30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable, the Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the three service cadet forces have great value in the development of the youth of Australia.
That the disbanding of the cadet forces will disperse accumulated expertise and interest of those involved, and in some cases negate the efforts of many people over many years.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will reconsider its decision and that the Government will reinstate the cadet forces.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bonnett and Mr Moore.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country is causing and will cause widespread inconvenience, confusion, expense and distress.
That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.
That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest inconvenience and distress are occurring, that is to say, in meteorology, in road distances, in sport, in the building and allied trades, in the printing trade, and in retail trade.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrChipp.
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 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.
-Order! I remind the House that the Clerk is reading petitions from the electors of Australia to this national Parliament. I ask honourable members to listen to them in silence.
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.
– I address a question to the Treasurer about two current conceptsunlegislated tax increases and tax indexation. I ask: Is he aware that between 1964-65 and 1972-1973, all Budget periods of LiberalCountry Party governments, net pay as you earn tax collections increased from $1 billion, to $3 billion, a threefold increase, and that in the same period gross domestic product only doubled? Was this large increase in pay as you earn unlegislated tax increase fiscal drag or benevolent fiscal dividend that made Budget balancing easier? Secondly, is what is now being called tax indexation merely a recognition that in the presence of continuing inflation tax justice demands regular, perhaps even annual, adjustments of tax schedules- a practice not followed by earlier Liberal-Country Party governments but begun by Labor?
– I think it ill becomes the honourable gentleman to make some simplistic comparison of the increase in taxes between the period of the former Liberal-Country Party Administration and the more recent Labor Party Administration. I accept that the figures he used are no doubt correct. I have not checked them so I could not answer the question with accuracy in an impromptu fashion at the Table. The honourable gentleman would be the first to recognise that under the first 2 years of the Labor Administration personal income tax increased, as I recollect it, by 89 per cent and that, had the Hayden Budget been continued within the parameters in which that Budget was conceived, the increase in personal income taxation would have been more than 140 per cent. I might say to the honourable gentleman that this Government is determined to stop the financial rape of the Australian people through taxation resulting from the impact of inflation.
So far as tax indexation is concerned, the honourable gentleman would appreciate that it does serve to meet a number of principal Government objectives. In the first place, it will seek to keep government honest. In the second place, it will certainly assist in placing more resources in the private sector, as distinct from the public sector, of the economy. The honourable gentleman would recognise that it is an important factor in inhibiting the tax-induced element of present wage and salary claims in the economy. So tax indexation rests on a very important social principle as well as the economic impact which we believe it will and should have upon the whole question of wage and salary claims.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. In view of the considerable public interest throughout the Australian community in the possible mining at Aurukun in northern Queensland, will the Prime Minister indicate what is the Government’s attitude to the possible development and what action it is considering?
– I have had correspondence with the Queensland Premier about this matter. Two questions are involved- the rights of the people at Aurukun and the foreign investment policy of this Government. I am advised that under present circumstances the companies involved are wholly owned overseas. As a result of discussions that were held this morning I will be writing to the Premier seeking additional information. My colleagues the Minister for National Resources and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will also be taking up with the appropriate Ministers the particular aspects that come within their responsibility. Since the matter of foreign investment is also closely intertwined in this total situation there will also be discussions with the companies concerned to make sure that this Government’s foreign investment policy is maintained.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question concerning the visit by a senior Commonwealth police officer to the Australian Labor Party’s advertising agency last Friday. Was he aware that an officer intended to make this visit?
– During last week I became aware of information which involved the 2 Iraqi visitors mentioned in the Press which led me to the view that a serious breach or breaches of the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations may have been committed in Australia. Offences against those regulations carry a penalty of $100,000 or 5 years’ imprisonment together with forfeiture of any currency involved. Having formed this view, I decided that as first law officer I should request the Commonwealth Police to undertake inquiries about the matter. I made arrangements to see the Commissioner of Police on Wednesday last in the presence of the Secretary of my Department. Inquiries have since proceeded under the direction of the Commissioner. When they are completed I expect to receive a report and that the result of the inquiries will be made known. Any action of the police in looking at diaries or interviewing other people is simply at their discretion. So far as I am concerned, the inquiry is being conducted in the ordinary way.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Foreign Affairs about a report in last Friday’s Age of hideous tortures of a British doctor, Sheila Cassidy, by the Chilean regime. The article stated that the United Nations committee on .human rights had concluded in its final report that torture of the utmost brutality had become routine under the Pinochet regime. I ask the Minister: Has the report been studied by his Department or himself? If the report does verify those allegations will he give the House an assurance that Australia will condemn and denounce such practices in the loudest and clearest terms?
-The report will be studied by both the Department and myself. I point out that the Government deplores the use of torture wherever it may occur, and the Government is not selective in so doing. The Australian Government has previously supported resolutions in the United Nations bodies condemning the use of torture in Chile. It will continue to support resolutions calling for improvement in the respect for and observance of human rights in that country. However, I should add that as a matter of principle we will deplore the use of torture wherever it may be practised.
-I ask the Prime Minister a question. Are the terms of the Queensland Government’s Aurukun Associates Agreement Act such that Aboriginal people are cheated of royalties and deprived of ownership and customary use of their land? Has the Queensland Government infringed United Nations and International Labour Organisation conventions regarding the rights of indigenous people in respect of their traditional lands, particularly the right to be consulted? In what way is it intended to redress this situation?
– I have no wish to add to the answer that I have already given on this subject except to put one additional point. The Government strongly believes that there should be adequate and appropriate consultation in these matters.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence and concerns the Army Reserve. Since the implementation of certain of the recommendations of the Millar report, some organisational improvements have been carried out in the Army Reserve. However, is the Minister aware that considerable uncertainty still exists within the Army Reserve as to its future role? Will the Minister fully define the role of the Army Reserve and ensure that the Reserve knows what this role is?
– I am glad to be able to inform the honourable member for Henty that the Government has adopted in its entirety the recommendations of the Millar Committee’s report. I am sure that my honourable friend will acknowledge the fact that to implement a report of that character calls in the first place for time. A number of recommendations have already been put into effect. It was only a few weeks ago that the Army Reserve Advisory Council has its first meeting and that Council will advise the Chief of the General Staff and the Government on how better to implement the other recommendations of the report. Finally, the honourable gentleman will acknowledge that in ultimate terms the
Government’s acceptance and the implementation of the Millar Committee ‘s report calls for an amendment to the Defence Act,, and that is currently being studied by the Government.
– I ask the Foreign Minister a question. He will recall that last Wednesday the Prime Minister said that our Tokyo Embassy was instructed to issue visas to 2 Iraqi citizens and that they were met on their arrival in Sydney on 8 December by a representative of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Did his Department’s representative accompany them through customs? Were both of them carrying diplomatic passports? If either or each carried a nondiplomatic passport were ordinary customs procedures applied? If not, why were they not?
-The specific details of this matter are so important to the Leader of the Opposition and to the Parliament that on this occasion, if the Leader of the Opposition will bear with me, I will have investigations made into the report that was given to the Prime Minister and me last week so that I can be precise in answer to each question the Leader of the Opposition has posed today.
-You will write to me?
-I will write to you today.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Northern Territory. Has his attention been drawn to statements made in the Northern Territory media over the weekend that only $3m in additional funds has been made available for low interest housing loans in Darwin and that funds made available for home finance trustee loans are still about $lm short of meeting the commitment for approved loans? Is this a fact? What money, if any, has been made available for such loans?
– Yes, my attention has been drawn to that statement and other statements attributed to informed sources or unnamed sources. I deplore such statements because they add unnecessary distress and torment to many people in Darwin who have suffered enough from the effects of cyclone Tracy. Within a few hours I will be making a fuller statement on the concessional home loans scheme. However, the facts briefly are these: The previous Government appropriated a sum of $4m for this purpose, and it was totally insufficient. Already $3m more has been allotted, as the honourable member has indicated, and the allocation of a further sum substantially in excess of $ lm will be announced later today. This means that this Government already has considerably more than doubled the appropriation which the previous Government deemed to be sufficient but which was totally insufficient.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by stating that on 24 February in response to a question asked by my colleague, the honourable member for Hughes, the Prime Minister maintained that the recent issue of Australian savings bonds had not caused building societies in New South Wales to increase their interest rates, rather that the rates charged in New South Wales were generally lower than those charged elsewhere and that the increase in New South Wales was only to bring that State into line with other States. I ask whether that statement was in conflict with a statement made by Senator Cotton, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who, in a paper delivered to the Metal Trades Industry Association, stated in part:
In 1975, permanent building societies and savings banksthe main repositories of household savings- attracted a net increase in deposits of more than $3,000m, while the Commonwealth’s Special Bonds- the security designed for small, non-professional investors- drew a net inflow of a mere $190m.
I ask the Prime Minister: As permanent building societies and savings banks are the main sources of finance for home buyers and in the light of the general upward trend in home finance rates as currently announced, will the Prime Minister still deny that his Government does not have a definite policy to increase interest rates generally and particularly those in the housing area?
-The honourable gentleman seems to be quite unaware of the fact that as a result of the policies of this Government overdraft interest rates for people who borrowed up to $ 1 00,000 were reduced.
-The honourable gentleman should think before he speaks. For overdrafts up to $100,000 they were reduced. The fact that I gave the House on an earlier occasion, that New South Wales rates in the housing area were lower than those in other States, remains the truth, and I do not see any conflict between that and what my colleague in another place said.
– My question which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education relates to the tertiary education assistance scheme. I ask: Is it a fact that under that scheme a student who is a widow and who has an income of $3,900 or more per annum is ineligible because of means test provisions for any assistance? Is it also a fact that if the widow ‘s husband had not died the husband could earn up to $7,600 per annum without that income in any way affecting the wife’s entitlement to assistance under the scheme? Does the Minister regard that situation as being anomalous? If so, will he take steps to see that that and similar anomalies are examined as a matter of urgency with a view to correcting them along the lines of the recommendations of the Williams report which was tabled in this chamber during 1975?
– Yes, I am aware of the anomaly which the honourable member has pointed out, and my colleague in another place, the Minister for Education, has undertaken that inquiries will be conducted to see what can be done to remove the anomaly.
-The Minister for Defence will be aware that the re-equipment, remodelling and modernisation of HMAS Perth has made it entirely different from its former sister ships. Will the Minister indicate whether modernisation and maintenance of essential defence equipment has been postponed by the Government? In particular, will he state whether the modernisation programs for the 2 guided missile destroyers HMAS Hobart and HMAS Brisbane which were to be given half life refits this year at Garden Island, has been postponed? If that is the case, will he state what effect this will have on the defence preparedness of the ships considering that one aspect of the refit authorised by the previous Government was to install vital electronic warfare equipment in the 2 destroyers?
– I regret that I cannot answer in particular the honourable gentleman’s question. I shall treat that question as being on notice and ensure that he gets a reply this afternoon.
– My question to the Minister for Primary Industry refers to the canned fruitindustry. Is the Minister aware that in my electorate over the weekend growers were unable to pay local government rates, and indeed marched or took tractors in a demonstration to the local government offices. Flowing from this state of affairs, can the Minister give any indication of how long the Industries Assistance Commission report into the agreement between the Federal Government, the States and the industry will take to be completed? Secondly, because the first part of the question refers to 1975 fruit prices, can he give any indication to help the thinking on the 1976 fruit prices in relation to the expected Australian Industry Development Corporation report on reconstruction of the canning fruit industry?
– I was not aware of the circumstances in the honourable gentleman’s electorate at the weekend. However, I know that canned fruit growers generally have suffered quite serious disadvantage since the failure to provide months ago, when the position first emerged, funds to enable the canners to pay the growers. In the honourable gentleman’s electorate, in the Goulburn Valley and in the Leeton area of New South Wales the position is quite acute. The Government decided that it would advance funds to enable the canneries to meet payments on the 1974-75 season. However, under the terms of the LAC legislation it now appears that, for the Federal Government to pass those funds to the States for the payment to growers, legislation is necessary. I hope that can be introduced and passed through this House without delay. I expect that it will be introduced either later this week or early next week. Of course the AIDC report provides some hope for rationalisation within the industry and, one would hope, some prospect of overcoming the long term problems of supply in the industry. There is also a problem with respect to tree-pull. With respect to terms and conditions of future tree-pull operations, I hope to submit a particular inquiry to the LAC because of some difficulties in the deciduous canned fruit industry. Again, I hope that can be done fairly expeditiously. As to the revamped AIDC report, I hope that too will be in the hands of the Government within the next week to 10 days. I have advised the industry that I expect to be able to circulate it fairly widely so that it can promote discussion and, one would hope, will be of some relief to the very serious plight of all those who are producing canned fruits, be they in the electorate of Angas or anywhere else in Australia.
– My question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications concerns a report on ABC radio on Saturday 31 January that Exxon, the world’s largest oil company, had made payments to political parties in Italy, Japan and Australia. I ask him: Is he aware that this item was reported only on the 10 a.m. News In Brief? Can he explain why such an item was not reported on any subsequent major news service of the ABC? Does he consider this item to be so inconsequential as not to deserve further publicity? Can he give the House a categorical assurance that the ABC is not being subjected to political censorship?
– This is the first that I have heard of this matter. I am certain that it has been raised by the honourable member as part of the Opposition’s concern about matters of political fund raising.
– We just want to make sure that it is known in the electorate of McPherson.
– The honourable member can make comment on these matters, which he knows are of little or of no significance. It really will not make any difference to the issue which is interesting all Australians today.
– I direct my question to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that one of the greatest restraints on the growth of small business in Australia is small business ‘s inability to retain earnings without punitive rates of interest? Is the Treasurer willing to consider the impact of Division 7 taxation on small business in view of the fact that large public companies do not suffer from these same restraints?
– I very much appreciate the question raised by the honourable gentleman. This Government is very concerned about the crippling impact of taxation on the small business community and understands in particular the adversity that the application of Division 7 of the tax law presently has on the small business area. I might say that the Government made it clear in the election campaign that it would introduce 2 specific initiatives designed to assist the small business community. In response to the question the honourable gentleman has posed let me say that the retention allowance will be increased to enable private companies to invest in capital equipment, and shareholders in private companies will be given the option of being taxed as a partnership in order to minimise the double taxation of private company income.
The question of taxation of the small businesses in this country is currently the subject of a detailed report which is being prepared by the Treasury in co-ordination with the Taxation Office. I might also say to the House that regard should be had to the conclusions drawn in one of the studies commissioned by the Taxation Review Committee- the Asprey Committeewhich said that the present system of retention allowances probably represents a brake upon the more enterprising and expanding companies and could lead to liquidity problems for newly established private companies. This is an area which has been given very close and detailed consideration. I hope to have the opportunity to make a major announcement on this during the course of the Budget context. As the Prime Minister has said frequently, this Government is out to encourage initiative and enterprise, and in particular will back the small business community.
-I ask the Attorney-General: Further to the reply that he has given the Leader of the Opposition in regard to police actions during their inquiry at the advertising agency used by the Labor Party and also the seizure of diaries of people who were allocated as bodyguards to the Leader of the Opposition, did he have any prior knowledge of the actions that were taken by the police?
-I have already stated all that I propose to state in relation to investigations by the police. As Attorney-General I regard myself as having a very heavy responsibility in relation to matters of this character. I will perform, I hope, that responsibility in the high tradition that honourable members opposite are fully aware is attached to the office of Attorney-General. If an investigation is instituted and is proceeding, I will not make any comment upon it. I have already indicated that any investigation that is being undertaken is being undertaken at the discretion of the Commissioner of Police. That is all I propose to say about the matter at this stage. The fact is that the police will make a report in due course, and no doubt that report will become public. That report will indicate whether any breach of the criminal law of this country has occurred.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I refer to the discussions that the Government properly initiated with employee and employer organisations concerning the future of the Prices Jutification Tribunal. When is the next round of discussions due to take place and what is the current position concerning the future of the Prices Justification Tribunal?
– As the honourable member indicated, there was an ad hoc tripartite conference on 16 January. It was put at that conference, and the Government agreed, that a further conference be held about the future of some price scrutiny mechanism. As a result of that decision I have been discussing with the relevant parties a time when that conference might take place. There have been some difficulties in arranging a date as early as I would like because two of the principal parties were going to the governing body of the International Labour Organisation in Geneva. One of those parties has returned rather more speedily than he anticipated, but the other is still absent. Our program is for these discussions to take place in the second half of this month. The whole question of the appropriate prices scrutiny mechanism in this country will then be aired fully. I might add that my colleague the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has indicated that he would be happy to receive submissions from people interested in this area for consideration prior to the holding of the talks.
-I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for Port Adelaide. I appreciate that he has already answered my question whether he was aware that a senior Commonwealth Police officer was to visit the Labor Party’s advertising agency last Friday. I point out that I am not asking him to anticipate the outcome of any current inquiries. I do, however, ask him whether he was aware that the Commonwealth Police who were assigned to me as bodyguards last year were to be asked to hand in their diaries.
– The answer to that question is no. I will say this: I was aware of the possibility that if the Commonwealth -
Opposition members- Oh!
-I want to answer the quesJtion quite honestly. I will say this to the honourable member I was aware of the possibility that the police, if they conducted inquiries, might wish to look at documents such as that in the ordinary course of conducting inquiries and that they might wish to ask questions of the Labor Party’s advertising agency- I forget the name of it- if they conducted their inquiries in a proper and ordinary way. That is, I think, a very frank answer to the question and a very honest one that goes beyond what the honourable member, asked me.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the Minister for National Resources and Leader of the National Country Party is about to appoint the honourable member for Farrer as his assistant Minister. Will this set the pattern for other Liberal Party and National Country Party back benchers to take up similar positions with other Ministers? If this is the case will these assistant Ministers have any real function or is this simply a ploy by him to keep an increasing -
-The honourable gentleman has asked his question.
– Is it simply a ploy by him to keep an increasingly restive back bench in line?
-Judging by the quality of that question it is a wonder that the honourable gentleman got on to the front bench for even a short time. The subject matter has not arisen. In this Ministry, Ministers are Ministers; there are no assistant Ministers and there is no intention to appoint any. Neither the Deputy Prime Minister nor any other member of the Ministry has raised with me the question of assistant Ministers.
-I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. Is it a fact that the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development has recommended to the Minister that nuclear powered vessels -
-Order! Will the honourable gentleman repeat to whom he is addressing his question?
– To the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development.
-Would you proceed from the commencement of the question?
– The Minister is not present.
– My attention has been drawn by the Prime Minister to the fact that the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development is not present in the chamber.
-Could I be informed who is the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development?
-That information is contained in the printed lists. It is not for me to inform the honourable gentleman.
– With the greatest of respect to you -
– I would be prepared to answer the honourable gentleman’s question if he wishes to direct it to me.
– The Prime Minister has graciously offered to answer the question. I call again the honourable member for Shortland. Direct your question to the Prime Minster.
-Is it a fact that the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development has recommended to its Minister that nuclear powered vessels be not authorised to use Cockburn Sound? If it is not a fact, what is the attitude expressed by the Minister on this subject?
– I have no knowledge of what the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development may or may not have recommended in relation to this matter, but I indicate to the honourable gentleman, who ought to know, that it is the Government which makes policy in these matters, not any one department.
-Mr Speaker, with your leave, may I put a question to the Treasurer? Is the Treasurer aware that a new plant of Aveling and Barford (Australia) was opened at Dandenong over the weekend and that the directors of this company have asked something perfectly reasonable? Will the Treasurer try to ensure that there are no major fluctuations in tariffs during the next two or three years, as a matter of policy, because such fluctuations make planning of any international company or any company extremely difficult? Will the Treasurer give an undertaking that if he wishes to make changes of any magnitude in the tariff he will consult the industry beforehand?
– I should very much like to be able to oblige the honourable gentleman. As I understand it, he is seeking from me as Treasurer, and from the Government at large, an assurance that this Administration will not be involved in the unpredictable shocks to which business has been subject during recent years. I am sure he will be the first to understand that we are running an effective management program in relation to matters which come before the Government, and unpredictable decisions of the type to which he has adverted will not be part of government policy.
– I ask the Treasurer a question without notice. Has the Treasury inquired into the alleged practice of international advertising agencies receiving donations at their American or British headquarters for Australian political campaigns and keeping those donations overseas as instalments of the annual dividends due from their Australian subsidiaries? I point out that the Australian Labor Party’s advertising agency is totally Australian in its operation and ownership.
– Order! The honourable gentleman will ask his question.
-Mr Speaker, may I ask the Treasurer, therefore, whether he will have the Treasury make inquiries into such practices on the part of the international agencies employed by his own and other political parties in Australia?
– I am unaware of any inquiries of the type the honourable gentleman has raised in relation to the Treasury, but I will have the matter examined. As I understand it, if he is seeking by implication to make any point about overseas donations coming to a particular political party on this side of the House, his information is not very well founded.
– Is the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations aware that the cutbacks implemented by the Government in the Public Service sector have adversely affected the work of the Commonwealth Arbitration Inspectorate, to the extent that workers in general- and migrants and rural workers in particular- will be at the mercy of unscrupulous employers who will be more able to abrogate their obligation to meet standard award wages and conditions? Severe restrictions on travel have restricted the ambit for Arbitration Inspectors to police awards generally, particularly in the country areas. Will the Minister assure the House that he will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure proper and adequate protection for workers throughout Australia?
– As the honourable member is aware, the Commonwealth Government has instituted a complete review of Government expenditure in all areas and the Arbitration Inspectorate is no exception to that. As a result of restrictions on overtime and travel it will not be possible to make as many visits on a routine basis as was previously the case. However, any direct complaint which is received will be the subject of prompt investigation. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that the efficiency of a body or organisation such as the Arbitration Inspectorate is not dependent entirely on its ability to travel but rather on its ability to deal promptly with cases of abuse which are brought to its attention.
– I ask the Attorney-General a question. In view of the very worrying implications of Commonwealth Police being seen to be acting in a way believed to be intrusive and intimidatory by many in the area of politics -
-Order! The honourable member is not entitled to make imputations in asking a question. If the honourable member wishes to ask a question he should ask the Minister for a statement of fact.
– I ask the Attorney-General: Will he state specifically the details made available to him- and when they were made available- of information which he believes justified the extreme action of recalling police bodyguards ‘ diaries, the cross-questioning of representatives of the Australian Labor Party advertising agency and, according to Australian Broadcasting Commission reports, the travel of Commonwealth Police officers to Singapore to interrogate a Mr Fischer there? Have any instructions been issued to the Commonwealth Police clearly guiding them away from intrusion into politics, or does the Attorney-General feel that the development of a situation where the police intrude into the general area of politics is justified.
-I have already indicated that I will not make any comment upon the investigation. I have explained how it came about so far as I was concerned. It would not -
– You thought it was good politics and so you authorised it.
-Order! The honourable member for Corio has interjected during almost every answer that has been given today. I ask him as a very respected member of this House to obey the Standing Orders.
Mr Scholes- I apologise. But it is a very serious matter under which this House - (Government supporters interjecting)
-I am not treating this matter in a jocular fashion. I would only say this: It would not be in the interests of anybody concerned in an investigation for me or for any
Attorney-General to make statements about information he received.
– What about -
– If the honourable gentleman will just listen, information that is received by the police or by a law officer can, of course, be correct or it may turn out to be incorrect. It would be most improper for a law officer to make statements about information he received. It could be highly defamatory of people. He has to form a view when he receives information as to whether it is credible or not. If he forms a view that it is incredible that may be a reason why he does not then proceed to make further investigations or ask the police to make investigations. If he forms the view that it is credible he has a duty, I believe, to perform. But one thing he should not do- and I think honourable members will understand this- is to make public the information he received. It is highly desirable, of course, that the police should not be used for political purposes. However, if a particular matter involves political parties or politicians that is a consequence which they suffer along with any other citizen who may be under inquiry. I regret very much in one sense that this inquiry cannot take place in the ordinary way. I am not trying to make this a matter of publicity. I should have preferred that the inquiry take place in the ordinary way and in a quiet way. I repeat what I said earlier. When a report is received it will no doubt indicate whether or not any breach of Commonwealth law has been involved. Honourable members should have no doubt that the possible breach that is being investigated is a serious one and one that has caused me to take the step I took. I do not make and I will not make any apology in relation to it.
-The honourable member for Robertson has caught my eye again.
– My yellow jacket is my personal tribute to Mr Murdoch and his Press. I ask the Treasurer. Why have the funds promised for the 75 per cent teachers’ subsidy for pre-schools for the February quarter not yet been received by the New South Wales Government?
– I am not aware of the answer to that question but I will treat it as a serious question. I will provide the honourable gentleman with an answer which I hope will be available to him sometime during the course of the day.
– I address a question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has decided to drop the early morning regional news in the cause of economies. Can the Minister tell the House whether there is any prospect of restoring this useful news service which has been widely supported, certainly in my electorate? Could the savings be made instead from the Commission’s large administrative staff?
– The ABC is an independent Commission. We all seek to uphold that even though we may sometimes differ as to how it reflects its independence. The ABC is, of course, in charge of its own programming. Whilst I will take note of the matter raised by the honourable member and have some discussions with the ABC concerning it, I think it is worth saying at this stage that the budget cuts within the ABC were part of the Government’s policy. They were applied to the Commission in a fairminded way. I understand that it is looking at its programming with a view to minimising any loss of service to the Australian community. I hope there is a great degree of co-operation between the administration and the staff. I hope that the discussions which are going on in Sydney today will achieve just that end. I will bear in mind the comments of the honourable member.
-(Richmond-Minister for Overseas Trade)- Pursuant to section 88 (4) of the Export Finance Insurance Corporation Act 1974 1 present the report of the Export Finance Insurance Corporation for the period from 1 February 1975 to 30 June 1975.
-Pursuant to section 10 of the International Monetary Agreements Act 1947-1973 I present a report on the operation of that Act and of the operations, insofar as they relate to Australia, of the International Monetary Fund and of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development for the financial year 1974-75.
– Pursuant to section 84 of the Wool Industry Act 1962-1971 as continued in force by section 4 of the Wool Industry Act 1972-1974 I present the final report of the Australian Wool Board for the year ended 30 June 1972 and the final report of the Australian Wool Board for the period 1 July 1972 to 3 1 December 1972.
– Pursuant to section 90 of the Wool Industry Act 1972-1974 I present: The final report of the Australian Wool Corporation for the period from 1 January 1973 to 30 June 1973; the final report of the Australian Wool Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1974, and the interim report of the Australian Wool Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1 975.
– Pursuant to section 70 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1975 I present the annual report of the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for the year ended 13 August 1975.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Australian Government delegation to the 59th session of the International Labour Conference held in Geneva in June 1974. Appended to the report are the texts of the following instruments adopted by the 59th session of the Conference:
Convention No. 139 concerning prevention and control of occupational hazards caused by carcinogenic substances, and recommendation No. 147 concerning prevention and control of occupational hazards caused by carcinogenic substances and agents; convention No. 140 concerning paid educational leave, and recommendation No. 148 concerning paid educational leave.
These 4 instruments have been circulated to the appropriate Commonwealth and State authorities for examination and comment. This examination indicates that, while Australian law and practice comply with many of the provisions of the instruments, they do not comply in all respects. For this reason, ratification of the conventions in the immediate future does not appear to be a realistic prospect. However, in accordance with normal practice the position regarding compliance with ILO conventions Nos 139 and 140 will be kept under examination with a view to possible ratification in due course.
– For the information of honourable members I present the interim report of the Industries Assistance Commission on domestic refrigerators, washing machines and clothes dryers.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report on research sponsored by the Advisory Committee on Research into the Crown of Thorns Starfish.
– I call the right honourable member for Lowe.
-Mr Speaker, I claim misrepresentation on 2 occasions. In the Sydney Sun dated 1 March there is a report of an interview with Reuben F. Scarf under the heading Facing the Sun. The article states:
The key to the Arabian treasure chest was produced, he said, at a private luncheon in his home soon after Labor was elected in 1972.
Mr Whitlam addressed a meeting of 42 Middle East representatives and contacts of all kinds, ‘everyone of them different’.
The meeting was set up by Mr Fischer, a man with great contacts . . .
The article goes on:
There were, in fact, 2 meetings, Mr Scarf told me. Mr Whitlam spoke at one- at the other, William McMahon and Andrew Peacock.
Both stressed the same line- Australia’s even-handed approach to the Middle East.
I did not meet Mr Reuben F. Scarf at any time during 1972 and certainly not about the time of the election. I have never discussed with Mr Reuben Scarf the key to the Arab treasure chest which is said to have taken place at a luncheon in 1972. 1 have never met Mr Fischer. He has never contacted me and I have not spoken to him. Thank heavens I never did because today I would have been rueing the day. We did not talk about an even-handed approach to the Middle East. It was not then one of the in phrases and I did not coin it.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The right honourable member for Lowe is going into a full explanation. He either met him or he did not meet him and that is the explanation, surely.
– Nonsense. You did not listen to what I said or, more importantly, you did not understand, and you never have. Get back into your kennel. Stop yapping.
-Order! The honourable member for Lowe should make his personal explanation.
– I am, Sir. I am explaining what I did not do and telling our friend what I did do. My memory is clear. I did visit Mr Scarf’s home on 4 June 1974. 1 took the precaution immediately, on 20 June, of letting the Australian Jewish Times know exactly what I said so that there could be no misunderstanding by Israel or by the Jewish community. I stressed that I believed that resolution 242 of the Security Council should be observed- in other words, that there should be termination of all claims, states of belligerency, and respect for sovereignty and territorial independence.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. We do not have to suffer this stuff. He has made his point of order and you should put him down.
– I uphold the point of order. The right honourable member should proceed to the second misrepresentation.
– The second one occurred in today’s Sydney Morning Herald under the heading ‘Lobbying: Both sides of the Middle East fence ‘. The article said that Mr Scarf had held 2 dinners for his foundation and for his work for the Arab world, one attended by Mr. Whitlam and the other by Mr McMahon and Mr Peacock. That is totally false. I went to a small luncheon attended by no more than 12 people. We discussed only one problem, and that was resolution 242 of the United Nations Security Council.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 3 p.m. tomorrow.
Debate resumed from 19 February on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The purpose of the Air Navigation (Charges) Bill 1 976 is to amend the Air Navigation (Charges) Act 1952-1974 by inserting in the Principal Act the table of charges set out in clause 4 of the Bill. Its main effect will be to increase air navigation charges by 15 per cent, retrospective to 1 December 1975. Minor aspects of the Bill relate to the deletion of provisions in respect of flights to and from Papua New Guinea which are now covered by provisions applicable to other international flights. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill.
This Bill is the latest in the procession of repudiated promises of this corrupt conservative Government, which is rapidly creating new records of unemployment and inflation and has in its short term established an all time record of repudiated election promises. The conservative parties, in their election policy on civil aviation, stated that they would defer further implementation of the 80 per cent cost recovery plan of air navigation charges until proper studies and comparisons of cost recovery with other forms of transport were made. However, on 6 February this year the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), in a neat side step of his Government’s election campaign promise not to increase air navigation charges, claimed that by increasing air navigation charges by 15 per cent, retrospective to 1 December, the Government has confirmed its election promise.
The Air Navigation (Charges) Act enables the Department of Transport to impose charges on the operation of aircraft, for the use of aerodromes, airway faculties, meteorological services and search and rescue services provided, operated and maintained by the Australian Government. As I said at the outset, the purpose of this Bill is to increase the rate of those air navigation charges payable by the users of the services and facilities which I have already outlined. It is irresponsible to suggest that the present problems faced by the aviation industry are solely the result of the increase in the rate of recovery of the costs of providing the infrastructure essential to both the commercial airline and general aviation industries. The conservative parties in government in 1960 adopted a policy of 100 per cent recovery of aviation infrastructure costs but did nothing as a government to implement it in the ensuing 12 years. By refusing to implement their own policy the conservatives compounded the tasks of successive governments and of the industry by allowing the aviation industry to develop on a false cost structure. This Government and the Opposition are more or less in accord on the cost recovery program. It would seem that the only point at issue is the rate at which the cost recovery program should be implemented.
In his second reading speech the Minister for Transport drew attention to the costs which in this year are expected to be at least $195m, an increase of 1 1½ per cent or $20m over 1974-75, while the comparable revenue received from the users of airports and airway facilities at present rates is expected to rise from $95m in 1974-75 to $108m in 1975-76. The 15 per cent increase in air navigation charges for which this Bill provides will bring in an additional $4m so, clearly, increasing costs will outstrip the increased revenue expected. On a percentage basis, therefore, cost recovery will be in the order of 54 per cent which means that over 40 per cent of the costs will be subsidised or, in dollar terms, approximately $87m will be borne by the taxpayers, 90 per cent of whom do not travel by air. The Minister, as did his predecessor on a number of occasions, emphasised that air navigation charges form only about 3 per cent of the total operating costs of commercial aircraft and that a further 15 per cent increase in these charges means less than Vi per cent increase in aircraft operating costs.
To claim that the cost recovery program of the previous Labor Government was the prime factor responsible for the financial difficulties of general aviation is deliberately to misrepresent the facts. The financial difficulties were influenced to a large degree by the general downturn in the rural sector following the collapse of beef and wool prices and the flow-on of the record international inflation and recession which hit Australia in the past 3 years and which was well under way when the Australian Labor Party Government came to office in 1972. Numerous emotive arguments can be advanced against the application of the user pays principle to Australian aviation and it is natural to expect that those with investments at stake in Australian aviation would argue and even distort issues, as they have done.
It is true that Australia is a vast country. The Government has the responsibility of encouraging the development of modes of transport that will economically and efficiently service the sparse population scattered through the centre of our continent as well as that mainly based in the metropolitan areas on the seaboard. However, if general tax revenue is to be used to the tune of over $ 100m per annum to subsidise the use by 1 0 per cent of the population of one mode of transport, obviously an economic utilisation of our resources will not be achieved. Distortion and slants in the use of our resources and the development of our transport systems must be the result. If the aviation industry is to continue to be subsidised at a cost of over $ 100 m a year, surely there is an argument in favour of subsidising the other modes of transport on our continent to a similar extent.
What must be borne in mind when the aviation industry objects to the cost recovery program is that the cost of servicing transport on our continent has to be borne by a population onefifteenth that of the United States of America which has a similar area to service. The costs of subsidising aircraft navigation services must be considered as a factor in the duplication of transport services where there has been heavy public investment in the past. As I said earlier, one could say that the subsidy available to the aviation industry has operated as an inducement to duplicate and even to triplicate existing modes of transport which have as a result become rundown or redundant and have suffered severe losses in passenger patronage. The obvious and most acceptable answer to the financial problems being faced by the aviation industry as a whole is an increase in the utilisation of the services available, an increase in patronage- in other words, more paying customers- not an increase in the level of infrastructure cost subsidisation. These problems are not insoluble but there is a clear difference between the potential for increased commercial traffic and the potential for increased holiday or recreational traffic. I would like to see greater application by the industry to expanding patronage in each of these 2 areas of potential trade.
There has been public comment by interested parties on the notional charges taken into account by the Department of Transport in establishing the cost of air navigation facilities provided by the Australian Government. Whether these notional charges are valid ought to be discussed and ought to be examined. I hope that the review that the Minister has ordered of the cost structures of the various modes of transport in Australia will bring to public light facts on which a proper assessment can be made of cost recovery programs and of the amount by which the infrastructure costs of these services are subsidised by the general taxpayer. It is desirable in the public interest that the facts on infrastructure cost and the desirability of services provided be known and examined and their comparative merit evaluated.
In these times of economic difficulties that we as a nation face, private enterprise or the myth of private enterprise and government ought to be looking at economic solutions and not at political solutions. Again it is natural that vested interests in the community will lobby for political solutions. They are the easiest so far as the private sector is concerned. They will lobby for political solutions, for subsidies and for financial assistance from government rather than seek that proper private enterprise solution to the problems, that is, greater competition, greater efficiency and increased turnover. It is essential in the national interest that there be a ready exchange of information on industry problems and plans for the future between industry and government and between industry and the Opposition. I know that my predecessor in the Opposition and the present Minister have both long held a deep interest in the problems of the transport industry. They have long been involved in its management and concerns.
I likewise as Opposition spokesman on transport have a similar genuine interest, particularly in the aviation industry. I welcome the opportunity to talk to people in the industry and to discuss with industry representatives their views and problems. However, there are statements such as that recently attributed to Sir Reginald Ansett in a recent edition of the Australian Financial Review, and with your forbearance, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to quote directly from the article by John Stackhouse. It said:
It took all my wits and all my experience to handle those bastards.
He was referring to the period during which the Australian Labor Party had been in office. That kind of statement more than anything else harms the good relations and good interchange of information that ought to exist between industry and government, industry and politicians, industry and Opposition. I hope that that kind of statement will be rarely seen in the Australian Press and that there can be a reasonable and responsible flow of information and discussion between all aspects of the transport industry and the Australian Parliament as a whole.
I would like to refer to international air fare discounting. I feel it is appropriate at this stage in view of the Minister’s position on that matter to state that a decision was well in train at the time of the dissolution of the last Parliament and regulations were, I understand, about to be tabled at the time of the dissolution. The point I want to make here is that looking at the problems of the aviation industry, Qantas Airways Ltd in particular has been disadvantaged to a great extent by the delay in tabling these regulations. The Opposition appreciates that there were certain difficulties in framing the regulations more tightly, to close some of the loopholes and to facilitate the prosecution of cases where there was a detection of breaches of the International Air Transport Association agreement and the international air fare discounting arrangements. However, if one is to accept as being reasonably based the figures that have been bandied about publicly- that is, that international air fare discounting has been disadvantaging Qantas to the extent of $ 10m to $20m per annum- the quarter of a year delay in bringing forward these regulations which were about to be tabled in November last year would have cost Qantas, one could reasonably assume, in the order of $2m to $3m. I think it is a sorry situation that that has occurred, that more haste was not applied in order to ensure that the regulations were brought into effect more readily. As I said previously, the aviation industry has its problems. Likewise, governments have their problems in making budgets balance. Irrespective of which government is in office, it has the responsibility of balancing its books. It does not help anyone to distort -
– You have to be joking.
– I am being kind to you. It does not help anyone in industry if the infrastructure costs incurred in the aviation industry in the provision of services, which are in fact essential services, are distorted. But if the industry is seriously to put forward arguments to the effect that notional charges which are to be taken into account in establishing the infrastructure costs are not soundly based, then it ought to put forward soundly based arguments. To put forward specious arguments is only to confuse the picture. The inquiry which the Minister has already ordered into the cost structure or the infrastructure of the various transport industries or the modes of transport in Australia is the appropriate inquiry to receive those arguments. The proposition being put forward by certain interests in the aviation industry, namely that notional costs, the allowance for depreciation and interest charges ought not to be taken into account, ought to be compared with the operation of the private sector of the industry, where interest charges, depreciation charges, the cost of replacements and the difference between depreciation allowances and the cost of replacements are taken into account. I think it is a valid argument. The Opposition believes that it is a valid argument that these things ought to be taken into account when assessing the overall cost of providing those services.
The other matter to which I wish to advert in this debate, which is related to the bearing of the costs of air navigation charges covered under this Bill, is the suggestion- again I hope that the Minister will give a clear statement on this point at the conclusion of the debate- in some sections of the media that an inquiry is under way into the possibility of expanding domestic air routes, that the regional air routes presently operated by Qantas Airways Ltd ought to be handed over to the domestic airlines. I see that as a danger to our international flag carrier. It is probably the most detrimental thing that could occur to Qantas’ interests at this particular time. I have not seen an assurance from the Minister or a statement from the Minister in this regard, but I have seen a report which gives the impression that the Minister had stated that or that that was the Minister’s view. I do not hold him to it because it is not explicit, but I hope that at the conclusion of the debate the Minister will make some reference to that matter and that he will be able to tell us the Government’s policy in relation to it. I put forward the Opposition’s very clear view that any extension by the domestic airlines, such as Ansett Airlines of Australia or Trans- Australia Airlines, into regional air routes would be to the detriment of our international flag carrier. If Ansett was to be allowed to extend its operations, particularly to the New Zealand traffic, it would quite properly be seen by the community as another instance of payola by the present Government, of the pay-off to Ansett Transport Industries Ltd for the services that have been provided in the past to those people now in government.
The Opposition does not oppose the Bill, as I said. It appears that what is at issue is not the principle of whether or not there should be a cost recovery program. We when in government set an 80 per cent target; the present coalition parties resolved on a 100 per cent cost recovery program in 1960. The issue then is only the rate at which costs should be recovered.
-It is very difficult to understand the logic of the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) when he asserts that this Government has reneged on its promise in relation to civil aviation made during the election campaign. The provision contained in the Air Navigation (Charges) Bill is in fact for an increase in air navigation charges of 15 per cent, which is within the limits provided in the
Airlines Agreement of 1973. In his second reading speech the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) made it clear that, in respect of the previous Government’s policy to increase air navigation charges, in some areas by up to 300 per cent, we would not be proceeding with those sorts of increases and that we would be conferring with various sections of the industry to see what sorts of increases were appropriate in various circumstances. The 15 per cent increase provided for is in line with the general level of inflation, which has been promoted under the previous Government.
I would remind the House that transport costs are a major element in the Australian economy, and therefore we have to be very careful when we add to the costs of goods and services by increasing transport costs. Transport costs are a major element in the final price of the goods and services that we buy in the shops or that we purchase from various suppliers. I believe it would be fair to say that the previous Government had not thought out adequately its proposed imposts on the civil aviation industry. The Minister again in his second reading speech pointed out that under the measure now before the House the industry will have to find another $3.9m. Under the Budget proposals of the previous Government the industry would have had to find $25m, and that is a very substantial difference. I believe that it is a necessary sort of measure in these days of high inflation to restrain the growth of government charges as much as possible.
I point out that the policy of the previous Government was very badly received by a wide range of people, not just by the airlines, as one would expect, who have to find the money, but also by the unions involved in the airline industry and by the aviation Press. Let me quote a representative sample of views expressed by those various interests in the civil aviation industry. The thirtieth annual report, 1974-75, of Trans-Australia Airlines, which was only recently circulated to members of this Parliament, says this in respect of the proposed Budget increases for 1975-76:
The likely effect of the tariff increases necessary to achieve the rate of recovery decided upon by the previous Government, together with the increase already granted since the end of the 1974-75 year and others necessary to cover predictable cost increases not allowed for previously, might well be to stultify the growth of air traffic completely. This halting of growth may well result in a significant shortfall in the recovery by the Government of the desired proportion of costs.
Furthermore it may well be found that only the major city networks could bear 70 per cent of the costs attributable to those networks. There would seem to be little prospect of achieving the desired level of recovery on routes where there is less traffic. Some further recognition of the part played by the airlines in national development should be given if a serious contraction of the Australian air transport system is to be avoided.
The October 1975 issue of the magazine Aircraft described the proposed measures as ‘a killing dose of . . . medicine’. The editorial in that magazine stated:
Announcing in his Budget speech that the Government’s . . . 1973-74 aim to recover 80 per cent of ‘the costs of providing and operating airport and airway facilities within five years had made ‘very little progress’ Mr Hayden said: ‘action will be taken to increase the recovery rate of 70 per cent this year’ with ‘increases in air navigation charges substantially greater than the 15 per cent annual increase referred to in the 1973 Airlines Agreement’.
At a slightly later stage I shall be dealing with that matter of the proposed increases above the 15 per cent rate which the previous Government had in mind. To indicate to the House that the views expressed are not just the views of commercial vested interests I shall quote from a report prepared by the unions involved in the airline industry. The unions are as follows: the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association, the Australian Federation of Air Pilots, the Federated Clerks Union of Australia- that is a bunch of silvertails if I have ever heard of one!the Airline Hostesses Association, the Australasian Airline Flight Engineers Association and the Flight Stewards Association of Australia. In a report dated 1 October of last year they stated the problems as follows:
The Australian civil aviation industry is currently at a critical stage with its future viability doubtful.
The tragedy of this, is that it has occurred not merely because of the general economic downturn existing todayalthough the pressure of this cannot be over estimated with an industry whose sensivity to economic cycles is high. Nor has it occurred because of the industry ‘s own mistakes- aviation is Australia’s most efficient form of transport. It is the result of government action- the cost recovery program, the effects of which have recently been compounded by a separate decision to increase the price of turbine fuel to international operators.
They are savage, arbitrary and simplistic impositions for the costs are heavy. The reasoning behind them have no sound basis, they are prejudicial and reveal an appalling lack of thought given to the value of the services provided by civil aviation to Australia ‘s economic welfare and development.
That, I suggest, is a most reasonable statement of the situation from the unions involved in the industry.
The action proposed by the previous Government would have been in breach of the 1973 Airlines Agreement which the previous Government itself brought in. I shall point out the way in which under the previous Government the Airlines Agreement was modified. The 1961 Agreement provided: . . . The Commonwealth . . . will not -
The major amendment that was made to that in the 1973 Agreement was that the maximum increase in charges allowed in any one year was raised from 10 per cent to 15 per cent. The Agreement also included provisions that the Commonwealth will increase the rate of charges to international operators by the same percentage as any increases payable by Ansett and TAA. Further, it provided that the Commonwealth will consult annually with the airlines on departmental activities with a view to reducing costs and minimising charges. It is one of the sad facts that having introduced that Agreement in 1973 the previous Government quickly set about trying to breach the Agreement. In fact the imposts suggested in the 1975-76 Budget would have exceeded the 1 5 per cent limit stated in that Agreement only 2 years previously. It seems from all that we have been able to gather that the increases would have applied only to the domestic operators, not to the international airlines. This also is in breach of the Agreement.
I realise that air navigation charges are only part of a total cost recovery program and that there are a number of other charges and expenses involved as well. But I believe that we have to consider very carefully the nature of any charges that are imposed on this industry. I want to state a few views on the sorts of considerations we should have in mind when discussing with the industry what increases in charges, if any, are appropriate. I suggest that in Australia we need a system of aerodromes and navigational aids as a national necessity- a basic social cost. Of course there is an obvious defence need. There is a need for developmental services, particularly in some of the more isolated areas of the country. I think in particular of some of the great developments going on in Western Australia. There is a need for a wide range of services for rural communities. There is a need for emergency communications and relief work in respect of such institutions as the Flying Doctor Service and aircraft which bring in flood relief.
All of these sorts of things need to be provided in this country. They are a social necessity. We should not look at the industry merely as being an industry which has to meet the full cost of providing all of these social necessities. We tend not to look at roads and railways in those terms. We believe that it is necessary to put a road through to an isolated community and we do not insist that that community, through its traffic along that road, should meet the entire cost of providing that road. Somehow or other the previous Government picked out civil aviation as an industry on which to impose this cost recovery program. I think that we are not looking at the civil aviation industry in the right way if we take that attitude.
I want to conclude by making one small point about the attitude that a number of areas of general aviation are taking to these sorts of increases. Concern is felt in some areas of general aviation, and in sporting aviation in particular, that the attitude of the previous Government especially, and of the Department of Transport, towards them is one of, if not hostility, then at least non-co-operation. Unfortunately in general aviation a view has developed that it cannot expect much co-operation from the Department of Transport. I think that in some respects this attitude is not well-founded, but there is no doubt that it is a widely held view in general aviation. It is something to which the Minister for Transport should turn his attention because there will be a lack of co-operation if there is this feeling in general aviation that it is being singled out for rather repressive treatment. I support the bill and urge that the Minister take note of some of the thoughts that I have put forward on the sort of considerations which we should have in mind in formulating future policy.
-I rise to support the Air Navigation (Charges) Bill, although I support it with some reluctance because any increase in air navigation charges is perhaps more keenly felt in the State from which I come because we have the advantage or disadvantage of being the south island of the 2-island country of Australia. People travelling from the south island to the north island regrettably have only 2 available means of transport. They might either fly or they might travel by ship. Those 2 alternatives are the only ones available to us. To put it into proper context, honourable members will appreciate that those travelling from Tasmania to mainland States are considerably disadvantaged vis-a-vis their counterparts travelling from one State to another on the mainland.
Recent figures have demonstrated that over 80 per cent of the Australian public travels by private motor vehicles both on business and for tourist activities. Regrettably inventors have not yet been able to come up with a private motor vehicle at this time capable of navigating Bass Strait. I hope the former Minister for Transport will not think it amiss of me for saying this, but people in my State felt they suffered very keenly as the result of the substantial increases in general aviation charges which were imposed by the previous Government. In 1973 there was an increase in general aviation charges of 100 per cent accompanied by an increase in air navigation charges of 15 per cent. In 1974 the increase in general charges was 50 per cent and again there was a further increase in air navigation charges. In Tasmania we particularly felt that the enormous impact this made on the charges which were to be passed on to the travelling public were extreme. Quite frankly a reaction built up in Tasmania against what appeared to be discriminatory treatment by the previous Government. Those matters are now behind us. But I feel it is important to point out that, had there not been an election last year, on the proposals of the previous Government we would have been facing much higher increases in general aviation charges and air navigation charges than those which are to be imposed by the present Government.
For example, I think the former Minister for Transport would concede that, consonant with his statements, there would have been an increase of something of the order of 300 per cent. If he disputes these figures I have no doubt that he will say so as, I believe, he will speak following me. The previous Government had in fact proposed increases in air navigation charges ranging up to 300 per cent. That would have had a most murderous effect on the State of Tasmania and in particular on the right of Tasmanians to travel to the mainland States. A concept which has been applied in the Canadian federal system is that all persons from all Provinces in Canada should have the right of equal access to the national capital. I believe that any government which creates a situation whereby residents in one State are prevented from free and equal access to the Australian capital or indeed to their sister States, starts to break down the federal system and creates a situation where isolation literally puts people in a situation whereby they are unable to carry out on an equal footing their business and pleasure activities along with their counterparts in other States.
In Tasmania at the present time there is a very strong feeling that there is a case for reduction of air fares for travel between Tasmania and the mainland. The present Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has already very kindly received one deputation on this matter and has been frank enough to say to us that at this point of time he is yet to be persuaded that his Government would be in a position to give any assistance in bringing about a reduction of air fares between Tasmania and the mainland. I hope, and I believe, that in the next few weeks, if not weeks then certainly months- Tasmania will be in a position to put to the Minister detailed information which will show that we are not in fact existing on a basis of parity compared with our colleagues in the mainland States. A mathematical calculation will reveal that on a mile basis passengers travelling from Hobart to Melbourne and from Launceston to Melbourne are paying more than passengers travelling between Melbourne and Sydney. I think that this is a matter which the Minister might be prepared to look at, because the ordinary system of fairness that I believe should operate throughout the Commonwealth must surely take into account these areas of disparity.
Whilst on the question of general air traffic between Tasmania and the mainland States I wish to raise 3 particular matters. I hope that I do not stray too far from the purport of the Bill and incur your displeasure, Mr Deputy Speaker, in raising these matters now. We find that in Tasmania, perhaps more than in any other State, some of the workings of the 2-airline agreement have an almost ridiculous effect. The situation of 2 planes leaving from Hobart within 5 minutes of each other, then no planes for three or four hours, has puzzled and confounded Tasmanians for quite a long time. We also find it rather extraordinary that on occasions both airlines operate a system whereby 2 planes leave Tullamarine airport heading for Tasmania, both of them land at Launceston airport, at Launceston airport half the passengers in each plane get off and the 2 planes then proceed to Hobart airport. I imagine the cost of simply landing one of these planes and then taking off is not insignificant. It has always puzzled me why a situation could not be devised in respect of those 2 flights whereby one plane would go direct to Hobart- and whilst we in the south like Launceston, we think it is a completely pointless operation to be landed in Launceston, to wait around for 15 minutes and then to be flown on to Hobart- and the other plane would go simply to Launceston. These are matters which I feel ought to be looked at, because somewhere along the line the passengers are paying the cost. To me it is completely and absolutely ridiculous that, as I say, 2 planes should leave Melbourne airport, land at Launceston, off-load half their passengers at Launceston and then like a pair of ducks take off and fly in unison down to Hobart.
The other matter which I believe ought to be looked at is the possibility of direct flights by either Trans-Australia Airlines or Ansett Airlines of Australia from Hobart to Sydney and, hopefully at some future time- not too distant I hope- from Hobart to Canberra. At the moment the only way one can go direct from Hobart to Sydney is by flying with East-West Airlines which operates what is frankly a weekend tourist service from Sydney to Hobart and return. We have no aversion to Melbourne, but again I draw attention to the fact that a stopover in Melbourne en route either to Sydney or Canberra is unnecessary and time wasting, and I believe that the time is fast approaching when we should be able to travel between the State capitals without as it were having to be off-loaded or decanted half way through the trip.
The third matter relates to air navigation charges. The Minister for Transport has been kind enough to look at petitions that have come from Tasmania in respect of the difficulty of a small intra-State airline service, namely, Air Tasmania Pty Ltd, in maintaining its economic viability. It has been particularly adversely affected as a result of the collapse of the Tasman Bridge. People might say: ‘Well, what on earth has that got to do with the viability of an intra state airline service? Honourable members will appreciate that until the Bailey bridge was opened last December the lack of a bridge had the effect of adding an extra hour to the trip. It made the intra-State service operating from Hobart to Queenstown, Wynyard and through to Launceston less attractive. Since the Bailey bridge has been opened the economic position of Air Tasmania has improved a little bit, and hopefully it will be able to keep afloat. The reason that this matter is related to air navigation charges and general navigation charges is, as the Minister is aware, that the company’s liquidity has not been good. I believe that the Minister should have a free discretion and the Government should be clearly empowered in cases where a small operating company, particularly one operating an intra-State service to isolated areas which are very important to be retained, to allow for some payment as it were by instalment if that company found economic difficulties in continuing its operation. I am fully aware that the Minister for Transport is conscious of the fact that Air Tasmania is in difficulty. I believe that it is absolutely imperative that Air Tasmania be retained. Any assistance that the Minister can give and that the Government can give to ensure that its operation does continue, I believe, will be very gratefully accepted and received not only by the company but also by the people of Tasmania.
It is regrettable that the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom) is still ill and is not with us during this debate, because I feel sure that he would have desired to have made a contribution with respect to the particular problems of Air Tasmania insofar as they relate to the service from Hobart to Queenstown, which is in the honourable member’s electorate, and also from Hobart to Devonport and Burnie. I note in the Press that the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) is also taking up the matter of Air Tasmania with the Minister for Transport. I draw attention to the fact that small airline companies frequently have trouble in meeting not only their general navigation charges but also their airport charges as and when they are required. It would be absolutely tragic if these companies were to go to the wall simply because the Government could not permit them to take a little more time and pay by way of instalments, thereby increasing their liquidity and enabling them to continue their operations.
The Tasmanian tourist industry depends enormously on the airlines’ services and the airline companies. We have found in the last 12 months or so that there has been a decline in the tourist industry. Again I seek your indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker, in hoping that I am not straying too far from the Bill, but this matter is related because every time there is an increase either in general aviation charges or airport charges, eventually in some shape or form it will flow through to the paying public. In this particular case, with the 1 5 per cent increase, it should not bring about any increase in fares payable by the travelling public, because the 15 per cent increase in respect of aircraft operating costs in totality is less than one-half of one per cent. I therefore feel confident- I think the Minister is confirming what I am about to say- that there can be no possible increase either by TAA or Ansett in relation to air fares flowing from these air navigation charges.
The point I wish to make is that I believe that at some point in time the Government should have a very close look at the whole scheme of air navigation charges and the general navigation charges, as suggested by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer). I have felt for some time that no government can legitimately expect a system of internal airlines in a country so diverse and so broad as Australia to pay for itself. It is a truism that people are paying more for the privilege of travelling interstate in this country than many people pay for the privilege of travelling internationally. I believe figures could be produced to demonstrate that international air fares and, by comparison, fares in the United States of America, are far more reasonable to the travelling public than are the fares we are paying in Australia. I drew attention earlier in my remarks to the disparity between the passenger mile rate from Hobart to Melbourne, Launceston to Melbourne and Melbourne to Sydney. Quite apart from whatever deputations the Minister will be receiving from Tasmania, I urge him to look at this matter and explain to me why it is more expensive for people to fly across Bass Strait and through Tasmanian air than it is to fly over the balmy countryside and in the beautiful fresh air of New South Wales and Victoria. I am certain that the Minister, coming from a country electorate in Victoria and being conscious of the fact that sometimes whether we like it or not air travel is the only convenient method of connection, not only for business but for pleasure, will appreciate the point I make that there should be no discrimination between air passengers from one State and from another.
In my concluding remarks I take the opportunity to pay a tribute to the Minister for the manner in which he has approached this piece of legislation. I believe it would have been very easy for him to say that, because of the commitment of the previous Government and because of the public statements made by the former Minister for Transport, our Government will simply go ahead and introduce the increases which were being proposed. If the proposed increase of 300 per cent had been imposed it would have led to very substantial increases in passenger fares for the Australian travelling public. I have heard that it would have led to an increase of up to 40 per cent. If that is correct, the Minister for Transport has saved the travelling public of this country from an impost which would have been unjust to Australians on the mainland, and which would have been particularly unjust to those who live in the south island of Australia. I come back to my opening remarks: We in Tasmania have not the advantage of being able to drive motor cars across Bass Strait and none of us has learned to walk across water. Literally we are prisoners on the island of Tasmania unless we have fair and economically viable passenger fares and freight rates, and reasonable timetables and proper services.
I believe that Tasmanians in particular, should thank the Minister for Transport for arguing- I have no doubt that he must have had to argue at some length- to keep the increase down to 1 5 per cent. I imagine, with respect, that the beady eyes of the Treasury would have been looking very closely over the Minister’s shoulder. I feel there might well have been others in the Cabinet who might have taken the view that on the basis of priorities this matter did not warrant the special treatment which the Minister has been able to achieve for it. I congratulate him for restricting and restraining the increases. I hope that the policy of the Government may be developed in such a way that increases of the like we saw under the 3 years of the Whitlam Government will never again be inflicted on the travelling public of Australia.
I urge the Minister to look closely at the situation in respect to Tasmania to see whether it would be feasible for some concession to be made available, not just to Tasmania but to other isolated areas in this.country as well so that people who have no alternative means would have their basic right, under the federal system, of equality of opportunity of transport, whether it be for business, pleasure or any other purposes. We are part of one great country, and equality of opportunity of transport is a fundamental right guaranteed to us under the federal system, one which I believe the Minister and this Government will uphold. For those reasons I congratulate the Minister. Whilst I do not like to support any Bill which leads to any increase at this point of time, I would be less than charitable if I did not say to the Minister that he has kept the increase as low as possible, and for that the people of the south island of Australia are particularly grateful.
-With the indulgence of the House, I have agreed that the Minister for Transport may make a brief statement.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I have explained to the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) that for a short period I have to leave the House on official business at 4 o’clock. I mean no reflection on the honourable member who is about to speak and I thank him for understanding the situation. I will be back as soon as possible and will answer the points raised in my absence.
-In supporting the Air Navigation (Charges) Bill I can well see, as can most honourable members, the dilemma of the choice that faced the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon). I must commend the Minister on arriving at what I consider to be the most sensible solution. The choices, as the situation appeared to me, were three-fold. At this stage the Government could have gone ahead and not had any increase in ~air navigation charges. That was the first choice. The Government could have increased air navigation charges by about IS per cent, as is proposed.
That was the second choice. The third choice was that the Government could have gone ahead with the commitment of the previous Government and increased air navigation charges by a large amount, something like 80 per cent. 1 think that the first option- no increaseregrettably is indefensible in our present climate. At the moment inflation, as everybody knows, is raging at a record level in this country and the Government’s deficit also is running at a record level. I think the people of Australia would regard the Government as being completely irresponsible if there were not at least some increase in charges. I am pleased to see that that increase equates fairly well with the rate of inflation in this country in the last 12 months, that is about 15 percent.
The third choice which was obvious to the Government was that of following the recommendations of the previous Government. In my view that also would be completely irresponsible. That sort of increase would have been typical of the nearsightedness of the previous Government. We must remember, as has been said already by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer), that aviation in Australia is very much a public utility and a social necessity. The honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) has shown in relation to Tasmania that that principle must be carried through always. Just as in a previous era the railways put forward the frontiers of our country, civil aviation in large measure puts forward our frontiers in these days. The railways still are considered by many people to be a social necessity, and in fact they are. I noted that in the Budget for this year the Australian National Railways Commission is budgeting for a deficit of $40m. The railways still are regarded as a public utility, but I say that in these days civil aviation is even more a public utility than is the Railways Commission.
I reiterate what was pointed out by the honourable member for Casey: Civil aviation in many ways is a special case in Australia. This is an extremely sparsely settled country, one across which people need to travel for business and for recreation as well as for compassionate reasons, at times on very short notice. I think most honourable members would agree that civil aviation costs in this country receive, and should receive, special consideration because of our special needs in such a sparsely settled country.
If the recommendations of the previous Government had been followed one naturally would ask who would pay. There are 3 main fields of civil aviation in the country. The international airways already pay, as we know, very high fees for landing at Australian airports. It was reported recently that a jumbo jet, a Boeing 747, landing in Australia is up for $3,348 in air navigation charges. If the same airliner lands at Frankfurt, it is up for $1304. If the same airliner lands at San Francisco, it is up for what I suppose most of us would consider to be the paltry sum of $219. 1 think all of us should admit that the international carriers must look at our airline charges and wonder just what they are paying for. I can appreciate the pressure that has been put on in the last 12 months by airlines such as Pan Am World Airways which can land at one of its home ports for $219 but which has to pay sixteen times as much to land in Sydney. I can see why Pan Am has tried to put pressure through the United States Department of State for action to be taken against our airline, Qantas Airways Ltd.
Having dispensed with the international airlines as a possibility the second sort of area in which the funds could be recouped would be the internal commercial airlines. Already the air navigation fees make up between 10 per cent and 15 per cent of costs of internal commercial airlines. This would appear to be a fairly reasonable percentage, but obviously an 80 per cent increase in air navigation charges would increase that to something like 30 per cent. That would seem to me to be quite out of the question. When one compares the cost of an economy flight on an internal airline in Australia- in Australia internal airlines these days make up a fairly high proportion of the means of travel in this countrywith the cost of first class rail travel, one finds that airlines already charge twice as much. I think this speaks for itself. A large increase in the cost of internal commercial carriers would obviously begin to work even more against the economies of scale. A 10 per cent or 20 per cent increase in air fares at this moment is bound to decrease the number of airline passengers. The number of passenger air miles travelled in Australia is beginning to decrease. I believe quite frankly that if we increase charges to those airlines so that their fares rise markedly at the moment, the number of passengers will start to fall off markedly. That will lead to disadvantages in economies of scale.
The third possibility to carry the can in this case is general aviation. I suppose we can dismiss this possibility quite readily because general aviation fees- air navigation charges- only raise at this stage $2.5m of the roughly $45m raised by air navigation charges in this country. ‘So we can see that even the doubling of general aviation charges would increase the recovery rate by about 3 per cent only. As the honourable member for Denison said, the general aviation charges were increased by about 100 per cent 2 years ago and by 50 per cent last year. I think, in view of the special problems of this country, general aviation deserves a better go than that. General aviation includes private aeroplanes and aerial work. In my electorate of EdenMonaro, which is a country electorate, a great deal of aerial work is going on, especially since the re-introduction of the superphosphate bounty. A great deal of charter work is done in this country. In my electorate charter operators work fairly frequently between several airports, because of the terrain and the large distances involved. General aviation is very important to country areas. In those areas it is a social necessity. I was interested to discover that in terms of general aviation Australia is about third in the world league. It is a very big country in terms of general aviation.
I believe I have dismissed the first option, the one of no increase, and the third option of following slavishly the previous Government’s proposal. For that reason, almost by default, I believe the option taken by the Minister shows itself to be the most reasonable. It shows itself to have good faith with the airlines. Obviously they will have to increase their charges because of the 15 per cent increase. At least it is arguable that that only keeps track with inflation. I believe that the option which the Minister has taken keeps faith with the taxpayer. The taxpayer has ultimately to pay for the deficit in the airline account. I believe that at this stage the 15 per cent increase keeps good faith with the tourist industry. One must remember that the tourist industry in this country is very much a poor cousin. One of the main reasons for that is the cost of getting people here and of getting people around the country. Despite this by default good option taken by the Minister, there will still be a deficit of $8 7m in the account for airline charges. It is still a very substantial amount. Nevertheless, it is a little less than last year. I am pleased to see that the proportion recovered will be 57 per cent, compared with the 54 per cent last year.
I note that air navigation charges are not the only forms of recovery of income by the Department. The aviation fuel tax recovery is also a substantial form of recovery. I note that the method of arriving at the proportion of aviation fuel tax put down to recovery against airline charges is arbitrary. I believe it is one thing into which the Minister could look in future.
Obviously there are some other problems which we must overcome. I have been talking about the cost of a jumbo landing at Sydney being sixteen times as much as the cost of it landing at San Francisco. As a previously very practical man, I tend to look at the cost of the bureaucracy involved in the airlines section of the ministry for Transport. I was very interested to discover that the support costs at head office and at regional offices- that is, the administrative costs away from airports- this year will be about $52m against $71m for the cost of running the airports. Perhaps this $52m is too high. It seems a very high proportion of the actual costs of running airports. I hope that the ministry, in line with the general principle of sound management that my Government is following these days, will look into this matter because it would seem possible to me to get some reduction in the $52m, thereby reducing the deficit in the airline account.
The fuel tax question should be looked into. There is also the question of whether the overseas operators are getting fuel in Australia at beneficial rates. They have to pay more for their fuel overseas. I believe we should look very closely at some sort of balancing up of this account so that overseas operators pay a fair price. I think, however, that all things taken into consideration, when one looks at the options, the Minister has taken the right option. I believe that the Bill is a very fair one in the circumstances. Therefore I support it.
– We see once again the Government stonewalling its own legislation. The Opposition is not opposing this Bill. We are supporting it. We have put up 2 speakers because we are prepared to allow the legislation to go through. My reason for saying that the Government is stonewalling is that on looking at the Whips list I see that 6 Government supporters want to speak on it, for no reason other than to flap their wings and to talk about nothing when the legislation could go through. Why does the Government not get on with the job of legislating in this place instead of just talking and talking out time? That is all it is doing on this Bill. It is doing the same thing as far as the Address-in-Reply is concerned. Each day it is just wasting time. It is filling in the time of the Parliament instead of bringing in legislation setting out the policies which it is talking about and which it will implement. It has no real legislation, so it stonewalls what it has before the Parliament at present.
The Air Navigation (Charges) Bill seeks to increase air navigation charges by some 1 5 per cent. I have in front of me a document which purports to be the Liberal-Country Parties’ transport policy. It states:
Because of the serious and detrimental effect the 80 per cent recovery policy is having on aviation a Liberal-National Country Party Government will immediately halt the program until proper studies and comparisons of cost recovery with other forms of transport are made.
It is another broken promise already. The Liberal and National Country parties did not waste any time. They have not been here 4 months. The elections are only just over and here they arc starting to break their promises. This is another broken promise added to the long list for which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is becoming famous.
This legislation provides for a 15 per cent increase in air navigation charges which will return to the Government a paltry $4m. As the former Minister who was loaded with the 80 per cent cost recovery I say that it is true that the previous Government had made a decision to increase air navigation charges to a point where there would be a return of some $30m extra this year. I ask honourable members opposite to have a look at the facts. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table showing the cost recovery figures which indicate the departmental cost, the revenue and the deficit. The table shows what air navigation charges will cost the airlines and what they represent as a percentage of their revenue. I have already spoken to the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) who has approved the incorporation of the table in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, honourable members and the Minister. This table, which honourable members can read in Hansard, clearly sets out the real position in respect of what the deficits are and have been in respect of aviation in Australia. In 1971-72 the deficit was $53.2m; in 1972-73 it was $59m; in 1 973-74 it was $65.8m; in 1 974-75 it was $80.2m; and notwithstanding this increase of another 1 5 per cent it will still show a deficit of approximately $82m this year. We set out and were prepared to reduce that $82m by another $30m. The Fraser Government is prepared to waive that increase in air navigation charges whereby people would be closer to paying the cost of the services with which they are provided. The Prime Minister did not have any hesitation in deferring the increase in pensions for another month, which I believe represents $2 9m. He had no hesitation in increasing pharmaceutical charges or eliminating funeral benefits for pensioners. He did not waste any time in respect of cutting costs in these areas. But here was an opportunity for the Government to have gained some revenue. The Government could have increased air navigation charges and made the air traveller pay something akin to what it really costs the taxpayer. In that way the Government could have saved the pensioners the deferment of their pension increase for one month. The Government could have collected an extra $30m from air navigation charges to pay for the $29m which represents one month’s deferment of the pension increase.
It is obvious that the Government is hell bent on cutting social security payments and reducing the value of the pensions- the value we put into them. The honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer) made a statement that our attempt to increase air navigation charges by the amount I have stated was a breach of the 2-airline agreement. All I suggest to the honourable member is that he read the agreement. If he does so he will find that an amendment to the agreement provides that unless the rate of recovery in 1975-76 comes up to the program we have discussed with the airlines procedures for review are available. So our attitude was not a breach of the agreement. The agreement already spells out what can be done and we set out to do just that.
The airlines never stop bitching about the charges to which I was referring, and I include Ansett in that as the greatest bitcher of them all. He wants everything for nothing. He is not prepared to give anything. He will take as much as he can get and by God, Liberal-Country Party governments have really doled it out for him in return for the election payments he gives them, the sums he puts into their campaign funds.
– Prove it.
-Why does not the honourable member support the legislation, if he has the guts to do so, to permit a full inquiry into election contributions? Let each party declare from where it gets its funds. We will be in it but your mob will not because you are not game to let the people of this country know from where you get your election funds.
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Newcastle does not reply to interjections. I suggest also that honourable members on my right do not interject. Further, the interjections are taking the honourable member for Newcastle away from the subject matter under discussion.
-I have taken your warning, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I will get on with the job. Official figures put together for me by the Department of Transport when I was the
Minister outline the revenues of the various airlines and the air navigation charges that were paid. The air navigation charges of TransAustralia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia in 1971-72 were $4.5m; in 1972-73 they were $5m; in 1973-74 they were $6.6m; in 1974-75 they were $8.5m; and this year they will be approximately $10m. On average the total cost of air navigation charges as against their total revenues works out at approximately 4 per cent. So in fact the airlines are not doing too badly when that is all they have to pay for all of the facilities that are provided for them, the cost of which is quite substantial. The airlines should be paying more for what they are getting.
Just let us have a look at what other airlines paid for air navigation charges as a percentage of their revenue. I have pointed out that the 2 major airlines paid 4.6 per cent of their revenue in air navigation charges in 1974-7$. East- West Airline Ltd paid about only 2 per cent. If honourable members want proof of that they should look at that company’s balance sheet. A very successful commuter in Australia- I do not propose to name him- pays only 1 per cent of his revenue in air navigation charges. This is a factual figure. I think such a proportion is fair and reasonable.
What contribution do air passengers make to air navigation charges? I have some figures on the latest economy class fares for air travel between various ports around Australia. For example, the economy class fare from Sydney to Adelaide is $69.90. The air navigation charge in that amount is $3.30. The fare from Sydney to Melbourne is $45.80 and the air navigation charge component is $2.05; the fare from Sydney to Brisbane is $47.90 with a charge of $2.15; the fare from Sydney to Perth is $181.20 with a charge of $8; and the fare from Sydney to Hobart is $78.20 with a charge of $3.50. Therefore I think that people who complain about the increase in air navigation charges have very little to complain about. I believe that the charges are fair and reasonable unless, of course, one wants to go on buttering up the industry the way in which it has been buttered up in the past. Complaints were made by Ansett about interest charges, depreciation and all the rest of it. Let us look at the subject of interest charges- and I point out that the decisions made in this area were not mine but were decisions in the system which I inherited. Interest charges are levied at the rate at which money was borrowed when the work was carried out. Money was borrowed to build Sydney Airport when interest rates were 4 per cent. All that is being charged today in respect of that work is 4 per cent. If some other work is carried out today when interest charges are 10 per cent, that is the interest rate that is levied in compiling the cost of operating air transport section of the Department of Transport. The airlines are being charged only 2.5 per cent in respect of depreciation. I invite honourable members to tell me of any other organisation that charges only 2½ per cent. Does Ansett only claim 2Vi per cent depreciation for tax purposes? Not on your life! He would be claiming the maximum, far in excess of that figure. Even though Ansett is complaining, the truth is that there has been no change whatever in the system of compiling and working out the revenue and expenses of the Department of Transport. A former Liberal-National Country Party government set it up and the Labor Government kept it going. I ask honourable members opposite to look in the mirror when they start complaining about what the Labor Government did. They will see that they were the guilty people. They set up the system.
Why did the former Liberal-Country Party Government not hold a ministerial inquiry into air navigation charges prior to December 1 972? 1 ask the Minister for Transport to table a couple of work reports which set out some of the expenses that are really incurred. Some of the new honourable members who are speaking here today might then really understand just how the costs of aviation and air navigation charges are arrived at.
On 3 February 1976 the Minister put out a statement confirming a number of people in their positions in the air transport section of the Department of Transport and giving them the right of direct access to the Minister. I have never heard so much humbug in all my life. These men all held those positions prior to 1 1 November 1975. Every one of them had access to the Minister at that time to bring matters to his attention and to discuss reports with him. I am pleased to see that this right is now being continued but let us make one point clear: Prior to December 1 972 they did not have that power. They did not have that right. That situation was changed after the election of December 1972.
Let us get back to international air charges. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) as is typical of Liberal and National Country Party speakers, provided only half the information. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table which I provided on 7 October 1975 in reply to a question in the Senate. It sets out details of air navigation charges in various countries. I suggest to the honourable member for Eden-Monaro that he read it. ( The document read as follows)-
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
It should be noted that the Australian charge relates to landing at an airport and to the use of enroute facilities. As illustrated by the schedule, many overseas charges are not calculated on the same basis as Australian charges. These overseas additional charges are so diverse that comparison with Australian charges is most complicated and possibly not very meaningful.
The amounts used to calculate overseas charges are based on a sixty five per cent passenger load factor. The Australian charges do not alter with load factor variations.
-What do air navigation charges represent to international travellers? Let us take as an example the highest figure, which is for Sydney. A Boeing 747 aircraft, fully loaded, carries 402 passengers. It attracts an air navigation charge of about $8.50 per passenger. On a Boeing 707 which carries 140 passengers, it is approximately $1 1. On a DC 10 with a maximum load of 260 it is about $10 per passenger. If we eliminated air navigation charges for international passengers these are the reductions in fare that they would get.
A couple of years ago representatives from the airlines came to see me complaining about increased charges. At that time there was a very serious over-capacity on airlines, particularly on the Pacific route. I was able to show them that if
Qantas Airways Ltd, American Airlines Inc. and Pan Am eliminated parallel services from Australia they could have brought about upwards of $50 or $60 per passenger reduction in fares. They have not yet come back to see me about my proposition. They keep on bitching through the newspapers about high navigation charges. That was as real a test of their sincerity in an endeavour to reduce fares. As a result of a renegotiation of an agreement we had with the Government of the United States of America that Government is now looking more realistically at capacity in air routes between Australia and the United States with a view to getting away from serious over-capacity. It is something that should be eliminated as quickly as possible.
Qantas is losing money because of the heavy discounting that is taking place in the aviation industry today. This is a serious problem to everyone involved. That is why the Labor Government went ahead and had regulations drawn up. They were ready on 1 1 November 1975, but the present Minister has allowed them to lie idle since. He has not been prepared to bring them in. He has not altered them. They give the Australian Government greater power and control over the discounting that takes place in the international airline industry where there is not only an over-capacity on the American services but also an over-capacity in many other fields. Some of the foreign airlines have adopted the attitude that it is better to put a bottom in a seat at half price than to carry that seat empty. This is the attitude they have been pursuing. I am pleased to say that at least, even at this late hour, the regulations have been brought in so that some attempt can be made to clean up this situation.
A lot has been said about general aviation, which is the most heavily subsidised area of aviation in Australia today. The cost of general aviation to the Australian taxpayer is about $50m a year. The revenue received from it is about $9m a year. I repeat those figures: Expenditure $50m, revenue $9m. Once again there is an excess capacity in general aviation. There are just too many operators in this field. I cite some figures based on 1000 hours per annum utilisation. Air navigation charges represent between 2 per cent and 4 per cent of the total costs of general aviation, fuel costs represent 20 per cent, labour costs represent 20 per cent, engineering costs represent 34 per cent and interest and depreciation costs represent 22 per cent. These are the facts. How are air navigation charges crippling airline operators, whether they be international operators or the general aviation operators? I have a letter with me, dated 19 June 1975, from the General Aviation Association (Australia). It clearly shows that in 1972, 1973 and 1974 utilisation was on average 230 hours a year. In round terms that represents 2 return trips between Newcastle and Sydney per week by a charter operator. That gives a clear example of how this industry has such a heavy over-capacity. Why does the industry not have a bit of sense? If it wants free enterprise for companies it has to be prepared to pay for it.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Before addressing myself to the Air Navigation (Charges) Bill 1976 I refer briefly to the complaint of the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), the former Minister for Transport, about the imbalance of speakers on the list. I remind him that had his Party not polled so lamentably in the last election it might have been able to provide more speakers. While he has had some latitude in the House to speak at length- indeed he has done so, to some dubious effect- we with a more modest role in this Parliament see this chamber as the venue to provide the opportunity for us periodically to make our modest contributions. The Air Navigation (Charges) Bill is increasing air navigation charges by 1 5 per cent from 1 December 1975. This increase is accepted by the industry with relief if not delight. It has suffered the trauma of 3 years of a previous administration which displayed an almost psychopathic dislike of the aviation industry. I ask the former Minister whether he recalls describing the air travelling public as a mob of silvertails. He may now, in view of his displacement from office -
– I raise a point of order. That is a complete untruth. At no time have I ever referred to people in the airline industry as ‘silvertails’. I challenge the honourable member to produce evidence.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartinOrder! That is not a point of order. The former Minister will have an opportunity at a later time to make a personal explanation if he feels that he has been misrepresented.
– I intend the ex-Minister no mischief, but it is commonly accepted that the statement alleged was made. If the ex-Minister retracts that statement I am quite prepared to accept his denial. The fact remains that the previous Government proposed to increase air navigation charges by up to 300 per cent. The industry was reeling under the impact of increases which in some cases amounted to up to 400 per cent since 1972. Whilst it may be argued that the percentage content of total costs seemed rather minimal in many cases it constituted the last straw which threatened to break the camel’s back and we now find the general aviation industry in particular in rather sorry straits. Under this rather enlightened approach by the new Government which has recognised the need to nurture this general aviation industry of ours and has recognised the important role it plays in our social and economic structure the Government has introduced an air navigation charge increase which is regarded as little more than a token acknowledgement of the Government’s responsibility to maintain some awareness of its obligation to the taxpayers to husband the financial resources of this nation. Indeed, it was a previous Liberal-Country Party government that initiated this policy of recovery of expenses in this field to the extent of 80 per cent and it embarked on a program to recover the money by a certain date. However, that Government soon recognised that it was imposing hardships on the industry and therefore in the national interest it was necessary to review the progression of increases and during that Government’s incumbency it did maintain a sensitivity to the industry’s requirements.
Because of this proposed 15 per cent increase the industry is now required to find $3.9m a year rather than the $25m which was foreshadowed by the previous Administration. As I say, while the figure constitutes a rise in aircraft operating costs of less than half of one per cent it constitutes a further imposition on an industry- in the general aviation field in particular- which is sorely troubled. The proposed increase advances the percentage of recovery from 54 per cent to 57 per cent in contrast to the recovery rate of 70 per cent which would have existed under the foreshadowed Labor policy. I think it is fairly important to note that a large proportion of the Australian airways system serves to provide a major link with the outside world. As a consequence much of our system is over-supplied for the servicing of the lower volume of internal traffic which tends to peak from time to time diurnally or over longer intervals and it maintains a continuance of attendance of the required staff to service particular aircraft movements. It is not reasonable or practicable to roster shifts to bring on operational staff to deal with these peaks. It is estimated that we have a surplus in operational capacity in the flight service system of possibly 50 per cent but it does not seem practical to make any substantial inroads into that staffing situation.
It may be argued in view of the need for Australia to maintain contact with the rest of the world-an increasing need to maintain and develop this contact- that the Australian taxpayers should be involved to some substantial extent in maintaining this link with the outside world. We cannot continue to slug the international operators by increasing landing charges with impunity. This invites retaliatory action and indeed over the years there have been expressions of grave discontent by many overseas operators, even leading to the discontinuance of some services.
The Government’s responsibility to fund the cost of low utilisation facilities for the purposes that I have mentioned may be justified to a considerable extent on the basis of maintaining a capacity to deal with national disasters and defence in general. Australia is a country of peculiar if not unique characteristics which puts it at some risk, at some definite handicap in maintaining a communications system under this tyranny of distance that we experience and the sparsity of population. We are faced with a fundamental question of whether we want an aerial network or whether we can discard the concept altogether. I do not think there is anybody in this chamber, anybody in this Parliament or indeed in this country who would seriously argue that we can afford to close down our nation.
I doubt whether there is an activity which has more dramatically reduced the problems of distance and remoteness in this nation of ours than has the whole aviation industry. It has a commendable record in the field of development and in the area of relieving human distress. I would mention at this point the sterling job done by general aviation during times of national disasters such as our floods, our fires, our cyclones and also mercy flights. This industry is always there when it is most required and when it is required its importance cannot be overstated. I often see a parallel here between those people who tend to knock, using the vernacular, the aviation industry but who clamour for the industry’s aid when the need arises and those who use the fairly common practice of being hypercritical of the medical profession until one day they get an agonising pain and the call comes out loud and clear:’ doctor, save me’. We have to view this industry fundamentally and consider all the ramifications of an efficient and a viable aviation industry which can cope with the contingencies that may arise.
Australia’s aviation operations are regarded as second to none. The record of Australian aviation is quite superb and this in no small measure is attributable to the efficiency and dedication of those who are part of the flight service establishment. But some misgivings are expressed from time to time at the seeming imbalance between operational and administrative sections of the air transport group. It is contended that the Australian ratio of air transport group employees per general aviation aircraft of 2.78 employees to one registered aircraft in contrast to the American ratio of 0.3 1 employees to each aircraft rather suggests an imbalance which may be based on incompetence or an excess of employees in the administrative area. These figures roughly translated to 3 employees for every aircraft in Australia and one employee for every 3 aircraft in America. It would possibly be imprudent to foreshadow the result of an investigation but I would strongly urge that an investigation be conducted either to lay these rumours as being unfounded or alternatively to assess what economies might be affected in that particular area.
It is rather encouraging- indeed it is more than encouraging- to see the change in attitude of a government following the steep increases since 1972 and in subsequent years. It has given heart to an industry that very much needed encouragement. One might say that whereas previously there was despair there is now hope and the action of the Government in restricting this increase to a token amount- I would describe it as such- would give the industry some further encouragement to believe that as the economy is restored in this country it can be afforded some relief from these burdens with which it has been afflicted. Some of the burdens are quite outstanding. Honourable members will recall that in the last Budget airport terminal rentals were increased by $5.6m. The hardship in that may be hidden in the magnitude of the amount. When the increased charges are broken down it will be found that the hangar rentals at one Queensland airport rose from $200 to $4,000 a year.
– How much?
-From $200 to $4,000 a year. I would like to tell the honourable member for Hume that at another airport they rose from $1,700 to $19,000. As unbelievable as that may sound, at one Western Australian airport the charges rose from $500 to $27,000. These rentals represent increases of up to 2700 per cent. Whilst the previous speaker laid heavy emphasis on what appear to be the fractional percentage increases, the sums that I have just outlined indicate clearly that percentages are one thing and money is another. Anybody sustaining the imposition of those increased charges will be substantially short when he comes to balancing the books at the end of the financial year.
It is fairly important that the Government should remain continually sensitive to the significant role which aviation is playing in this country and should consider particularly the general aviation services in the rural and outback areas which were subjected to an additional difficulty by the previous Government’s action in phasing out the subsidies on developmental services. The regular public transport on the main trunk routes currently has the capacity to pass on these increases by way of increased charges on passenger carriage and freight. Of course, those figures flow into the cost of all consumer items in the end and further exacerbate the inflationary problem. But the services off the main trunk routes are heavily dependent on many aviators and people who have a concern in that area of responsibility. Notwithstanding the considerable financial risk, they have endeavoured with a great deal of enthusiasm to maintain the services which are so important to people living out in areas of the country which may seem remote from Queen Street, Collins Street, Pitt Street but which play an increasingly important part in maintaining the basic economic viability of people in rural areas.
I think we can conclude that the Government has made a genuine effort in this Bill to meet its responsibility to the taxpayer and also to take heed of the urgent necessity to maintain a viable and effective aviation industry in this country. On that basis I have pleasure in supporting the Bill.
– This afternoon I want to take advantage of this discussion on the Air Navigation (Charges) Bill to draw to the attention of honourable members a subject which I have canvassed many times previously in this Parliament. I do not want to appear to be a repetitive bore on this topic but now that we have had a change of government once again I want the new Ministry, including my friend and colleague the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) who is at the table, to be very much aware not only of the aspiration but also of the urgent need of the people of Brisbane to have the airport relocated.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartinOrder! The terms of the Bill have nothing to do with the siting of the Brisbane airport. I think that the terms of the Bill are fairly narrow and I will see that the honourable member keeps to the terms of the Bill.
– I respect your advice, Sir. This is the Air Navigation (Charges) Bill and I would like to suggest -
-As long as the honourable member speaks to the terms of the Bill he will be in order.
– I would like to suggest that, if the Brisbane airport project had been commenced, much of the extra costs to the industry would not have arisen and we would not be debating this Bill. I would like to promote the need for this to be done in an endeavour to avoid future cost rises. In 1972-73 the former Government assigned none other than the well known Dr Coombs to head a task force to review the continuing expenditure policies of the previous Liberal-Country Party Government. I am very pleased to note that the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has returned to the House. I hope that he will listen to these comments. Regrettably, one of the projects which was axed by the Australian Labor Party Government was the resiting of the Brisbane airport. In Dr Coombs’ own words, the purpose of the program was ‘to construct a new runway and taxiway system, and establish new international and domestic terminal facilities, with associated drainage, site filling and surcharging works’. The Labor Government scrapped that plan. The former Labor Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman Clem Jones -
-Did he not have political ambitions at one stage?
-My friend the honourable member for Hume asks me whether Alderman Jones had political amitions at one stage. He did have ambitions to enter Federal politics.
– What happened to him?
– I do not like to gloat. If the honourable member reads the history books he will find out. In a newspaper article Alderman Jones, a Labor man, is reported to have said:
I have always had the greatest respect for Dr Coombs, but I am very disappointed that he has recommended the airport be deferred.
There was an admission from a Labor man that the Labor Government, taking Dr Coombs’ advice, had deferred the Brisbane airport project. I remember the battles in this Parliament when the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) was Minister for Transport. Night after night when I pleaded in this House for something to be done about the resiting of the airport he ignored me. But I remember the historic occasion when I spoke during the day in a grievance debate and he came into the chamber and in reply indicated some interest in the resiting of the Brisbane airport.
My friend the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) and I have been like dogs with a bone in pursuing the need for resiting the airport. We are relentless. It does not matter which Party is in power, we will not be deterred from our objective of bringing peace and quiet to the city of Brisbane. Dr Coombs himself said that the program was justified because the present main runway points, directly over the city of Brisbane and has noise effects on adjacent suburbs, making it necessary to impose a curfew on jet aircraft between the hours of 1 1 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! I draw the attention of the honourable member for Griffith to the terms of the Bill. It is a Bill for an Act to amend the Air Navigation (Charges) Act 1952-1974. So far the honourable member has not touched on the terms of the Bill. 1 have given him a fair amount of latitude after earlier giving him my interpretation of the subject matter on which he would be allowed to speak. I suggest that he returns to the Bill otherwise 1 could be accused of coming to the opinion that he is flouting the ruling of the Chair, and I certainly would not like to come to that opinion.
– It would not be my desire, Sir, to see you forced into that corner. This is the Air Navigation (Charges) Bill. The Minister for Transport referred to the great importance of aviation as a means of transport in Australia. I am now just referring to what happens to aircraft when they land, where they land and how they affect people because I support his view that it is very important. I do not want to flout your ruling, Sir, or even to push my luck too far. I speak on behalf of the people of the Brisbane suburbs of Balmoral, Bulimba, Hawthorne and Norman Park; New Farm and Teneriffe which are in the electorate of the new honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Peter Johnson); and Hamilton and Eagle Farm which are in the electorate of the honourable member for Lilley.
The Labor Government introduced proposals in order to bypass the previous Liberal Government’s plans, an objective perhaps more economical than that originally proposed for the protection of Brisbane from aircraft noise. The Treasury possibly has become one of the advocates of a cheaper plan for Brisbane. We have the Brisbane Courier Mail on side. Editorials often speak in favour of what the honourable member for Lilley and I have proposed. I read recently that the Reverend Dean George said that our advocacy was completely and utterly justified.
I conclude on a very serious note and speak on behalf of people who were in these areas before the big aeroplanes came. I believe that if people are stupid enough to build a house under a flight path in this age of big aeroplanes it is their own fault. However, in the inner suburbs of Brisbane homes were built in the days of Tiger Moths and in days when we did not even have aeroplanes. Those people built their homes without a knowledge of the harassment and deprivation of privacy that the noise from aeroplanes can cause. I can remember being in a home when aeroplanes went over and the cupboards actually shook and the windows vibrated because of the noise. People who live away from aerodromes may think this is an amusing matter, but let me assure them that they are lucky that they do not have to put up with this intrusion. I hope that the Minister for Transport recognises that just as we gave the previous Labor Minister some time to get going- he did not do so, and life became very unpleasant for him- the Minister’s lifestyle will be subjected to continued harassment if he docs not get cracking with a realignment of the Brisbane runways.
-Let me say how much I appreciate the sentiments that have just been expressed by the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) and his endeavours to keep the debate within the confines of the Bill. I appreciate the great efforts that he and his colleague the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) have made to make aircraft movements in Brisbane so much quieter for people living in the vicinity of the aerodrome. The honourable members deserve a great deal of credit. The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) said that we should be getting on with the job and passing this legislation without having the number of speakers that we propose to have in this debate. There are only half a dozen speakers and I feel that this Bill is important enough to justify that number. We have limited the number of speakers because we would like to get the legislation through within a reasonable time, as we have always tried to do. In view of the number of honourable members who sit on this side of the chamber I feel that we have not had more than the number of speakers to which we are entitled. That is something that the honourable member should take note of. It is something to which his attention probably will be drawn from time to time.
I point out that although there is a 15 per cent increase in air navigation charges, there is an increase in the amount of revenue that is being collected. Recovery of the cost of the air transport infrastructure, as mentioned by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), did rise from 54 per cent in 1974-75 to about 57 per cent this year. One aspect of economic management of this country, an aspect which the Labor Government completely lost sight of all the time, is that if one is to have a sound economy one should move steadily. A sudden disruption to the economy by the introduction of extreme charges would have a very serious effect on the economy as a whole. I commend the Minister and the Government on trying to recover more of the cost of the transport infrastructure. I believe that the efforts made by the Minister and the Government in this direction are very commendable and in line with better or more effective principles of economic management.
I also draw attention to the fact that the Government intends to examine carefully the whole question of cost recovery in respect of all air transport facilities. It would be premature to introduce any greater increase in charges before such an examination was undertaken. That was the very statesmanlike comment that was made by the Minister and one which I would expect to come from him. I hope, however, that in that examination consideration will be given to the burden that is placed on the owners of small aircraft, particularly those aircraft based in the more isolated areas. That is a point that has not been made in this debate so far. Perhaps I should not address the honourable member for Newcastle, he being the former Minister, but I draw to his attention the fact that there are still some points to be made in this debate which are worthy of attention. I do not intend to take up the time of the House in a reiteration of the points that have already been made but I, as have other honourable members, commend the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar) for a very thoughtful and well prepared contribution to this debate. He is a member of my Party and lives not so far from where I live and I know his interest in this matter. The debate generally has been very beneficial to a consideration of the whole aspect of air navigation charges.
– Cut the cackle and get on with it.
-There are some people who do not like to be reminded of matters that it is necessary to mention here and anything that is not in line with the philosophy to which they adhere is regarded as cackle, or something like that. It is nonsense to talk like that.
I would like to draw attention to the burden that rests upon the shoulders of people who are using small aircraft in outlying areas. I was talking to one such operator only today and he told me that he has had a great struggle to keep his charter operation going. That charter operation has been used in emergencies on many occasions. It is a great service in the area and he intended to close down last year because of the marginal profits, if not losses, he was making. However, he is concerned with the progress and welfare of his locality and was persuaded to continue another 12 months. He told me that if charges went up he would be forced to discontinue that operation. That is a very sorry state of affairs. I hope that in this examination some consideration will be given to such people. Some concessional rate should apply to areas where these planes are operating and where in some cases they are the real work horses on grazing properties. In many instances there is no public transport, not even land transport, and people are compelled to have aeroplanes to carry on their work.
In furtherance of that plea I would like the Minister to examine very carefully the very small cost involved if concessional charges were applied to those areas where people make little use of the costly facilities available to people who use metropolitain aerodromes. I am not suggesting that people in outlying areas do not occasionally use those facilities - they do- but there is a case for keeping those aeroplanes in the air. They will not be kept in the air if these charges continue to rise. They have continually to meet the increasing costs of fuel, and of transporting fuel. I could go on with some of the things that have already been said but instead I want to point out how some costs have increased. I was talking to someone from the Royal Flying Doctor Service which has some Beechcraft A80 aeroplanes. Not long ago the Service was paying $248 to register each aeroplane but today it costs $969. The Royal Flying Doctor Service is supported by people who live in outlying areas, and without the Royal Flying Doctor Service many lives would be lost. It is a great consolation to people in these areas. But how often does the Royal Flying Doctor Service use the costly facilities that are available in some of our major aerodromes? Perhaps they are used only when the Service brings in patients who need specialist attention. I hope that the Minister will take particular notice of that point.
We want to ensure that our aviation industry is maintained in this country. In general terms we have heard the position put in this debate; I think it has been well put, and I believe that the Government is on the right track, but in providing those services in the outlying areas we are losing ground. Trans-Australia airlines has cut out the Twin Otter services which it had in the outlying areas. Bush Pilots Airways Ltd took over some of them; some of them have gone. Port Augusta Aerial Services came up from South Australia and continued some. Most of them have been discontinued. So from a commercial point of view we have a very poor service provided for those people who contribute a great deal, in proportion to their numbers, to export income and to the gross domestic product of this country. So my appeal rests on an appeal to the Minister and to the Government to examine very carefully the position of those people who have to use and do use small aircraft in the efficient operation of their business. I urge that they be given some avenue by which they can get a concessional rate of air navigation charges- a concession which, I suggest, would probably be small in proportion to the amount of time that they use the very costly air navigation facilities which are very worthily provided to the aviation industry in this country.
In conclusion I draw attention to the great interest of the Labor Party in this debate; there is only one honourable member left on that side of the House. He is the ex-Minister for Transport, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones). I apologise to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, because you are in the Chair as a member of the Labor Party. You could not be in both places. I take note of the fact that you are in the Chair doing your job. The aviation industry is a very important industry. The Government is endeavouring to do what it can, as my colleague said, in fairness to the taxpayer, in trying to keep the aviation industry on something of an even keel. I say again that some serious consideration should be given to the very severe problems that are confronting those people who provide charter aircraft services and those people who use private aircraft for the operation of their businesses, particularly in isolated areas.
– in reply- I again apologise to those honourable members who had to speak during my absence from the chamber. I will, of course, be studying Hansard to find any points that have been made by those particular speakers in the debate. If I miss any points during the course of this summing up I shall reply to them in due course.
The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) has made a very special plea- it is a rightful plea, I have no doubt about that- for the general aviation and rural air services which service the areas about which he is concerned. I would point out that the very purpose of the Air Navigation (Charges) Bill is to try to keep those people provided with air services. The point has been well made by speakers on this side of the House that the previous Goverment had a cost recovery program rate which was far in excess of that which we propose, being a maximum of 15 per cent as against up to 300 per cent proposed by the previous Labor Government. In a year when quite obviously our budgeting circumstances are very tight, that demonstrates again to the people of Australia how keen we are to see transport systems that can operate effectively around Australia, because we will not be collecting the $20-odd million from the cost recovery program- I think the figure could have been $25m - proposed by the previous Administration.
Insofar as general aviation is concerned, I ought to record in Hansard the level of recovery rate as it now exists in the different sectors of airline operations. Under this Bill international airlines will be paying about 95 per cent of total cost recovery; trunk route airlines about 76 per centthat is Ansett Airlines of Australia and TransAustralia Airlines; the rural airlines, which means East- West Airlines Ltd and the like, 22 per cent; and general aviation, 18 per cent. Of course, one of the problems of the whole system of general aviation is that, being the animal that it is, it is unable to pay its fair share, as one might put it, of the total cost recovery program. We have kept the figure at about 18 per cent because at this point in time that seems to be the only level that it can meet. But we are keen to see general aviation expand and grow, and that is one of the main purposes behind the Bill before the House.
It ought to be recognised that general aviation faces not only increases in costs in air navigation charges- that is not the major cost of its whole operations- but also increases in fuel costs, pilots’ wages and in wages generally caused by the inflationary circumstances flowing out of the careless approach to the economy of the previous Administration. As we tackle the economy and get the inflationary problems under control, I hope that there will be a reflection of that in some growth in the various sectors of aviation. The honourable member for Maranoa can be assured that I am fully cognisant of the points he makes. I shall look at the points in detail and perhaps come back to him.
The honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) in leading in the debate for the Opposition made one or two political points which I shall ignore. I shall come to a point which perhaps could be thought to be of substance. He asked me to express my attitude to regional services. He was careful in his choice of words. He said that some words had been attributed to me and he was seeking clarification of them. I read the report to which no doubt he was referring. The point that I was making is that if by chance our international carrier, Qantas Airways Limited, wants to withdraw from a service, I have got to give consideration to what might occur in that event and how that service might be handled. That is the way in which I approach the general question. There is no challenge to Qantas being our flag carrier, our international carrier. I make that point quite clear. I do not say any more than that about it; there is no need to say any more. I do not think there is anything else that the honourable member raised that I need answer at this point. If he has any doubts about it I shall look at the matter later.
The honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer) raised the question of repressive treatment of general aviation. Again I would have thought that this Bill is an instance of our sincerity in trying to overcome what might have been seen to be repressive treatment of general aviation. I think the honourable member was referring not only to the cost recovery program but also to some attitudes that might be taken within the department in relation to general aviation. I have had conversations with representatives of what is now known as the combined general aviation organisations and, indeed, with individual operators and different people in the general aviation field who have come to see me separately, and I have not had conveyed to me the feeling that they are being, shall I say, picked on by the department. If the honourable member has any examples of that occurring I would like him to talk to me privately afterwards so that he might convey them to me, because that has not been the impression conveyed to me in all the conversations I have had. Certainly concern has been expressed about the abolition of the Department of Civil Aviation. I have expressed views about that on previous occasions. We are faced with the facts of life; the Department of Civil Aviation has been abolished.
– It should remain abolished.
-There are those who hold the view of the honourable member for Newcastle and those who do not. I am not going to embroider the question any further, except to say that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has been quite strong in his determination to cut back on Public Service growth and the development of the Public Service. Therefore the proliferation of departments obviously would lead to increased costs and it is not a question to consider at all at this time.
– You are coming around, are you?
– It is quite extraordinary how the honourable member for Newcastle, with his shadow here- I am not too sure who is the leader of the band out of these two; I think this fellow at the table is the minor drummer boy and Charlie is still beating the Dig drum up at the back.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! I would remind the Minister that both honourable members to whom he has referred are entitled to be referred to by their proper designations, namely, the honourable member for Shortland and the honourable member for Newcastle.
-I accept that entirely, Mr Deputy Speaker. I apologise to both honourable members. They took it in good part; they are both grinning. But I think the honourable member for Newcastle is still beating the big drum and the honourable member for Shortland is very much the minor drummer boy sitting down here at the table. As long as he listens to his predecessor he might learn something. I do not intend to say any more on the matter of air transport groups, other than that I have issued a statement pointing out that air transport groups have been re-organised in such a way as to give anybody in the air transport industry, whether from Ansett, TAA, Qantas or general aviation, or anybody at all, complete access to the people he wants to see. Only one question been raised with me as to the satisfaction of this problem.
– What about the Brisbane Airport?
– I will come to that in due course if the honourable member is patient. I have to deal with some questions raised by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) who takes a particularly keen interest in the problems of Tasmania and air transport to Tasmania. He made the valid point that not even Gough can walk on water. Therefore even he has to fly or go by ship when he goes to Tasmania. The first question the honourable member raised is the question of both Ansett and TAA planes landing at Launceston and then going on to Hobart. He raised that question as to why on alternate days one of them cannot fly over directly to Hobart. It is a valid question. I might say that this 2-airline policy has bugged every Minister responsible for civil aviation who has handled this question ever since I was elected to Parliament in 1961. It was a very old story even then. As the honourable member has raised the question I shall certainly have a look at it and see whether it is possible to get the airlines to agree to some change in the positioning of their aircraft to suit the needs of the people of Hobart. The honourable member also raised the question of the payment of air navigation charges by Air Tasmania and sought from me an assurance that if Air Tasmania wishes it will be able to pay the charges on a quarterly basis or on some basis of terms. I think I have a letter from Air Tasmania on this very question. It is being referred to the Department of Transport to see whether the company’s wishes in this regard can be met. Certainly if they can be met I shall be only too happy to agree to it. I am hopeful, along with the honourable member for Denison, that Air Tasmania in the ensuing period might see itself out of trouble and go onto greater things.
The honourable member for Denison also asked me whether I would have a look at the basis of the system of air navigation charges. I have again invited the combined general aviation organisations to make a submission to me in respect of the whole question of the cost recovery program and air navigation charges. Similarly, I have invited Ansett, TAA and Qantas as the big operators in the field likewise to have a look at the cost recovery program and to make submissions to me about it. This is in line with the policy we laid down prior to the election when I gave the commitment publicly that we would have a look at the total recovery program to see whether it was based fairly and properly. This will be done. I shall expect that any general aviation organisation or operator who has views about this question will let me have those views. If the honourable member for Denison knows of people with some views about this matter I hope he will urge them to let me hear from them.
I did not hear the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) speak, but, as I understand it, in speaking to the Air Navigation (Charges) Bill he stated the charges relating to a number of international airports. For example, he cited the charges for a Boeing 747 landing in Australia as being $3,348 and the charge at San Francisco as being $219. They are certainly graphic figures when presented in that way. But unfortunately whilst Australia still has the highest charges in the world according to the table available, the honourable member did not cite the complete charges payable by a 747 when it lands at San Francisco. The total charges, based on a whole variety of different sorts of charges in San Francisco come to $1,139, which is -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, will the Minister incorporate that table, which I had prepared?
– I am only too happy to incorporate the table. In fact I think it was incorporated in Hansard in the last year’s debate. I am not sure that the charges are still the same. I am pointing out that the honourable member for Eden-Monaro said that the charge in San Francisco was $219. In fact the charge, with all things in, for a 747 in San Francisco is $ 1 , 1 39.
– United States or Australian dollars?
– Can the table be incorporated?
– Yes, it can be incorporated as far as I am concerned.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-I thank the House. As I understand it, in my absence from the House during the debate the honourable member for Newcastle raised the question of the Government’s policy. I think he was trying to say that we were doing a bit of a cheat in respect of this Bill. Let me put his mind at rest. We were not doing a cheat at all. I understand that he quoted some documents out of his head and stated that we had said that we would freeze the whole program until an examination had been made. I think if the honourable member looks at the policy document he will see that we said we would defer the previous administration’s program until further studies had been made. I gave instances of what those studies would be. We have in fact proceeded. We have deferred all the great expense involved in an increase of up to 300 per cent to which I referred earlier and as proposed by the honourable member for Newcastle. We have proceeded to implement increases involving up to 15 per cent which had already been budgeted for in the airlines’ annual budget programs. They had already taken into account an expected increase of 15 per cent in the setting of their rates for the year 1975-76. So all we did was to proceed along the very normal basis as provided under the Airlines Agreement. It is not fair of the honourable member for Newcastle to say that we cheated on the policy. We in fact followed closely the proposals we had made during the course of the election campaign. I think I have dealt with all the points raised by the various honourable members in the debate. I repeat that if I have missed some points because of my absence from the House -
– There is one.
– My apologies. How could I forget it? Of course the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) and the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) are very concerned about the redevelopment of the Brisbane Airport. During the course of their time in this Parliament they have been assiduous in following through their commitment to the local people to see a change in the present line of the runway at Brisbane to a new line as proposed by a previous Minister for Civil Aviation in about 1970, 1971 or 1972. The honourable member for Griffith has made his position quite clear, that he expects the Government to go back to that position and to honour a commitment that was given at that time. I have to say to the honourable member that whilst I admire him for his assiduousness I am in no position to give him an undertaking today, this very day.
– Or tomorrow, or indeed in this Budget year having regard to the full financial implications of what he proposes. I am in no position to give him what he wants or to reassure him on this point. All I can say is that he will have adequate time when proposals of this nature come forward to make further representations to me and to strengthen his position with me if we get to a point of redevelopment. I have to say that in the light of the economic circumstances in which this Government is placed because of the stupidity of the previous Government in its whole handling of the economy I am unable to be as free as I would like with the honourable member and to give him what he would like in this regard. I repeat that I shall look at the other points raised by honourable members and answer them separately.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Nixon) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 26 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.
Upon which Dr Jenkins had moved by way of amendment:
That the following words be added to the Address: ‘, but note that-
the Speech makes no acknowledgment of the financial pre-eminence of the House of Representatives;
the Speech makes no reference to the need for action to ensure that there cannot be a recurrence of the Constitutional crisis which threatens the continuation of the Australian Parliamentary system, and
the proposals outlined in the Speech are so framed as to cause a major transfer of resources from middle and low income families to those on higher income levels’.
-The statement of Government policy which we are debating had a great many claims to originality that were not original. For instance, the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) spoke about the development of a joint Services base at Yampi Sound. On 23 August 1974, the then Minister for Defence, Mr Lance Barnard, made that statement. In the field of education, the combining of the Tertiary Education Commissions was announced last year. I had the general impression that it was opposed by the Opposition of that time. Now it comes out in the statement of Government policy as Government policy. I congratulate honourable gentlemen opposite on that adoption, because it is common sense. The 2 tertiary commissions reached the state where, making recommendations quite separately, they were making tremendous competitive claims on the capital resources and the labour available in the Australian community. I do not need to go all round Australia to see how they would have competed for building materials and labour in the implementation of their last report, but merely take my own State of Western Australia as an example. The original recommendations were for $26m worth of buildings for the Western Australian Institute of Technology and alongside that, $ 1 3m worth of buildings for Murdock University. Now with the combination of the 2 commissions with a subordinate council for each sort of education, but with a common capital construction commissioner, there are prospects of rationalisation. We pointed this out last year and it did not seem to arouse any enthusiasm from the then Opposition until the time came when it had to face the costs of the alternative. When it faced the costs of the alternative, of course, it adopted our policy.
I do not wish to go into the Yampi Sound question, but I wish to make one or two points about defence. When David Fairbairn was a member of this House there was one interview which he granted which one might almost say was strategically a lucid interval. He spoke about the liability of the North West Cape base to nuclear attack. There is a delicate balance of theory about whether North West Cape would be subject to a nuclear attack or not. There are those who point out that it may be a factor in the chain of guiding missiles for total destruction of Soviet Donets Basin cities and if it were engaged in such a function it would be logical to expect that, desiring not to be annihilated, the Russians would strike at the base. On the other hand there are those who hold that if a nuclear war breaks out there will be a continual effort on both sides to stop it escalating, and if they destroy one another’s communications systems there will be nothing to stop the war escalating, because if one lives in hopes of reversing the tendency to use more and more nuclear missiles and to get some kind of agreement over the hot line, one will have to presuppose that one’s enemy can communicate with his submarines or whatever are the vehicles by which the attack is being carried through. What I want to talk about is the facile way in which Government spokesmen tend to assume that the United States will rush to our rescue, because these spokesmen always treat the Australia-New Zealand-United States treaty as a firm alliance. The undertaking- I have not got the precise words- is that both sides will consider their constitutional processes if a threat develops. When I was very young and in first year at university, we had a book -
– That is a long time ago.
-It is a very long time ago. We had a book which is still highly relevant to the present world. It was titled Treaties Defeated by the Senate. It was a very illuminating study of United States constitutional processes in foreign policy. It worked up to the great chapter on President Wilson trying to take the United States into the League of Nations and ratify the Treaty of Versailles after he had been the key figure in all the negotiations in Europe and was accepted by all his allies as speaking with a confident voice for the United States. Nothing that he proposed became in fact the foreign policy of the United States.
There is a very great deal of comment on Angola at the present time. Angola is an instance where the President of the United States desired what would be called in this country ‘a strong forward policy’. He desired intervention in the Angolan situation. He did not get such a policy of intervention accepted by the American Congress. There was a time when the Press of this country followed the Press of the United States in constant ridicule of Charles de Gaulle. De Gaulle was the first significant foreign affairs spokesman to recognise the significance of China’s fear of the Soviet Union. China, studying the possibility of her own destruction, decided that the United States could not destroy China but that the Soviet Union could, and that the Soviet occupation of Hungary and Czechoslovakia was a claim to supervise other communist powers in the way that everybody supervised China in the nineteenth century. China, finding this prospect intolerable, broke with the Soviet Union. In the developing tensions, this obliged the Soviet Union to concentrate a couple of million troops on Russia’s Far Eastern border. De Gaulle was the first one to see that, temporarily anyway, the freedom of Europe might be riding on this diversion. The stream of ridicule directed at him continued in the United States for a couple of years until it came to the mind of the United States President- it happened to be Nixon at the timethat this might very well be correct, and he decided to go to Peking.
But there was one other factor that France had to face, and it comes to this constitutional process. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation alliance is every bit as strong or, if you like, every bit as weak as the ANZUS pact. The NATO headquarters was in France, and it finally came to the point where de Gaulle needed to ask a straight question: ‘If, because of the presence of these headquarters, or because of the position of France in the alliance, the Soviet Union were to land a few nuclear missiles on France, would the United States retaliate on her behalf?’ I am not going to say that the answer was no, but the answer was profoundly unsatisfactory from France’s point of view. Anybody who is not a complete fool would know for instance that the United States is not going to sentence to death 10 million New Yorkers because a nuclear weapon had been used on France. There began to be in de Gaulle’s mind a fear that subordinate allies of the great nuclear powers might be used as testing grounds of one another’s will. France did not want to be in that position; therefore it cleared NATO out of France completely. France has not left the NATO alliance but it has cleared NATO headquarters out of France and proceeded to develop at great speed, its force de frappe, its own independent nuclear deterrent. The very large French naval forces in the Indian Ocean, which at first sight is an ocean that appears to have absolutely nothing to do with the strategic defence of Fance, are there simply so that nuclear missiles on submarines or on other vehicles are deployed on Soviet Donets Basin cities so that if the Soviet Union were to use nuclear weapons on France, France might have this deterrent to be able to retaliate and not be beholden in any way to the United States of America.
It has become part of the mythology in this country that we have an automatic guarantee that if the Soviet Union were to land one on North West Cape the United States would retaliate on our behalf and sentence to death some millions of New Yorkers, San Franciscans and others. I do not overdraw this because I think the nuclear balance has become fairly strong. It has become stronger than the Cold
War atmospheres of the past. Basically: the survival of large numbers of people in the world depends on Washington and the Kremlin remaining sane. But statements still tend to be completely overdrawn about the nature of the guarantee that we have from the United States when all that we have is an undertaking to consult the constitutional processes. For all those who wish to be too dogmatic about consulting the constitutional processes, I can do nothing better than to recommend my youthful textbook Treaties Defeated by the Senate.
I was a little horrified to hear the Minister for Defence reduce the status of Her Majesty’s Australian Navy to what I can only call Her Majesty’s prawn patrol. Here we have these magnificent ships. The ones that are to come will cost $150m. HMAS Perth, a Charles F. Adams class destroyer that went through a tremendous reconstruction, though a relatively small ship is probably now one of the most powerful weapons systems in the world. I am sure that it would cost about the same amount as the proposed new ships. Presumably HMAS Brisbane and HMAS Hobart will be similarly converted in due course. These are immensely powerful ships. They are prestige items. The function of the Navy, if it is to retain its dignity, must be the defence of Australia. Its function is not the policing of fishing grounds. What the Minister really revealed was the very great need in this country for what there is in the U.S.A.- a coastguard, or, alternatively, a properly equipped marine police.
– I concede that point.
-Good. I think it would be very unfortunate if the role of the Navy were to be downgraded in this case. The need for a coastguard or a properly equipped marine police is related to other forms of services which seem to me to depend upon police intelligence, such as drug or other forms of smuggling. There is in Australia a need for that sort of service. A very great deal has been said in a controversy in which I got myself involved in Western Australia, unwisely perhaps, about defending our west coast. It became gloriously obvious that large numbers of people still think of Cockburn Sound as the ‘No. 8 British coaling station ‘ which was what Admiral Henderson conceived it should be. It originally was proposed as a Navy base because Admiral Henderson thought of Gibraltar, Malta, Alexandria, Aden, Bombay, Trincomalee, Singapore, Cockburn Sound, Sydney and Wellington. There was the chain of 10 bases where British ships could coal in their function of patrolling the world. Then we are told about our great empty coastline which requires surveillance.
The more the Minister has stressed that it is the Soviet Navy he is concerned about and that it must be kept under surveillance, the stranger the kind of commentary that he has been making appears to me to be. I think it is generally accepted that the submarine missiles of the Soviet Union do not have the range of the submarine missiles of the U.S.A. but they are sufficient. It is as Mercutio says in Romeo and Juliet:
No, ‘t is not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church door, but ‘t is enough, t will serve: ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.
A missile that can carry 4200 nautical miles is sufficient. So if the Soviet Union actually wished to attack Cockburn Sound- I am not suggesting that it would at the moment- it could do it from off Capetown, from the Antarctic, from 2000 miles north of Singapore or from 800 miles east of Wellington, New Zealand. The conception that Sir Charles Court has, that something should be patrolling up the coast, seems slightly outmoded as a form of defence. But if we wish to have a supervision of the whole coast of Western Australia, for $60m we could set up a satellite that could keep the whole of the western coast, the Indian Ocean coast, under constant and permanent surveillance. A sum of $60m may sound a lot but after all the 2 ships which we of the Labor Party considered when we were in government and which the Minister for Defence has confirmed, cost $150m each. Defence hardware today is of that order of expensiveness.
– You could get a lot of prawns for that amount.
-Yes. I do not have time to dwell on the last point I wish to mention. I want to make a point following the answer by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to a question he was asked. I am not sure that he was strictly in order in answering the question because we have a notice of motion on the matter listed for general business Thursday No. 3. I refer to Aurukun. I have come to the conclusion that our doctrine of assimilation is impertinence; our doctrine of integration is impertinence; every doctrine that we have imposed on the Aborigines is a piece of impertinence. We have assumed that Aborigines ought to be our subjects or our citizens. Who gave us the right to make that assumption? I believe that things will come straight when we begin to look at them for what they are entitled to be- a distinctive nation. They never asked to be absorbed into our system. They are getting a taste from the Queensland Government of what they always have had at the hands of Australians- the assumption that if we want something they happen to be occupying they can move on, and if there is any agreement they are not parties to the agreement. We act all the time on the assumption that they are a conquered people. We have never acted on any other assumption than that they are a conquered people.
We began to reverse some of that. The first educational decision made by myself and taken to the then Prime Minister was that Aborigines had a right where they so chose to an education in their own language as the medium of instruction. If you deny the right of a people to an education in their language, as the English for a long time denied the Welsh an education in their own language, you are quite patently acting on the assumption that they are a conquered people. I see that the light is on indicating that my time limit has just about expired. I merely want to make this one point. It may well be that, irritating as it was, the principle of having an Aboriginal embassy right outside our doors was the expression of something which, as far as people of genuinely Aboriginal culture are concerned, was valid- that they are a distinctive nation and have the right to approach us from their own assumptions and on their own basis instead of eternally having imposed on them our ideas and our values about what they should be and what should happen to them.
– It is always refreshing to listen to the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley). It is not necessary to agree with all he says to recognise that he has clarity of vision and honesty of purpose, which is a tremendous contrast to most of what we hear from the Opposition benches. Most of the speeches we have heard from the Opposition benches in this Parliament have been word by word and line by line a perfect example of how the Australian Labor Party managed to get this country and the Party into such a mess. The normal system is to try to blame someone else for everything that went wrong. The present Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) was a past master at this. Everything that went wrong was always someone else’s fault- the Senate, the States, the unions, the multinational companies, the Central Intelligence Agency. It was always anyone’s fault but his own.
I do not see why members of the Opposition always feel obliged to bring the CIA into it to explain all the things that went wrong. We are well aware that they are perfectly capable of making a tremendous mess of things without any assistance from anybody else. They have shown it to this House and to this country repeatedly. It is a great pity though, that running through their speeches there is not only this feeling that the CIA is ruining things for them; there is also a deep strain of anti-Americanism which I find rather ominous and rather sad. Therefore it was very pleasing to see in the Governor-General’s Speech a simple statement which I think is very important. He said:
The Government believes there is a need to pay more attention to relations with countries with which we share common philosophical commitments.
That, I think, should be the theme of this new Government. One area which was bedevilled by the anti-Americanism of the Labor Party was the question of Omega stations in Australia. The setting up of an Omega station in Australia was opposed by odd little movements called Stop Omega, No US Bases in Australia, and similar petty organisations. Their only common denominator which I could discover was a virulent antiAmericanism and an almost total ignorance of Omega. I talked to a number of people demonstrating about it. Their views on Omega, as far as they were coherent at all, which was fairly rarely, were that Omega was some type of long range missile or, as far as I could gather, some type of death ray. Of course it is not either. Omega is a simple long range navigation system. It is worth remembering that ships on the ocean are now navigated in essentially the same way as Captain Cook’s ships were navigated- with a sextant and a time device. Omega is the greatest single advance in a simple navigational system the world has yet seen.
What is it? There are 7 Omega stations at the moment- there should be 8- carefully situated around the world. They transmit at very low frequency. Ships at sea can use 3 of these stations. They need 3, measuring the phase differentials of the stations and so they can fix their position. To fix it they need a receiver which costs about $3,000. A child, after 5 minutes instruction, using this receiver could fix the position of this ship at any time of the day or night within half a mile. This is a tremendous advance in the science of navigation at sea.
There is an alternative use, which might be of even greater interest to Australia, and that is its possible use as a rescue device. One could fit to any craft that goes to sea a simple transceiver which could, when activated in the event of an emergency, transmit to a satellite the Omega signals it was receiving. On shore one could read with an accuracy of half a mile where that ship or craft in distress was. I do not need to remind the House of the enormously costly searches for missing craft for the House to see how valuable such a device would be. As I have said there should be 8 stations. One is missing. These stations must be carefully sited because the signal from the station is not usable within about 700 kilometres of the station. When a station is sited there must be in the area surrounding the station 3 other usable stations. Therefore the siting of these stations is very important. The range of an Omega station is about 8000 kilometres. Beyond that range there is confusion because the transmissions coming the opposite way around the world make difficulties.
Therefore, to complete an effective Omega network around the world, there needs to be a station somewhere in southern Australia or New Zealand. Southern Australia is adequately covered at the moment by Omega stations elsewhere in the world- those in Hawaii, Japan, the Argentine and Reunion Island. They cover southern Australia. The areas that are not covered at present are the north-east and northwest approaches to Australia. These are extremely poorly charted and very dangerous waters. The advantages to Australia of having a proper navigational system in those areas would be great. What is the history of Omega? Regular transmission started in 1966. That was 10 years ago. The United States started fitting ships in 1967. In the same year the United States made an approach to the Australian Government for permission to make technical experiments in Australia to determine whether a station would be appropriate here. That permission was granted. In April 1970 there was a formal proposal from the United States for agreement in principle to the setting up of an Omega station here. In December 1970 the Australian Government, then Liberal-Country Party, agreed. Late in 1972, just before the change of government, agreement was reached. Regrettably it was not signed. At that point the steady progress ceased. The first thing that happened was that in May 1973. the then Prime Minister referred the issue of Omega to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. Hearings were held from August to November 1973. Thereafter there was a 2 year inexcusable delay. Firstly the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Wheeldon, sat on the report for one year during which time, as far as I could discover, he did not alter anything. He merely delayed it for a year. Even when it was presented to Parliament nothing happened. The Prime Minister, the present Leader of the Opposition, did not even dare refer it to his Caucus, although the majority of Labor members on the Committee had approved the use of Omega. This delay, in my view, is inexcusable. It is a sad and sorry tale.
If we are to instal Omega now, as the new Government is determined to do, we must be clear on its advantages, the cost and the possible disadvantages. The advantages are obvious, I think. It is cheap- extremely cheap. A receiver costing only $3,000 will be a wonderful boon to ocean navigation. It is reliable. It will give 24 hour coverage. It increases the safety of shipping. Previously on a long ocean passage, with overcast skies for some days, a ship could well be uncertain of its position by up to 100 miles, thus making a landfall very difficult. With Omega no uncertainty about position would arise. There would be a reduction in running costs of shipping and more accurate times of arrival. Finally, there is the almost certain development of the global rescue net which would be a wonderful boon to the safety of small craft.
What do we have to pay for this? The cost of an Omega station in 1973 was $8m to $ 10m. Of this cost Australia, in the draft agreement which regrettably was allowed to lapse by the Labor Government, was only to provide the land and pay $500,000 of the $10m cost. The running costs would be about $500,000 a year, of which Australia would pay half. This is extremely cheap for such a magnificent navigational aid. What objections are there to it? The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence heard a series of objections from various people. I thought the words of dissent by the 7 Labor members who dissented from the final report were very moderate. They said:
It is unfortunate that many of the opponents have overstated their case.
I think that was a very mild way of describing the gross deceptions which some of the people appearing before the Committee tried to impose on the Committee. People submitted pseudoscholarly footnotes. I do not know whether they thought the Committee would not have them checked. When the references were checked they turned out frequently to have nothing to do with what it was purported had been said. In some cases they flatly contradicted what was said. The opponents were making remarks which might have sounded good on the public platform- a ‘Stop Omega’ platform- but when subject to critical analysis were found to have no foundation at all.
There was one possible objection which had to be examined, that an Omega station in Australia could be used to guide missile-firing submarines, that it could provide the navigation basis for them and that, therefore, an Omega station in Australia could become a nuclear target. This, I think, was the most thoroughly researched area of the Committee’s investigation. The evidence was overwhelming that in fact ballistic missile submarines did not need and did not use Omega although it could be read by a submarine at a submerged depth of 30 feet; missile-firing submarines did not use it for operational reasons and also because at a cost of about $lm a ship they had a far more sophisticated and elaborate navigational system; and Omega could not possibly provide them with the accuracy necessary for their missile launches. This was recognised even by the Labor members who dissented and who said:
The evidence presented to the Committee does show that the Omega system is not vital to nuclear ballistic missile submarines.
That, I think, disposes of the possibility of Omega being of value to missile-firing submarines. Of course, the majority of the Committee felt that there was no question at all of it being of any use to missile firing submarines and no likelihood of the station becoming a missile target.
As I have mentioned the dissenters, I think I should say something about them. There were 7 dissenters, although rather oddly one of them, Senator Wheeldon, signed both the report and the dissent, which might have been said to be backing each horse in the race. Of the other 6 members who dissented, three were not present when the evidence was taken. So much for the 7 dissenters. It is worth noting that 18 Labor Party members were involved in the Committee during the consideration of Omega and that eleven did not sign the dissent. The dissenters, as I said, accepted that Omega would not be used by missile firing submarines. They said it could be used by warships. Of course it could. Warships navigate like any other ship. Warships use lighthouses. They use charts. They can take directions from any fixed radio station. If we wished to deny warships any means of navigating by any devices based in Australia we would reduce Australia’s trade and commerce to zero.
The dissenters also said something to the effect that they were not convinced that Omega was cost effective. The cost effectiveness of Omega was not referred to the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee and the Committee heard no evidence on it. So it is not clear on what basis they decided it was not cost effective. I would say, and I am sure that anyone who studied the benefits and the cost would say, that this is probably the most cost-effective device ever installed for navigation.
The dissenters then rather oddly quoted the Red Star. They said- and I think I had better quote their views exactly:
The Red Star had claimed that Omega installation would be part of a world-wide United States military system.
That is a flat statement and it is actually true. Then they went on to say:
It follows from this that even though the Soviet Union may be mistaken in this view the fact has to be recognised that rightly or wrongly it does hold this view.
There is a wonderful gap in logic there. I am quite certain that the Soviet Government does not and could not believe all the things that it puts in Red Star and for us to base our policy on the assumption that everything that is in Red Star is necessarily Soviet Government policy would be a very unsound basis for decisions.
The final point in the dissent was to reveal, I am afraid, a complete ignorance of how Omega works by these Committee members. Three of the six, I must say, did not hear the evidence. Their criticism of having an Omega station in southern Australia was that that Omega station would be of no use to shipping in Bass Strait. It was never intended that it should be. As I explained, there is a near zone effect and therefore the siting of an Omega station has to be in an area already adequately covered by three other stations. And this is, of course, the case in Bass Strait.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was explaining the great importance of the Omega navigational system, which I believe is the greatest advance in ocean navigation since the eighteenth century. The installation of a station in Australia was overwhelmingly endorsed by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, which comprises members of all parties. It was to my intense regret delayed for 3 years by the ineptitude and the suspicion of the former Labor Government.
It is worth recognising some fundamental points about the Omega installation. Firstly, Australians are an island people. Eighty per cent of our population fives within 20 miles of the coast. We are one of the great overseas trading nations of the world and virtually all of our overseas trade goes by sea. Half of our interstate trade goes by sea. The efficiency of our sea transport is central to our economy. The installation of an Omega station in Australia is essential if the system is to provide a full coverage. It would make a significant increase in the efficiency of our sea transport and therefore would reduce costs. It is, I am afraid, regrettably typical of the late unlamented Labor Government that it was prepared recklessly to waste resources on ill-considered schemes but was not prepared to devote the time, effort and attention to installing systems such as Omega and many others which would be of great value to the development of our economy. Nothing we can now do can undo the 3 years that have been lost. I now appeal to honourable members on both sides of the House to see that this most important project which will cause valuable improvement to our economy is now proceeded with without delay.
– I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) to the motion that the Address-in-Reply be agreed to. The Governor-General’s Speech in itself is the product of a government which lacks legitimacy. It is the product in turn of a defective Constitution under which Australia has laboured for many years. The events of the last 4 months have done violence to every concept of parliamentary democracy. I speak not in anger but in sorrow. I speak as a parliamentarian of 25 years’ experience. I am ashamed to see in Australia today the situation which now exists in which Parliament itself has been diminished and downgraded and in which the Governor-General, the viceroy, the direct representative of the Queen whom we share with the United Kingdom, has himself participated in politics. I say that deliberately and with measured words. On 11 November 1975, when funds were still available and were sufficient until the end of November the Governor-General chose to take precipitate action. In addition to that he quite deliberately chose to wrong-foot the Speaker, the chosen representative and the custodian of the privileges of this House, and chose by a snide method to dissolve this Parliament.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I think the honourable gentleman has an appreciation from the debate on the AddressinReply that preceded his speech that no honourable member may refer to the Governor-General in any way that would cast doubts upon his integrity, ability or capacity.
-I stand corrected, Mr Deputy Speaker. I assert that conditions were imposed under which a caretaker government was introduced which had no mandate and which at that time had not a majority in the House of Representatives but which chose to govern. Powers that the monarch herself does not possess have been abused. The power of the purse, the fundamental and traditional power and the privilege of the Commons no longer resides in the House of Representatives, in the people’s House. They reside in the Senate. Every constitutional convention by which parliamentary democracy can function has been broken. Convention was broken in the choice of replacements for 2 senators. The conventions that have been established and have transcended political allegiance have been scrapped. They have gone into the discard. Further reserve powers in the Constitution have been abused. I refer to the powers to reserve the royal assent, the power of the Governor-General as contained in the Constitution to refer legislation back to this House with a request for alterations, or for legislation to be deferred for as long as 2 years. This is the position today because of the abuse of the power of the Senate. The Senate was the fundamental compromise by which national government was achieved in Australia. It was the concession made to the smaller States to protect what were conceived to be their fundamental rights. Every fundamental democratic right in Australia has been perverted.
I listened the other night with great attention to the new incumbent Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). An ancestor of mine was present at the first shearers’ strike camp at Barcaldine in Queensland. I did not see any difference between the attitude of the Prime Minister and that of the squatters of that era who went along to the shearers’ strike camps with troopers and magistrates to deal with them for breaches of the master and servant legislation of the day and for common law conspiracy. The Governor-General’s Speech itself refers to fundamental economic instability being due to excessive government intervention. This is part of the political demonology which this Government is attempting to introduce. It is nothing new but it is being revived. The Government presents Australia as being an hermetically sealed economy governed by a government with an hermetically sealed mind. Some of its members have the finest minds of the nineteenth century. They are regurgitating the economic nostrums of another discredited era. They come from the economic swamps and they are political backwoodsmen. The hard truth is this: There is today a world wide economic recession and Australia is in the midst of a global slump. There are global causes for our economic problems which tinkering with the national balance sheet cannot solve. We are told that there are soft options and hard options but that the soft options have run out.
It is attributed to the Prime Minister that when he recently addressed a meeting of his henchmen he stated that by the end of this year his Administration would be the most unpopular in Australia’s history. I have no doubt that it will. Worse than that, it will have polarised Australia. Violence is being done at present to every economic concept. Let us take as an example the disruption of the last 6 months. Not a word has been said in this House about a $50Om run-down in foreign exchange funds, as one case in point. And why not? Because there was an election on and the Government had to pussyfoot because it depended on the support of the National Country Party. The issue raised was the possibility of a devaluation of the Australian dollar. The Australian dollar is still one of the world’s soundest currencies and if it fails to continue at that rating- a triple A rating- the fault will be laid directly at the door of this Government.
The new era that we are entering into will appear very quickly. There are 3 fundamental reasons for it which the Government has conveniently overlooked. Firstly, we are now in the 1975-76 financial year at the end of the post-war reconstruction boom. The devastation, the destruction and disruption that characterised World War II have ended. Secondly, the imbalance of world currencies is endemic. The jargon of the economists is that there is a chronic and fundamental disequilibrium of the various world currencies. The third reason for the present condition is this: It is the emergence of the OPEC cartel- that is the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries- and that is only the first of many, because today we live in a world of macro-economics; something a little above the concepts of the ambitions or the capacity of this Government. The OPEC cartel, with its quadrupling of crude oil prices, is only one of many such groups that will emerge. It has been correctly said that it is not the man ‘s skin that itches but the man underneath, and the itch is a fundamental one. It is the resentment of colonial countries south of the Equator which for years have suffered under economic exploitation as the satellites or the colonies of the so-called industrialised democracies of Western Europe combined with the United States. The new world order that is emerging and for which the characteristics are, of course, inflation and unemployment, which are now grouped together and called stagflation, will be something that no one has anticipated and something that no one can quite identify.
We are in the period of complex and dangerous economic and political crises. The bipolar world order, the order of John Foster Dulles, has ended, and today throughout the world amongst the advanced industrialised countries, the wealthier countries, there is a probing for strength, for new alliances and for re-alliances. In the alignments which are occuring the main weapons will be fuel and food. We are now entering into a multipolar world, a world of wide and fundamental conflict between the rich and the poor nations. In our preoccupation in this country with using the antiquated political nostrums of this Government to overcome what is a world depression we neglect and forget the social and political crisis which the fundamental conservatism of the present Government could never properly evaluate, much less understand. The best that this Government can offer to the people of Australia is a reversal of what it chose to be the prejudices of the former Labor Administration. Whatever Labor did automatically there is a reflex action as a syndrome; this Government wants to do the opposite.
The era which is ending was one of rapid economic growth, stimulated, as I said, by the repairing and restoration of the damage and devastation of World War II. It centred on the industrialised countries of the northern hemisphere. It ended with the deepening north-south problems of continued exploitation of the resources of the countries south of the equator by the so-called industrialised Western democracies. It is clear that the new world order will be a reorganisation on the basis of costly food and costly energy. The terms ‘agra-power’ and ‘petro-power’ are being bandied around. Let me illustrate. In the early 1950s the availability of food in the world for its population then was 91 days supply per person. At the present time it is 26 days supply. The phenomena which are appearing and which characterise the change and collapse of the preceding era, and which also foretell the new, are inflation and unemployment, poverty, over-population- twothirds of the world’s people still lack the minimum means of subsistence- stagnating international trade, resources nationalism, associated cartels and the recycling of petro-dollars.
Perhaps one of the most fundamental causes or immediate causes of current trade disruption is the impact of crude oil pricing. For example, in 1974 the aggregate surplus in OPEC countries in terms of United States dollars was $65 billion, compared with $5 billion in 1973. The major oil consuming countries which in aggregate had a trade surplus of $10 billion in 1973 encountered a deficit of $38 billion in 1974. The non-oil producing and less developed countries found their 1973 deficit had increased from $8 billion to $2 1 billion in 1974. The plight of the newly emerging nations- the nations in the Third World and the Fourth World as some to choose to term it- is beyond comprehension.
The world economic order of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the International Monetary Fund is cracking and will steadily disintegrate, hence the recent Rambouillet conference of 8 Major nations to demonetise gold, replacing it with special drawing rights. What was the GATT-IMF world-the world of Bretton Woods? It was based on a fixed price of US$35 per oz for gold. In fact after World War II the United States became the world banker for the advanced industrialised countries outside the communist bloc. I do not now quote the words of any doctrinaire economist. I quote those of Mr Yokoyama, the President of the Bank of Japan as reported in the Japanese Times financial Supplement of January last year. Mr Yokoyama said after stating that the United States was the world’s banker for the advanced countries outside the communist bloc:
The fixed price of gold was maintained until April 1968. In that period -
This is of vital importance- international liquidity necessary for the growth of the world economy was primarily supplied in the form of balance of payments deficit on the pan of the United States. This was the so-called ‘dollar balance’. This supply mechanism of international liquidity gave the United States both a privilege and obligation in respect of international finance. The privilege was that America’s payment deficit was financed by other countries semi-automatically. The obligation was that in recompense for this the United States had to maintain the value of the dollar by exercising discipline in its balance of payments.
It failed to do so. It may be said that the post-war international monetary system collapsed because this equilibrium between the privilege and the obligation was upset and the United States came to employ policies which disregarded its obligations. A major example of this was the world flood of Euro-dollars and its distortion of the European economy. Two basic patterns emerge in a planned new international monetary system. One is a multiple reserve currency whereby the obligation, so far solely upon the United States, would be shared by other major powers, and the other is the adoption of the special drawing rights as a principal reserve asset. This is unlikely. With the latter choice at Rambouillet it yet remains to be seen whether special drawing rights will be able fully to finance the growth of a world in which most nations still tend to prefer the possession of gold as a major reserve asset.
Successive phases of the world currency crisis were, in 1968, the introduction of the 2-tier gold price and the ‘dollar shock’ of August 1971.
With the suspension of the dollar’s gold convertibility, the re-imposition of import surcharges and the subsequent shift to a system of floating exchange rates, the Smithsonian agreement of December 1971 provided some temporary relief, reviving temporarily the fixed exchange rate system. Business stimulation followed, with sharp price spirals, as well as the expansion of real output. This in turn resulted in a boost to inflation, reinforced by a second devaluation of the United States dollar in February 1973. In turn the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries oil price increases and the problems of recycling petro-dollars caused the sharp inflation of 1974 and the world credit squeezes, which included the credit squeeze in Australia in that year.
The governments facing elections in the various Western industrial democracies have in turn borne the brunt of the blame and have been toppled like ninepins by irate electors. The question is whether the Fraser Government’s policy provides the sovereign panacea. It is pathetically inadequate. It contains no macro-economic policies. It is limited to micro-economics from the micro minds of its framers. The remedies proposed remind one of the cynic’s description of France as having been fully prepared for the Franco-Prussian war in 1914 and for World War I in 1939. It is the product of economic backwoodsmen. It is the product of a ham-fisted Government with a jackboot mentality. With one-track minds this union baiting and union hating Government will gleefully resort to coercion and conflict with the trade union movement. From December 1972, for 3 years, Australia for the first time has stood erect in its full statute as an independent nation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Before I call the honourable member for Tangney I would remind the House that this is the honourable member’s maiden speech and I would expect the usual courtesies would be extended to the honourable member.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to support the motion moved by the honourable member for EdenMonaro (Mr Sainsbury) and seconded by the member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite). In doing so I take the opportunity of extending to you my congratulations and asking you to convey to Mr Speaker, a fellow Western Australian, my congratulations on his election to that high office of this House.
The electorate which I am proud and honoured to represent in this place is a relatively new one. I wish to pay tribute to Dame Dorothy Margaret Tangney, a distinguished Western Australian, in whose honour the seat was named. The former Senator Tangney was the first woman member of that chamber and indeed the first woman member of the Federal Parliament. During her 25 years in the Senate Dame Dorothy made a very distinguished contribution both inside and outside the Parliament. Of special note throughout her period of office was the manner in which Dame Dorothy conducted herself. At all times she endeavoured to represent her constituents, to uphold the honour of her position and to render to the Crown and Parliament the proper respect which these institutions deserve. To all members of Parliament, old and new, Dame Dorothy Tangney remains an outstanding example of propriety.
In the light of such an example, Mr Deputy Speaker, allow me to declare the support of the people of Tangney and the people of Western Australia for the Governor-General. I can properly do this because, in response to the Governor-General’s actions last November, the people of Western Australia on 13 December returned 9 Liberal members to the House of Representatives out of a possible ten and 6 Liberal-National Country Party senators. This was an increase of four and one respectively compared with the 1974 election. Even the lone remaining Labor seat of Fremantle went extremely close to changing hands. From the people of Tangney and Western Australia comes the message that the Governor-General should not feel that he is alone. As a member State of the Federation which he helped to safeguard against the constitutional violations of the previous Government, Western Australia is grateful and would welcome and honour a vice-regal visit at any time in the future.
I would like to speak on those sections of the Governor-General’s Speech which are of special interest to the electors of Tangney, which are of special interest to the people of Western Australia and which to my mind will gain importance for all Australians in the time ahead. I refer, of course, to the defence of this countrytrie Government’s desire to strengthen and improve Australia’s defence and the Government’s directive, as outlined in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, that a number of studies of our western seaboard be undertaken, including the quicker completion of HMAS Stirling in Cockburn Sound, and the early establishment of joint Services training area at Yampi Sound. The western boundary of my electorate of Tangney runs along the shoreline of Cockburn Sound.
Along this shore is sited the major heavy industrial area of Western Australia. This area in turn is linked economically with the Pilbara region of Western Australia, of which Yampi Sound is a geographic pan. Yet the Cockburn Sound industrial area and the Pilbara natural resource reserves are not purely Western Australian concerns. They are national concerns, as must be their defence.
The Pilbara region’s potential is virtually immeasurable. For example, the region began iron ore production only 1 1 years ago. By early 1975 production was running around 70 million tonnes a year. This figure is expected to reach 300 million tonnes by the end of the century. An adequate energy supply is available in big deposits of natural gas on the North West Shelf, a fact mentioned by the Governor-General. The region has available to it the basic resources of iron ore, salt and natural gas- an exceptionally generous spread of raw materials on which to base a vast industrial complex. On top of this, materials such as coal, bauxite and alumina are available in other parts of Australia to consolidate or broaden the base of industries that could come on stream in the Pilbara. The Pilbara ‘s future is a large part of the nation ‘s future. Therefore, any concern that West Australians have about their economic and military security in terms of the State’s natural resources should be shared fully and equally by the rest of Australia.
It is clear that the Pilbara ‘s future place in the Australia scene will not diminish. The proposals for the jumbo steel mill alone will see to that, whether it is eventually sited in the region or in the south of the State. In the light of these facts, we in Tangney are naturally concerned about the defence of Australia’s western seaboard. We in the whole of Western Australia are concerned about the defence of Australia’s western seaboard. I heartily approve of the GovernorGeneral’s statements related to this necessity and I unreservedly endorse the initiatives the Government has taken in this area. For too long the defence of Australia’s western seaboard has been ignored. I have no qualms about charging previous Liberal-National Country Party governments with this fault, though they were faced with a more stable Indian Ocean region and had more dependable allies than we have today. However, in the last 3 years we have witnessed not only the lack of any western seaboard defence but also the abandoning of even a pretence at providing defence for the rest of the country.
Defence and foreign policy are closely linked. Traditionally, it is the aim of foreign policy to make the task of defending one’s country easier. It is the aim of defence to support foreign policy by seeing to it that one never has to argue from a position of weakness, which will be exploited, but always from a position of strength, which will be respected. Contrary to these diplomatic truisms we have experienced over the last 3 years a situation where foreign policy and defence were subordinated to ideological considerations. In accordance with the demands of its socialist ideology, the previous Labor Government blandly averred that Australia faced no military threat for the next 15 years. The Labor Government possessed an idealistic, unrealistic, optimistic and, worst of all, simplistic world view. It believed that as more of the world turned socialistic it became a better place in which to live and cheerfully assumed that the growing anarchy and violence which manifest themselves all around us are merely the birth pangs of a new socialist order in which Australia would play its due part.
The previous Government’s foreign policy, based on this curiously sanguine view of current affairs, tended to ignore world conflict in the hope that if disregarded it would disappear. In terms of defence it adopted a policy which can be analagously likened to saying that if we he down unclothed we will not be raped. Yet in any position, reclined or otherwise, Australia cannot be considered unattractive and undesirable as my facts about Pilbara amply testify. We are the richest of prizes, a mere handful of people on a continent as large as the United States of America, crammed with mineral treasures and agricultural wealth in a hungry, poverty stricken world that is increasingly short of both mineral resources and food. We cannot ignore international events or mistakenly interpret them in terms of socialist ideology.
There is a certain central international political fact of our time, a fact which the late Government refused to admit. That is the fact of Soviet expansionism. From this reality spring all the other factors which we must recognise and contend with the illusory nature of Soviet- American detente; the expanding Russian influence in South East Asia; the turmoil of the Middle East; the recent Soviet-backed Cuban military activity in Angola which threatens to move to other areas of Africa; and, of extreme relevance to the context of my speech, the increasing Soviet naval activity in the Indian Ocean. It must be realised that the Soviet naval vessels are the dominant naval presence in the Indian Ocean. Furthermore, it is the Indian Ocean which carries more vital commercial shipping than the Atlantic Ocean. Soviet ship days in the Indian Ocean totalled 10 490 in 1974 and 7920 in 1975. Compare this with United States Navy ship days totalling 2708 in 1974 and 2 198 in 1975.
It is further worth remembering that the Soviet Navy has, among other Indian Ocean facilities, an equivalent of the proposed Cockburn facility at Aden. As I have said, it is my electorate and not that of Fremantle which covers the shore of Cockburn Sound and the area adjacent to the Garden Island naval support facility. Apart from whatever may be happening at Diego Garcia, it is this facility which is the only western naval installation of any size in the Indian Ocean. Already its importance has been dramatically demonstrated. The first 2 Australian warships to anchor there were called away in reponse to the crisis in Timor, the first shattering of any dream that Australia faced a long term period of tranquillity. It has been fortunate for us that others prevented East Timor becoming a bankrupt socialist coconut republic, probably dependent upon Russian aid that would be offered in return for naval facilities and other concessions. The implications for the security of Indonesia and Australia would, to say the least, have been disturbing if this scenario had unfolded.
In the same vein, I trust I do not need to direct the attention of honourable members to what is happening today in Africa, only a few days steaming across the Indian Ocean. It does not need great perception to see the potential tragedy of East Timor fulfilled there a dozen times over, with totalitarian economic sinkholes ruled by Soviet catspaws threatening the stability and democratic institutions of their more stable and developing neighbours, both black and white. In Angola we are witnessing the conclusion of an incredible tragedy. An army of 13 000 Russian-led Cuban mercenaries have smashed all opposition, political and military, by a full scale war of tanks and missiles, as reported by the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) in the West Australian last week. It would sound like cheap political science fiction if it did not happen to be true. I digress here for a moment to put upon record the absolute silence on this war of such bodies as the World Peace Council, the Association for International Cooperation and Disarmament, the Congress for International Co-operation and Disarmament, the politically corrupted sections of the World Council of Churches and other so-called peace movements whose raison d’etre is to redefine peace as anything that suits Russian foreign policy. The names of these activists in each State are well known. Their silence has been deafening.
I return to the more important points of defence and foreign policy. The instability of some countries on or close to the Indian Ocean is an observed fact. Its strategic importance to every major power and to ourselves would be obvious even if the world’s major oil routes did not cross it. Before 1972 the Opposition made great play of the fact that the Liberal-Country Party Government of the day was neglecting defence in the Indian Ocean. The defence and estimates debates of this chamber show the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) stating that Australia must be not only a Pacific power but also an Indian Ocean power. The speeches of the honourable member for Fremantle show that his clear and obvious intention in them was a demand for the acquisition of nuclear submarines, though he phrased this carefully in an attempt to evade the vengeance of the World Peace Councillors in his own Party. I believe it was also probably due to the influence of the honourable member for Fremantle that a clause was written into the Labor Party’s platform that the submarine was the capital ship of the future and that Australia should possess submarines ‘of the most advanced type’, to use his own words, which can mean only one thing.
Successive Western Australian State governments also have recognised the need for more defence in the Indian Ocean and, of course, it was under a Liberal Federal Government that work on this vital base actually began. Yet Australia’s defence can no longer continue to be treated as a political football. As the chairman of the military committee of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation pointed out last December, an intelligence analysis of Warsaw Pact military developments has discerned only one trend in the Soviet Union and her satellites- a steady and continuous improvement in both the quality and quantity of weapons, equipment and training with growing emphasis on offensive capability. The analysis concluded by pointing out that Moscow was committed to becoming the world ‘s predominant power and intended to conduct negotiations from a position of strength.
If we in the complacent West do not recognise this fact, at least the Chinese do and have been saying so for years. It is the Chinese navy that has been upgraded and trebled in size over the last 10 years. It is the Chinese who are paying very serious attention to defence. It is the Chinese who are extremely fearful of Soviet involvement as Russia continuously increases its naval capacity in the Indian Ocean. It is the Chinese who, in early 1975, approached Australia and suggested that this country should consider assisting in the containment of Soviet expansion in the Indian Ocean. In this context I fully support the Governor-General’s statement that bilateral relations with China will be further developed. Western Australians applaud the defence initiatives announced by the Governor-General and being undertaken by the Government. Yet these initiatives must be only the beginning. For my part, while I remain in this House I will continue to urge that Australia undertakes more than ever before the defence of her own shores. This is not to undervalue the traditional relationships that has been salvaged by the present Government. However, in the final analysis we must be selfreliant and self-dependent for our defence. We must proceed to that position as quickly as possible. The Cockburn naval support facility, the Yampi Sound Joint Services area and the mooted patrol boat base at Broome are important first steps. We must build on them.
There are some in this House who no doubt thought upon consideration of my medical background that I would speak on health. I do not underrate the importance of health and the need for physical and social security. However, for me it is the security of the nation upon which all other security rests. Australia is a country with a great future, given proper government. It is a wealthy country abounding in mineral and agricultural resources, a country whose people are amongst the finest in the world. It is a country which can look forward to the last decades of the twentieth century with confidence and, indeed, enthusiasm. It is a country which, in short, can look forward to a truly golden future under a Liberal-National Country Party Government which believes in those principles of freedom and the right to individual happiness and self determination which are fast vanishing from much of the world today.
It is our task to see that Australia is a light in the darkness, a fortress of freedom, a refuge against the tyranny which could crush all men. Provided that we do not lose courage in ourselves and the things we have fought for for so long, and provided that we can continue to have faith in our democratic institutions, we shall realise the ideals in which the Liberal Party has always and will always put its trust.
Let me conclude on the matter which I believe today, in the purely moral context, to be of the greatest importance of all. I refer to the recent actions of the Governor-General. The GovernorGeneral fearlessly upheld the law as he saw it.
No one has been able to say that he breached the Constitution. His actions have been endorsed by the people of Australia, voting democratically, in the most overwhelming manner possible. However, I would be surprised if he, or any decent Australian, imagined the hysteria, the petty and contemptible childish spite, that would be directed against him. It is a spite and hysteria that does not even make political sense, since all it is doing is disgusting good people. It can be motivated by only one thing: A systematic attempt to destroy the Governor-General as a man. It will not succeed. He has proved that he is a man. We who took part in the recent election know that the people of Australia judged the Governor-General’s action to be not only heroic but also crucial and right; and the proof of their judgment is before us all.
– I had not intended to talk about the Governor-General in this speech, but since the honourable member for Tangney (Dr Richardson), who has just resumed his seat, has seen fit to mention that august person I think I will say just a few words about him myself. What the Governor-General did on Remembrance Day will go down in history as one of the greatest travesties on political law, on democracy, that has ever been witnessed in this country, because if the Governor-General of this country is to be given the right, under the powers of the royal prerogative, to sack any government that he chooses, as he did on this occasion, no government could survive in a time of economic crisis. The present Government would not survive if the Governor-General were to be consistent enough to sack it as soon as it breaks its promises, or breaks a few more promises, as it will in the next 12 months.
I would like to see the present GovernorGeneral be impartial enough to exercise his royal prerogative of sacking this Government as soon as it reintroduces the proposed savage imposts upon television viewers and listeners to radio broadcasts. I venture to say that immediately the Government reintroduces those licence fees, and if the Governor-General has the propriety to dismiss the Government for a serious deception of the Australian people, this Government also will go out on its ear. Any government will go out on its ear if the Governor-General is going to be given the right to sack the Prime Minister of the day half way through his term and appoint his opponent in his place as the caretaker Prime Minister until an election is held.
I want to talk about something that is even more important than the misdeeds of the
Governor-General. I want to talk about the hopes of economic recovery in this country. We have no chance of economic recovery in this country unless we can get some stability in the industrial relations area. Every country in the world- every highly industrialised country, every highly capitalised country- knows that stability and progress depend upon harmonious relations between employers and employees; between capital and labour, if you like. We will find it difficult to get that in this country. However, there is a glimmer of hope that we may get it through wage indexation, in respect of which I am proud to say that I was the one who fathered and nurtured, it. I fought for it against tremendous opposition both from inside my Party and from outside the Party, but eventually it became an established fact.
– The chief architect.
-I am the chief architect, as the honourable gentleman says. But the tragedy of wage indexation is that it came too late, and it came coupled with conditions that will make it completely unworkable. The wage indexation decision eventually was given a year later than it should have been given; it should have been given by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in May 1974. 1 do not blame the Arbitration Commission for not giving that decision then, faced with the political situation with which it was then faced. We will recall that it was in that month that this country was once again thrown into an election in mid-term, with the opposing parties taking opposite viewpoints on the question of wage indexation. The alternative government was declaring publicly that it would have nothing to do with indexation. The Government of the day declared that it was in favour of indexation. The Commission was in a dilemma. It is independent of governments. It very properly displayed that independence of the present Government which sought, without any rational reason whatsoever, to cut by half the amount that should have been given in accordance with the consumer price index.- The Commission rejected the Government’s proposition.
But the Commission does not lightly turn aside representations or submissions made to it by the government of the day, nor should it do so. In point of fact the Constitution ought to give the Federal Parliament the same power over industrial relations as has every other Parliament in Australia; that is to say, the right, by legislation if need be, to move in and to make industrial law. But we do not have that right, and it is only because of the constitutional restrictions that are placed upon the Parliament that the sole right to determine industrial relations resides with the Arbitration Commission. The Commission is mindful of that fact. It knows that it is only because of a quirk of fate that it is in the position of being the sole arbiter and that the Government has no constitutional right. But it recognises that a government elected by the people of Australia has a moral right at least- a de facto right, at any rate- to be heard. Unless there are weighty reasons for disregarding the viewpoint of an elected government, the Commission, I believe, ought to listen to what the Government has to say.
There were weighty reasons on this occasion for the Commission to reject the Government’s proposition that only half of the 6.4 per cent increase in the consumer price index should be awarded. The Commission realised that it was 6 months since the last increase in wages had been brought about as a consequence of consumer price index movements. The Commission had a much deeper appreciation of industrial relations than did the Treasury. It was the Treasury which was responsible for reversing the decision of Cabinet’s Economic Committee to support the 6.4 per cent increase. The Commission had a much deeper appreciation of what was involved in industrial relations than did the Treasury. It is to the eternal credit of the Commission that it did have the courage to reject the proposition put to it by the Treasury via the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). The Treasury never did want wage indexation. It was opposed to it from the very beginning. It was opposed particularly by the Deputy Secretary (Economic) in the Treasury, Mr Stone, who is in fact the real head of the Department of the Treasury and who is the man who virtually now dominates the Treasury’s thinking on all matters of economics and even on matters of industrial relations.
I have an enormous respect for Mr Stone. He is a man of tremendous intellect. He is a man of great courage. He is not a man who will ever deceive a person. He will tell one straight to one’s face and he will even tell the Press what he thinks about governments. He has never been stingy about giving his views of governments to governments themselves, to Opposition members who will listen to him, or to the Press. It has been a favourite method of his operation. But he is a physicist by initial training. He believes that it is possible because of his early training in physics to have an absolute rule which will not have to be bent, which cannot be bent, to deal even with industrial relations. Of course Mr Stone was the one who, having been defeated in his opposition to wage indexation, sought then to destroy wage indexation by the simple process of sabotaging what the Government was putting by succeeding in getting what is known as total indexation. Under total indexation no matter how high one ‘s salary one receives a percentage increase. In the case of Mr Stone, on $31,685 a year, a 6.4 per cent increase in the consumer price index would yield him a $38.80 per week increase. But to the man on $100 a week the increase would be only $6.40 a week. In other words, least is given to those whose needs are greatest and most to those whose needs are least. The Labor Government never intended that wage indexation should operate in this way. The policy in the platform of the Australian Labor Party is clear. It is against any system of wage fixation that widens the gap between the high income and the low and the middle income groups. Total indexation does precisely that.
– It does precisely that. The original concept of wage indexation dates back to 1921 when what were then known as the quarterly cost of living adjustments were introduced. They were introduced and applied only to the basic wage or, as there is now no basic wage, to the minimum wage- nothing more. It meant that that portion of the total wage that a person received that represented the portion of the wage that was needed to pay for his food, clothing and his necessities of life would be indexed so that according to the increase in the cost of living and according to the price movement for those things that represented the cost of living element of his wage, he would be fully reimbursed. It was never intended that because the price of potatoes and onions went up by 6 per cent- to take a figure- the portion of a person’s wages that was set aside for buying Mercedes motor cars, beach shacks and fur coats should go up by 6 per cent too. That is what the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has awarded. That is why the decision on wage indexation carries the blemish that it now carries.
The trouble in Australia today is that we are paying far too much money to the clerical and administrative grades of the Australian Public Service and too little to the tradesmen grades, to the technical grades and to the professional grades. It is absolutely absurd to think that a Class 4 clerk of the Third Division should be entitled to $ 1 80 per week, which can be claimed by a man 23 years of age, when a person who has been working for 23 years at the lathe, having served his apprenticeship first, gets $40 or $50 a week less than that. As Professor Borne discovered in the studies that he conducted, we are rapidly reaching a situation in which we will not get tradesmen. What young man will take on a trade training course when all that he will get at the end of his career is about $130 or $140 a week- for a 40-hour week working in a smoke filled factory with fumes, noise, dust and heatwhen he could get another $40 a week for 36% hours working for the Australian Government in an air conditioned office?
– That is the pacesetter principle you established
– It was not my pacesetter principle at all. I opposed it. I am glad of the interjection. I opposed all of the increases that were sought by the unions representing the clerical and administrative grades. I actually put a submission in to the Cabinet in opposition to it which the then Prime Minister withdrew from the Cabinet agenda. I opposed the increase that was sought in 1974 and I opposed the subsequent increases which the Public Service unions were trying to get. Honourable members will all remember my famous speech in August of 1974 in which I described certain public servants as the fat cats. Who will ever forget it? I was able to inject a term into the Australian vocabulary that I suppose will do more to make me remembered by the Public Service than anything else I have ever done. That was indicative of my attitude. I was not the author of the pacesetting attitude to wage increases in the clerical and administrative divisions of the Public Service. I want to lay that he to rest tonight once and for all. I have always said and I shall always continue to say that there is no proper appreciation of the part that is played by the technical, professional and tradesmen grades in our workforce. The administrative and clerical grades are getting too much, or if they are not getting too much, the technologists and the professional and tradesmen grades are getting far too little. It is as simple as that. With the permission of the House I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard the latest rates of pay now paid to the Second and Third Divisions of the administrative and clerical grades of the Australian Public Service.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. ( The document read as follows)-
– I thank the House. Because of the failure of the Australian Council of Trade Unions to give the quite reasonable assurances which the Government had sought from it in the last hearing of the wage indexation case which began last year, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission felt that it was left with no alternative but to reject the Government’s claim for automaticity. At the same time it decided that since the ACTU would not give reasonable assurances that there would be no double counting in wage claims, in respect of price movements, it would have no alternative but to fix guidelines. I put the blame for the fact that there is no automaticity and that there are unacceptable guidelines attached to the present decision on wage indexation fairly and squarely at the doorstep of the ACTU. All it had to do was to give that assurance to the Commission and the Commission would have granted automaticity. The ACTU would not have had the same kind of guidelines that it now has.
Wage indexation will never operate properly unless it is automatic, unless workers are given the full amount to which they are entitled up to average weekly earnings, beyond which point they ought not to get any more than a flat amount increase equal to the amount of increases which a person on average weekly earnings receives. Unless this is done there will be a widening of the gap between the tradesman and the technical, technological, and professional grades in our community. The tradesmen are no longer looking behind them to see what is the relativity between themselves and the helper; they are properly now looking ahead of them to see what is the relativity between the tradesman ‘s rate and the rate paid to a clerical and administrative officer in the Australian Public Service. If this government allows the present system to continue under which the monetary gap widens as it is now widening between the clerical and administrative grades compared to the tradesmen and technical and professional grades, it should blame itself and not blame the blue collar unions if it has industrial trouble on its hands.
I wish to refer now to the Government’s undertaking- in particular to the undertaking of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) himself that his Party would support the principle of worker participation. He specifically mentioned that he would support the principle of worker participation on government boards. Yet what happened? He had no sooner been elected to government when his Minister for Science countermanded the instruction that I had given that the executive of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation should have on it one representative of the CSIRO officers and scientists and staff representatives to be elected by the people employed by the CSIRO. It was a perfectly democratic system of election. The election was to be conducted by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer. There was no question of some union nominating some ‘com’ or putting some person who was not even employed by the CSIRO on to the executive. The Chairman of the CSIRO and presumably his executive accepted the principle. Now this Government is right on the threshold of repudiating that decision as well. There is just a glimmer of hope from the letter that I last received from the Prime Minister that he will remember the solemn promise he gave when he was the Liberal Party spokesman on industrial relations and will allow the employees of the CSIRO to elect their own representative on the executive of the CSIRO.
I support the action now being taken by the Government in the High Court to set aside the decision in the boilermakers case. The decision in the boilermakers case was a bad decision. It was a decision that was brought about because of the then Chief Justice Dixon’s continual invitation to people to challenge the exercise of arbitral and non-arbitral powers by the same body. It was a stupid decision, and I am pleased to note that the present Chief Justice has regarded it as stupid and that the High Court has virtually invited the Government to challenge it.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-All of us in this House appreciate many of the forthright, and some valid, comments made by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). But it does seem disappointing that so many statesmen are now emerging in the Opposition after only 3 months in that place. It is a pity that some of them did not emerge in the last 3 years. On 27 February 1973 the then GovernorGeneral, Sir Paul Hasluck, announced the new Labor Government *s legislative program- a program that was developed in the knowledge of a sound economy and in the knowledge that the electorate, having obtained a high standard of living and affluence under 2 decades of LiberalCountry Party Government, was reflecting aspirations and expectations to meet new and emerging human and social values. The nation was not expecting a vicious attack on the whole structure of economic and social life. The nation then voted for a change in emphasis, not a complete change in direction and philosophy. I am sure that the electorate could not have foreseen that after only 3 years of Labor rule the sound economy on which effective change was possible could be so destroyed by socialist thinking, incompetence and inefficiency. The electorate knows it now.
Never in the history of Australian politics has the electorate reacted so dramatically against any Party. Never has a political Party been so devastated in its parliamentary representation. The Australian Labor Party must now realise that the Australian people demand responsible government with the minimum of interference to people and to business. We were told in 1973 that urgent action would be taken to alleviate unemployment. The Australian Labor Party responded with the record of the worst unemployment ever- a situation that has devastated the confidence of thousands of our young people and created huge social and economic pressures. We were told in 1973 of positive programs to promote vigorous growth of competitive Australian industry. The Australian Labor Party responded with a massive attack on the profitability of manufacturing industry, small business and primary industry. Levels of assistance were removed. Irresponsible tariff decisions caused a shut-down of manufacturing industry particularly in the textile and footwear fields. Long established industries in rural towns bore the brunt of ignorance and incompetence. We were told in 1973 that steps would be taken to promote cooperation and reduce confrontation in industry. We saw the Australian Labor Party go out of government with a record of 100 per cent increase in industrial strife, contrasted with a comparable period under the coalition Government. We were told of reductions in interest rates for house buyers. We have seen interest rates raised so prohibitively that home ownership to many young people is today just a dream. We were told that only Whitlam could control inflation. His competence in this area is today self-evident. Many of the programs undertaken by the Australian Labor Party were given total support by the coalition Opposition. We supported education initiatives, advances in social welfare responsibilities, the increasing demands of our people in conservation and environmental matters. These are all of importance, and a reflection of an advanced and affluent society. But all these advances required a sound and growing economy. It was here that the Labor Party failed. Its failure produced not advances but recession. In the last Hayden Budget we saw deferments in education, in aged persons housing, defence service housing, capital works for social security and postal and telecommunication facilities. Cutbacks in basic public services resulted not in expansion but in denial of those services to many people. Telephone and postal services were reduced and became expensive. We saw an attack upon primary industry, mineral and farming enterprises unprecedented in its ferocity and ignorance.
The Governor-General’s Address at the opening of Parliament in 1976 was different. Of necessity, its major thrust had to be economic. The Australian people had given the present Government Parties a strong directive to bring under control the highest unemployment rate in 40 years and the worst inflation in our history. They gave a strong mandate to us to reverse the excessive intervention in the life of the nation. The Governor-General’s Address was also different in that the Opposition members did not attend the opening of the Parliament to which they were elected. Of course, to abrogate the Opposition’s main responsibility did not necessarily apply to the social activities associated with the opening. Already major initiatives have been taken to promote confidence in industry and in production, to give impetus to our unlimited resources of human potential and to respond to the individual ambitions of Australians. A reduction in interest rates and the provision of the investment allowance are very important in the context of an overall reduction in inflationary trends and creation of employment opportunity.
Hand in hand with these positive policies have been cuts in excessive spendings and inefficiencies. Even though I have now been through 3 elections I have now become part of a government for the first time- a government that has the responsibility for taking Australia into, and developing policies for, the last quarter of the twentieth century. One does not have to be a clairvoyant to recognise the problems that go with these challenges. The greatest challenge for this Government is to make decisions that give equality of opportunity to all citizens wherever they live and to promote the conditions for balanced economic and stable expansion. The challenge for our people, whether rural or urban, will be to accept responsible decision-making with the long term intent, not just of a short term nature that might be politically palatable.
There is an urgent need for positive policies to create a climate for growth in our manufacturing industries and to develop initiatives to meet the needs of small businesses. Our Government and our people must make up their minds as to whether they need manufacturing industry and the accompanying employment opportunities. If we do, of necessity industry and employment have to be protected. The cutting of the tariff, reduction of export incentives and monetary policies which handicapped local industries were all adopted by the previous Government with the result that industry has declined in Australia. Either manufacturers have moved out of business and into other investment fields or, worse, they have moved to other regions such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore where industry is not only sought after but is actively encouraged. There will be no growth, resulting in a further reduction in jobs, unless clear, long term policies are directed to this cause.
It has been popular to attack free enterprise and to claim that inflation and excessive unemployment were the results of a capitalist society. I do not believe this to be so. More likely these things have been brought upon us by inefficient and wasteful socialist thinking and the huge growth in our government administration with at the same time, a drop in service and productivity. It is heartening to see that the major thrust of our new Government is in these areas. If expansion of industry is to be our aim our Government must give the incentives necessary. It must improve the public services of transport and communication and drastically reduce their cost. Money must be made available to industry in its developmental stage when it is needed most. Starvation of liquid funds has hampered our industrial progress, particularly in rural areas. If our aim is to be decentralisation, with all its advantages of labour stability and of the environment, let us forget about artificial support schemes and short term concessions. Balanced development will flourish naturally if operating and manufacturing costs are relatively identical throughout all regions of Australia.
Small businesses are the backbone of this nation’s economy. They employ 42 per cent of our work force. They provide the base of our cities and towns and yet in the past they have received little specific attention. Small businesses today are facing very severe problems. The previous Government set up a National Small Business Bureau to advise and guide small businessmen in administration and other basic elements of management. It was a start, but so much more needs to be done. The coalition parties have developed a comprehensive policy in this area. It is essential that every attempt be made to implement it rapidly. Too much of our legislation is oppressive towards small business. The Labor Government, in its efforts to impose controls on big business, has burdened the small businesses with crippling rules and regulations. Our taxation system must be and will be altered to take account of inflation. Many business profits today are only paper profits, yet real taxation is paid on them. The replacement of stock and equipment is difficult, with continually rising costs, compounded by high interest rates. This Government already has lowered this rate by one per cent but further drops are essential. The Labor Government raised tax rates on private companies to those paid by public companies despite the fact that rules relating to the distribution of profits for private companies were not altered. This resulted in private companies being taxed twice, with cumulative effects of company tax and personal tax on distributed profits. This anomaly has drastically hampered the accumulation of capital needed for expansion.
Mr Deputy Speaker, as with most rural electorates my electorate of Mallee is largely dependent upon primary production. While we have a range of small manufacturing industries and the natural climate and environment have attracted a significant tourist income, the present and future viability of north west Victoria fluctuates continually with the fortunes of farm production in many diverse rural industries. I am greatly concerned at the ignorance and the misunderstanding that exists in this Parliament and throughout large sections of our community about the difficulties encountered by this politically weak section. Two facts should always be considered. Firstly, 7 per cent of the nation’s people are employed in rural production, yet they produce in excess of 50 per cent of the nation’s wealth. This does not entitle them to special recognition but at least they should have equality of government attention. Secondly, primary industry is confronted by the dilemma that the bulk of production is sold upon low priced export markets which take no regard to the internal cost structure by which these industries and their inputs are governed.
Perhaps no other industry in Australia today is confronted with these problems in such magnitude as is the Australian dairy industry. I would like briefly to refer to some discussion included in the Industries Assistance Commission’s report on the dairy industry. The report stated:
Pressures on farm and factory costs are generated almost entirely by economic forces outside the dairy industry. Since 1960 these have been the forces of economic growth and inflation. Economic growth is reflected in rising costs of labour and services. Inflation does not always have its origins outside of the rural sector. There have been times when high export prices for agricultural products have contributed to inflation in Australia, but the dairy industry has not contributed significantly to inflation of either the demand-pull or cost-push types.
Pressures on farm and factory returns are generated in part by economic forces outside the dairy industry .. . Thus, the resultant downward pressure on the value of returns from export sales of dairy products has been beyond the control of the dairy industry. It is virtually impossible to increase the total revenue from sales of dairy products in Australia as rapidly as general levels of income have been increasing. And the international structure of prices at which dairy products are traded is largely beyond the control of the dairy industry, being determined by levels of production and stocks in North America and Western Europe and the trade and protection policies of these producers and of Australia’s principal trading partners.
Further on the report states:
Despite improved efficiency -
Improved efficiency within the dairy industry, as with other primary industries throughout Australia- there is still a significant minority of dairy farmers -
A significant number- who have incomes which are not adequate by the standards of the rest of the community. For example, in the period 197 1-72 to 1 973-74, 34per cent of all dairy farms (including those supplying the fluid milk sector) were assessed by the BAE
That is the Bureau of Agricultural Economics- to have net farm incomes below $4,000.
That is $4,000 a year. The report continued:
This proportion was 44 per cent in the manufacturing sector. The income position of farmers can be expected to have worsened since 1973-74 because of sharp rises in wages and costs of other inputs.
There is no doubt that the current high rate of internal inflation is a general cause of concern, but it is of special concern to the dairy industry, which is more labour-intensive than many other export-oriented industries. The report states:
Prices on the internal market can be raised, and this has been the industry’s main defence in the situation -
That is the present situation- but export prices are independently determined and cannot be raised in this manner. Nor can internal prices be raised more than, at the most, to keep rough parity with rises in the general cost of living. Under these conditions it is not possible for prices received by dairy farmers, and in particular by those supplying milk for the production of manufactured dairy products (a large proportion of which are exported), to keep pace with the recent rapid increases in wages and the costs of other inputs. These costs are for the most pan determined outside the rural sector of the economy. Nor can productivity increases be expected to compensate fully.
If inflation continues to be higher in Australia than in many overseas countries and export prices remain low, the numbers of farmers with low net farm income will certainly increase. It would be very difficult for many dairy farmers to make the adjustments which would enable them to maintain their real level of income.
There is no doubt, of course, that the long term solution to the problem of inflation is not to be found in measures designed solely for the dairy industry. It requires policies specifically directed at controlling inflation. There is no doubt that vast changes are going to be needed within the dairy industry. Producers have a direct responsibility to see that they promote stable marketing arrangements, particularly within the manufacturing sector. They must not allow intrastate or interstate influences to affect the successful outcome of a scheme designed for flexibility and long term benefit. Producers must ensure that there is adequate consultation between farm and factory sections and that the specific views of the industry in each State are received. There in no time left for the industry to be divided because if it is divided I am sure that it will be the producer who will be left captive to the other powerful industry forces.
I congratulate you, Mr Deputy Speaker, on your appointment to that high office. I ask you to pass on to Mr Speaker and to the other Deputy Speakers my congratulations. I believe that there is a very great need in this nation for our governments and, more importantly, the majority of consumer oriented electors to recognise that this nation depends and will depend in future very heavily upon the wealth generated by primary industry. Agriculture is a prestigious occupation. It must remain so and it must be recognised as such if this nation is to prosper during the next decade.
-I rise now to speak in support of the amendment moved by my colleague and friend, the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins). Before proceeding to do so I think I should say that the speech just delivered to this House by the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher) should not pass without some comment. It seemed to me that he, along with those who sit on the other side of this House, was quite prepared to lay the blame for the inflation and unemployment that beset this country, not so badly as they beset comparable countries, squarely at the feet of the Australian Labor Party. No acknowledgment has been made by any speaker on the other side of the House that causes other than that were at fault, nor has any of them recognised that nobody attacked the problems of inflation and unemployment more assiduously than did the Labor Government. If that were not so, why is the present Government continuing to use the Budget that was brought in by the Labor Government, by Treasurer Hayden at that time? The reason is clear. The Budget has been recognised by those who sit opposite as a very clear and very effective weapon to bring under control the problems of inflation and unemployment.
I read in the Press only this morning that the half-yearly reports of the manufacturing industries in this country are now starting to come in. Unfortunately I did not keep a copy. It seems that they had pretty substantial increases in their profits during the last 6 months of 1975. That is the period when we were blamed for letting inflation run wild in this country. It is said that Australia had the worst unemployment, caused by the Labor Government, in 40 years. That is also true of many other countries. I wonder whether many people on the opposite side of this House understand why we have unemployment or what is happening in our society and in all industrialised countries. If they were to come to some decision, if they were to consider the causes of unemployment rather than letting their tiny minds run wild and use only the obvious political excuse that the Labor Party was to blame, perhaps the Government of Australia, such as it is at the moment, would come down with some sort of solution to the problem. The solutions that have been floated at the moment are nebulous and unworkable and will compound the problem rather than alleviate it.
– Why? You cannot answer that question.
-It is quite easy to answer. If the honourable member had as much wisdom as he likes to indicate to the House he thinks he has he would know. The cause of unemployment, as I see it , is a surplus of labour in this country and in every industrialised country. The word that I have just used, ‘industrialised ‘, is one of the reasons there is a surplus of labour in this country and in other industrialised countries. There is no shortage of goods in Australia. There is no lack of services in Australia. There are as many goods and services as citizens care to purchase. All the goods and services are being provided. They can be provided, as proven by the present circumstances, by a smaller work force. There is no recognition by those opposite that there are 300 000 to 400 000 surplus workers in Australia. Honourable members opposite laugh about it. They can laugh as hard as they like.
– What about exports?
-They talk about exports. It seems to me that there is not a scrap of good manufacturing commodities, which is all we can export, if there is a surplus of commodities in the world already. If there is not a surplus of commodities in the world already why are there people unemployed in other countries which are manufacturing commodities? There is no answer to that question.
I have one other point to make before I move off the speech of the honourable member for Mallee. He spoke of the demise of small business in Australia. This has been the bleat by people opposite since they were elected and during the course of the election campaign. They bleated about the demise of small business in Australia. Let us examine the question. Why has small business in Australia declined? Why are small business people complaining? The honourable member for Mallee gave as some excuse the question of taxation. I do not believe that. Small business in Australia has declined because of the system that those opposite support- good old free enterprise- a system that I do not support, never have supported and never will support. It is a system by which everybody goes into the market place and takes their chances. The small businessman believes in that. Honourable members opposite believe in that. Let the small businessmen go into the market place. That is what they have done. The small businessman in his little shop has been run out of business by the supermarket. The small businessman in his manufacturing plant has been run out of business by the bigger ones. It was not anything other than that. It was free enterprise at work which destroyed the small businessman.
To those who sit on the other side of this chamber, with their fetish about free enterprise, all I can say is that small businesses in Australia will disappear at a faster rate during the life of this Government- whether it is 12 months, 3 years or whatever the term may be- than they did in the past. Believe you me, the farmers whom these people in hayseed corner profess to support and whose points of view they think they are putting forward will rue the day that there was a change of government in this country.
-Order! The honourable member has now taken 7 minutes to reply to the previous speaker, and that is fair enough. The honourable member has spoken in the debate already. On this occasion he is speaking to the amendment. I invite him to look at it. From here on he should tie his remarks to the amendment.
-I thank you for your leniency.
– If he does not I will have the regretful job of having to sit him down.
-I am sure that a man as charitable as yourself would not act like that. I thank you for your leniency. I rather expected you to say that 5 minutes ago. I shall refresh the minds of members of the House of the words in the amendment. They are that the following words be added to the Address: ‘, but note that-
I believe I would be in order if I were to deal with each point seriatum and to speak on each of those 3 points in turn. The first point is the financial pre-eminence of the House of Representatives. There can be little doubt that the people of Australia, including myself, always believed and were encouraged to believe by section 53 of the Constitution that money matters originated only in this House, that the other chamber, the Senate, could not alter those Bills, could not change them in any way at all but could send them back to this House with requests for amemdment. I know that many words are used in section 53. I do not presume to be a constitutional lawyer and I do not pretend to speak as one. I do not pretend to speak even as a bush lawyer. But I do say that the continuance of parliamentary democracy as we know it now, as we have known it for a number of years and as people in Britain have known it for many years, depends on what the average person believes the position to be. It has been believed by the people of Australia for a long time that the House of Representatives had pre-eminence in financial matters. I also believe that there is another fallacy abroad that the
Prime Minister of this country can come only from the House of Representatives.
Taking into account these things that have been taught in our schools and have been discussed in the community, a very dangerous situation occurred on 1 1 November and in the preceding weeks whereby the other chamber challenged the financial pre-eminence of this House and this House, through the action of some people for short term political gain, abdicated its position and left that pre-eminence hanging in the balance, probably lying with the Senate rather than with the House of Representatives. I have heard the argument put that one cannot draw a parallel between the House of Representatives in Australia and the House of Commons in Britain because the Parliament of Australia has as its House of review or upper House an elected chamber, whereas the British Parliament has an appointed house as its House of review.
I wonder just how elected is the Senate, how elected are the 64 people who now make up that chamber? In a half Senate election there are 5 senators to be elected in each of the States. I do not think it could be denied by anybody that in a half Senate election the 2 principal political partiesthat is, the coalition and the Australian Labor Party- each nominates 2 people from each State to sit in that chamber. So 4 people are not elected from each State. Rather are they appointed by the Parties they are sent to represent. One could say the same thing in respect of the 2 Territories, where each senator will be appointed by the party he represents. So in a half Senate situation only 6 senators are elected. In a full chamber there are only 12 elected senators, the other 52 being appointed. So it is not true to say that the Senate is a truly elected House. There is a dissimilarity in those instances between the Senate and the House of Lords in Britain.
It has been clearly established in Britain for many years that the financial transactions carried on within the Commons remain supreme; that those transactions are to be kept apart from the sovereign; that the monarch is to know nothing of the financial arrangements that take place in the House of Commons. To this day we still go through the practice of removing the mace from the table when we discuss money matters because the mace, an inanimate thing, is representative of the sovereign. We still go through the farce and the charade of placing the mace on the brackets under the table so that it cannot hear what we are talking about and carry tales to its leader. In the same way, we insist that the
Speaker leave the chair when we discuss matters in committee so that he cannot tout back to the monarch. That is a very brief history of what the House of Representatives is all about. We have inherited these traditions from the House of Commons. I must confess that I feel somewhat embarrassed speaking about traditions because I have never been known by my friends to be a traditionalist. I have never been thought of by them, or by many others, as a conservative; yet, I stand and argue the case for the traditions of this Parliament to be maintained in those areas where they are important. Those who I suppose by their very nature should be regarded as people who would preserve the traditions, who would maintain the status quo, who would hot move for any change, are those who have become the iconoclasts on this occasion. They have torn down those traditions. They have broken the pillars and this institution in very grave danger of tumbling around them. To believe, as they obviously believe, encouraged by the numbers of people they have in this chamber, that the overwhelming majority of the Australian people support them is to delude themselves. They should realise that more people voted for the Labor Party in the last election than voted for the Liberal Party. They should realise that even with both of their parties combined, they have about 53 per cent of the vote. With 53 per cent of the vote we have the hayseeds occupying seats to the aisle near which I sit. The vote obtained by the Labor Party in 1972 when it took office was somewhere just in excess of 50 per cent, yet we never got past the centre aisle of this chamber. So in that aspect there is no justice. ‘Hear, hears’ come from cocky ‘s corner, from those who survived on a political system that is unjust, unfair, slanted and heavily weighted their way.
I return to the words of the amendment and the sentiments expressed therein. It is unfortunate that the Government will make no attempt -it has given no indication that it is going to make an attempt- to acknowledge the financial pre-eminence of this chamber. If it fails to do that, it is not only degrading this chamber, it is not only giving to the Senate a privilege and a right that that chamber does not enjoy by the Constitution; it is also bringing into question the whole purpose of a need for a Parliament in this country. They are not my words; they are the words of many people, the 42 per cent of the community which supported the Labor Party in its stance on this question- a very substantial section of the community by anyone’s measurement. They are concerned about the farce that is carried on under the name of Parliament in this country.
I now refer to the second part of the amendment to the effect that the Governor-General’s Speech makes no reference to the need for action to ensure that there cannot be a recurrence of the constitutional crisis. Either those on the other side believe that there was no constitutional crisis; either they believe that the GovernorGeneral at any time can willy-nilly dismiss the government of the day- a government properly elected, properly in office, never having acted illegally- or they must concede that there was a constitutional crisis that had to be resolved by the Governor-General. If they believe- from the words of my friends in the National Country Party, or whatever that party calls itself this week- that there was a constitutional crisis, it seems to me that they ought to set about doing something to correct that situation.
I well remember during debates on this question before II November that reference was made to the fact that the Parliament consisted of 2 chambers. Honourable members kept saying that the Parliament was paramount, but the Parliament cannot meet as that sort of institution except under special circumstances.
It can meet as a combined House- as a Parliament, if you like, rather than as 2 separate Houses- only after there has been a double dissolution. The Houses come back together, and if the question still cannot be resolved, provision is made under these circumstances for a joint sitting. One was held in 1974. If honourable members opposite are sincere about ensuring that crisis does not arise again, will they agree to support a proposition that there be a joint sitting of the Houses prior to an election.
-Someone said ‘no’. ‘No ‘, somebody says. Of course they will not, because there is no sincerity in them at all. They see some sort of political advantage in the situation that arose in November. They will make no move at all to ensure that that does not happen again. They will not agree to any move to ensure that there is a joint sitting of the Parliament prior to the crisis and not after it.
– That is not the Constitution.
-It is not in the Constitution, exactly. I am asking honourable members opposite to support a change in the Constitution to bring about a more rational situation in this Parliament. They have been through the trauma, we have all been through the trauma. I do not believe that any parliament in Australia should have to go through that every 6 months, as is liable to happen if the Senate is of a different political persuasion from the House of Representatives. That is what we are talking about Unless there is rationalisation on that question there can be no guarantee that the same thing will not happen again.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Before I call the honourable member for Bowman I remind the House that it is the honourable member’s maiden speech. I hope he will be listened to with the usual attention and courtesy.
– I also extend my congratulations to the Chairman of Committees and to the Speaker of the House on his election to his high office, an ancient office which in itself embellishes the parliamentary system which we in Australia are so privileged to enjoy. I take this opportunity to thank the electors of Bowman for their support and confidence in me at the recent election and to affirm allegiance to the Crown of my electors. I am very mindful of the trust that they have given me. I offer to the people of Bowman my personal assistance at any time in any difficulties they may have. I see my new role to a great degree as that of an ombudsman for the people of the electorate and as someone who can assist and contribute to the building of the society of tomorrow, for this is one of the very real responsibilities of government. We must be willing to co-operate with the community and individuals so that we can achieve a society that is just and progressive, and one in which the individual can attain self-achievement and reward for personal effort and enterprise.
The Federal electorate of Bowman is in fact one of the largest in Australia with some 84 000 voters. It covers more than 800 square miles. It is a very diverse electorate which contains heavy density population areas, industrial estates, a large rural community, the very rich and the very poor. Industry ranges from 2 large oil refineries, meat processing plants and clothing manufacturers to mineral sand mining on the islands of Moreton Bay and to the small crop farmers of the Redlands. There are 3 large housing commission areas as well as new private housing areas which are being developed. In fact the area is one of the fastest developing in Queensland and it is because of this rapid expansion that so many of the problems of the area exist.
Unemployment is rife in some sections of the electorate, as it is in many parts of Australia. Much of this unemployment must be attributed to the collapse of the small businesses in the area. One clothing factory has closed completely, another is employing 50 people whereas it used to employ something like 160, a number of meat and process workers have been stood down, and so the list goes on.
We as a government have a very real responsibility for small businesses throughout Australia, because it was the small businessman, the Australian who was prepared to get out and have a go, who was prepared to work hard, who helped build this nation and who made it great. Even today some 42 per cent of the population is employed by small businesses, so it is essential that we support them and help make them strong and viable, not only to provide job opportunities but also to enable a growth in this area to contribute to economic, industrial and social well being. The abolition of quarterly income tax payments will help small businesses but I believe we should be making an even greater contribution than that. The right to work hard and to profit by that hard work is an honourable one.
What is wrong, for example, in encouraging in our schools and colleges courses which promote the ideology of the private entrepreneur? We should be providing courses for managerial, accounting and professional skills. We should be establishing groups to provide advice and guidance for existing companies and organisations to improve present business practices and techniques where required. One of the biggest problems that is facing small businesses nowadays in Australia is the absence of specialised staff with managerial skills. As a government, I believe that we can help too in a very real way financially. Cash flow problems are some of the greatest that are faced by small business. The House, I believe, must give serious consideration to amending the present system whereby 50 per cent of all after tax profits must be distributed to shareholders by private companies. Yet public companies can retain all profits to continue their growth. I was pleased to see that there was some action on this particular subject following my question to the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) this morning. In my opinion small businesses should not necessarily be looking for grants or handouts from the Government, but perhaps we could make another real contribution by acting as a guarantor for approved small businesses in loans from private financial institutions. Although this is probably revolutionary in its concept, it would cost the Government virtually nothing, following an investigation into the viability of the individual projects concerned.
If we are to get the unemployment figure down and productivity back to a growth situation we must act now to let existing businesses thrive again and to give incentive to new enterprise. It has always been my theory that big business has the capacity to look after itself, no matter what the political complexion of a government might be. It is, however, small business which contributes in a very real way to the nature of the community by providing the employment for the local area and by providing support and help for local charity, sporting and community groups. I must express my disappointment in the fact that no representative of small business was included in the National Economic Advisory Committee. I trust that this will be rectified soon. I was also disappointed that the new investment allowance did not cover the first $1,000, but the reduction from $1,000 to $500 will certainly partially help to alleviate the problem because the first $1,000 is the most important to the man who runs the corner store, a local garage and workshop, a small fruit and vegetable farm, the fisherman or the clothing manufacturer. These are the people who in fact need it most. Too often we tend to rationalise the small businessman with the big businessman. We clump their problems, expenditures and budgets together. Unfortunately, the result has meant the demise of many small businesses. As a government we have a responsibility to understand all sections of society, to appreciate their individual problems and to make an honest attempt to seek a solution to those problems.
An electorate such as Bowman, because of its nature, has more than its fair share of social problems too. I mentioned the situation regarding housing. This is one area where something must be done quickly. An estimated 4000 people in my electorate are waiting for welfare housing. For Queensland the last Federal administration proved to be guilty of gross neglect in this area. It is interesting to compare the 1975-76 estimate to the 1974-75 estimate of payments to the States for housing. Queensland’s budget was cut from $44,576,000 to $22,020,000, while New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria received the same financial allocation as they received the year before. The smaller States of the CommonwealthQueensland, Western Australia and Tasmania- had their allocations reduced when inflation alone was eating into real housing costs. It was the smaller States which most needed this Federal financial support in this important aspect of society ‘s development. It is policies like these which cause thousands of Australians, especially in my electorate, to wait and pay exorbitant rents which could otherwise go towards their own home. Because in Australia home ownership is a basic way of life, government does have a responsibility to help young marrieds single parents and those with temporary financial difficulties to achieve home ownership. It is my opinion that it is often too easy for governments to seek short term economic benefits at the expense of long term social standards. If we are genuinely to believe in the concept of home ownership, we should stand back and plan for the long-term future- not just continually patch up a well worn mantle.
We should be doing more than just providing a homes savings grant. We should be looking at ways to relieve the financial burden positively, especially for young married and single parents. We should be debating in this House ways of reducing home payments in the early years of marriage when financial pressure is greatest. We should be encouraging more lending institutions to take into account more combined husband and wife salaries in loan applications. In the field of housing, as in many other fields, the community is its best doctor. We should be encouraging the community to tackle its own problems and we can do this by ensuring that those on low incomes have the financial assistance necessary to have some choice in their own environment and lifestyle. No longer can we stand back and let people be slotted into a lifestyle from which there is little chance of advancement. A colleague of mine in the Queensland State Parliament, Mr David Byrne, summed up the situation by saying recently in that place: ‘A depressed environment is self-perpetuating; a depressed society is self-destructive. People for whom the material side of life has been fraught with misfortune often cannot rise from their misfortune to change their society. There are those who try and succeed; there are those who try and do not succeed; there are those who do not try; and there are those who cannot try. Towards this latter group the Government owes its greatest responsibility, not to give them handouts but to create the climate and the environment for human endeavour.
It is my hope that during my years in Parliament I will be able to assist greatly in the development of the community of Bowman. As I have stated, housing and small business form an integral part of the community, but there are other facets which would go a long way to developing that sense of a community in the electorate. In Bowman the suburbs of Wynnum and Manly and the bayside areas surrounding Cleveland and Redland Bay are self sufficient in so many ways. When a community moves towards its autonomy we have an obligation to encourage other areas of government likewise to develop and accept a responsibility for providing services to that community. In particular, I would like to pay attention to the medical faculties in these rapidly expanding areas. Wynnum, with a population of more than 38 000, has no public hospital. The nearest, the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, receives more than 130 ambulance cases from Wynnum alone each week. There is no direct public transport to the Princess Alexandra Hospital from these areas. The concept of a hospital to serve both Wynnum and Redland Bay as well as the nearby islands is a project to which my efforts will certainly be concentrated. There has also been much talk of a rapid electric rail service to the outlying areas of Brisbane and to the suburbs surrounding Mount Gravatt. Such a project is long overdue in a city the size of Brisbane and should not be baulked by State and local government authorities in Queensland. I see federal co-operation in these projects as providing real service to community development as well as mopping up so much of the local unemployment.
During the years ahead of me in the Parliament I hope I will be able to make a very real contribution in fields of national importance. My background is that of a journalist, broadcaster and administrator. I have been employed in the electronic media, in Brisbane radio and television for the past 13 years. The Australian media is at an interesting stage. I intend firmly to defend their independence and to encourage their growth. I must congratulate the Government on its disbanding of the Department of the Media- a bureaucratic monster that achieved very little, if anything, for the industry except to swamp it in unnecessary red tape and to require a percentage quota which ran many stations into financial difficulty and had the effect of reducing program standards rather than improving them. The whole structure of the electronic media should be reviewed both in the commercial field and the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I hope that this Government will consider undertaking an investigation as soon as possible into the situation we have in Australia; a system of double censorship standards for commercial and ABC stations, and the situation of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board which must find it very hard to achieve self-justification except in maintaining equipment and transmission standards. It is in fact really an organisation with no teeth at all as far as policing program standards and commercial content is concerned.
I believe we should be encouraging the Australian program producers to be making quality programs with a view to an export market overseas. Only by generating finance from these sales can we ensure the growth of quality television production in Australia. Quality Australian programs have already been sold to overseas markets successfully. I have the greatest respect for programs made by ABC radio and television, but the whole nature of the Commission should be examined before wholesale sackings of ABC staff are made, especially in the production departments. The operations of the Commission should be scrutinised and efficiency studies undertaken, especially in the field of middle management.
As a newly elected member to this House I am fully aware of the position I hold in helping to shape the events of the nation and of society. Already in my brief term of office I have seen situations that reflect little justice for those underprivileged sections of my electorate that cruelly perpetuate depressed environments. They make me realise how we can tend to over exaggerate the benefits of our society. Such situations can very easily emotionally blind wise judgments. I intend to carry out my duties with a feeling of responsibility but with a sense of proportion. I believe one should have a passionate devotion to a cause, but I am aware that unless that passion is guided by a sense of responsibility it can be wasteful and indeed harmful to society. I know that I am young and idealistic, but I hope that my stay in this House does not breed that cynicism which has become so prevalent of late. I conclude by quoting from Sir Winston Churchill those elements which best show my philosophy of liberalism as opposed to that of my colleagues on the Opposition benches. Sir Winston Churchill said:
Socialism seeks to pull down wealth; liberalism seeks to raise up poverty. Socialism would destroy private interests; liberalism would preserve private interests, in the only way in which they can be safely and justly preserved, namely, by reconciling them with public right. Socialism would kill enterprise; liberalism would rescue enterprise from the trammels of privilege and preference.
– I welcome the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Ml) to this place. I suppose one could quote the words of the Welsh song: ‘Be they knight or hind or bowman they shall bite the ground’. The honourable member might as well make the most of it although I did sense in his speech an unusual sensitivity to some of the social questions of the day which I hope will not be overwhelmed by the spate of Liberals around him who are likely to surrender very rapidly to the cynicism of which the honourable member spoke. There were several things the honourable member mentioned which I might take up at this point.
For instance, he gave a shout of encouragement to the dissolution of the former Department of the Media. In a country in which the media is under greater concentration of monopoly control than almost any other it is essential that a countervailing force be created and of that the Department of the Media was the beginning. I believe it is a serious error on the part of democratic governments to allow the forces of public information to remain under monopoly control in the highly centralised situation such as we find in Australia at the present moment. I believe that affects us all. It is not just the members on this side of the House who are the current victims of this propaganda and the continuing victims of this propaganda and misrepresentation. We have heard from the other side of the House on many occasions similar complaints and there is no doubt that some of our predecessors in office were pursued to their destruction with relentless malevolence by the forces which control the media.
There were several other matters that the honourable member raised. He complained about the situation of housing in Queensland. It was unfortunate that the Labor Government had to deal with such an obstructionist expert as the honourable the Premier of Queensland and his Government.
-Order! I ask honourable members not to stand in the aisles while the honourable member is speaking.
– It does not really matter. It reminds me a bit of a Liberal Party meeting. They are not really interested in what is going on. They are here for the ride. The honourable member for Bowman complained about housing in Queensland and welfare housing. In the last year of the McMahon Government $ 167m was made available throughout Australia for welfare housing. In the Budget that the Labor Government presented in August and which honourable members opposite- or at least their minions in the Senate- knocked back, $365m was to be made available. The environment which was created by the Labor Government was a totally different one. It would not be a bad idea if honourable members opposite and the rest of the citizens of Australia had a look at the preDecember 1972 situation. I will not ask the people to turn the clock back. They have a Government now which is doing that now.
Honourable members opposite have made the most of the opportunity in this debate to preach in cliches day after day. The honourable member for Bowman cited Sir Winston Churchill who was, appropriately enough, a good leader in wartime, when the issues were clearly defined, but a totally hopeless leader in time of peace when the real social and political issues have to be faced. There is no doubt that we are living in a time of great social and economic change. This is a different world. This world was different in 1975 even from 1965, and certainly from 1955 when I was elected to this House. Change is occurring across the board, in the economic, political and social situations. It is interesting to note the total change in attitudes towards authority. All the systems of authority which we have inherited and which conditioned people of my generation are either breaking down or changing. Probably ‘changing’ is the better word. ‘Breaking down’ would imply a discipline now which was not present in times past. The change appears in attitudes towards the church, the family, the army, the factory -
– And the Labor Party.
– Yes. The Australian Labor Party has always been a notably democratic, outgoing, free-wheeling organisation which encourages discussion. I am glad of the honourable member’s assistance. I always like a bit of audience participation, particularly from honourable members opposite who, understandably, sleep through the speeches of members of their own Party. The facts are that inflicted upon Australia is a Government whose internal procedures are a total anachronism. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has started to operate this country as his private property. It is like an extension of Nareen. As a matter of fact, I understand that the name of Nareen is to be changed to Cold Comfort Farm because it will bring the Australian nation cold comfort. The pyramidal, centralised, authoritarian structure of the present Cabinet is an anachronism in modern society. I do not blame the Prime Minister. He does not trust members of the Ministry to make Press releases and public speeches until he has vetted them. I would not do so either, although my natural inclination as a socialist would be to let them have a go. The Cabinet is an infliction upon the Australian body politic which I consider to be an anachronism and a danger to this parliamentary system.
An honourable member opposite interjected and referred to the situation in the Labor Party. The Labor Party, like many other institutions, is often slower to change itself than it is to advocate change in others. But at least its democratic structure, with the Caucus system and the tentacles which reach into the rest of the community, allows people to participate in it. I say honestly and earnestly that there is a very unequal distribution of resources available to members of this Parliament. I was a Minister for nearly 3 years and I recognise the great advantages conferred upon a Minister in simply having adequate resources at his disposal to do things and to have things done for him. In my view, the differentiation is too great. I was a firm advocate before when my Party was in Opposition and I am a firm advocate now that it is in Opposition again of a more egalitarian approach to this situation.
-Order! The honourable member has been speaking for 7 minutes. I gave him that time to answer the points raised by the previous speaker in his maiden speech. The honourable member is on his feet for the second time in this debate and he should confine his remarks to the amendment moved by his own Party. If he could connect the fact that he was a Minister with his Party’s amendment I would be obliged.
– In this debate questions are continually being raised by honourable members opposite and they must be answered. I was proposing to do that. I will deal with the matters which have been raised, such as the question of the supremacy of Parliament itself. I think that that is a great issue. It flows on from the remarks I was making about the position of Ministers in this Parliament. Part of the burden of the amendment is associated with the financial preeminence of the House of Representatives, the recent constitutional crisis and the events which led up to it. I believe that it is time that this Parliament adopted a Supremacy Act. It is time that it did something to prevent a recurrence of the events of 1 1 November. The point I was making was that Ministers in this Parliament have extraordinary resources at their disposal- departmental resources- to enable them to carry out their duties. On 1 1 November we were told that a number of people were to be nominated as Ministers who did not have the confidence of this Parliament. In fact a vote of want of confidence in the Leader of the Party was carried. I believe that the fate of parliamentary government rests with the supremacy of the lower House in our system here and particularly in the ability of a majority in that lower House to decide who shall be the Government. Therefore we should have legislation which defines the responsibility of Ministers to the Parliament.
I also believe- this may be a little revolutionarythat the dissolution of the Parliament ought to be in the hands of the Parliament itself. The constitutional procedures which led to the events of 11 November make this Parliament redundant. They have placed us in the situation where a single person, no matter of what eminence and no matter by whom appointed, acknowledging no other authority but himself or herself, is able to dissolve this Parliament at will. Let us look at the events that occurred. There existed a Ministry and an Executive Council. On my interpretation, they were the proper advisers of the Governor-General. He has no other advisers.
– Have you read the Constitution?
– Yes, I have read it quite often. It is quite clear. Like everything else, constitutions have to be read in the context of history and development. The Governor-General had a set of advisers. If the honourable member is looking up the relevant sections, I think they are sections 62 and 64. The Constitution says that there shall be a Federal Executive Council to advise the Governor-General in the government of the Commonwealth. That is the overriding section of that document. If honourable members read the predecessors of our Constitution in British history- for instance, the Bill of Rightsand if they look at the assertion of supremacy of the Parliament in various ways I think that they will agree with me. I am sure that even the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) will agree. The situation is that, in this parliamentary system, the Parliament of Australia is the executive Government of Australia. The executive authority of that Parliament rests with the majority in the House of Representatives. The executive authority can be denned only by the majority in the House of Representatives. The people who exercise that authority can be responsible and answerable only to the majority in the House of Representatives. The great error of 1 1 November was that that fact was overlooked. Therefore, the Opposition’s amendment embraces that objective.
We believe that the parliamentary system cannot survive unless we reverse the trends that developed on 11 November. The honourable member for Bendigo was interjecting. He represents an area that ordinarily has been associated with some of the democratic trends in Australian political history. I am quite confident that the Governor-General’s interpretation of his executive authority extended through the Constitution, as revealed in the power he used on 1 1 November, would offend, affront and horrify the citizens the honourable member represents. As one reads it one will find in the Constitution somewhere- I cannot tell honourable members offhand -
– Clause 2.
– I am not worried about clauses 1 or 2. The Constitution also makes mention somewhere of the Queen appointing the Governor-General. However, on this occasion she has chosen to say that it is not appropriate for her to give him any directions in any way. She has opted out. He is the only authority answerable to nobody but himself, if one takes the interpretation I have given. As was pointed out by one of my colleagues this afternoon, he may refuse or give assent to Bills. We can appropriate money in this Parliament only on a message from the Governor-General. He is the commander-in-chief. He can dissolve the Parliament. He can prorogue the Parliament. I have not time in the few minutes at my disposal to expand on all his powers but I believe that they are a threat to Australian parliamentary democracy. It is not so much that the present incumbent of that office made what I think is a serious error in his interpretation of his powers on 1 1 November but that we stand here as part of a continuing system of government and people in the future will take for their guidance the precedents established here from time to time. I think it is vital, it is important and it is fundamental that this Parliament assert its proper authority and that the House of Representatives assert its proper authority.
– I am not necessarily a believer in a bicameral system. I think that in a modern, democratic and mature society such as ours is or ought to be one House of Parliament with proper protective devices should be adquate. However, for a long while my view has been that in respect of our relationships with the other place we should have amended the Constitution so that the other House can defer matters only for a period of time, such as is the case in Britain, I understand, or more appropriately in view of the relationships inside the constitutional processes so that there could be joint sittings as the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) mentioned this afternoon. My view is that when the Houses of Parliament are in dispute after an appropriate process, perhaps involving the presentation of a Bill in this House two or three times or a period of one or two months between presentations, there should be a joint sitting to resolve the question. If that had occurred between 1972 and 1974 the Labor Government in the ordinary course of events would have had the support of the majority of the members of this Parliament. Of the 180-odd members of the Parliament the Labor Government had two or three more than half. Subsequently, with the retirement of Senator Murphy, the death of Senator Milliner and the loss of the seat of Bass we would not have had the numbers. It may well be that in a democratic society with a popularly elected Parliament, with both Houses elected on adult suffrage, the issues which were before the Parliament may not have had the right of carriage. It may be that we could use a referendum or some procedure such as that to achieve this.
Let us consider for a moment the point of dispute we had with our friends opposite, that is, electoral redistribution. That matter was held up in the other place. If the redistributions had been put to a joint sitting they would have been carried. Those are matters of great moment and we all have to face them. I do not subscribe to the view that the Australian Constitution cannot be changed by referendum. I recognise that of the 36 questions or so that have been put only five or six have been carried affirmatively. I recognise that Tasmania has probably the worst record. Too often a referendum has been lost in Tasmania by only a handful of votes. Interestingly enough Western Australia on the first 26 questions submitted by way of referendum voted ‘yes’ in respect of twenty of them. My electorate has voted ‘yes’ to all the referenda except those on conscription in the First World War, the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, the control of wages when we put that question in conjunction with the control of prices and two or three others.
I believe that the Parliament itself has more interest in referenda than have the political parties. Our error is to leave the changing of the Constitution to the political instruments and this can be nothing but a partisan exercise. I was deeply involved in the referendum we had in 1967 for the granting of authority to this Parliament to make laws for the Aboriginal people. That was a 10-year campaign. I will not say that it was scientifically developed but it happily developed along the lines that an educational program of that sort should develop. The result was that 90 per cent of the people of Australia voted in favour of the proposal. It may be that sometime in the future- perhaps at the next election or the election following the next Senate election or the House of Representatives election and the next Senate election- the Houses will be in balance again. It may well be and properly should be that my Party will be in government again or that my Party will have the majority in the other place and the Liberal and Country Parties will have the majority here, but we are all involved in it. Politics is a continuing thing. We should always remember that there are no bygones in politics for it will all happen again. Just as we find ourselves bedevilled by the constitutional processes of the last century now, it will happen to everybody else in the long run. I suggest that we get together on the questions of constitutional reform, the supremacy of this Parliament and the pre-eminence of the House of Representatives.
-Before I call the honourable member for Kalgoorlie I remind the House that it is the honourable member’s maiden speech. I hope that the House will treat him with the courtesy usually extended to honourable members making their maiden speeches.
– I rise to speak in favour of the motion relating to the address-in-reply to the Governor-General’s Speech. I would be pleased, Mr Deputy Speaker, if you would pass on to Mr Speaker my congratulations on his election to his high office and also my congratulations to the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) on his election to the position of Chairman of Committees. The electorate I represent is the biggest electorate in the world. It covers approximately 880 000 square miles or nine-tenths of Western Australia or one-third of the Australian continent. Its shores are washed by three of the world’s oceans and its eastern boundary is the entire eastern border of Western Australia. Some other honorable members have spoken of the vast size of their electorates and the large number of people they represent. In this geographically largest electorate there live approximately 180 000 or 190 000 people of whom only about 57 000 are on the electoral roll. I think that this is the highest ratio of people to electors in any electorate in Australia. Whilst not all of them are on the electoral roll they represent 180 000 problems.
The industries in the Kalgoorlie electorate generate approximately one-quarter of the total export income of Australia. They include gold, nickel, iron ore, beach sands, salt, fishing, wheat, wool and beef. The cray fishing industry which is centred on Geraldton earns over $30m in export income, to say nothing of the huge income from mineral and rural exports. The living conditions in the electorate range from large modern urban areas through small modern towns in isolated settings in mining camps, lonely stations and Aboriginal settlements. Despite exceptional progress in recent years, some of the major problems in remote and inland Australia relate to communications; total communications- roads, railways, airways, airports, shipping, telephones, television and radio.
The Kalgoorlie electorate is noted for its lack of adequate communications. That deficiency can cause very real feelings of isolation and despair, particularly amongst our womenfolk and our children. Simple things like mail deliveries cause problems. The city dwellers are accustomed to having the mail delivered regularly and at no extra cost other than the normal 1 8c per letter. But I know of people in isolated areas who have to pay from $10 per week to $32 per week extra to have their mail delivered, depending on how far they live from the nearest town. Quite often it costs $3,000 to have a telephone connected, and many telephone connections cost as much as $10,000. I know of one non-profit organisation which was asked to pay $23,000 for a single telephone connection. When adverse weather conditions, which regularly prevail in the electorate, close our substandard gravel roads and earth airstrips, the people of inland and northern Australia are trapped and isolated, sometimes for many weeks on end, causing very real hardship and a feeling sometimes of being forgotten. Yet these same people are producing the very real wealth of the country.
In regard to airports and air services, I point out that for people in inland and northern Australia air travel is of vital importance and, in many instances, is the only access available. I am pleased that we have decided not to continue with the plans of the previous Government to increase air transport charges by an irresponsible amount. That increase would have completely crippled air services to areas such as the Kimberleys, Pilbara, Murchison and created real hardship for the people living in those areas. I am pleased that we intend instead to increase these charges by only 1 5 per cent, in line with the Airlines Agreement Act. On the subject of air services, I express concern over the policy of the previous Government to phase out the subsidy to feeder airlines, as that phasing out is having a dramatic and damaging effect on the type and frequency of services to inland Australia. I hope we can give urgent consideration to this vitally important assistance otherwise we will soon have no feeder airlines servicing remote areas, with the resultant difficulty of attracting people to work in the north and develop our resources.
As to development, we will again need to encourage the inflow of very large amounts of overseas capital in order to get some of our really big projects off the ground. I see nothing wrong with overseas capital and overseas companies. It was overseas capital that made America the great country it is today, and it was overseas capital that made Australia great. Our Government can control the way in which overseas capital flows. It should be remembered that when an overseas company, or anyone else for that matter, builds our towns, our ports, our railways and our industries that company cannot pick them up and take them with it. Australia is richer by far for them having been here. One development leads to another. An example of this is seen at Port Hedland and at Dampier. Following the development of modern airconditioned towns to service the iron ore industry, other companies were encouraged to set up very large solar salt works which employ hundreds of people and machines. The only raw materials these plants use are sunlight and sea water.
Furthermore, our policies on investment allowances are working. A graphic illustration of that can be seen in the proposal by a consortium to develop the huge Agnew nickel deposit, which incidently is the largest sulphide nickel ore body in the world. The development at Agnew at this stage is made possible by the 40 per cent investment allowance and other concessions. So our policies do work. I am confident that the same policies will allow other major projects to get off the ground in the near future. It is absolutely imperative that we encourage the immediate development of the gasfield on the north-west shelf. Each day that we delay bringing the gas ashore the cost escalates at a frightening rate, and real progress in Australia is stifled. We ought to allow the export of some of that gas to enable the developers to establish a cash flow. It should be borne in mind that some of the gas is so situated on the shelf that it cannot be brought ashore by conventional pipeline but has to be loaded into tankers. Let us export some of that portion of the gas in order to establish a cash flow and to ensure that we can get full benefit from our huge energy resources. We will then see tremendous industrial growth alongside our primary industries.
We often hear talk of decentralisation. Two items which I believe would materially assist in decentralising industry and people are a fuel price equalisation scheme and a complete review of taxation zone allowances so that they are bought to meaningful levels. I estimate that if the price of fuel in metropolitan areas was raised by approximately one cent per gallon, we could enjoy fuel at the one price throughout Australia without unduly penalising any section of the community and without the necessity for government subsidy. The high cost of fuel is reflected in almost every commodity we buy because a large proportion of the cost of an article is the cost of transport, and a significant factor in the cost of transport is the cost of fuel. The further one lives from a metropolitan area, the higher cost of transport to and from that area. Fuel price equalisation would benefit the city dweller in providing cheaper commodities produced inland and transported to coastal areas. Also he would find fuel at the same price wherever he travelled on holidays and at weekends, instead of paying up to $1.20 per gallon in some areas. We can buy cigarettes and other items at equalised prices. Let us have fuel prices equalised, not subsidised.
Taxation zone allowances need to be looked at in a completely new light. Because of development in recent years we need to forget about our present zone A and zone B and the 26th parallel because they are unrealistic lines of demarcation. We ought to look at new zones based on the degree of disadvantage suffered, and perhaps we need more than 2 zones so that the allowance can be graduated. I believe a meaningful zone allowance in the most disadvantaged areas would need to be at least $2,000 per annum. The people living in some of the modern airconditioned towns with modern facilities, situated above the 26th parallel, are not nearly as disadvantaged as those people living in some of the older isolated towns below that 26th parallel. I am fully aware that in some quarters it is held that zone allowances are unconstitutional. If that is so, they have been unconstitutional for more than 20 years. Let us not be negative; let us look at positive ways in which to implement new zone allowances at realistic levels. People will be more willing to go into isolated areas if they can obtain real benefit from their earnings, and industry will be more willing to start up in isolated settings if it knows full well that it will not have to pay massive premiums to attract employees.
I would like to bring to the attention of the Parliament a couple of anomalies in the education allowances. For instance, we have the Aboriginal secondary students allowance scheme, which is basically a good scheme and one which I believe is necessary. But in some instances the benefits provided under that scheme are abused. I know of families who are very well off and still claim these special allowances simply because they have some small amount of Aboriginal blood in the family, even though they own large properties or have high incomes. At the same time the equivalent level of assistance is not available to needy non-Aboriginal children. That sort of discrimination is causing a tremendous amount of ill-feeling in isolated communities in Australia. I believe that the same level of assistance should be available to all, irrespective of race or colour, but it should be subject to a means test so that we are assisting those who are really in need.
Then we have the situation of special Aboriginal schools which have been set up in some isolated stations and settlements. Enrolment in these schools consists almost 100 per cent of Aboriginal children and the level of teaching is specially geared to the level of learning ability of those Aboriginal children. Because of that level of teaching, most of the non-Aboriginal children are sent off to Perth or Port Hedland or elsewhere to achieve a more satisfactory level of education. Because their parents live within a prescribed radius of a school they are not eligible for the normal living away from home allowances and travel concessions. I believe that is unjust and needs to be put right. We need to reignite completely the development thrust in Australia. Let us lift our sights beyond the myopic policies of the past and press on to a better way of life for us all.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Motion ( by Mr Newman) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I pass to you my congratulations. I congratulate the Speaker on his election to his high office and I certainly congratulate the new honourable members of this House on the excellent speeches already made. My purpose is to bring to your attention and to the attention of all honourable members what I believe to be the real and serious plight of all Australia’s rural industries. I propose to speak on this subject on a number of occasions, time permitting, dealing particularly with the rice industry, an industry which only last year was recognised as the most highly organised and intelligently operated rural industry in Australia. It has been repeatedly used as an example of logical structure, careful planning and successful marketing. The criticisms of other industries which have been floundering cannot be levelled at this industry. However, the rice industry suddenly finds itself in a state of irreversible decline which cannot be corrected by any commercial means. What then has gone wrong? Why has one of the best rural industries suddenly found itself in trouble? The answer lies in the subject of exports.
The widespread ignorance about the real state of the agricultural export business is frightening. Many journalists reporting on rural affairs and the armchair academics, including some in the position of advisers to politicians and departmental heads, have created a widely held myth that the only thing agricultural exporters need is awareness of modern marketing psychology, an aggressive and centrally co-ordinated sales approach, and a few other assorted phrases of pseudo-economic jargon. These same journalists acidly claim that, armed with those invincible weapons, the unimaginative and incompetent little men with brief cases could take overseas markets at their will and magically bring home the hitherto unwon riches that he overseas in a hungry world. I am sorry but prepared to admit that in the past I have unwittingly helped to spread this sort of nonsense. It is simply not true.
The truth of the matter is that agricultural export industries, particularly those selling processed products, are in critical trouble. Some of the industries, such as the canned fruit, dairy products and perhaps even the meat industry, are in such trouble that they will disappear if assistance is not forthcoming. The condition of these industries is blamed variously on their structure, their leadership and their planning, but mostly on the fact that they are operated by farmers and not by economists, agricultural journalists and experienced city businessmen who can handle big commerce. What academic hogwash. The critics of these devastated industries have not the political honesty, indeed any honesty or desire, to look more closely at the extraordinary circumstances which have been building up for years and which have finally swept down on Australian agriculture in an inflation fed avalanche. No new efficiencies, no production breakthroughs, no marketing initiatives can overcome the appalling waste of money that the wage structure, the transport system, the wharf handling and shipping freight charges rip off the exporting industries. The low returns for agricultural products whose high volume and tonnage actually carry the transport systems have been bled dry by the fairyland of inefficiencies, feather beddings and go-slows that have been building up year after year in the transport industry, the seaboard and the shipping companies that have to toe the union line in Australian ports. If that remark, in the closed minds of my friends opposite, is to be called union bashing then it is past time that we did a lot more of it.
I believe that unless we take action to clean up the mess in our transport industry, particularly on our waterfront, we will witness Australia ‘s fall to complete economic disaster. I believe also that there are evil, clever men in this country who would not only welcome this situation but also are actively working for it to happen.
– They are in Uruguay.
– I wish the honourable member would go too. The farmers, because they have had really no choice, have learnt to accept this situation. Basically they believed that if a group of people could organise themselves to extract these benefits from a group of employersincluding politicians and Government departmentswho were prepared to shrug their shoulders and reluctantly agree to pay the price for industrial peace at someone else’s expense, then good luck to them. There was nothing much that the farmers could do about it. They could not construct their own railways, wharves, and ships and man them themselves. This sort of practical fatalism has gone on for years.
The system has financed its needs by booting the agricultural goose, and every time this patient bird has strained and grimaced and laid the required golden egg. But now that bountiful bird is unable to cope and unless the system it has been supporting gives it some pretty strong nourishment and force feeding, the creature will die and the weight of the dead carcass of agriculture will cause a lot of Australians to to die as well. Of all the exporting countries Australia stands alone in not significantly subsidising her agriculture, despite the carping criticisms of those uninformed members on the Opposition benches. For example, the Japanese rice growers receive ten times more per ton of rice than the Australian rice farmers receive. The Indonesian farmer gets three times as much per ton of rice as the Australian rice farmer- and the Indonesian farmer is said to be in the peasant class. The farmers in the European Economic Community get six or seven times the value we receive for a huge range of their products. The United States farmers have a multitude of Government aids and export concessions which give them incredible advantages. But the Australian farmer remains the last of the amateurs. Our agricultural exporters are the last of the free traders, trying to match muscle not with other farmers but with other governments. How can an exporting industry in a country geographically remote from its markets support a home cost system, which is the most luxurious in the world, against competitors who have either a subsidised export system or a lower cost home wage structure, or both?
But the questions go further than that. How can poor, hungry countries pay for food which is carrying so much cost imposed on it after it leaves the farm gate? There might be some masochistic satisfaction among farmers if they knew that the low prices they are receiving are giving cheap food to someone. But the prices for food are rising while the farmers ‘returns are falling. Who are getting the benefits? We know that the shipping lines are going broke and the railways do not pay. A large part of the answer can only be that John Citizen who works for a wage handling the produce, and those involved in the administration of the industry, including politicians and public servants, are all beneficiaries. I am afraid things will have to change. A percentage of our tax money will have to be turned back into the export agricultural system either directly or indirectly to keep it going. Otherwise, some very big rural industries will fold up and this great rural exporting country will suffer some serious consequences.
I speak as though I were unaware of action taken by this Government to give some assistance to Australian rural industry. I am not. I congratulate the Government and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) for his awareness and for his determination. The reintroduction of the superphosphate bounty and the decision to remove the beef export levy are adequate examples of his efforts. But much more has to be done. I am sure that the Minister is equally aware of this fact. However, awareness on the part of the Minister is not enough. We must all be aware. We must all realise that Australia’s future prosperity still lies largely with the success or otherwise of our rural exporters. They must be able to compete and win on markets thousands of miles away. We must all support measures which will help them to succeed.
– I should like to take issue with the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan), not about the sentiments he expressed in so much of his speech but about the approach he has brought to this Parliament in attempting to have some action implemented. We have just listened to him make a speech of almost 10 minutes asking for continually expanded government action. Ever since he entered this Parliament he has supported the obstruction of Government action across the board in public utilities and in public expenditure, everywhere one can think of it. But in his own special area, the field of rice, he urges action. I do not know what his solution is. Would he make rice consumption compulsory? Of course he is not. In his own particular field he is interested in the continued government expansion of activity. So he complains bitterly about the transport system. He has a deep and considered view of the failures of the storage system and the enormous profit that people are making in the handling of these products. How do you overcome these deficiencies? Every one of those areas can be handled only by government action and an increase in government expenditure. I think that this is one of the economic challenges of the times. We have got ourselves caught up or hooked on a continuous demand for reduction in wasteful government expenditure. It is the continual theme. On the other hand we see that each problem to which we turn can be solved only by government activity and probably government expenditure. I say to the honourable member- he might take this with a slightly -
– With a grain of salt?
-No, not with a grain of salt, because he would not find any way of selling that either. As the Minister in charge of Canberra for a couple of years it was one of my more enjoyable functions to attend the meetings of the Australian Agricultural Council. I am sure I brought great advantages to that august body with my wide experience in primary industry and so on! I found it an educational experience.
– You would.
-That is right. I am educable; I only wish that I could return the compliment. The facts are that of course in a situation such as this the more members of a Cabinet who can attend that kind of operation the better- and I went. I will not deal with rice, because that was not dealt with at the meetings, but I think that the same problems apply there. The meetings dealt with the question of the cattle industry and the immense productivity of the Australian industry. I think that Australia has something like 10 million more cattle than our consumption needs. If the figures that I have are correct, our production of meat this year will be 1.8 million tons and our consumption will be about 0.9 million tons. So there are 900 000 tons of meat to be disposed of somewhere. I agree with the honourable member that the hungry people of the world need our food. That food is not just rice; it is not just meat. I suppose it is also canned fruits and all the rest of it. I recognise the dietary problems. I recognise the distribution problems. But I -do appeal to the honourable member in the councils of the Party to which he belongs, that he start to reverse the trend which I see developing already, and that is a reduction in Australian aid to the needy countries of the world- the underdeveloped countries- whether it be Guatemala or anywhere else. As I took part in the deliberations of the Agricultural Council I could see that none of us knew the answers.
It is true enough that in agriculture there is the fundamental question of the production on the land. Honourable members will be interested to know that that is where my family sprang from in this country. In many ways I am probably in touch as much with the people on the land- my ancestry being as deeply embedded in it- as for instance honourable members who happen to be bureaucrats in Party organisations. As the honourable members pointed out, the production line is not just the person who puts the seed in the ground; it is everybody involved. There will be no profit in attacks upon the trade union movement or the watersiders. There will be profit of course in improvement of the facilities at the ports, in the handling procedures and in the improvement of the transport system, in the upgrading of the railway system.
– Hear, hear!
– I believe-and I guess that the honourable member agrees with me; he will probably say so in some debate at some stage in the next 6 months or so- that it does not really matter whether we get a profitable return on the railway system so long as it supplies the kind of service that we want. I say to the honourable member that I rose this evening because he provoked me to do so, insomuch as the theme he was developing, the objective that he had, was in such total contradiction to the policies that he is supporting in this House. It is not too late for him to see the light and join us. I would think he would have a bit of trouble getting endorsement. As I have watched the honourable member and have got to know and like him a bit since he came here- being a socialist I am broad minded- one of the puzzles I have is that he is so reactionary that I cannot understand why he is not in the Cabinet.
-The House may recall that last week a meteorological phenomenon struck Bundaberg, Maryborough and surrounding areas. I describe it in that fashion because there is some dispute between the Bureau of Meteorology and those who observed the phenomenon at first hand as to whether it was a cyclone or a freak storm. I posed a series of questions to the Minister representing the Minister for Science in the House and received certain answers. The substance of the answers indicated that the warning station on Mount
Kanighan was not activated because on the judgment of the Bureau, based on the material available to it at the time, no risk existed. I do not mind that at all particularly in view of the fact that when that station was established on 2 December 1974 the most unequivocal assurances were given to the area that the warning network for that section of the coast was complete. A simple minded person might conclude from that statement that it was then free from surprise attack from weather phenomena. Nor do I take exception to the Director of the Bureau rising to defend his organisation. Indeed I applaud him for the restrained and tempered objective assessment of the situation as he saw it. But I feel that the people of the Wide Bay area have a right to be assured whether they are secure in their warning system.
I think it is fairly pertinent, as a sequel to the events of last week, that I should read to the House a letter which appeared in the Australian on Thursday, 26 February, over the signature of Julian Gomersall, describing himself as the Master of the MS Coral Chief. As a matter of prudence I have established that that gentleman is indeed the master of the vessel so described. He said in his letter.
Your readers in the Bundaberg area will be interested to know that the destructive cyclone they had the misfortune to experience on Sunday had been giving those of us at sea off the Queensland coast no end of problems for two days prior to its arrival over the coast.
Cyclone Beth spent six days in the Coral Sea-
I mention that Cyclone Beth was being charted for some considerable time over a period of days prior to this report- moving in a variety of directions, but by Saturday the Meteorological Office should have had sufficient data and reason to put the central and southern Queensland coast on alert.
This ship (and I am sure several others) was sending weather reports every 3 hours to the Meteorological Office in Melbourne, at their request, from midday Friday.
Between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturday I reported force- 12 winds and a barometric pressure of 992 millibars. The eye of the cyclone-
This is fairly significant because it has been argued by the Bureau that the phenomenon had none of the physical characteristics of a cyclone nor had established a cyclical motion- was seen to pass close by in a westerly direction at this time.
The ship was approximately . . . (30 to 40 miles) north-north-east from Sandy Cape and yet no alert was given other than to describe Beth as a ‘tropical low’- some low with force- 12 winds!
I fail to understand why better use of the information given the Meteorological Office could not have been made.
That was signed by Julian Gomersall. I consider that the substance of that letter is very pertinent to the Bureau’s assessment of the situation, notwithstanding the reports furnished by the master of that vessel, that in the light of the information and observations available to them, and made by them respectively, on their judgment they considered that it was not necessary to man the station. The Director of the bureau said in his response that criticism of the Bureau in the Federal Parliament was completely unjustified. He said it was unjustified to say that there had been an error in judgment in not manning Mount Kanighan. I consider it not unreasonable to ask why when he confirms the fact after the event that there was no suggestion of a set of conditions which would warrant the activation of the station although the report from the master of the vessel would seem to signify completely to the contrary.
When the station was established in 1974, as I mentioned before, there were positive assurances that it completed the warning network. Its automation is foreshadowed for later in 1976. If it is not to be kept in an active condition at the present time it seems to me that it is tantamount to activating a burglar alarm after you hear noises in the house. It seems that it is not so much a warning station as a device for plotting weather phenomena after their presence is evidenced by personal observation and experience.
I emphasise that I have not the slightest desire to indulge in anything resembling a witch hunt of our weather bureau. As a farmer and an aviator I have a little to do with contending with the vagaries of the weather and I recognise that forecasting is a difficult enough undertaking at the best of times; but the essential and inevitable consideration in this matter is that it be established whether in truth the people in this section of the coast can rest assured that there is an effective warning station consistent with the terms previously outlined to them or whether there continually exists this rather significant gap in a rather expensive exercise to alert people to impending cyclones. It is my intention only to put this matter on record so that the final statement of the Director of the bureau does not constitute the last word on it.
-Tonight I wish to raise a matter which should be of concern to every member of this House. It is of particular concern to my electorate. I refer to the decision announced by the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) in the Senate last week to defer for reconsideration the establishment of a national animal research laboratory at Geelong. I understand that it is sought to assess this project as an uncommitted project. I would think that the people involved in the livestock industry in Australia would consider this project as being of considerable urgency. There is a long lead time before this project could become operative. If it began now it would not become operative until 1982. That does not reduce the urgency of proceeding with it now. The project had advanced to the stage where plans were being drawn and I understand that voluminous detailed drawings are required, to say the least. Contracts were about to be let for the carting of filling to the site and this would take about 2 years of continuous work.
The project has been deferred for further consideration and it may well proceed but important considerations are involved. If it is being deferred as a money saving measure then I suggest this is false economy. Even if it is deferred for only 6 months it will add several million dollars to the final cost and that is not a money saving operation. The deferral of this project follows amost immediately on the cancellation of a project which had been commenced for the relocation of public servants or the diversification of public servants out of the central business districts of Melbourne into a number of areas, including 1000 pesonnel who were to be located at Geelong. It was said in this House that the present Government believes that people should not be forced to work in a place where they do not wish to work. It may just happen that public servants may not wish to work in the centre of the cities but they have no choice and are forced to do so. This diversification program would have provided opportunities for a substantial number of public servants to live in the areas where they were to be relocated and it would have reduced the amount of travel which they had to undertake. At present they have to travel 30 miles to 40 miles, and sometimes further, and the number who have to travel these distances is rather large.
The national animal health project was approved by Parliament last year after it was scrutinised by the Public Works Department. Considerable work already has been done on preparing the site, developing drawings and on the technical side of the project. The project has real national significance, and I hope that those honourable gentlemen who represent rural electorates and who, I am sure, are aware of the importance of the establishment of this laboratory will ensure that the project is not deferred, as has happened in the past. Already it has had one deferment of about 8 years because of an economy drive. It is a very expensive project.
Failure to provide the protection that this laboratory will give to our cattle and other livestock industries could overnight cost Australia thousands of millions of dollars in export income.
If we wish to be punters we can continue to rely indefinitely on other countries to supply the various serums and other requirements and also to carry out assessment and research, but I suggest it is time that Australia was able to protect itself in these matters. The suggestion that the project can be deferred as a money saving measure is false economy. Not only would it place at some risk the industries involved, but also it is likely to push the project back into a period of high construction demand. The construction industry is an ebb and flow industry, and at the moment it is moving more into a trough than a peak. It would be much easier to start a major construction job and get satisfactory tenders for the construction of the project now than it would be in 6 months or 12 months.
– What is the estimated cost?
-The last estimate was $82m to be spent over 8 years. I do not know whether the honourable member would look on that as a reasonable investment for the protection that it will give to people in the industries which he professes to support and which I expect he does support.
– The interesting thing is the interest that you have suddenly taken in your electorate since the last election. We did not hear you talking about this last year.
-I do not know what the honourable gentleman knows about
Parliament- I think very little- but the Speaker does not speak in this House, and last year I was the Speaker of the House of Representatives. If the honourable gentleman wants to know about this I suggest that he get a copy of the Standing Orders and read them. I also make the point to the honourable gentleman that this and a number of other projects were committed by the Government of the Party of which I am a member. They were important projects to my electorate. The cancellation is a very serious blow not only to the people of my Party but also to very prominent members of the Liberal Party who fought equally hard to have these projects allocated to the Geelong area which has a very serious deficiency in tertiary employment, as have other major provincial cities in Australia. It was a forward step to seek to move some of the Public Service and other Government instrumentalities out of city centres, with the problems that are increasingly being faced in the inner suburbs and the central city districts because of the failing public transport systems and the inability of those systems to carry the traffic.
I appeal to the Government and to Government supporters to seek an early resolution of the question whether this project is to proceed. It will not be a money saving measure to defer the project. It will be a risk to important industries which should not be taken and which, if taken, will cost money and could be calamitous to a large section of our export industries.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It being 11 p.m., the House stands adjourned until 3 p.m. tomorrow.
The following answer to a question upon notice was circulated:
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 March 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19760302_reps_30_hor98/>.