30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– I rise on a matter of privilege. On Friday 20 February I was given information to the effect that I was being investigated by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Centre of the Commonwealth Police. I was told that the reason for the investigation was my involvement in the impending visit to Australia of 2 members of the Fretilin organisation. My involvement in the visit was to arrange a dinner meeting at Parliament House to enable the visitors to discuss the Timor situation with the many members of this Parliament who are seriously perturbed at the events in Timor, as are many other people in the community. I feel that the action of the Commonwealth Police is an unjustified breach of privilege which should not be tolerated and which should cease at once. As patron of the Australian Capital Territory Branch of the East Timor-Australia Association I consider that I and other members of the Association are being inhibited and intimidated in fulfilling the aims of that body. As a member of this Parliament I feel that I am being inhibited and harassed in seeking to obtain the free flow of information from my fellow members and other members of the Association because of the knowledge that I am being investigated by the Commonwealth Police.
This has been exhibited in a marked reluctance by my associates to discuss the Timor situation with me on the telephone in the knowledge that I am being investigated and that my telephone conversations may be monitored, so that I am being deprived of information which I may wish to convey to the House. I suggest that if a member of this Parliament can be inhibited in this way in carrying out a legitimate and, in this case, a humanitarian function by covert police action, we are creating conditions for the police state to flourish and develop in Australia. I would ask you, Mr Speaker, to consider this matter and rule that the action of the police is a breach of my privilege as a member of the Parliament in that it interferes with the carrying out of my legitimate functions as a member of this Parliament.
– I wish to speak to the matter of privilege raised by the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry). In your deliberations on whether or not a committee should be constituted to consider the nature of the apparent inquiry, of which I might add I am not in any way aware, I think it is important that by no act of this Parliament, or by any member of it, should the police- either of the Commonwealth or of any State- be inhibited in any proper and appropriate inquiry which they should undertake. As I understand the nature of the complaint, it is not one of the honourable member in any way having been prevented from having undertaken an appropriate action for a member of Parliament but rather an apprehension that by some legitimate inquiry which the Commonwealth Police have pursued he might in the future be so inhibited. In those circumstances I submit that, at least at this point of time, there is no question of privilege which might be considered by this Parliament or by a committee of the Parliament.
-I submit to you, Mr Speaker, that if by an action of surveillance the police or any other authority can inhibit a member of the Parliament from conversing freely with and contacting freely persons who have information which it is necessary for that honourable member to obtain in order to carry out his duties and surveillance as a member of this Parliament, his privileges as a member of this Parliament have been breached. A member of this Parliament has privilege in relation to what is said in this House. Any action by anyone which would inhibit or prevent an honourable member from properly carrying out his duties in this Parliament and his duties to the Australian electorate is a breach of the privileges of this House.
I suggest to you, Sir, that this Parliament is responsible for the laws under which the Commonwealth Police and other security organisations operate. If the members of this Parliament are able to be inhibited in their duties and possibly blackmailed by the threats of surveillance, the privileges of this House do not exist. I suggest, Sir, that it is proper that the Privileges Committee of this House consider this case and report to this Parliament on the extent to which the privileges of an honourable member should exempt him from such surveillance and in what circumstances such surveillance should be allowed to be imposed on a member of this Parliament.
I do not question whether the Commonwealth Police are acting properly or within their security functions; what I question is whether the rights and privileges of access to information of a member of this Parliament can be inhibited by the knowledge that those persons who pass on information to a member of Parliament are under surveillance, can come under threat and cannot freely disclose information in private without the fear that that information may be passed on to political opponents or persons who could do them political damage. I believe that this is a clear case where the Privileges Committee should determine whether and to what extent an honourable member’s privileges exist with relation to this type of surveillance.
-A matter of privilege has been raised. The issue of privilege is most important for this Parliament and any other institution that follows the parliamentary system. Privilege, of course, relates to the capacity of an honourable member to fulfil his duties to the electorate without fear or favour. The practice of this Parliament has beenI intend to follow it that until the Speaker is satisfied that there is a prima facie case the matter of privilege does not take precedence over all other business as it would if the Speaker were so to find. A matter of privilege has been raised but it cannot proceed and be given precedence over all other business unless in the opinion of the Speaker a prima facie case of breach of privilege has been made out. I am not in a position to decide this matter immediately. In accordance with the established parliamentary practice I shall defer my decision and advise the House in regard to it at the next sitting. In the meantime the matter is in abeyance.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
The Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the INSPECT Group and the Students’ Representative Council at Mornington High School and of like-minded young people, many as yet unable to express their views through the ballot box, respectfully sheweth that the decision of the Australian Government to export uranium is in flagrant disregard for the proven hazards associated with the use of uranium to generate po wer or weapons.
Your petitioners submit that this decision forces upon our generation an unwarranted danger and an unbearable fear.
We therefore appeal to you to reverse the decision, which we consider to be unprincipled and irresponsible; and we remind the Government of its obligation to refrain from using our resources in a way which will cripple the earth which we, your petitioners, will inherit. by Mr Lynch.
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 sheweth: That we wish to protest most vigorously at the increases in postal charges, especially with regard to religious, non-profit making magazines in Category A. Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to:
Diminish the size of the increase or, if possible, leave charges as they are, and provide special rates for such magazines.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray by Mr Chapman.
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 sheweth: That the undersigned persons believe that-
The $300 limit on income tax deductibility in respect of personal residential land and water rates is unrealistic and is a discriminatory income tax penalty.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take steps to see that the aforesaid limitation is removed entirely or substantially increased.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray by Mr Connolly.
To the honourable the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
That we, citizens of the Commonwealth, earnestly request our Government to: increase the allowance to Isolated Children ‘B Benefits’.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray by Mr Giles.
Television Services in Division of Kennedy
To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned electors of the Division of Kennedy respectfully showeth-
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will take action which will require the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to take immediate steps to provide the electorate of Kennedy with a television service, where it is not now provided.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray by Mr Katter.
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 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 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 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 not be 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 petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth-
That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.
That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Metric Conversion Board Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest inconvenience and distress are occurring, that is to say, in meteorology, in road distances, in sport, in the building and allied trades, in the printing industry, and in retail trade.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray by Mr Scholes.
– I direct my question to the AttorneyGeneral. Was the AttorneyGeneral’s Department requested to prepare an opinion on whether or not the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition last Thursday amounted to contempt of court? If so, who authorised the preparation? Was the opinion made available to the honourable member for Curtin? Was there any discussion on the matter between the AttorneyGeneral and the honourable member for Curtin?
– The answer to the first part of the honourable member’s question is no; therefore answers to the rest of the honourable member’s question are unnecessary.
– I direct my question, which is in 2 parts, to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Firstly, has any consideration been given by the Minister or by senior officers of his Department to the establishment in Melbourne of a regional office of the Small Business Bureau similar to that established in Sydney in April of last year? Secondly, has any consideration been given by the Minister or by senior officers of his Department to the movement of all of the Small Business Bureau to Sydney and Melbourne where it would be of more practical value in advising and communicating with the small businessman?
-I might first of all point out to the honourable member that responsibility for small businesses rests with my colleague the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Senator Cotton. However, I understand that the Small Business Bureau, which was established by the previous Government, has a nucleus staff of about seventeen of which, I understand eight are located in Sydney and two in Perth. It is the intention of the Department of Industry and Commerce to decentralise the activities of the Bureau as much as possible. In this the Department and the Minister will be co-operating with State colleagues. The House will be aware of a meeting which took place in Hobart a few weeks ago between Federal and State Ministers interested in small businesses. Arising out of that meeting, a committee of officials has been established. I can assure the honourable member that I shall convey to my colleague his interest in the establishment of a greater complement of members of the Small Business Bureau in Melbourne because the Government believes that if its system of advice to and counselling of small businesses is to be effective, it must be decentralised as much as possible.
-I ask the Treasurer: Was there a plea at the Premier’s Conference for more funds for welfare housing? Is it not a fact that some of the Government’s spending cuts have, however, resulted in less funds for housing, noting in particular the cut of $2 9m for the Australian Housing Corporation?
-The matters which normally come before the Government at the Premiers Conference are of course matters which are of concern to the Premiers Conference. There are some confidential discussions which take place which are not normally the subject of reporting in this House. However, I can say in a spirit of candour and frankness to the honourable gentleman that that question was certainly raised around the table at the Premiers Conference. At the time the Government took the opportunity to say to the Premiers that the position in welfare housing is very much derivative from the stop-go policies which were pursued by the previous Labor Administration. As the honourable gentleman would be very well aware- I searched for the figures but I do not appear to have them with me at the present time- there was a major period of over-expansion in 1972 and 1973. As I recall the figures, subject to checking after question time, the amount of money provided for welfare housing some 3 years ago under the Labor Administration was $ 169.8m. That figure ballooned to some $385m It was carved back in the last Budget by the Government of which the honourable gentleman was then a part. However sympathetic we may be to the needs of the State governments in this and many other areas the simple fact is that we are suffering very badly indeed as a nation because of the stop-go economic mismanagement of the former Administration and to that extent -
-That is not right.
– It is stop-go -
– You are all right on stopping. When do you go?
– The honourable gentlemen opposite come in like jackals. If they believe that there are problems in the economic area let them ask their questions so that they can be the subject of responsible answers. The matter derives from stop-go policies. Quite apart from that I need hardly remind honourable gentlemen opposite that our capacity to provide additional moneys for expenditure by any area of the Commonwealth, the States in particular, is very much subject to a straitjacket situation caused by their own policies.
-Is the Minister for Repatriation aware of the recent change, which nas been widely welcomed, in the payment provisions for pensions administered by the Department of Social Security whereby pensioners now can have cheques paid direct into their bank accounts? Is he also aware that a similar provision does not exist for recipients of repatriation payments other than on a quarterly in arrears basis? Will he consider taking steps to put the method of payment of repatriation compensation on the same basis as that now applying to recipients of social security benefits?
-I am aware that the method of paying social security payments has changed. As I understand it, the banking industry has agreed to fortnightly payments to be credited to trading accounts and, in some cases I think, to savings accounts as well. For many years the method in the repatriation system has been that we pay by cheque fortnightly in advance or, as the honourable member says, 12-weekly in arrears. Payments are credited to trading accounts or savings accounts, and I think credit unions and building societies as well. I think there has to be a distinction between social security payments and repatriation payments. Unlike social security payments repatriation payments often are not for day-to-day living. In fact many of the payments, the majority of them, are very small amounts for compensation for disability. Many of them run to $1, most of them run to $5. 1 take the honourable member’s point. In fact the Department is now looking at ways and means of changing the method of payment and I hope to be able to make an announcement soon.
– I am informed by officers of my Department that the amount of the expenditure restraint was upwards of $3 60m. At the time that that statement was made by the Prime Minister individual Ministers made it perfectly clear which cuts applied to their own Departments. If the honourable gentleman is seeking that information I will be happy to provide the opportunity for him to peruse the statements made at the time. If he has any further details of query he might alert me, and I will certainly provide him with the information he requires. Those cuts were essential against the background of the disaster that the former Administration perpetrated on this country.
– Is the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations aware that a number of people who have been given National Employment and Training scholarships for retraining courses have ordered their life and financial commitments within the bounds of the $96.80 a week payments? Can the Minister inform the House what consideration will be given to these people under the revised arrangements for the NEAT scholarships?
– As was announced some time ago, the Government has revised the eligibility criteria for the National Employment and Training scheme and has applied a means test to those seeking training. The first point I make is that the original gross sum paid to those in training was, as the honourable member would know, $96.80 a week. That was subject to tax. The amount received by the trainee would be less than that, depending on the number of dependants the trainee had. The second point is that the means test which the Government has applied takes account of the needs of the recipient. Those with a dependent spouse and two or more dependent children will be getting more under the new NEAT allowance scheme than they did under the old scheme. That is a recognition of the principle that those in the greatest need should get the greatest help. The third point is that certain supporting mothers who are eligible for a supporting mother’s pension will be eligible for the pension if it should be higher than the NEAT allowance as it applies to them. They have the option of taking whichever is the higher. Finally, I make the point that there has been some suggestion that those who are already in the NEAT scheme, as distinct from those who are currently coming into the scheme under the new guidelines, should in some way be getting a preferred position. I think the House would recognise that it would be untenable for people under the same scheme, in some instances perhaps doing the same course, to receive different payments for the training that they are undergoing.
– Does the Prime Minister recall his Press conference at his Toorak home on 26 November last, at the conclusion of which he stated that the official forecast by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development of Australia’s rate of inflation in 1976, which was not then published, was 1 5 per cent? Is he aware that 5 days after the election the OECD figures were published and revealed that the forecast for Australia in 1976 was not 15 per cent, as claimed by the Prime Minister, but 13 per cent? Will he now inform the House whether he stated the incorrect figure knowing it to be incorrect or whether he did not know the correct figure but chose to claim that he did? In either case will he now say why he deceived the Australian public?
-Obviously I am aware of the Press conference that was held on that occasion. If the honourable gentleman knew a little more of the way the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development operates- I am sure the former Treasurer would certainly know- he would know that initial estimates of the rate of inflation come to respective governments. At a later stage the OECD modifies those figures. The modified figure is then published.
– Is the Minister for Overseas Trade aware of some criticism of the Government’s recent decision to introduce global tariff quotas on imported knitwear? Is this criticism justified in view of Australia’s efforts to develop trade with the Philippines and other Asian countries? Will the Minister ensure that a close watch is kept on the effect of these global quotas on job opportunities in the Australian textile industry, especially in country areas?
-There has been some newspaper comment regarding the Government’s action to apply global quotas to imports of knitwear. This criticism is unfounded. I am afraid that the people who make it are not aware of the complete facts. What we have done is completely in accord with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade- GATT- and also with the GATT textile arrangements. Under the textile arrangements, countries may negotiate voluntary restraints with exporting countries. Where it is not possible to bring forward suitable arrangements, tariff quotas may be applied. Negotiations in this area have been carried on for about 2 years and while certain arrangements were made with some countries, in total it was not a satisfactory arrangement. Therefore it was necessary to introduce tariff quotas. This will not cause the ill effect that has been stated with respect to the Philippines and some other countries. In fact the Philippines is a signatory to the textile arrangements. The application of a global quota will mean that all countries will be on an equal competitive basis. Far from this being irregular, what we have done has been to take precisely the same action as the United States of America, the European Economic Community and Japan have taken in cases where they have had problems with imported knitwear.*
– I ask the Foreign Minister a question. He will recall that Australia stated to the United Nations on 21 September 1973: ‘Australia does not possess aerial or mechanised napalmtype weapons and does not intend to acquire them ‘.
Will the Minister give an unequivocal assurance that the present Government will honour that assurance to the United Nations? If he can give that assurance, will he take this opportunity to correct the report that the Australian delegation to the International Weaponry Conference at Lugano has been instructed to keep its options open about the potential use of napalm by Australia’s defence force? If he cannot give that assurance, will he explain when and why the Government made such a significant change of policy?
-The Government has not changed policy. The statement made by the Leader of the Opposition and quoted as coming from a Government source in November 1973 remains the policy of the Australian Government and no departure has been made from it. No consideration has been given to any proposal to acquire napalm-type weapons. The Leader of the Opposition has asked for elaboration of the report which appeared in the Australian Financial Review yesterday and which was misleading. The reality is that Australian experts are attending the second session of a conference of government experts on conventional weapons which, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, is being held at Lugano. The purpose of the conference is to investigate proposals for the restriction or prohibition of a range of conventional weapons including incendiary weapons. The Australian experts at the conference are participating in efforts to achieve realistic and practical proposals. There is no truth in the suggestion to the contrary made in the article to which I have already referred.
The conference will not be taking any binding decisions. It is not a conference of representatives of governments. Its conclusions will be transmitted to governments for consideration by the diplomatic conference on humanitarian law in armed conflicts which next meets in Geneva in April. Governments will be represented at that conference. I reiterate what I said at the outsetthat the policy quoted by the Leader of the Opposition as standing in November 1973 remains the policy of the Australian Government and no departure has been made from it.
-I ask the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs: Has a decision been taken regarding the continuation of interpreter-translator training courses initiated in 1975 at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, the Institute of Languages of the University of New South Wales, and die Canberra College of Advanced Education? What action is the Government intending to take regarding employment opportunities for persons who completed the courses in 1 975?
– I am very pleased that this question came up. I am also very pleased to announce that the Government will proceed with the training and employment of bilingual interpreters and translators in 1976. My Department will provide funds for the continuation of those specialised courses for the training of interpreters and translators at the institutions mentioned by the honourable member. I mentioned last week that I had contacted the Prime Minister, and I believe that the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has been asked to investigate the possibility of assisting under the National Employment and Training scheme students who enrol in courses this year for training as interpreters or translators. I believe that the Minister has also been asked to ensure that every effort is made to assist people who have successfully completed the courses to obtain appropriate employment. I believe also that the Public Service Board has been asked to conduct as a matter of urgency a review of designations and work levels applying to interpreters and translators in the Australian Public Service. Finally, a more complete statement about these matters will be made after question time.
-I ask the Prime Minister: Now that it is an accepted fact that Lockheed Aircraft Corporation has paid bribes totalling millions of dollars to government ministers and commercial leaders in return for the purchase of Lockheed products is the honourable gentleman aware that when the domestic airlines were considering the purchase of new mainline aircraft in the late 1 950s Trans-Australia Airlines recommended the French Caravelle and Ansett Airlines of Australia recommended the Lockheed Electra? Was it generally accepted at that time that Ansett Airlines of Australia received much more favourable treatment than TAA did? Is he also aware of the strong rumours at that time that a senior Liberal Cabinet Minister had been compensated by Lockheed following the government’s decision -
-Order! If the honourable gentleman wishes to make any allegation in relation to any person it will be necessary for him to do so by substantive motion.
-Did I name the Minister, Mr Speaker?
-No, you did not.
-I did not. Following the Government’s decision that both domestic airlines -
– I raise a point of order. While the honourable member has not named any particular Minister of a former government, he has nominated the fact that the man was a member of a political party, to wit, the Liberal Party, and held a particular portfolio. There is only one person who held that portfolio at that time. For that reason I submit that the question to the best of my hearing is therefore out of order.
-The honourable member for Newcastle heard the point that was made by the Leader of the House in which he said that the unnamed person can be identified by his holding of an office. If the honourable gentleman wishes to pursue the line he is pursuing I will require him to do it by substantive motion and not by an allegation contained in a question.
-Mr Speaker, I did not -
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. During the life of the previous Government repeated allegations were made in the same form by members of the front bench of the then Opposition. The precedent was established then. It was continued day after day. I ask you, Sir, to have regard for the precedent then established by those members who are now sitting on the front bench of the Government of making the same allegations in precisely the same way as those being made now. The precedent existed during the life of the previous Government and the front bench members of this Government were the offenders.
-The honourable gentleman makes a point of order in which there is no substance. I have too much respect for Speaker Scholes to believe that he would not have stopped such a question occurring just as I intend to stop such a question occurring.
– I raise a point of order. The Leader of the House said- and I gather that you accept it, Mr Speaker- that the honourable member for Newcastle had stated the portfolio that the former Liberal Minister held. The point I make is that Hansard will show that the honourable member for Newcastle did not state the portfolio that the former Liberal Minister held.
-Mr Speaker, I did not name the Minister and there is nothing in my question which indicates in any way his portfolio, whoever the person may be. I asked whether the Minister was aware that at that time a Cabinet Minister had been compensated by Lockheed following the Government’s decision that both domestic airlines, Qantas Airways Limited and Tasman Empire Airways Limited should purchase Electras, I believe 12 in all. I ask the Prime Minister: Has he made any inquiries? If not, will he ascertain whether any Australian individual or company over the past 25 years has received any bribes or favourable treatment from Lockheed in return for the purchase of its commercial or defence products?
– I thank the honourable gentleman for his question. I think it is worthy of him. The honourable gentleman is looking back 25 years- and that is typical of the Australian Labor Party- to see what he can find. Although he may not have named the person he knows very well that his question was pointed to a person who is no longer with us and who is incapable of replying. I think that again says something about the honourable gentleman. The honourable gentleman was Minister for Transport and as Minister for Transport he himself might have had quite close liaison and communication with the Lockheed Corporation. If he has any information or any evidence of any kind that warrants investigation, that will be investigated; but not blind assertion unsupported by any fact of any kind. I think it ought to be noted that the honourable gentleman may well need to look to his own house first because he may not be aware that one of the various defence Ministers, or was it the Prime Minister at the time, was responsible for ordering Lockheed aircraft in the period of the previous Administration.
-My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Is he aware of reports of statements made in Tasmania on Sunday last by the Leader of the Opposition in which the honourable gentleman is reported as having said that Tasmanian parochialism was causing a waste of money? Is the Prime Minister also aware that yesterday the Premier of Tasmania firmly rejected this criticism, saying it was a personal view and not federal policy? Has the Prime Minister in his financial discussions with the Premier of Tasmania at the recent Premiers Conference -
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s question is the first he has asked in this place. I ask him to resume his seat and I call upon the Prime Minister forthwith.
– I have heard reports of various comments that were made in Tasmania over the weekend which drew a response from the Tasmanian Premier who, obviously at this time at least, belongs to the same political party as the Leader of the Opposition. The Tasmanian Premier was objecting to comments by the Leader of the Opposition that if put into effect and if reported correctly would have led to the closure of one airport and to the closure, I think, of three or four ports. It was because a Tasmanian was objecting to the closure of airports and ports, as I understand it, that the charge of parochialism was laid against Tasmania. Quite obviously the Premier of Tasmania came to the defence of his State, as he ought. I think it is worth noting that the Leader of the Opposition is still fighting vehemently for the Liberal Party because this will obviously be instrumental in making sure that we hold all our seats in Tasmania whenever the next elections are held.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question. Since the Governor-General has published the letter he received on 10 November from the Chief Justice concerning the action upon which he had determined and to which he resorted the following day, will the Attorney-General obtain and table a copy of the letter which the Chief Justice later sent to the other Justices of the High Court to justify his covert and unilateral advice?
– When the honourable member puts his question in a respectful way I will answer it.
-When does the Treasurer expect to introduce legislation to implement the recommendations of the Mathews Committee to protect individuals from massive unlegislated tax increases? Is it a fact that such reforms will not involve any part of the present revenues but only unlegislated increases caused by the impact of inflation on a progressive rate scale and on rebates expressed in nominal money values? How is the implementation of this scheme in any way affected by the future course of inflation other than to make the reform more urgent the higher the rate of inflation?
– I appreciate very much the question which the honourable member has raised because it provides me with an opportunity to reaffirm what the Prime Minister has mentioned many times publicly and what was mentioned more recently in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech- that is, that the Government is committed to the introduction of tax indexation both for people and for companies and that the first steps will be taken during the course of the preparation of the next Budget. I decline to indicate to the House the extent to which that form of indexation will be brought down in the Budget, as according to precedent, Treasurers do not foreshadow matters which are more properly the subject of decision in the context of a Budget itself. However, I go on to say, as the Prime Minister has said, that the extent to which tax indexation can be introduced in the first Budget will depend on a range of factors. Naturally, the honourable gentleman has picked up a number of the major advantages of tax indexation, and I recognise what he has said to the House. At the same time I must also record that the Government’s capacity must depend very much on what tax indexation will do to the revenue and therefore to the Budget deficit. These are properly matters which must be considered by Cabinet in the context of the overall Budget.
May I say finally on this subject that I have been concerned recently to see a number of Press reports which have sought to direct alleged criticism at senior officers of the Federal Treasury. I want to reject that criticism. The Treasury and the Taxation Office are preparing detailed papers for me in relation to tax indexation. There is no sense of hostility in their capacity to prepare those papers. Their co-operation has been firstclass. I regret that some commentators in the Press have taken, I think, licence in making their comments.
– I direct my question to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that the public sector construction activity has been the main supporting influence on the non-dwelling building industry during 1975? Has this been further reduced from Budget levels by the Liberal-National Country Party Government’s spending cuts including the apparent deferral of 250 projects valued at $130m in the next financial year? What is the reason for this when there is unemployment of men and under-employment of resources in the building industry?
– As the honourable gentleman is well aware, there has been an encouraging trend in relation to private dwellings. At the same time there have been some problems in the public sector area as a consequence of the stop-go policies of the former Government. As to the balance of the honourable gentlemen’s question, it is of course true that any overall exercise in relation to expenditure restraint must necessarily have a short term depressing effect on some areas of the private sector. The Government believed as a matter of fundamental principle that restraint was necessary. I hope that honourable gentlemen opposite will appreciate why it was so essential and realise that there can be no process of overall recovery in the private sector unless inflation is curbed and that the curbing of inflation is very much a matter of reducing the size of the overall Budget deficit. It is to that end that the Government’s policy is directed.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Science. In view of the fact that an unannounced cyclonecumalleged storm struck Bundaberg, Maryborough and surrounding localities on Saturday last, can the Minister inform me whether the meteorological radar tracking station at Mount Kanighan, situated between Maryborough and Gympie, is fully automatic. If it is not automatic, was it manned during the weekend of 2 1 and 22 February? If it was not manned, why not? Is not this station part of the eastern radar network of the weather bureau? Does the area covered by this station include the east coast from Gympie to Bundaberg? If the station is not automatic, when will it become so? Can the Minister assure the House that the station, if manually operated, will be fully staffed for the remainder of the cyclone season?
– I recognise the concern of the honourable gentleman at the devastation that was caused in Bundaberg and also Maryborough last weekend. The destructive winds which struck Bundaberg last weekend were associated with an intense low pressure system. The radar station at Gladstone had the Bundaberg area under surveillance prior to and during the storm but the radar information did not show the characteristics of a tropical cyclone.
From the information available there was no indication that winds would exceed 40 knots. In the event, a mean speed of 60 knots was reached. The radar station referred to by the honourable member is not automatic and it is manned only at times when tropical cyclones or severe storms are suspected to be developing in the area. On the weekend of 21 and 22 February the Bureau of Meteorology judged that it was not necessary to man the station. The Mount Kanighan radar is part of the Bureau’s eastern radar network and covers the coast from Byron Bay to Bundaberg. The Gladstone radar station covers the coast from Hervey Bay to St Lawrence. It is planned to convert the station to automatic operation in October 1976 in time for the next cyclone season. In the meantime it will continue to be manned when necessary -
– I rise to a point of order. Could I ask that the document from which the Minister is reading his answer be tabled for the information of all members of the House?
– I am quite happy to table the document because it does contain some specific information to which I have to refer. There is no objection at all to the document being tabled. That station will continue to be manned when necessary, taking full account of the meteorological information available.
– Speaking to the point of order, perhaps it might be better to seek leave to have the document incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
To: Tynan Ministers Office
From: Powell Department of Science
The destructive winds which struck Bundaberg last weekend were associated with an intense high pressure system. The radar at Gladstone had the Bundaberg area under surveillance prior to and during the storm but the radar information did not show the characteristics of a tropical cyclone.
From the information available there was no indication that winds would exceed 40 knots. In the event a mean speed of 60 knots was reached.
The radar at Mt Kanighan is not automatic and is manned only at times when tropical cyclones or severe storms are suspected to be developing in the area. On the weekend of February 21/22 the Bureau of Meteorology judged that it was not necessary to man the station.
The Mt Kanighan radar is a pan of the Bureau’s eastern radar network and covers the coast from Byron Bay to Bundaberg. The Gladstone radar covers the coast from Hervey Bay to St Lawrence.
It is planned to convert the Mt Kanighan radar to automatic operation in October 1976 in time for the next cyclone season. In the meantime it will continue to be manned when necessary taking full account of the meteorology information available.
2.3 5 p.m.
-My question is directed to the the Prime Minister. Does he recall saying in an interview published on 12 February that ‘we do not want building societies to be in a position where as a result of our actions there should be an increase in interest rates’? In view of the building society interest rate increase announced by the New South Wales Minister for Housing, will the Prime Minister say whether the new Australian savings bonds have backfired or whether increased housing interest rates were in fact one of the main objectives of the bond?
-As my colleague, the Treasurer, has indicated on a number of occasions, the Australian savings bonds have been and are an outstanding success. Coming from New South Wales, the honourable gentleman ought to understand that there have been differences in interest rates between the housing societies as between the States. The interest rates in one or two States have been lower than the general average in Australia, and it is as a result of that discrepancy that an adjustment has been made in New South Wales. I am advised that is not related to the matter of the Australian savings bonds but to the fact that interest rates in that State were lower than the general average of the rates in Australia long before the savings bonds were introduced.
-Is the Leader of the House aware that nearly all members of the Opposition including, I believe, the Leader of the Opposition, fled from the Parliament last Thursday night before 10 p.m. because of a threatened airline strike? I ask also whether the Leader of the House agrees that that action shows a total disregard for the Parliament which was not due to rise until 1 1 p.m.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order is that, firstly, the honourable member for Bendigo said that practically all members left the Parliament, which covers all members, and secondly, he did not refer in his question to the instruction which was given by him through the transport office that Mr Ellicott, the Attorney-General, was not to go home. He was booked on an earlier flight. I think’ that the honourable member should be requested to detail specifics about who went home and who did not.
– Order! I call the honourable member for Bendigo.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. As I was saying -
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat; I call the honourable member for Corio.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. Neither the Leader of the House nor any other Minister is responsible for the actions of any individual member of this Parliament. Therefore the question is out of order.
-The point of order raised by the honourable member for Corio has concerned me but the question, in the way it was put, related to all members of the House, or at least to those members who were identified as having left. In that respect I believe the Leader of the House does have some responsibility. I will allow the question.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I would like to go back on the second -
– I rise again on a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like to know under what sections of the Administrative Arrangements Order the Leader of the House has responsibility for whether or not members of the Opposition are in attendance at Parliament House.
-The Leader of the House has no responsibility under the Administrative Arrangements Order. That is perfectly clear. However, I think it is equally perfectly clear that the Leader of the House has a very real responsibility for the maintenance of the business of the House and accordingly would be concerned for the attendance of honourable members in the House. I think it is perfectly proper for the Leader of the House to give a response to the question as so far asked.
– Speaking to the point of order, Mr Speaker, the honourable member for Bendigo implied that all of us fled the House. I think those were more or less his words.
– Order! I have ruled on the point of order. If the honourable member for Wills has a new point of order to raise, please state it.
– That is a reflection on all of us, because I presume we are part of the whole. It is true that I thought -
-There is no point of order. I call the honourable member for Bendigo.
- Mr Speaker -
-Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will again resume his seat. I call the honourable member for Oxley. A point of order?
Mr Hayden- I would like to raise a point of order on principle, Mr Speaker, and I think it is a most important one. I put to you that this type of question trivalises the procedures of this institution, lowers its standing in the public eye and does none of us nor the institution any good. In the circumstances I suggest that as a matter of decorum you ought to use whatever options you have available to try to encourage a higher level of behaviour. ( Government supporters interjecting)
– If the honourable members cared to discuss with the general public their views on the trivial way in which they think we proceed in this institution, they might have second thoughts. This is the national Parliament. I leave the suggestion with you, Mr Speaker.
– I call the honourable member for Bendigo.
-I would have thought that this question does highlight -
-Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will resume asking his question from the point at which he was interrupted.
-Does the Leader of the House also agree that this action shows a total disregard for the Parliament which was not due to rise until 1 1 o’clock that evening? Furthermore, does he also agree that this action -
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question is asking for an opinion from the Leader of the House and is absolutely out of order.
– I uphold that point of order. That part of the question is out of order. I call upon the Leader of the House to answer the question so far as it has been asked.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question is either out of order or not out of order. In the past questions have been ruled out of order and the honourable members asking them have not been given that opportunity. I suggest, Sir, that if this question is allowed there will be repercussions in other questions which you will have to uphold because of the precedent which you are setting now and which I consider is quite improper.
-I ruled against the points of order that were taken about the question as it developed from the honourable member for Bendigo. A point of order was taken to a sentence used by the honourable member for Bendigo calling for an opinion by the Leader of the House. Prior to that the question dealt with facts. I call upon the Leader of the House to answer that part of the question which is in order, that is, calling for facts.
- Mr Speaker, first of all I should like to acknowledge with thanks the fact that through your ruling I have been declared not to be responsible for members of Her Majesty’s Australian Opposition. I am delighted at that. I would even find it hard to explain their actions last Thursday, apart from those on other occasions. As to the substance of the honourable member’s question, it was put to the Government that in view of industrial action perhaps this part of the Australian Parliament might see fit to rise prematurely. The Government believed, after consideration, that it would be totally irresponsible for any house of parliament to have its procedures and the time of its sittings determined by any body outside the parliament. For the House to have risen prematurely because of an industrial action, irrespective of the merits and of the people concerned in that industrial action, would be even more reprehensible. It is true that a significant number of members of this Parliament, indeed I believe most of the members of the Opposition, left by commercial flights prior to the rising of the Parliament.
– That is not true.
-I made it known through the Transport Officer of the Parliament that -
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order is that the statement by the Leader of the House of that nature casts a reflection upon me as a member of the Parliament. I was here and the bulk of the members of the Opposition were here at the close of business at 10.30 on Thursday night. I ask you to rule that out of order on the grounds that it casts a reflection upon me and other members of the Parliament.
-I cannot rule part of the answer out of order. It is not out of order. The honourable gentleman says that he reads into what was said a reflection on him. I ask the Leader of the House in answering the question to avoid reflections upon members of the chamber.
- Mr Speaker, I believe I did so. I was talking about members of the Opposition being significantly absent from the Parliament after 10 o’clock last Thursday night.
– That is not true.
– Let me be more specific. They were not sitting in the Parliament prior to the actual departure of many honourable members. I do not know whether the honourable member was present but I do know that during the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was approached by the Transport Officer of the Parliament -
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker. I draw your attention to standing order 144. In terms of questions it states, amongst other things:
Questions cannot be debated.
Questions should not contain-
statements of facts or names of persons unless they are strictly necessary to render the question intelligible and can be authenticated;
ironical expressions; or
hypothetical matter -
– Order! The honourable gentleman is quoting from standing order 144 which states:
The following general rules shall apply to questions:
Questions cannot be debated.
Questions should not contain - matter listed from (a) to (g). The honourable member is making a point about the answer. I ask the honourable member to make his point of order in relation to the answer.
– That is the very point I am making, Mr Speaker. If the question obviously comes within the ambit of that which is precluded, obviously the answer must be equally out of order.
– There is no point of order involved. I call the Leader of the House.
-I advised the Transport Officer of the Parliament that alternative facilities would be made available if members sought to leave the House either later that night or the following morning. If the members of the Opposition feel so sensitive about the issue I shall be happy to obtain from the Transport Officer a list of those of their numbers who were booked on aircraft and departed prior to the rising of the Parliament, if they so desire, and table that information in this Parliament. The whole of the circumstances however revolve around the need for this Parliament to have its proceedings determined by the members of the Parliament and not by a body outside it. Let me restate the fact that in no circumstances will this Parliament be lifted simply because of an industrial dispute or some other conditions which are determined not by the members of the Parliament but by people outside it. If members within the Parliament wish to avoid their duties, to seek to leave the House early, that is up to them. There is no basis by which the Parliament itself should be called to rise prematurely in circumstances such as that of last Thursday night.
– Is the Treasurer aware that home lending institutions such as building societies are hard hit by the Government’s latest restrictive monetary measures and that building societies are already raising their interest rates? I include the Australian savings bonds. With an appreciable reduction in new lending for housing will there not be a consequent falling back in the rate of approval and commencement of private new dwellings?
– I think the Prime Minister has already made clear to the House the reasons for certain adjustments in New South Wales recently. I remind the House in the first place of the background of monetary permissiveness during the greater part of last year, in circumstances in which all building society rates fell with that strong liquidity growth. In New South Wales societies reduced their deposit rates from 10 per cent to 8.5 per cent over 1 975. The monetary policy action which has recently been initiated by the Government has moderated these very easy market conditions. The New South Wales building societies have been offering what I would classify as a very fine rate of 8.5 per cent since last October. That rate has been below that in most other States, for example Victoria, where it is 9.5 per cent. The 0.5 per cent increase in deposit rates in New South Wales may therefore be seen as a move towards a more competitive market attuned rate which is in line with rates elsewhere.
- Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Would the Treasurer table the document to which he is referring?
-Is the document confidential?
– It is marked confidential, Mr Speaker.
– Pursuant to section 45 of the Pipeline Authority Act 1973, I present the annual report of the Pipeline Authority 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.
– Pursuant to the provisions of the Coal Industry Act 1946-1973 1 present the annual report of the Joint Coal Board for the year ended 30 June 1975, together with financial statements and the report of the AuditorGeneral on those statements. Due to the limited number available at this time, reference copies of this report have been placed in the Parliamentary Library.
– -Pursuant to section 29 of the Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1929-1973, I present the annual report of the Australian Wine Board for the year ended 30 June 1 975.
– Pursuant to section 37 of the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation Act 1973, I present the report of the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation for the period 1st September 1974 to 30 June 1975.
– Pursuant to section 3 1 (3) of the Postal and Telecommunications Commission (Transitional Provisions) Act 1975 I present the annual report of the Postmaster-General’s Department for the year ended 30 June 1975.
– Pursuant to section 10 of the Science and Industry Endowment Act 1926-1949 I present the report of the Auditor-General on the accounts of the Science and Industry Endowment Fund for the year ended 30 June 1975.
-The Deputy Prime Minister seeks the indulgence of the House in order to correct a technical point in an answer he has just given. He assures me that he will be brief.
- Mr Speaker, I have been notified that in answering a question by the honourable member for Indi I inadvertently used the words ‘quantitative restrictions’ instead of tariff quotas when I was talking about the textile agreement. The action that the Government has taken is to apply as a tariff device tariff quotas instead of quantitative restrictions. Whilst it is a technical point it is quite important that I correct it.
-Perhaps attention could be drawn to this matter in Hansard so that a person reading the answer to the question will not have to look elsewhere in Hansard.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. I claim to have been misrepresented in an article in the Daily Telegraph of 23 February 1976. The article allegedly was based on a television program of the previous night and contained many errors of fact.
-Brisbane or Sydney?
-Order! For the information of the House the Leader of the Opposition asks you to identify the city in which the newspaper was published.
– It is the Sydney Daily Telegraph. The article contained many errors of fact and completely misrepresented me on several points. The article claimed that the Government was paving the way for a big increase in the jobless- I will quote from the article- to ‘more than 400 000 and perhaps as high as 500 000’. No mention was made in the interview of the number of unemployed other than the current figure. In fact I made the specific point that it was not possible to make any precise estimate but that the normal peaks were the January or February figures. The article further claimed that I said the Government was taking a chance by allowing unemployment to rise but that it was a calculated risk. In fact that quote was taken from a question by the interviewer.
Next the article quoted me as saying- these words appeared in quotation marks- that ‘we are prepared to wear increased unemployment in some areas affected by Government spending in order to bring about an overall gain for the economy’. In fact that again was a quote from the interviewer and was not said by me. Considering that a transcript of the interview was available I find it difficult to understand how such a totally inaccurate and misleading article came to be written.
-! wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I view the question and answer on attendance at Parliament as having misrepresented me specifically because it was not said that I was or was not at Parliament. The fact is that I was on House duty for the Opposition. There were very few members in the chamber. I am not responsible for any one of them but I can understand their non-attendance because the honourable member for Griffith was the last speaker and at 10.30 p.m. on Thursday last there were very few honourable members in the chamber. I was one of them; the honourable member for New England was not. He also could have gone home.
-Mr Speaker, I seek your indulgence to raise a matter with you. In this morning’s Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial a report appears that the House will hold in contempt the employees of the Australian Broadcasting Commission who control the broadcast within this House if they consider going on strike. The report refers to information coming from senior members and parliamentary officers. I think it is unfair to parliamentary officers and others that such a report should be made and that such intimidation can be directed against members of the staff of the ABC in the name of the Parliament. I ask you to have the source of this report investigated so that no person can be threatened with parliamentary action in this way.
-I certainly will look into the matter. I have not seen the report. The matter had not come to my attention until the honourable gentleman raised it. No matter of privilege arising out of it has come to my attention. I will look into the matter and if it is appropriate to do so will make a short statement on it when I am able to do so.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honourable member for Bendigo, in his question, and the Leader of the House, in his answer, falsely gave the impression that as the member for Shortland I was not present until the cessation of proceedings last Thursday evening. I was present in the parliamentary building until after 1 1 p.m. Earlier when I sought information as to the travel arrangements for the following day I was unable to get into the travel office because of the haste with which Government supporters were seeking to leave the building.
-Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Bendigo. I was in Parliament House until midnight and in the chamber until the House rose at 10.30 p.m. I look upon it as a reflection against me and my duties because the honourable member for Bendigo suggested that I was not here.
-Mr Speaker, likewise I claim to have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Bendigo and by the Leader of the House. I was in attendance. I always attend the House. I was here until 11 o’clock that evening. I think questions should be to the point and they should be honest.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I was in the House until it adjourned, like many of my colleagues. My personal explanation is in a similar vein.
-Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented. You are aware, Mr Speaker, that I spoke to you and discussed aspects of the speakers’ list between 10 p.m. and 10.30 p.m. that night. I certainly was in the House. The remarks made by the Leader of the House were a reflection on me.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I would like to join the true confessions. You can vouch for my presence on the VIP plane.
-I think that these personal explanations have gone far enough. My reason for saying that is that if they proceed any further those who do not make a personal explanation will be taken to have been absent. They may have been absent and may have had very good reason for being absent. If people say that they want to make a personal explanation I will permit it.
- Mr Speaker, if the course of action that you suggest is to be followed by honourable members, could the House and the public at large have an indication from you that in fact there are now many other members who would like to join in making a personal explanation about the incorrect assertions made by the Leader of the House?
– It is a matter for individual members to choose whether to make a personal explanation. I had hoped to forestall the necessity for members to stand up in turn but it is up to each individual member to decide.
-Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented. The two people I bring to my defence are you and the honourable member for Bendigo because I was in your company for quite a considerable time.
-The honourable member has made his personal explanation.
-! claim to have been misrepresented, Mr Speaker. I was here on the evening in question. I wish to deny the statement by the honourable member for New England, the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair), that provision was made for members to return home. I was left in Adelaide, and after a considerable lapse of time I had to make arrangements for an Avis car to get me to my house.
– I take a point of order. The Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) has said that he has access to and will table the names of members who left the House. The responsibility for the transport officer is your responsibility, Mr Speaker. I ask you, in fairness to all members who have claimed to have been misrepresented on this point, to ensure that no names are tabled unless the Leader of the House can guarantee that those Ministers and members who have homes in Canberra and who returned to those homes can be named. I do not think that information can be supplied.
-Order! I will consider the matter raised by the honourable member for Corio.
-I also claim to have been misrepresented. I was in Parliament House until well after the House rose on Thursday night. Like the honourable member for Darling (Mr FitzPatrick), I had to get private transport on Friday morning from Adelaide.
-I join with those who have preceded me in claiming to have been misrepresented. I was in attendance in the House during the course of the evening.
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government to establish adequate provisions for the implementation of the amnesty for illegal immigrants.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
-I regard this matter as certainly of some public importance. Honourable members have stood previously on the floor of this House denying that their contribution to the debate is in any way determined by party political considerations. Today I must ask honourable members to shed a little of their customary cynicism and to believe me when I say that what is at stake is not any political point scoring. What is at stake is the happiness of over 30 000 people. I plead with members on the Government benches to keep this point well in mind. We are not dealing in debating points, we are not out to make political capital. We are dealing with people. For the most part they are very frightened people, people who have lived in daily fear of deportation, hiding their identity from their employers, afraid to communicate with their family and friends, moving from house to house for fear of detection, a prey to the exploiters and manipulators in this society. We do not know how many of these people live in our country, but let us accept the figure that the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) gave in the House last week of 32 000. All these people are affected by the current offer of an amnesty for illegal immigrants, an amnesty that I believe needs modification if it is to work. I believe that the proposal which I intend to put in good faith can allay a number of the fears and can make the amnesty operate. If the amnesty fails these people will continue to live lives of fear, as they have in the past. I sincerely believe that the amnesty in its present form will fail- and not because the Minister wants it to fail. I believe every member of this House wants to help these unfortunate individuals out of their predicament. The real reason that the amnesty seems doomed to failure is that the people directly affected, the illegal immigrants and their community spokesmen, were not consulted before it was introduced. Problems that spring to the minds of the people immediately affected were not even considered when the amnesty terms were announced. I have been unfairly accused of trying to obstruct the amnesty. Believe me, nothing could be further from the truth. My electorate has one of the highest group ethnic concentrations in this country. Much of our electorate work is taken up with the problems of illegal immigrants. I have continually pressed for an amnesty to be announced. I welcomed the statement made by the previous Minister, Senator James McClelland, at the Migrant Workers’ Conference last November when he assured representatives of the ethnic Press that he would not force to leave this country anyone who has established himself or herself as a viable citizen. I welcomed the amnesty when it was announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and confirmed by the new Minister.
Any reservations which I have expressed publicly or privately about the amnesty have mirrored the objections put to me by members of our ethnic communities. I fervently wish to see the amnesty succeed, but I am not speaking on my own behalf today. I am speaking on behalf of the spokesmen for our ethnic communities who have made contact with me and who have asked me to plead their case, the case of their friends and their countrymen. It is at their request that I ask the Minister to adopt the following proposals as the conditions of the amnesty. The first proposal is that the time allowed for the amnesty be extended from the present period of 3 months to one year. As the matter stands, the amnesty expires on 30 April this year. I propose that it be extended to 31 December. Secondly I propose that the amnesty be extended to all people who were living in Australia on or before 31 December and to those who wish to settle here and who wish to become a viable part of the Australian society. The amnesty should be extended to all law abiding people who wish to remain in this country. Further, offences related to the status of these people as illegal immigrants should not be regarded as crimes in the sense of disqualifying them from the amnesty. Thirdly I propose that an independent tribunal be established, headed by a member of the judiciary and consisting of representatives of ethnic communities, to hear appeals from persons ruled ineligible for the amnesty.
The first proposal- the extension of time from 3 months to 12 months- is absolutely essential. As I have already pointed out, we are dealing with very frightened people, people to whom every official represents a threat. Many of these people come from countries in which the bureaucracy does not enjoy the same reputation for impartiality that our Public Service enjoys. The lack of response to the current amnesty offer and, for that matter, the offer made by Mr Grassby before this one, illustrates the depth of that suspicion. The reaction from many of the people affected is that the amnesty is some sort of trick. If the amnesty is to work time must be given for people to overcome their fear and suspicion, time for one, two or three of their number to surface, to test the response and to report back to their friends that the offer is a genuine one. Even without this suspicion there is still the matter of time. As one of my Turkish friends pointed out, news travels very slowly in their community. Many of the potential beneficiaries of the amnesty are working on farms and in the country. It will take them time to learn of the offer. What possible difference can there be if the offer is extended for the period that I propose?
Of course it must be made quite clear that the offer does not extend to people arriving after 3 1 December. This proviso must be made widely known overseas. I suggest to the Minister that his overseas representatives redouble their efforts to ensure that the amnesty offer is not seized upon by unscrupulous travel agents as yet another money-making lurk. Already a trickle of people who have arrived in this country since 31 December have been led to believe that they will be accepted under the amnesty. It is an old and very depressing story. Gullible folk are persuaded to part with their savings under the mistaken belief that, no matter what the Australian immigration officials say, they will gain permanent residency when they get to Australia. Last year- this is no fanciful proposition- a Melbourne travel agent was convicted of theft by deception, as a result of a complaint laid in my office. He was attempting to extort money on the promise that his friend in the Immigration Department could help the individual to stay in Australia. It is this kind of exploitation that makes it so important that the amnesty should succeed.
One man who applied under the amnesty assures me that he was told by an official at Australia House that, despite the fact that his application to migrate had been rejected, he could change his status on arrival if he paid his own way out here on a visitors’ visa. But to return to the proposal, it really makes no difference if the amnesty is extended from 3 months to 12 months except that it gives more time for the amnesty to work and that it makes it more likely that the plight of these unfortunate people can be solved once and for all.
I turn to my second suggestion. It is that the amnesty should be extended to those people who were in this country on or before 3 1 December 1975 and further that the only reason for refusing permanent residency should be evidence of criminal activity unrelated to their status as visitors to this country. I stress that the last clause, ‘unrelated to their status as visitors ‘is one to bear in mind. One cause of great concern amongst our ethnic communities is the proviso that under the existing conditions the amnesty is not available to people who have committed criminal offences. The great fear these people have is that because their illegal status has forced them again and again to break the law they will be denied the benefit of the amnesty. Many of them have not paid taxes. They have given false names to buy property and to obtain drivers’ licences. When one looks at the various aspects of this matter one can see that it is certainly complex.
What advice, for instance, am I to give to one young man who approached me over the amnesty. He came to this country more then 10 years ago using a false name and under the pretence that he was the son of an Australian citizen. Since then he has been naturalised. He has completed a tertiary degree and found himself a good job under his false name. As a matter of conscience he wishes to take advantage of the amnesty. He wants to live under his rightful name. I ask the Minister: Is he eligible under the amnesty? Those questions have to be answered.
– Have you all the other factors?
– I ask the Minister to give an answer taking into account all the other factors that are involved. I put it to the Minister that we are just applying the old conditions for a change of visa status. What does the amnesty mean if a person can change his or her status to permanent resident only if their skills are required. It seems that we are hearing nothing more than empty words because we are back to where we started.
This brings me to another aspect of my proposal. The amnesty as it stands is open only to those people whose visas had expired on 31 December 1975. What about the people who have done the right thing and over a period of time have renewed their visas? It has to be made clear whether they also come within the proposal. What about students? What about people who come to Australia on student visas? Will they benefit under the amnesty arrangement? This is another question that has to be answered. The conditions of the amnesty have to be spelt out. It appears to me that they have to change. Let us be serious about this matter and not lead people up the garden path. We should not lead people to believe the amnesty means something that it does not. People are apprehensive about the clear meaning of the amnesty.
This brings me to my third and final suggestion. I propose that an independent appeal tribunal should be set up. Such a tribunal which would deal with individuals should be headed by a member of the judiciary. The other day I mentioned a case to the Minister which concerned the argument of whether a person has paid his debt to society no matter where that person may have been in breach of the law. A person from the Minister’s Department should not make the final decision as to whether a person comes within the scope of the amnesty. An independent tribunal should be set up to deal with such matters. Obviously no one wants to make Australia a haven for professional criminals. What I am suggesting is that an independent tribunal should be established to work in the way that I have indicated.
No country should be more aware than Australia that people who have paid their debt to society have left their mark on their new country. Names that come to mind are Francis Greenway who was our first great architect, Lawrence Halloran and John Pascoe Fawkner Cox who was the founder of the colony in Victoria. It is an impressive list and every one of those people would be automatically disqualified under the present conditions of the amnesty. Without wishing to be personal, I point out that the honourable member for Mackellar’s ancestor arrived on our shores under somewhat of a cloud and the mother of the first of the distinguished line of W. C. Wentworths arrived on our shores as a convicted person.
An appeal tribunal of the nature that I propose could invite and encourage people other than those who fear the law to come forward. People who believe that they have a case that could stand up could go before such a tribunal. If merit is on their side they should be heard not by individuals but by an appeal tribunal consisting of people from the ethnic communities. I can only hope that my advocacy of this case has its effect and that honourable members will seize the opportunity to demonstrate their compassion and concern. I believe that the 3 proposals I have put forward are reasonable. As a matter of urgency I ask the Minister to accept my proposals as a matter of principle. I ask him to assure the House that he will take whatever steps are necessary to give effect to the principles contained in the proposals I have put to him. The proposals have been put in good faith. I would be only too pleased to co-operate and assist the Minister in any way that I possibly can. I believe that the proposals are reasonable and I ask the Minister to accept them in the way in which they have been put forward.
– I was very interested in the speech made by the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes). Unfortunately, as in so many of these cases, the honourable member has his facts a little wrong. I must defend the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). Like so many occupants of the Chair, Mr Deputy Speaker, the honourable member has confused me because my name is MacKellar, with the honourable member for Mackellar. Whilst I do not offer any comment on the honourable member for Mackellar’s ancestors I hasten to assure the honourable member for Melbourne that my ancestors did not come to this country under a cloud.
I was interested in the speech of the honourable member for Melbourne because as he said he put his suggestions in what I believe to be a non-party political manner. I think that this was a very brave thing for him to have done because he represents a Party whose treatment of refugees and illegal migrants has been nothing short of disgraceful. In fact it was the administration of a former Labor Government which led to the problem which we find in Australia at the moment. We all know that every country has within its borders at any one time a number of illegal migrants. This situation is not restricted to Australia at all. These people may be ships’ deserters. They may be castaways. They may be visitors who have overstayed their time. They may fit into a number of categories. Australia has migrants who fit into these categories as well. At any one time the average number of illegal migrants in Australia is said to be around 7000 to 9000 people. With the introduction of what was known as the easy visa system by a former Labor
Administration the number of people who became overstayed visitors in fact rose dramatically. I am sure that the honourable member for Melbourne will agree with that statement. I know that he does because I see him nodding his head. We were confronted with a situation in which we had to decide what to do with a number of people who technically were here illegally. We could say that they did not existthis was an attitude taken by the previous Government- or we could say that they did exist and we should seek them out and deport them. The costs of seeking them out and the heartache, disruption and lack of humanity involved with deporting people, many of whom, as the honourable member rightly said, came here in good faith, in a number of cases at the instigation of unscrupulous travel agents overseas, would be great. I stress that part of the problem was brought about by the activities of overseas travel agents who convinced unsuspecting would-be visitors that they could come to Australia and easily make their homes here and change their status. All sorts of rackets went on.
We had to deal with this problem. We decided that the most humane way of dealing with it would be to announce an amnesty. The honourable member for Melbourne in fact applauded our decision. I have here a telegram dated 24 December 1975 which he sent to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). He called on the new Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to clarify the election promise of amnesty for illegal immigrants. I stress the words of that telegram sent by the honourable member. In part of that long telegram he said:
The only conditions should be that they should be lawabiding citizens and have expressed the desire to settle in our country permanently.
He did not say anything about protection of the health of the community or of the individual concerned. All he said was:
The only conditions should be that they should be lawabiding citizens and have expressed the desire to settle in our country permanently.
I replied to that telegram on 5 February saying that I noted what he had said and I hoped he now would support the Government in its activities. What did the honourable member do? I take his point that this is a debate without heat but certainly I think I should point out to the House the activities of the honourable member for Melbourne in relation to the Government decision. He was reported in the Australian of 22 December under the headline:
Migrant Amnesty Challenge to PM.
This is contained in the telegram I have just read. We announced the amnesty on Australia Day. The very next day, Tuesday, 27 January this report appeared in the Australian:
Mr Ted Innes (ALP, Victoria) said he knew of a hundred immigrants who are in Australia unlawfully. But he had told them: ‘Hold off’.
That could hardly be described as total support for the concept of the amnesty. ‘Hold off’, he told them on the very first day that the amnesty came into effect. Imagine the situation in which we were endeavouring, as the honourable member has said, to give people the opportunity to come out of the darkness, to make a full life for themselves in Australia. The very first day that the amnesty was in effect the honourable member for Melbourne said: ‘I am advising people to hold off’. The words are there for everyone to read. It must make me as the responsible Minister, feel a need to be a little careful when I listen to the speeches made by the honourable member because actions speak louder than words in many cases and here we have the honourable member, on the day the amnesty came into effect for the first time, telling people to hold off.
The honourable member made some other statements. One was that he had consulted with ethnic groups. The implication was that I had not consulted beforehand with ethnic groups in relation to the amnesty or after the amnesty was announced. The simple truth is that I did consult with ethnic groups. I consulted with officers of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in the States and gave them explicit instructions that people applying for amnesty should be treated with the utmost consideration and humanity. I called a Press conference in Melbourne which many representatives of the ethnic newspapers attended. They reported the amnesty offer in quite strong detail. They have continued to report it in quite strong detail. So I believe that the implication in the honourable member’s speech that we had not consulted with ethnic groups does not stand up when one looks at the facts.
The honourable member made a number of suggestions. Firstly, he said that we should extend the amnesty to the end of the year. Let me deal with that first. The amnesty is designed to overcome a situation, largely not of our making, in which a great number of people find themselves in Australia illegally. The essence of the exercise is that it should be short and sharp, and I will tell honourable members why. If it is not, discrepancies will emerge. For instance, people who entered after the amnesty eligibility period will complain that they are being discriminated against because they are being less favourably treated than are the amnesty applicants. In other words, genuine visitors to Australia during the period of the amnesty will say: ‘We are doing the right thing. We have come here and applied for legal status to remain in Australia. People who are here illegally are being given that status and we are being refused it’. So it is essential that the period of the amnesty be short and sharp to cut down the discrepancies which could occur. Already there are hints that efforts are being made to abuse the amnesty. I do not wish to enlarge on this matter at all, but it is certainly being watched extremely carefully by members of my Department. The opportunity for abuse of the amnesty would be very greatly increased if the period was extended to the end of this year as the honourable member has suggested. He said that it needs to be extended because people are not hearing about it. I have no evidence to suggest that that is correct. I find that the grapevine operates extremely well within the ethnic communities and that the amnesty has been taken up by the ethnic Press. We have made broadcasts over ethnic radio but I understand that ethnic radio does not cover a wide area. As at this stage it is confined to Sydney and Melbourne.
– What about the result?
– The honourable member interjects: ‘What about the result?’ Let me tell him about the result. The amnesty has been going for about 4 weeks now. So far about 4050 people from over 76 different countries have applied for amnesty. Let me contrast that with a roughly similar effort extending over a year by a government of the honourable member’s persuasion. I believe that in that period of a year the total number of people who came forward amounted to 360 or 370. I just cite that as an example of the trust in which these people hold the 2 respective Parties. I believe that the trust of people in our offer is being demonstrated by the numbers coming forward. Significantly, it is in the area of Melbourne the city in which the honourable member resides, the city in which he made the statement that he had told illegal immigrants to hold off; in fact the city with the most migrants that the numbers are not as high one would have hoped. If the honourable member is serious about what he has said he should make a wholehearted effort to encourage people who come within the ambit of the amnesty offer to come forward and, as he has said, regularise their legality in Australia, make certain that they can live a full and active life, and in time become full Australian citizens. It is up to him from this point on to make sure that he convinces all the people he is in association with that the offer is genuine and that they should take advantage of it-
– It is up to you to lay down the criteria.
– He says that it is up to me to make clear the criteria. Let me quote from a Greek newspaper not noted for its support of my side of politics the Neos Kosmos dated 5 February. It referred to the Press conference that I had in Melbourne and said:
There were 2 criteria for illegal immigrants to become permanent residents: health and police record.
The persons would have to undergo a medical examination, like all other migrants. In cases of serious illness such as TB, they would be helped by the medical authorities to stay here permanently.
Provided they did not have a serious police record such as involving narcotics, theft and murder, the persons would qualify for permanent residence. Trivial offences such as failure to send in income tax returns - which the honourable member has mentioned here today-
Mr MacKellar pointed out, would not be held against them. At this stage, it was advised that all illegal immigrants working under their own or an assumed name contact the Taxation Department and rectify their form. Practically everyone was entitled to a refund. They would not be prosecuted by the Taxation Department or other authorities.
Mr MacKellar has given a guarantee that the amnesty offer is genuine and not a trap. The Neos Kosmos accepts the guarantee and asks all illegal immigrants to report to the Department of Immigration without delay.
So that is a newspaper which again refutes the points that the honourable member has brought up.
The honourable member has put forward a number of other suggestions. He suggested that all people living in Australia before 31 December should be granted permanent status, if they wished it. I would just point out to him that there were approximately 155, 000 people visiting Australia as at 3 1 December last year. Surely the honourable member is not seriously proposing that any one of those 155, 000 people or the whole 155 000 should be granted legal residence in Australia if they so wish it. Obviously it would make a nonsense of any immigration program. It would set back those people who genuinely have been waiting to come to Australia as legal migrants. I am sure the honourable member’s trade union colleagues would react very strongly to such a suggestion.
The honourable member said that all lawabiding persons should be allowed the amnesty. I have just dealt with that. They will be. The honourable member mentioned taxes and false names. That has been spelt out in the migrant ethnic Press. The honourable member mentioned offences related to illegality. Again I say that only serious crimes will result in people not being given the amnesty. I am sure the honourable member would not support the suggestion that people with serious criminal records either here or overseas should be allowed to stay in Australia. I am sure the honourable member would agree with that. He acknowledges his agreement by nodding his head. The honourable member referred to the setting up of an appeals tribunal. Let me tell him about an appeals tribunal in Canada which has a situation in relation to migrants roughly similar to that which we have in Australia. Canada introduced an appeals tribunal. It found that within a few years the backlog of cases waiting for hearing numbered 17 500 and it was estimated that at the rate at which appeals could be dealt with, people then appealing would not have their appeals heard for 2 decades. We do not want that sort of situation to occur in Australia.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
-I am rather pleased that this matter of public importance has been raised by the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) because it is a matter of deep concern to people who were not born in this country and who through various circumstances now find themselves living here. After the honourable member put his case- I thought he did so quite properly, quite fairly and quite well- I was then pleased to hear the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) say that he welcomed the discussion because it was non-partisan and it was an endeavour to get to the root of the problem that besets these people in our community. Having used those nice words the Minister then put on his boots, picked up his bat and proceeded to wale about him, striking everything within sight.
His first comment was on what he termed the disgraceful treatment of migrants, refugees and the like by the previous Government. I am sure that when the Minister reads that in Hansard tomorrow he will regret somewhat having used those words. When he goes among the migrant community- in view of what he said, obviously he has not been there yet- he will find that it was not until the advent of the Labor Government in 1972 that the migrants in this country were elevated from a position in which they were brought here to do the dirty tasks, the unpleasant tasks and to fill the gaps in the factories in jobs which Australian people were a bit loath to take. They will tell him that it was the Labor Government which gave these people dignity, which elevated them from that status which was thrust upon them by 23 years of non-caring Liberal governments and moved them to a position of dignity where they were recognised in the community and encouraged to participate in the community. He then went on to attack the easy visa system and he blamed that system as the reason for there being, on his own admission, some 32 500 ‘illegal’ migrants in Australia. I put that term ‘illegal’ in inverted commas. I do not think it is the appropriate term to use but I cannot think of any other. The reason for the easy visa system was not to encourage people to migrate to Australia at all- it was far removed from that- it was a method devised by the Labor Government to facilitate the travel of bona fide travellers wishing to travel around the world, wishing to enter countries without impediment or hindrance. It was a system devised to enable them to do this.
-Tourists, as my friend the honourable member for Banks reminds me. It was a method designed to allow these people to travel freely to gain knowledge or perhaps for pure recreation. However, unscrupulous travel agents around the world, both in this country and in other countries, saw this system as an immediate source of revenue and went out almost as unofficial migrant recruiters. They recruited people in all parts of the world and told them quite bluntly and openly that they should just get themselves a passport, that they would have no trouble getting a visa, that they could go to Australia as a tourist or a visitor and just prop there and they would have no further problems. The previous Labor Government had to face up to the difficulties caused by those unscrupulous travel agents and this Government, of course, is now faced with the problems, but it is unfair and grossly improper to say that the introduction of the easy visa system in itself brought about this situation. It was the prostitution and misuse of that easy visa system by unscrupulous travel agents that brought it about and they are not people over whom we have control. If the Minister is sincere and does intend to get to the bottom of this very knotty problem he will first of all withdraw the statement that the Labor Party treated migrants disgracefully.
I freely concede that I have given to migrants in my own office the reported advice of the honourable member for Melbourne, that migrants should hold off, as quoted by the Minister. Like the honourable member for Melbourne I have a very large number of migrants living in my electorate. I can give the Minister names- I do not intend to do so- of many migrants who entered this country by various means and who are living here, undetected so far, in fear of a knock on the door. They are Europeans. They have come from countries where it is not unusual for police to be knocking on doors in the middle of the night. They are afraid.
– They are doing it here now. Take Ken Fry.
-Yes, it is happening to a member of this House, apparently. These people have made a life for themselves in Australia. They are living in the same way as the rest of the community. The only difference between them and myself is that they entered the country by a strange method. If they do not distrust this present Government, I do. I make no apologies for that statement because it has broken too many promises already for me to be able to trust it. I am very loath to trust it with the future security of a very large number of people who, if they continue to live in the community, will probably continue to live here undetected. Why should I advise them to go to the Minister’s Department, not knowing what the Department’s requirements are? Why should I advise them to give up the relative freedom and security they now have apart from their fear, when within 24 hours they could find themselves on a boat back to Yugoslavia or some other European country? If it is not known to the Minister I can tell him that stories are circulating in the migrant community- this is something which he will have to contend with- that this sort of thing is indeed happening, that people are going to the Department ‘s offices in the capital cities and without any query or explanation are being placed on ships or aeroplanes and sent out of this country.
– That is a lie.
-I am not suggesting for one moment that those stories are true. I am relaying to the Minister the fears that are found in the migrant community in Australia. On the Minister’s own admission, fewer than one-eighth of the people who are entitled to amnesty have applied for it. If my memory serves me correctly the Minister mentioned that some 4000 people out of a total known number of 32 500 illegal migrants in this country have applied for amnesty. He mentioned also that only 300 or 400 people took advantage of the previous amnesty, and then he used that argument as a basis to compare the trust of this Government with the trust of the previous Government. The Minister also used the expression ‘grape-vine’. I can tell the Minister without fear of contradiction that it was because those 400 people- a small number of peoplewere granted amnesty by the previous Government without strings attached and without recrimination that the word got around when this amnesty was proposed that bureaucracy in Australia could be trusted. So the Minister drew the wrong conclusion, as he generally does, from the facts that were put before him.
I do not think that his explanation for the amnesty being short and sharp quite answered the point made by the honourable member for Melbourne. The Minister tried to justify it by saying that it would raise inequities with people who came here later. But the honourable member for Melbourne made it quite clear that he was speaking about only those who had arrived in this country prior to 31 December 1975 and not about anybody who had arrived since. That seems to me to be a very reasonable proposition. It is a pity the Minister misunderstood it and tried to justify his own position by saying that it would be dangerous and injurious and would create inequalities if the amnesty were allowed to extend over a period of one year rather than a period of 3 months.
I can tell stories about the legions of people who have come to my office seeking advice about this matter. How would I know what to tell them? I am not a policeman in any way, shape or form. I just happen to enjoy the support and the confidence of the majority of people in an area of Melbourne. Therefore I have the privilege to stand in this House and speak here today.
– You would not if you were a policeman.
-There are former policemen in this House. How would the Minister handle the situation if he were placed in that position? How would he deal with somebody who came to his office if he were completely unaware of the sincerity or the terms of the amnesty which are vague? How would he feel if he had to say to those people: ‘I think that you can go along, place your trust in these people and tell them all the facts. We will just have to cross our fingers and hope that it comes out all right.’? There is enough of the gambler in me for me not to tell that to the people. I am prepared to say to them, ‘I am not sure what the terms are, nor can I find out. If you go and find out and they are unsuitable to you, you will be lumbered anyhow’, to use the vernacular. So they cannot win. They are unsure, they do not really know, they are relying on Press reports and they are unable to find out. If they go to make an inquiry, prima facie they are guilty and they are grabbed. If the fellow is in a bad position and if he is one whom the Government wants to deport, away he goes without any further questions. In those circumstances this is a very real human question. It goes right to the basis of what our society is all about. I trust that the matter can be handled in a far better way than by a slanging match on the floor of this House with recriminations being made by one honourable member against another.
– The previous speaker, the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson), certainly injected some heat into his contribution to the debate. As he claimed that the migrants who have come forward under the amnesty this time have been motivated to do so by the pilot scheme which his Government introduced 2 years ago, it might be appropriate to remind the House that, when this Government came to office, there were people who had come forward in 1974 under the Grassby amnesty scheme whose applications still had not been completely processed. So if they had looked at that experience they would certainly not be encouraging their friends to come forward today.
It is obvious that the Opposition is devoid of ideas today because the subject of the matter of public importance has been taken from the notice paper where it appears as Notice No. 1 1 given for General Business Thursday. The Opposition is so inept that it is unable to think of some worthwhile matter to raise. It went through the notices which have been placed on the notice paper, settled on No. 1 1 and said: ‘Let us give it a run’.
The matter for discussion concerns migrants. I have great pleasure in supporting the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) because I represent an electorate which contains some 6000 Greek people, 2000 people of Russian extraction, 1000 Italians and 2000 other people of non-British origin. So Opposition members are not the only ones who know what it is like to hear a foreign-sounding voice in their electorates. But I suggest that they do not know anything about the hopes and aspirations of migrant people. Further I suggest that in the last few weeks the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) has acted like the Pied Piper who played the flute and thousands. upon thousands of rats followed him to their destruction. He is leading innocent people to disregard what the Minister is offering. This will mean that at the end of the 3 month period for which an amnesty has been declared those illegal immigrants who have not come forward might be deported if they are found. The honourable member for Melbourne has acted in such a way as to discourage people from stepping forward.
I noticed that the Minister said that the number of people who have offered to come forward or who have come forward since the Australia Day announcement is 4058. Let us examine the States and compare New South Wales with Victoria. Those 2 States have similar populations. In New South Wales, where there was no Pied Piper or honourable member for Melbourne, some 2605 people have come forward in the first 4 weeks seeking amnesty but in Victoria, where this man of great influence resides, the number is less than 1000. Without doubt the honourable member for Melbourne has created doubts in the minds of many Victorians, to such an extent that in the long term they will work to their detriment. Let me say this to the people of Victoria: When you compare the results of the man who is now the Commissioner for race relations, Mr Grassby- a former Minister for Immigration- when 367 people stepped forward, with the results of the new Liberal Minister you will see that the new Minister has increased the previous number eleven-fold. This would indicate that the people of Australia have greater trust in the Liberals than they had in a Labor Government. To those people in Victoria let me say this: Do not allow your ears to be filled with the nonsense which comes from the mouths of the honourable member for Melbourne and the honourable member for Burke because what they say is to your detriment.
Today’s exercise by the Opposition is simply one to fill in time and to show that the limping tiger has a couple of teeth left. As with all the other teeth that have fallen from the mouth of that tiger, in my view this has been a rather unfortunate and -I do not like to use the wordrotten exercise because it has worked to the detriment of people who are being given one last chance. The honourable member for Melbourne, who is the Opposition’s spokesman on immigration, suggests that the period should be one year. In one month this Government has managed to get eleven times the number of people to come forward that Mr Grassby and his party did, so surely there is no necessity for a 12 month amnesty. As long as people do not try to promote themselves at the expense of the overall good of others this amnesty should work as well in 3 months as it ever could.
Opposition members claim to be the only people who care about migrants but I would like to put on the record the undertaking which was forced upon the people who fled the communists in South Vietnam. They had to declare:
I solemnly declare that if admitted to Australia for permanent residence I will not engage in political activity of any kind, and that I will not permit my name to be lent to or associated with any such prohibited activity.
That was the declaration which the Labor Government forced on people who came to this country from Vietnam. Never in the history of Liberal Party governments has any migrant been forced to sign a declaration that he would never take part in the legitimate political activities of this country. Despite its action, Labor claimed to have been a friend of the migrants. The previous speaker, the honourable member for Burke, referred to the work force and it is appropriate to remind the House that with over 300 000 Australians unemployed, a direct legacy of the Labor Government, we have an obligation to the Australian born and those who have come to this country to get them back into the work force.
If at the end of 3 months illegal immigrants have not taken advantage of the amnesty I sincerely believe that we have an obligation to every Australian, whether he be a recently arrived Australian or one who was born here, to set about systematically to deport them. I believe that the honourable member for Melbourne is highly irresponsible because he knows he is closing the gate on the opportunity of those people to remain here. Finally, if it had not been for Mr Grassby and his high-flown ideas and some of the silly concepts held by him and the former Labor Government we would not have half the problems we have today. There are many stories about the easy visas, about how people bought a return ticket which was all that was necessary in order to get a Labor visa to come to Australia, then cashed in the return part of the ticket and, because they already had their visa, trundled into Australia with the intention of staying permanently but without being screened. What the Minister has done is timely and correct and the system deserves to succeed. I hope that the honourable member for Melbourne, the honourable member for Burke and other members of the Labor Party will stop being silly and get right behind the system and the scheme.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is concluded.
– I claim to have been inadvertently misrepresented.
– Does the Minister wish to make a personal explanation?
– Yes. During the course of his remarks my colleague, the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) stated that I had said that anybody who did not come forward in the 3 months’ period would be deported. He is probably quoting misleading Press statements. I have seen these misleading Press statements and would like it made clear that what I have said is that people who did not come forward in this 3 months amnesty period would risk deportation.
– I seek the indulgence of the House to make a small correction to an answer I gave during question time today. In dealing with the disturbance at Bundaberg over the weekend I stated that the information I had from the Bureau of Meteorology was that there was a high pressure system. That surprised me so I sought to verify it. It was a low pressure system and I would like to correct that small error which will appear in Hansard.
Debate resumed from 19 February, on motion by Mr Sainsbury
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to:
May it Please Your Excellency:
We, the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
-Mr Speaker -
– Not again.
-Thank you Mr Deputy Speaker. The House is having a very special afternoon. Last Thursday evening at about 10.28 p.m. the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) concluded his speech and I had the opportunity to begin my speech then. Consequently I have lost a little of my time. On that occasion I congratulated the right honourable member for Bruce (Mr Snedden) on his elevation to the Chair, the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) on his return to the position of Chairman of Committees, and I complimented the new members in this House who made their maiden speeches last week on the quality of their contributions. In the time that remains I intend to refer not simply to the maiden speeches which were made last week but also to the speeches made by Opposition members in this chamber. As did most of the editorials and weekly reviews of events in Canberra, I regarded last week as a week of tragedy in that the Opposition members and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) seemed to spend the week making denunciation after denunciation, in speech after speech, of none other than the GovernorGeneral of this country. I can understand how disappointed many of them must feel at being suddenly ejected from this side of the House, either out of the Parliament or back to the Opposition benches but I think it does them no credit to spend their time condemning the GovernorGeneral. We recall the speech made by the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) in which, in a half-smart way, he said that the Privileges Committee should consider various aspects of the Governor-General’s actions and he suggested that there was a conspiracy. Standing order 95 leaves the way open to any member of this House to refer a matter to the Privileges Committee, but the honourable member for Chifley indicated his shallowness of intent by doing nothing other than using that means as a way of avoiding standing order 74 which rules out of order comments or imputations against the Queen or her representative.
I sincerely hope, now the second week of the parliamentary sittings has commenced, that Opposition members will have got off their chests that intense feeling of dislike and even hatred they hold for the Governor-General and will recognise that it is time we settled down to proper debate in this House. If honourable members re-examine history, and very recent history too, they will concede that it is not the fault of the Governor-General that they had to go to the polls on 13 December last year but perhaps the fault of those who drew up our Constitution three-quarters of a century ago. As late as 1970, only 5 years ago, the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr E. G. Whitlam, was saying in this chamber when referring to a Supply Bill:
This Bill will be defeated in another place. The Government should then resign.
On 25 August 1970 he said in relation to the Budget:
Let me make it clear at the outset that our opposition to this Budget is no mere formality. We intend to press our opposition by all available means on all related measures in both Houses. If the motion is defeated, we will vote against the Bills here and in the Senate. Our purpose is to destroy the Government which has sponsored it.
That little speech was made only 9 months after the 1969 elections, and if the Australian Democratic Labor Party, which was then represented in the Senate, had decided to combine forces with the Australian Labor Party Opposition that year and throw out the Budget, in Mr Whitlam ‘s own words, the Government of that day would have had no alternative but to face the people. Yet when the boot was on the other foot honourable members opposite indulged in denunciation after denunciation of the motives and the integrity of the Governor-General, a man who they themselves chose to appoint to that high position.
– We all make mistakes.
-One of those honourable members opposite who was returned to the Parliament just said by way of interjection: ‘We all make mistakes’. It is obvious that it was the intention of the Labor Government to place in that high position a man who would be putty in its hands and who would do what he was told. I would hope that a Governor-General, no matter by whom he was appointed, would be a man who maintained his integrity in the face of political pressure and onslaught and did what was best for the people and allowed by the Constitution of this nation. If the Labor Party has feelings about what happened last December perhaps it should direct those feelings towards the Senate, the other place, which constitutionally blocked the Budget.
The Gallup poll figures which were issued only last week present a most interesting picture. The Gallup polls which, I think, usually canvass some 2600 Australians in all States, indicated that 8 1 per cent- 81 per cent, mind you- of all Australians agreed that it is a good idea to have an elected Senate to act as a House of review. A further break down of the figures shows that only 14 per cent of Australians are totally against our having both the lower House and the upper House of review. I wonder whether that entire 14 per cent is comprised of the few Labor supporters who remain in this place. It is significant that 81 per cent agree that we should have a House of review and that 5 per cent do not know, but that only 14 per cent of our fellow countrymen think along lines similar to those of the honourable members opposite who remain in this Parliament. Let me remind the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) who continues to interject that more than two out of three Australian Labor Party voters approved of the idea of maintaining the Senate as the House of review. So the Labor Party is completely and utterly out of touch with what the average
Australian, including its own political supporters, thinks fit.
One of the tragedies is that none of us on this side of the House has the time to read out the Governor-General’s Speech in this chamber. We are all aware that because of their childish boycott no member of the Opposition is aware of what the Governor-General told the people in the other place just a week ago. For the information of honourable members I wish to make reference to some short extracts in order to indicate that this Government, the GovernorGeneral’s new government- the Fraser-led Liberal-National Country Party coalition- really has a plan to get Australia back on the rails. One of the first things the Governor-General said was this:
My Government’s immediate objective is to bring inflation under control so that there can again be jobs for all who want to work.
He went on to say further
My Government believes that adequate opportunities for the disadvantaged as well as the most rapid improvement in social service provision, are dependent on people being free and encouraged to achieve their best. The disadvantaged must be helped in ways which leave them the maximum independence.
He futher outlined:
Control of inflation is the Government’s first consideration.
He said further:
It will be necessary to economise on some worthwhile projects which are not urgent, in addition to continued action against waste and duplication . . .
We all know how the previous Government set up schemes which in effect simply duplicated those already existing in the States. He further promised that in the next Budget, which I imagine will be introduced next August, the Government will begin implementing its tax indexation policy. I am glad that the honourable member for Prospect and one of the earlier Treasurers of the previous Government are here to learn that the Government proposes to introduce into the Parliament amending legislation to increase social service pensions and benefit rates every 6 months in accordance with movements in the consumer price index. All honourable members on this side of the House will remember how rumours were spread by the Labor Party from Perth to Broome and from Cape York to Tasmania to the effect that the Liberals would give the people nothing. But in his Speech the Governor-General, a man who has no political axe to grind, is telling the people of Australia that these things will happen in a few months’ time. The Governor-General also outlined our proposal to re-establish the homes savings grant scheme. That is one proposal of which I particularly approve wholeheartedly.
Mr Deputy Speaker, you have been in this place for many years and you know that I have been an advocate of the right of privacy of the individual. This Liberal Government, this revitalised government, which had some of its ideas from a number of years back completely sorted out in Opposition, has promised that the subject of individual privacy will be referred to the Law Reform Commission, which I think is a most commendable move. One of the regrettable features of the previous Government was that whilst it gave lip service to a policy of privacy in a number of areas, including the scheme which provided for taxation deductions on housing loan interest, people were forced to give private information to government officials. A number of other things, of course, are contained in the Governor-General’s Speech. I make a plea to honourable members opposite that they should not waste their time simply denouncing the Governor-General but that they should obtain a copy of his Speech and read it so that they will know what is our plan for the progress of this country in the future.
I hope my concluding remarks will be regarded as coming from a person who does not see everything done by the previous Labor Government as being totally wrong. That they were bunglers has been established. Prior to the South Australian State election Mr Dunstan was running away from any association with the Federal Labor Party. Tom Burns, the Leader of the Queensland Branch of the Labor Party, was denouncing the Federal Labor Party. Mr Jack Egerton, the Vice President of the Australian Labor Party, I think used the word ‘mugs’ or something similar to describe the members of the Labor Party. Mr Hawke also had something to say. People from the top to the bottom of the Labor machine were denouncing the piteous performance which we witnessed in the previous 3 years. Indeed this House is strewn with the corpses of Labor Treasurers and other Ministers holding important portfolios who were sacked by that Leader with imagination, the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr E. G. Whitlam) who is now the Leader of the Opposition.
Having said that, I concede that some of the proposals introduced by the previous Government were proposals which we should have introduced in earlier years. Although we have been given the huge task of curtailing expenditure and although we are faced with the responsibility of examining those areas in which expenditure cuts must be made, I hope that, like the mad tailor, we do not cut away so much of the cloth as to make it impossible to produce a good suit. There are things introduced by the previous Government which I believe must be left. But even if they are simply cut back a little the principle must be allowed to stand. If any member of the Opposition were to say to me: ‘Please detail those things which you consider it was right for the Labor Government to do’, I would say: ‘See me later’.
The previous Government did so much in its time in office that one was flat out keeping up with the amount of legislation and with the changes that took place in Australia. But among the thousands upon thousands of changes were some good things. I cite assistance in the region of sport and in the region of the arts. I am not calling for the continuation of that pyramid of parasites which clamoured around the skirt of the Australian Labor Party trying to get on the band wagon, to get in for the handouts, but I am asking that when our Ministers and their departmental officials examine what has been done, everything be judged in a just light to see not whether the saving of a million here or a million there will be worth while but whether the continuation of that which is there will be in the long term far more beneficial to each and every Australian.
Mr Lucock, now that you have come to the chair may I conclude, Sir, by offering you my congratulations on your return to the position of Chairman of Committees and Deputy Speaker. I know that with all your experience you will bring to this chamber a great deal of dignity in the coming years.
-Mr Lucock, Mr Deputy Speaker, I should like to join in congratulations to you on your election to your office, and to express my surprise at your being re-elected to Parliament. Having been in your electorate and having seen what you have done for the electorate over the last eight or ten terms that you have been returned, it was certainly a surprise to me.
I should be pleased if you would convey to Mr Speaker my congratulations on his election to the Speakership. If it had not been for the events early last year, Mr Snedden would now be the Prime Minister and the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) would now occupy the office of Speaker, I assume. The media and the jackalsthe people on the other side led by the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley)- destroyed Mr Snedden when, in my opinion, he was down but certainly not out following attacks by the then Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). But I think the main job was done by the Press. On 8 March last year the Sydney Morning Herald- I think it was only a few days before Mr Snedden was displaced as Leader of the Liberal Party- published a letter I had written, which amongst other things said:
While it is not my job to defend Mr Snedden I do object to the spectacle of the media joining in the crucifixion of a person who is down and then wondering what the reason is for his all-time low in his public opinion poll.
I think it is important for all parliamentariansthose who have been elected recently and those of us who have been here for some time- to be aware of what the Press can do to one and for one. I think that Mr Snedden, the now Speaker, and the now Leader of the Opposition for that matter, are aware of what the Press can do to any of us, especially those who hold high office in this Parliament. All of us should take heed that the media will destroy, or at least try to destroy, any politicians who are down. They enjoy the sport of kicking people who are down. My favourite summary of journalists and their masters is in a verse which I remember seeing published in Honi Soit, the Sydney University newspaper, many years ago. I do not usually remember many verses- I still cannot remember ‘God Save The Queen’- but the verse goes something along the lines:
You cannot hope to bribe or twist,
Thank God, the British journalist.
But seeing what the man will do,
Unbribed, there’s no occasion to.
I think it is an important point for us to remember. I assume that the feelings of Mr Snedden, the now Speaker, could be summarised, after the terrible fall he had last year and when he was not appointed to the Ministry, by saying that reincarnation has come as a pleasant surprise.
In speaking to the Address-in-Reply, the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) claimed that members of the Opposition had not read the Governor-General’s Speech. I certainly have. I congratulate the Governor-General on making the present position in Australia quite clear. In the first 3 paragraphs of his Speech last week he called the Fraser Government ‘my Government’ three times and he continued to emphasise the ‘my’ throughout the Speech. I think that is important. I do not want to go into the allegations and the suggestions of why the Governor-General acted in the way he did. My personal belief is that the reasons were at least partly psychological and I think they are more appropriate for -
– Are you suggesting that he is mad?
– No. I believe that the reasons are more appropriate for argument at parties or in hotels or in clubs than in this place now. I do not agree with those people who blame the Central Intelligence Agency, those who blame the Governor-General’s previous alleged political views or blame the fact that he received $30,000 more for his private house after 11 November than was offered before then. Until I get more evidence I think those are not the real reasons. I believe the real reasons were mainly psychological. Because of that, I do not think that even the Governor-General himself could give the full reasons even if he wanted to. What the Australian community would like to know, and I think is entitled to know, is: Did Sir John ever make it clear to Mr Whitlam that his Government would be dismissed if he refused to call a double dissolution? If not, why not? Were Mr Fraser or any of his colleagues given prior information which was withheld from the Labor side? Those are the points on which we are entitled to get information from the GovernorGeneral or from any other person who may be able to give it.
– The answer is no on all counts.
-I am glad that the honourable member has spoken to the GovernorGeneral and has been told that. Going further into the Speech and the outline of the policies of the new Government, I think it would be fair to say that the Government’s slogan seems to be: ‘Eliminate Government waste no matter what it costs’. It has appointed many committees already to decide which committees should be eliminated. The Speech shows that the Government talks big about the committees we had and how it will abolish all of them. In the Speech, in which I take it the Government mentions only the most important committees, the Government already mentions that it has already appointed an Administrative Review Committee, a committee to investigate proposals for a rural bank and a farm income reserve fund, State and industry and Commonwealth advisory bodies which will review means of strengthening the Australian Shippers Council, an economic consultative group- that is not a committee, it is a group- a proposed tripartite national consultative council in the industrial relations area, the Marine and Ports Council and the Transport Industries Advisory Council. An advisory council on intergovernmental relations and a joint Federal and Northern Territory Legislative Assembly committee will be set up; a task force has been established to make recommendations on Australian Capital Territory reserve powers; a review has been established on the income security system as a whole; committee has been established to investigate the possibility of expanding the area of choice in services available to the disadvantaged; a Medibank review committee has been established; a tertiary education commission is proposed; a committee has been established to investigate how to run and re-establish the cadet corps on the cheap; a Defence Council has been established and an investigation has been set up to examine the completion of HMAS Stirling in Cockburn Sound. Six consultative committees have been established in every State to consult with migrant communities. I notice by the way that the Government will co-operate with States and migrant communities in disseminating ethnic languages. I wonder what other kinds of languages there are. I suppose that the committee will not investigate Latin or Ancient Greek; they will investigate only ‘ ethnic ‘ languages. It is an interesting point. Those are the sorts of things to which the GovernorGeneral referred in his Speech. It is not surprising that he finished up by saying:
I now leave you in the faith that Divine Providence will always guide your deliberations and further the welfare of the people of Australia.
I think that Divine Providence is all that the Government has to rely on. It is interesting to note that when the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) announced peremptorily that the royal commissions would be terminated at fixed dates and found out that he was not able to do that because it was illegal, he then apologised and promptly set up a committee of inquiry to find out who was at fault in allowing him to overlook the relevant law. He set up another committee.
I should like to refer to what I consider to be one of the main issues facing this government or any other government in the field of social security. I have been interested in that field and I have been chairman of the previous Government’s social welfare committee for the last 3 years. I realise that there are great difficulties involved. The Governor-General’s Speech makes that point. He said:
As pan of this approach the Government will place great emphasis on directing welfare assistance to those in real need.
I think the words ‘those in real need’ are important. I hope that the Government will direct its welfare assistance to those people. I note that in an interview that the Prime Minister gave to Allen Barnes and which was published in the Age of 1 3 February, he said:
What I would like to add to that-
He was speaking about the abolition of the means test is that the further you take the abolition of the means test, the less you have a capacity to provide really for those who are in need.
He again says later:
That doesn’t alter our long-term position, but they are conscious of the fact that it is harder to look after those in real need if payments go to everyone whether they have a requirement for it or not.
It is interesting when one hears the Prime Minister coming out with such statements, of which I highly approve and which sound fairly idealistic, that he then goes on to announce that the first big extra costed benefit will be the superphosphate bounty. It is not restricted to those in need. The greatest beneficiaries of fertiliser subsidies are the farmers with the largest areas of crops and improved pastures. These happen to be Australia’s wealthiest farmers, including Mr Fraser himself. They are least in need of assistance. The Prime Minister gets over $5,000 a year in phosphate subsidy. Nor do fertiliser subsidies discriminate between commodities for which markets do or do not exist. Thus affluent wheat and sugar growers now receiving good prices will get a hand-out which they do not need whilst depressed beef and dairy producers will be encouraged to boost output of products they cannot sell. So much for the selectivity that the Prime Minister quite justifiably talks about!
I think that when one deals with policy questions in the field of social security one has to pay tribute to the Department of Social Security and also, to my mind, to the Social Welfare Commission which was set up by the previous Government. I think there was a certain lovehate relationship between outside authorities which are supposed to give advice and the Government which does not always like to get specific advice. The present Government has now announced it will abolish the Social Welfare Commission. This requires an Act of Parliament and undoubtedly we will get another chance to speak about it. But I think it is important to draw the attention of parliamentarians, especially the new parliamentarians, to some of the questions that are raised in this sort of issue. One of the questions- it may be marginal but it is none the less important- relates to the Government setting up an outside commission, and authority to advise. The Government calls for applications from people who wish to serve on that commission. It then appoints one of the applicants on, let us say a five-year or seven-year basis. That person gives up his or her job and goes on to that commission on the understanding that it is an institution which the Government has set up and that he or she will have a job for that period. If, as has happened in the case of many commissions, the staff were previously members of the Public Service, university staff members or judges, they were able to return to their jobs. Those people got leave of absence from the judiciary, the university or the Commonwealth Public Service, and when the commission was disbanded they were able to get their jobs back. But if people were not able to do so, they are in a difficult position. For example, the Government proposes to abolish the Social Welfare Commission and therefore Mrs Marie Coleman, who is the Chairman of that Commission, as I understand it, is left without any sort of recourse against the Government. She was not a public servant before nor was she in any of the other classifications. Apart from any injustice to her, it is quite obvious to me- there is a long-term principle involved- that there will be no applications for this sort of positions from outside by the people who are not guaranteed return to their previous jobs because they would be worried that suddenly, by change of government, they would lose their jobs. The most important aspect of the Social Welfare Commission, which I would have thought would appeal to the present Prime Minister and the people behind him- it certainly appeals to me, although I do not share many of the Government’s views, but I hold the view, and I am glad that the Government at least expresses the view- that it is important for the welfare dollar or whatever it might be calledthis applies not only to welfare but to education and health etc.- to be spent in the most efficient and the most appropriate manner. We need outside independent groups, apart from government departments, which will advise or at least comment on the issues. People can be taken from other government departments, as the present Government has done in the case of the Medibank Review Committee, to give some opinion; but I think that it is also important to have outsiders give an opinion. I think that the Social Welfare Commission did a lot of policy analysis work and I think that work is one of the most important aspects of the Commission.
I have in front of me 2 documents which I will not have time to deal with in any sort of detail but on which I hope to have the opportunity to speak at some later stage. One is in the form of a speech by Mrs Marie Coleman which deals with priorities in social welfare; the other is a social policy reference paper which also includes all the other Social Welfare Commission publications, of which there are many. I hope that new members to this House will have a look at some of them and see the sorts of issues involved. Many people get into politics and just see the issues as responding to pressure from their constituents or from some constituents who feel they have been badly treated. Obviously this is one of our main jobs, but in the long term if we want to influence governments, if we want to bring about a reasonable distribution of finance that is available to the Government, we have to have some ideology, some view of alternatives.
Two of the alternatives that Mrs Coleman mentioned- I was going to go into them in more detail this afternoon but I will not now- are 2 fundamental questions which I shall summarise as being cash versus services and universalism versus selectivism. Basically what cash versus services amounts to is whether we help people by giving them bigger pensions, by giving them more money in their pockets, which I think is attractive, or offer them actual services. There is a significant argument there, but obviously there is not enough time to go into it. However just what we do about that is a very important matter, and one which is not easily solved. Whether we rely on the market place, as happened for example with regard to Medibank, where people can go to any doctor they want and the Government refunds all or a proportion of the money that is required to pay the medical practitioner, or whether we provide services such as community health centres and so on, is basically the question in cash versus services; it is an important question for any government. The other question is that of universalism versus selectivism. As I said earlier, this question was raised by the Prime Minister in an interview with Allan Barnes. Apparently the Prime Minister changed his mind. I did not know his views before, but he has implied in the way that he has answered questions that he has had a change of mind. I support him in his change of mind.
It is very attractive to be able to say that we do not want means tests, stigmas and so on attached to social welfare payments and that therefore we opt for universalism. It is important to know that under universalism cash and services that are provided must be limited. They are limited by the fact that a limited amount of money is available. We always talk about people not wanting to pay high taxation for this sort of insurance but I think they are reasonably happy about paying tax if it can be shown that people who receive the tax are in real need. That is the important thing. The question of selectivism obviously brings in some sort of means test. It does not matter what you call it, whether it is a means test or whether it is another test such as whether a person is handicapped and so on. If the Government is going to give something to everybody all over Australia, if, for example, it is going to provide child care services all over Australia, it will be terribly expensive, but if it can be argued that such things should be provided only in certain geographical areas or to certain disadvantaged families -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Before I call the honourable member for Calare I remind the House that this will be the honourable member’s maiden speech.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, it is my privilege and pleasure to participate in this debate on the proposed Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General at the opening of Parliament. It is with pleasure that I do this as the new member for the Division of Calare, representing the National Country Party in this coalition Government. I am very pleased to support the motion proposed by the honourable member for EdenMonaro (Mr Sainsbury) and ably seconded by the honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite). Before going any further may I congratulate you, Mr Deputy Speaker, on attaining your high office. I ask you to convey my congratulations to the Speaker of the House for his election to the Speakership, with the high office and responsibility that he has in this Thirtieth Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. I wish furthermore to carry an expression of allegiance from the electors of Calare to Her Majesty the Queen as well as their congratulations to the Speaker. I think that under his guidance we can look forward to a long period of orderly and responsible debate. I also would like to congratulate previous speakers, none the least being the honourable members for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) and Prospect (Dr Klugman). Honourable members who have made their maiden speeches are now entitled to interject. I suppose that warrants some form of congratulations. At the same time may I commiserate with those who cannot interject during maiden speeches such as mine, even though at times it must cause them extreme frustration.
Before I go any further in my contribution to the debate on the proposed Address-in-Reply I would like very sincerely to pay credit to my predecessor, Mr John England. He represented my electorate for 15 years. As one of the 8 members who represent the same Party as their predecessors amongst the 38 new members I am most honoured, and I hope that I will be able to continue with the ability, sincerity and integrity which my predecessor displayed. He had a distinguished record before he retired, culminating in serving for 3 years as the National Country Party Whip. I believe that there will be many honourable members in this place and people outside it among the staff of Parliament House who will remember John England with great respect and affection. I wish him and his wife well in their retirement from politics. I am sure that colleagues in this House thank him for his able and dedicated service not only to Calare but also to the nation.
In this address I would like to confine myself to some of the issues that relate particularly to the Division of Calare and to concentrate on some of the issues affecting agriculture and decentralisation. The Division of Calare encompasses much of what is known as central western New South Wales. The geographic and demographic centre of the electorate is Orange. It includes other substantial rural cities and towns such as Parkes, Forbes, Mudgee and Wellington. It lies inland from the Great Dividing Range, much of it between 2 great rivers, the Macquarie and the Lachlan. The electorate consists primarily of high tablelands dominated by Mount Canobolas and extends westwards through plains country typical of much of New South Wales. Calare and its adjacent electorate, represented by my colleague the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Gillard), include some of the most historically significant areas in Australia. It contains some of the centres of earliest settlement after the crossing of the Blue Mountains in 1813.
I think it may be worth while to reflect briefly on the significance of that geographical barrier to settlement and development in this country. It took 10 years to find a reasonable route across the Blue Mountains. As we know, this was achieved by Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth some 25 years after the colonisation of Port Jackson. However, it was not very agreeable terrain and it was obvious that it was easier to settle both southwards and northwards. Therefore we saw early colonisation in areas such as Camden and the lower reaches of the Hunter Valley. Port Jackson was an ideal, sheltered deep sea port and with the rapid expansion of railways- bearing in mind that this country was settled and developed after the Industrial Revolution- Sydney became the hub of a quite sophisticated transport system. Therefore I think there was little encouragement for centres of population and growth to develop inland from Sydney and its associated coastal centres.
Today this is reflected in what I believe is a very serious imbalance of population and productivity. More than 60 per cent of the population of New South Wales is in Sydney and something of the order of 80 per cent is in the 3 major metropolitan coastal centres. Nearly 95 per cent of the population growth of New South Wales is in these 3 major metropolitan centres. I believe that this is a national problem and I will return to it later in my address.
The Division of Calare represents a diversity of rural industries ranging from fruit-growing, irrigation, forestry, prime lamb and beef production, wool production and, of course, a considerable area of cropping. In fact within a 1 50 kilometre radius of Orange the value of rural production is higher than most other areas of Australia, or higher. However I would like to reiterate that the problems of farmers have been grave indeed. I notice that my colleague the honourable member for Prospect, who believes that this is not the case, has left the chamber. I must remind him at some time about the realities of the man on the land and the rural industries in general.
Costs have become completely exorbitant. They have been rising at a greater rate than comparable costs for inputs in other areas of industry. Labor, both quality and quantity, is extremely short and we have been beset for years with fluctuating markets and returns. There is a very serious decline in profitability and a very serious concomitant increase in indebtedness. One of the more serious problems in my opinion is the scarcity of young people who see a rewarding and secure future in agriculture. Many able, energetic, industrious, intelligent and ambitious young people are not going back into agriculture. It is rapidly becoming an old people’s game. The average age of workers in agriculture is over 50. The average age of non-rural workers is approximately 20 years younger. Previously I was principal of a college of advanced education in the country. That has led me to believe that the problem of young people not going into agriculture is a long term problem of grave consequence.
I welcome the initiatives suggested by this Government to devise schemes and means by which we can encourage the right sort of young people, with training and experience, to see a rewarding and secure future in agriculture. If we do not encourage them, I believe that in 25 years time the industry will be in desperate need of such people to lead not only as producers but also as spokesmen for their respective industries. I welcome proposals for orderly and stabilised marketing, measures to stimulate production and investment, measures to provide finance appropriate to the needs and conditions of rural industry. 1 also welcome considerations regarding protection and tariff policy because for many years rural industry has competed on world markets and has allowed fledgeling, growing secondary industries to develop behind a protective tariff wall. I believe that this imbalance needs to be rectified at this stage because rural industries are, competitively, in a very difficult situation at the moment.
Before I depart from the scenario of agriculture in the division of Calare I wish to make one point to this all male House. That is that I believe that women in rural areas have had a very significant role to play. I believe they can play an even more significant role. They are a most important resource in the country. I believe they can play a valuable role in upgrading the standard of business management on farms and in rural areas. Whether we like it or not, there is very good evidence that in the country at least, women have attained higher levels of education than their husbands and are more receptive, more responsive and are better equipped to undergo further training than their husbands. It is true.
Calare is not all agriculture by any means; it is not all farms and farmers. Orange is a semiindustralised centre, with major industries, including domestic appliances, and food and fibre processing. It is a rapidly developing centre for administration, both Commonwealth and State. It is a professional centre. It has major developments in health, transport and education. The electorate also has considerable potential for tourism and recreation. Some honourable members will be aware of ventures such as the Lachlan Vintage Village at Forbes and the historic villages of Hill End and Gulgong which, I believe, will play a significant role in future. We are close to Sydney. We are close to centres of urban population. I think we must recognise that there will be pressures for land use, particularly in recreational pressures, impinging on other traditional uses of land. This is an adjustment which I believe we must recognise and for which we must provide. Nevertheless, all in the garden is far from rosy.
We have problems similar to those facing other rural electorates. I refer to the lack of employment opportunities for the young, for women, particularly those who wish to return to the work force, lack of mobility in jobs, lack of post-school educational facilities, inadequate specialist services, communication costs, which are quite disastrous particularly for small business, the remoteness from centres of administration and, in some cases, without exaggeration, the survival of some of the smaller centres in these rural electorates. The previous Government did a most successful job of completely killing private enterprise, especially in the country. I refer particularly to small business, whether it is in towns or on farms. Record inflation cannot be coped with as easily in the country as it can in other areas. We cannot pass it on as easily. In many cases we cannot pass it on at all. Unemployment has been particularly serious, for reasons which I mentioned previously.
I think one of the most disastrous things that happened was the gradual change in attitude, particularly of our young people- attitudes towards work, initiative, responsibility and service. I refer to service to the public, giving instead of taking. Some of the principles which I think our forebears pioneered, fought for and died for, were in grave danger of disappearing.
I return to the problem of redressing the imbalance of population and productivity. I believe this is a problem not only for the division of Calare but also for the nation. There is a very large concentration of people and productivity in the coastal cities. Fortunately, in New South Wales, this fact has been recognised for some time. We have the most innovative schemes in Australia for ensuring that decentralisation and devolution of responsibility can be effected. The New South Wales Department of Decentralisation and Development has looked at 3 areas of assistance. Firstly, it seeks to assist those towns and centres which may be stagnating by providing incentives and measures to restore an equilibrium. Secondly, it seeks to look at regional development and to attempt to re-organise regional administration and planning. Thirdly, as most of us will know, it seeks to encourage the development of centres of growth.
Bathurst-Orange is one of those centres. Its establishment was announced in 1972. What has happened? I believe that much has been achieved already in a relatively short time, without a very great expenditure of funds. A strong program of home building is occurring in close association with private industry. That, I think, is one of the most important points that should be made. Decentralisation and the establishment of growth centres must be in close association with private industry. We have encouragement for new industries service industries and manufacturing industries to be brought into a centre such as ours. We have had major initiatives for decentralising the work of government authorities, particularly the Central Mapping Authority and, recently, the State Soil Conservation Service. I believe this is a bold and decisive move.
On the other hand there have been some criticisms of growth centres. I wish to refer briefly to them firstly, there was the national population inquiry the Borrie report which indicated that our projected population would be much lower than we anticipated. However, I believe the problems of the cities are so serious now that they warrant the establishment of growth centres. One thing which must be taken into consideration is the increased mobility of people. People do not necessarily wish to live in Sydney or Melbourne. They are completely fed up with the pollution, congestion and sociological problems which exist and which are growing in our major cities. However, I believe we must not lose sight of the concept of dispersed decentralisation. Many centres, upon the expenditure of a relatively small amount of money, could progress quite adequately. I think it would be unwise to confine all our efforts solely to newly founded growth centres. I think we must be very careful that where land is acquired, in many cases highly productive agricultural land, we must do it as kindly and as sympathetically as possible at a price which is completely satisfactory to the families concerned.
I welcome these decentralisation initiatives. I hope, in the present climate of budget restraint, where undoubtedly we must control inflation, unemployment and the national indebtedness, that we can still look forward to the longer term and support decentralisation measures. I think we must regard them in the same light as we regard defence. I believe that we must relate the two. Unless we develop and populate this nation, with its great resources and its strategic potential in the world, we may be inviting other people to come and do it for us.
In conclusion may I say how pleased and honoured I am to be participating in this Parliament, in a government which will undoubtedly restore this country to its proper place in the world, and do it according to the basic principles in which we believe a government which I believe will lead this nation successfully into the 2 1st century.
-The tradition has been to open one’s AddressinReply speech by congratulating Mr Speaker on his elevation to that most important position. I congratulate both the right honourable member for Bruce (Mr Snedden) on his election as Speaker and the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) on his election as Chairman of Committees. While talking about tradition I guess there are many reasons now for not deviating from what has happened in the distant past. Certainly some of the more recently established rules of the game are of dubious worth. Doubtless, however, they have made a place for the honourable Leader of the Government (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and his fellow stooges in the history books of the future. However, apart from the still distasteful occurrences of the last few months there are some other traditions that I would like to mention in this speech. The first is that this country once again has a traditional, conservative and inactive Government.
-I do not think that the honourable member should ever in his remarks imply disrespect for the Chair which I rather think he rather did a little while ago.
-I did not mention the Chair at all.
-I thought that you did in terms of finding places for stooges. This was something construed by my simple mind as being-
– No, it was the gentlemen on the other side of the House who were doing that.
-I am sorry.
-Traditionally the Government masquerades under the misleading name of ‘liberal’. Traditionally it electioneered without comprehensive policy and rather the nark and veto style of retrogression in politics. Traditionally it will dismantle rather than build a socially equitable society. As usual, it will blame the worker and the weak for economic problems which emanate from a western capitalistic society. Most importantly and horribly, the job of getting Australia back to so-called economic prosperity will be put on the backs of the working class. Clear proof that this is a fact did not take long to rear its head. The Prime Minister after pledging in his policy speech that: ‘The Government will support the wage indexation agreement in the present economic circumstances’, turned around less than 3 months later on 30 January and in a credibility shattering statement recommended that pay rises should be slashed by half. He claims that things have changed. Mr Deputy Speaker, nothing has changed. Predictably he will not honour his promises.
The only difference between late November 1975 and January, February or March 1976 is that in November an election was nigh. In 1976 no election is due for 3 years. So reversals are the order of the day and the electors can be trampled on.
These are traditions to which I do not adhere and which in fact leave the vilest possible taste in my mouth. But I am going to talk about them in relation to my electorate of Batman in Victoria, because talking and worrying about one’s own electorate is not only another tradition in the Address-in-Reply debate but also something of which I will never tire. Unfortunately I believe the problems and needs of Batman, and electorates like it, are beyond the comprehension of this Government. Certainly the Prime Minister’s 75- minute sojourn into the electorate during the last election campaign hardly puts him in a good position to understand the constituent needs. His welcome, however, should indicate to him that either his sincerity, compassion or perhaps powers of deception will have to improve before the locals will accept him kindly. Those honourable members opposite who do not suffer from the Prime Minister’s elitism, conservatism and selective deafness still have a chance if they are prepared to listen.
It is probably very difficult for people like the 2 senior men in the present coalition Government to understand the problems of a substantially migrant, working class electorate in which more than 25 per cent of the voters are recipients of social security payments. It is difficult because they are white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants, heirs of squattocracy and big business interests, rich beyond the comprehension of most Australians, and people who have not known poverty or war or even the mundanity or nuisance of city life.
Allow me to give an example of the Prime Minister’s attitudes. In the Address-in-Reply debate on 28 February 1973 the honourable gent said:
The honourable member for Eden-Monaro spoke of the need to preserve the human resources of this country. In doing this he was falling very close to the area that is traditional with the Australian Labor Party, in which it is not really concerned with the creation of wealth by individuals for individuals, but is concerned with the distribution of that wealth. Unless there is a government that has a concern for the creation of wealth, this country will not have the resources to meet the welfare, the compassionate and the developmental requirements which we all would want to see met.
One may well ask for whom he wants the creation of wealth. I find it impossible to believe that he means for ordinary people. To me, his words do not sound like those of a committed humanitarian. To me they sound like those of a man- the same man, in fact- who at a young age put in writing his firm belief in property franchise. I wonder what happens to a man who is conservative at 35 as the passage of the years hardens him? Could he perhaps become a fascist? However, no matter how difficult it is for an elitist to understand the common people whom he despises, he must come to terms with them. They are not statistics or economic resources to be exploited and plundered. They are people with educational, recreational, vocational and health needs, needs that are not always as easily satisfied for the ordinary people as they are for the wealthy. For most, satisfaction is not as easily as opening the bulging cheque book, extending the overdraft or even squeezing the Taxation Department.
Now that the Prime Minister is ensconced in the Lodge, with the services of a large staff and a dutiful butler, I am sure that he will have time to reflect on the underlings whom for so long he has believed he was born to rule. I urge him to give a little of his time to the children and parents of Thornbury who, until 24 hours before their kindergarten was due to be auctioned, did not know whether they would have adequate child care facilities this year because funds from the Children’s Commission were frozen. I suggest that he spares a thought for the inmates and staff at the Austin, Preston and Northcote Community Hospitals, and the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital. Respectfully, as always, I recommend that the Henderson report on poverty may be quite revealing reading, if not a prod to his conscience, despite the fact that complete publication of this report has now been abandoned by the Fraser Government for political reasons. Also I encourage him to try to understand what it is like to be a migrant in this country, often working for half the weekly meat bill at the Lodge, exploited in their purchase of land, houses, cars and almost every conceivable commodity, suffering under huge language and cultural barriers, and most importantly, unable to secure equal opportunities for their children.
Finally and generally, I put it to honourable gentlemen opposite that despite the fact that the National Country Party of Australia has 23 seats in this House- incidentally on the huge national vote of 1 1 per cent- they should never forget that we are an incredibly urbanised society. In fact nearly 90 per cent of people make their homes in our cities and regional centres. The mealymouthed and sinister opportunist who leads the National Country Party can blurt, whinge and connive as much as he likes but he will not alter the fact that his Party is represented way beyond its voting worth. Neither will he alter the fact that the people of the cities need government assistance as much as, or more than, the handful of agriculturalists and multinational economic interests which he represents.
Anyone opposite who believes that essential facilities such as urban water storage, sewerage, schools and public transport are not the province of the Federal Government but should be left for the States and municipalities has a shock coming. Never forget that the people of the cities have had a good deal in the last 3 years. Many of these people who were upwardly mobile recently turned their backs on the Australian Labor Party. But they will return. They will return because it will become obvious that their children’s education and recreation depend on federal funding, because quality of life and expensive social capital expansion can be paid for only by Federal governments. These people will learn that the problems of urban living per se are understood only, and can be eliminated only, by a Federal Labor government. In short it will become obvious that futuristic ideals and planning are just as important as the ubiquitous ‘hip pocket nerve’ catered to by the conservative Parties. Furthermore, 42.8 per cent of people- more than the Liberals’ and 4 times the National Country Party’s support- voted ALP. Gerrymander or not, Labor people will not cop a raw deal. If the Prime Minister thinks he got a rough reception from his opponents at Northcote Town Hall during the election campaign let him try to ignore the common man’s interests and he will see the wrath of the whole Labor movement against him.
There are a number of lessons in that meeting at Northcote Town Hall, as I mentioned earlier. Despite the Prime Minister’s obvious and deliberate attempt to provoke by going to a working class area, and his success in doing so, it would do him well to remember that while 400 Liberals, mostly brought in buses from more affluent suburbs, waited inside the hall for the Prime Minister’s appearance 2000 people outside showed that he had not deceived them. Further, he should not content himself by saying that the demonstration was organised by riff-raff and extremists. It was a spontaneous reaction to his presence and the threat that so many Australians see him as- the threat to freedom, domocracy and social and economic equity. It was in fact a spontaneous rejection of him. Although a pacifist myself, I am proud to represent politically astute working people. Personally I abhor violence. In fact at that meeting I appealed to the crowd for non-violence, but people fearing government under the jackboot as they had seen overseas responded as their emotions dictated. Those people outside the hall resented his presence. They resented the fact that as ratepayers they were not allowed into their own Town Hall for a so-called public meeting. They resented his blatent flaunting of democratic principles. Further, they were substantially migrants and workers, people who traditionally do not get help from conservative governments.
The lessons are there. The Prime Minister should spend his time in Liberal areas and should change his attitude to depressed sectors or prepare for the wrath of the 42.8 per cent of disenfranchised Labor voters and the others who are already mocking back to the fold. Who can blame the people of Batman for believing that the present Liberal-Country Party Government provides a huge threat to them in particular and to democracy in general? Who can blame them for thinking that if the Prime Minister went to such lengths to gain power then the sky must be the limit when it comes to retaining the treasury benches? Who can blame the women of Batman and everywhere for thinking that above all the other hallmarks of a conservatist elitist he is an arrogant sexist when he referred to the possibility of more women member of the House of Representatives as adding decoration, brightness and order to the Parliament? How can one blame the unfortunate migrants, the school leavers, older people and women who find themselves unemployed for hating him when they are spoken of as bludgers, cheats and long-hairs who should undergo more rigid testing and regimentation? No, Mr Deputy Speaker, the Prime Minister has a good deal to live down and following a tireless and humanitarian Labor Government a good deal to live up to.
Let me look at what a Federal Labor Government meant to Batman in the last year or so of its rule. Firstly, in the field of education, more than $1.5m was poured into local State schools, for building, for innovative programs and to help eliminate disadvantage. Even more money went to private schools for everything from library books to extensive rebuilding. If anyone is doubtful about this they need only talk to the children’s teachers. In the area of health care, a community health centre was established in West Heidelberg and one is proposed for Northcote, which proposal may not be honoured by the present make-the-people-pay Government. Further, large amounts of money were allocated to the Austin Hospital and to the Bundoora Geriatric Centre. This money too is under a cloud because of the Liberal Government. Most important of course is that the health of every personman, woman and child- has become less of a worry with the advent of Medibank. Governments cannot guarantee good health but Labor at least legislated so that financial hardship caused by illness would no longer torment individuals and families. In this area as in others we showed a humanist approach to people too often neglected. Like it or not, there are many of these people in Batman. Do Liberal governments understand such needs?
To help those unable to find work offices of the Commonwealth Employment Service were established in Heidelberg and Northcote. The National Employment and Training scheme is benefiting and has helped many people. The Regional Employment Development scheme not only helped many of the unemployed in the area but simultaneously poured more than $lm into local government agencies in the Batman area. Additionally, the 3 local government bodies in Batman benefited from direct grants from the Federal Labor Government- a great breakthrough for municipalities. In co-operation with the Departments of Transport and Urban and Regional Development they received almost $lm for road works and road safety programs. Select groups also benefited. Clifton Hill sports enthusiasts received $37,500 for an athletic centre and $125,000 for an indoor recreation complex. The Fitzroy Residents Association gained $2,500 for a pollution study of the Merri Creek.
I must also mention the many benefits Batman received generally from Labor over the last 3 years. Being an electorate primarily of migrants, old people and employees it received great gains under our policies allowing huge increases in pensions, migrant services, housing for the aged and general social welfare. These are the examples of what happened in one year’s work by an Australian Labor Party Government in one electorate, Batman. The idle waffling and deception of the election campaign are now well and truly over. I ask the new Government whether it can match this record. If so, where and how? If not, why not? The people of Batman want to know. The people of Australia are entitled to know. The 3 313 000 people who voted Labor demand to know. The Prime Minister must cease ignoring the people’s needs unless he wants violence and even bloodshed. His present mood and basic attitudes will force people to the streets and he will need a good deal more than a malleable
Governor-General and a receptive corporate sector to fight that.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Giles)Before I call the honourable member for McMillan may I remind the House that this is his maiden speech and I trust that it will treat him with the usual courtesy.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I respectfully ask that you convey my congratulations to the Speaker and to the Chairman of Committees on their attainment of their high offices in this House. It is customary for new members in their maiden speeches generally to describe the electorate they represent. It is a pleasure for me to do so. Like so many speakers before me and presumably those following I can say that my electorate is a microcosm of the whole of Australia. It has large industrial complexes in the Latrobe Valley. It has one of the richest dairying areas in the Commonwealth and it is serviced by a number of substantial provincial towns and cities. In the winter the constituents may ski at Mount Baw Baw in the Victorian Alps. They may visit the nineteenth century goldmining town of Walhalla or they may surf in the Bass Strait waters pounding Kilcunda. More important than any of these physical attributes are the people. I will return to this aspect later.
The people of Victoria are supplied by power generated by the State Electricity Commission, Australia’s largest authority supplying electricity. Approximately 85 per cent of the power generated for the State system in Victoria is supplied by brown-coal-fired power stations in the Latrobe Valley, from the stations at Yallourn, Morwell, Hazelwood and Yallourn W, which are all within the electorate of McMillan. The deposit of brown coal in the Latrobe Valley is a national asset of enormous value and indeed is one of the largest deposits of brown coal in the world. The brown coal reserves in the Latrobe Valley give rise to the question of the viability of extraction of oil from coal. Investigation and experimentation have been going on for many years under the encouragement of the Victorian Minister for Fuel and Power, the Hon. J. M. Balfour. Several meetings in both Australia and East Germany with experts in this field have confirmed the Victorian Government’s conclusion that the cost of extracting oil from coal at this time would be prohibitive and a waste of taxpayers’ money. However, the Victorian Government will continue to investigate the techniques and closely monitor the economic feasibility of producing oil from coal. I hope that a close liaison will continue between this Government and the Victorian Government. Ultimately the oil produced from this source will have national significance. The contact between the 2 governments will be so much easier for me personally as the boundaries of my electorate generally coincide with those of the seat of Narracan, which is represented by the Victorian Minister. This will be an example of co-operative federalism which will benefit the Latrobe Valley in particular and ultimately the Australian people generally.
Other projects in the Latrobe Valley area will increase the national significance of this area and will result in a highly complex industrial and urban metropolis which one day will attract a decentralisation spotlight of the magnitude of Albury-Wodonga. The land use in the electorate of McMillan is predominantly rural- beef and dairy farms, orchards and vegetable gardens. In some sections of the community it has become a sport to rubbish those associated with primary industry in Australia. I dare say this goes back to the time when references were made in a derogatory way to ‘bushwackers’ and the belief that most people who were engaged in farming pursuits were reaping large monetary rewards. It is a concept based on ignorance. Over the past few years we have seen enormous fluctuations in the fortunes of the farmer. This has been caused by climatic conditions but more significantly in the past 10 years by unpredictable and unstable overseas markets.
The beef and dairy industries during the past 2 years have seen almost disastrous consequences flow from the lack of stability in these sectors of the industry. The beef industry is slowly improving. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics forecasts a rise of 1 1 !6 per cent above last year’s disastrous levels. Notwithstanding this predicted rise, beef prices will have to rise higher before farmers in this sector can claim to have a fair return from their labour and investment.
I should like to direct the attention of honourable members to the crisis in the dairy industry. The fluctuations year by year in this industry have shown the troughs getting deeper and the peaks lower. The real net income of Victorian dairy farmers- the most efficient and productive in Australia- is estimated to have fallen by onethird in the past 4 years. In the same period average weekly earnings rose in Victoria by 58 per cent. If the poverty presently being experienced by a large number of dairy producers in Victoria were experienced by a group of people in urban Australia, we would see State and national media coverage which would make every person in this country aware of the plight of that particular group. It is a sad comment on our society and perhaps on government that dairy farmers have to sell their poverty, their problems and their needs in the same way as others would sell their products or expertise. The dairy industry in this country is at the cross-roads. It needs the help of this Government. I commend to honourable members the relevant parts of the Henderson report to demonstrate the existence of rural poverty in Australia, although the period covered statistically by that report is now some 3 years old. The position described in that report is getting worse. It is only possible for a large number of farmers to follow that occupation because of the involvement of their family in farm work. On a monetary basis for work done, the farmer would be receiving a mere pittance- a pittance which no self-respecting unionist would tolerate for one minute. Shortly before Christmas 1975 the President of the Victorian Dairy Farmers Association and the Dairy Division of the Victorian Farmers Union signed an agreement to form a new body to be called the United Dairy Farmers of Victoria. It may be symptomatic of the renaissance of the dairy industry that finally the dairymen are united in that State. I believe it is the first step in what will be an intensive campaign to make Australians generally realise the plight of the dairy industry in this country.
Perhaps this is an opportune time to draw the attention of honourable members to the value of primary industry to this nation. In June 1975 the Bureau of Agricultural Economics forecast farm receipts in 1975-76 to amount to approximately $5Vi billion. By December 1975 that estimate was increased to $6 billion, an increase almost solely attributable to excellent grain crops. However, the rural contribution to the gross national product has slumped to less than 6 per cent. Some honourable members may be under the misapprehension that rural exports remain the predominant export earner. The fact is that in the year ended 30 June 1975 export of rural products fell by 45.4 per cent of total exports. May I conclude reference to the rural industry by quoting from a paper delivered by Professor Gruen at the 1 976 National Outlook Conference. It reads: … it seems to me that, in the medium term, the cost price squeeze will continue and possibly intensify, because the contribution of traditional exporters is becoming less important over the years, whilst the other imperatives of policy will prevent special attention being paid to the requirements and demands of the less protected rural export industries. At the same time, the ability of these industries to withstand adverse cost price movements has been weakened by relatively low levels of on-farm capital formation since the early seventies and by successive exercises of belt tightening over this period.
His Excellency the Governor-General in opening the first session of the Thirtieth Parliament on Tuesday last stated that the Australian people have given the Government a directive to bring inflation under control, to create employment and to raise productivity. Others have spoken about the ways and means by which these directives can be achieved and I do not intend to dwell on them. My disinclination to develop arguments in relation to these extremely vital issues should not be taken as a belief that they are not important. I seek, with respect, to draw the attention of honourable members to other matters which will require consideration and application in the life of this Parliament. There are many references in the Governor-General’s Speech to excessive Government intervention and the necessity to protect the independence of the individual in the State. I remind honourable members of his words when he stated:
The Government’s long term objective . . . . is to encourage the development of an Australia in which people have maximum freedom and independence to achieve thenown goals in life, in ways which they decide.
My Government believes that adequate opportunities for the disadvantaged as well as the most rapid improvement in social service provision, are dependent on people being free and encouraged to achieve their best.
I intend to spend some time considering the import of those words. Some years ago a writer described Australia as ‘the lucky country’. I wonder, however, who are the lucky Australians. There are many people in our society who give lip service to such phrases as ‘underwriting the quality of life’ or ‘concern for the environment’ or ‘improvement in social services’. Once one learns the jargon it is easy to sound knowledgeable and convincing. Does quality of life exist in provincial towns and indeed the greater urban areas of Australia where there are insufficient beds and care for the aged, where there are insufficient facilities available for the mentally and physically handicapped children, where the geriatric is ignored? It frightens me when I look at the number of requests that have come to me already from committees throughout my electorate seeking assistance to extend existing facilities for these projects. Substantial funds Will be required. I have no doubt that my experiences are repeated in the electorate of every member on both sides of this House. At some stage at some time in the future we in this Parliament will have to determine not only the priorities of the building programs within our electorates but also priorities within each State and priorities throughout the country. The more difficult task is to establish the source for funding these necessary social facilities. I firmly believe that the federalism policy which has been outlined by this Government is one with a great deal of application in the social welfare area of our activity. It is my firm belief that local government is capable of undertaking and is eager to adopt the responsibility for more social welfare programs. It must, however, be provided with finance from the federal income tax source. Whether social welfare programs include supporting mothers benefits, handicapped children allowances, grants to community organisations, day care centres, the appointment of social and community planners or child catalysts, local government is the tier of government better able to spend the welfare dollar for full value.
Much has been written about the Australian Assistance Plan. In my opinion the concept, the ideals and the objectives of that plan must be retained. I would, however, disagree with the present structure and funding of the AAP. The AAP was not always assisting those in areas of greatest need. The artificial creation of regions by the convenience of groupings on a map does not offer an ideal basis for an efficient and creative social welfare regional scheme. The AAP could have been more economical and have had a greater degree of electoral responsibility by being introduced through local government. An electoral system is already established and there is a traditional involvement by people in local government and in welfare which gives an historical head start to community participation. If the program envisaged by the AAP is to work and is to attract Commonwealth Government funds, then in my opinion there must be a partnership between the Commonwealth, and the State and local government- a working partnership without sleeping partners.
May I again refer to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General. It will be seen that the Government is dedicated to a belief that education is a means for individual self development and that we on this side of the House are committed to furthering equality for women in education, employment and public life. Inherent in both of those beliefs is a continued commitment to the objectives of the Children’s Commission. We must recognise the urgent need to care for children before school age and to create opportunities for activity outside the home for those who need it after school hours. It is not, in my view, necessary to form and establish an autonomous commission to achieve these objectives, although that may prove necessary with more knowledge and experience as the program develops. To create a balanced society, to conserve an environment, to care for those who cannot care for themselves will require money. There are in our towns and in our cities people who will work on committees or welfare and charitable programs without any personal gain except for the feeling of satisfaction that they are doing something for their fellow man or woman. We must not, indeed cannot, rely solely on the selfless devotion which so many people contribute at this time. If we conclude that the complexity of our society necessitates support to the community from the Commonwealth Government, it is the responsibility of this Government to find ways and means and to give that support, whether it be advisory, manpower of financial.
Side by side with the curing of the economic ills which presently beset Australia is the need for every one of us to evaluate the effect of our policies on the individual in our society. The Government is committed to provide the individual with the opportunity to develop in the community; to provide a stable society where communities can interrelate; to build a fabric of society which recognises the right of the individual in that society; and to acknowledge the interdependence of the urban and rural sectors of this country. The Government realises the problems which will flow from overdevelopment of our resources and our urban structure.
May I conclude, Mr Speaker, by submitting that the Thirtieth Parliament will be faced with many problems which, unless solved in accordance with the principles which have been outlined in the Speech by His Excellency the Governor-General and in this House by the Government during the first week of the sittings, will adversely affect every person in this country for the next 10 years. It is tradition that when a new member makes his maiden speech he is heard in silence. Having practised as a solicitor, trained to rely on the value of precedent in the common law, I am apprehensive of the false sense of security that this tradition could give to the fledgling politician. However, I am sure that members of the Opposition will be happy to assist in our education. We have 3 years to prove to the people of Australia that we are worthy of the responsibility given on 13 December 1975. 1 am sure that at the end of that period we will be reading in our newspapers or watching on our television screens a review of the third book in the Home trilogy entitled Rebirth of the Lucky Country.
Sitting suspended from 5.52 to 8 p.m.
- Mr Speaker, I want to indicate only that I have an appointment at 8.15 with the Chinese Charge d ‘Affaires and therefore no discourtesy is meant to the Leader of the Opposition when I leave to keep that appointment. The appointment was fixed before I knew that the Leader of the Opposition was to speak tonight.
Motion ( by Mr Nixon)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition each speaking on the Address-in-Reply for a period not exceeding 40 minutes.
- Mr Speaker, a week ago I had the pleasure of congratulating you on being elected to your office. I now have the pleasure on behalf of myself and my Party of congratulating the many honourable members who have made their maiden speeches in the intervening sitting days.
The Governor-General’s address was in many ways a more candid document than the Prime Minister’s policy speech last November. For all its deficiencies, at least its message is clear. The men who lived by duplicity and ruthlessness in Opposition intend to live by duplicity and ruthlessness in Government. The men who obstructed all economic and social reforms in the last 2 Parliaments are bent on destroying them in this Parliament. The men who would make any promise in Opposition will break any promise in Government. The men who posed as the party of economic salvation are driving the nation into deeper austerity, more prolonged recession. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who paraded as a man of honour and integrity, has had his honour and integrity stripped away.
No emptier or more tenuous address has ever been given to a Governor-General by a new administration. It is a collection of cliches about ‘bureaucratic domination’ and the ‘encouragement of enterprise’. It is a hodgepodge of halfbaked promises, deferred promises and broken promises. But where is there any connecting thread of rationality, any attempt to come to grips with the needs and aspirations of the people?
Above all, where is the sense of urgency? The people were told last October, November and December that the state of the nation required and justified any breach of the Constitution, any attack on conventions and traditions; any departure from honour and decency; any disruption; any deception; any duplicity to destroy the properly elected Government in mid-term. ‘We had to do it’- that was the Liberal message. Where in this document is the justification for all the damage done to Australia and the Australian parliamentary system in those months and weeks and days?
Cuts in spending are to be matched with new handouts. Attacks on the weak and disadvantaged are to be matched with largesse for the wealthy. Policies undertaken by previous Liberal governments are discarded. Promises given at the election in December are nowhere to be found. There is scarcely a sentence in the speech not couched in terms of evasion or imprecision. Overseas trade will be ‘energetically promoted’. How? The Trade Practices Act will be ‘reviewed’. Why? Better provision for the disadvantaged will be ‘investigated’. By whom? In the whole of the speech, in all its 12 pages in Hansard of pious hope and sententious platitude, there were 4 specific promises of forthcoming legislation. Four Bills! And this from a Government which did all in its power, at whatever cost to parliamentary conventions, traditions and ordinary decencies, to force an election.
No previous government has managed to forfeit its respect and destroy its credibility even before the Parliament assembled. Behind the flurry of non-events and synthetic decision-making of the past weeks the real record of the Government can be seen. A Minister is being prosecuted, election promises have been broken or side-stepped. The Government has demonstrated its sensitivity to world opinion and its priorities in foreign policy by reviving sporting visits to South Africa and cutting back foreign aid during a visit to Australia by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. There have been attacks on the sick and disadvantaged, somersaults over television licences, a vendetta against the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The first savings bonds of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) were on sale for 12 days. Pensioners and the poor, including even the deaf and the bereaved, are among the victims of a heartless and misguided exercise in cutting public expenditure.
Much can be forgiven an incoming administration which has fought a clean campaign, presented a specific and detailed program to the people, gone to the polls at the appointed time and won the people’s trust by candour and good example. Nothing can be forgiven a government which has forced an election by breaking all the rules and has come to power on a tide of nauseating moral fervour and self-righteousness. I shall deal later with the constitutional issues raised by the events of last November. It is enough to say now that every act of this Government must be judged in the light of its record- a record of constitutional violence, of obstruction, of contempt for democratic principles. Those are the standards they set for themselves. Those are the standards they have met.
The catalogue of broken promises is an appalling- and lengthening-indictment. The Prime Minister has justified a great deal of the deception by a specious reference to ‘flexibility’. What flexibility is shown by dumping wage indexation 2 months after the election- a promise based on cost-of-living figures widely anticipated, indeed publicly forecast throughout the campaign by the Prime Minister himself? The commitment to indexation was not a matter of detail or interpretation, but was central to the whole debate on economic management and the whole future of industrial relations under a Liberal Government. It was as clear and unqualified as an election promise can be. The decision to break it did not represent an adjustment to circumstances or even a change of heart, but a revelation of the Prime Minister’s ignorance of industrial relations, a cynical attempt to intimidate the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, and a revelation of what was always the Government’s intention- to grab power by any deception, and once in power to break any promise with impunity.
Within hours of the promise on indexation being broken the Treasurer was equivocating about the Government’s equally solemn undertaking to index personal taxes. Whatever may be thought of this proposal as a sample of economic wisdom, it was presumably central to any government strategy for dealing with inflationwhich in turn was the essential justification for the destruction of the last Parliament. It was the showpiece of the Prime Minister’s election policy. Suddenly we are told that the indexation of taxes depends on employees foregoing wage rises, on keeping down the cost of living. What was to be the objective of the policy has become overnight a condition for its implementation. The Governor-General’s speech contains a generous escape clause on tax indexation:
The greater the support given to the Government’s economic policy the greater the first step can be.
The threat to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission was clear: ‘Toe the Government’s line on wages or the Prime Minister will break another of his promises.’ The message to employees is clear: ‘Sacrifice some of your wages or we will not index your taxes. ‘ Breaches of specific undertakings are only one measure of the
Government’s dishonesty. Its key economic promises were in some strange fashion to be taken as interdependent. If one promise was broken or unfulfilled, others would fall to the ground. If the deficit could not be reduced by cutting expenditure, wage indexation would have to go. If excessive wage rises could not be controlled- the basic objective of wage indexationtax indexation would be in jeopardy. Without tax indexation, inflation would get worse. Unemployment would go up anyway. Every promise depended on another. The whole Liberal prospectus at the last election is revealed as a house of cards.
Scarcely less reprehensible than broken promises was the encouragement of false hopes about the Government’s intentions and the introduction of measures for which no warning was given or mandate sought. Pensioners must sacrifice $29m while their increases are delayed by a Government which promised indexation of pensions. It is now revealed that the 40 per cent investment allowance- whatever one may think of it- will not apply to items costing less than $1,000; small businessmen are to be excluded from benefits which big companies will enjoy. We were told nothing of the plans- now deferred for a savage and regressive tax on television sets. We were told nothing of the cutbacks in the Children’s Commission, or the increase in pharmaceutical payments or the abolition of bridging finance and interest subsidies from the Housing Corporation. In his policy speech the Prime Minister said:
We stand by our commitment to abolish the means test on pensions.
On 13 February the Prime Minister told the Melbourne Age that there is no ‘time scale’ on this undertaking. In other words, no action. The Government’s whole election program is now seen to depend on semantics and verbal legerdemain. For spending to be preserved it must be ‘essential’. For poverty or hardship to be corrected it must be ‘genuine’. For any social or human need to be met by the Government it must be ‘ real ‘. No one defines what is essential or genuine or real. The one link that connects all the Government’s policies is a determination that the little man should pay for them; that the wealthy and the privileged should benefit. It is the wage earner who must lose the benefits of indexation. It is the sick and the pensioners and the working mothers who must pay for dearer prescriptions and economies in the Children’s Commission. It is families on lower incomes whose hopes for a Housing Loan will recede under the Fraser Government. It is the more deprived communities which must pay for the ‘New Federalism’. On the other hand, the biggest companies will benefit from the investment allowance. The big investors and big property owners will be exempt from double taxation; the best schools will gain most from per capita grants; and the wealthiest graziers, among them half the members of the present Cabinet, will benefit disproportionately from the Superphosphate Bounty. For the privileged and the wealthy the lights are turned on with a vengeance. The Prime Minister has poured scorn on Labor’s ‘handout mentality’, but there will be no shortage of handouts under the Liberals. Only the class of recipients is about to change, and the number to decline.
No Prime Minister has such an unreasoning obsession against the public sector as the present incumbent. The Governor-General’s Speech insultingly characterised the Australian Public Service as ‘The Federal Bureaucracy’. The phrase is revealing. Has any Prime Minister ever applied such deliberately offensive terms to the Government’s own employees? The Prime Minister is constantly condemning what he calls extravagance in the public sector, although he has so far discovered no significant extravagance in this year’s Budget. Yet he is completely blind to extravagance in the private sector. And if he is worried about bureaucracies and their extravagance, what about the bureaucracies in private health funds and private insurance?
In no area is the public so unjustly burdened as in the fields of workers compensation and road accident insurance. Every State Parliament enforces these burdens on every employer and every vehicle owner. The burdens are regularly increased, more than once a year in every State. My Government’s national rehabilitation and compensation legislation is now more urgent than ever. Statistics tabled on 28 October, and never refuted or challenged, demonstrate that in this financial year employers would have had to pay $340m under my Government’s scheme instead of $460m under the State legislation. Vehicle owners would have had to pay $135m under my Government’s scheme instead of $240m under the State legislation. Moreover, our scheme would have paid for rehabilitation and it would have extended full, immediate and automatic cover for injury and death incurred not only at work or on the roads but also at home, at school and at sport. Taking into account voluntary insurance, social security, repatriation, sick leave and superannuation, my Government’s scheme would save taxes, premiums and other exactions totalling between $325m and $375m this financial year. None of it can be saved unless the national Parliament, at the instance of the national Government, takes some legislative action. The Governor-General’s Speech is silent on a host of important measures promised by earlier Liberal Governments. They are still as important as before. In March 1970 the former Governor-General promised the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill. It was introduced on behalf of the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon), on 16 April 1970.
– It is not true. I never approved of it. Look at the files.
– It was introduced on the right honourable gentleman’s behalf, and when he returned to the country it remained on the notice paper in his name until he became Prime Minister. Why did he not withdraw it?
– I did not have the numbers.
– The right honourable gentleman could have taken it off the notice paper. It stayed there until the end of the - (Government supporters interjecting.)
– I fear the right honourable gentleman’s colleagues took as much notice of him in that Parliament as they do in this. The second reading speech delivered on behalf of the right honourable member for Lowe stated that the Bill would be followed later in the session by a Bill to apply a mining code to the offshore areas in respect of which the first Bill would establish Commonwealth authority. The original Bill was not further proceeded with in that Parliament. It was, however, introduced by my Government in May 1973 as the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill and became law in December 1973. The offshore mining code was drafted in 1970. It was introduced by my Government. Four times the House of Representatives passed it and the Senate rejected it or failed to pass it. When the code was last debated in this House 12 months ago the spokesman for the Opposition, now the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), opposed it on the ground that the Seas and Submerged Lands Act was being challenged by all States before the High Court. This is what he stated:
If the High Court upholds the powers of the national Parliament in this field the Minister can re-introduce the BUI.
On 17 December last the High Court, which had reserved judgment 8 months before, upheld the powers of the Parliament. The offshore rnining code is as essential now as it was when promised by Liberal Ministers in 1970. It was promised by the previous Governor-General when he opened the 1969 Parliament. It is not mentioned by the present Governor-General. The High Court also decreed in December that amendments must be made to the Representation Act and that a new distribution of electorates cannot wait for the census. The Governor-General’s Speech is silent on these matters and on the electoral Bills to which opposition was led in the last Parliament by the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland), even when they had been proposed by the McMahon Government.
Again, opening the 1970 session, the former Governor-General stated:
My Government hopes that . . . during the lifetime of the Parliament any remnants of discriminatory legislation against Aboriginals will be eliminated.
Factional tensions in the Gorton and McMahon Governments prevented any legislation to discharge the mandate which the people gave this Parliament at the 1967 referendum concerning the Aboriginal people. The Fraser Government envisages no such legislation. Yet last December an Act was passed in the Queensland Parliament which allows Aboriginals to be dispossessed of lands traditionally held by them at Aurukun. No other Australians could be dispossessed of their land in this way. A similar Bill has been contemplated in Western Australia. The Australian people expect the Fraser Government to proceed with my Government’s legislation to secure land rights for the Aboriginal people and to override discriminatory laws in the States.
The Speech is silent on uniform company law and securities and exchange legislation. Senate committees have investigated the need for securities and exchange legislation for the last 6 years. Yet the Governor-General’s Speech says nothing of the Government’s plans. The failure to legislate has cost Australians hundreds of millions of dollars. Thousands of millions changed hands in the minerals boom, much of it lining the pockets of brokers and speculators. Federal regulation of the securities industry, far from being a burden on the private sector, is essential to its recovery. The confidence of Australians in investment in the private sector will not be restored until massive failures like that of Patrick Partners cannot happen again. One of the partners is now a member of this House. The people will be only too ready to believe that a government which does nothing on electoral laws or security legislation has something to hide.
We have learned from a statement outside the House that Bills will be introduced to abolish the Australian Development Assistance Agency, the Australian Housing Corporation and the Road Safety and Standards Authority. Presumably they are examples of waste and extravagance. None of the Bills establishing these bodies was opposed by the Liberal and National Country Parties in this House or the Senate. The Road Safety and Standards Authority arose out of a report of the Expert Group on Road Safety formed under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Meares in November 1970. It reported to the then and present Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) in September 1972. It was supported by a unanimous report of the all-parties House of Representatives Select Committee on Road Safety- the Cohen Committee- in September 1973. Last April the Minister, leading for the Opposition, said that the Opposition welcomed the Bill. He was anxious to share the credit for it.
The Fraser Government disparages all committees, even the parliamentary and judicial committees established by Liberal governments. They are being abolished not to save money but to shirk facts. The Labor Government found that the scarcest commodity after 23 years of conservative rule was information. In whole areas of public policy- schools, health, the environment, industrial conditions, the National Estate, social welfare, local government- no body of fact or evidence existed. Neither State nor Federal public servants had the experience to handle the problems of health, transport, housing or sewerage. The States could not cope. There was no core of information in which Federal or State governments could take decisions. Nothing embarrasses a conservative government so much as evidence of genuine human need. Nothing so quickly demolishes the old Liberal excuses for inaction and delay. The Government is now even restricting the information to be collected in the census next June.
Such picayune savings are meant to prepare us for the onslaught to come against basic and wide-ranging parts of Labor’s program- against Medibank, against free tertiary and technical education and expanded programs for education generally, against all Labor’s measures for the cities and growth centres, for the protection of the environment, for Aboriginal lands, for social security. The Government has made the size of the deficit an excuse for attacking the public sector. A wholly misconceived strategy for dealing with inflation has become a pretext for attacking public welfare and social reform- the real targets of the Prime Minister’s vengeance and contempt.
No other country in the world has made its economic problems an excuse for dismantling public initiatives in the areas where governments alone can achieve results. We are not alone in our problems in Australia. Our problems are not unique in severity or in kind. Every other nation has a high deficit- a much higher deficit than it had 3 years ago. Every other nation has a higher level of unemployment and a higher level of inflation than 3 years ago. Australia alone, however, is using these problems as an excuse for renouncing its responsibilities and reducing a public sector already deficient by the standards of other Western countries.
There has been a subtle but crucial change in the presentation of Liberal economic policy. Before the election all the talk was of recovery, of tax cuts, of the needs of companies, of the Mathews recommendations. Now it is a message of restraint, of belt-tightening, of hardship, of cutting back on public programs, of dismantling Labor’s reforms and destroying all the great gains and achievements of the past 3 years.
Where do all these economies- these real and illusory and foreshadowed cuts in welfare programs and public spending- leave the States? The Premiers Conference 3 weeks ago was presented with a fraudulent prospectus for a ‘new federalism’. Its value can best be judged from the public and private comments made upon it by Liberal State leaders. For example, Sir Gordon Chalk, the senior Treasurer in Australia has said:
It will mean a return to the dark days with each State outbidding each other by way of taxation.
The proposed council for inter-governmental relations, according to Sir Charles Court, will be like having ‘a tiger by the tail or a tiger without teeth’. So much for the cooperation of the Premiers. It was ever thus.
The point of the ‘new federalism’ is to divest the national Government of its proper responsibilities. It will hand back to the States the blame for all the inadequacies in health, education, transport and other fields which the States have never been able to tackle and which this Government refuses to tackle. The scheme fails utterly to come to grips with any questions of justice or equality or need as between Australians, between regions, between cities and towns, between rural and urban populations, or even- in any worthwhile sense- between the States themselves. The States will be no better off. They will get no more funds than before unless they impose their own taxes. This in itself is a breach of insistent pre-election guarantees that no system of double taxation was contemplated, but the matter of Liberal credibility is comparatively trivial. The scheme is a recipe for entrenching and deepening inequality and for killing pub. lie initiative. It is presented as one of its virtuesthe words are the Prime Minister’s- that ‘the relative positions of the States will be preserved ‘. Relative positions! Where does this leave the poorer and less affluent States whose citizens are already disadvantaged?
And what of local government? The one specific undertaking in the ‘new federalism’though it is not mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s Address- is to deprive the Grants Commission of its power to recommend direct Federal assistance to local government bodies on the basis of need. We are to have no fewer than 7 grants commissions- one for the Commonwealth and one for each of the 6 States- and this from a Government opposed to extravagance. Local councils that have improved their services and amenities by means of the $ 1 36m in direct grants from the Australian Labor Government in this financial year and last are to be confirmed once again as the vassals of State governments. The quintessence of the hypocrisy of this speech is contained in its penultimate paragraph, which states:
The Government is not concerned with power for itself. It is the servant of the Australian people. Its purpose is to work for the people to create an Australian democracy which will be an example to the world of what a free people can achieve.
This Government owes its existence to naked pursuit of power- power for its own sake, power for itself. This Government owes its existence to the most sustained and savage attack on established principles of Australian parliamentary democracy ever perpetuated in our history. If the actions of the Governor-General, the Chief Justice and the Prime Minister leading to the coup d’etat of 1 1 November are taken as a precedent, it means that a party must achieve a majority in both Houses to be able to govern. It means that the Senate can send the House of Representatives to an election twice a year without itself facing the people. It means that, in filling casual vacancies in the Senate, a State government can ignore the will of the voters at the previous election. It means that State governors may issue writs for a Senate election according to their own whim or that of their political advisers. It means that the Governor-General may dissolve Parliament whenever the technical provisions of section 57 of the Constitution are fulfilled regardless of the advice of his Ministers. It means that the Governor-General, as the representative of the Queen of Australia, holds powers that the Queen herself does not hold. It means that a GovernorGeneral may at his own discretion dismiss a Prime Minister holding a majority in this House. It means that the Governor-General may appoint any member of the House to be Prime Minister and retain that appointee in office in defiance of the will of the House. It means that the Governor-General may refuse to receive the Speaker and may act in contravention of the message he knows the Speaker to be conveying. It means that the Governor-General may act in contravention of advice received by him from the principal law officers of the Crown and may rely instead on secret advice improperly given by a single judge.
A new Parliament has been called together because of the Governor-General’s assertion that the dissolution of the old Parliament, and the timing of its dissolution, were solely matters for his personal discretion. He took it on himself to appoint the Leader of the Opposition as Prime Minister on condition that he countersigned the proclamation dissolving both Houses. There is the greatest doubt whether it is a matter for the Governor-General’s personal discretion to ordain a double dissolution. There are more grounds for holding that it was a matter for the Governor-General’s personal discretion to submit to the people the Bill on which the 2 Houses had twice disagreed for a referendum for simultaneous elections of both Houses. It has never been explained why the Governor-General having ordained a dissolution and a general election, did not submit this referendum to the people. There is not much doubt that the referendum would have been carried. It may be too much to hope that the new Government will introduce any of the double dissolution Bills which it defeated in the Senate on two or more occasions. It should not be too much to hope that it will sponsor a referendum to end the system of separate elections for the 2 Houses which the Menzies Government introduced in 1953 and again in 1963; otherwise we may have separate elections again in 1978. The Governor-General’s speech makes no mention of this endemic and continuing problem.
The manner in which the dissolution of the last Parliament was brought about, the promises and policies put to the people, and the subsequent evidence of the true nature of this Government are all related issues, all linked, all part of the one great issue- the quality of our political life, the future strength and survival of our political institutions, the nature of our Australian democracy. In no other democracy in the world could a president or a head of state dismiss an elected government with half of its term to serve, a Prime Minister and a Government with a secure majority in the People’s House. Until that central fact is grasped, until we bend our minds and wills to righting that wrong, we will remain, whatever our prosperity or progress, a second-rate democracy in Australia. We must do 2 things. As a Parliament we must commit ourselves to ensuring that what happened on 1 1 November can never happen again. As a people we must commit ourselves to ensuring that the Government which planned and encouraged this outrage is never forgiven for its deception and dishonour. The Governor-General’s speech enshrines that deception. Nothing could ever justify what was done. But at least we might have expected the attempt to be made. The people were entitled to expect that new and constructive policies would be placed before them. They were entitled to hear from this Government some promise of performance and progress commensurate with the enormity of the conduct which brought this Government into being.
The people were generous indeed to this Government- generous in their support, generous in their trust. But what this document really offers them is the slow destruction of the best achievements and reforms of the past 3 years, and the creation of new divisions and discontents in our society. The Governor-General’s Speech proves that it is impossible for the Fraser Government to rise above its origins. The Fraser Government continues the duplicity, deceit and breach of faith in which, and by which, it was called into being.
- Mr Speaker, before I turn to the speech which has just fallen from the hps of my friend, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), may I join with him in congratulating you on attaining the position of Speaker of this Parliament. You and I have had more than 20 years together in this Parliament and I suppose there would be few in the Parliament who would know you as well as I do. Indeed I suppose I could crave your charity and appeal to you not to reveal all of my manifest weaknesses because no person in this Parliament would know them better than you do. I also join with the Leader of the Opposition in congratulating all those honourable members who have made their first speeches in this Parliament. To hold a seat in Parliament is a great honour, no matter what the nature of cynicism in the country may be. It is true, as the last election showed, that the view of the old psalmist put in a secular sense ‘for here have we no continuing city’ is indeed a very real fact of life. But be the stay short or long in this Parliament all honourable gentlemen will find that the parliamentary institution does contribute something to the safety, security and stability of the country.
After those encomiums, I turn to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. I am delighted to be able to begin by congratulating him on becoming the Leader of the Opposition. I have no wish to injure my friend’s feelings but I tell him, on the basis of a very substantial friendship, that never before has a party been led with firmer assurance into the bleakness of the Opposition benches as was the Labor Party at the last election. May I further congratulate the honourable gent on the speech he has delivered this evening. It surely would represent the most sustained, accomplished piece of moaning this Parliament has ever heard. I do not wish to try to bring my honourable friend out of the past, but I remind him of the fact that the election is over. The situation is like that of the gentleman at the cricket match at Cunnamulla who, as he walked out when given out leg before wicket, said: ‘I weren’t out’, and the umpire said to him: ‘You have a look in the paper in the morning’. The honourable gentleman leads an Opposition which faces a Government with the largest majority ever in the history of this Parliament- a majority of fifty-five. Knowing the addiction to a certain sport of the honourable gentleman opposite who is trying to interject, I remind him of the fact that a bookmaker pays on the result and we won by 55 lengths. What the Leader of the Opposition is saying in effect is that the people of Australia were deceived to the extent of giving this Government a majority of fifty-five. Does the honourable gentleman, with all his skill, all his capacity of literacy and articulation say that that does not explain away the fact that in the seat of Werriwa there was a 9.6 per cent swing against him? Whatever the accomplishments of my friend the Leader of the Opposition may be, I am bound to tell him that modesty is not to be included among them. By way of contrast, I turn to the swing to the honourable and gallant gentleman who represents the seat of Riverina. There was a 28.6 per cent swing to him as against a 9.6 per cent swing against the Leader of the Opposition.
I will come to some of the harshness of the charges which the Leader of the Opposition has made later. My only regret, and I observe it in passing, is that I do not have the luxury of 40 minutes to be able to deal with him in a leisurely fashion as would befit the argument he has put to us this evening. He has covered no fewer than 65 subjects. I say to the honourable gentleman that the speech covered by him this evening would certainly not draw from the Diogenes Society an offer of patronage on his behalf If there is any truth in the honourable gentleman’s charges, I invite him to study just one or two of them. Let me turn, for example, to his charge that never before has parliamentary convention been so outraged. I remind my honourable friend that it was in this Parliament that he stood and publicly executed Mr Speaker Cope. Parliamentary convention indeed! In the 20 years till 1972, on only 17 occasions was a gag moved by a government but on the last occasion in 1 975 -
– What did you do to your Speaker?
– I know the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) cannot take it, but he should try. In 1975 the gag was moved by the Government led by the honourable member for Werriwa on no fewer than 25 occasions- and he speaks of duplicity! Let me remind the honourable gentleman of that fateful meeting on 13 December 1974 at the Lodge when, in blatant contravention of the Loan Council agreement, a loan for $4,000m was whistled up as though he was running a coin evening to raise funds for the Werriwa electorate committee. Did the honourable gentleman do Parliament the courtesy of divulging the full facts of that infamous occasion? Duplicity! I fling the word back into the honourable gentleman’s teeth. The fact is that wherever you look in the honourable gentleman’s arguments this evening you find example after example of the reason he is in Opposition. The words of John Donne come back:
But I do nothing upon myself, and yet I am mine own Executioner’.
The honourable gentleman was his own executioner. The reason he sits on that side of the House is that he failed to take the people of Australia into his confidence. He misled the people of Australia. He gave them the impression that the life Elysium could simply be gained by his Government passing legislation without any relevance to circumstance, to time or to the resources of the country.
The honourable gentleman is living through a stage of acute fierce delusion, a delusion so intense that he would seek to portray Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow as a glorious advance onto the Gold Coast. What was the other charge made by the honourable gentleman this evening? It was a charge of coup d’etat. The honourable gentleman is long skilled in the study of coup d’etats. I ignore that for the time being but let me deal with the specific charge made this evening, namely, that the Governor-General has no power. Would there be a lawyer in this Parliament who would not have read at one time or another the most celebrated study of the reserve powers of the Crown, the work The King and His Dominion Governors’ by the late Dr H. V. Evatt? What was the conclusion of that late right honourable gentleman? He concluded, with respect to the Governor-General’s powers, that surely it is wrong to assume that the GovernorGeneral is a mere tool in the hands of a dominant political party. That was the opinion of a far, far greater lawyer, if I may say with infinite respect, than my honourable friend who now leads Her Majesty’s Opposition in this Parliament. Does he say of Evatt ‘s conclusion that Evatt was in error? Does he say that Evatt, a man who became one of the youngest judges ever of the High Court of Australia was in error? Does he say of Evatt ‘s writings, where he examines the whole gamut of authorities with respect to the reserve powers of the Crown: ‘No, Herbert Vere Evatt, you were in error. Today, I am the one who will vindicate what is right and what is wrong in this matter. I am the one who will judge. It is my assessment which stands.’? Not one constitutional authority who has ever written on the subject would not conclude that in ultimate terms there is a reserve power of the Crown available and, I say to my honourable friend, available in the United Kingdom as it is here in Australia.
Does the honourable gentleman say that, for example, of Laski, writing in Parliamentary Government in England; A Commentary^. Surely, as Laski went on to write, the mere fact that we do not know the limits of the royal power, that it remains to be invoked on one side or the other in the twilight zone of crisis, is sufficient evidence to indicate the difficulties of the position. That was the view of Laski. Does my honourable friend sneer at that celebrated authority?
All of his Ministers, one after the other, were asked questions with respect to the holding up of the Estimates. They were asked: ‘What effect will this have?’ The Ministers, with what I can only describe as a bovine insolence, said: ‘Oh, it is going to be terrible’. What the honourable gentleman was doing was putting into practice the thesis of the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns), the quiet revolutionary. The Leader of the Opposition as Prime Minister was bent on carrying out the not so quiet revolution. The honourable gentleman, if he had had the courage, if he had had the sense of judgment, would have had at his disposal an opportunity to have secured a half Senate election. He failed to take that opportunity. He failed to seize it. Now, today, there he is leading a Party that literally has limped back onto the benches of the Opposition.
I turn from those 2 charges because the people of Australia gave their answer only a few short months ago. The ghosts of the Parliamentary Labor Party are looking at the honourable gentleman this evening, and I strongly suspect that they are not looking with kindness and with any sense of charity as far as his leadership is concerned. What of the former honourable member for Bowman and the former honourable member for Brisbane? Look around this chamber and you will see seat after seat after seat which was not won in some small fashion but won with a thundering majority. But the honourable Leader of the Opposition says: ‘Oh no, it has all been a dreadful mistake ‘.
If we want to turn away from that engaging matter, let us turn to the assessment of his colleagues. We have the assessment of the honourable gentleman. We have heard that from him, from his own hps: ‘The greatest Foreign Minister ever. I am the most important person in the Executive’. That felicitous collocation of words tumbled from the honourable gentleman only a few weeks ago, indeed asserting the family motto- modesty above aU.
But look at what the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), that Venerable Bede in our midst, that one who has years hanging upon him with such tenderness, that man with the distinguished diplomatic grey hair, had to say about his leader. You could practically hear the sobbing note in the voice of the honourable member for Hindmarsh when he said: ‘In fact practically the whole Liberal campaign was based upon mistakes that had been made by Mr Whitlam without approval or even consultation with Caucus’. Speaking for myself and putting it in blunt Australian language, I would have thought that was a bit of a go if ever there was one.
Then take the language of the honourable member for Lalor. He did not mince words on the issues. He simply said- I read it to the House-The first thing the Party has to do is to get rid of Mr Whitlam as Leader’. At least that has a stimulating sense of candour about it. In ultimate terms- not one of us is at liberty to try to get away from this concept- the true test of any political party is the manner with which it wields power and the way in which the Labor Party wielded power gives a clear emphatic explanation of why it is now in Opposition. It came into government believing that Aladdin’s lamp was part of the furnishings of office and aU it had to do was to rub it for anything that any of its members dreamed up. Power was abused in a monstrous, in a constant and in a mischievous fashion. A former Treasurer- I do not know which mark or which edition it was; it was circa 74-said: ‘Oh well, the deficit will be $750m’. It turned out to be $2,600m. I only hope that the honourable gentleman never takes to turf tipping because he would impoverish the entire country.
What was the fact when this Government came into office? We came in- it may be unpleasant but the country must face it- to find an economy in an absolute shambles. There is no getting away from that. It is going to take some tough measures for the country’s economy to be put back onto an even keel. The honourable gentleman who leads for the Opposition, speaking in this Parliament in 1974 at a Premiers Conference, so this cannot be looked upon as being desperately out of date, himself pointed towards the central issue when he said:
In order to help break inflationary expectations, we must now slow the rate of increase in Government spending.
Who was that? It was the honourable member for Werriwa, the man who leads the Opposition. He said that the rate of government spending must be cut. The honourable gentleman also said:
Some phasing down or deferment of some expenditure plans must occur.
The honourable gentleman a few short years before that- it has high relevance today because his followers may reflect upon the language, if not to their pleasure at least to look to the views offered by their Leader in the past- speaking in this Parliament, four years ago almost to the day, said:
There is the enduring task of reducing inflation. My Party’s policies are totally committed to full employment and reducing inflation.
It makes one wonder what they would be like if it was half-hearted about those things. The distinguishing feature of the Australian economy today is the rampant inflation which was brought about by a government which was seized completely of profligate ideas. I am bound to say that I find myself in a mild measure of conflict with some of my colleagues about the proposal to cancel the $4m bronze bust which the former Government ordered. I think that bust should have been brought out here to mark the most extravagant and the most profligate government in Australia ‘s history. By contrast, the Byzantine empire, of which the honourable gentleman is more than tolerably familiar, could be looked upon as being made up of people well tutored in the art of restraint.
The honourable gentleman has brought his Party to this state of distress. At least one must admire his sense of audacity. Audacity, audacity and still more audacity, thundered Lenin. This evening the honourable gentleman was following that concept meticulously. It was a most audacious speech. It was a speech which was calculated to appeal to people on the basis that they could get something in this world for nothing. For 3 years his Government cultivated that instinct in this country. For 3 years the honourable gentleman led a government which had no understanding of the basic economic issues of the nation, which took the view that there is a short cut to prosperity, that people can live out their days in high comfort, that there is no need to observe any sense of discipline, that reason can be despised. No nation has survived on a diet of government of that character in the past. Slothfulness has no role to play in Australia. We must resort and return to all the disciplines of reason. This nation must get back to responsibility. It must get back to a clear, firm understanding that there is nothing wrong with this nation that cannot be solved, provided there is a will to solve it; and provided, beyond that, that there are men and women prepared to work to make it so.
– I join with other members in congratulating you, Mr Speaker, on your election to the high office of Speaker, and to the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) on his election as Chairman of Committees. The Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) has just made his second speech to this Parliament. In his first speech he had the humiliating task of admitting that the naval program which the Australian Labor Party Government initiated was a better naval program than the one he proposed when he was Minister for the Navy. He had to admit that Labor’s program would produce better and earlier results than his program, in economic and strategic terms. The Minister may make play with words. When it comes to facts, he has had to eat the words he uttered as Minister for the Navy and as shadow Minister for Defence. In his first speech to the new Parliament the Minister had to admit that he was wrong and that Labor was right.
I am honestly and firmly of the opinion that parliamentary democracy in Australia suffered a great blow with the events of last year. In no other country which operates under the Westminster system is it possible for a government which has a majority in the peoples’ House to be deposed. The House of the people, after the
Labor Government had been sacked, still showed a vote in which the ALP had the majority among the elected members of the House. The Labor Government was wrongly sacked. All the reactionary forces combined with the Liberal Party of Australia, the National Country Party and the Press barons to organise the last election when the Government was unpopular. The Labor Government was under constant pressure for an election within 24 hours of being elected in 1972, and it was under that pressure that it endeavoured to operate during its 3 years of office. This was a period when the Labor Government was pushed to the people twice for an election. Such are the devious ways of the people who now hold office. Their way is not that of the people but rather that of the chosen few. The vested interests of these few among us contrived to force this election.
There has been criticism of the Labor people and their attitude towards the Governor-General when he opened Parliament. I see it this way. Our dispute with the Governor-General is important, because of the type of action which he took on 1 1 November. It cannot be condoned. We must carry this fight forward with us, and never be guilty of forgetting the injustice that was meted out to the Australian people on that day. It has done the coalition parties no credit. It is possible that under normal election circumstances the Liberal-Country parties would have been elected to Government. We all know that. Indeed, they were, but- this is an important factortheir credibility has been lost. Where are the standards of which they so often spoke during their term of office as Opposition? I would say that those standards they were so fond of relating were double standards- one set for them, and another for us.
The Liberal Country Party preoccupation throughout its years of office with the dogeatdog way of life leaves much to be desired for the workers, the young and the aged in our community. Within a very short time, their leader, the Prime Minister (Malcolm Fraser), was announcing his cuts to help the economy. The Governor-General, in his Speech at the opening of Parliament, said:
The Government’s long-term objective is to prevent the growth of centralised bureaucratic domination in Australia, the increasing dependence of individuals on the state. It is to encourage the development of an Australia in which people have maximum freedom and independence to achieve their goals in life, in ways in which they decide.
As part of this approach, the Government will place great emphasis on directing welfare assistance to those in real need. Unless there is a concentration on real need, schemes of assistance do not provide maximum possible assistance to the disadvantaged and become excessively costly. The
Government does not believe that the poor and disadvantaged can be best helped by increasing the dependence of everyone on what the Government chooses to provide.
My Government believes that adequate opportunities for the disadvantaged as well as the most rapid improvement in social service provisions, are dependent on people being free and encouraged to achieve their best. The disadvantaged must be helped in ways which leave them the maximum independence.
Honourable members, I put it to you that this coalition Government sitting here today is not one that is concerned with the welfare of the people of Australia. Rather it is concerned only with the welfare and interests of those few among us to whom poverty is unknown. For over 20 years, pensioners, health services, education and many social changes in Australia were neglected and the social problems associated with this neglect were swept under the carpet by the rule of the Menzies Government and subsequent Liberal coalition governments. It has never considered the expense to our country, not only monetary but socially too, effects felt by young and old alike, living in the lower income strata- not then, not now, and, I would venture to say, not ever. Too much too soon was the cry we heard from the Liberal- Country Party benches while they were in Opposition, but it was not from the under privileged that we heard this cry. After 23 years of Liberal oppression, it was left to the Labor Government to try to rectify some of the social injustices that had grown like a malignant cancer during those years of Liberal rule. Now with the economic measures of this Government, I see a return to the social desert for the Australian people, a return to the 50s and early 60s- to the time of Menzies ‘ rule.
And where does Mr Fraser start his economic cuts? They are not with the upper level of our society but with the pensioners. One of the most despicable cuts of the present Government has been the removal of the funeral benefit to our pensioners. At a mere saving of $3m, he is depriving the pensioners of some peace of mind at a time when financial matters can, and often do, prove to be embarrassing. With one sweep of his pen there can have been little thought and no compassion given to this move. For a paltry $3m he dealt a severe blow against human dignity. The latest blow to our pensioners is the abolition of plans to scrap the means test within 3 years. How differently this latest Fraserism was received in the Press than was Gough Whitlam ‘s statement that the complete abolition of the means test would take longer than the Labor Government had anticipated. It was under the Labor Government that the first steps to abolish the means test were taken. In the Liberal Party’s pOliCY speech of the 1 975 election Mr Fraser said that his government would stand by the Liberal Party’s commitment to abolish the means test for pensioners. Now that Government within weeks of commencing its term of office has abandoned any promise that the move will be carried out within 3 years. Mr Fraser is quoted as having said it would be done ‘as appropriately as it is possible’.
As a further strike against pensioners of this nation Mr Fraser has delayed any pension increases for 2 months, and yet, with almost the same stroke of his pen, he has reinstated the superphosphate bounty to those privileged few, at a cost this year of over $30m, and its cost next year could be over $60m. Even this economic measure has its social structure, for out of 2300 farmers, 1800 are to get $141 per year, and the rest of the bounty is to be divided between the wealthy. Where is the social justice in that move? With the superphosphate bounty, the chemical companies will be getting their chop of the profits too. This bounty is not only a grant to the farmers of Australia but also an indirect grant to the big chemical companies. They certainly know where their priorities lie. Mr Fraser ‘s economic axe falls only on the socially deprived, it would seem. Despicable is the act of cutting the use of cars for disabled persons travelling to and from the repatriation hospitals. So too are the cuts to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in respect of food including eggs for the Aboriginal children. This man, this leader of the LiberalNational Country Party Government, is despicable in the manner in which he is eliminating the benefits for the little people through expenditure cuts, while at the same time lining the pockets of the wealthy grazier.
Let us not forget the cuts made to the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Adelaide. The Adelaide Singers will have to be disbandeda petty economic move- and at the same time, there is a strong possibility of the reintroduction of the unpopular television licence. We await the decision on this matter for it was only deferred by Cabinet. Will these licences be reintroduced with the Lynch Budget, or earlier.
Much nearer home in South Australia, and causing great concern in my electorate of Bonython, is the statement by the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) that Woomera is to be reduced to a care and maintenance level. Who is fooled by a statement such as that? This has been the case for some years now in Woomera. The proposal that the staff of
Woomera and the Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury, which is in my electorate of Bonython, will be reduced by 700 over a period of 12 months, is alarming and disturbing. With WRE, Salisbury, and Woomera, we have an ideal geographical situation for Army and Royal Australian Air Force tactical exercises. I believe that at the present time our own 2 services are investigating possible ways in which this area can be utilised. It is of great concern to myself and fellow members of the Opposition that Woomera could be abandoned and its personnel presently usefully engaged, suffer any bad effects.
Some of the tragic cuts to take place are those affecting the ways of our nation- cuts to education and sporting bodies throughout Australia. Over l’/2 million amateur sporting enthusiasts will be deprived of grants first given by the Labor Government. While the little people suffer economically and socially, what does Mr Fraser do? Why, he employs a butler. How far is this man removed from the average Australian? The mind boggles. While our pensioners are wondering how they can afford to buy tea, he has his brought in by a butler. Mr Fraser has carried out a massacre of the innocent. His axe has fallen indiscriminately among the young, old and under-privileged. He has flamed a trail of horror through his economic policies, from royal commissions to deprived children.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! I remind honourable members that this is the honourable member’s maiden speech.
– I feel humble and privileged in having the opportunity to speak to the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General. I feel humble because this House is part of our parliamentary institutions and system of constitutional government with foundations going back more than 1000 years. I feel privileged because I stand here having been elected to represent over 100 000 people of the electorate of Evans, an inner western suburb electorate of Sydney which contains a crosssection of the Australian people and therefore represents the aspirations and hopes of the Australian people as a whole.
At this time I would like to extend my congratulations to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to the Speaker and to the Chairman of Committees upon your and their election to these high offices in this House. It is a pleasure to see that the Speaker has restored many of the traditions of his great and noble office. Tradition, as has been mentioned so often this evening, is an important part of our civilisation and way of life because it means a transmitting of ideas, customs and truths from generation to generation that are so important to our peaceful and historic development. It has been stated before that those who do not look to history repeat it, and in that context I say that tradition assists us in averting the errors of previous generations.
I believe that the less our system of government, based on constitutional monarchy, is tampered with the better. Parliamentary institutions do not require to be changed or rearranged because they are institutions based upon truths and principles which remain constant and unchanged with the passing of time. Our parliamentary system of government has, through the process of trial and error over many generations, produced a form of government which I venture to say- in fact I am proud to proclaim- is the most stable and protective of our freedoms yet devised. Might I add that the opening of each day’s proceedings of this House by prayer is, I believe, a recognition by us of the essential part that the adherence to divine principles has played in the success and strengthening of our institutions. Those noisy elements in our midst who would agitate for a sweeping away of our traditions do not represent and articulate the real feeling and aspirations of the Australian people. Whilst I am privileged to remain a member of this House and a servant of the electorate of Evans I shall do all within my power to maintain and preserve our system from change, no matter from what quarter, and no matter whether through overt or covert means. I shall do all within my power to warn against those who would tamper with our system for some cheap political advantage.
The people of this nation know that our system of government with a monarch as head of state, divorced from the intrigues of party politics, with a federal parliament consisting of 2 Houses each of equal importance and with States each possessing a parliament sovereign in its powers and responsibilities, truly represents and protects their aspirations and hopes. They know that we have a system of courts based upon principles of British justice, independent of political control and influence, which will always act to ensure that the system operates properly and effectively. Centralisation of power is the pathway to demagoguery and totalitarianism and the people of this nation will have no part of it. Australians are known for their independent fighting spirit, which always arouses them when their freedoms are threatened.
Over the years Australia has received hundreds of thousands of migrants, in the main from
Britain and Europe, the cradle of our civilisation. Many of these people, I am privileged to say, have settled in the electorate which I represent. Large numbers of them have migrated from countries that have few, if any, freedoms. They have come here because they want to start a new life for themselves and their families in a land well away from the haunting spectre of Marxist socialism, no matter under what label it may masquerade. These people, like Australians as a whole, do not want the sterile restrictions of state socialism. They do not want more government; they want less. They want a system of genuine free enterprise under which initiative and hard work are rewarded and the full potential of Australia and of its people can be utilised. They want the burdens of government lifted from their shoulders. They do not want intrusion into their private lives. They want less interference by Big Brother. They want, and we want, a moratorium on Big Brother’s power and a reversal of that power.
I am pleased and honoured that I am a supporter of a government committed to carrying out the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Australia’s people, both old and new. We are embarking on a program based on the principles I have just enunciated- a program that respects freedom of the individual, freedom of religion and expression, freedom to work and to enjoy the fruits of that work, freedom from the totalitarian control of all-pervading power of the allpowerful state.
As His Excellency outlined in his speech, the Government is implementing a foreign affairs and defence policy aimed at securing our continued enjoyment of our hard-earned freedom. Our foreign policy must be built on firm foundations. This country is best served by building alliances with proven and trusted allies, with friends like the United Kingdom and the United States of America. It is ill-served by building dubious friendships with pro-communist dictatorships posing as representatives of the socalled Third World. The Government, in its defence policy and indeed in the major steps which it has already taken to upgrade Australia’s defence capability, has shown a clear recognition of the vital need for strong preparedness in the face of aggression by the Marxist anti-freedom forces in so many parts of the world. Furthermore, the Government has demonstrated its recognition that Australia cannot risk stagnation in its defence capability. It cannot even assume that there is no short term threat in our region and it cannot afford to ignore our traditional defence alliances and the obligation which those alliances place on us. The opening of Cockburn Sound to the naval forces of our allies is, of course, most significant. As well as maintaining our traditional alliances I venture to suggest that there is room for many foreign and defence policy initiatives in the southern hemisphere- initiatives designed not only to strengthen our national security but also to preserve the security of our vital trade routes.
Surely no one can doubt that the basic cause of disruption in the world at this time is the clash of ideologies between the forces of international communism and those which respect freedom of the individual and the attempt of the forces of world socialism to inflict by force their ideology on the entire world. Never before has freedom been so threatened as it is today. Never before have so many flames of freedom been extinguished by the scourge of atheistic Marxism and the misery that follows. Let us make no mistake: Marxism can only prosper by the use of the gun and dependence on concentration camps or asylums for those deemed a threat to the state. It is a system in which people are merely cogs in a gigantic totalitarian machine.
Surely the time has come when we must say: ‘So far and no further’. Surely the time has been reached when we must hold a solid line and take a firm stand against appeasement. Where will these forces of totalitarianism strike next? Last year South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia fell. In the first weeks of 1976 Angola has fallen despite the desperate but unheeded pleas of those in that unhappy country who called to the West for assistance. Where are the so-called democrats, those who took to the streets protesting about our assistance to the South Vietnamese? Why are they so silent about Cuban and Soviet involvement in Angola? Why do they maintain such double standards? What, in fact, are their real motives? The crossroads have been reached and the choice is very clear. It is a choice between freedom of the individual and of expression, and control by the state which directs our thinking. It is a choice between a system which rewards initiative and thrift, and one that treats those qualities as crimes against the state. It is a choice between Western civilisation and the uplifting principles it espouses, and the forces of revolutionary Marxism based upon principles of hatred. It is a simple choice- freedom or socialism.
The problems facing my constituents are common throughout Australia: The care and attention of the aged; the handicapped and the under privileged; a reduction and review of crippling taxes; a reduction of inflation; a return to full employment; a transfer of emphasis from the public to the private sector; the opportunity to own a home; a return to a society based upon freedom in all respects, not a socialist welfare state. The list is endless. His Excellency’s Speech quite clearly recognises the problems facing Australia today. Quite clearly the Government has recognised the solutions. They will not come easily. The remedies may be a little strong to take but the Government’s paths and objectives are clear, concise and certain. It has taken a path to provide all Australians with the opportunity to advance on their merit. It is a path to reduce inflation and unemployment and to put the economy in order. It is a path of security and freedom for all, one that will lead to greater opportunity for all. It is a path that removes the dreaded threat of socialism from the Australian way of life. It is designed so that our people, today’s and future generations, can live in freedom where the individual works and progresses on merit and not by handouts. Thus it is a path to a greater Australia.
I extend my sincere and heartfelt thanks to the electors of Evans for choosing me to represent them in this place. For the time that I am privileged to sit in this House I will always have uppermost in my mind that my privileged and honoured place here is as a representative of the people of Evans. To take a famous quotation somewhat out of context, this is a government of the people and for the people. At this stage I thank all honourable members for extending to me the courtesy of allowing me to present my maiden speech in silence, a courtesy I doubt will oft b.e repeated.
-At the outset I would like to convey to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, my congratulations. I also congratulate those honourable members who have made their maiden speeches. I would like you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to convey to the Speaker my sincere congratulations on his elevation to his position. I sincerely trust that his term in the high office as the. Speaker of this House will be satisfying to himself, of some credit to the Australian people in general and certainly of some advantage to this place, the Parliament of Australia. I rise in this debate to canvass some of the matters that have been raised in the Governor-General’s Speech. At the outset I would like to make some reference to the honourable member for Mortein who put on his usual show for the newly initiated members.
Order! The correct name is the honourable member for Moreton.
– I crave your indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– Mortem is a pest spray.
– Yes, a pest spray or something like that. The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) puts on this act from time to time. He is the Perry Mason of the Parliament. He makes people giggle in the first instance. The next time it becomes a little ‘ha, ha’ and then after that he is boring the backside off you because he keeps it going so often. Let me look at the track record of an individual who has attacked a man who earned the greatest respect of neighbouring countries throughout this region- a man who is now the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). a man who was the previous Prime Minister of this country but who was removed by the deceit and connivance of individuals. The honourable member for Moreton is known as the Perry Mason of the Parliament. He was elected by Communist Party preferences. He is a Perry Mason not only here in the Parliament but also in the petty sessions courts in this country. What a showman! When he was the Minister for the Navy some long time ago his claim to fame was, I think, that he sank a Manly ferry or something of that nature, but he also had another attribute, a testy attribute. He was one of the advocates of sending the boys to Vietnam. Like the previous speaker, the honourable member for Evans (Mr Abel), he was young enough to go. He had a mad, crazy desire to have our people’s boys fight and die in the jungles of Indo-China. Why did he not go? Why did the honourable member for Moreton not go? He did not go because he would fight to the last drop of blood of every young Australian. Just have a look at the developments since he became Minister for Defence. He was not in this place for 5 minutes before giving away the attitude that he took prior to the election. He has now adopted the Labor Party’s program. He came into this House and the first speech he made as Minister is along the lines of buying the FFG frigate. The whole program changes. What an individual! Hypocrisy above that is yet to be seen.
Let me hark back to the record of the honourable member. An article that appeared in the Australian of 22 July reads:
Mr Killen, who criticised the Senate for summoning a South Australian private citizen to the Bar today, said the Senate had no right to refuse Supply and force an election.
He said there was no right to force an election by refusing Supply. But he then did a backflip when he was invited to join his great Leader on the Government front bench.
– He is an acrobat too.
-He would be the greatest political acrobat you have ever seen. Your experience will be a very short one. All you oncers in the Parliament should take heed of the sorts of things that need to be said when the chips are down. I invite honourable member to examine the record of the honourable member for Moreton and just see how sincere he is. He did not answer one of the issues raised by the Leader of the Opposition. All he uttered were generalities. He made no reference to the fact that there was advice that there were no reserve powers by the individual who took the action that he did on that dreadful day in November.
The subject of the events leading up to 11 November has been canvassed and canvassed extremely well by those members of my Party who spoke earlier in this debate, but I feel that I have a duty- a duty to thousands of staunch Labor supporters in my electorate of Melbourne- to add my voice to the condemnation of the events that led to the election of last December. The newspaper proprietors may wail all they like about our pettiness and our irresponsibility in our attitude to the ceremony which was conducted in the opening of this Parliament, but theirs is not a voice that reasonable people will heed for a very long time. As the National Secretary of the Australian Labor Party has already remarked, the conduct of the media in the last campaign marked the darkest hour in the history of this nation’s Press. In making this criticism I want to make it very clear that I do not intend to criticise the activities of the working Press. The vast majority of Australia’s journalists did a magnificent job during the election campaign only to see time and time again their stories rewritten or not appearing at all because they were squashed by the barons of the Press who think that they can run this country.
As one of my constituents suggested to me only the other day, now that a Press council is going to be set up, why bother going to all the expense of having elections. Once every 3 years or so the newspaper proprietors can have a vote to decide whom they would like to see as Prime Minister. Some erstwhile journalist by the name of Max Newton once said when interviewed on television over a matter in which journalists were very involved- a document they produced on a free Press- that when the election date is announced the individuals like Sir Philip Jones, Frank Packer and others who control the Press of this country will meet not to decide whom they will support but to decide how they will support the conservative elements and the blue-bloods of this country who think they have been born to rule. I can assure honourable members on the other side of the House and the shadowy figures that control them, the tiny minority who think they have a God given right to decide which party will form the government, that the Labor movement is united as it never has been before and we will not forget the shameful train of events in which one individual, an individual who was not even responsive to the views of the sovereign he allegedly represents, decreed that the elected government was to be replaced. We will remember that day- 1 1 November- as a day of shame. We will kindle our indignation. We will keep the fire burning for the next 3 years and we will once more assume our place on the Government benches to carry out the job that we were twice elected to do.
Over the past few weeks my telephone has run hot. Ordinary electors have asked me to record before this Parliament their anger at the dismissal of the Whitlam Government and this I have done.
– I have not had a telephone call yet.
– You would not understand what they were talking about. During the election campaign time and time again we warned that the then Leader of the Liberal Party was not to be trusted and that all the progressive reforms of the past 3 years would be dismantled one by one. Our voices, and also the voices of all responsible journalists in this country, were silenced by the barons of the media. The journalists tried again and again to get the now Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to answer their legitimate questions as to the cuts he envisaged, and every time they were refused answers. We are learning the answer now. We could not get an answer from the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) this afternoon. That is typical of the Government’s attitude. ,
Even before the Parliament had come together the Prime Minister had demonstrated his absolute indifference to the needs of the vast majority of ordinary Australians. The axe has already been felt, and those who have suffered are those least able to defend themselves- the pre-school children, the pensioners, the migrants, the poor and the disadvantaged. I draw the attention of honourable members to a report that appeared in the Age of 21 February 1976 headed: ‘We’ll have to give up, say migrant teachers ‘. After questions were raised in this Parliament there was a flurry of activity and the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) and the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) came up with some cock and bull story designed to draw the wool over the eyes of the people against whom the Government has taken steps to discriminate.
The article in the Age records that more than half of the migrant women taking the first conversion course, primary school teachers with overseas teaching qualifications, will be forced to give up their studies because of the Government’s cut in the National Employment and Training scheme allowance. Under the Labor Government the women doing the course were clearing $83.60 a week, most of which was spent on child care and housekeeping costs. As a result of the callousness of the new Government, married women whose husbands earn more than $70.50 will receive the princely sum of $23.40 a week. There will be great haste to change the philosophy around that decision too, but it is like a patch work quilt. All the great philosophy in the Hayden Budget that this Government does not want to adopt because it might be too embarrassing, will probably suffer a change of wording in order once again to pull the wool over the eyes of the Australian electors. Those people will rue the day that they put themselves into the situation in which they have found themselves in recent days.
Under the last Government, for all its mistakes, for all the administrative difficulties it experienced, there was a feeling that we were opening new areas of personal fulfilment, that the Government was dedicated to giving every member of our society the opportunity to expand and to grow. Under the Labor Government Australian society was a much more challenging and exciting community in which to live. If we failed it was because sometimes our vision ran away with us. Possibly we tried to do too much too soon. But no one can deny the fact that we had a vision and a drive to improve the lot of every Australian. My area of special interest is ethnic affairs. I will give the honourable member for Mackellar something for his corner in the next 3 years, I can assure rum of that.
– What about the Minister?
-I am sorry, I mean the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Labor’s policy in the 3 years we were in office illustrates strikingly the basic philosophical difference between the attitude of our Party in government and that of our opponents. Already we are seeing some of the most promising initiatives in the area of ethnic affairs under threat, the pious platitudes of the Governor-General’s Speech notwithstanding. For the 23 years in which our opponents were in office, conservative governments imported migrants to fill places on the assembly line. Aside from economic considerations, the immigration policy was dominated by racist considerations which discriminated against potential immigrants on the basis of the colour of their skin. Indeed, so firmly entrenched was the white Australia prejudice that immigration officials were encouraged to find reasons for rejecting dark skinned Italians.
Probably the most shameful episode of the period of conservative immigration policy occurred just before we assumed office in 1972. With the traditional sources of migrants drying up, due partly to improving conditions in Europe and partly to an increasing awareness of the realities of living in Australia, the conservative Government turned to Turkey to keep up the numbers. Apparently the Turks were considered sufficiently white to fulfil the criteria of its racist policy. Thousands of these people, many of whom had never lived in a major Turkish city before, were imported to this country with absolutely no consideration for their needs once they arrived. Many thought that they were coming here as contract labourers, following the German pattern, and expected to find company housing and return air fares on the completion of their contracts. Translation and welfare services for our other ethnic groups were woefully inadequate but for the Turks they were non-existent. At the present moment, just on one-quarter of the children in the Turkish community in Kensington, North Melbourne, have been sent home because their parents cannot find adequate child minding facilities geared to their needs.
I am happy to say that after an initial period of confusion and suffering the Turkish community is starting to find its own feet. Initiatives were taken under the last Labor Government to try to provide some facilities for them. During that period the Kensington group, which represents a wide spread of Turkish migrants, formed their own social welfare group, hired their own premises and conducted a survey of their community. They approached me and the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) who was the Minister in Charge of the Children ‘s Commission. At the Minister’s prompting a project was developed. I wonder where that will go with the proposed $9m cut in the Children’s Commission. The honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) who is interjecting would do better to look after his Democratic Labor Party mates in Western Australia. Despite the fact that the Turkish group’s submission to the Interim Children’s Commission was given the highest priority, I wonder what is its future.
The Governor-General’s address is a most marvellous exercise in hypocrisy. It is a case of not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing. On the one hand, it proclaims that the ‘Government Will make available adequate numbers of bilingual staff in public hospitals and government departments’ and, on the other hand, it announces:
The growth of the Federal bureaucracy has been halted by the announcement of revised staff ceilings. Further revisions to these ceilings to reduce the size of the service were announced last week.
Once again we see mad haste but no definite promises of what is to be done. What this means in practical terms is that there are not any jobs for the graduates of last year’s courses in interpreting and translating. The Minister has talked about them but it was not until I asked him a question during the last fortnight that he got off his backside and did something about it. Are there any jobs available? Can the Minister announce them? What is the situation in actual terms? Will these interpreters be given opportunities to relieve the hardship of the people to whom I have referred?
– The honourable member should read the announcement before he talks.
– The point is that this happened after the ball was over, but it is still hovering up there like Mohammed’s coffin. The Minister should tell the people what he intends to do, not be vague. Those are the same pious promises and the same answers that he gave today in relation to the amnesty. The Minister should come out and tell the people where they stand. He should indicate clearly what their future in this country will be. Highly skilled ethnic liaison officers who work in the Health Insurance Commission are now carrying out routine tasks because the new ceilings prevent their being utilised adequately in other departments. We have heard about the new look Public Service. The Government must be serious about this. We want to hear from the Government in concrete terms what it intends to do. Already the people who voted for the Government are realising that they made a terrible mistake. Because of the gerrymandering of the electoral boundaries Opposition members are few in number but I can assure our supporters that we will be seizing every available opportunity to expose this Government for what it is, to put forward our alternative- an alternative of imaginative and progressive reform, a vision of an Australia where every citizen has the opportunity for a rich and meaningful life.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Before I call the honourable member for Leichhardt I would remind the House that this is the honourable member’s maiden speech.
-I am honoured and privileged to take part in this debate on the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency ‘s Speech. I offer my congratulations to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, on your election to your high office and, through you, to Mr Speaker on his election to his office. I also pay tribute to my predecessor, my friend Bill Fulton, who served this House and the electorate of Leichhardt for 17 years until he retired at the end of the 29th Parliament. He was a good, honest, decent man- one of the old school of the Australian Labor Party. Leichhardt has been a Labor seat for 24 years and I am pleased that I played some small part in reversing that trend.
It strikes me that few honourable members know very much about far North Queensland and the Leichhardt electorate. It must be difficult for those members who represent constituencies of three or four square miles to comprehend an electorate such as Leichhardt which stretches north from the town of Innisfail for 1200 kilometres to the Papua New Guinea border and west from the Great Barrier Reef for 1200 kilometers to the Northern Territory border. The mainland area is more than twice that of Victoria and this does not include the many islands in the electorate. If we add together the land, the islands and the sea surrounding them, the electorate is almost four times the size of Victoria which has 34 members in this House. The coastline of Leichhardt is 12 times the length of the coastline of New South Wales, an area which has 45 members in this House.
Last week the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) when large electorates were mentioned interjected with ‘camels and spinifex’. Humorous perhaps, but a very typical urban reaction. Unlike many rural electorates, the population of Leichhardt is growing rapidly. It is now over 120 000. The numbers on the electoral roll between the 1974 and 1975 elections grew by 3000. The whole of this vast area is populated and productive- no camels and no spinifex. It is one of the last frontiers of Australia opened up by adventurous, stout-hearted men and women. - not by governments but by private individuals, people willing to take risks, to face the dangers and difficulties of isolation and the ‘tyranny of distance’, the apt tide of Professor Geoffrey Blainey’s recent book. The tyranny of distance emphasises the difficulties of living so far away from the main centres of population. It is the cause of past ignorance and neglect of the far north by governments- all governments- and now that this side of the House holds all the seats in Queensland north of the Tropic of Capricorn I trust that the northern members will work together to produce an influence, perhaps greater than their numbers, in keeping with the vast wealth and importance of the area.
We recognise that half the population of Australia lives in and around the great metropolises of Sydney and Melbourne. However, perhaps city dwellers forget that they produce little of the wealth of the nation. They process some of it and use much of it for their own needs, but the real wealth of the nation comes from the land, the mines and the sea which together produce 73.5 per cent of the nation’s exports. I believe that more of this wealth should return to the source. Because of the tyranny of distance, the greatest problem in Leichhardt is communication in all its forms. The most pressing need of the electorate is for roads and bridges which are usable throughout the year. At present during the height of the wet season it is not possible to travel by road in a conventional vehicle more than a couple of hundred kilometers from Cairns, the main centre of population. National Highway 1 must be upgraded so that we are not cut off from the south. Roads to the west and north must be improved. Today the towns of Croydon, Normanton, Burketown, Weipa and Coen are cut off by road and last week the people of Normanton and Burketown had to charter an aircraft to bring in fresh milk and vegetables. Thanks to good planning before the wet season, so far none of these towns has run out of beer.
I have in my possession a letter written in 1 888 by a member of my family from the then booming cattle and mining town of Croydon, in the centre of the gulf country. At that time there were more than 50 public houses in Croydon and a rather greater number of houses of a less reputable character. The letter talks of great troubles in getting supplies in and gold and cattle out. It goes on to say:
There is much hope for the future as it has just been announced that a railway from the east is to be built to Croydon.
So much for the promises of governments. Eighty-eight years later there is still no railway and no all-weather road into Croydon from the east. The people still cannot get their cattle out. Inadequate radio and television reception is another of our communication problems. No one in my electorate tonight can listen to this speech as the one Australian Broadcasting Commission channel does not broadcast so far away. Perhaps because of this the people of Leichhardt have a higher opinion of this House than those who have been able to listen to the debates in this House over the last 3 years. Beyond a radius of 240 kilometers from Cairns no one can receive television or commercial radio and many closer areas receive very poor television reception because the installation of equipment necessary to improve reception was cancelled as an economy measure by the last Government. The greatest good for the greatest number.
It is my firm belief and the policy of the National Country Party that those who live in the more isolated areas of the nation should not be unduly disadvantaged by the tyranny of distance. People in the cities say: ‘But you chose to live there’. Yes, of course we did, but without a populated north Australia would be a much poorer and more defenceless nation. When the economic climate improves I will press for the reintroduction of the fuel equalisation scheme and for assistance to small local airlines, both measures having been cancelled by the last Government. The reduction in assistance to small local airlines means that very large areas of Leichhardt no longer receive deliveries of mail or newspapers. This is particularly hard on the women of the outback, another instance of the tyranny of distance.
Leichhardt is an area of great diversity of terrain and industries. There is the modern city of Cairns, a centre for tourists. Cairns and Innisfail are surrounded by rich fields of sugar cane. The Atherton Tablelands, with its unique temperate climate in the midst of a tropical zone, produces dairy products, tobacco, timber, minerals, maize and vegetables. This area is able to supply Alice Springs and Darwin with milk when the roads are not cut. It is the longest milk run in the world. Weipa, on the far north west of the peninsula, produces and exports vast quantities of bauxite, and along the great coastline is a big fishing industry. Many speakers already have mentioned the plight of the cattle industry. Throughout the gulf and peninsula area of Leichhardt this is the major industry and the area has the potential to export more beef than has the rest of Australia combined, and did so until the slump in the market in 1973. I recognise that the Government is beginning to implement the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission report on the beef industry, but if the industry is to survive until the market recovers more must be done in conjunction with the States. Although some loans are available to producers, I am most concerned about those producers who do not qualify for loans. Urgent support is necessary to enable them to survive, and I mean that in the literal sense. I urge immediate application of the IAC recommendation on household support so that families with no income may have enough to eat.
Tourism is rapidly becoming the greatest money earner in the far north, as people from the south and from overseas realise the unique attractions of the far north and its magnificent climate. Now that honourable members no longer can travel overseas at government expense- I agree with that restriction- perhaps some of them may wish to travel north during the winter recess to escape the southern cold and to see what we have to offer them.
Other speakers in the debate have spoken about the plight of small businesses. In Leichhardt three out of four people are employed by small businesses or on small farms. That section of the community has suffered most from the disastrous economic policies of the previous Government. I look forward to prompt action being taken in carrying out the election promises made by the Government concerning the assistance required to ensure the survival of so many small businesses. Jobs must be created by real decentralisation so that young people from the north do not have to travel more than 2000 kilometres south to the nearest big city, Brisbane.
More than 20 000 of the people of Leichhardt are Aboriginals and Islanders. They comprise a major part of the community. The previous Government did many worthwhile things for them, but it did too much too quickly. Many of the leaders of these people, with whom I have had discussions, are concerned about the handout philosophy so encouraged by the previous Government. I believe that this Government, in consultation with the Queensland Government, should re-think its policies to encourage both independence and the involvement of these people in all decision making which affects them.
The problems associated with the proposal to mine bauxite at Aurukun have already been mentioned tonight. Recently I spent a whole day in the area sitting under the trees letting the people talk to me. If mining is to be undertaken the people must be consulted very carefully so that their wishes may be met. They have many worries, such as the desecration of their sacred sites. They worry about the impact which the close proximity of a large European community could have on their way of life. I look forward to having close contact and involvement with the Aboriginal and Islander communities of Leichhardt. I will try to ensure that this Parliament and the government departments involved are aware of their special problems and hopes.
I suppose that not many members of this House can say that they have two difficult international problems within the boundaries of their electorate. I can. The first one is the potential trouble between Australian and Taiwanese fishermen in the Gulf of Carpentaria when the prawn fishing season opens next week, on 1 March. The long term solution to the problem of foreign fishermen in Gulf waters is to close the Gulf. That should be done only, I believe, with international recognition. Next month the Australian Government is to be represented at the International Conference on the Law of the Sea to be held in New York. I hope that at that conference we will reach agreement so that Australia may have an exclusive economic zone stretching 320 kilometres from the coastline. Such a decision would effectively close the Gulf by international agreement.
The other international problem lies in the definition of the border between Australia and Papua New Guinea in the Torres Strait. There are 17 inhabited islands in the Torres Strait, and the proud Island people have been Australians and Queenslanders since 1 879. The islands and the seas surrounding them are their fife. The 10 000 Islanders would strongly oppose any agreement or solution which does not continue to recognise and preserve their status as Australians and Queenslanders, their islands as Australian territory, and their traditional fishing rights in the waters of Torres Strait. Equally, the traditional fishing rights of the coastal Papuans must also be preserved. I am most concerned at some of the solutions which have been suggested to this problem, many by people who have never been near the Torres Strait, and I believe that many of them would be quite unacceptable to the islanders and to Queenslanders.
I turn now to defence. Everywhere I go throughout my electorate people express concern about our inadequate defences. Because of my long and varied experience in the defence forces this as a subject in which I will take a continuing interest, encouraged by the people of Leichhardt who realise that they live, once again, in the front line of Australia ‘s defence. They look on the map at the area to our north and they read reports of war and unrest in Timor and Bougainville, and they worry. It is my firm conviction that the first duty of any government is the security of the nation, a duty dangerously neglected by the previous Government. I am very pleased that expenditure on defence was not cut in the recent economy measures. There was absolutely no room for further economies in defence spending. My many friends in the Services tell me that the most vital areas are those of equipment, training and morale. Commitment to buy new equipment and money spent on sound training will quickly raise morale.
In the far north a major problem is surveillance of the coastline, which I said earlier is 12 times the length of the New South Wales coastline. It is easy for foreign fishermen to land undetected on the coast with the disastrous possibility of the introduction of foot and mouth disease, which could stop all beef exports and have disastrous results throughout the country. It is known that drugs are smuggled in and that rare birds are smuggled out. There is also the long term possibility of undetected incursions. I would recommend a form of coast watcher service, manned voluntarily and at little cost by locals in the Gulf and on the peninsula. They can all ride horses and use radios, and many have cross country vehicles. I would like to congratulate the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) on the views which he expressed on defence last week. He and I had the privilege of serving together in the same great regiment. It is very good to see a member of the younger generation of the Services with such a sound grasp of and interest in defence. I ask all honourable members to take a similar interest in defence, to create a national awareness of the importance of those in uniform who serve the nation.
It will require money to reverse the past neglect of the far north. I am sure that the people of Leichhardt realise that little additional money will be available until the economy improves. I urge the Government to commit itself to development programs for the future so that the people may have hope. I will be a clear, firm voice in this House so that the far north and Leichhardt, although far out of sight, will not be out of mind. I urge all honourable members to go north and to see for themselves the problems imposed by the tyranny of distance and to see also the vast potential of the area. Finally, I thank honourable members for the courtesy of listening to me with such attention.
– I congratulate the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Thomson) on his maiden speech. I must say that I was particularly impressed by the sensitivity of his remarks in relation to the Aborigines and the problems of the inhabitants of the Torres Strait islands. I shall not touch on some of the other points because I would rather concentrate on the remarks made by the Governor-General. In a debate in the House last week I had occasion to mention that the Governor-General’s Speech said nothing, I thought, in unequivocal, specific terms. Take for example this statement:
The Government will place great emphasis on directing welfare assistance to those in real need.
That is a beautiful sentiment. How could anyone disagree? But what is really meant by the word ‘real’? By the way it was put, one might have thought that the Labor Government threw money away. On whom? Was it on the pensioners who were expected to eke out an existence on less than one-fifth of average weekly earnings? We quickly brought the pension up to a quarter of average weekly earnings- still not a princely sum but at least permitting a more dignified existence. More important in many ways, we set the pattern for regular twice-yearly adjustments to the pension, getting away from the undignified spectacle of pensioners having to beg for increases and never being sure when they would be granted. Clearly that was not considered a real need before we brought the change about. Even so, we find that the Liberal Government still feels the urge to tamper with the whole concept by making the adjustments related to increases in the consumer price index and not keeping pensions as a set proportion of average weekly earnings.
In my view this is a cynical move to reduce eventually the real value of the pension, in view of the trends over recent years. In those recent years the rate of increase of average weekly earnings has been faster than the rate of increase in the consumer price index- at least until the last few months anyway. I presume that this recent situation will be temporary. If it is not, of course, the Government will be in trouble. If the consumer price index rises faster than average weekly earnings the Government will have a lot of problems on its head. So I assert that it is to be hoped that average weekly earnings will go up faster. So that by tying the level of the pension to increases in the consumer price index the Government will reduce the real value of the pension for the pensioners; in other words, revert to the situation when we got into power.
One should recall that when there was a Labor government in the 1940s the pensioners were receiving 25 per cent of average weekly earningsone quarter of the average wage in the community. When we got into power in 1972 the pensioners were receiving less than 20 per cent of average weekly earnings. That is what I am getting at- the way the Government is seeking to manage the adjustment of the pension rate it is quite likely that the pension rate will fall relatively in the way it did from the time Australia last had a Labor government in the 1940s. I invite the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Newman) to write it down on a bit of paper if he does not follow it and he will see that it is correct.
In other areas we also demonstrated our concept of real need such as by recognising the need of the unemployed to more substantial support. I know aU the arguments about the bludgers who are not working. But most of the people who are unemployed at the moment cannot find jobsquite genuinely are unable to find work. This has been the case regrettably for some time. Until we made the adjustment the support for those people was totally inadequate. In like fashion we recognised the need or the right of a supporting mother, irrespective of the reason why she is on her own and attempting to support herself and a child or children- it is irrelevant- to the same support that was offered by the last Liberal government to first-class widows- or were they Class A widows? The whole concept of categorising women in that fashion was inhumane and insulting, in our view, but it was a graphic demonstration of the repressive interpretation of ‘real’ as seen by honourable members on the Government side. Already there are hints that they would dearly love to revert to their retributive approach, namely that the unfortunate in society must be punished because in the eyes of government supporters those people must deserve their misfortune.
The Liberal Government claims- I quote from the Governor-General ‘s Speech: . . . that adequate opportunities for the disadvantaged as well as the most rapid improvement in social service provision, are dependent on people being free and encouraged to achieve their best.
I would have thought it was the other way round. For those who are not free and able to achieve their best, adequate opportunities must be provided. The most significant limitation of freedom of choice in this society would be poverty and inadequate opportunities for reasonable education. To overcome these burdens we encouraged the study of poverty by Professor
Henderson- true the previous Liberal Government set up the inquiry in the first place, but we enlarged it and gave it more support- so that we might better understand the problems. We poured funds into the education systems, both State and private, where investigation snowed that standards were inadequate and the children attending schools were being penalised. The then Opposition crowed that it was all waste, particularly in the innovations area. It was claimed that there was lots of waste in the education area but particularly in the innovations area. By so doing the previous Opposition illustrated how little it understood, how little feeling it really had for the underprivileged. Just bricks and mortar, important as they are where there are no classrooms, are no consolation to many poor children whose parents do not understand or appreciate the value of education, and who therefore offer no encouragement and even place obstacles in the way of their own children deriving the greatest benefits from their schooling.
With flexible approach offered to teachers in the innovations program there was some hope that positive discrimination could be provided, particularly in disadvantaged schools in areas of high migrant concentrations where the children have not mastered the language adequately, where they have very few facilities at home and very little encouragement, because of the difficult situation with their parents, to make the best of their education opportunities. The innovations program was an attempt to overcompensate, if you like, in their favour. But now the Government threatens the survival of this concept, not in the words of the Governor-General’s Speech- which does not say anything in particular- but in its actions. Its attitude to the poor could best be summed up as: ‘Serves them right for being born poor or for being born migrants’. Incidentally, by ‘poor’ I do not necessarily mean poor in dollars and cents. I revert to my point about how some people suffer because their parents do not appreciate the value of or need for education. Of course this need is increasing as our society becomes increasingly technological.
Elsewhere in the Speech the Governor-General said:
At the root of the economic crisis is a steadily increasing tax burden required to finance, at the expense of the private sector, an ever-growing public sector.
What is meant by ‘at the expense of the private sector’? Who or what is the private sector- factories, real estate, great manufacturing concerns or people? Is a public servant not part of the private sector? Just close all the Public Services down and stop the public servants performing their functions and see how well society, the private sector, functions. How has the public sector been created if not by the powerful, the private sector? It is nonsense to say that it has been created at the expense of it as though the private sector would be better off without any public sector at all. The Speech also states:
There will be a major direction of resources away from government towards individuals and private enterprise.
What is the government if it is not the people in the country. There is no evidence that anyone has yet produced to suggest that the members of the Australian Labor Party while in government were creating private wealth for ourselves. I say that because there are some places where that is what governments do. We were not doing that. Money, resources, were being directed to serve people’s needs- people in the total community, the public sector and the private sector. They are inter-related. Who were the people getting supportjust pensioners, just children, just the ill? How about the car drivers on the new roads, or the air travellers receiving the benefit of the support for airport facilities, or the farmers receiving the benefit of the Government’s endeavours to find export markets or its endeavours to bring in marketing regulations and giving support to the wool industry by supporting the wool price? Is that not all, as part of the government endeavours, support and help for the private sector? In my view the government policy could be seen as nothing more than cutting back on what we as a Labor government tried to establish to improve the quality of life, to protect the freedom of the community from exploitation by ruthless business practices. Thus the Trade Practices Act provided a comprehensive framework for all manner of protective devices. But the GovernorGeneral says:
The Government will ensure that business activity is regulated by law to prevent exploitation of consumers.
Good! Bully for the Goverment! That is why we introduced that legislation. The GovernorGeneral continues:
It will also review existing regulations to ensure that they are in the public interest-
That is what the regulations were brought in for- and do not needlessly hamper business efficiency. The Government will review the operation of the Trade Practices Act and closely cooperate with the States in protecting the consumer.
I reiterate ‘needlessly hamper business efficiency’. What efficiency? The efficiency of producing products of quality or the efficiency of increasing the quantity of profit? I wonder which the Government really means? I have not noticed enormous complaints from the general community about that Act and the things that might hopefully spring from it if it is implemented. I have not seen consumer organisations complaining that it would increase their opportunity to check on the quality of the goods produced in the private sector because not only public servants’ wives shop in supermarkets. None of the consumer organisations has complained about the added powers that Act will provide to ensure that what is supposed to be in the packet is in fact in it. But the Government is going to review the Act. It is going to ensure close co-operation with the States in protecting the consumer. Well in real terms that means nothing. The States could have done much of this themselves. They could do so right now. They talk a lot but they do nothing. I suggest that that is precisely what the Government means by that comment. Then in the Governor-General’s Speech there is talk of bringing about the most important reform of the Federal system since Federation. The Governor-General said:
Its core will be the principle of tax sharing. . . . Under this Government, the States will have access to a secure proportion of personal income tax revenue.
Let us stop the humbug. What do Government supporters think that the States get right now? If it is not taxation revenue, what is it? If it is not a secure proportion in the sense that the States know what they are going to get each year, what is it? The grizzle is, of course, that the States feel that they are not getting enough. The Government’s answer is to hand them back powers to levy taxes themselves. Elsewhere in the Speech I think is comment on the need to increase the autonomy and responsibility of local and State government. In my view this will simply be a reversion to massive social inequality because, after all, the Australian Government will have priority in collecting funds. The Australian Government will decide how much it wants initially, then the States will have to find the extra funds they feel they want. We are giving them the right to raise those funds by levying taxes. The more populous States may do all right, thank you very much, but how about the less populous States? They tend to be the largest in area and their difficulties are greatest in terms of development. They will have the greatest difficulty in raising funds. In real terms, of course, the Labor Government’s policy was to recognise that Australia is one country. The States were fortuitous divisions created early in our history but, if the country as a whole is going to progress, we need to think as a country and take funds if needs be from the richer areas in order to promote development in the poorer areas.
– To steal funds.
-We need to take funds from the richer areas in order to promote development in the poorer areas such as the State of the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr). It is for these reasons that all governments in the past have adopted the basic principle of taxation whereby more is taken from those who are better off and more is given back to those who are less well off. Not even the Government of which the honourable member for Swan is a supporter would propose to turn that theory totally upside down but certainly in his Government’s activities it will try to reverse the trend a good deal to make a sort of flatter distribution which, of course, will penalise the poorer sections of the community.
It is claimed that there will be a re-assertion of the Government’s role in establishing an appropriate legal framework for economic life. Just what does that mean if not government control? If the Government is going to do it, it may be weak, watered-down and a biased version in favour of the rich, but it will still be government control. The Government cannot get away from it. It proves that the Government does not believe in the freedom it carries on about when it attacks the Opposition because it knows there is no such thing as complete freedom. There is only controlled power. All the things that the Government accused us of destroying- the supports that we discovered in many areas where in our view there was no need for support- the Government had implemented as a private enterprise government to try to bolster that particular part of the private sector it felt under economic threat, under danger of going under, poor dears, because the profit margin, the return on the investments, was not quite as good as it could have been. The way the Government got that support, the way it obtained the funds to give that support to that section of the community, was usually by depriving the poorer sections of the community. That is why when we came into power we found the inadequacy of pensions, the total inadequacy of the education system and so on ad infinitum. Anyone would think from the way the Government protests about ‘the freedom of Australians to choose’- these words are contained in the Governor-General’s Speech- that this country was governed initially by some communist monstrosity which laid down all sorts of restrictions and that since then the job of government, the course of human progress, has been to break it all down. The trouble is that there has never been a communist government in power. Most of the time honourable members opposite have been in power. Of course when they talk about breaking down government controls they are really joking. What they mean is that they are keen to break down any controls which tend to increase the cut that the bulk of the community gets of the wealth. They are keen to increase those controls that will guarantee that the privileged maintain their hold on the bulk of the resources of this country.
One could conclude, I suppose, by discussing the Government’s moves to control inflation because that is the great threat to the survival of this community. The Government’s moves to control inflation include cutting, down government spending. Of course the problem of cutting down government spending is that the Government somehow tries to suggest that government spending is something way out on its own and has nothing to do with the Australian community. But of course government spending goes into schools built by private enterprise, it goes into hospitals built by private enterprise to treat the private citizen and it goes into schools to educate the children of the private citizen. The funds for government expenditure go into providing services and utilities used by the private sector. The Government says that it is going to cut expenditure down. Bully for it! It will cut down on providing funds for government housing so that there Will be fewer houses for those who cannot afford to build their own houses. But then that does not solve the Government’s problems because it is worried about excess liquidity. The Government has to stop the demand because of excess money giving rise to further inflation so it does a couple of things, including bringing in the Australian Savings Bonds. What a brilliant success that was. The bonds took all the money away from the housing institutions so that they could not afford to lend any money out to people who wanted to build houses. The bonds were such a raging success that they threatened to be disastrous and the Government had to close them before they really got under way. In fact I had complaints from people who had applied while the bonds were still theoretically open and were told that they could not get their bonds. What has been the result? As I said, there was the flight of funds from the building societies, a drop therefore in the amount of money available for people to build their houses, then retaliation by the building societies increasing their interest rates. That is a very clever way of controlling inflation.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Brown) adjourned.
Condolence motions- Social Service Payments to former German Citizens- Immigration: Assyrian Citizens- Cootamundra Abattoir- Alleged Persecutions of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Malawi
Motion (by Mr Newman) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I do not wish to detain the House for any length of time tonight, but I should like to raise 3 matters, although not necessarily in the order of priority that I would give them. Last Tuesday, included amongst many silly and pretentious performances in this House and its surroundings, there were a series of motions of condolence for recently deceased Prime Ministers, Premiers and Heads of State in Nigeria, China and Malaysia. As I had done earlier that day, in the morning and in the afternoon, I absented myself because I had significant reservations about two of the people concerned. I think that the House at some stage has to make a decision on why we go through the motions of making speeches and praising people after their death when we have disagreed with their policies during life. We go through the pretence of standing etc. and observing their passing. I noted with pleasure that General Franco, who also had died during the period, was not mentioned in the condolences. Probably only one honourable member, the honourable member for the Western Australian seat of Swan (Mr Martyr), would like to move a special condolence motion for him. I note in tonight’s Press that the Head of State for North Korea, Kim II Sung, is alleged to be very ill and I hope he will get the same treatment in this House as General Franco received and for the same reasons. I appeal to the House to think about this proposition. We do not have to get up and pretend that every Head of State was a very worthwhile person. Most Heads of State are the opposite, and extremely so. Surely many of us would say good riddance to them.
The next matter I wish to raise is that of social service payments for former German citizens in Australia, specifically citizens of West Germany. The position at present is what it has been for a long time and that is that Australian citizens who formerly had German nationality do not receive social service payments from Germany to which they would otherwise have become entitled. In other words if a person comes to Australia but remains a German citizen he is entitled to certain social service payments depending on the time that he contributed in that country. If such a person accepts Australian citizenship he no longer is entitled to those payments. I think most honourable members would argue that this is extremely unfair. Possibly it could have been argued that there was some justification for it in the days when we ceased paying social security benefits, for example old age pensions or invalid pensions, to our citizens or to people eligible for such payments when they went overseas.
In 1973, quite early in the term of office of the Whitlam Government, we changed that rule. Now we pay pensions to anybody, wherever they live, provided they became eligible for them while living in Australia. I hope that some sort of agreement will be eagerly sought by this Government to enable former German citizens to receive their pensions. In a recent issue of a German newspaper in Australia there is a picture of German and American Ministers or Secretaries of State for social security signing an agreement which provides for the exchange of this sort of social security payment. If people contribute to social security payments, as happens in West Germany they are partly personal contributions and partly contributions from employers and they are entitled to receive those payments overseas then surely the fact that they accept Australian citizenship should not preclude them from receiving those payments. I think the Australian Government should take urgent steps to impress on the West German Government that we feel strongly about this issue. The West German Government, to my mind, is very reasonable and surely it will be prepared to discuss this matter.
The final matter I want to raise concerns a group of people, a large number of whom live in my electorate. They are called Assyrians or they are people of Assyrian background. They are people who have been living in the Middle East, mainly in Iraq and Iran, for many generations. They were Christians who lived in Moslem communities. They claim that they have been persecuted in those countries, especially Iraq. They were able to receive passports in Iraq. I think about a thousand of those families have settled in Australia. Many of them, if not most, speak English well. The older people were employed by the British Government in Iraq before Iraq became independent in about 1956. There is an extremely unpleasant regime in power in Iraq at the present time and it deals very harshly with these people. They claim that this is for religious reasons. The only way that they can leave Iraq is to get a passport which is stamped valid only for a Moslem country. The one that these people picked on is Lebanon. They went to Beirut and there applied to join their relatives in Australia In that country at the present time there are numerous parents of children of people in this country. There are difficulties in Lebanon at the present time, as we know, but the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar’ recently issued special instructions for dealing with those difficulties.
One of the greatest difficulties is that our Government will not accept them on normal immigration terms because they fail to produce a number of documents considered necessary by us. One of them is a valid passport. They do not have valid passports because they cannot get passports in Iraq to enable them to come to Australia. They are entitled to go only to Moslem countries in the Middle East. The second document is a police clearance from the Iraq Government. It is ridiculous to expect people opposed to a regime, whether it be in Iraq, Spain, Yugoslavia or anywhere else, to produce a police clearance from the country of origin. It seems ridiculous to me that they must have a police clearance. Originally, in the case of young males, it was necessary for them to produce a clearance saying that they had performed military service in their own country before they could be accepted by us.
I appeal to the Minister on behalf of the Assyrian families. These people are otherwise entitled to come to Australia. They have close relatives here, parents, dependant children and others. They have the necessary qualifications to be admitted to Australia. The fact that they do not possess a valid passport or a police clearance from their country of origin should not be held against them. Some steps should be taken by the remnants of our office in Beirut to deal with them urgently. These people are living on money that their relatives are sending from Australia. It is an urgent question. It has gone on for months and months now and everybody is passing the buck. Not many people are involved- only about 100 or 120 people. I can assure the House that their relatives here are extremely good citizens in the broadest sense of the word and every possible help should be given to them.
– It is often my lot to follow the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) in this debate and usually I find it a pleasure to sit here and listen to his coherent contribution and the free flow of his words. His delivery tonight may be excused because he has not been in the chamber for the last three or four months and I hope that he soon regains his fluency. The honourable member on my left, the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King), has suggested that we should ask the honourable member for Prospect what he would like us to do when he passes on. Perhaps the answer is that we will all throw our hats in the air.
Tonight I wish to raise a matter of significant importance in my electorate, a matter which I believe probably reflects very much on the general state of industrial relations in Australia today. It is probably a problem which is approaching flash point in a lot of industries. The experience we have had recently in Cootamundra may be of interest to the House. Last Thursday the management of Conkey and Sons, which runs an abattoir in Cootamundra employing some 400 to 500 people, closed its doors. The tragedy of the closure of Conkey and Sons abattoir should bring home to people everywhere the knife edge situation that exists in Australian industrial relations today. Despite the highest levels of unemployment since the depression, there are still union leaders who will push management to breaking point. I think it is worth nothing that the election which was held as recently as 2 months ago was fought largely on the basis of security of employment and the extreme hardship which has been caused by the highest levels of unemployment since the depression. Even in that atmosphere unions are still prepared to push management to take decisions such as the one taken in Cootamundra last week.
In a country town such as Cootamundra the situation is aU the more serious because there is no alternative employment for those who are out of work. The decision to close the abattoir was not the result of government action, it was not the result of the loss of markets for the company’s products, it was not the result of financial mismanagement. It was the result of a final confrontation by a militant union. The closure is the culmination of a long period of industrial unrest at Conkey ‘s. I should point out that an industrial order which was granted in Sydney only 1 9 days before the final closure of those works was breached 12 times by the union in that period of 19 days. The management was put into a position in which it was not worth carrying on operations. My understanding is that the bulk of the union’s decisions is made or influenced by the union executive in Sydney. The decisions are not made in Cootamundra. I wonder whether the Sydney unionists understand or care about Cootamundra and the members of the union who worked at Conkey ‘s. I do not know how many of the employees agreed with the industrial action that was being taken, nor do I know whether they realised that last week’s action would be the straw that would break the camel’s back. I do not know whether secret ballots would have helped. I do know- I am vitally concerned about thisthe effect that the closure of Conkey’s will have on the town of Cootamundra.
Conkey’s is not only an abattoir, it is Cootamundra Transport, which is a huge transport business that does all the cartage of the meat, both live and in carcass form. Conkey’s is Skin Processors (Aust) Pty Ltd, which takes the hides from the abattoir and treats them. It is a $40,000 a week pay-roll which circulates among the town’s business houses, clubs and hotels. It is supplier of fuel and materials, and it provides a lot of work for a lot of tradesmen. Conkey’s is all of these things on which the economy of Cootamundra depends. But basically, and more importantly, it is people- hundreds of families who could not live in Cootamundra without the work provided directly or indirectly by Conkey ‘s. The question everybody must ask is simple: Has it all been worth it? Has it been worth all the personal and financial hardship that will follow for hundreds of families? Has it been worth destroying a thriving town that will quickly become a shadow of itself without its principal employer and industry?
People must come to realise that industrial activity is a partnership. It should be a partnership between employer and employee in which each benefits from the other. While unions have an important and a proper place in the partnership I believe, and unionists should realise, they must be careful not to abuse the responsibility and the power that they undoubtedly have. The final decision whether an industry will continue must ultimately lie with the man or the company who has put up the capital and whose money is at risk. It is fundamental to economics that a satisfactory profit be earned on capital, otherwise that capital is better invested elsewhere. People must realise that although an industry should operate to the mutual benefit of both the owners and the workers it is not a charity, nor is it a bottomless pit of benefits for one side only. Industrial unrest is just as damaging to business as are excessive wage demands. Unfortunately, Cootamundra has come to learn that lesson very much the hard way.
There is now an urgent need to negotiate a permanent arrangement which will result in the re-opening of Conkey’s. The management is resolute that there will be no operations at the abattoir until firm guarantees are given that working conditions will be accepted and industrial orders observed. What will be the response of the Sydney based union? Will it be in the best interests of Cootamundra? I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that what may be good for Homebush is not necessarily good for Cootamundra. I believe that members of the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union in Cootamundra and in other country areas should give serious consideration to breaking ties with that union if the union executive is responsible for the present situation. Perhaps the time has come for a country meat industry employees union. History is full of instances of governments which would not surrender when defeat was apparent. The bloodshed continued, as it does often in the industrial arena. These governments were replaced by others whose first action was to surrender. I use this analogy simply to demonstrate that the unionists in Cootamundra should not accept a situation in which they become pawns in the power game of a Sydney based executive.
I would like to think it would be possible for the decisions which affect Cootamundra members to be made in Cootamundra. I wonder whether we have the leadership. Do we have the leadership in Cootamundra which will demand the secret ballots for which so many unionists express their support in private? Have we the ability to negotiate the long term solution which must be hammered out if Conkey’s is to open again? If we can achieve a re-opening of this abattoir, have we the intelligence to stick to our word and to honour our agreements? I fear that the union in Sydney will be allowed to dominate and that the situation which will then exist will not result in a satisfactory agreement being reached. Those who want to work in this town and in this industry face an enormous challenge. It is in everybody’s interest that that challenge is accepted and overcome.
I wanted to bring the attention of the House to these matters this evening because I believe other industries in other towns and in the major metropolitan cities are probably close to the same situation which we have experienced in Cootamundra. For the benefit of Australia’s economy, for the benefit of those who work in industry and for the benefit of those who invest in the industry, I hope that very soon there will be a realisation that there must be harmony on the industrial front and that all sides have an important part to play in reaching that harmony. After the event it is of no use saying: ‘If we had done this or if we had done that things might have been different’. There needs to be an atmosphere of co-operation paramount to the framing of an industrial policy which is acceptable to all parties and which will prevent the occurrence of tragedies such as the one in Cootamundra at the moment.
– There you go, bashing the unions again.
– Before I conclude I point out to the House that the honourable member for Port Adelaide would look absolutely magnificent hung up by the calf, on a meat hook, going through those works.
-Thank you for your graciousness, Mr Deputy Speaker, in giving me the call. The honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) has indulged in a traditional and typical union bashing speech. He has tried to tell this Parliament that 300 or more workers at the Cootamundra meat works are so irresponsible that they have plunged their near and dear ones into household debts over a triviality- virtually nothing. This is never the case with most trade unions. I can recall some years ago being at Bowen in Queensland campaigning in connection with a State election. I wish to draw to the attention of the House a meat industry strike in relation to a man who had been employed for 25 years at the meat works at Bowen. This calmnatured man was dismissed, allegedly for smoking on the butchers’ stand. He had collected his clothing and was walking out without provoking his fellow employees when the shop foreman said to him: ‘What are you going home for?’ The man said: ‘I have been sacked.’ The shop foreman asked the reason. The man said that he was being sacked for allegedly smoking on his stand. The shop foreman said: ‘You know that is the rule here. Were you doing that ?’ The man said: ‘No, I was not. I was through the swing doors waiting on the next beast to come down on the chain system. That sometimes takes half a minute. He continued: The Assistant Manager came around and said that I should not be smoking on my stand. He said that I knew that this was against the rules and that I was dismissed’. But this man was not smoking on the stand at all.
All the men who were employed at the abattoirsthey were not militants- came out on strike in sympathy with the dismissed man, although he did not want them to take strike action. As I have said, he had been employed at the works for 25 years. The strike extended over a period of some 3 weeks. The real issue in that strike was the issue that I am told has provoked the Cootamundra workers to strike, namely, a triviality. The management of the abattoirs at Cootamundra at the moment is waiting for a higher price which is expected for meat on the world market. It would prefer to put the meat in the chillers and provoke the men to strike when the chillers will hold no more meat. I understand that this is the true reason -
– The abattoirs are closedfinished and the men are all paid up.
– They are agitating for higher prices. They do not want to kill any more cattle until they get the higher prices. This is the real issue. But the honourable member for Hume comes into this chamber and misleads the Parliament by suggesting that the meat workers are totally irresponsible, that they are prepared to deprive their wives and families of the necessities of life and risk incurring greater debts in their individual homes because of a triviality. I do not believe that the true issues have been put to this Parliament by the honourable member for Hume. The honourable member probably had to make this speech tonight because of some financial donation that the abattoirs gave towards his election campaign. We know of the great contribution of illicit money that has occurred and that members of the Government will resort to bribery to try to get their particular Party into power. They are prepared even to run the risk of gaol in trying to get their Party into power.
I rose principally to plead the case for and to bring to the notice of this Parliament the awful cruelties that are being perpetrated on the Jehovah’s Witnesses of the Commonwealth country of Malawi. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have held an Australia-wide protest in the hope that they can bring to the notice of fair-minded Australians the persecution, murder, torture and rape of their people of Malawi. This issue has arisen because Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in involving themselves in politics and in Malawi they have refused to take out membership cards of the National Party led by Dr Banda, which is the only political party of that country. As a result they have suffered for some yean murder, rape, persecution and bashing in the most cruel form. Honourable members opposite laugh about the cruelty that is being meted out to these Christian people who do not want to become involved in politics and who do not resort to the employment of political consultants or lobby in the parliaments of the various Commonwealth countries.
– But they have you.
– They have me because I am a man of free speech and I hate murder and rape. The honourable member as a responsible former member of the Army ought to be ashamed of himself, interjecting in such a frivolous manner. Jehovah ‘s Witnesses have suffered persecution in Malawi, which is still a Commonwealth country. I would hope that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), for whom most of us on this side of the House have considerable respect, will see fit to use his good offices with the other countries of the Commonwealth in an endeavour to remove or eliminate the persecution of Jehovah ‘s Witnesses in accordance with the principles of the United Nations in respect of freedom of religion. I intend to raise this matter again in this Parliament in the hope that the murder, torture, rape and barbarity that is being perpetrated on Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Commonwealth country of Malawi might be terminated.
Mr LUSHER (Hume)-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I do.
-Well, I hope that the honourable member will confine his remarks to the point where he has been misrepresented.
-Indeed I will. I have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) who claims that I came in here deliberately to mislead the House. He accused me also of union bashing. I point out with all sincerity that I had no intention of union bashing. I did not mislead the House.
– It is not a personal explanation.
-Order! The honourable member might -
– He is instituting debate.
-Wait a minute. The honourable member is not running this House.
-The honourable member is out of his seat.
-Order! Would the honourable member for Hume just say where he has been misrepresented. I have heard 3 points so far and I think that the honourable member is in order up till now.
– I wish you did not drink before you came into the House.
-Order! That is a reprehensible remark from one honourable member to another. If I were the Speaker I would consider naming the honourable member for that. I have heard too many aspersions about whether or not people drink in this place. I ask the honourable member to withdraw that remark.
– Am I being asked to withdraw the remark because it is unparliamentary or because it is convention that it should be withdrawn?
-Order! It is a rather nasty spiteful remark which I think any honourable member should withdraw.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, in the other chamber someone was named for that, immediately.
-Order! I have not given the honourable member the call yet. I ask him to wait for the call. Would the honourable member for Prospect please withdraw that remark.
– I will withdraw it if it is unparliamentary. But I was asking you, Mr Deputy Speaker, whether it is purely a convention that we ignore these facts or whether it is unparliamentary.
-The remark was highly disorderly and should be withdrawn.
– Under those conditions I will withdraw it.
-The honourable member for Hume will show precisely where he has been misrepresented.
– I was saying that the honourable member for Hunter accused me of deliberately misleading the House and of union bashing. I make it perfectly clear by way of personal explanation that I was putting forward facts as I understand them in relation to the situation that exists in Cootamundra at the moment. I tried my best to put them forward in a conciliatory fashion.
– I suggest that the honourable member should state where he has been misrepresented. If he says anything else he will be debating his personal explanation. .
-I was about to refer to the second point of misrepresentation by the honourable member for Hunter in which he suggested that I was here acting on behalf of the management of the abattoir and that the abattoir had made a contribution to my election campaign.
– I never alleged that.
-Of course you did. I simply want to deny any financial connection at any time with the abattoir concerned.
-Would you believe, Mr Deputy Speaker, that there are no official statistics available on the key word ‘profit’? Honourable members were kind enough not to quesiton the statistics I used the other day in a speech in this House. They asked me where the profit figures I was using actually came from. It struck me that it was fairly important that this key indicator of economic trends should in fact be available somewhere. One can look for all one is worth through the official statistics put out by this and previous governments but one will not find the words ‘net profit’ as applied to corporations. Figures on net profit as generally understood by most accountants are not available for examination. As a result this House and the nation at large have to put up with the most extraordinary allegations by various honourable members opposite about the horrendous profits of the corporate sector in Australia
I am intrigued to note that when a major corporation increases its profit by a minuscule proportion we see the headline in most newspapers written by my former colleagues saying: ‘Record profit for Consolidated Pretzels’, or whatever the name of the company is. Yet we notice that when, for example, a boilermaker’s wage goes up as result of a cost of living adjustment it goes to a record level. It is interesting to note that the style of reporting, the style of attitude and the style of comment from the informed gentlemen opposite tend to relate to the word ‘record’ only when we are talking about profits but refer to just, proper increases when relating to wages. I am overjoyed that various members opposite are for the first time coming across the concept of profit.
We have been at somewhat of a loss over the last 3 years. The whole nation regrettably has been on the wrong end of a set of policies which I believe mainly emerged from the absence of real statistics, or the apparent inability of members opposite to comprehend what the facts really were. The national income figures for example, as any member opposite capable of reading them will know, clearly show an adjusted profit figure. It is the same adjustment that the Mathews Committee made. It adjusts profits for stock valuation. Honourable members opposite may have been able to read the summaries of that report, leaving aside the full report. Gentlemen opposite who may well have stumbled through the summaries would be aware that the stock valuation -
-Order The honourable member for Port Adelaide will kindly behave himself.
– The gross figures reported in the national income paper give some indication that profit has been overstated both by the Taxation Commissioner and, I believe, by many of the corporate bureaucrats who are content to communicate to their shareholders that they have had good tenancy and that they deserve the support of the shareholders, thereby perpetuating, as the Mathews Committee revealed, a situation in which companies overstated their profits and as a consequence were overtaxed.
I want to stress to the House that a close examination of the available statistics will give a very clear picture of what has been happening to corporate profits in Australia while everything else, particularly government taxes in the last 3 years, has been rising. By making the appropriate adjustment that the national income figures make for stock valuation, deducting the tax figure which is available from another set of statistics, and then deducting the normal costs from the national income figures a figure for net profit is arrived at.
It is extraordinary that this net profit figure has not in fact been requested by this House in the past from the keepers of official statistics and that it is not presented to this House and the people in official statistics. So many honourable members from the depth of their ignorance discuss this matter with an abysmal lack of skill. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a set of statistics prepared by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library which shows the trend of profitability in the last 5 years.
-Is leave granted?
– I think it should be pointed out to the honourable member- he is a new memberthat it is customary when leave is being sought to incorporate material in Hansard to show it to the Opposition spokesman. In deference to the honourable member’s being a new member, we grant leave.
-I know the honourable member tried to obtain leave a while ago. I thank the honourable member for Corio. Leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 February 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19760224_reps_30_hor98/>.