflation of record proportions, as we have seen, is a method, but not a terribly subtle method, of reaping to the Government large and excessive increases in tax revenue. If governments are to be responsible for spending the public money they will be so only when tax is indexed so people will be able to see when their taxes are being increased for additional services.
I believe this is a major reform. I believe it to be the most desirable reform that any government could put before the Australian people. The clear undertaking to effect this reform within 3 years, which was put in the Speech of the Governor-General and which is to be first implemented in the next Budget, I believe, is most heartening to all Australians. Coupled with this are the new arrangements for federalism. They will play an important part in making our State colleagues responsible. There is nothing worse than having State governments which are able to attend a Loan Council or a Premiers Conference and argue for increasingly large shares of tax income but which are not responsible or seen to be responsible for raising the additional money which they might seek. There is nothing worse for the credibility of a Federal government than for it to be attacked continually after a Loan Council or a Premiers Conference for not being able to give the Premiers all that they might have asked for. They need to be responsible for the money that is raised by them and for them. When they are responsible the expenditure of State governments is more responsive to the needs of the people they represent. A fundamental principle is that all governments- Federal governments, State governments and local governments- ought to be seen to be responsible for the money that they raise, ought to be responsible for the way in which it is spent and ought to be accountable. Only by this program will we achieve major reform. I have a strong personal commitment to it.
I am pleased that the Speech of the GovernorGeneral states that the Government has an equally strong commitment to it. Some people have tried to distort this program. Some people, such as the Leader of the Opposition in New South Wales, Mr Wran, argue that there is involved in this program double taxation. Nothing is further from the truth. It is an absolute distortion. When we have inflation at the rate at which we have had it, taxation has been more effectively doubled by allowing inflation and by allowing taxation to increase in the way it has. Double taxation was the effect of Labor’s programs and policies while in office. It certainly will not be the effect of our programs to give to the States the responsibility for setting their own tax levels and to make them accountable for the way they spend it. Some people have argued that it may be difficult to set up and that there may be problems. There may be problems. Such a system has been developed in Canada and has been working effectively. It can be developed here.
There may be problems in first setting the shares that the respective States shall receive. I believe that New South Wales and Victoria, as the populous States, need to be seen to have certain budgetary problems which have developed over a period because of their support of the smaller States. I am not saying that the smaller States should not be supported, but I am saying that one must examine carefully the level of support to see that it is really equalisation and not an advantage that accrues to some States as a result of the formulae that apply. One fight on that issue will not matter a great deal if we eliminate the sort of problems that occur, that have occurred over a long period and that will continue to occur whenever these agreements need to be negotiated, even on the basis that we have at the moment. I believe that this part of the program will go down in Australia’s history as the most momentous reforms that have taken place. It will make governments truly accountable for the first time for the money that they raise from the Australian people.
– Does your father think that?
-Undoubtedly, as a States’ righter, he believes it. He wants responsibility. Very often the States do not have it. That was so particularly when people like yourself were in government. You were quite prepared to direct how their money ought to be spent so they could not be accountable for it. You know that as well as I do. Already major reforms have been proposed in the area of government spending. We have seen advanced already in this program administrative savings. We have seen a curb in the growth of the bureaucracy. We have seen direct savings in government expenditure of $360m immediately for part of the year, which would yield in excess of $ 1 ,000m in a whole year. The Administrative Review Committee is examining the expenditure proposals generally to make further reforms. Mr Fraser’s remarks, which I heard recently on an interview, ought to be taken to heart by all of us. We ought to recognise this. The Commonwealth Government, with the deficit which it has, is now the poorest of all governments in Australia. It is some $7,000m in debt. None of us ought to forget it.
Many problems will need to be overcome. I recently spoke to a director of a building society. Although he did not say it to me, he might have felt unhappy about some of our proposals in relation to liquidity, etc. Yet he said to me: ‘You cannot expect our economic problems to be cured without a dose of castor oil’. I think that is a true and proper way of looking at it. We cannot expect to overcome the problems which we now face without making some difficult decisions and without being prepared to make those difficult decisions. Already we have seen that the Government is prepared to take difficult decisions. Some of them are difficult. One that hits me very hard personally is the cut in the grant for overseas aid of some $24m. I do not believe anybody would want to make such cuts in government expenditure lightly. I do not believe anyone would support such cuts if they were put to us as an individual item. Probably members on the other side are now writing to people who might write to them and are saying: ‘We disapprove heartily of what is being done. If we were in office it would not have happened like this’. But this has to be seen in the context of overall budgetary responsibility. It also has to be seen in terms of the willingness of the Australian people generally to give up something themselves to support other people in other countries whose circumstances certainly are not as good as our own.
-Order! It now being 10.30 p.m. and in accordance with the order of the House of 18 February I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-This morning I raised during question time the subject of the redevelopment of Woolloomooloo. I raised this question because the text of a letter from the Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Fraser, to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Senator Greenwood) was published on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald of 14 February. The letter read as follows:
My dear Minister,
During the Premiers’ Conference session today, I talked to Sir Eric Willis about the redevelopment of Woolloomooloo.
We agreed that the redevelopment of Woolloomooloo should properly take the form of office construction and not vastly expensive cheap housing as has been proposed.
He said he did not think Alderman Leo Port would have any difficulties if planning were to be based on office rather than housing development.
You may wish to explore this further.
Yours sincerely, (Malcolm Fraser)
I was astounded that a government could take such action because the agreement concerning the redevelopment of Woolloomooloo had taken a great deal of time to negotiate. In my question this morning I pointed out that the original request for the redevelopment proposal of Woolloomooloo envisaged that the then Lord Mayor of Sydney in 1973, the Government of New South Wales and the Australian Government would enter into a tripartite agreement. In my question this morning I asked the Prime Minister in part:
Will the Prime Minister inform the House on whose advice was the agreement for residential development to house 7000 people in Woolloomooloo cancelled, instead of which office construction is to proceed?
I asked still further- and I am still interested to know the answer- whether he would also give details of the statement that Alderman Leo Port would not have any difficulties in changing the planning proposal of redevelopment to office construction instead of housing for the people of Woolloomooloo. The Prime Minister in reply said in part:
It was quite natural that in looking at the extravagances of the previous Government any particular program would be examined.
Of course, he was talking about a grant of $ 17m that had been made by the Australian Government to the New South Wales Government to acquire land to overcome the problems of the redevelopment of Woolloomooloo. This arrangement also included the provision that there would be a progressive transfer to the New South Wales Government of land that was owned by the Australian Government so that the problems in respect of the development could be overcome.
The historical situation is that in the late 1960s and the early 1 970s some 7000 people were living in the Woolloomooloo basin. However, because of speculation by land developers and collusion between those developers and the Askin Government of New South Wales a re-zoning proposal was put forward to implement a grand $400m development proposal in the Woolloomooloo basin. That basically was the situation. The requirements of that development were so drastic that tragically people were driven out of the Woolloomooloo basin. As a result the population has been driven down from 7000 in the late 1960s to about 700 in the middle 1970s.
I want to talk about the corruption that took place in respect of the redevelopment proposal of Woolloomooloo because there has been no real understanding of the situation. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works heard evidence in 1972 on the proposed construction of a Commonwealth Centre in Woolloomooloo which was to house 1 5 000 Commonwealth public servants. The Committee was presented with evidence from Mr Peter Harrison of Reid, Australian Capital Territory, who is a Fellow of the Urban Research Unit, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University and formerly the Director of Town Planning, National Capital Development Commission in Canberra. This evidence is contained in the Committee’s transcript and I ask that it be incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The submission read as follows)-
The SPA study unfortunately failed to appreciate the relationship between suggested Floor Space Ratios, potential work-force and transportation capacities. The SPA Study envisaged a resident population of 10 000 and a work-force of 35 000 … A work-force as high as 35 000 would attract about 8000 commuter and visitor cars and still leave 25 000 workers to travel by bus and rail. This would require the enlargement of currently envisaged transport facilities. For the future economic wellbeing of the City as a whole, the valley of the Zoo, excluding the Boulevard frontages of the William Street Precinct, should be re-established as much as possible in predominantly residential uses.
The most critical movement problem confronting the metropolitan area is the journey to work in the central business district and overdevelopment of the centre of the city could present an insoluble problem for the future. The Sydney region outline plan identified the problems which would arise from over-concentration at the centre and proposed a dispersal of office development centres to limit commuter movement from outlying parts of the metropolitan area. Surely, with the (Sydney area) transport study well advanced, there are sound and cogent reasons for adhering to a policy designed to ensure that the current congestion problems are not made much greater by widespread office commitments inadequately related to public transport, before the transportation study has demonstrated what the consequences will be for movement to and from the inner city.
Metropolitan Region’ (1971) shows that an increasing proportion of central area workers are taking up residence in the outermost areas of residential expansion.) The location of Commonwealth offices on the outskirts is not likely to prove advantageous but there are strategic rail locations at varying distances from the centre which should be examined. An investment of $70m is significant enough to suggest that it should not be initiated without an assessment of the relative advantages of alternative locations away from the central city and avoiding the difficulties presented by the Woolloomooloo site. The information collected for the Sydney transportation study should provide useful guidelines. This, combined with surveys and projections of the residential distribution of Commonwealth employees in the Sydney region, should provide a basis for rational location decisions to be made.
-I thank the House. I would like to repeat paragraph 2 of Mr Harrison’s submission which states, referring to the New South Wales Government: . . . The decision to pursue this proposal is explained in the Department of the Interior s statement of evidence . . . where it says that in 1968 the Government adopted a recommendation that ‘the proposed site would be on the “ fringe “ of the central business district ‘.
That is the central business district of Sydney. He went on to state: . . . The statement describes the site as being ‘within reasonable proximity to the central business district but this is at least doubtful in terms of walking distance. Measured from the centre of the site, walking distance to the GPO and the Town Hall are each about one mile, more or less, and there is not (nor likely to be) any direct public transport link from the site itself to the central city which would accommodate the passenger volumes generated by movements to and from the proposed Centre . . .
This was to house 15 000 Commonwealth employees. The statement continued:
Assuming a maximum desirable walking distance of a quarter mile the project report argues for an additional rail station to be provided in Woolloomooloo and places no reliance on bus services. It is significant that the projected residential distribution of the Woolloomooloo work-force at the year 2000 shows that 85 per cent of the workers will travel through the central city, only IS per cent will come by rail and car from the eastern suburbs … It is apparent that the growth of employment at Woolloomooloo will compound the difficulties currently being encountered by the State authorities in providing for the peak period journeys to and from the central area of Sydney as well as increasing the time and cost for the workers making these journeys.
This evidence which was given before the Public Works Committtee was so strong that even a member of the Committee from the conservative forces of another place joined with members of the Labor Party to defeat the location of office space there. This action was taken becuse of the evidence that was given on the question of transport facilities in respect of Woolloomooloo. The Government of the past, that which governed between 1949 and 1972, was a government of centralisation. It built up the central business districts of Sydney and Melbourne. It did in fact built up a transport system which was geared to a peak load. Therefore one of the first actions of the Australian Labor Party Government was not to build the Commonwealth centre at Woolloomooloo but to build its first unit at Parramatta, and it would then build other units at places like Liverpool, Campbelltown and Penrith so as to try to bring a balance to the transport load.
I am saying quite clearly that there was an ad hoc decision by the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales. When Alderman Leo Port is mentioned in this context I make an accusation of collusion to such an extent that there should be an inquiry into the whole matter.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I did not wish to come into this debate tonight to answer the comments of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren), but I believe that his comments have been so excessive and so extravagant that one could not let them pass. Quite frankly, any suggestion of corruption or collusion on the part of a State government in any matter which involves development within a State is of course quite obviously incorrect and fallacious. One would expect a State government on the face of it to be responsible and to make decisions on their merits unless there is other evidence that might suggest that there is something to the contrary. All that was suggested by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was that some decision was made in relation to the development at Woolloomooloo. How can that involve corruption and collusion? On that basis we could say that every decision that was made by honourable gentlemen opposite when they were in Government was corrupt or involved collusion, where they made decisions on matters in which they had some responsibility to act. It is as silly as that. It is obvious to all those who would read the report on Woolloomooloo that it is as silly as that. No evidence has been offered and no suggestions made as to how there could be any collusion or corruption simply by a decision to allow a development project to proceed. One must look at the area of Woolloomooloo.
– Who was the developer?
-I do not think that is relevant at all.
– It is very relevant.
-It is not relevant at all. If you have got some charges to make, maybe you would like to make them and see if you can make a better fist than the gentleman you elected as your Deputy Leader. The question one ought to look at is this: Is Woolloomooloo suitable for residential development or any other type of development? Is it suitable for residential development?
-I am surprised that you would say that or either suggest that it was suitable. Here is an area cut by expressways, cut by major roads, cut by a railway, and dotted with commercial development which has taken place over a long period of time. What the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is saying is that this is the sort of area in which we ought to spend a tremendous amount of money acquiring land that we do not have already.
– You are pushing an expressway through a residential area.
-I am saying: ‘Here is the situation’, and you are saying that in every other area where the construction of an expressway may be proceeding it is going to destroy the amenity of the area and make it quite unacceptable for people to live in. These were the arguments advanced in relation to Glebe. Yet you are saying in the same breath that you ought to go to another area that is already cut by expressways and railways and build there because it is a most desirable area.
– You do not know the area.
-I know it well. The honourable member may represent part of the area. He ought to try to find his way around it. He would know as well as I do that what I have said is true.
– You have been to Palmer Street many times.
-I would have difficulty finding my way there. The fact of the matter is that Woolloomooloo is a basin bordered by commercial, industrial and office development. The Opposition wants to say to people that they should go into an area that has all this sort of development around it and think that they are living in a desirable locality, I think it is offensive to the people that you would want to shift in.
– Come down and have a meeting with me.
-If you are inviting me, I would love to come and have a walk around with you at some time.
– Tell the people what you are saying now.
-I would tell them that they could live in far more desirable locations, perhaps even in the electorate of Sydney. These are matters that honourable gentlemen opposite treat in an emotional way with an emotional attachment. They are quite prepared to say that millions of taxpayers’ dollars ought to be spent without adequately examining the proposals and the alternatives. I am not saying that the sort of office block development that we see in the rest of Sydney is the sort of development that ought to take place in Woolloomooloo. I do not want to offer any comment on what is desirable, but I am quite prepared to say that the development formerly proposed, involving millions of dollars, was not a desirable development when it envisaged a residential community growing in that location. It would be harmful to the amenity of the area; it would be harmful to the morale of the people. I believe it would result in all the problems that people have said might occur when they have criticised the sorts of proposals that the New South Wales Housing Commission had for Waterloo and which it has now abandoned, so far as I can gather, in favour of seeking from people comments on further proposals for that site. One of the substantial reasons why honourable gentlemen opposite are not sitting on the Government side of the House now is that, in relation to all these sort of proposals, they had extravagant commitments that people believed they could not honour and put into effect. They did not believe that their money should be wasted in this way.
– Is housing a waste?
– It is a waste if a government, in building welfare housing- in all cases when building welfare housing the value of the land has to be taken into account; it cannot be excluded- spends sums in excess of that required for the type of home for which one would reasonably expect to provide as welfare housing. It is extravagant if a government spends $ 10m to build homes which it could build in another area for, say, $5m taking into account the cost of the land, because it could provide on that basis twice the number of homes. When governments are building welfare housing they do not have a responsibility to provide luxury waterfront accommodation at a welfare rate at the expense of other Australian people.
– Where is this?
-This is the point I am making. I am talking about high-rise residential accommodation close to the water in Woolloomooloo. Those are the sons of proposals we have seen advanced. I think honourable gentlemen ought to recognise that such projects should be the subject of further study- that is all I am saying- so that the Australian people will know they are getting value for money, and so that those people for whom we have the responsibility to provide because they cannot provide for themselves are properly accommodated. If honourable gentlemen opposite would like to take the sort of approach they are taking now, to provide half the accommodation for the same amount of money, let them come and see some of the people in my electorate who are on waiting lists for welfare housing and tell them what they are saying tonight. Perhaps we could have a reciprocal arrangement. I could visit the electorate of Sydney and the honourable member for Sydney could visit my electorate. I will introduce him to people on the Housing Commission lists and he can talk to them. We will get two of them in the room and he can say: ‘Under the proposal we are advancing you will get a home and you will not, but if you accepted the Liberal’s proposals you would both get a home’. Let him tell them that. That is what he is saying. He is as irresponsible as that. I am ashamed that those people who say they care about the welfare of other people want to be so extravagant about spending the money that they raise from Australian taxpayers.
– I want to raise a matter that occurred in my electorate just prior to the 1975 election and I do so because of the publicity that has been given to the recent charge against one of the Government’s supporters who was formerly a Minister. About 3 weeks prior to the election date I received a visit in my office from the Deputy Shire President of the Gosford Shire Council, Councillor Don Leggett, who informed me that he was one of 4 nonmembers of the Liberal Party who had been approached to stand as Independents in an attempt to drag votes away from the Labor Party in the traditional Labor Party area of Woy Woy. He named the other 3 gentlemen concerned. Their names are: Mr Tonkin, a solicitor, Mr Judd, a chemist, and Mr Smith, an insurance salesman. Mr Leggett informed me that he had no intention of standing and that he had been offered all his expenses paid if he stood. A few days later, because there had been some rumour that Mr
Tonkin may stand as an Independent, Mr Tonkin announced in an article that he would not be a candidate. I did not hear anything at all of the man named Judd, I think it was. But on the day nominations closed- surprise, surprise- Mr Phil Smith was announced as an Independent. Over the next few weeks we saw Mr Smith, who I understand is a man of fairly modest means, undertake a very expensive campaign which I would estimate cost roughly somewhere in the vicinity of $2,000 to $3,000.
Very clearly this seems to be another case where a man has been bribed to take a place on the ballot paper in an attempt to take votes away from a Labor candidate and I would like the matter investigated by the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott). I think this sort of thing has been going on for so long that we have almost come to the point where we accept as a normal part of electioneering that in seat after seat the expenses of candidates are paid in an attempt to siphon off votes from various candidates.
– It happened in my electorate.
-I have no doubt it has happened in many electorates. I was not going to raise this matter but now that the matter has been raised I think the whole question of electoral practices should be brought out into the open. When similar cases such as this occur I think the matter has to be investigated. It may well be that Mr Smith paid his own expenses; I would be surprised, but I may have been wrongly informed by the gentleman concerned for whom I have a great deal of respect. Very clearly anybody who spends the sort of money that Mr Smith was able to spend- particularly after what I have been told- to get a couple of thousand votes needs to have his head examined. Normally speaking these candidates bob up and spend a few hundred dollars, but he waged quite an expensive campaign. I have every reason to believe that what I was told is correct- that he was a paid candidate- and of course honourable members will get no prize for working out where his preferences went. I do not want to take up all my time. I think this is a matter that needs to be investigated and now that we have one such case pending before the court I think this matter should be investigated by the Commonwealth Police and the Attorney-General.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 February 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19760218_reps_30_hor98/>.